Image: Rendering of the new base area. Credit: Deer Valley

Ok, we can’t resist making fun of Deer Valley Resort (aka Dear Valet) in Utah.  Before we get to the latest news about this mega resort, we also can’t resist defending ourselves for making fun of the place. I will start with this…the first time we skied there years ago, my brother and I pulled up in our car to drop our skis off (the closest available parking lot seemed like it was miles away in Park City). Someone immediately started stealing our skis off the rooftop rack. I almost as immediately hopped out of the car to accost this individual only to realize it was a Deer Valley employee who was tasked with taking our equipment up to the lodge. Welcome to Deer Valley Resort!

Ask most folks what they like about Deer Valley and universally the answers center on the service, the lodges, and the food. Now we like good service and all that, but in our admittedly obnoxious opinion, the finest attributes of a ski resort should relate to the actual skiing. But remember our home mountains are Alta/Snowbird – the former stinks of the “We are Alta and you are not” smell and the latter requires its employees to inhale before trying to provide any service. Ah but the skiing…

And now for a rare admission. We admit that that the Deer Valleys have a role in the ski world. The overall terrain is respectable and the amenities are indeed over the top impressive, which we realize is a winning combination for many skiers. In addition, the typical Deer Valley skier sticks to the groomed runs, leaving Utah powder and any moguls to the rest of us. Speaking of groomed runs…if your pleasure is perfectly manicured slopes you are at the right place. And, yes, if you don’t mind losing $42, the cheeseburgers are damn good!

But onward to their proposed expansion. A little history is helpful. Several years ago a Manhattan based real estate company, Extell Development Company, announced plans to build Mayflower ski area adjacent to Deer Valley. Extell has traditionally been known as a high-end residential New York City real estate developer. If bored see Extell Portfolio. Given its traditional business and complete lack of experience in building ski resorts, this was a head scratcher from the beginning. (Their portfolio does include the Four Seasons in Vail, but that appears to be their only ski related operation.)  Oddly enough, it just so happened that Extell owns the land lease that part of Deer Valley operates on. Mmm…

Speculation was immediately that Extell was playing the “let’s buy property next to Deer Valley and they will buy us out” game.  After several years of negotiations, Deer Valley has obliged.  Interestingly, one of the main sticking points in the negotiations was Alterra’s (think Aspen, remember they own Deer Valley) insistence that the high service standards for which Deer Valley is known be maintained at the Mayflower Resort. Mayflower has not started operations yet (although construction is well underway) and details of the exact collaboration between Extell and Alterra have not been revealed. Suffice it to say that the skiing aspects of the resort will be operated as part of Deer Valley and Extell will develop and operate the bases and accommodations for the resort.

If the hype is to be believed, this will result in an enormous expansion for Deer Valley. While different numbers have been thrown around, it appears Deer Valley’s 2,000 acres will expand to more than 5,700 acres and it will increase it’s number of lifts from 21 to 37. By any measure it would be one of the largest resorts in North America, but serious development seems a ways off. Nine lifts are scheduled to be built in time for the 2025-2026 season, which would open up limited terrain.

We are a tad skeptical about the feasibility of the plan. While we don’t doubt Alterra’s commitment to the ski industry, the location of this expansion is questionable. The mountains Dear Valley is on receive substantially less snow than the areas in Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons (Solitude, Brighton, Alta and Snowbird). While Deer Valley claims they receive on average ‘approximately 300 inches a year’, independent sources such as On The Snow list their annual average snowfall at 250. This is less than half the Big and Little Canyon resorts. The Mayflower property is generally lower in elevation than Deer Valley further limiting snowfall, and Deer Valley currently relies heavily on snowmaking. In addition, the expansion area faces east, with a southern tilt to some of it. They have already announced that snowmaking will need to be a major investment – not a good sign.

Finally, the expanded resort is sticking with its ski only (i.e., no snowboarders allowed) policy. Or as Deer Valley puts it in their literature – “Guests on alpine, telemark or mono ski equipment with feet placed side by side and facing forward are allowed”.

For history see an excellent article from SkiMayflower Resort  and for a summary of the future plans see the following article from the Salt Lake Tribune Deer Valley Expansion.

Ski Well; Be Well.

conSKIerge co-founder

Kevin Dennis is a life long ski bum with a 34 year legal career on the side. Now retired, he skis 80+ days a year. While he lives in Alta UT in the winters, he has traveled extensively through skiing and has skied almost every major resort in North America (and many you have never heard of). He continues to hit the road often throughout the western United States and Canada and trips over the last several years have included ventures in British Columbia, Montana and Colorado. Whether you want to know about the behemoths like Aspen or Squaw or are interested in the road less travelled (Lost Trail Powder Mountain in Montana or Whitewater in BC anyone?), Kevin has been there, has an opinion and you will most likely have to tell him to shut up after a half hour!