Deer Valley Resort to open season with Celebrity Skifest |

Deer Valley Resort to open season with Celebrity Skifest

Mychal Franklin races Dan Donofrio during the Pro Am races of the Deer Valley Celebrity Skifest last year at Deer Valley.

With the winter season nearly upon us, ski resorts in town are preparing to open their ski shops and get the lifts and snowmaking machines running. Though the recent warm weather has prevented most of the resorts in Utah from doing the latter, Deer Valley Resort is expecting to open on the first Saturday of December (Dec. 3), just like it does every year.

That said, Deer Valley is also feeling the effects of the warm weather, as most of the runs are dressed with a mix of green and brown grass, but no snow. On some of those runs, however, the resort has snow guns and the proper equipment in place so the second the temperatures do drop, Deer Valley will be ready.

"We have state-of-the-art snowmaking all over this resort," Senior Communications Manager Emily Summers said. "We're set up and fully stocked and ready to go on probably 7-8 ski runs. As soon as the temperatures drop, we can make snow pretty quickly."

According to Summers, Deer Valley has again upgraded its snowmaking. Each year, the resort looks for ways to improve in that area, whether by purchasing new guns or towers, updating the pipes, or just making the overall system more efficient.

"We did a heavy investment in our snowmaking system this year alone," Summers said.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of one of Deer Valley's signature opening events, the Celebrity Skifest. Each year, celebrities from television shows and movies, as well as Olympic athletes, congregate at Deer Valley for the opening weekend of the resort. The weekend is filled with events like dinners and auctions to raise money for the Waterkeeper Alliance and, of course, skiing.

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Over the weekend, the celebrities will have opportunities to compete in the PRO-AM on Saturday or the Celebrity Skifest event on Sunday. There is also an awards ceremony towards the end of the weekend. Throughout the event, CBS will be there to tape the scene at Deer Valley to air on its network a week later.

"The Celebrity Skifest is a tradition," Summers said. "It just gives us something to kick off with, something to look forward to. It's a nationally-televised show, so Deer Valley has a national, one-hour skiing show."

This year, celebrities like Chad Lowe, J.B. Smoove and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (co-founder and president of the Waterkeeper Alliance) are expected to be in attendance, while country music artist Dierks Bentley will be the entertainment on Saturday.

For the most part, not much will change this season in terms of new lifts or perks at Deer Valley, but one new thing the resort is promoting is its Ski with a Champion program. In the past, Deer Valley Resort's Ambassador of Skiing Heidi Voelker would ride with skiers to give them a unique perspective of the mountain.

This year, the Ski with a Champion program was created to accommodate the high number of requests to ski with Voelker. There are now five additional Olympic athletes — Kris Feddersen, Shannon Bahrke, Jillian Vogtli, Trace Worthington and Kaylin Richardson — that one can ski with throughout the day (for a price).

"We've expanded that because we've had so many Olympic athletes here and it's such a high demand," Summers said. "It's a unique town."

Assuming the temperatures will soon drop and snow will be on the ground shortly, Deer Valley Resort is ready to welcome the 2016-17 season in style, starting with the Celebrity Skifest during opening weekend.

Solitude Mountain Resort

Solitude Mountain Resort, owned by Deer Valley, was originally scheduled to open on Nov. 18, but due to the lack of cold weather that date has been pushed back. Summers says a new opening day has not been determined yet, but there's still much to look forward to at the sister resort.

One of those things is the new and improved Roundhouse Restaurant. Last April, the establishment was damaged by a fire on the mountain, which led to its renovation. Solitude didn’t' stop there, however, opting to expand the place as well. Located in the middle of the mountain, the new Roundhouse Restaurant is expected to be a success.

"That'll be a huge improvement," Summers said.

Also, Solitude will be the host of the 2017 U.S. Gran Prix/FIS World Cup, where snowboard and ski cross riders from around the world will come to compete Jan. 19-22.

"It's the first event of that caliber there, so that's a huge, huge event," Summers said.