Deer Valley preps for possible record-breaking season
If Deer Valley President and General Manager Bob Wheaton were to lead a tour of his resort, he would not only visit the spots world-renown photographers come to shoot, he would also go to the little out-of-the-way places only he knows about; after 26 years at the resort (21 in his current capacity), there are more than a few of the latter.
"I think we would probably go to the new facilities at North Side at Silver Strike Lift and what’s been happening over there, and then to some secret stashes that I wouldn’t want to divulge in the newspaper," he said. "Those spots are mine."
As the employees prepare the resort for the planned Dec. 2 opening, Wheaton said there is a buzz of excitement in the air that his guests will be able to feel once they set foot on the mountain. Several improvements were made during the summer, which have helped create the stir.
"Especially as the weather is coming in, I’m looking forward to just getting to go skiing again," Wheaton said. "In looking forward to opening, I’m excited about a lot of the capital projects we’ve been working on, such as replacing the Sterling Lift with a high-speed quad, the Sterling Express. I think it will dramatically change the skier patterns and will make the mountain more accessible, especially in the Ontario Bowl."
Two improvements have been made to the Snow Park Lodge, including the expansion of the main-floor restrooms.
"That will be huge for the ski school and for the kids, as well as from a guest satisfaction standpoint," Wheaton said. "On top of that, we also expanded our employee dining facility, which is something we’ve been needing to do for the last couple of years."
Deer Valley also has five new Snow Cats and more snow machines, improvements that Wheaton said will probably not be seen by guests of the resort, but rather felt and experienced because of the "increase in grooming and the quality and amount of the snow."
In addition to an upgraded lift, lodge improvements and new machines, Deer Valley will also offer personal global positioning systems to its guests.
"One of the things we’re going to offer this year that we haven’t in the past is a GPS tracker," Wheaton said. "Guests will be able to go into the information desk at Snow Park and pick one up. It will tell them their statistics for the day, including vertical feet skied, fastest speed, average speed, skiing time and calories burned, as well as portray a map of where you skied around the resort."
Perhaps because that’s where he likes to ski, Wheaton said there has been a fair amount of glading done off the Sultan Lift, which will greatly increase the quantity of tree skiing from last year.
"When I ski I either go over to Empire or to Sultan," he said. "I think it’s the most vertical, but I guess where I go really depends on the day. If I want to cruise it’d be either Wasatch lift or Carpenter at Bald Eagle. If I want powder and tree skiing I would go over to Empire or Sultan and Mayflower."
If a president-guided tour is not available, Wheaton said guests wanting to see the mountain should take advantage of the free mountain host tour, which will briefly guide guests around to the different areas of the resort.
"We give those free every morning and afternoon," he said. "They take our guests around the mountain and show them all the lifts for free. It lasts from about an hour and a half to two hours, but they can leave if they want to. What actually happens most of the time is people want to keep skiing with the host."
Providing free tours of the resorts’ five mountains is just one of the ways Wheaton said they try to put the focus on the guest.
"It’s about the overall guest experience and the focus of the staff member on the guest," he said. "It doesn’t matter if it’s sharpening skis or picking up trash or fitting their boots. It’s about serving the guest and being helpful to them."
One of the hardest parts of his job, Wheaton said, is getting the restaurants ready for the new season. Each year each respective chef "pulls out all their new dishes for the upcoming year," giving Wheaton a chance to "taste test."
"They always come up with new tastes and new flavors," he said. "Test tasting is a brutal part of the job."
Overall, Wheaton said he is excited for what might turn out to be another record-breaking year at Deer Valley and throughout Utah.
"Looking at reservations so far this year and looking at weather patterns, both short term and long term, I would say come on out and enjoy it because it’s going to be awesome."
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The Park City lodging industry in recent weeks experienced an uptick in projected occupancy numbers during the dates of the Sundance Film Festival, but the figures remain depressed from a typical year during the largest special event on the city’s calendar.