Powder skiing at Deer Valley Utah

DAY 3 — Snowball fight anyone?

We are in the outdoor hot tub at the Montage Deer Valley while it dumps much needed snow on our heads and the mountains. Three little boys are having a snow ball fight on the other side of the hot tub.

For those who can afford luxe on the slopes, tt doesn’t get any better than the ski-in, ski-out Montage (with its own Compass Sports rental shop and ski valet where they buckle and unbuckle your boots) and Deer Valley, five minutes from Park City’s Main Street and just 40 minutes from Salt Lake City National Airport.

We’ve chosen Deer Valley, North America’s No. 1 ski resort (ranked by the readers of SKI Magazine 2008-2012) where the number of lift tickets are limited each day to prevent crowds and the Montage for a girls’ getaway that will combine some time on the slopes (though Deer Valley is known for its groomed terrain, with six peaks there is plenty of expert caches to discover) with some pampering (Montage has the largest spa in Utah) and good eats.

I’m glad for the opportunity to spend some just-us-girls– R&R with my daughter Reggie, who lives in San Francisco, and her college roommate Meghan McCloskey, just back from a two-year stint in the Peace Corps.   

I couldn’t have chosen better. The Montage has everything from great views (we watch kids playing in the snow outside our room window) to great places to cozy up by the fire (We loved the Vista Lounge with live music and the hotel’s own microbrew) and great eats (The farm-to-table Apex is awesome for breakfast –the coconut-crusted French toast was amazing as well as dinner where we indulged our inner foodies with Elk sausage, Utah Trout and Duck Breast as well as foraged mushrooms. (Truffle Mac and Cheese anyone?)

Downstairs, there’s Daley’s Pub & Rec a gourmet gastro-pub where you can bowl, play billiards, arcade games or watch basketball on TV while chowing down on your burger. There’s a sushi bar and a coffee bar named Buzz where you can taste the resort’s own honey. I’m sorry we didn’t have time for the resort’s sushi bar.  

The Paintbox offers organized kids’ activities should parents need a break—maybe at the gargantuan spa—as well as a lending library of books. No wonder this place is packed with families!  Everyone loves the big pooch who is the resort mascot.

I’m told the locale is just as wonderful in summer and fall when you can hike and mountain bike right outside the door—arranged by the concierges. I’m going to have to come back to see! Even better, prices are less than half in winter.

Just because a hotel is pricey doesn’t mean it will meet your needs but this one does—luxurious but casual, a staff that is service-oriented but welcoming rather than snooty. The girls love the gargantuan bathroom with its heated floors and the fireplace in our room and the oh-so-comfy beds. I love the little things—the loofah in the shower, the truffles left for us at bedtime, the free newspapers in the lobby, that kids , are invited to choose a special stuffed friend who is local to this area—a moose, raccoon or fox perhaps.  

Deer Valley has been known for its food and service since it opened in 1981 so it’s nice to feel pampered both inside the hotel and outside on the slopes. (You’ll get help with your gear as soon as you arrive). Sign on for a complimentary tour with a Mountain Host. My daughter Reggie joins an expert tour on a powder day and reports the guide took the group through glades and trees and areas she never would have found on her own. 

Nor do visitors realize how much history is right here under the slopes—literally—says Michael O’Malley, a local amateur historian and Deer Valley Mountain Host who imparts history at every opportunity on the ski slopes and special summer guided tours (check www.deervalley.com) did you know underneath Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort are some 1,000 miles of mining tunnels?)

Did I mention Deer Valley is one of just three ski resorts left in the country that doesn’t allow snowboarders? That seems to add to the ambiance. Every year, customers are polled and are asked whether they want snowboarding and the vast majority don’t.

There are plenty of options to stay at Deer Valley–a sumptuous condo, a one-bedroom suite complete with private hot tub at Stein Eriksen Lodge, with its newly renovated spa and emphasis on wellness (there are teen treatments if your getaway includes a teen). The St. Regis Deer Valley has great late season deals. It’s easy to see why Deer Valley is so popular with multi-generational families –the food, the service, the groomers and the kids’ programs, including infant daycare.

This season, Deer Valley even has a new children’s trail map complete with fun facts about local critters. Did you know a raccoon’s hands are so nimble they could unlace a shoe or that deer can move their ears in any direction without moving their heads?  There are fun games to do and some runs kids love like Bucky’s Humps or the Enchanted Forest.

I’ve long known that Deer Valley and Park City are great for families with its three mountains,  historic Main Street (don’t miss the newly renovated Park City Museum that tells the story of history here—from mining, to saloons to snow) and activities from the alpine coaster and zipline at Park City Mountain Resort to bowling at Jupiter Bowl.

I worried, though, that Deer Valley would prove too chi-chi for my wilderness-loving daughter. I shouldn’t have. The Montage proved the perfect respite where we could catch up (we live 3,000 miles apart!), relax and indulge ourselves a bit.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

We wake up to more snow. The girls can’t wait to get out there.