There were times in the early going when skier counts were well below projections; times when the opportunity to change directions were there. Periods when Deer Valley easily could have groomed fewer runs, taken out the tissue box and whittled down menus to the basics — hamburgers, fries and chili.
"If we could do things over," Wheaton said in an earlier interview, "we'd do things differently. We've had to overcome the 'snobbish' image that was first projected. The image we projected wasn't what we wanted or what we were. The image we wanted was that Deer Valley offers a warm and comfortable experience with an elevated level of service. Unfortunately, it took time for us to get over that early impression."
Stern's dream was to make Deer Valley a first-class resort that could match, service for service, the finest five-star hotels in the world. Over the years, Deer Valley has become just that — a five-star ski resort with customer service its No. 1 priority.
Proof, of course, showed in the voting booth. Skiers voted Deer Valley No. 1 in the areas of grooming, service, access, on-mountain food, lodging and dining, and No. 2 in weather, lifts and family programs. In fact, of the 22 categories on the ballot, Deer Valley scored in 15.
Wheaton credits his front-line employees for the resort's success.
"Staying with our commitment has been easy because of the staff and the great job everyone does. If the commitment of the staff was not there, we never could have reached our goal. Everyone comes to work every day focused on what they need to do," said Wheaton.
Greg Ditrinco, executive editor of SKI Magazine, in announcing the award, said "Deer Valley addresses skiers' needs, wants and desires, and hence the four consecutive years (as No. 1). It's not unprecedented, but it's a true accomplishment. Especially in these economic times where people like consistency. People want service. People like that personal touch.
"Skiers also want value, which isn't necessarily in price, but they want to feel they are getting what they are paying for, and Deer Valley delivers on all those fronts."
There was a time when voters didn't see Park City Mountain Resort as a top 5 or even a top 10 resort. It wasn't until the resort began to focus on the overall guest experience, said Parry.
"We really started to direct a lot of our resources into offering a great mountain experience and create a well-rounded family experience," she added. "That's when we started to be recognized.
"Utah has fantastic snow. That we can't control. So we started to focus on those things we can control, like grooming. We're among the few resorts that regularly grooms our black diamond runs. And because we do, we are able to open more of the mountain to intermediate skiers, which is a large part of our skier base."
In the Family Programs category, both Deer Valley and Park City made the top 10 list. This is the 23rd year of the magazine's poll.
Ditrinco said this year the magazine will be putting the ballot online "and anyone who wants to go to the site will be able to vote. We won't commingle the two surveys or redo our reader's survey, but each will be separate. We are all intrigued and fascinated to see how the more universal rankings will compare with our traditional 23-year-old survey."
Those who would like to cast votes on the open poll can do so by visiting www.skimag.com/2011OpenResortSurvey.
2010 Ski Magazine reader rankings
1. Deer Valley, Utah
2. Vail, Colo.
3. Whistler Blackcomb, B.C.
4. Beaver Creek, Colo.
5. Park City, Utah
6. Snowmass, Colo.
7. Aspen Mountain, Colo.
8. Breckenridge, Colo.
9. Sun Valley, Idaho
10. Aspen Highlands, Colo.
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