There's a very good reason to visit Park City, Utah, and ski Deer Valley once each year: the Sundance Film Festival. But making tracks simply to make tracks was never a consideration, especially when glitzier ski destinations like Courchevel or Gstaad beckoned. This winter, however, Deer Valley's truly exceptional snowfalls - the most consistent accumulations (more than 470 inches) in nearly a decade and a base that's been at more than 100 inches almost all season - and its easy access have more and more of Hollywood enjoying the mountain that the industry's "powder players" once kept to themselves.
For years, the impeccably groomed runs and improbably easy travel (flying time under two hours plus a drive of 30-40 minutes from Los Angeles) have attracted entertainment industry titans: former DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke, Primary Wave CEO Larry Mestel, WME's Ari Greenburg, and chairman/CEO of Fox Television Group Dana Walden are all frequent visitors. The appeal is obvious, Mestel says: "I love how easy Deer Valley makes it. The conditions are always great, there are never long lines and it's the easiest ski resort to get to." And that has captured the imagination of a wider, though still affluent, audience, says Kara Slater of SmartFlyer, a premium travel company catering to high-end corporate and leisure clients: "I have many more families skiing this spring than in years past."
Considering the clientele, it's not surprising that Deer Valley is a place to get pampered. Veteran producer Cathy Schulman, who took home a best picture Oscar for Crash, is a loyal devotee of Deer Valley's Stein Eriksen Lodge (from $550; private residences of up to 7,800 sq. ft., from $3 million), where Claire Danes, Harvey Weinstein and Gwen Stefani have also been spotted. "It has a classic, very European feel," she says, "and their ski valet is the best - nothing compares." The attentive crew gets guests fully booted up, carries their skis and poles right onto the snow, warms their ski boots overnight, and keeps hot chocolate and cider simmering all day long. The lodge also offers customized posh adventures on a property with more than 3,500 acres of private land - everything from dog sledding and snowmobiling to horseback riding and deluxe Dutch-oven dinners (prices vary by activity, advance reservation required). The attention to amenities is appreciated by Schulman, who says: "I care less about conquering the mountain and more about having a beautiful, not tortured day outside, and that's exactly what you get there."
Deer Valley has 101 trails, more than 2,000 skiable acres and 3,000-plus feet of vertical drop, and other ways to satisfy ambitious skiers, like Hirsch Wallerstein partner David Matlof, who likes to explore the backcountry with the under-the-radar Mountain Host Tours (guided only/no instruction, for intermediate/advanced skiers). "The guide takes you where the conditions are best, and there are never more than four people in a group," Matlof says. The resort also offers the Ski With a Champion program (13 years and over, intermediate level or higher), which pairs thrill seekers with an Olympic skier for either a full ($2,000) or half-day ($1,200).
After a day on the slopes, the options in Park City abound. The Apres Lounge at Montage Deer Valley is a glamorous yurt right off the mountain where the Veuve Clicquot and other forms of decadence flow freely (though only until 4 p.m.). According to Lisa Barlow, owner of Park City's Vida Tequila, one of the liveliest apres scenes is at O.P. Rockwell, where bartenders Chris and Dre are "in-the-know entertainers who make the best drinks in town." The restaurant options on Main Street, many of which host A-list parties during Sundance, are plentiful, but typically book up far in advance. Try mainstays High West Distillery and Vinto for excellent no-reservations-required dining.
Traveling at the last minute, late in the season trips may limit the available accommodations. Beyond Stein Erikson Lodge, the top-tier options are the Washington School House (from $800), an opulent 12-room hotel with a 24-hour concierge and ski valet, and the 15 well-appointed residences at The Parkite (from $1,200). Promontory Club, an elite private residence club with chic bungalows and cabins, is another favorite among insiders.