Ski Resort Update, 2018: Pt I, Deer Valley

Every winter, the Park City Board of Realtors wrangles up the heads of the local ski resorts for a discussion on what is up and coming at their particular resorts. It’s one of the most well-attended luncheons, and for good reason.

Bob Wheaton, the former President and COO of Deer Valley Resort, shared his time with the new President, Todd Shallan. Bob has been with Deer Valley Resort for over 40 years, working his way up through the organization. He is now moving into an advisory role to DV’s parent corporation, Alterra Mountain Company. He was proud to announce that Alterra’s philosophy lines up with DV’s in terms of service, community involvement, and skier experience, and noted that they look to the individual resort presidents for guidance, which is a sharp contrast to many corporations. He has long joked that three things can never change at DV: ski-only, the skier cap (limiting the number of tickets that can be sold per day), and the turkey chili. When asked if there were plans to allow boarding at Deer Valley (there are equally plausible rumors on both sides of the question), he announced that if Bill Rock of Vail didn’t do such a good job with Park City Resort, which does allow boarding, then there would be much increased pressure to allow boarding. As it stands though, there is enough quality at both resorts to give guests great options.

He was less clear on whether Alterra plans to connect Deer Valley and Solitude. Deer Valley acquired Solitude 4 years ago but when Alterra acquired Deer Valley (over the total solar eclipse, fill in your own punchline), they did not acquire Solitude. By some technical do-si-do-ing, Alterra acquired Solitude 2 months ago. My *speculation* is that Deer Valley will at some point take over winter maintenance of the state road Guardsman Pass between Empire Pass and Solitude and Brighton. The state closes this road in the winter, which means Park City area skiers that wish to ski the Big Cottonwood Canyon resorts drive to Salt Lake City, and then come back up to Solitude/Brighton (or up Little Cottonwood Canyon for Alta and Snowbird). Bob did mention that Alterra is looking to improve the experience at Solitude including lodge and dining, but he didn’t have more details.

Todd Shallan introduced himself and explained that though he had 30 years of hospitality experience, he had no ski resort experience. I see this as notable information, and I imagine that decision was made in keeping with the more diverse winter vacation needs; people don’t just take ski vacations to ski (or board). They want to have an experience, they want to live the life for a little while, they want to ski and ride the horse-drawn sleighs and go fly fishing in a frosty river and enjoy a world-class meal in a remodeled miner cabin on Main Street. I get it. And with experience managing the Hotel Del Coronado and Beach Village and the Arizona Biltmore and Spa, Todd certainly seems to have the ability to maximize that sentiment. He explained that Deer Valley has invested between $6-7M this summer, including replacing Homestake chairlift with a high speed quad, investing in snowmaking and equipment, and has his eyes set on the lodges (Snow Park, Silver Lake, and Empire Pass) and Food & Beverage, and refreshing staff training for the level of service they’re trying to achieve. One topic on everyone’s minds is the Mayflower project; interestingly, Todd volleyed the update request back to Extell, the developer who has most recently obtained master plan approval. He said they are in discussions of how that partnership will work but there’s no real timeframe as far as Deer Valley is concerned.

He also mentioned that he doesn’t see changing the skier cap as that really changes the whole equation at Deer Valley. One other question we always ask is when will the Snow Park parking lots be developed. I am expecting retail, dining and shopping on the ground floor, condos above, and underground parking (same as we’re expecting with Park City Resort). Todd reported that this development would happen with Intrawest who does a lot of development and the timing of that project is tied to Mayflower, so until there’s a master plan which will take a few years, there’s nothing really to report. He did mention that since they’re going to keep using the lots as lots for the time being, they do plan to make them more attractive.

No word on the turkey chili recipe.

Tune in tomorrow for Part II, Bill Rock of Vail Resorts

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