The History of Deer Valley Resort
Claim to Fame: For over two decades, Deer Valley Resort has hosted elite, international skiing competitions including 18 FIS World Cup races, FIS Freestyle World Championship events, and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Today, you can ski on runs graced by Olympians. Back in 2002, athletes vied for gold medals at Deer Valley in Freestyle Moguls, Aerials, and Alpine Slalom events. Freestyle Moguls were held on the Champion run, the Alpine Slalom races took place on Know You Don’t and Freestyle Aerialists used White Owl. If you want to catch world-class athletics, Deer Valley is a great place to witness awesome talent, speed, air and tricks.
Unique Character: Deer Valley is one of the few resorts (in addition to Alta Ski Area and Mad River Glen) that only permits skiers. Snowboarding is not allowed at Deer Valley. Deer Valley's founder, Edgar Stern, pioneered the concept of providing luxe amenities to skiers alongside first-class service, fine dining and well-appointed lodges. Deer Valley was the first resort to offer guests ski valets, limited daily ticket sales, parking lot shuttles, complimentary ski check and chairlift footrests, among many other thoughtful touches.
Located in Park City, Utah, Deer Valley encompasses vast, rolling terrain with perfectly sculpted groomers, aspen and conifer glades, and world-class service, dining and lodging. Deer Valley’s expansive terrain includes six mountains, six bowls, and over 2,000 acres. With limited daily ticket sales, you'll rarely run into lift lines when exploring the resort's sprawling slopes and many peaks.
What’s in a Name: Deer Valley
There are a few different ideas floating around as to how the area of Deer Valley earned its name. All involve herds of deer, so it’s safe to say that Deer Valley was named due to the presence of deer in the area. It was also known as ‘Frog Valley’ by some. Two stories about who named the region are as follows.
US Commander, General Albert S. Johnson was dispatched to Utah by President James Buchanan in 1857 to occupy the territory of Utah and manage simmering tensions between Utah settlers and federal authorities. This conflict would eventually be called the Utah War, ending in June of 1858. While exploring the area around the future location of Park City, one of Johnson’s scouting parties noted a valley full of herds of deer. ‘Deer Valley’ was notated on one of their maps.
Another theory relates to the Black Hawk War, an armed conflict between Ute Native Americans, members of the Mormon militia and federal troops. It is said that a member of the Mormon cavalry, Private William Reynolds, noted a large number of deer in the area during a reconnaissance mission.
When Silver Was King
Before Park City was a renowned skiing destination, it was a mining town fraught with boom and bust cycles dependent upon the fluctuating prices for silver and precious metals. All told, miners in the Park City area would eventually extract over $400 million in silver. The town’s very first mining claims were actually made on Flagstaff Mountain, which is now the world-class corduroy of Deer Valley. With the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, silver mining gained momentum into the 1880s and boomed into the 20th century. Mining activity remained steady through the Great Depression and into WWI, but following WWII, Park City began a steady decline as prices for lead and zinc plummeted. The community was rapidly becoming a ghost town at the time skiing got its start in the silver-laden hills.
From Mining to Skiing
Deer Valley was actually not the first resort to grace the slopes where the resort now resides in the hollow once known as Frog Valley. Skis first swooshed down these hills in the 1930s during exhibitions of the Park City Winter Carnival. In February of 1936, the first winter carnival was held on a north-facing hillside of what would become Deer Valley. A ‘snow train’ chugged up to Park City with over 500 visitors to partake in the day’s merriment.
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) then began building ski trails and facilities for skiers in 1936 for the following winter. This included ski trails, toboggan runs, slides, skiing slalom courses, ski jumps—a wildly popular form of entertainment in the day—and warming huts. This was all to encourage winter recreation and provide amusement for locals.
Skiers first enjoyed lift-serviced access on Flagstaff Mountain in 1947 thanks to the backbreaking labor of Park City residents and skiing enthusiasts, Bob Burns and Otto Carpenter. The two scavenged abandoned mines and built mechanized lift towers from discarded mining equipment, hewn aspen wood and nearby lodgepole pines.
The mountain was eventually dubbed Snow Park Ski Area (after the local ski club), and lifts spun skiers up the hill on weekends and holidays. Bob and Otto's wives would cook hamburgers for hungry skiers. Miners and adolescents (around 100 a day) could pay $1.50 to ride the lifts and have a ski lesson. The two eventually added a second lift for beginners that ran on a Ford Model-A engine. Though economic decline plagued Park City in the 50’s, resulting in the shuttering of many mines, Snow Park continued to operate. Otto Carpenter bought Burn’s share of the ski area and continued to run Snow Park until his lease expired in 1968.
A New Era - Treasure in the Hills
The town of Park City continued to struggle economically throughout the 60’s; many mines closed and thousands of jobs were lost. The population of the town shrunk as hordes left for better economic opportunity elsewhere. Thanks to the dogged perseverance of a few remaining residents, successful application for a federal rural economic stimulus grant led to the establishment of Treasure Mountain ski area, which would later become Park City Ski Area. No longer profitable, the underground mines were largely abandoned and Parkites turned their sights to the snow coating their mountains for economic relief.
In short, Treasure Mountain was well-established and growing when a family named The Sterns paid a visit in 1968. Smitten with the area and keenly interested in the hospitality industry, the Sterns went on to purchase Treasure Mountain Ski Area in 1971. The Stern family had unique ideas about resort development, so they eventually sold Park City Mountain but held on to an adjacent parcel of land in hopes of creating their own resort.
A Stern Upbringing
Before Polly and Edgar Stern purchased Treasure Mountain, the Stern family spent decades in the hospitality industry, buying, selling, and developing luxury resorts and hotels. Edgar's father had founded a broadcasting company named the Royal Street Corporation in New Orleans in 1948. Stern Sr. then opened the Royal Orleans Hotel nearby in the heart of the French Quarter. Gradually the family business pivoted away from broadcast media into real estate development, charter airline services, and hotel and resort operation. The family moved to Aspen and became involved in development there before opening the Stanford Court Hotel on Nob Hill in San Francisco; at the time it was considered one of the most luxurious hotels on the West Coast.
With this exposure to the finer side of the hospitality industry, Edgar Stern held a firm belief that a ski area could provide the unparalleled luxury and amenities that guests could expect from a 5-star hotel. At the time, most ski areas were humble, family-owned affairs with little in the way of creature comforts or luxurious amenities. Edgar envisioned the melding of skiing, fine dining, and first-class lodgings.
"Edgar Stern founded Deer Valley in 1981 on what was a revolutionary concept for a ski resort: world-class service. In the ensuing years, Deer Valley has helped redefine the ski industry."
The Lifts Turn Again
Having sold Treasure Mountain, Edgar turned his attention to land he still owned bordering the established ski area in Park City. His family’s company, The Royal Street Land Company, gained permission to develop a new resort in 1975 and unveiled their phased building proposals. Construction commenced and before long, skiers returned to these historic slopes once graced by the Snow Park Ski Area.
Deer Valley Resort first whisked skiers uphill on December 26, 1981. Edgar had five chairlifts constructed, and 35 runs were cut on Bald Eagle and Bald Mountains. Two luxurious day lodges stood proudly at Snow Park and Silver Lake. That first season, skiers enjoyed making turns from the Burns double chair and the Carpenter, Homestake, Sultan, and Wasatch triple chairs.
The following season, the Sterling lift was added in ‘82 and Clipper graced the slopes in ‘83. It didn’t take long for Edgar to expand the boundaries of his dream resort. An expansion to Bald Mountain increased the acreage with the addition of the Mayflower lift.
"Be tough, be confident. But you will never be a whole and happy person if you aren't humble"
A Nod to Stein
No mention of Deer Valley’s ascension to greatness would be complete without a nod to famed Olympic athlete and freestyle skiing pioneer Stein Eriksen. As a young lad from Norway, Eriksen racked up numerous wins, championship titles, medals, and honors in alpine racing. He brought home the gold medal in giant slalom and silver in the slalom in the 1952 Oslo Winter Olympic Games. In 1954, he went on to win an unprecedented three gold medals at the World Championships in Åre, Sweden. With his graceful style, mastery of gymnastics and elegance on skis, Eriksen was a skiing pioneer. He would often vault himself off the snow in jaw-dropping aerial and inverted maneuvers to the delight of onlookers.
Stein Eriksen moved to the United States in the 1970s and served in many ski schools across the nation, including Snowmass, Sugarbush, Boyne, Heavenly, Sun Valley and Aspen. He even helped to make recommendations during the development of Park City Ski Area. Eventually, he settled down and planted roots in Park City, Utah. As far as Deer Valley is concerned, Eriksen was present right from the beginning, surveying the land Edgar Stern owned and advising him on his vision to create the world’s finest ski area and best ski hotel.
Eriksen, an icon and skiing legend, went on to serve in the role of Director of Skiing at Deer Valley for an astonishing 35 years. The luxurious Stein Eriksen Lodge Deer Valley was named in his honor and celebrates his legacy, charisma and love of winter sport.
Deer Valley Grows Into a World-Class Resort
1991 was a big year for Deer Valley with the construction of the Crown Point Lift and the resort’s first high-speed quad, the Carpenter Express on Bald Eagle Mountain. The Red Cloud and Viking Lifts were also constructed on Flagstaff Mountain, resulting in another terrain expansion for intermediates and mogul lovers. In 1993, the Northside Express lift debuted, along with the Snowflake double for beginners. High-speed quad replacements came in 1996 for the Carpenter and Wasatch lifts. In 1997, the old Wasatch triple was moved to make room for the Quincy lift, and the Deer Crest quad was constructed.
Another major terrain expansion arrived at the turn of the millennium for the 1998-1999 season. Two more mountains were added to Deer Valley’s towering heights, Little Baldy Peak and Empire Canyon. Many new lifts were constructed on this terrain expansion in the early 2000s. The final expansion occurred in 2007 with the addition of Lady Morgan Express.
As a host venue for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, Deer Valley’s reputation as a world-class destination was cemented. Following its debut on the world stage, Deer Valley has continued to regularly host international competitions, World Cup events, Olympic Qualifier events and prestigious contests.
In October of 2014 Deer Valley Resort announced the purchase of Solitude Mountain Resort. They assumed control of operations on May 1, 2015.
In October of 2017, it was announced that Deer Valley was to be purchased by Alterra Mountain Company. At the time, it was announced that Solitude was not involved in the sale of Deer Valley to Alterra. This move provided access to Deer Valley via Alterra’s popular Ikon Pass product. The commitment to 5-star service, plush amenities and incredible skiing remains at the forefront of Alterra’s vision for Deer Valley. The resort has grown by leaps and bounds since its days as a recreation site for weary miners. These days, guests at Deer Valley can enjoy 21 chairlifts, 103 runs, 2,026 acres of skiable terrain, world-class service and some of the best machine groomed terrain and powder glades in the world.
There’s a reason they call this the ‘Deer Valley Difference.’
QUICK FACTS & ZANY LEGENDS
Photos: Generously provided by Deer Valley Resort
Balls, J. (no date).'History of Deer Valley'. History to Go. Retrieved from https://historytogo.utah.gov/deer-valley/
Deer Valley Resort (no date). 'Our Past and Future Deer Valley History'. Retrieved from https://www.deervalley.com/about-us/history
Park City Museum (no date). Park City Mining History. Retrieved from https://parkcityhistory.org/mining/park-city-mining-history/
Nicholas, D. (August 10, 2016). 'Way We Were, What's in a Name'. Park City Historical Society. Retrieved from http://parkcityhistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/www20160810-Deer-Valley-names-Nicholas.pdf
Summers, E. (Dec 27, 2015. 'Legendary Skier Stein Eriksen Passes Away.' Retrieved from http://blog.deervalley.com/legendary-skier-stein-eriksen-passes-away/
Stein Eriksen Lodge (no date). 'Remembering the Legend.' Retrieved from https://www.steinlodge.com/blog/remembering-the-legend
Wikipedia. (no date). Deer Valley. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deer_Valley