It wasn’t just the altitude that had me gasping for breath at the top of Daly Chute, a double diamond trail situated at 10,000-feet above sea level in the back bowls of Deer Valley, Utah. Below me awaited a near-vertical pitch of moguls and fresh powder, steeper and more difficult than anything I’d ever skied. My Ski Ambassador, two-time Olympian and World Cup racer Jillian Vogtli, yelled out “Game on!” and down I went.
Vogtli is one of six Olympic and World Champion skiers in the two-year-old Ski Ambassador program at St. Regis Deer Valley. What started in 2013 with a single Ambassador has quickly grown to a roster of six champion athletes for guests to choose from—including the recent addition of Hannah Kearney, a decorated Olympic gold and bronze medalist mogul skier, in 2015. (The rapid growth is a direct consequence of the first Ambassador’s defection to a rival hotel; in response, Brandon Hendricks, the director of sales and marketing for the St. Regis Deer Valley Resort, upped the ante by hiring five elite athletes for winter 2014.)
As downhill racers, aerial acrobats, mogul champions, and freestylers, the Ambassadors focus their competitive energies on providing guests with inside knowledge of trails and conditions. Designed for intermediate and advanced skiers only, the program is completely customizable; whether you’re looking for a mountain guide to provide secret spots for you and your family, or a coach to push you to another level like I was, the Ambassadors will curate the day (or half day) of skiing to your liking and ability. “Ski Ambassadors are all about the experience… having fun and saying ‘I skied with an Olympian!’” explains Hendricks. And skiing with an Olympic and World Cup skier is an eye-opening experience. These are athletes at the top of their sport; seeing them move down the mountain with grace and power is an incredible thing to watch.
Book well in advance to ensure your preferred Ski Ambassador is available. You won’t have to worry about crowds at Deer Valley Resort, though: they sell only a limited number of lift tickets each day based on the number of seats available in the on-mountain restaurants, with no snowboarders allowed.
Off the mountain, too, your needs are well taken care of. That includes the morning stretching class and workout session I had with Vogtli—who is also a fitness instructor and wellness coach—in the St. Regis fitness center before we hit the slopes. St. Regis’s J & G Grill, a Jean-Georges restaurant, features house-made smoked charcuterie (duck prosciutto, speck, and bresaola) and prime meats, including the most perfect lamb from Niman Ranch—far above the typical ski resort fare of chili and hot dogs. Their wine vault offers the opportunity for private dining, expertly pairing courses with a wide range of vintages. And if your body craves pampering, the resort’s Remède Spa offers one of the best deep-tissue massages I’ve experienced. Plus, the property offers ache-relieving whirlpool baths and, of course, the requisite outdoor hot tubs.
By the end of my day skiing, armed with a few choice tips on technique after some gentle coaching and lots of good humor, I was slicing around the moguls with newfound delight. Vogtli says she likes to see her clients smiling as they ski: that way she knows they’re getting the experience they hoped for. I wanted to try new and harder terrain, and up my skiing abilities. The smiles on both our faces showed we'd achieved our goals.
St. Regis Deer Valley Ski Ambassador Program, half-day excursions, from $2,000 for up to eight guests; full-day, from $3,000; 435-940-5858; stregisdeervalley.com.