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Insider Itinerary: The Best First Trip to Deer Valley Utah

Insider tips on The Best First Luxury winter ski Trip to Deer Valley Utah

What’s so magical about Deer Valley, Utah? The readers of Conde Nast Traveler just named it the best ski resort in North America for 2020. But is the hype actually true? In a word: Yep. It’s hella good skiing and also wonderful for apres-ski. In this edition of Insider Itinerary, our correspondent Jillian Tangen shares her luxury insider tips on the best first family ski trip to Deer Valley, Utah, including where to stay, eat, ski and what to do with kids while you’re there.

dandelion chandelier’s insider itinerary

Insider Itinerary is an occasional series that shines a light on the best places to see, stay, and dine in some of the hottest travel destinations worldwide. Our far-flung correspondents are sharing their inside tips on how to best experience their chosen destinations, especially if you’re visiting for the first time. Consider it your local luxury GPS.

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We began this series with our Paris Bureau Chief sharing the ideal itinerary for a first trip to Cape Town, South Africa. Since then, we’ve shared insider itineraries for Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, Ljubljana, Nantucket, East Hampton and Reykjavik. Next up?

Jillian Tangen shares the ideal itinerary for a first trip to Deer Valley, Utah, with a focus on ski trips when the family and kids are tagging along.

luxury trip Deer Valley Utah

Insider tips on the best first luxury family ski trip to Deer Valley, Utah: Main Street. Courtesy Photo.

why take a luxury ski trip to deer valley?

Located about 40 minutes from Salt Lake City in the Wasatch Mountain range is the ski haven, Deer Valley. The storied ski-only resort (meaning no snowboarders allowed) can only be described as a Disney World for skiers thanks to its premium snow conditions, precision grooming and surreal natural beauty. On top of that, like Disney, it also boasts superior customer service coupled with a vibe that is down-to-earth, family friendly and sincere too.

tip top conditions.

luxury trip Deer Valley Utah

Insider tips on what to do during a luxury family ski trip to Deer Valley, Utah: The Slopes. Courtesy Photo.

Anyone who has skied out west will tell you about the region’s unbeatable conditions. With wide open terrain, bright sunshine and some seriously good, consistent powder (case in point: this season Deer Valley has received 225”), it’s hard to find anyplace better to ski. But what sets Deer Valley apart from other resorts in Utah though is it’s grooming.

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On top of the endless feet of snow are 103 trails that are lovingly kneaded and rolled with grooming machines that seem to be operated by a master masseur to ensure the best experience possible day in and out – no matter when the last snowfall was. Also ensuring a premium experience is the fact that the sales of lift tickets are limited to 6,500 a day. That means no overcrowding on the slopes and minimal to no wait lines at the lifts.

what to do Deer Valley

Insider tips on the best first luxury ski trip to Deer Valley, Utah: Courtesy Photo.

family friendly.

Another reason to love Deer Valley? It was made with families in mind – from the small touches like the ooey gooey kid friendly chocolate chip cookies in the lodges to the onsite ski valet’s who take all your gear slopeside – anyone who’s tried to carry multiple tired children, their skis, boots, helmets and gloves, plus the adult gear knows how amazing this is.

Deer Valley also has one of the best ski schools for kids in the country, offering options from beginner up. Not to mention that terrain wise there’s a little something for everyone too. There are easy cruisers like Bluebell and Lucky Jack for the little ones still pizza-ing their way around, plus some solid steeps like Daly Bowl and Lady Morgan for older teens seeking a thrill.

what to do Deer Valley

The best first luxury family ski trip to Deer Valley, Utah: Courtesy Photo.

customer service

Of all the resorts in the US, Deer Valley consistently tops lists for its customer service. In addition to ski valets who help you unload and store your gear, you’ll find plenty of friendly help around the mountain to guide you. At the chairlift, summit, lodge or even mid-slope there is always a friendly staffer in green ready to assist. Need to figure out how to get back home or looking for a kid friendly green run from the top of the summit? They’ve got you covered. All you have to do is ski and leave the details to them.

So is Deer Valley right for you, dear reader? We’d suggest that you look at this way:

If Aspen is like the winter version of the Hamptons (and it is), then Deer Valley is like the winter version of Martha’s Vineyard. Meaning: chic and undeniably luxurious, but calmer, less fancy, and less frantic than its more posh counterparts. Add to that the unbeatable skiing conditions and you’ve got yourself an unmissable stop of the world tour of best ski resorts.

Insider tips on The Best First Luxury winter ski Trip to Deer Valley Utah

Insider tips on the best first luxury winter ski trip to Deer Valley, Utah.

1. why did you decide to go there?

Our family had never skied out west before and when close friend’s of ours booked a trip to go and asked us to join we couldn’t pass up the chance to go. They have been skiing in Deer Valley for years, so not only was it a great opportunity to spend time together, but also to go with some seasoned veterans who could show up the ropes, or better yet, slopes.

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2. how long did you stay? how long is the ideal first visit?

We stayed for 6 days. I would say that was just the right amount of time to get a good feel for the area, become familiar with the trails and not tire of skiing.

3. what hotels do you recommend?

Most of the lodging in Deer Valley is in high-end condominiums and private house rentals. Given we were traveling as a family we opted to rent a home through Abode Luxury Rentals in the Ontario Lodge in Silver Lake Village. The other family we were traveling with rented a home in Black Bear Lodge which was slightly closer to the Silver Lake Lodge – one of the main lodges and lift areas into the resort.

best first trip Utah

The best first luxury ski trip to Deer Valley, Utah: Courtesy Photo.

If you are looking for hotel accommodations you can’t go wrong with The Montage, nestled slope side in Empire Canyon at the base of two lifts. During “the season,” the resort is ski-in, ski-out, but year round, the views from the rooms and common areas are spectacular. The property, like much of Deer Valley, is about a 15 minute drive from the charming downtown Park City area, so if you want to stroll, shop and dine in town, you’ll need to plan ahead a bit.

best first trip Utah

The best first winter luxury ski trip to Deer Valley, Utah: Courtesy Photo.

Other luxury options include the rustic Stein Eriksen Lodge near the Silver Lake Lodge, or the glamorous St. Regis Deer Valley, close to what is considered the main lodge, Snow Park Lodge.

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4. what are the “must see” sights?

It’s very easy to get wrapped up in just the ski experience of Deer Valley. After all there are 2,000 acres and six mountains to explore over 21 chairlifts. So while Deer Valley is really geared towards skiers hitting the slopes during the day and retiring home in the evening, I do think it’s important to explore some of the resort’s hotels and lodges to experience everything the town has to offer. One of my favorite stops was The Spa at Stein Eriksen, but more on that later.

luxury trip Deer Valley Utah

Insider tips on what to see and do during a luxury trip to Deer Valley, Utah: McMillen Gallery. Courtesy Photo.

I would also suggest also taking a short car ride to Park City’s Main Street area where you can explore any one of the number of small art galleries featuring oil paintings, glass, ceramics and sculptures created by regional artists and inspired by the beautiful surrounding landscapes. One of our favorites was McMillen Gallery which featured a hauntingly beautiful fine art photography series of horses in a snow storm.

5. is there good shopping? if so, where?

Silverlake Village is home to a couple high end ski shops, Cole Sport and Christy Sports, located just steps from the lifts. Both offer ski rental as well as ski retail and ski apparel options. You find names like Bogner, Toni Sailer, Frauenschuh as well as Nordica, Tecnica and Salomon too.

What to do Dear Valley

What to see and do during a luxury trip to Deer Valley, Utah: Main Street. Courtesy Photo.

In addition to the art galleries, there’s also plenty of shopping on Main Street in Park City, including big outdoor brand names like Helly Hansen, Marmot and Burton, as well as smaller ones like We Norwegians, which produces super fine merino wool base layers – great for wearing under ski suits or lounging after you hit the slopes.

6. which restaurants do you suggest trying?

For a midday break from the slopes, you can’t beat the lunch options at the Silver Lake Restaurant inside the Silver Lake Lodge. While it may seem counterintuitive to suggest cafeteria style dining, Deer Valley leads on gourmet mountain food options. Everything we tried – from the mountain’s signature turkey chili to its more innovative offerings like a pho bar and taqueria – was not only fresh, but delicious and filling too.

For a special evening dinner out as a family we really enjoyed the Fireside Dining at Empire Lodge. Only served Wednesdays through Saturdays during the winter, the lodge transforms at night to a dining destination with a hearty, four-course buffet featuring cheese, cured meats, stews, roasted leg of lamb and Swiss dishes like Rösti potatoes all served from stone fireplaces. Also included with your reservation is a 15 minute horse drawn sleigh ride through the surrounding area, which was truly one of the highlights of the evening for my three children outside of the never-ending chocolate fondue.

best first trip Utah

What to see and do during a luxury family ski trip to Deer Valley, Utah: Fireside Dining, Empire Lodge. Courtesy Photo.

On our last day we enjoyed the Sunday Skier’s Buffet at Glitretind Restaurant in Stein Eriksen Lodge. In addition to a rather extravagant spread of traditional breakfast items like eggs and bacon along with a carving station, several hot entrées, a variety of salads, shrimp, crab claws, salmon, fresh fruit, fresh crêpes and omelets, the brunch features a show stopping 80 desserts. While our two oldest daughters tried their hardest to taste them all, they only made it through about 15 different offerings between them. There’s always next time, right?

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7. what was the most memorable thing you did on your visit?

Aside from skiing my first ever bowl, I would have to say my next favorite thing was visiting The Spa at Stein Eriksen Lodge for an afternoon. After spending three days skiing, it was a real treat to take an afternoon off and indulge in a little R&R with a 50 minute massage and time in the outdoor hot tub overlooking the slopes.

insider tips ski Deer Valley

Insider tips on what to see and do during a luxury family ski trip to Deer Valley, Utah: The Spa at Stein Eriksen Lodge. Courtesy Photo.

This five star spa features a sauna, steam room and hot/cold plunge baths. It is perfect for rejuvenating tired muscles.

8. what’s on your list to see next time?

While my kids are already ready to go back for some more skiing and try their hands at the NASTAR ski racing, I would love to visit Deer Valley in the summer to see another side of the mountains and area.

9. is this a good vacation for families with kids? teenagers? romantic partners? solo travelers?

I would say all of the above, but particularly good for families. Kids of all ages who ski would be very happy here. There is a wide range of terrain for all levels of skill. On top of that, the resort has an award winning ski school that starts at ages 3 and up and maintains somewhere close to 500 instructors ensuring small group sizes and top safety at all times. And for the littlest ones there is a Children’s Center for babysitting children as young as 2 months so parents can have time to enjoy the slopes to the fullest.

10. describe this luxury destination in 3 words.

Seamless, fresh and friendly.

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Jillian Tangen is the Head of Research at Dandelion Chandelier and a former Senior Research Analyst at McKinsey & Co and Analyst at Shearman & Sterling. She is an avid fan of Nordic design, having owned an independent lifestyle store and sales agency focused on emerging Scandinavian design. Jillian lives in New York and is married with three young children. She loves cross-country skiing, the New York Rangers, reading, travel and discovering new brands.

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