Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
There were times when outsiders had doubts. Skier numbers were low, tables in the cafeteria sat empty and locals drove miles just to avoid Deer Valley.
Times were tough, remembered Bob Wheaton, president and CEO, "But we never lost sight of our goal. We never diverted from what we wanted to be — the very best."
SKI Magazine's list of North America's top resorts came out last month and, for the fourth year in a row, skiers voted Deer Valley the very best.
Four years in a row now, based on everything from access to dining, Deer Valley has been No. 1. Over the past nine years, Deer Valley has been No. 1 six times.
Park City Mountain Resort was voted No. 5.
"It's pretty amazing to think that of all the resorts in the country, two of the top five are right here in Park City," said Krista Parry, director of marketing at the mountain resort.
Every year, SKI Magazine sends out ballots — 40,000 this year — to its readers asking them to rate resorts. One request is that a voter must have skied at the resort they're voting on within the previous two years. It's a way of assuring voters know what they're voting on.
To put the results in perspective, voters have a choice of more than 325 major ski areas in North America.
To win it four times in succession, said Wheaton, "is a huge honor. It's also humbling when you realize the company we keep in the ski industry. There are a lot of very fine ski areas and excellent people running those resorts. To be held in this much regard is, indeed, humbling."
Edgar Stern, Deer Valley's founder, recalled in an interview a few years back that while skiing at one of the country's largest ski areas, he found little in the way of customer service. He found the staff rude and untidy and the food inedible.
"When I built Deer Valley, I said let's go in the absolute opposite direction. A lot of people told me it would never work, that I was crazy. In the beginning, when the cost overruns were so high, I wondered," he recalled. "But there are people looking for this kind of service … and it worked."
Stern passed away in October of 2008.
Other Utah resorts making the magazine's top 30 list include: The Canyons (No. 18), Snowbird (19), Snowbasin (27), Alta (28), Brighton (29) and Solitude (30).
In individual categories, proving Utah does indeed have the "Greatest Snow On Earth," Utah resorts dominated the "Snow" voting — Alta (1), Snowbird (2), Powder Mountain (3), Brighton (4), Solitude (5), Deer Valley (7) and Snowbasin (8).
Another of Utah's most attractive trademarks is the access skiers have to its 14 resorts. Within about 30 minutes of landing at the Salt Lake International Airport, skiers can be standing at the base of one of seven world-class resorts. In access voting, Utah resorts took seven of the top 10 spots — Deer Valley (1), Park City Mountain Resort (2), Brighton (4), Solitude (5), The Canyons (6), Snowbird (7) and Alta (9).
Utah resorts also proved to be among the best values in North America. Five of the top 10 were Utah resorts — Powder Mountain (1), Alta (3), Brighton (4), Solitude (6) and Snowbasin (9).
In the special Lifestyle Awards category, Alta and Snowbird were one-two, respectively in voting as the best Skier's Mountain; Snowbird and Deer Valley were one-two, respectively, for best Weekend Escape; and Brighton, Alta and Snowbird were one-two-three, respectively, for Value Trip.
Work on Deer Valley's lifts and its two main lodges started in the spring of 1981. The resort opened that winter.
And, as Wheaton said, it was a rough beginning for Deer Valley. There were doubters who said the resort couldn't keep up its level of service.
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