Michael O’Malley knows most every slope, canyon, chute, ridge and bowl at Deer Valley, and he can either tell you how to ski them or take you there himself.
This congenial mountain host has guided, advised, and schussed with guests the past eight years. (His other job is Marketing Director of the Governor’s Office for Economic Development, but once the snow falls, he prefers his outdoor office, particularly on a powder day.) “We’re here to improve our guests’ experiences and share our knowledge of the mountain,” says O’Malley. “On a typical day, we have a dozen mountain hosts on the mountain. We have lawyers, judges, even a rocket scientist on our crew. We answer questions at trail maps, help ski patrol and other departments, and generally ensure our guests have a safe, enjoyable time.”
If someone drops a glove, pole or cell phone in tough terrain beneath a lift, the hosts are on it. If a beginner can’t make it down the green run, a host will assist.
The best aspect of the job is leading one of the five free tours daily: 9:30 a.m. at Snow Park Lodge for experts only; 10 a.m. at Snow Park Lodge for advanced intermediates and mellow intermediates (two groups ski blue runs at different paces); 1:30 p.m. at the base of Sterling Express chairlift for intermediates, and an experts’ tour.
Park City mining history — e.g. there are 1000 miles of tunnels beneath these mountains — tips on dining, and lift line tactics are normal tour topics. According to O’Malley, the “best job in Utah is taking five or six experts out on a fresh powder day and showing them great off- piste terrain. I really enjoy improvising. Sometimes weather or snow conditions limit tour choices, but we hosts can create a pretty challenging expert tour that never leaves Flagstaff Mountain (known as ‘Groomer Heaven’). In two hours, we will not repeat a run. We can show our guests aspects of the resort they would otherwise never encounter.”
Hosts are accomplished storytellers too, O’Malley says, entertaining guests with tantalizing tidbits of the early days: The Cushing of “Cushing’s Cabin” atop Flagstaff Mountain was a Deer Valley ski run designer, alongside Stein Eriksen. “Mother Urban” was a 250-pound madam with a wooden leg and a parrot on her shoulder. An early mine developer’s ghost, Tommy Kearns, still walks the halls of his Salt Lake City home, now known as the Governor’s Mansion.
O’Malley’s distinctive black-and- green mountain host uniform is readily identifiable, as are his big smile and winning ways. Ask him anything, and he’ll have an answer!
Deer Valley Mountain Hosts: 435-649-1000, deervalley.com