How posh can your family ski vacation get? Learn about Utah's top-notch celebrity getaway and decide if it offers value to you.
In the universe of upscale ski resorts, Utah’s Deer Valley Resort rests comfortably in the upper cosmos. It was founded in 1981 by the family that then owned the lush Stanford Court Hotel in San Francisco. Their concept was to bring the hotel’s five-star amenities and personalized service to a ski resort. They succeeded in a big way.
Located a 5-minute drive from Park City’s shop-dense main street, Deer Valley is a world away. There are three lodge facilities (one base lodge and two mid-mountain) surrounded by exclusive housing that ranges from townhouse to palace. Each lodge is expansive and richly appointed with fireplaces and cozy seating found throughout the public spaces.
The typical ski mountain cafeteria service has been replaced by cafe offerings that have been beamed down from a really fine restaurant. Each lodge has at least one casual restaurant as well as a gourmet venue for evenings, accessible to non-skiers by the resort’s complimentary shuttle service.
Luxurious Service & Privacy Assured
Special treatment starts on arrival at the base lodge, where you’re met at the curb by Ski Assistants who help with the burdensome family gear. As you step outside the grand base lodge, before you rises close to 1900 acres of skiable terrain spread across three mountains; 91 trails are served by 21 lifts, over half of them high-speed (one high-speed gondola, 10 high-speed quads). You’ll ski beside and between the gargantuan houses of the rich and famous and suffer traumatic ski house envy.
Let’s be clear that skiing is your only option here—snowboarding is not allowed. Although my own teen groused about having to leave his board behind, he enjoyed the mountain and the fine dining on rented twin tip skis.
All of the trappings, amenities and the stratospheric real estate prices will probably lead you to the correct perception that Deer Valley is one of the playgrounds of the rich. But it’s not just for the Black Card set. Although lift tickets and other services are priced at the high end ($77/day), there’s a welcoming spirit, competent friendly staff and a serious commitment to undercrowding that justify the rates.
Deer Valley stops selling when the six-thousand-five-hundredth lift ticket has been sold. So, you’ll rarely wait your turn on the chair and never feel crowded on the slopes. Lots of runs, lots of lifts, superb grooming. The trails are strongly blue (43%), but plenty of black (33%) and beginner slopes beckon. You won’t be disappointed.
Exclusive Family Programs
But you will be seriously let down if you wait too late to book a spot in the kid’s program. It’s well regarded and a highly prized commodity. By mid-November of 2006, the 2007 President’s Day week of kid’s programs was fully booked! The Children’s Center (for non-skiing kids), located in Snow Lodge (the base lodge) was recently doubled in size to a capacity of 139 kids, and has its own lunch line. The same caveat for advance booking applies to children’s ski programs and rental equipment as well, especially for holiday weeks, when inventories have been known to run dry.
Family-oriented offerings start with childcare from 2-months to 12-years ($94/day). Ski school programs ($150/day, all ages) start at age 3 and run through age 12, with impressive and age-appropriate student to instructor ratios. At age 3 it’s 1 to 1; at 4-years, 2 to 1. At ages 5-6 the average class size is 4-6.
For children ages 7 to12-years, class size is 7-10 students. During holiday and peak periods, the Youth Program kicks in for teens 13-18, with class sizes of 7-10 kids. Helmets are not required for students, but parental pagers are provided. To book, call the Ski Services number (888/754-8477; 435/645-6648).
Lodging is not owned or operated by the mountain resort, so there is a central booking service (800/558-3337; 435/645-6928; firstname.lastname@example.org). Mountainside accommodations are clustered near the base lodge at Snow Park (the ideal area for families with infants, toddlers and young learners who will use the childcare facility), around the mid-mountain Silver Lake Lodge, and even higher at the Empire Canyon Lodge. Nightly rates range widely but rise with the glamour and the altitude. A two-bedroom ski in/ski out condo will start at $870/night in the fall and spring “value season”, rising to $1590/night in “holiday seasons.”
For a significantly lower tariff, you can easily stay in the town of Park City and commute by bus on the well-developed city transit system. No shame to be had there and — you’ll have the fine array of Park City culinary offerings. A two-bedroom condo in town would be about half the price of a Deer Valley ski in/ski out version over most weeks of the winter season. Budget double occupancy hotel rooms in Park City can be had for as low as $99/night in the value season and $259/night in holiday season.
For help on all things Park City, including housing options, contact the Park City Chamber of Commerce ( 800/453-1360; 435-9616).
Author’s Confession: We skied Deer Valley the week after the Sundance Film Festival and spotted not one celebrity. Celebrity homes by the bushel but not one living, walking famous personage. Oh, well, we’ll try again next year.
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