Powder Power: Skiing in Park City, Utah

leadskiutahPark City knows it has a good thing going, and the Utah town is not timid when it comes to boasting. “The greatest snow on earth,” the state’s license plates boldly state. And when it comes to Park City, that statement might just be right. Each year, precipitation combines with the high-desert climate of the Wasatch Mountains to create over 350 inches (890 cm) of the best powder in the country.

Those top ski conditions have drawn visitors from around the world since the state’s first ski area opened in 1946. Utah skiing has come a long way since then, and Park City has become the state’s most popular ski town.

This tiny ski community is home to several top resorts, with Deer Valley undeniably the state’s most elegant and sophisticated ski area. With heated sidewalks, perfectly manicured slopes and some of the region’s top dining, the resort provides a pampering experience ― which is just what its founders envisioned.

When Edgar and Polly Stern opened Deer Valley in 1981, they applied their background in luxury hotels to the ski business, insisting that fine food and service be part of the experience. Twenty-four years later, their vision is a reality.

The resort pioneered many firsts in the industry, from being the first to offer valets to carry guests’ ski gear to offering pagers to parents with kids in the Children’s Center. And during a time when most ski cuisine was a simple burger on a paper plate, Deer Valley was one of the first to offer carved roast baron of beef on china plates.

The resort’s 1,825 (7.3 km²) skiable acres (which include 91 runs and 21 chairlifts) are carefully groomed, so much so that they are often described as “wall-to-wall corduroy.”

More than half of the terrain is groomed for intermediate skiers, with another 35 percent for experts and 15 percent for beginners. It’s important to note that Deer Valley is a skiers-only park. Snowboarding is not allowed here; the slopes are reserved for ski lovers.

Deer Valley recently invested some 8 million dollars in improvements, adding two new chairlifts and intermediate runs, as well as adding two more glade-skiing areas. (Glade skiing is done on within-bounds open slopes that are dotted with trees, offering plenty of opportunities to slalom.) Families will enjoy a skiers-only terrain park called Tricks ‘N’ Turns (TNT), which features new Ore Cart Rails.

“We created the Ore Cart Rails in response to guest requests,” says resort Mountain Operations Director Chuck English. “The rails are geared toward those guests who want an introductory or entry-level park experience. It’s not intimidating, but is challenging, requiring balance and courage!” The Ore Cart Rails include a few small jumps, funboxes and double barrels.

Empire Canyon Lodge at Deer Valley Resort
Empire Canyon Lodge at Deer Valley Resort

One of Deer Valley’s most beloved attractions is the legendary Stein Eriksen, director of skiing. The feisty Norwegian was a 1952 gold medalist in giant slalom, and he hasn’t looked back since. Eriksen, who is a National Ski Hall of Fame inductee, can be seen on most days out on the slopes with anyone who can keep up with him.

A celebrity of sorts at the resort, it’s not uncommon to see him posing with groups of children or chatting with adults in area restaurants. Deer Valley has even placed a bronze statue of Eriksen in front of Snow Park Lodge, and guests can experience the mountain-lover’s favorite pastry, a culinary creation called “Stein’s Cake.”

This decadent delight is made with marzipan, almonds and a rich raspberry filling. “Americans make their cakes with lots of batter and not very many goodies,” Eriksen says, explaining the pastry’s popularity. “We Norwegians make our cakes with a little batter and lots of goodies.”

Two other famous skiers have lent their talent to Deer Valley Resort. The Mahre Center Training Camps were designed by Olympic medal winners Phil and Steve Mahre. The camps’ three-day and five-day sessions, designed for those 12 and over, offer instruction on ski fundamentals for all ability levels. There are even women-only classes.


Deer Valley has an active Ski School for children, as well as a Children’s Center for non-skiing youngsters aged 2 months to 12 years. The Ski School also offers adult classes, with a maximum of four students. Those who enroll in full-day private lessons can take advantage of complimentary Dartfish video enhancement technology.

While this teaching method has a long name, it simply means that a simulcam video enable skiers to observe themselves in comparison with expert skiers. While hitting the slopes is certainly Deer Valley’s biggest draw, the excellent — and fairly affordable — cuisine offered in the resort’s 10 on-mountain restaurants is a draw in its own right.

The award-winning Mariposa, located at Silver Lake Lodge, serves dinner only, and specializes in tantalizing dishes such as pan-seared foie gras with brioche French toast, and roasted hazelnut-Roquefort butter with tart cherry, smoked onion and balsamic-reduction sauce.

Mondays through Saturdays, the Snow Park Lodge pulls out all the stops with its Seafood Buffet, which showcases tasty dishes from Dungeness crab to seared-to-order yellowfin tuna. The resort’s other restaurants include the Empire Canyon Grill and Bald Mountain Pizza, favorite stops for visiting families.

While Deer Valley can provide excellent dining and top ski conditions, there is much more to this region than the ski resort. Tucked away in the heart of the Wasatch Mountains — part of the Rocky Mountain Range — Park City is the quintessential little ski town, albeit with an upscale flair and a penchant for visiting celebrities.

What began as a mining town in 1884 (eventually pulling US$ 400 million in silver from the ground) is now home to some 7,000 year-round residents. Today, Park City is a typical blend of present and past. Sixty-four of its buildings have been carefully preserved and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Many of these are located on Main Street, which is lined with fine art galleries offering works such as blown glass and nature photography.

Although the community has long since grown past its rowdy days of miners and prospectors, it still retains its close-knit flavor. The town was thrilled — and rightly so — with its success hosting the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, yet they are proud to offer more than good skiing to visitors.

In fact, there is more entertainment here off the slopes than most visitors will be able to sample. Park City’s luxury spas —there are more than a dozen of them — are among the popular draws. The 10,000-square-foot (930 m²) Spa at Hotel Park City uses products native to Utah in treatments such as the Essence of Park City, which restores the skin’s moisture, an especially helpful treatment after time spent in the dry air and high altitude.

Another popular find is Papillon the Spa at Westgate, located at the foot of The Canyons Resort. Designed in contemporary mountain style, using stone and wood, the 30,000 square-foot (2,787 m²) spa has 17 spacious treatment rooms and numerous services for relaxation. Papillon specializes in treatments that make use of Utah desert botanicals. What could be better than a soothing massage after a day on the slopes?

If you’re looking for evening entertainment, Park City is rich in cultural offerings, including the well-known Sundance Film Festival, which will take place January 19 through 29, 2006. The Eccles Center and the Egyptian Theatre offer performing arts, while the Kimball Art Center houses acclaimed exhibits throughout the year.

Winter is a season to be celebrated in Park City, and there are plenty of reasons to be out in the snow. The Utah Olympic Park bobsled track is open to visitors and delivers a thrill you’ll revel in the area’s pristine beauty, you can spend the afternoon snowshoeing, while dog-sledding and sleigh rides let you step back in time using transportation methods of the past.

The Winterfest Celebration, February 3 through 12, reconstructs the excitement and spirit of the 2002 Olympic Games. One of the most popular events is the International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race, but there are also concerts, fireworks and plenty of other family-friendly activities.

There is a wide range of accommodations available in Park City, from condominiums to resort lodges to bed-and-breakfast inns. Still, even with some 5,700 available rooms, it’s best to beat the crowd and make your reservation early. For, despite its tiny size, Park City has a gigantic draw, offering a world-class ski experience in true Western style.

If You Go

Deer Valley Resort

P.O. Box 1525 , Park City, UT 84060



Park City






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