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As promised... my report from first trip to Utah

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
As promised here it is finally, my report from the family's first ski trip to Deer Valley in Utah. I am warning all readers, this will be long but interesting…

Ahhh…. Skiing in Deer Valley. Where do I start the stories?


Myself, the wife and two kids (3 and 6) decided to take a Friday afternoon flight out of NYC Kennedy airport, which was only about $200 per person since leaving on a Saturday would have cost us $500 per person so it made more sense to just stay overnight at a cheap Salt Lake City airport hotel. We arrived in Salt Lake City late Friday evening, spent the night at the Holiday Inn for $50 and were at the Deer Valley Ski Resort on Saturday noontime. We checked in at Stein Eriksen Lodge and the kids and wife took a nap while I explored the mountain particularly the green runs for the girls to ski in the next day. As per the forum recommendation, I checked Success run and was surprised to see that it was more of a blue run than a green. I found out later that the DV ski instructors referred to Success as a “double green” run. All three girls went skiing with me the next day Sunday but we stayed mostly on the children’s ski lesson center so they could get comfortable with the boots and skis. The wife was still adjusting to the altitude and did not feel well, so she only did one run and then sat and watched the whole afternoon. At this point, I considered the wife a “lost cause” and at 39 years old, I had accepted the notion that she would never ever want to ski with me again. No matter what I did to teach her, she simply found every aspect of skiing difficult.

The next day, Monday I decided to get two day lessons for all three of them to cover Monday and Tuesday. It was expensive but worth every cent since it was amazing to see what these professional instructors can do to the girls who have never truly skied before.

Well, actually they tried to but only twice. This winter we decided that the children had to learn to ski and I convinced the wife to come along to give it a shot. Before Utah, we went twice to local New York resorts like Hunter (2.5 hours from NYC) and I tried teaching them myself thinking I could handle all three myself. On those local trips my plan was doomed from the beginning since handling all three at the same time was obviously too ambitious. So I got the 6-year old to take a half-day lesson at Hunter to get a good introduction while the 3-year old stayed with me since Hunter only accepted 4 and older kids. I would just push her down 100 foot slides and went up via the carpet lift. As for the wife, well let us just say I strapped her into boots and skis and just pushed her down the same slope as the 3 year old and up again via the carpet lift. By the end of the day we were calling her Braveheart because she would get up every time she fell which does not even include the falls each time she got off the lift. No words were spoken on the return home but I seriously feared that she would suddenly blurt out that she would never ever ski again. Thank goodness she just slept on the ride going home.

So in Utah, I decided the pros should take over where I failed. I was told Deer Valley has the best children ski schools in Utah and true enough by the second day, the 6-year old was already confidently making S turns down Success Run without an edgie-wedgie. She and her classmates were following behind their instructor who was zigzagging down the mountain. They all looked like baby ducks following the mother duck. The 6-year old loved her instructor so much that the next day she cried when another instructor was assigned to her. The 4-year old took lessons on Monday only and I eventually took over on Tuesday by strapping her to a harness and skiing with her behind the wife and her instructor down Ontario Run. Although even without a harness the young one could already slowly ski down a slope since she knew how to wedge, stop, turn on any direction and adjust her balance to avoid falling however I still did not want to let her go down too fast so I had to hold on the strap and she still needed an edgie wedgy.

Of all three girls though I am most proud of the wife. It took me nine years to convince her to even come with me to a ski resort or even try on ski boots so when she finally said yes this February, I got excited about the possibility of her skiing with me and the children. I told her to look at it with the long-term notion of having weekend ski vacations with the girls ten years from now where we could all ski. On Monday, I had to take the shuttle to bring the kids down to the ski school and I left the wife alone with an instructor name Vlady from Argentina. By the time I saw the wife again late in the morning I was surprised to see her heading toward the Quincy Express quad lift with her instructor and this was only after an hour and a half of instructions. The day before I could not even get her to ride with me on the ski school lift, which would have only brought us up a 50-foot elevation. I quietly followed and watched her ski from the top of Flagstaff Mountain down Ontario run without falling a single time. By the end of the second day she was already doing S turns and had full control of the skis. Vlady gave me feedback at the end of the day saying my wife was determined to learn to ski but I had to take it slowly and not push it.

After lunch on Tuesday, the wife and the 4-year old finally ended their lessons and I went out with Vlady to take lessons myself. After ten years of skiing on my own which I learned from reading ski books about techniques, watching skiing competitions on TV, and simply observing skiers while riding the lifts, I finally took my first formal ski lesson. He corrected some of my mistakes which apparently were still based on "old school" techniques with straight skis and introduced me to many new technical aspects especially regarding carved skis. I brought with me new Volkl 5 stars, which were also the same model he was using and having the same skis, it was easy for him to explain the advantage of carved skis and for me to follow him on the high speed descents down Flagstaff which we did the whole afternoon. I told him about my competitive cycling and running background and he challenged my strong quads with the long fast runs and pushed my leg strength to their limits. At the end of the day, my quads felt like noodles. I was so happy with his personal approach to teaching me and the wife that I gave him a $50 tip for the two full days of lessons. I hope that was reasonable enough in addition to the daily ski instructor cost.

On Wednesday morning I skied for four straight hours and explored the WHOLE Deer Valley Resort making sure I skied every blue run twice and applied every lesson I learned the day before.

Skiing in Utah is amazing since the base snow is more than six feet thick during the entire winter and compared to North Eastern resorts like Vermont where the snow can be icy, wet and heavy. The high elevations of Utah resorts make a difference in the so-called quality of snow as the air is quite dry and the snow is also very powdery. Deer Valley also sells limited daily lift tickets so unlike east coast resorts, which are notorious for very very long lift waiting lines, there are absolutely NO lines in Deer Valley so you actually do more skiing than waiting. Chairs are actually often empty and on days I started at 9 AM, I actually skied a few runs all alone from top to bottom. Snowboarders are also not allowed in DV, which makes it safe for children who like to zig-zag the runs.

I also noticed the DV instructors are “migrant workers” from around the world who would stay there for four months before going back home. Vlady my instructor has been working in DV for eight seasons already. Together with all these amenities comes a steep price however. As for Stein Eriksen, they will pamper you to death but make sure you bring a wad of $5 bills with you. Our rooms had washing machines and driers so it was nice to be able to wash every night. I noticed it was not easy sleeping at night and I believe it was because we had to adjust to the higher altitude (Stein is located mid-mountain) in addition to the two hour time zone change.

Restaurants in Park City are horrendously expensive and even as a New Yorker I was shocked. You have to make reservations to get a table. I did have my list of restaurants that everyone gave me and tried a couple but ended eating at a more reasonable China Panda behind Albertsons at Park Avenue. Free personalized SUV shuttles from the Stein was available with one phone call and they would pick anyone up from any place in Park City. Also had my boots adjusted by Christy's per someone's advice and it certainly fits better now but I also now know that I need smaller boots for next year.

If I were a hardcore and avid skier I would definitely live in Salt Lake City or Park City. Visiting there during the skiing season can be quite expensive, however, since this was our first time, we decided to make it worthwhile. Besides, how often does my wife turn 39? She celebrated her birthday learning to ski. By the time we left Wednesday evening I had skied five straight days, had a great face tan and lost six pounds. Skiing back home in NYC area resorts will not quite be the same again for me.

I also visited the Olympic village (per another person's advice) and did the Bobsled run. 5 G's in 51 seconds - was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life. On certain turns, I felt an 800 pound gorilla sitting on my back, shoulders and head. (But that is another story altogether...)

I am looking forward to going back to Utah next year, hopefully, by then the kids would be ready to hit some slopes with me.

Thanks for everyone who gave me great advice and thanks to all for reading.

The cyclist.
post #2 of 23
Sounds like you had a good time, that's what it's all about.
post #3 of 23
All of those expensive restaurants are forced to give out 2 for 1 coupons in the local Newspaper during the summer just to stay in business. Most locals wait until the summer to try them out.
post #4 of 23
If you go to PC anytime other than Xmas/New years, Sundance (3rd week in Jan?), and Presidents Day week you will not have a problem with crowds on slopes or restaurants. Do it while you can; when the kids are in school and you are stuck with their vacation schedule traveling gets even more expensive.
post #5 of 23
By far the best Utah report i have read yet.
Another Happy Utah Skier
post #6 of 23
Cyclist

I enjoyed reading your report. DV is indeed a great family ski resort.

I find it interesting that you stay at the Stein Eriksen Lodge, hire private instructors - but you complain about the restaurants in PC being "horrendously expensive". please don't take this as a criticism. I am always amazed by people's spending decisions (in terms of the relative importance/value of various things people spend on)
Of course - everybody is entitled to spend wherever/however they want.

just curious.
post #7 of 23
I just got back from a three day stint in Utah and on the last day of skiing I decided to hit DV. Not having snow out there for the past few weeks, it made sense to me to check out the groomer lovers mecca and it sure didn't disappoint! I got there early on Sunday morning, drove right up to the front row and parked right up to the lower entrance. By 8:50, I was on the lift and headed for the Empire Canyon where there was the most exposure to the sun. I had to hit a few very hard packed runs off the Ruby Express before heading up to Empire because they didn't open it up until 9:15. Still, I shared first chair up and then proceded to race down Orion, Solace, Supreme and several combinations of all these for at least and hour. The runs were slightly hard but smooth and fast running. Once more people started to make their way over I made to move right to left across the resort. Skied several runs off Flagstaff - talk about a gathering point of lift drop offs! It's easy to do laps here and not take the same run twice nor the same lift twice. It's a convergence of four lifts but it never got too crowded. After this I skied over to Bald Mountain and basically did a ton of long blue cruisers off the Wasatch Express chair. Around the lunch hour I headed over to Little Baldy Mountain where I discovered there was a Gondola served run called Jordanelle that is long as hell and pretty damn fun. There wasn't too many runs over there though so after a few times I went back to the Snow Park base to house some turkey chili and some water. Damn that chili is good! After the break I went back to Bald Mtn and skied off the left side where the views of lake (reservoir?) and Heber City are quite spectacular. I stuck with runs off the Mayflower chair for a while and towards the bottom halves of Stein's Way, Paradise and Morningstar, things were getting a tad slushy but altogether not bad or worth complaining about. A local told me how empty the place can be on a powder day and I someday wish I get a chance to experience that! I decided to head back to Empire just to see how things had changed in a few hours. The coolest thing was that the beginning second half of Orions had become "bumped up" but they were really soft and super fun to negotiate at a decent clip. Making my way back towards the end of the day was interesting. The clouds had progressively rolled in and around 3:30 the light was turning really flat. I wanted to roll from bell to bell but my legs were feeling the burn and I was using too much energy skiing by feel, dodging the crowds and making it through some pretty soft snow. All told though, the DV experience was fantastic! It was just a fantastic time trying to ski as fast as possible on the famously groomed runs. No complaints here and I will definitely go back.
post #8 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by VASKI244
... Around the lunch hour I headed over to Little Baldy Mountain where I discovered there was a Gondola served run called Jordanelle that is long as hell and pretty damn fun...

I stuck with runs off the Mayflower chair for a while and towards the bottom halves of Stein's Way, Paradise and Morningstar, things were getting a tad slushy but altogether not bad or worth complaining about. A local told me how empty the place can be on a powder day and I someday wish I get a chance to experience that!
On my last day I headed to little baldy mountain and the mayflower chair and did multiple SOLO (meaning I was all alone) runs down Jordanelle, Stein's Way, Paradise and Morningstar. I have yet to go to another resort skiing many times down blue runs all alone at 9:30 in the morning.

One secret I would advice people going to Deer Valley is to park at the bottom of the gondola and get your tickets there. Not a soul the whole day....
post #9 of 23
I too just got back from three days in Park City. I'm a New Englander with not too much western skiing experience (1 day in Tahoe, 3 days in Banff) so it was a pretty new experience for me. My thoughts...

Heard a local talking about the "bulletproof" ice. Yeah right. Buy a file, dude...

How could 30 degrees be so warm? I thought winter was supposed to hurt...

Had dinner at Shabu on Main Street ("freestyle Asian cuisine"). The sushi was awesome, of course a little too pricy but by Park City standards it was worth every penny...

I actually liked Park City resort a lot better than the Canyons since it seemed to get better late day light and the groomers seemed to hold a base much better. Of course, had I more appropriate skis for the bumps and a little powder I could easily have gone the other way...

In three days I heard three separate ringing endorsements for Alta/Snowbird which makes me think I missed out on something...

The Utah liquor laws didn't affect me but between the altitude and the fatigue I wasn't in much of a state to test the state's limitations anyway...

Definitely wish I tried the bobsled...
post #10 of 23
Cyclist, next time you can savea lot of money by renting in town rather then at Stiens. It is nice there but you do pay for what you get. Also your the first New Yorker That i have ever heard say Park City restaurants were expensive. People from the mid west just about faint at the cost yet New Yorkers seem to think it is a bargine. Are you sure your from NY? and not NJ? Everybody knows that People from Jersey are cheapskates.
Keep your fingers crossed and pray to the Snow gods and maybe the next visit will be when we have some Powder. Don't listen to the locals about skiing Deer Valley on a powder day they have no idea what they are talking about. Nope best to go someplace else. Oh wait they limit lift tickets so never mind.
post #11 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Utah49
Cyclist, next time you can savea lot of money by renting in town rather then at Stiens. It is nice there but you do pay for what you get. Also your the first New Yorker That i have ever heard say Park City restaurants were expensive. People from the mid west just about faint at the cost yet New Yorkers seem to think it is a bargine.
Well I guess Park City restaurants would still be a little bit cheaper if you really compare them to NYC swanky joints like Aqua Vit or even Brooklyn's Peter Lugers. But a true New Yorker eats mostly in the reasonably priced restaurants with great food and does not eat in expensive restaurants every week unless he has a corporate credit card and is taking out a client. My wife does NYC restaurant reviews for a living and even she was surprised at Park City prices.

As for renting at the Stein, I brought my own skis and I just thought it practical as a first time to get the wife / kids stuff from where we stayed although I suspected the rental rates at the PC would be cheaper. Next near we would bring all our own gear and be more practical in our expenses.

Thanks for reading....
post #12 of 23
Glad you had fun. As other mentioned, eating prices in Park City are high. Imagine what it's like if you live here. We only eat at those over-priced places when they go to 2 for 1's, in the shoulder season. Another newer alternative is the Restone area at Kimball Junction. Red Rock brewery just opened w/ Salt Lake prices. Others already know about it since it's packed. I have always said that a good (emphasis on good) family priced place would do a killing in PC.

Powdr
post #13 of 23
We just returned from a week in Park City. We stopped at Canyon Sports near the airport and bought a Sunday (3/13) ticket for Deer Valley, a ticket for the Canyons, and a ticket for Alta. Was our first trip West. Did the DV tour on the first Sunday and spent the rest of the day curising the Blues. Had a very good time but found some "Eastern" conditions in the afternoon. The bathrooms were amazing, I wanted to move out of our condo and move into the bathrooms. Had a late lunch at the Silver Lake Lodge -- outstanding food, albeit somewhat pricey. Went to the Canyons on Monday and liked it much better than DV -- that surprised me since I thought DV would be our favorite. The Canyons simply has more terrain and better views. The downsides to The Canyons is that it can be a bit of a challenge to find your way around the mountain and we hit some pretty flat boring terrain as we moved from area to area -- there may well be more efficient ways of getting around. Nevertheless, we had a great day at The Canyons and were happy campers. Took Tuesday off to let the legs recover. Then made a huge mistake on Wednesday by driving over to Alta. I guess the A in Alta stands for AMAZING and I could add some expletive-deleteds to emphasize the AMAZING. I fear we're spoiled for life. As intermediates we were a bit hesitant about what we'd find at Alta, but we had our best day of skiing ever. I know the off piste snow conditions weren't up to Alta standards but all of the groomed terrain was fantastic. The scenery makes the PC resorts pale by comparison -- just gorgeous. We took a lesson and the instructor dragged us through a little bump section (boy do I suck in bumps), we were able to play in a little soft snow. We skied from every lift and couldn't imagine a better day. Thursday we went back to The Canyons, there was moderate snowfall most of the day with pretty high winds. We spent most of the day exporing the Super Condor side of the area, which we hadn't touched earlier. Went back to Alta on Friday. Alta had gotten 6+ inchs overnight and a few inchs the day before. Basically our first powder day. It was a blast till my thighs started screaming in agony in the early afternoon. To say I have lots of work to do on powder technique is an understatement, but oh what fun. Like the energizer bunny, the Ice Queen just kept going, and going, and going till the end of the day.

As for restaurants we tended to go pretty casual and didn't find the prices too out of line. We ate Mexican at Nacho Mamma's -- very good and reasonably priced. We ate at the bar at the Wasatch Brew pub -- ended up ordering Mexican again. Food wasn't as good as Nacho Mamma's but the beers are excellent. Went to the No Name Saloon and had a Buffalo burger with red pepper and a habernaro aioli (SP) sauce, so good we returned on Firday -- with a couple of beers each we got out of there for about $32. Best burgers we've ever had. We went to Chimayo one night, and I'd say that was the one dining dissapointment. Food was good, presentation was excellent, but not nearly worth the price. There are lots of high $ dining establishments in PC, but one can find very good food at prices that aren't outrageous.
post #14 of 23
Early in the season there wasa tread on Park city dinning. There are plenty of family friendly places in and around Park City. I tend to wait for the off season 2 for 1 deals but every once in a while an evening at River horse or Grappa is worth every penny.
One of the best things about living here as well as visiting is there is so much skiing all within an hours drive from just about any of the Utah resorts. I just did a day at solitude on friday. I have not skied there in a couple of years. I had forgotten how fun that place can be. For the most part conditions could have been better but looking around It is easy to see that Solitude has a lot to offer.
I'm glad that evryone has enjoyed Utah skiing. Well it is snowing and looks like it will be snowing off and on for the next few days. Guess I better finish my coffee and get out there and make some tracks in some of this spring powder..
post #15 of 23
You are totally right about the vistas and terrain at Alta, some of the best anywhere. But for the best IMHP Alpine Experience try Snowbasin next time. The vistas are unserpassed even by Alta's standards. The terrain is excellent as well. You also mentioned the bathrooms at Deer Valley well they are not even close to the unbelievable lodges and facilties at Snowbasin. While it is true that Alta has a higher altitude and a little more snow you would truly enjoy the Basin. Check out www.snowbasin.com for some images of this outstanding Mountain.
post #16 of 23
I'm also glad you had a great time - but I have a question for you.
You stayed at Stein's place "envisioned to be the finest full service luxury hotel located slope-side at a ski area"
2 days of private lessons for you and your wife
3 days of group lessons for your kids
4 different instructors - all good, no complaints
... great skill improvement gains for all (priceless)
And you only tipped 1 instructor $50?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marty
Of course - everybody is entitled to spend wherever/however they want.
just curious.
post #17 of 23
Steelman, Snowbasin Sucks All the facilities suck No one would ever want to go there What is up with that clean gold trim in the lodge bathrooms and it doesn't even smell I want my toilet paper on the floor and empty TP roll holders along with the smell The views of the Great Salt Lake suck as well Don't go to Snowbasin because it sucks It's a long drive too
post #18 of 23
The bathrooms at Snow Basin are indeed plush- The last time I was in a can that nice was on the Dow Jones building executive floor. It's a lovely unspoiled place- I can't wait to get there on a powder day. Deer Valley blows everyone away on food and level of service though, and the ski school is second to none for kids and novices (I was going to say wives- at any level). The whole place is great for wives in general. Stein's can't be beat but is pricey- I spent a few days there with the family on the off- season and nearly went broke- there are lots of much less expensive places in PC and free buses. Sounds like a great time in Utah, and isn't it nice to be warm at thirty degrees? It's that dry desert air and sun- it ain't NYC damp cold, for sure. Bring 'em back next year.
P.S. I tipped my daughter's instructer a c-note for six full Saturday group program- I tip $20 for a private. If you're really loaded, sure, sponser 'em- but the only bad tip is no tip.
post #19 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bklyntrayc
I'm also glad you had a great time - but I have a question for you. You stayed at Stein's place "envisioned to be the finest full service luxury hotel located slope-side at a ski area"
2 days of private lessons for you and your wife
3 days of group lessons for your kids
4 different instructors - all good, no complaints ... great skill improvement gains for all (priceless)
And you only tipped 1 instructor $50?
Well, maybe I should clarify the circumstances a little bit then...

First, we used only three instructors not four. The kids and our instructor. I had tipped the kids ski instructors separately even if they were part of a group lesson which was part of DV baby sitting program.

Also, it was only two days of lessons for all, not three and the tip was for my wife's instructor which started as a group lesson and not as a private lesson. Funny, because she started with four other men beginners and they got tired and left her alone with him so she skied with him in the morning, then she got tired so I skied with him after lunch.

I also tried to find out how much to tip and discretelly asked three other instructors how much I should give and all three said that he was already paid for (and tipped) by my company / sponsor. They also said "we do not expect anything but would appreciate anything you would like to extend". Remember, this was my FIRST trip to Utah and my very first pro ski lesson, I did not know how much to give and had no basis whatsoever.

I wish I could stay at Steins always but no, I could not afford to pay accomodations at Steins even if I wanted to. I did not pay for staying at Steins since it was paid for by my company and sponsor who invited me to join the trip in the first place. Staying there required me to tip Stein employees for their services, which I gladly did.

But I did put in a good commendation. When I got back to NYC, upon the advice of a former DV instructor (who reads this forum) I wrote a very detailed two page letter of gratitude mailed individually to Bob Wheaton (DV President / GM), to John Guay (DV Director of Ski Services), and to Kim Mayhew (DV Director of Human Services) - telling all of them what a great experience my family had while at DV, particularly in the hands of our instructors who I individually named and cited for their efforts and patience and the lessons we all learned from them. And because of the nice experience I also said we will certainly return there next year and bring more friends. I even called DV to confirm the spelling of their names. The DV resort information thanked me for my gesture saying the letters will be very much appreciated and the DV President will cite these instructors and the letters properly placed in their employee files. Now wouldn't that be darn priceless ?!

So I did my fair share of tipping here... all in the form of goodwill but much more than others will ever do.
post #20 of 23
Cyclist

i took your advice and parked next to the jordanelle gondola. 10 steps to the gondola. great tip. thank you.

Marty
post #21 of 23
Bravo!
post #22 of 23
You did good with those letters cyclist. I Know people who work at Deer Valley. Those letters do a lot of good. Bob Wheaton,Takes all guest letters and comments to heart. Deer Valley values thier employees and be assured that your comments will find thier way back to those you named.
post #23 of 23
I tip my hat to you Cyclist. great trip report and great thing to do ,sending notes to the resort management.
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