Skiing down the sleek, groomed slopes of Deer Valley, past the fabulous winter retreats of millionaires, is like skiing in a movie set. Incredible houses of some of the biggest names in industry and show business. And, many are right off the slopes or tower over them. Most of them look empty - I bet they could do with some high level house sitters.
Deer Valley was rated the Number One Ski Resort in North America in 2005 by readers of Ski Magazine, and it is worth it. There are miles of relatively easy cruising trails at this upscale Utah resort, which give you a chance to dance, show off, and feel like an Olympic expert with little effort. I have often found the trails in Deer Valley and Park City to be the best designed and engineered in the nation; they are cut just right for the maximum effect in skiing. I say skiing, because there are no snowboards allowed in Deer Valley. This is always a controversial decision, but Deer Vally gets more than enough skiers at this time. There are now four major resorts in this country which forbid snowboards, but there is always the chance those decisions will be re-evaluated at some future time. In addition to Deer Valley, Alta, Taos, and Mad River do not allow snowboarding. Fortunately for the snowboarders, there are other areas nearby which welcome them - hopefully that keeps everyone happy.
The vistas in Deer Valley are awesome - especially from the trails that look over the Jordanelle Resevoir. There are many dramatic runs on the huge mountain, including Stein’s Way, named after the legendary Stein Eriksen, who has an exclusive restaurant on the mountain and has contributed so much to the development of Deer Valley. Some runs can take nearly an hour to descend, as they weave through or around the entire resort. The best ones pass those magnificent houses.
Deer Valley is high, but the altitude is not as much a shock to Easterners as are the higher Colorado Rockies. It is possible to ski in Utah a few hours after arrival from the East, without much adjustment. And, the direct Southwest Air flights make it a one day trip (although our flight was extremely rough, in stormy weather, and no one would have been in a mood to ski for a few hours after that!) The base Snow Park Lodge is at 7,200 feet; Bald Mountain is 9,400, Flagstaff Mountain is 9,100, and Empire Canyon is 9,570. All are serviced by excellent lifts. The trails were not crowded, and there was an excellent mix of distinguished older retirees and younger children (maybe their grandchildren) enjoying ski school.
The trails I liked best were the extremely long series that began at Flagstaff, and ended at Jordanelle, past the exclusive new homes of the Deer Crest Development. The trail was fast, hard packed, and empty. One fast fall, and I could have skied through their picture windows, into their homes! At the end of the run, you take the gondola back up for a magnificent ride, which gives a great panorama of the mountain. Then, make your way back through a series of routes. Thanks to mountain host Tom Melville for teaching us this complex route - never would have figured it out on my own.
Deer Valley is luxurious, and it is nice to have the touches. There are several excellent restaurants and cafeterias in the resort and all serve the finest, freshest food. In all cases, the restrooms are extremely upscale, with gold plated faucets and other elegant touches. There are boxes of tissues throughout the resort, and face cream dispensers in the rest rooms. The bathrooms are labeled “Ladies” and” Gentlemen.” In the lodges, there are convenient elevators to take you between levels, to minimize the time you have to tramp up and down stairs in boots. A good shuttle tram system takes you from the parking lots to the main lodge. There are also shuttle buses, from the airport, Salt Lake City, and other parts of Utah.
Some people might laugh at these touches, and they are certainly more posh than many other ski resorts. But, when you are at Deer Valley, you know you are at a First Rate resort - a lot different from the way most of us live in real life. It is also different from places I skied at 40 years ago, staying in cold, miserable ski dorms, and suffering on unsafe lifts!
You do not have to spend a fortune to ski in Utah. We stayed in the wonderful Guest House of the University of Utah, with terrific rooms costing about $55 a night. That includes free buffet breakfast, and a refrigerator in the room. With 2 king sized beds, two couples could stay in the room. The media stayed in this Guest House during the 2002 Olympics, while the athletes stayed in the dorms nearby. The Guest House is open to anyone; you do not need University contacts. This was our third visit to it; the first one included our honeymoon.
Nearly every major resort in Utah is within an hour or two drive, and the University is about a half an hour from the airport. So, thanks to the expert driving of my husband, we rented a car, and went to another resort each day. More to come, but Deer Valley was a great way to start my return to Utah, one of the most breathtaking states in our great country!
When she wasn't skiing, Connie Lawn covered the White House as a reporter since 1968.