Ben and I have never been one of those “sporty” couples. You know, the ones who wear coordinating spandex and giggle attractively while racing each other up hills without breaking into actual sweat? It’s just not us. Though we are both fairly active, I generally prefer exercise that carries a low risk of bodily injury and requires little to no coordination (spin class, a light jog).
Hence, no one was more surprised than I when we discovered a sport that we could do together and both instantly adored: downhill skiing.
I credit my love of skiing to Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, where I have had the pleasure to ski three times now. The first two trips were with fellow bloggers (see here and here). I returned home from each utterly elated, gushing to Ben not only about how fabulous Deer Valley Resort is (because as you’ll see, it is all of that and more), but also that, despite a lifetime of athletic ineptitude, I CAN SKI.
I’m not sure whether or not he believed me (the man has seen me throw enough air balls at our driveway basketball hoop to be rightfully suspicious), but when Deer Valley invited us out for a ski weekend, Ben had the chance to witness me on the slopes firsthand.
I was beyond ecstatic leading up to our trip. Ben was going to have the chance to experience Deer Valley, a place that has become one of my favorite spots in the country, and he was going to see that I wasn’t fibbing to him about my ability to safely navigate a chairlift!
This was Ben’s first time downhill skiing, ever. He wasn’t sure what to expect, and I honestly wasn’t sure what he’d think about it. After two runs down the mountain, he looked at me with the deepest sincerity and said, “I love this.”
What made our trip so wonderful wasn’t just that we skied—it was that we skied at Deer Valley. Whether you are a ski aficionado or have never tried it before, you’ll find a reason to love Deer Valley. The resort calls it “The Deer Valley Difference.” I call it “Spoiled for Life.”
My Deer Valley Top 5
a.k.a. why ski newbies and pros have a reason to come to Deer Valley…and will never want to leave.
One of the best parts of skiing in Park City (where Deer Valley is located) is that you can take an early morning flight out and be on the mountain that same afternoon. It’s only 40 minutes from Salt Lake City, and there are dozens of shuttle transfer options. Ben and I didn’t even need to rent a car. We simply showed up at the airport and were deposited at Deer Valley less than an hour later.
If you stay at Deer Valley but still want to get out and explore Park City or the farther reaches of the resort, you still don’t need a car. In addition to the shuttles that run from the various lodging areas to the ski slope, Deer Valley has an entire fleet of Cadillac Escalades that take guests anywhere around the resort or in Park City they care to go. Just send a text, and in less than 10 minutes, a driver will pick you up, no charge. Ben and I even went out for drinks in Park City one night, and a Deer Valley driver brought us home.
2. The Ski School
I AM TERRIBLE AT ATHLETICS. I say this not to be self-deprecating, or cute, or because I’m fishing for a compliment. I’m bad at most coordinated physical activities. A lifeguard once paced back and forth next to me in a gym pool while I swam laps, because, based on my speed and form, he thought I might drown. That story is absolutely true. Ben loves to tell it.
Despite that, Deer Valley still taught me how to ski.
We had two days of private lessons at the Deer Valley Ski School. In less than a day, Ben (a first-time skier) and I were both skiing advanced intermediate-level runs. Our instructor did an excellent job explaining the different physical components of skiing in ways we could each understand, ensured we skied a wide range of runs, and shared his personal story with us too. I thought we might get too chilly or tired and want to turn in early, but we skied full days, riding the lifts until they closed each day.
For the experienced: If you are too advanced for beginning lessons but would like personal guidance to build your confidence on expert runs, Deer Valley offers fully-capable guides for this option too.
3. THE FOOD
Even if I didn’t ever strap on a ski, I could still have a full vacation experience eating at Deer Valley. From ski-in dining halls that serve anything but standard cafeteria fare to the highest Zagat-rated restaurant in Utah, Deer Valley is a heaven for foodies.
As individuals who plan our vacation destinations and itineraries primarily based on eating, Ben and I have been fortunate to enjoy many wonderful meals together. Our dinner at The Mariposa was the best meal we’ve ever had, including this entire list.
The Mariposa stands out in every way. The service was impeccable, the setting intimate and romantic, and the suggested wine pairings were lovely too. What makes the restaurant the most special of all, however, is the food. It’s a small-plates concept, so each course was perfectly sized for the two of us to split. I’d like to tell you I had a favorite, but honestly, every course was my favorite. Each was unique, exquisitely composed, and so delicious that by the end of the meal, I had completely embarrassed myself due to the extent that I was gushing to our server.
Favorite Courses: We did truly love every course, but, in case you are heading there soon and would like a bit of guidance, a few that stand brightest in my memory are the Dungeness crab, kale salad (seriously, this salad was a work of art), pan-roasted scallops, bison filet, and any and all of the desserts.
While you can find excellent seafood on every Deer Valley menu, the appropriately named Seafood Buffet is where the true seafood lovers come to find a slice of paradise. The restaurant offers an entire bar of fresh crab legs, clams, and oysters; a make-your-own poke station; a slew of hot appetizers; a line of expertly prepared fish and accompanying sides; a full bar; and an epic array of desserts. Our group managed to try everything in the menu (a tough job, but someone had to do it), and honestly, there wasn’t anything I didn’t love. The seafood is incredibly fresh, and the restaurant showcases it in ways both traditional and unexpected.
Erin’s Favorites: Crab legs; local trout; the smoked seafood deviled egg.
Ben’s Favorites: Poke; halibut; octopus bánh mì.
Fireside Dining is one of the most unique and impressive experiences at Deer Valley. Based on the cuisine of the European Alps, it features four incredible food stations, each stationed beside (and often cooked with) a fire. I can’t imagine a more fitting and satisfying way to end a day spent on the slopes.
Bookending an array of main courses that include roasted leg of lamb, venison stew, freshly caught Utah trout, prime rib, and more are the raclette fireplace (pictured above) and a dessert fondue station. If you’ve never had raclette (and even if you have), repeat after me: “Pace yourself.” It’s a smooth, nutty cheese that’s delicious on its own and even better paired with beautiful spread of housemade charcuterie, mustards, and freshly baked baguettes that Fireside serves along side it. You are going to want at least two plates, but try to resist and save room for the rest of the meal.
Ben and I spent almost three hours at Fireside enjoying the food, the ambiance, and each other’s company. Fireside Dining a place to escape and truly soak in your vacation.
Favorites: The raclette (of course); leg of lamb; potato soup with croutons.
Royal Street Café
I could eat lunch at Royal Street Café every day for the rest of my life. The menu is just the right size to offer a little something for everyone, but not so large that it feels unfocused. Whether you are craving fresh ahi tuna tacos, a juicy bison burger, or feel like keeping it lighter with a salad, you will find something to love.
I also highly recommend the Royal Street Café cocktail list. Their Blueberry Mojito is award winning, but The Bramble (the sassy, smooth blackberry gin number pictured above) is my personal favorite.
Favorites: Deer Valley Turkey Chili (you MUST have it at least once when you are here); tuna tacos; Dungeness crab tower.
Silver Lake Lodge & Empire Canyon Lodge
Even the more casual ski-in lunch spots at Deer Valley such as Silver Lake Restaurant and Empire Canyon Grill please palates. Whether you are looking for street-style tacos, a gourmet salad, freshly grilled salmon, or a soul-satisfying burger, you’ll find something delicious to suit your mood and re-engergize for your afternoon ski runs.
Favorites: Pulled pork sandwich; carrot cake (we ate it two days in a row); if you haven’t had the turkey chili yet, order it here.
4. The Accommodations
Deer Valley offers a myriad of accommodation options, all within minutes of the slopes. Ben and I stayed at Lodges. If you are the kind of person who likes to spend your winter afternoons cozied up beside a fire with a glass of wine, this is the spot for you. The lobby has an enormous three-story fireplace, and most of the rooms have their own too. We stayed in a gorgeous condo, complete with a fireplace, dining area, and a beautiful kitchen that I wanted to take home with me.
Lodges has the added benefit of being in the same complex as The Brass Tag, another of my favorite Deer Valley restaurants. We sadly ran out of meals before we could stop in for dinner this trip (if you are interested in reading more about the restaurant, you can do so here), but we did enjoy a majestic skiers’ breakfast there each morning. Do not—I repeat DO NOT—miss the waffles.
5. The Service
Deer Valley service shines in ways large and small, and it unites the unique aspects of the resort. Yes, I loved being able to text a car to drive us anywhere we needed to go, the staff for unloading my skis from the shuttle before I even thought to ask, and the expertise offered by our ski instructor, but the spirit of the place is equally fetching.
Whether you are lost on a ski run and stop an instructor for directions, request a wine recommendation from your server, or ask a question of the hotel staff, you will be met with a friendly, helpful response, likely from someone who has been with Deer Valley for years. One of the most fun and unexpected parts of the trip was chatting to different employees about how they came to work at Deer Valley and how long they had been members of the staff. Almost everyone had been there five years or more, and some were second-generation employees.
I am beyond grateful to Deer Valley for making this special weekend possible for Ben and me. We adored every bite, every sip, and every look at the stunning mountain scenery. We also discovered a physical activity that we both treasure and can see ourselves returning to year after year. If it seems like I’m being completely gushy, it is because I am. I truly love Deer Valley, and if you ever have the opportunity spend time there, I know that you will love it too.
Thank you Deer Valley for hosting Ben and me for this wonderful weekend. Our trip costs were covered, but I was not paid or obligated to write this post. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks for following along with our travel adventures!