Old ski image from the Montage in Deer Valley

By Eileen Ogintz
Tribune Media Services

Ready for a snowball fight?

We are in the outdoor hot tub at the Montage Deer Valley in Park City, Utah as that famous Utah powder is dumped on our heads.

We laugh at the three little boys having a spirited snowball fight on the other side of the hot tub. Of course, you can have as much fun off the slopes as on at a snow resort, especially in January, which is designated as Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month with special programs at resorts around the country. At the same time, look for ski country lodging deals from Wyndham Vacation Rentals that can save you as much as 30 percent.

For a lot more options, check out our TakingTheKids family guide to fun in the snow.

Vermont, for example, is touting $29 packages, including professional lessons, equipment rentals and a beginner lift ticket at resorts all over the state while each of Utah’s 14 resorts offer special discounts and deals for beginners and New York State’s ski areas are offering 10,000 $10 lift tickets to be used on Jan. 10. (Visit www.iskiny.com from now until Jan. 9, 2013 and click on the 10/10/10 logo where you’ll be directed to the entry form.)

For those who can afford deluxe on the slopes (the Montage Memories package starts at $595 a night) it 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 historic Main Street and just 40 minutes from Salt Lake City National Airport.

Park City Utah

We’ve chosen Deer Valley, where the number of lift tickets is 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, as long as you aren’t snowboarders — no snowboarding allowed here) with some pampering (Montage has the largest spa in Utah) and good eats.(Deer Valley is famous in ski country for its food.)

We also have the opportunity to explore Park City — from the Park City Museum that tells this town’s story from mining to snow sports (did you know underneath Deer Valley and Park City Mountain Resort there are some 1,000 miles of mining tunnels?) — to the Utah Olympic Park where you can hitch a ride down the length to the Olympic bobsled track. Did I mention that besides Deer Valley, Park City boasts two other huge ski resorts — The Canyons and Park City Mountain Resort, where you can meet some of the local and visiting Snowmamas.com.

I’m just glad for the rare opportunity to spend some just-us-girls– R and 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 and living in Washington, D.C.

The Montage has everything from great views (we watch kids playing in the snow outside our window) to great places to cozy up by the fire (we loved the Vista Lounge with live music and the hotel’s own microbrew) to great eats (the farm-to-table Apex restaurant is awesome for breakfast, as well as dinner, complete with Utah Trout and foraged mushrooms.)

Downstairs, there’s Daley’s Pub & Rec a gourmet gastro-pub where you can bowl, play billiards and arcade games or watch basketball on TV while chowing down on your burger.

The Paintbox offers organized kids’ activities should parents need a break — maybe at the 35,000-square-foot spa (ready to surrender your stress with a customized treatment) — 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.

Just because a hotel is luxurious (not to mention pricey) it’s not guaranteed to meet your needs but this one does — luxurious but casual, a staff that is service-oriented but welcoming rather than snooty. I love the little things — the loofah in the shower, the truffles left for us at bedtime, the free newspapers in the lobby and that kids are invited to choose a special stuffed friend who is local to this area — a moose, raccoon or fox, perhaps.

To get to know the mountain better, sign on for a complimentary tour with a Deer Valley 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. I also loved Deer Valley’s kids’ trail maps 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.

There are plenty of luxurious 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, too, if your getaway includes a teen) and the St. Regis Deer Valley.

I worried, in fact, 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.