No doubt about it, Utah’s Deer Valley is 100% designer mountain. But beyond the beautiful lodges, fine dining, slope-side “cabins” and swish shops, the attention to detail begins with the ski trails.
The terrain at Deer Valley, served by 21 lifts, is mixed, with good choices for skiers at all levels. Although the blue (intermediate) trails outnumber the green (beginner), of the four peaks that make up the main ski area, three have green trails from the top. So the best views and long runs are not reserved for more experienced skiers.
Intermediate trails are designated by the degree of difficulty, with either one or two blue squares. Eastern skiers will find that the double-blue trails compare to single black diamond trails they are used to.
Halfway up the mountain, at 8100 feet, Silver Lake Lodge is a full-service complex of hotels, restaurants and shops. While you can drive there, it makes sense to begin at the bottom, where parking is free, and take the chairlift to Silver Lake Lodge. That makes a good base, and if you plan to ski Deer Valley more than one day, overnight ski storage is free.
Among other classy touches at Deer Valley is free ski valet at the drop-off area at the base, Snow Park Lodge. We had barely stopped the car when someone was helping us unload skis. No time for a tip before they were off to help someone else.
Eastern skiers will notice some other differences. First, the runs from the top are longer than we are used to, and second is Utah’s legendary “champagne powder” – quite unlike eastern powder. Light and fluffy, it is more like skiing through feathers, so skis are not bogged down as they usually are by deep snow in the east.
I came to Park City not for the annual winter Sundance Film Festival that fills the former silver mining town with celebs and wannabes, but to try out the variety of ski mountains that surround it. Fresh from sea level, I wasn’t sure how I’d do my first day, so I took it easy, following friends’ advice to begin on 9400-foot Bald Mountain. From the top, Homeward Bound skirted the ridge, meeting Ontario – also a green trail, which cruises through a beautiful ravine lined with tall spruce trees. It was lovely skiing, with opportunities to try out the deep powder at the edges without committing myself to skiing through the woods.
My friends wanted to show me some of the “cabins” that line the lower trails between Silver Park Lodge and Snow Park Lodge, so we took the green Success and the blue Last Chance past some stunning ski homes. Each had its own style, from beautiful multi-storied log homes to ultra-modern glass-enclosed designs. Highlights were two cabins decorated with carved raccoons and bears. These life-sized animals cavort in various places and poses, executing a perfect turn down the roof to ker-spat against a wall.
My next run was from the top of Flagstaff Mountain, on Bandana, which took me to the Empire Canyon Lodge for lunch. Ready for blues, I went to the top of Empire Canyon and took the more challenging Supreme, on which I was not altogether successful (at least in terms of style) but managed with both skis under me instead of over my head.
After that, I retired to Silver Lake Lodge and shops, and later to the Goldener Hirsch Inn for fondue and Champagne. Ah, the rigors of outdoor life.