The silence of the Wasatch Mountains was deafening. Schussing down the slopes at Deer Valley in Park City, I was reminded of the bliss of my earliest skiing experiences as a teenager.
I grew up in Hawaii, but my mother thought it important — inexplicably, I should add — that I learn to ski. Lessons in then-sleepy, undiscovered Telluride, Colo., were followed by countless ski days on other mountains.
Thus began a lifetime love affair I duly passed on to my own progeny.
But my ardor has cooled for one reason: snowboarders.
Snowboarders on ski mountains across the country and around Europe have become as ubiquitous as daily rush-hour traffic on the 405. Of the 9.2 million active skiers and boarders in the U.S. in the 2017-18 season, about a third are boarders.
As a skier, I used to find that being on the mountain promised me an exquisite encounter with nature and an abundance of terrific exercise.
Today, due to snowboarders, skiing has become a sport in which crash avoidance is the main goal. It’s like driving defensively — necessary but not necessarily nice, never mind relaxing.
Couple that with foul-mouthed chatter by boarders who seem certain they own snow-covered peaks, while skiers are merely their human slalom poles, and you have a toxic brew.
The joy of skiing down a pristine, snow-covered mountain, admiring nature’s majesty, propelled only by gravity and my legs, ended abruptly and unceremoniously for me. A collision with an unapologetic, out-of-control snowboarder saw to that. The damage resulted in a torn meniscus, needle aspiration, cortisone injection and a chronic case of boarder allergy.
So I am not fond of snowboarders. Or perhaps I should say it’s not the people I dislike — surely there must be some nice, polite ones — it’s snowboarding I don’t like. That’s too mild. I detest, loathe and abhor snowboarding, so much so that despite my love of skiing, I gave it up for a decade.
Then I was reminded that Deer Valley is for skiers only. I had found my personal piste of nirvana.
The delight of Deer Valley
Today, nearly every mountain in America caters to both skiers and boarders. Deer Valley is among the very few, along with Utah’ s Alta and Vermont’s Mad River Glen, that don’t allow boarders.
From Los Angeles, Deer Valley is a two-hour flight to Salt Lake City and a 40-minute ride to Deer Valley, meaning you can be on the slopes faster than driving to Mammoth in California’s Eastern Sierra.
Because of coronavirus, the resort is suspending operations Sunday until March 22 and will assess the situation at that time.
The resort, established in 1981 and privately owned, covers 2,026 acres on six peaks. Empire Peak, the tallest, rises majestically to 9,570 feet. Twenty-one lifts and 103 manicured ski runs provide 28 green beginner runs, 42 blue intermediate and double blue runs, and 33 black expert runs — essentially a run for every experience level.
Consider too that Deer Valley limits the sale of daily lift tickets to 8,500, so it’s never crowded. I recently skied midweek and never waited more than two minutes in a line. Staying on intermediate runs, I skied down and generally jumped right back on a lift with no wait. Regulars I spoke with pegged weekend lift line waits at not more than 10 minutes.
Wanting good skiing and easy access, I hung my hat at Montage Deer Valley. My room had a fireplace, heated bathroom floor and deep soaking tub. Besides, who couldn’t love a hotel whose über-handsome ambassador has paws? Monty, the 100-pound Bernese mountain dog, shares the job with pooch pal Summit.
Compass Sports, an alpine adventure hub in Montage’s lower lobby, offers top-notch ski equipment rental. Fitted for equipment in the late afternoon, I was helped the next morning into my reserved boots, then exited and, voilà, my skis and poles magically appeared. Facing me: Ruby and Empire Express lifts, my first choice of the day.
The ease of ski-in, ski-out (with stored ski rentals) just seconds from one’s lodgings meant zero schlepping. That’s a game changer. Also, Deer Valley lift tickets have radio-frequency ID, so they sit in your pocket instead of getting tangled as you pass the lift scanner.
When you need refueling, you’ll find several great food options. No typical ski fare or boring chili and burgers here.
Consider: Silver Lake Lodge’s Royal Street Café at 8,100 feet for ahi tacos, Main Street’s Courchevel Bistro for terrific coq au vin and St. Regis’ Rime, specializing in seafood and steak, accessible by funicular.
On my last run, happily alone the entire way down, I silently thanked my mom for insisting I learn to ski. I also thanked Deer Valley for keeping those snowboarders far, far away.
Coexistence with boarders is, theoretically, possible. But mixing oil and water rarely ends well. Besides, now that I’ve skied Deer Valley, I’m not going to bother trying. Why should I? You want to board? Go to Woodward Park City. Like discussing politics with those of opposing views, when you mix skiers and boarders, it’s all downhill.