The Mariposa Restaurant in Deer Valley Utah

Deer Valley has been named the #1 ski resort in North America in 2008, 2009 and again this year in North America by the readers of SKI Magazine.

Add in 300 annual inches of famous Utah dry powder, 100 trails, six bowls, 21 chairlifts and a limited number of skiers allowed on the mountain each day; three day lodges glowing warm with firelight and gourmet food, the well respected Ski School and Children’s Center; and the sheer ease of the place — parking lot shuttles, complimentary ski storage, ski valets and more. (

Especially the food!  We eat lunch today at Royal Street Café, located mid-mountain in Silver Lake Lodge — Bacon BBQ Burger or shrimp and lobster layered with papaya salsa and fresh guacamole, served in a margarita glass (not your usual ski lodge fare!). Tonight we will go to the Mariposalocated in Silver Lake Lodge, rated #1 in the Zagat Restaurant Guide, Deer Valley’s premier restaurant offers a blend of classic and current cuisine, as well as vegetarian and tasting menus with informed and attentive servers.

If you want to improve your turns, this is the place. Skier Services also offers several specialty programs, including the Mahre Training Center Ski Camps, led by American Olympic medal winners and brothers, Phil and Steve Mahre and Adult Specialty Programssuch as the highly popular Men’s and Women’s Weekends and Women on Wednesdays and Men on Thursdays programs. Deer Valley Ski School offers a wide array of children’s lessonsfor kids from 3 to 12 years old, as well as Teen Escape for those 13 to 18 years of age (all ability levels). The state-licensed Children’s Centeroffers nurturing care for children ages two months to 12 years old.

I spend the day skiing with instructor Guillermo Paz who has been here since Deer Valley opened in 1981— he financed a 17 year racing career by teaching skiing – and is just as passionate about the sport as he was as a teen. He’d spent the day before, he told me, teaching a rank beginner.

“It is a privilege to teach beginners,” he said. “This is my passion and to introduce someone to my passion-it is very important how the first time on skis is and whether they will be a lifelong skier or not.”

Deer Valley of course is all about service and that’s obvious everywhere-from the lift ops to the central reservations center to the Children’s Center where ski school director John Guay tells me there is a state-licensed day care center so that if the youngest skiers need to come in they can be cared for.  Over 80 per cent of the 500-member staff are returnees, he says—many for more than five years.  And most everyone on the staff is given at least some special training for teaching kids, he says, because this mountain is all about family.” And it has been since the beginning.

There’s a terrific program in which local high schoolers “help” instructors on the snow with the youngest skiers—in effect making it easier  for everyone, including the kids, though the ratios are already low (two kids to one instructor for four year olds (no more than four 5-6 year old beginners).

And despite this economy, he adds, the best selling product is an all day private lesson—at $750 a pop) that two families will split rather than spend $177per child for ski school.

“Everything is about value,” says Guay, who also has been here since the resort opened. “They want to make sure what they are getting is worth the money. They are looking at what the kids are learning and they want them to really learn—they don’t just want a babysitter. They don’t mind spending the money if they get the value — if it is a great family experience and we do all we can to make sure it’s smooth.”

We end our day at Deer Valley’s terrific Mariposa Restaurant where we enjoy a tasting menu and wine pairing that starts with a warm caramelized onion and gruyere tart, moves on to heavenly sablefish with ginger sauce wild mushroom, natural Utah lamb and ends with a wonderful chocolate snowball and a Crème Brule in a sugar crust. Amazing.

Equally wonderful was the chance to catch up with an old friend over dinner.