Powder Alert! This is not a drill. This past weekend marks the opening day at Deer Valley in Park City, Utah and just in time the mountain gods have graced us with 24” of pure magical fresh powder. With those fluffy, magical little flakes of condensation comes the reason for the season, the one thing that makes the negative degree weather and frozen bones bearable – ski season.

SKIIERS ONLY AT DEER VALLEY RESORT

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For those inbound skiers, there’s nowhere quite like skiing out at Deer Valley Resort, a skiers-only haven since 1981. Nestled in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah it’s just 36 miles east of Salt Lake City, in the historic mining town of Park City.  The snow here is copyrighted ‘The Greatest Snow On Earth®’ with an annual average of 300 inches blanketing Deer Valley’s six mountains – Little Baldy Peak, Bald Eagle, Bald, Flagstaff, Empire and Lady Morgan – offering a ton of ground to cover.

While we all love après ski with the boarders and the hot toddies and drunken snowmen cocktails, there is something really traditional and sacred about having only skiers on the mountain. No chairlift splits, twists or tangles. It’s commonplace now that snowboarders are welcome everywhere else—the rebellion of the ‘90s has prevailed. There are only three ski-only resorts nationwide, and Deer Valley remains one of them. These slopes are dedicated as serious terrain for serious skiers. Find yourself in Triangle Trees for some gnarly adventures, or cruise down mid-mountain for some of the most scenic views in the country.

There’s something for everyone here—21 chairlifts, 101 ski runs, six bowls, 12 restaurants, 300 annual inches of powder, 2,026 acres of alpine skiing, and a renowned ‘reindeer’ ski school for the little ones.

EDITOR’S CHOICE: WE LOVE THE STEIN ERIKSEN LODGE

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The resort does a fantastic job honoring the legendary skier, with an insanely convenient slope-side location. Each guestroom is uniquely decorated for a more custom destination mountain vacation experience.

All rooms are decorated with a similar design element and color palette to maintain a true European mountain lodge feel, but each room offers unique design elements specific to that room. It’s an intentional and distinct design that distinguishes the Stein Eriksen from other lodging options in Park City.

From the concierge who ensures you have everything you could possibly want to the valet who gets your car nice and toasty for a 5am backcountry start, the staff goes above and beyond. Anything you wish for is your command—the ski valets find your boots, get them on for you, and have your skis ready and waiting outside. They take all the hassle out of the sport and leave you to just enjoy the actual skiing. Oh, and a warming cup of hot cocoa is a given when you come stumbling in from the cold and they remove those frozen boots.

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GET SET UP WITH SKI BUTLER

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Precisely what it sounds like, a customized ski concierge service. How many times have you waited, sardine like, sweating in your over insulated jacket, waiting for the next kid to come hand you a boot? How many hours of would-be-ski-time has been spent rushing back to the rental lodge just to find they already closed?

No more. Ski Butler comes to you. They take all of the necessary info and then show up like Ski-ready Fairy Godmothers, boots of every size and variety to help ensure you have the right fit (same for ski type and length). Halfway through the day and you realize your boots feel off, just give them a call and they’ll come running. One of our skiers needed a different set up for a powder day, and poof, just like that, when the ski locker was opened the next morning a pristine pair awaited, with a well-wishing post-it note. They’ll come and fetch all the gear when you’re done too, one less thing to worry about on your way out.

GO BACKCOUNTRY SKIING WITH PARK CITY POWDER CATS

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Have you ever looked up at a range of mountains, all snowcapped and ethereal, and thought ‘I wish I could stand at the tippy top and ski down that majestic beast’? Well, you can. Park City Powder Cat tour is a pretty amazing experience. You start the day at a warming hut way deep in the Wasatch Mountains. Get to know your fellow gnarly adventure seekers, some newbies chomping at the bit, some more seasoned and smiling in anticipation of what is to come. Then a 45 minute ride on the Powder Cat takes you on an off-roading journey all the way to that seemingly unreachable mountaintop.

Our driver, Lumpy, used to run the groomers down at the resort and knows his way down (and up) a mountain. He drops you off with a knowing grin, and just like that, you’re at the top of the world. The air tastes cleaner, the snow brighter, and the sunshine warmer.

You have two guides with you, one to lead and one to follow, so the intermediates can stay nice and easy and the experts can go crazy (crazy-ish. It’s still a badass mountaintop). You’ll never forget your first backcountry run.

Confectioners’ sugar beneath your skis propel you, levitating you towards the center of the universe. The air is calm and still and your breath quickens as your feet seem to be spellbound and just like that, you’re past the trees and down the run and back in Lumpy’s warm snowcat. Then you do that again and again until your ears are red and your cheeks hurt from smiling so hard. The joy is infectious. It’s an unreal magic that every skier and boarder should experience, at least once in their alpine career.

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GRAB A BITE AT FLETCHER’S

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After an adrenaline filled day you’ll need some really sumptuous food, something that helps fill the hole of epinephrine that last run carved into your stomach. Fletcher’s is one of those carefree, inviting and friendly restaurants that is perfect to shuffle in (ski gear completely acceptable) and have an amazing meal among friends.

When Sue and her partner opened the restaurant, they did so in honor of their rescue pup, Fletcher, whose big heart is famous in these parts. He inspired a restaurant and lounge dedicated to making people happy. The focus was fresh, local food, expertly-handcrafted cocktails and a chef renowned for simple recipes masterfully prepared. Walk in and start with the bacon jam with cheddar chive biscuits (get six, not three—you’ll devour them), then move on to a short rib grilled cheese with roasted garlic aioli. The view of Main Street twinkling at night is pretty hard to beat too.

FINE DINING AT THE MARIPOSA

For a final farewell, don’t leave town without exploring the best fine dining option. Just a one minute golf cart ride from the Stein Eriksen is the Mariposa. Ski resort food often repeats itself no matter your location—heavy over sauced lamb skanks, fried mac and cheese, ‘hearty’ food that makes you feel bloated and weighed down. But The Mariposa defies all those stereotypes. The restaurant has an intimate setting, crackling fireplace and elegant dining room, so it’s got the ambiance down pat. But even more impressive is that the cuisine rivals anything we’ve had on either coast.

The entire menu is basically a customizable chef’s tasting, so you can have eight courses of perfectly portioned bites (or four for the diners who didn’t just spend the day chin deep in powder and don’t need quite so much sustenance). The Quail Saltimbocca pan-roasted boneless quail breast with house-cured prosciutto, fresh sage leaves, creamy miso-braised kale and mushrooms, cabernet reduction is a knockout entrée, and the final dish to end on is a dense, decadent, oh-so-appropriate Snowball, a semisweet chocolate torte adorned in vanilla whipped cream that’s just about as dreamy as the powder you’ve been chasing.

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