Photo: Courtesy of Montage Deer Valley

The Montage, a luxury ski hotel, and Deer Valley, Utah are a match made (and located) in heaven.

There is a certain logic to bringing a Montage to Deer Valley, Utah — the same logic, perhaps, that leads one to bring two thoroughbreds together in the hopes of a champion offspring. Montage Deer Valley has proved itself strong out of the gate.

The hotel’s opening marked the culmination in the development of Empire Canyon, high in Deer Valley’s western reaches, as the resort’s most prized real estate. Fifteen years ago, neither ski trail nor lift existed in the area, only a state road that, in summer, connects Park City with Big Cottonwood Canyon. Soon, Deer Valley installed two lifts and a day lodge that added a hefty swath of terrain to the ski area, including much-needed black and double-black bowls and chutes. A real-estate building blitz followed, resulting in about 350 new high-end houses and condominium units in Empire Canyon. The addition of yet another mountain, Lady Morgan, and another express lift five years ago boosted the total skiable acreage in Empire Canyon to nearly 600, more than a quarter of Deer Valley’s total terrain.

Montage Deer Valley sits center stage in that extensive natural amphitheater, but the building itself is no less impressive. Inside, the Montage is romantic, a place to amble through, to find one’s special corner by a fire, to pour and sip a fine tea or a brandy. Thanks to a profusion of art work, it is hard to negotiate the hotel quickly; at every step there is another handsome oil painting of cowboys crossing a mountain pass, a fine Chinese ceramic, a classic flower or bird painting, or a handsome tapestry. In a large hotel with 154 guest rooms and 66 private residences, there is a lot of wall space, and a lot of good art.

There is a fresh classicism about its interior style and design, harmonious and handsome, a fine line between old and new. The rooms are warm and welcoming, with a plush sofa and matching wing chair at the foot of a sumptuously made bed, a handsome mahogany desk on one side of the fireplace and a large mahogany bureau on the other — and yet there is still enough room to stow all the detritus of traveling skiers.

Using all that stuff on the snow is painless, thanks to ski valets who help guests on with their prewarmed boots and gloves, and skis and poles placed at the ready on the snow. Compass Sports — the on-site shop wholly owned by the hotel — prides itself on its Montage-quality experience, including the ability to trade out rental skis daily depending on snow conditions. “We help them with everything from explaining the pros and cons of each ski for the conditions on any day to the best places to ski on each day for every level of skier,” says Andy, the resort’s activities director. “We are there to really engage with our guests.”

There is an architectural component to this philosophy as well. Engaging with guests means building hotels around places where there is direct interaction, particularly the spa and its restaurants — they are not amenities, but the focus. At Montage Deer Valley, the spa is a very big focus. At 35,000 square feet, it contains an indoor swimming pool inspired by the pool at the Hearst Castle, a spacious gym equipped with state-of-the-art Freemotion equipment, and free yoga and stretch classes — a gift to tight muscles after long days of skiing.

Among the hotel’s five restaurants, the Apex is the star. The trout almandine is as good as any I have had anywhere (and I include France). On other nights, the simpler bar menu calls, and I am sated by bistro classics like steak frites, charcuterie, and chicken schnitzel. Coming in from the cold at noon one day, I sample Apex’s delectable skiers’ buffet, which includes bison chili, French onion soup, and bars featuring pasta, sliders, and piles of fresh shellfish.

Daly’s Pub is a perfect spot for local microbrews on tap after getting off the slopes, or for dinner of shepherd’s pie or a brick-oven pizza. But its real draw is the wide variety of games, including four bowling alleys, billiards, and pool tables, darts, foosball, and various vintage arcade games. With a beer in hand, it turns a lot of us into teenagers, and twice I get into enough fun over games with strangers to meet them for skiing the following day. Yama Sushi, while delicious, suffers only from its location at the edge of the cavernous Vista Lounge, the hotel’s much-trafficked great room.

Park City has inaugurated a number of fantastic hotels in recent years, including a St. Regis and a Waldorf Astoria. But given its pedigree, the Montage Deer Valley is guaranteed to make a strong showing.

SNOW Tidbits:
*While sipping a “Furry Antler” I get to talking with the young bartender of the Apex restaurant, Dylan Cloughen, he seems especially bright and curious. After 10 minutes, he reveals that he is actually the restaurant supervisor. Only 24, he has been an employee of Montage Hotels since he was 17, first at its Laguna Beach property, then at the original Montage Beverly Hills. “Montage is truly a value-based operation,” he says. “Our culture and credo — to make the impossible happen — is our top priority. It is the key to what we do.” A training course called Mores focuses on Montage culture, he explains. Since employees are the core of the operation, the company likes to hire young people, often 18 years old, and move them up through the ranks as they develop. “In this way they share a common purpose and belief, and we can retain people because they love our goals. That is the secret of our success.”

*Many of the hundreds of original art pieces are contemporary works of Utah and other Western artists, including those in guest rooms, though there are also a number of late-19th-century works by Fredric Remington and Carl Rungius, as well as a number of ornithological lithographs by John James Audubon. Another art gallery — this on the walls of the Spa Montage — showcases artist Michael Fatali, a Park City-based photographer who creates striking landscape images that he calls “earthscapes” with the use of an ultralarge-format film camera. Their strong presence throughout the spa provides a meditative, earth-based environment reflective of Utah’s glorious red-rock country.

Related Tags: Destinations, luxury hotels, Hotels Chalets, Park City, Deer Valley, Canyons, and other Utah

The Montage, a luxury ski hotel