Never underestimate the power of waiting thirty years.
For thirty years, my husband has dreamed of skiing Deer Valley.
His dream started when he was a boy in Connecticut, paging through an issue of SKI Magazine.
“I read about this new resort being built in Utah. It sounded like the coolest place ever.”
I’d never heard this story until we planned a visit to Deer Valley in February.
When he told me this, I was shocked.
He was thrilled.
Living Up to Expectations
Our first day at Deer Valley found my husband, and our sons, in the best mood ever.
While some might say that “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” in our house it’s “when dad is psyched, the family is psyched.”
Thirty years of waiting, coupled with several inches of fresh snow and a winter storm warning, promised prodigious powder and fun family time.
A native New Englander, my husband has no love for hard pack, icy conditions. When he read of Deer Valley, he was taken by the idea of perfect western corduroy, not just on easy or intermediate runs, but on steep expert runs as well.
Of course, when you arrive amidst a serious storm, you don’t experience the grooming that makes Deer Valley famous. But you do experience incredible powder skiing.
On our first day, we started up high, traversing off of the Empire Lift to the Daly Bowl, Daly Chutes and incredible tree skiing. This is Utah skiing as many expect it — open treeless bowls and rocky chutes that would be daunting, except for the deep soft powder that cushions every turn.
Other great places to find powder at Deer Valley include the thigh-burning runs in Mayflower Bowl, and the easier, more mellow pleasures, and widely spaced trees of Lady Morgan Bowl and Ontario Bowl.
Trees, Yes, Trees
My husband loves tree skiing and after his long wait, was thrilled to duck into Deer Valley’s famous. Again, the terrain lived up to the advance billing.
Deer Valley Resort does an outstanding job thinning their glades, so there plenty of wide-open powder stashes hidden amongst trees, as well as tighter turns to be found.
For tree skiing neophytes, Sunset Glade to skier’s left of the Sterling Express was exquisite. The deep snow helps control your turns and many lines are easily visible. From there, if you’re comfortable, the exploration is endless.
Another reason my husband wanted to visit Deer Valley was Stein Eriksen. He fully admits that at age 13 he had no idea who Stein Eriksen was, but the idea of the Norwegian skiing superstar, a world-famous competitor and instructor, captured his imagination.
Now 86, Eriksen is Deer Valley’s director of skiing. His legacy is evident throughout the resort, especially at the Stein Eriksen Lodge, where his many World Cup skiing honors are on display. This lodge is not only a lovely place to visit, but a great spot for a family après ski, or a romantic, and endlessly delicious, adult meal.
Deer Valley has a competitive legacy in its own right, as host of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics Freestyle, Aerial and Slalom competitions, and an FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup venue. It’s fun to find the signs marking the runs where these events take place and ski them yourself.
Even more fun, is watching today’s future Olympians train in freestyle and moguls.
Think you can ski? Spend a little time watching these kids.
As a mom, I appreciated the outstanding level of service we received at Deer Valley.
We stayed near the Snow Park Lodge base in a spacious, comfortable two bedroom condo, with its own hot tub. After we arrived, we parked our car and never moved it again. Each morning, we got up, got ready and took either a Deer Valley shuttle or free Park City bus to the base.
Coming home in the afternoon, we checked our skis and poles at the resort’s complimentary overnight storage and hopped back on a bus or shuttle.
Moments later we were in the hot tub.
Everyone we met at Deer Valley was polite and friendly — from an older man in the rental shop, to the young woman who cleared our plates in the cafeteria at the Silver Lake Lodge.
And while we didn’t visit the Ski School, I can only imagine, from what I saw on mountain, that the same high level of service prevails.
While I predictably cared much more about service and convenience than my boys did, they were impressed with the scope of the mountain.
For three days, we skied wire-to-wire, and still couldn’t get everywhere.
Deer Valley Resort ranges over six mountains, from Empire, with a summit of 9,570 feet, to Little Baldy Peak with a summit of 7,950 feet. Spread among these two extremes you’ll find 22 lifts, three full service lodges and enough runs to keep you busy, no matter what level and what type of skiing you prefer.
On our last day, my husband and I took a free Expert Guided Tour. Expert tours leave at 9:30 and 1:30 from Snow Park Lodge, while Intermediate Tours leave at 10:00 and 1:30 from Silver Lake Lodge.
Whether you’re at the resort for one day or several, these tours offer a great introduction to the mountain, with real skiing, not just talking.
Another option is to book some time with local Olympian and Deer Valley Ambassador Heidi Voelker. Voelker is very personable and a superb skier. She’ll not only guide you around the mountain, but also give you some tips.
Finally, the FOOD!
It wouldn’t be a family ski vacation without good food and Deer Valley did not disappoint.
We thought lunch at Silver Lake Lodge was a reasonable value. This, from committed brown baggers. I was told not to miss the Deer Valley turkey chili. It was great. So was the beef stew and the minestrone soup.
For a truly memorable lunch, however, check out the Royal Street Café, with it’s unique cocktails, delicious starters such as tuna tartare, filling entrees and yummy desserts (look for the homemade ice cream sandwiches).
It’s a splurge, so you’ll want to take your time and enjoy every bite.
For dinner check out the Seafood Buffet, which is delicious and offers everything from sushi to ribs, grilled ahi to prime rib, and Fireside Dining. Both require reservations and both are wholly unique.
But We Don’t Want to Go Home
When it came time to leave, after three hard-core days of powder skiing, my husband was dragging his skis.
“Let’s take another run,” he’d suggest as we’d approach the base area. “Wow, that sure looks good over there. How about one more?”
Spent, I laughed at him and asked “You don’t want to leave do you?”
“No,” he said. “I really don’t.”
Thirty years of waiting for three days of skiing, each of which more than exceeded his boyhood dreams.
That’s a pretty good family weekend.
Thanks to Deer Valley for arranging our weekend for us and making someone’s dream (finally) come true.
Also, you probably already know this, but snowboards are not allowed at Deer Valley.
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