Deer Valley is big, The Canyons massive, so covering both in one day is a seriously tough assignment. But put American born long time Aussie based ski legend downunder Randy Wieman together with American World Cup racers Heidi Voelker & Kaylin Richardson and it’s game on.
I never had much interest in skiing Park City or its neighbours Deer Valley and The Canyons. I’d heard the skiing was tame and limited, and the snow not as powdery as other Utah resorts. But last season some of my best friends – including former Australian ski team members – and a few informed locals showed me just how misinformed I was.
My Aussie ski team mate Duncan Burns and his partner Nikki Roger chose to hang out and ski in Park City for the 2012 winter and enjoyed it so much that they were back this year, renting the same classic ‘gold rush’ house overlooking the historic old town full of restaurants, bars and atmosphere. I dropped in to see them and had a great day skiing Park City along with Lou Gibson from Thredbo and ex-freestyler and former Home and Away actor, Justin Melvey.
We ripped all over the mountain and then met Bruno Schwartz from the Park City Chamber Bureau for lunch. He told me that if I came back through Park City he would organize some local skiers to show me around the other resorts. I requested someone who could ski fast in order to cover as much mountain as possible. I would only have one day for both resorts.
Two weeks later I was back in Park City. On a bluebird day in early April, Bruno picked me up for a buffet breakfast at the Hotel Park City and then drove to the base of Deer Valley. For years I had heard about the World famous Deer Valley Valet ski service. As we arrived, a suitably attired Valet took our skis out of the car to the ski racks with a happy “Have a nice day” and it was perfect. I was ready to go and up rocked Heidi Voelker, USA ski team member for 12 years, 3 Olympics, married mother of two and Deer Valley Ski Ambassador. It was her job to show me her mountain. As we rode up the chair she explained how lucky she felt to have the best job in the World skiing on a mountain she loved. I was thinking, “this should be awesome”.
We took the Silver Lake Express quad which passes over the Olympic Freestyle Mogul and Aerial site where several Aussies have medalled, and then skied down to the Wasatch Express quad to the top of Bald Mountain at 9400 ft. Heidi took off with wide sweeping SuperG turns down the uncrowded, immaculately groomed corduroy run called Tycoon. I was breathing heavily at the bottom but it had been exciting to keep my skis in the grooves of her perfectly carved turns. Next run was down the steeper Steins run to the bottom of the Sultan Express.
We continued like that all morning from that side of the mountain to The Empire Bowl on the other side with many runs in between. Heidi pointed out many different tree runs where the powder lasts for days after a storm. I was amazed at the variety of runs, the quality of the grooming, no lift queues and the number of houses on the mountain, truly ski in, ski out.
Heidi says that what endears her to Deer Valley is the variety of terrain in an area with the “greatest snow on earth”. She loves to share the mountain with her kids who love it as much as she does. What separates Deer Valley from other resorts is that the founder and owner, Edgar Stern, wanted customer service to be the focus of the resort. Deer Valley Resort consistently rates as one of the top ten ski resorts world-wide. Snowboarding is not allowed, there’s a cap on lift ticket sales to guarantee no queues, plus the skiers valet service and the quality of the on-mountain restaurants are exceptional.
I was enlightened to be exposed to so much wonderful terrain, but skiing with Heidi made it interesting, exciting and fast. For the price of a private instructor, anyone can go out with Heidi for the same experience, but I suggest booking early. Her enthusiasm for skiing and Deer Valley cannot but help to rub off.
After lunch Bruno drove me to Canyons for another surprise. My guide was Kaylin Richardson, 29 years old, 7 years on the US World Cup ski team, and just back from filming in Norway for Warren Miller. Luckily I had my GS skis ready to follow the ruts that Kaylin left after every turn. Watching her hips drop and accelerating out of every turn, I didn’t do much sightseeing on the way down, but on the chair it was like I was with my best mate.
Kaylin learned to ski in the tiny Midwest ski resort of Hyland Hills, Minnesota. She competed in all Alpine disciplines and loved going fast, which is why she was so enthusiastic about her new home mountain. Like Heidi, Kaylin just loves the vastness and variety of Canyons, and the snow quality.
I had no idea how much area this resort covered but it is huge. From the top of the Elevation Chair I could just pick out Iron Mountain on the other side. Even following Kaylin through the six valleys of terrain it took until the end of the afternoon to get to that side. As it was late in the season, the snow had transformed by the time our day was coming to an end, but the speed run through the trees on Ironman was still fantastic as few riders had been to that side of the mountain.
We worked our way back to the village, but in true Kaylin form we took that last run up the Orange Bubble Express and down Doc’s run, which was still smooth at the end of the day. As she told me to go first on our last run, I was a bit nervous trying to nail my form. But I made it to the bottom, took off my skis and walked into the Red Tail Grill for some après ski nachos and margaritas.
What an eye opener the day had been. I skied past so much terrain that I just have to come back with more time.