Tuesday, April 6, 2010
After I left Telluride, I traveled to its polar opposite for five days, Deer Valley. I had heard a lot about this place, that they excelled at service, (in fact, someone once joked to me that there is someone standing every ten feet on a run to wipe your nose with a tissue as you ski by...), that the grooming was legendary, and that it was the home of Stien Erickson.
I have to admit, I was curious.
We drove in and stayed at the St. Regis Deer Crest, which is absolutely the most beautiful hotel I've ever seen. We were in a two bedroom suite, with a living room, dining room, three bathrooms, and a full kitchen, fireplaces in all three rooms, televisions hidden in the mirrors in the bathrooms, and a butler named Mathew at our beck and call.
A far cry from the comfy couch I'd crashed on in Telluride, for sure. This is one of the things that I love about traveling. I find it takes openness and tolerance on all sides. It would be easy for me, coming from Montana and driving a beat up Bronco to turn my nose up at luxury, or to make judgments about what I think skiing is.
Skiing is something that everyone does differently, that everyone appreciates differently. Sleeping on Annie's couch and skiing the steep back country of Telluride is one way to experience it. Sleeping on 600 thread count sheets and having Mathew bring me coffee in bed before I ski out of the hotel and onto a perfect groomer with a couple of rowdy kids is another way to experience it.
This hotel was spectacular. And obviously, they did something right, as the entire place was sold out to young families.
The volume that Deer Valley was dealing with while we were visiting was astounding, and I have to say, they handle it really well. I heard that the ski school was sold out for three of the five days that we were there, and that they broke attendance records on one of those days. I wouldn't be surprised if that was true, it was packed.
There was a sea of green coats helping folks find their way, and most of the folks that I saw skiing are beginner to upper intermediate level skiers. They ski with their families, and one thing that Deer Valley does extremely well is take the hassle out of guessing what to do and where to go.
The person that told me there is someone there to wipe your nose is wrong. There is someone there to point you in the right direction, the staff is amazingly friendly and knowledgeable, coming to you if you look lost, making suggestions, and I saw more than one mountain host calming down a harried parent and harassed child and getting them sorted.
As far as skiing for grown ups goes, we had 16" of fresh snow and it just kept dumping. The gladed tree skiing looked phenomenal, and very untracked. I went out hunting for a long ripping groomer one morning to feel my ski legs, and it was so crowded that morning that I couldn't really uncork it, but to be fair, this was the attendance record day, and I didn't have a guide. Hiring a ski instructor or asking a mountain host is a great way to go.
Skiing around in my Aspen Ski Co Uniform was also great, I was welcomed by everyone and sent home with a long list of people to say hello to. The staff was very busy and focused on their clients, and still had time to make me feel really welcomed.
As far as the ski in ski out experience, I can see why people with families enjoy making Deer Valley their second home. The real estate development is extensive and cleverly integrated all over the mountain, it feels a bit like you are skiing through a neighborhood set on a hill. With a chairlift to take you wherever you want to go, there are miles and miles of easy runs to explore, with lots of old mining history dotted all around.