The Definitive Guide to Deer Valley
A popular Park City urban legend has it that if a Deer Valley lifty discovers duct tape anywhere on your person, you are immediately exiled. Not so, mon frère. (I know. One of my pole baskets is secured with duct tape.) True, you won’t find an abundance of riffraff here. But it’s not the frequent celeb sightings or really good food or even precision grooming that drives this resort’s perennial success. No, the glory of Deer Valley is its culture.
Lest you think I’m drinking the Kool-Aid—or, more apropos, the hot toddy—just check the industry rankings. Right there at the summit sits skiers-only Deer Valley. Then ask the guy unloading your skis (or instructing your kid or shoveling the sidewalk or flipping your burger) how long he’s been working there. Chances are it’s a good long stint—we’re talking decades. Furthermore, here you’ll find none of that frenetic energy that ensnares the average ski outing. The experience at Deer Valley is all very civilized. And, at the same time, real. Here we reveal how much more there is to Deer Valley (435.649.1000) than meets the eye and how we like to ski Park City’s other resort.
Hidden in Plain Sight
Exploring Deer Valley’s path less traveled, Mayflower Bowl.
The snow report indicated nine inches had fallen overnight, but as soon as I slid down the Silver Lake Express off-load ramp, I knew the actual total was closer to a foot. Instead of following the powder-frenzied masses to Empire, however, I tagged along with Ski Patrol Director Steve Graff on a trip to Mayflower Bowl. “Empire is really fun, but most of the runs there are relatively short, followed by a long run out to the lift,” Graff explains. “Whereas skiing from the top of Bald down to Sultan Express or the Mayflower lift gives you a long 2,000 feet of vertical in one shot.” Here’s how to navigate this hidden-in-plain-sight, Deer Valley gem:
Early in the winter or on powder days, traverse left off the top of Sterling Express toward Mayflower Bowl. It’s not uncommon for the runs here—Mayflower Chutes, Fortune Teller, or the long thigh-burner Orient Express—to remain relatively untracked until noon (except for your tracks, of course). In the spring or on warmer days, the north-facing runs to skier’s left of the Sultan Express lift line—Grizzly, Peerless, Ruins of Pompei, and Evergreen—hold the best off-piste snow the longest. If glade skiing is your thing, take the cruisy Tycoon to its junction with Reward and duck left into the Triangle Trees. Stay right through that well-spaced glade to arrive at the Sultan Express base. When you’re ready for lunch or a warm-up, don’t waste time heading to one of the main lodges. Instead grab a latte or bowl of turkey chili at Snowshoe Tommy’s, located at the Bald Mountain Summit.
First Tracks gets you to the groomed goods before anyone else.
While untracked powder is the holy grail of skiing, at least for many, a close second is cutting the first turn on a flawlessly groomed slope. And nowhere else in the world will you find better groomers, of course, than at Deer Valley. First Tracks provides guided, private, early lift access (8 to 9 a.m.) on groomed runs off the Wasatch Express chairlift. Cost is $1,600 for up to eight skiers, intermediate ski ability level is a minimum requirement, and trips must be scheduled at least 10 days in advance. To book, call 435.645.6507 or email [email protected]
Even More to Come
Deer Valley decision-makers eye the resort’s backside for future expansion.
After years of negotiations, construction of a military R&R complex is planned for the Highway 40 side of Deer Valley, necessitating a 1,000-acre terrain expansion, including six or seven new chairlifts, hotels, and a spectrum of base amenities in the currently undeveloped land between Deer Crest and Mayflower Bowl. When the expansion will actually happen, however, remains up in the air.
Focus on Fun
A ski school about letting kids be kids.
There’s a saying that goes “you’re only as happy as your unhappiest kid.” Thankfully this notion is not lost on the folks at Deer Valley’s children’s ski school and state-licensed childcare, where the guiding philosophy is about a whole lot more than making pizza wedges and S turns down Wide West. Deer Valley’s twist on on-hill instruction includes mascot-spraying contests, making and eating snow cones, snowman building, and, in March, giddying up for cowboy week or hula-hooping during Hawaiian week. “Safety is our number one priority, of course,” explains Children’s Program Manager Mya Frantti. “But we know fun is an essential part of being a kid.”
It all starts with putting parents at ease. DV’s small instructor-to-child ratios (1:1 for three-year-olds, 1:2 for four-year-olds, 1:4 for five- to six-year-olds, and a max ratio of 1:6 for the seven- to twelve-year-olds) removes a lot of the angst of dropping off your kid for the day. On the childcare side of the equation, the caregiver-to-infant (or toddler or preschooler) ratios are smaller than the state requirements (1:3 for infants, 1:4 for one- to three-year-olds). If that’s not enough to remove any lingering parental guilt, keep this in mind: Deer Valley employees clamor for spots here for their own children.
And though the emphasis goes well beyond skiing, Deer Valley’s personalized instruction means that your kids will, in fact, become better skiers. Don’t be surprised if, after just a day or two in ski school, they’re bursting to show you around the mountain to the whoop-de-doos in Bucky’s Backyard, the gates at Silver’s Aspen Slalom, or Quincy the bear in his cabin.
Note: Book early as ski school slots often sell out up to six months in advance. Remember sunblock, sunglasses, or goggles, and gear (not included with lessons). And take advantage of the 8:30 a.m. drop-off, too—a full 30 minutes for coffee and quiet time before the lifts start turning for the day.
The Lodges throws a kids’ post-slope party for the memory books.
The Children’s Concierge program at the Lodges at Deer Valley (2900 Deer Valley Dr, 435.615.2600) gathers young hotel guests—ages 4 to 12—for complimentary eats, crafts, and locally inspired learning every Tuesday through Saturday afternoon, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Two Lodges concierges lead the fun. On tap for this winter: meet the avalanche dogs, identify animal tracks in the snow (thanks to plaster casts of moose, snowshoe hare, and wolf prints), make edible snowmen, tuck into s’mores, and decorate cookies. And while the munchkins are entertained, mom and dad get two hours of their own après-ski time. “We’ve really moved away from that ‘let’s put everyone in front of a Wii’ mentality,” says General Manager Anthony Bartholomew. “Parents appreciate the time they have on their own, and they really trust the service.”
Keeping the Stein Spirit Alive
The legend has passed, but his persona remains alive and well.
As Deer Valley President and General Manager Bob Wheaton puts it, “Stein was the one and only in a lot of areas.”
The Father of Freestyle Skiing, gold medal Olympian (alpine), and first-ever triple gold winner at the 1954 World Championships, Stein Eriksen served as Deer Valley’s director of skiing from the resort’s opening in 1981 until his death last December. Longtime locals recall when, in the late 1970s, he gave snowcat tours of the soon-to-be-established resort or performed a hatless front flip at his former stomping grounds, Park City Ski Area, every afternoon at 1 p.m. During his tenure at Deer Valley, Eriksen became known for the signature guest service at his famous namesake lodge, located at Deer Valley’s midmountain, and even better known for being a highly visible champion of skiing, joining guests on the slopes daily with his trademark alpine panache.
Though Deer Valley retired Eriksen’s title with his death, a cast of ski royalty continues his classy-host-meets-extraordinary-athlete legacy. Heading up the newly minted Ski with a Champion program is Deer Valley’s 20-year Ambassador of Skiing (as well as Olympian and giant slalom national champion), Heidi Voelker. Others include Olympian and national champion Shannon Bahrke; US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Famer, Olympian, and 1998 US Winter Olympics Aerial Ski Team coach Kris “Fuzz” Feddersen; four-time national alpine champion, Olympian, and big mountain freeskier, Kaylin Richardson; Olympic freestyle skier and the only woman to perform a Cork 720 at an Olympic Games, Jillian Vogtli; and Olympian, world and national title holder, and US Ski Hall of Famer Trace Worthington.
Guests who ski at an intermediate or above level can book a half day ($1,200) or a full day ($2,000) of skiing with one of these amazing athletes. The Mahre Training Center Ski Camps, three- and five-day sessions (Jan 6–8 and 9–13) conducted in part by Olympian brothers Phil and Steve Mahre, provide another opportunity for amateurs to tap into that elite athlete experience.
The Next Generation
Ligety to join the Deer Valley team.
While homegrown champion Ted Ligety recently accepted Deer Valley’s brand new position of Global Athlete Ambassador, guests will have to wait until his white-hot ski racing career runs its course before they get to glide alongside him on the slopes. Look for Ligety sporting Deer Valley gear as he hits the World Cup circuit this winter.
Infusing an International Authenticity
Fare favorites remain, with some flavorful additions.
Fear not, the jumbo cookies are here to stay. As is the turkey chili, which is consumed daily by the hundreds of gallons during the ski season’s peak. Yet, the award-winning food and beverage team at Deer Valley, which has, since the get-go, pioneered fresh, creative, and delicious ski lodge fare in an arena previously known more for hot dogs than haute cuisine, is making subtle forays into flavors from around the world. “We’re a lot more open to keeping up with the trends of what people want,” explains Jodie Rogers, Deer Valley director of food and beverage.
New twists on slope-side dining, which arrived last season at Silver Lake, include a popular taco bar and Vietnamese pho, which draws guests to the Bald Mountain room in lieu of the former pizza station. Again, the traditional cuisine hasn’t been abandoned. Pizza aficionados can still grab a slice in the main cafeteria, and folks hankering for a deli sandwich can pile on the fixins at Snow Park Lodge. And the wildly popular Natural Buffet will likely never go away.
Deer Valley’s renowned culinary team never, ever rests on their laurels.
The creativity of Executive Pastry Chef Stephen Harty and resident cheesemaker Corinne Cornet-Coniglio, two of Deer Valley’s 800 food and beverage team members, is pushing the boundaries of on-slope eating. “We’re constantly asking each other ‘What’s new?’ or ‘What more can we do?’” says Chef Harty. “We’re literally playing with food.”
Harty, a science major-turned-ski bum and 22-year veteran of Deer Valley’s kitchens, clearly revels in that creative space. He brings a classic French culinary philosophy to his dishes, infusing them with modern accents, not to mention a healthy dash of fleur de sel. While Harty also oversees the literal bread-and-butter happenings of the kitchen (where 120 to 200 loaves and 1,250 jumbo cookies are baked daily), his true genius is on display at The Mariposa on New Year’s Eve, with desserts that bring flaming, melting, or blooming action to the table. Think Olympics-inspired, liqueur-fueled chocolate torches or a lotus cake that blooms with the addition of whiskey milk.
The French-trained, Belgian-born Cornet-Coniglio and her assistant, Diana Capas, carefully tend to Deer Valley’s onsite cheesemaking, ensuring that the ash-ripened goat cheese or 60-day-aged Blue Belle or Meadowlark (a double cream made in the French moulé à la louche tradition), well, sings to the discerning palate. Then there’s the not-to-miss Triple Truffle, triple cream Camembert-style brie infused with imported truffles, which can be found on the artisanal cheese platter, as well as atop bison steak medallions at The Mariposa. Truffles aside, the cheese is sourced locally, with milk (sheep, goat, and cow) procured from farmers in nearby Heber, Ogden, and Pleasant Grove.
At Last, Après
Let those burning quads rest while indulging in a pint or signature cocktail within a snowball’s throw of the hill.
Upper Deer Valley
On a bluebird day, the Ski Beach (at Silver Lake Lodge) offers a quintessential, no-fuss way to unwind without taking a step off the snow. Grab a beer and kick back in a plastic lounge chair for sun-soaking, simple après-ski—or mosey inside Silver Lake Lodge to Royal Street Café for a cocktail.
Nibble on caviar or cheese and charcuterie and sip Veuve Clicquot at The Après Lounge & Beach Club at The Montage Deer Valley (435.604.1300, montagehotels.com/deervalley; take the Bandana Run from the top of Flagstaff Mountain). The cheery and chic yurt tricked out with plush couches, Gorsuch-curated décor, and plenty of bubbly (starting with the $159 per bottle/$32 per glass Yellow Label, and continuing on up to the vintage selection) keeps the adults entertained while kids hit the tubing and s’mores activities.
The aquavit-anchored concoction known as the Norwegian Restaurateur delivers warmth right down to the toes at Stein Eriksen Lodge’s Troll Hallen Lounge (435.649.3700, steinlodge.com; located at the top of the Viking Silver Lake Village return lift). Take in the on-hill views and daily musical entertainment (3 to 5 p.m.) while savoring renowned Chef Zane Holmquist’s Swedish meatballs & mashers with lingonberry jam (his grandma’s
recipe). Stick around until 4:30 p.m. for s’mores.
Cozy up to the fireplace and savor a pint or two of Stiegl Pils (Austrian Pilsner) along with a dip into the scrumptious cheese fondue at the Goldener Hirsch Inn (800.252.3373, goldenerhirschinn.com, located in the middle of Silver Lake Village).
Lively acoustic music (4 to 6 p.m.) sets the tone at The Chateaux’s Cena Lounge (435.659.9500, the-chateaux.com; located across the street from Silver Lake Lodge). Claim a stool at the copper-topped bar for a pint. Or gather the clan at a table flanking the floor-to-ceiling windows for pizzettas (we recommend the wild boar sausage and fontina) and a warming round of signature Frisky Whiskeys.
Lower Deer Valley
Await your young ski schooler from a perch on the deck of EBS Lounge (upstairs in Snow Park Lodge) or sidle up to the fireplace and enjoy live music on the weekends (2 to 6 p.m.). Named in honor of resort founder Edgar Stern, Edgar’s Beer & Spirits Lounge is the place to tuck into turkey chili nachos or discover why the blueberry mojito, a cocktail contest winner, continues to be wildly popular.
Ride the funicular or ski down from Silver Lake Village to the lofty St. Regis Bar (435.940.5700, stregisdeervalley.com; located on the Deer Hollow run) and bask in the glow of the fire garden. Catch the traditional champagne sabering at sunset or order up the signature 7452 Bloody Mary (topped with wasabi-celery foam) while trying to resist asking for another batch of complimentary rosemary and truffle popcorn.
Slightly off-piste is The Brass Tag (inside the Lodges at Deer Valley, 2900 Deer Valley Dr E). As the cars crawl out of the lots on peak season days, use traffic as an excuse to cozy up to the bar for a sip of the award-winning Evangeline cocktail and oven-fired chimichurri chips smothered with cheddar, gruyère, and bacon bits.