In 1981, Deer Valley founder Edgar Stern launched a ski resort based on a precept from the luxury hotel trade: Guests want to be pampered. This season, Deer Valley celebrates its 20th anniversary as the No. 2 resort in North America. What happened? Stern was a visionary, realizing that skiing is, at heart, a service industry. And here's Stern's epiphany: Skiers are willing to pay for pampering. Service is a 24-hour obsession here. "Green-jackets" famously start unloading your skis before you open your rental car door, which helped DV earn a No. 1 Service ranking. The resort's coddling even extends to grooming (also No. 1), which transforms its slopes into velvety vertical fairways daily. "This resort is first-class in every way," one reader gushes. But there's a price. "You need to take a loan out to take the family," another reader laments. Deer Valley, however, is more than a winter country club. The resort's bones are legit: 4 peaks, 19 lifts, 88 runs, 1,750 acres. The two most important words heard around here? Empire Canyon. This recently opened slice of paradise offers bowl skiing that puts a beard on the resort's sissy-boy reputation. But its off the snow where Deer Valley has revolutionized skiing. Dining is as vital to a DV vacation as making turns-dinner at Mariposa proves it. As many employees serve food here as teach skiing. The resort refuses to bend on its boarding ban, which alienates some, but thrills others. Après-ski is more stuffy than satisfying, so head to the town of Park City, Utah's Aspen. One reader complains that "skiing here is too pampered for me," which, true enough, is still music to Deer Valley's ears.
WHAT'S NEW Expanded snowmaking, Deer Crest race arena, additional glading and construction of Empire Lodge, which opens in 2001.
A GOOD DEAL The Seafood Buffet at the Snow Park Lodge.
MEDALS GOLD Snow, Grooming, Lifts, Service, Weather, Accessibility, On-Mountain Food, Lodging, Dining, Family Programs; SILVER Terrain, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities
HIGH/LOW RANK Grooming (1), Service (1), On-Mountain Food (1); Terrain (48), Challenge (52), Value (81).
DON'T MISS Hit 85 mph on the bobsled course at Olympic Park. A driver and brakeman are provided; you supply the screams. Call (435) 658-4223.
READER REMARKS (+)"The best resort we've ever been too." "Worth the expense." (-) "Place to be seen, not ski." "They even groom on powder days-for god's sake, stop it!"