Melissa's Travels

Luxury Comes to Town

I just came back from a weekend of skiing in Deer Valley, where I have skied for twenty years and for a resort that has changed very little in two decades, there is major news. With the sexy St. Regis and the five-star Montage Deer Valley, my favorite family ski mountain has upped its comfort factor and added some seriously spoiling features.

Deer Valley devotees get offended when I say that the resort can now compete with other luxury ski destinations in the West. “It’s always been the best,” they argue. (True, it has been ranked the #1 ski resort in North America for the past five years by SKI magazine.) And since it opened in 1981, the focus has been on cosseting skiers. For people who wanted groomed, uncrowded trails (lift passes are strictly limited and snowboarders are not allowed) and gourmet on-mountain cafeterias, it has been a great choice—as long as they had their own house or didn’t mind less than super plush accommodations. But only in the last year have really high-end hotel options appeared that can compare with places like the Four Seasons in Jackson Hole or the Little Nell or St. Regis in Aspen. These new lodges deliver very spoiling ski breaks—one has a 35,000-square-foot spa—but I don’t believe that they will alter the distinct character of Deer Valley. This is still a place where the real draw is the ease and the skiing, not a flashy crowd or an après ski scene. Those who care more about socializing than skiing will still stay away, which is the way regulars want it to remain.

The St. Regis Deer Crest and Montage Deer Valley have brought a much higher level of sleek design, comfort and service to the mountain than has been offered by longtime favorite Stein Eriksen, which was opened by the famous Olympic skier in 1981. If Stein Eriksen, the hotel, can be compared to an old world, European gentleman past his prime, then the St. Regis is the slick, cool upstart from LA who likes to party and the Montage Deer Valley is the more refined, California connoisseur who enjoys the good life in a laid-back way. (Read hotel reviews of the best Deer Valley properties in Where To Stay). These properties have brought more gourmet options and first-class spa experiences to the mountain, and it is heavenly to end a day of skiing with time in a glorious indoor pool or a massage. My kids après-ski highlight was probably playing with the hotel’s Newfoundland puppy, sipping whipped-cream topped hot chocolate or bowling in Montage’s pub, which also features dart boards, pool tables and video games. Both experiences, though, are much more dialed-down than an afternoon of shopping in Aspen.

Deer Valley Advantages:

Access:

Direct flights from many major cities to Salt Lake City and only a forty-five minute drive from the airport to the mountain on a major highway that is never shut down by snowstorms. So much easier to reach than Sun Valley, Telluride, Aspen, Vail or Beaver Creek.

Family Focus: No dangerous snowboarders and a stellar ski school with devoted instructors, many of whom teach part-time here while pursuing various professions in the area, so they have deep roots in the community and offer a depth of knowledge that goes beyond skiing.

Convenience: The Deer Valley Ski School is located right at the base so parents can ski to and from pick-up unlike at mountains like Sun Valley and Aspen.

Ski Experience: Even on the busiest weekends of the year, you won’t wait more than five-minutes on a lift line, and you can always find uncrowded trails to ski.

Deer Valley Disadvantages:

For non-skiers:

There is no town at the base of Deer Valley. Park City is a few miles down the road, but is more honky-tonk than high-fashion. It does offer some very good restaurants but nowhere near the range of Aspen.

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