A cold weather skeptic and lover of summer days on the lake, I never understood the appeal of taking a vacation to a snow-covered mountain—until I visited Deer Valley Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort outside of Park City, Utah.
Conveniently located less than 45 minutes from the Salt Lake City airport, these two locations offer breathtaking scenery, luxury accommodations, outstanding dining, and skiing so accessible and so fun, they converted this snow skeptic into a lover of the slopes. Previously under private ownership, Solitude was recently acquired by Deer Valley, and as I experienced firsthand, each resort has its own unique offerings.
As if the skies were tempting me to “go big or go home,” I landed in the midst of a raging snowstorm. Thanks to the easy availability of snow-worthy transport (multiple companies offer shuttle services between the airport and area resorts in vehicles that are more than equipped to drive in serious snow), I easily reached Solitude, just in time for dinner.
I’ve been fortunate to experience many special meals in my life, but our first night’s dinner at Solitude was truly one of a kind. Beneath a star-lit mountain ski, our group snowshoed to a mountain Yurt, where we were served a custom, cooked-to-order meal. If you aren’t familiar with a yurt (which I was not prior to this trip), it’s a large, round, and transportable tent once used by nomadic populations in the steppes of central Asia.
For those more sensitive to the cold (ahem, moi), I’m pleased to report that the yurt at Solitude, while traditional in appearance, is far larger, cozier, and more luxuriously equipped than I imagine the yurts of historical Asia to be. We sat at a long wooden table while our stunning five-course meal was cooked to order.
From the carrot, orange, and butternut squash soup, to a beautiful winter salad, to scallops, to pheasant, to a terrine of chocolate ganache whose memory still makes me swoon, each course was perfection. It was also incredibly special to have the chef himself there to personally introduce each plate.
Full, happy, and rosy cheeked, we meandered back to Solitude Village to grab a nightcap at the Thirsty Squirrel (is that not the best pub name ever?), then headed to bed to rest up for a day of skiing.
One of my favorite parts about Solitude is the proximity of the lodging to the slopes. The resort offers multiple accommodation options, which are situated in charming Solitude Village. The Village resembles a tiny, charming town with little shops and cafes. Everything you need for a day of skiing is right there—rentals, access to the ski school, and of course the mountain itself.
If you prefer to come ski just for the day, the resort also offers excellent parking and transportation services to and from the mountain, so Solitude is a favorite destination of local residents. Also, unlike Deer Valley (which I’ll talk more about later in the post), along with skiing, Solitude offers snowboarding, crossing country skiing, and additional winter activities too.
After a hearty breakfast at The Inn at Solitude, I was ready for my first day of skiing—and I was nervous. I had only skied one other time in the last 16 years, and as someone who is about as athletically coordinated as a tomato, I was wary of the idea of throwing myself down a mountain on skis.
Fortunately, the Solitude Snow Sports Academy was available to save me from my own lack of agility. After a morning of ski instruction, I felt comfortable taking on beginner-level runs, and when Monique and I accidentally diverted down an intermediate-level slope, I was able to stay calm and make it to the bottom unscathed.
Here’s the rest of our group, fresh faced and ready to ski.
Solitude offers a variety of food and dining options throughout the mountain, and after a few hours of skiing, I was more than ready for our lunch at Honeycomb Grill. With options that ranged from light, fresh salads, to addictive dips, to hearty clam chowder, all accompanied by stellar beer list, no matter your mood, Honeycomb is sure to please.
Just when Solitude was starting to feel comfortable, it was time to pack our bags and head to our next destination, Deer Valley Resort.
I first visited Deer Valley last February, and I was ecstatic to return. Particularly since my most recent visit, Deer Valley has become one of my favorite destinations in the country, and it feels a little like home. Like Solitude, Deer Valley offers unbeatable accessibility to the mountains, skiing for all levels, and a wide range of lodging options, but it has slightly more upscale feel, which is something to consider, depending upon what you are looking for in your vacation. Further, the food is just…beyond. As you’ll see every meal at Deer Valley is one for the record books.
We stayed at Lodges at Deer Valley, where I instantly felt as if I’d been whisked away to my own private mountain home. With comfy couches, rustic décor, and a full-service kitchen, I could easily have lived in at the Lodges straight through to spring.
I also love Lodges for being connected to one of my all-time favorite restaurants, The Brass Tag. Dishes are inspired by local ingredients, and many are cooked in a brick oven, which gives them a rich, enthralling flavor. We ate our way through a significant chunk of the menu, and while I loved every bite, a few of my standout favorites included the soy sesame broccoli and mushrooms (you would never believe veggies could pack this much flavor), smoked trout (Deer Valley has incredible access to fresh seafood), edamame guac (so creative), chimichurri chips (with bacon!), and the spicy margaritas (for obvious reasons).
I rolled back to my room, flopped into bed, then awoke to a beautiful day of powder to ski!
To reach the mountain base, we took a quick ride in one of the resort’s Cadillac shuttles, which are available to take Deer Valley guests anywhere around the resort (or into the town of Park City) on call. We picked up our rentals, then headed outside for a second day of skiing.
It was this second day at Deer Valley where I truly found my “ski legs.” One of the things I loved most about the mountain is how many different runs there are at all ability levels. Although I’m a beginner/intermediate, I still had dozens of different options, and in three hours, I barely repeated a run. As the morning wore on, I gained more and more confidence, and by lunchtime, I had a giant smile plastered on my face, I was having so much fun!
If you are a beginner like me, Deer Valley has a topnotch ski school, and it’s also an excellent location for groups of different ability levels. For example, Lauren is a much more advanced skier than I, but we were still easily able to find common points on the mountain to start and finish our runs together.
My favorite place to warm up on the slopes of Deer Valley: Royal Street Café. With killer blueberry mojitos, the freshest seafood (I insist you try the lobster tower, tuna tartar, and ahi tuna tacos), homemade cheeses, and a legendary turkey chili, Royal Street offers gourmet fare in a relaxed, cozy atmosphere.
As soon as the mojito settled, I was ready for an “excursion” I’d been anticipating since we arrived: a massage at Spa Montage. It’s is the largest spa in Utah, and it is absolutely serene. By the time we left, I felt like I was floating, I was so relaxed. I also could live in one of the spa’s fluffy bathrobes and slippers.
Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly top my experience at Deer Valley, we ended our stay at Fireside Dining, a culinary experience unlike any other. The restaurant is comprised of “stations,” each offering local cuisine inspired by the Alps. Although the initial showstopper is the raclette, a gooey, nutty cheese that Fireside melts directly onto dinner plates beside a roaring fire, you’ll want to save room for the other stations, each cooking away beside a fire of its own: leg of lamb, veal stew, pumpkin risotto, filet medallions, were just a few of the wonderful dishes I tried.
Although you might *think* you too full for dessert at Fireside, you’d be surprised how easily you can make room for the chocolate and caramel fondue station. A few chocolate-dipped strawberries and caramel-dunked cookies never hurt, right?
As if the food at Fireside were not fairytale enough, you also take a real sleigh ride just outside the door. I fell so in love with this sweet Clydsdale, I wanted to take her on the plane home with me!
No matter your attitude towards cold weather, your athletic ability, or your appetite, Deer Valley Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort truly have something to offer. After my three days at the resorts, I felt simultaneously exhilarated and pampered. Learning to ski left me feeling empowered to take on new things, and the wonderful food, accommodations, and service made me feel like a queen.
For your next vacation, I can’t recommend Deer Valley and Solitude highly enough. I’m so grateful for the opportunity, and I can say with the utmost sincerely that no winter will feel complete without a run down their slopes and a blueberry mojito!
A heartfelt thank you to Deer Valley and Solitude for hosting me for this special trip. I was not obligated to write this post, but am doing so because I truly loved my experience and recommend these vacation destinations. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks for reliving this wonderful adventure with me!