‘This is your new Deer Valley’: Ski area takes over Mayflower Resort

After 5 years of negotiations, Alterra-run luxury resort will expand to 5,700 acres, 37 lifts starting in 2025-26.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Garrett Lang, Deer Valley Resort's head of mountain operations, shows guests the layout of the new terrain that will be part of the Deer Valley Resort starting in 2025-26, on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023.

Park City • The Deer Valley Difference, only different, will soon be coming to the Mayflower Resort near Park City.

Deer Valley Resorts announced Thursday morning that it finally reached an agreement with Extell Development Company to operate on the terrain that until Thursday had been known as the Mayflower Resort. The new Wasatch County ski area, which is under construction, is perched just west of the Jordanelle Reservoir along Highway 40 and shares several borders with Deer Valley. Negotiations in some form started five years ago.

The collaboration could eventually provide skiers with up to 5,726 acres of terrain, according to Deer Valley’s estimates. That’s almost three times Deer Valley’s current total of 2,026 acres, making it one of the biggest expansions in the history of U.S. ski resorts. It would also make it one of the biggest ski areas in the country, though only the second-largest in town behind Park City Mountain’s 7,300 acres.

The two resorts will become one and will both bear the Deer Valley name. Skiers will be able to access the terrain on both the Park City and Heber sides of the resort on the same pass. That includes Alterra’s multi-resort season pass, the Ikon Pass. Currently, holders of the Ikon Pass or Ikon Base Pass Plus can ski seven or fewer days at Deer Valley but must make a reservation. Alterra CEO Jared Smith said he expects a similar arrangement when the new terrain opens in 2025-26.

And yes, the additional terrain will only be open to skiers. Snowboarders, snowbikes and other forms of winter travel will not be permitted. Deer Valley CEO Todd Bennett emphasized that early in his opening remarks at an event Thursday at Silver Lake Lodge where the project was unveiled.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Todd Bennett President and COO of Deer Valley Resort, talks about the new Deer Valley Resort Expansion, at the Silver Lake Lodge in Deer Valley, on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023.

“Deer Valley is a ski-only experience,” he said. “It’s important to our guests that we’re ski-only, and we’re committed to upholding this.”

Deer Valley, which opened in 1981, is one of just three resorts in the United States that ban snowboarding. The others are Utah’s Alta and Vermont’s Mad River Glen.

A view of the new property from atop Deer Valley’s Sterling lift during a tour given after the presentation shows just how much terrain non-skiers will be missing. For 2025-26, Deer Valley plans to add nine lifts and seven runs — including a two-part gondola that is roughly three times as long as its Jordanelle Gondola — on 874 skiable acres. One of those runs, according to Brooke Hontz, the vice president of development for Extell Utah, will be 4.7 miles. That one-ups the current state record-holder, the 3.5-mile, quadriceps-burning Homerun at Park City Mountain Resort.

Hontz called it “a long heck of a run.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Mayflower Resort which is being built on the backside of Deer Valley, on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022.

Though the new runs are mostly east-facing, which isn’t ideal for retaining snow, Alterra’s Smith said he had confidence in “state-of-the-art” snowmaking. He said it is billed to use less water and energy and can be used in a greater variety of temperatures. Deer Valley plans to install 615 acres of snowmaking, the water for which will be pulled from the Jordanelle Reservoir.

“We can live with a little less snow,” said Extell president Gary Barnett. “And everybody’s going to come here.”

By the time the new terrain is fully built out, Deer Valley expects to boast 37 lifts servicing 135 runs on 3,700 acres of skiable terrain. The vertical drop, according to figures provided by Deer Valley, will be 3,090 feet. That would be second only to Snowbird (3,240 feet) in steepness in Utah and, according to OntheSnow.com would be the sixth steepest in the U.S.

“This might be, or likely is, the largest expansion of a ski resort in North America,” Bennett said.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Along with more room to ski, operating the additional terrain gives Deer Valley skiers another entry point and parking lot. The Mayflower entrance would be more convenient for skiers coming from eastern Summit County, Heber Valley or the Provo area. That could in turn reduce congestion on State Route 248, which leads from Highway 40 to both Park City Mountain and Deer Valley’s Snow Park base.

Some 1,200 day-skier parking spaces are planned for the new resort, as well as a shuttle to take skiers to and from their cars. The lot will also have employee parking and some employee housing is also built into the development plans.

(Deer Valley Resorts) Deer Valley Resorts announced Thursday morning that it finally reached an agreement with Extell Development Company to operate on the terrain that until Thursday had been known as the Mayflower Resort.

The expansion will not prevent Deer Valley from moving forward with its plans to revamp its Snow Park base. The resort also has plans to update existing facilities in the near future.

While Deer Valley and Alterra will oversee the slopes in the new area, Extell will remain responsible for developing the base. That includes selecting operators for its six hotels, one of which Barnett said would be a “six-star” brand. According to the operating agreement as laid out by Bennett and Smith, Extell will be expected to hold the base area amenities to the same high-end, high-touch standard that Deer Valley corporate owners Alterra Mountain Company calls the Deer Valley Difference. Alterra’s concerns over how to maintain Deer Valley’s renowned cache while potentially tripling in size were among the sticking points in its talks with Extell, according to previous statements.

Extell is building the resort in conjunction with the Military Installation Development Authority. MIDA is a quasi-governmental body run by an appointed board chaired by State Senate President Stuart Adams chairs. MIDA approached Barnett about building a mountain getaway for service members after its Hill Haus at Snowbasin Resort was dismantled to make way for two Olympic downhill runs there. A little under a third of the rooms in one of the hotels, about 100, will be available for military members at a reduced cost and on a sliding scale based on their income.

Combining forces with Deer Valley was Extell’s plan from the beginning. As a developer, Extell is not in the complex business of running resorts, only building them. And Deer Valley’s geographical advantage sets it apart from any other potential partner.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023.

The 6,000-plus-acre Mayflower property interlocks with Deer Valley’s boundary lines in several places. In fact, Deer Valley leases some of its terrain from Extell. And the development company has flaunted that connection in nearly every marketing pitch for luxury home sites, every news blurb and even in Mayflower’s layout: Prior to the agreement, two planned Mayflower lifts would have bracketed Deer Valley’s Sultan Express and Mayflower lifts near Sultan’s Nose on Bald Mountain.

“It’s been really, really tough. Long. We fought back and forth,” Barnett said of negotiations. “But I will say that the goal, again, is a mutual goal between Alterra and ourselves. Our goal was to turn this into the greatest resort in the world.”

Michelle Deininger contributed to this report.