Deer Valley Resort (435/649-1000 or 800/424-3337, ski report 435/649-2000, www.deervalley.com , lifts open 9 a.m.-4:15 p.m. early Dec.-mid-Apr., $90 adult full day, $63 adult afternoon, $56 children 4-12 full day, $44 children afternoon; $65 seniors 65 and older full day, $45 seniors afternoon) is the crème de la crème of Utah ski areas. Here you'll find good uncrowded skiing on immaculately groomed trails with all the extras of posh accommodations, gourmet dining, attentive service, and polished brass everywhere. Lift operators steady the chairs as you plunk your bottom down, mountain guides lead free tours, and, at the top of nearly every lift, a friendly green-parka-clad host points you to a run that's right for you. And, in spite of its reputation as being a cushy, glitzy area for spoiled rich folks, the skiing here can be great, and the people riding the lifts are by and large friendly and interesting.
Deer Valley prohibits snowboards. The ski area is 1.5 miles south of downtown Park City  (33 miles east of Salt Lake City), and free shuttle buses connect the resort and the town.
Although a small ski area, Snow Park, operated in this area 1947-1965, Deer Valley itself did not open until 1981. The owners, Edgar and Polly Stern, wanted to provide a resort that was both easy to get to and more luxurious than other ski areas. The Sterns were soon joined by Roger Penske; the resort is still privately owned, with its longtime manager, Bob Wheaton, taking an active role.
Like Park City's other ski areas, Deer Valley was built on private land (as opposed to the Cottonwood areas, which are on U.S. Forest Service leases) and is fueled by development. It's rather like the typical golf course development, where expensive homes are built immediately adjacent to the area, meaning that you're frequently skiing past incredibly huge, expensive homes.
The 2002 Olympic slalom, mogul, and aerial events were held at Deer Valley.
Deer Valley spans six mountains: Bald Eagle Mountain, Bald Mountain, Little Baldy Peak, Empire Canyon, Lady Morgan, and Flagstaff Mountain. Though the main base area and parking is at Snow Park, the mid-mountain Silver Lake area is much more of a hub. In fact, at the end of the day, you can't just ski straight down to the parking area; instead you must make your way to Silver Lake, take a short ride on the Homestake lift out of the valley, then ski down Bald Eagle Mountain to the base.
The slopes are served by 21 lifts, including one four-passenger high-speed gondola and 11 high-speed quads, providing 100 runs, six bowls, and a vertical drop of 3,000 feet. The longest run is 2.8 miles. Twenty-seven percent of the skiing is rated easier, 41 percent more difficult, and 32 percent most difficult. Though Deer Valley has the reputation of coddling skiers (and it's true that the resort provides a green or blue way down from the top of every lift), there's plenty of challenging territory for advanced skiers, especially in Empire Canyon, which has good access via the Lady Morgan lift.
Deer Valley is famous for its meticulously groomed trails. To find out what's been groomed, check the boards at the top of every mountain. Mountain hosts can also steer you to freshly groomed trails (or onto ungroomed powder).
The majestic Snow Park Lodge (elev. 7,200 feet) contains the main ticket office, ski school, rentals, ski shop, child-care service, gift shop, and a restaurant. You can drive three miles and 1,000 feet higher to Silver Lake Lodge (parking here is more limited), a major hub of activity on the mountain, with more restaurants and luxury hotels.
Guides lead tours of the mountain at 9:30 a.m. (for advanced skiers) and 10 a.m. (for intermediates) from the Snow Park Lodge and at 1:30 p.m. (intermediate and advanced skiers) from the Silver Lake Lodge.
Bald Eagle Mountain, near the Snow Park base, contains the main beginners' area and served as the site for 2002 Olympic events. Aspiring slalom skiers can take a run on the Know You Don't slalom course; the Champion mogul course is also open to the public. Not surprisingly, the White Owl run, site of the freestyle aerial jumps, is off-limits.
At 9,400 feet, Bald Mountain is steeper and more exposed; its intermediate and advanced runs have spectacular views but often get skied out in the afternoon. Find steep ungroomed trails in the Sultan and Mayflower areas.
On the right (west) side of Flagstaff Mountain (elev. 9,100 feet) the snow often holds up well, making its intermediate and beginner ski trails good bets for skiing later in the day. Blue runs off the Northside Express are good for intermediates. The Flagstaff area also has tree skiing and access to Ontario Bowl.
Empire Canyon (elev. 9,570 feet) has skiing for all abilities, including a family ski area off the Little Chief lift, challenging but skiable intermediate terrain, and some of the most advanced skiing at Deer Valley, including eight chutes and three bowls.
The classic last run of the day is Last Chance, which goes past stunning ski houses and some fairly amazing yard art all the way to the parking area. (Tired skiers can also board the Silver Lake Express from the top and ride it back to the Snow Park base.)
To prevent overcrowded trails, Deer Valley restricts the number of skiers on the mountain and often needs to restrict ticket sales during Christmas, New Year's, and Presidents' Day weeks. If you're planning on skiing here during the holidays, reserve lift tickets at least a few days in advance.
Mountain bikers, hikers, and sightseers can catch the Sterling and Silver Lake lifts (10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily mid-June-Labor Day, weekends only Labor Day-mid-Sept., $28 full-day pass, $19 single-ride bike pass, $15 hikers or sightseers, $12 child or senior scenic ride, $8 scenic ride on Silver Lake lift only) to explore more than 50 miles of trails running from the peak. Riders must wear helmets. Instruction, rentals, and tours are available; call the resort (800/424-3337) for more information. Summer is also the season for off-road cycling events, Utah Symphony concerts, and music festivals. For horseback rides, call Deer Valley Stables (435/640-2769).
There are abundant condominium lodgings in Deer Valley, many almost immediately adjacent to the slopes. The best way to book lodgings is to contact Deer Valley Central Reservations (435/645-6528 or 800/558-3337, www.deervalley.com ) and let them guide you through the process. The website has a good interactive map that will give you an overview of the accommodations and prices. Package deals are often available, but rates are still high—it's hard to find a condo for under $600 or a hotel room for less than $300. But remember, you're only a couple of miles from Park City  and about an hour from Salt Lake . It's worth skiing Deer Valley even if you can't afford to sleep here.
Accommodations are in two main areas: Snow Park, the Deer Valley base area, which is about one mile from downtown Park City, and the Silver Lake area, located mid-mountain approximately 3.2 miles from the Snow Park base area. A short distance past Silver Lake is the Empire Pass area, with a few condos. Both Snow Park and Silver Lake lodges are themselves just day lodges.
If money is no object, book a room at the luxurious Stein Ericksen Lodge (7700 Stein Way, 435/649-3700 or 800/453-1302, www.steinlodge.com , $420 and up), mid-mountain in the Silver Lake area. The lodge is like a Norwegian fantasy castle built of log and stone. Rooms are exquisitely appointed, and there's a day spa with pool and fitness room. The restaurant here is one of the highest rated in the area. You can book a room here either through the lodge itself or through Deer Valley Central Reservations.
Another extremely comfortable place is the Goldener Hirsch Inn (7570 Royal St. E., 435/649-7770 or 800/252-3373, www.goldenerhirshinn.com , $489 and up) in exclusive Silver Lake Village; it's a small Austrian-style ski-in, ski-out inn with beautifully furnished rooms (the gorgeous hand-carved beds were imported from Austria), hot tubs, a sauna, lounge, meeting facilities, and underground parking. The restaurant here is also extremely good.
At the Snow Park Base, The Lodges at Deer Valley (435/645-6528 or 800/558-3337, www.deervalley.com , hotel room from $450, condo apartment from $630) includes hotel rooms with minifridge and toaster and full-kitchen condos; the complex has a year-round outdoor pool and hot tub. These are joined by many, many other condos. Central reservations can help you select a place.
The mid-mountain lodges here are unique because you can actually drive to them.
Several cafeteria-style restaurants make the Silver Lake Lodge a good spot for a quick lunch. On a sunny day, stretch out in the lawn chairs on McHenry's Beach, the big sunny spot in front of the lodge, with your meal. There are also a couple of small coffee shops on the mountain—they serve Deer Valley's trademark turkey chili and good cookies.
For a sit-down lunch, après-ski snacks, or dinner, the Royal Street Café (435/645-6724, 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. daily, $12-15), in the Silver Lake Lodge, is a good bet. For fine dining, the award-winning Mariposa (435/645-6715, 5:45-9 p.m. Tues.-Sun. during ski season, $30) is a wonderful splurge, preparing "classic and current" cuisine; fresh fish, rack of lamb, steaks, chicken, and other meats receive savvy sauces and preparations. A five-course tasting menu is $85; add $60 for a wine flight. Reservations are recommended.
At the Goldener Hirsch Inn (435/649-7770, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. daily, $31-50, reservations recommended) in Silver Lake Village, dishes reflect both an Austrian heritage and New World pizzazz: wienerschnitzel ($32) is the house specialty, and fondue is another popular option.
At the Stein Ericksen Lodge, the elegant Glitretind Restaurant (435/649-3700, 7 a.m.-9 p.m. daily, $25-36, reservations recommended) serves contemporary cuisine with a few Asian touches.
If you take an informal survey of lift riders here, the most popular meal in Deer Valley seems to be the Seafood Buffet at the Snow Park Lodge (435/645-6632, 6-9 p.m. Mon.-Tues. and Thurs.-Sat. during the ski season, $62 adults, $34 children). Both quality and quantity are unstinting.