I recently achieved the skier’s holy grail: a perfect day on the slopes. I was in Park City, Utah, at the serene Deer Valley resort, long a playground for the country’s most discerning skiers.
I spent my morning quietly meandering along unspoiled groomed runs, carving first tracks through the gently rolling corduroy. I met my husband mid-day for an “I’ve earned it because I’m skiing” smothered chili and baked potato lunch, then spent the afternoon aggressively tackling far-off territories. After I’d checked off everything I’d wanted to do, my quads were burning and my ankles were wobbling. And I’m going to admit something: Sometimes I push myself so hard that it’s honestly too much for me to remove my ski boots at the end of the day. I often find myself on a crowded locker room bench, thinking I might just have to wear them to bed.
So on this perfect day, when I followed the flat light down that last run, I experienced nirvana. An army of friendly ski valets from the Montage hotel greeted me just feet from the lift, with trays of warm chocolate chip cookies and hot cider. As I let the steam warm my cheeks, one valet unclipped and removed my boots while another retrieved my slippers. I happily floated back to my room, while downstairs they placed my boots on a heating rack in order to warm them to toasty perfection the next morning.
For several years now, my husband, my two young children, and I have spent winters exploring the legendary ski resorts of the west, venturing to Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and California. For us, the attraction is obvious—exhilaration by day, hot tub by night—but the best way to do it is not.
Over the years, it seems we’ve test-run every variation on the ski vacation, and until recently we’d yet to get it exactly right. The lodging issue has always nagged us. Booking a room at a luxury resort puts impeccable service at our fingertips, but it’s difficult to find availability during peak season, and we miss the comforts of home. Buying slopeside is an alternative, but in every condo we’ve ever stayed in we’ve logged as many hours in the laundry room as the gondola.
But then we discovered a third way forward, and we’re not looking back; we experienced residential living in a hotel. Select hotels at the country’s most exclusive ski resorts are branching out and offering full-time residences on property. These abodes are not fractional shares but are fully owned by individuals and customized like any home would be, and serviced like hotels. It’s truly the best of both worlds.
This past winter, we had the opportunity to test this model out, staying for a week at the Montage Residences Deer Valley. Completed in 2010, the Montage hotel is designed in classic grand lodge style and nestled in a peaceful clearing next to Deer Valley’s Empire Canyon Lodge. The property takes ski-in/ski-out access to a new level—it’s located smack dab in the middle of the resort consistently voted the best in the country. The top several floors of the hotel are residences, available in sizes ranging from large (spacious one-bedrooms) to huge (6,900 square feet), and furnished impeccably, some of them even custom-designed by heavy hitters like celebrity favorite Barclay Butera or Barclay Butera from tastemaker website One King’s Lane. Residences offer every convenience of a vacation home—chef’s kitchens, spacious great rooms, dressing rooms with built-in equipment storage—with myriad touches that only a hotel can offer. A residential concierge ensures that owners’ refrigerators are stocked, lift tickets reserved, and dinner reservations booked prior to their arrival. Housekeeping rings twice daily, and during our stay we even met someone with a watering can who introduced himself as “plant care.”
As we arrived after a long travel day, we were grateful to find the perfect family restaurant just an elevator ride away. Daly’s Pub & Rec has cozy offerings like mac and cheese and brick-oven pizza, but it was the four-lane bowling alley that won our highest praise. An attendant happily assisted our two-and-a-half year-old as she worked her way (albeit with bumpers) to her first ten-pin victory. It was this level of personalized service that set our visit apart from all of our past ski trips.
On our “day off” from the slopes, we ventured out to the hotel’s private tubing hill. We found ourselves alone at the top of the run, but a call to the front desk quickly fetched not one, but two cheerful attendants who spent the next hour towing our children up the hill and showing them how to make snow angels in the waist-deep powder.
When we needed an adult night out, the concierge recommended a babysitting service and we enjoyed a magnificent meal at the resort’s signature restaurant. Several glasses of wine and one vintage scotch later, we were relieved to return not to a hotel room, but to our home away from home. We grabbed milk from the fridge, donned warm pajamas, and cozied up in front of the fireplace as our children slept soundly in their rooms.
Of course, had we opted to stay in for dinner that evening, we could have had the restaurant’s chef prepare a three-course meal in our very own kitchen—just one of many out-of-the-box offerings available to all owners here. When I grilled a Montage representative about the extent of their commitment to service—”Do you have someone to unpack our belongings from storage and organize our closets before the start of the season?”–her answer summed up everything I needed to know. “It’s simple,” she replied. “If you are an owner here, there’s nothing we won’t do for you.” Including, of course, unbuckling your boots.