Deer Valley is a giant-killer. With only 1,750 acres, this ski area could slip into the parka pocket of such mega-resorts as Whistler or Vail-which have taken turns at the top of SKI's reader surveys for more than a decade. No longer. The only way Deer Valley thinks small is to limit its ticket sales to 5,000 a day to prevent crowding. With snow like brushed velvet and food fit for a royal court, "skiing here can make anyone feel like a king or a queen," says one reader. "If you don't have a terrific experience," says another, "it's your fault." The helpful employees (one for every three visitors) and $20,000-a-night invested in snow prep, bring accolades as No. 1 in Service and Grooming. Many readers note the cost of all the pampering: "Holy cow, it nearly broke me!" But as one reader says: "It costs a few bucks extra, but I always get more than my money's worth." In this Olympic winter, Deer Valley hosts the slalom, bumps and aerial events. These will be on the lower mountain, leaving the upper mountain open to all. Despite the double-black pitches of Empire Canyon, Deer Valley can't shake its reputation as training-wheel skiing. Look at the upside: "Everyone comes for the groomers, so the challenging terrain is all but deserted," a reader says. Deer Valley founder Edgar Stern once owned four-star hotels and believes in coddling his customers. They don't want snowboarders, say surveys, so there aren't any. They do want ego trips down the resort's four mountains, and these Edgar provides in spades.
WHAT'S NEW The Empire Canyon day lodge; Stein Eriksen Lodge spa; a high-speed quad replaces the Quincy triple. The Olympics will close the restaurants of Snow Park Lodge, the main base facility, for February.
A GOOD DEAL McHenry's for mid-mountain family dining. Pastas and burgers, turkey chili and enchiladas, with crayons for doodling on tablecloths.
MEDALS GOLD Snow, Grooming, Terrain, Lifts, Service, Weather, Access, On-Mountain Food, Lodging, Dining, Family Programs; SILVER Challenge, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities.
HIGH/LOW RANK Grooming (1), Service (1), On-Mountain Food (1); Scenery (45), Challenge (49), Value (69).
DON'T MISS Free two-hour guided tours to the day's best snow, led by Deer Valley hosts, each morning and afternoon.
READER REMARKS (+)"More challenging than its cushy image suggests." "What a way to be pampered."
(-) "You have to go to Park City for après action." "Credit card was smoking! How can a family afford it?"