Happily Exhausted at the Deer Valley Resort
I’d been to Deer Valley Resort once as I child. I remembered nothing of the skiing and only a little of the Utah resort–mainly a souvenir shop where we purchased an extremely large ceramic mug that my brother and I would fight over for years. Preparing for my trip this January, I read stories of hot chocolate chip cookies and the world’s nicest staff. And true to its reputation, the cookies were delicious and the staff–ranging from those serving food at the lodge, to the lift line attendants who remembered our faces and stories after each run–were friendly and outgoing.
The Deer Valley “experience” began in the parking lot where a shuttle picked my friend Laura and me up and brought us to the lodge. Instead of the usual morning trek across gasoline and snow covered asphalt in tight ski boots, a Disneyland-esque cart–a wagon of sorts–whisked us from the car straight to the front door of the resort.
Entering through large glass doors, we went up a gentle ramp that smelled of fresh wood to the main lodge area. As we went in, the quiet clicking of boots on the wood floor was quickly overridden by the inevitable chaos of a morning at the mountain with children dropping gloves, a line for tickets, and the squeaking of ski boots. Leaning our skis against the wall, we maneuvered our way to the ticket window. After receiving our paper passes, we were excited for sunshine, blue skies, and sparkling snow.
Deer Valley Resort: Happily Exhausted
At the time, everyone was decrying the ski conditions–it had been over a week since they’d received any fresh snow (this is Utah, land of snow, after all) and the slopes were…icy. Ice is seen as mostly an East Coast problem with the attitude being that you shouldn’t have to ski in such conditions out West. This left short lift lines and solitary ski runs for Laura and me to explore throughout the day.
Though Laura lived in Salt Lake, less than an hour from more than a few world-class ski resorts, it had been years since she’d been on a lift. Usually, she went backcountry skiing, meaning that she explores mountains outside of resorts with special skis that allow you to walk uphill and then ski down.
Skiing with Laura added a new level of excitement to the day as things like the chair lift became special. Sitting there and resting our legs as the mountain drifted by, we could chat and catch up, or silently look out at the landscape. We turned around on the lift and looked behind us to see the mountain range continuing on and on. And though there hadn’t been recent snow, the land was still completely covered in white.
The chair lift was only part of the pleasure of being at a ski resort. The core reason we trekked to Deer Valley was, of course, the skiing. The day started off challenging as we slid on large patches of ice that covered the steeper parts of the mountain. We were both nervous about sliding on the ice, as it’s hard to gain control when your skis can’t turn properly.
We kept going and going, lapping the same runs until our legs were completely spent.
We kept our spirits up and moved to different areas to try new places in hopes of finding snow. Then, after a few runs of sliding, we discovered an area protected by trees and entered to find narrow paths and some good snow! Finally, we could actually ski!
We took the lift up and started going down a normal groomed run (full of ice) and then ducked off into the woods making quick turns to avoid hitting any trees. After a frustrating morning, finding the snow completely changed the mood–we’d both yell when we uncovered areas with good snow beckoning the other to come make turns.
Skiing in snow is the opposite experience of skiing on ice. Where we’d felt out of control before, we now found the snow allowed us to use our skis to create deep turns and almost float through. We kept going and going, lapping the same runs until our legs were completely spent.
We headed back into the lodge and stopped by the souvenir shop to look at mugs – none of which were as big as I remembered. In the shop there was also a coffee bar along the far wall with high stools and an exhaustive drink menu. We decided to extend our day just a bit and ordered hot chocolate with marshmallows and whipped cream.
Finally there was no choice but to leave. After walking back down the wooden ramp that smelled like fresh pine, we loaded up in the wagon shuttle that reminded me of Disneyland, and finished at our car where we could look back at the mountain we had just skied, happily exhausted.
Deer Valley Resort: Happily Exhausted: photo credits: Sarah Knapp