A mixed bag at the Montage, Deer Valley

I wanted so much to return from my recent family ski vacation out West to give the new Montage Deer Valley a glowing review. Having been to the Montage in Laguna Beach and hearing positive initial feedback from the newly opened (December 2010) Montage in Deer Valley, I was really anticipating our stay there during President’s Day weekend.

We sensed something was awry when the SUV that we reserved through the hotel didn’t arrive at the airport to take us to the hotel – Montage mistakenly booked it to pick us up the following day. No matter, we took a taxi at half the price and got it quickly.

My first impression of the 154-room hotel was minor disappointment (although the driveway, with lit-up snow-covered trees lining it was quite beautiful). The lobby was a bit non-descript and felt  “corporate” to our liking (the Vista lounge on the mezzanine is the hub of the hotel with a fireplace and apres-ski drinks). One could have been in a Four Seasons hotel in Atlanta.  But the warm reception won us over – children are immediately brought to a sled of stuffed animals and choose one as a gift (a smart move by the hotel). We were promptly whisked to our room which had lemonade and cookies awaiting us – appreciated after a long flight. Our 1-bedroom suite was spacious and very comfortable with two full baths and fireplaces, a couch-bed made up for the kids and slippers and robes for everyone (Note:  ask in advance for childrens slippers and robes).

The hiccups started the next morning. We were advised to fill out a ski equipment rental form before our stay and we

indoor pool

did this to get a head start the next morning so we could get the kids to ski school on time.  We even arrived early but it took over hour and a half to get organized  because  they couldn’t find the skis (they eventually showed up two days later when we called for them…go figure). You should know the hotel shuttle (an 8-person van) only runs every 45 minutes..even on arguably the busiest holiday weekend of the year (more on that below).  This creates some stress when 100 other families are trying to get out to the mountain at the same time.  While the Montage  is considered “a true Ski in/Ski out” hotel, you must resort to taking the hotel van service if you have young children attending the ski school (yes, it is as amazing as everyone says).

The resident puppy, Monty, was a huge hit with the kids as was the s’mores every day from 4 to 5 p.m. at the fire pit (but if u don’t

Monty, resident puppy

make the 4 p.m. van from Snow Park, which is likely, chances are you will miss it). The on-site tavern, Daly’s Pub, was a winner with its bowling alleys, vintage arcade games and casual but delicious food – anyone with kids eventually made it down there. The restaurant options at the hotel are limited.  You can get muffins and the like at the gourmet-to-go café off the lobby or make a reservation at Apex, the restaurant at the hotel. We opted to eat in our room each morning – an expensive but tasty and quick option. The 35,000 square foot spa is quite gorgeous and yoga/pilates classes are offered.

We found the layout of the hotel odd and bit inconvenient. For example, to get to the indoor pool (set at 83 degrees), you have to go through the spa or gym. The outdoor pool is on another floor and a bit of walk to get to and from in the cold weather. The Vista lounge (the hub of the hotel and on the mezzanine floor) is spacious but impersonal and a bit formal for our taste. Where was the stone fireplace with roaring fire and people playing backgammon sipping hot chocolate (my perfect visualization of a ski hotel)?…not here.

Daly’s at the Montage

We saw it at the new (opened in July, 2009) Waldorf-Astoria in the Canyons, where we ate at the restaurant, Spruce. I  thought the hotel was quite

Waldorf lobby

beautiful with an intimate and  welcoming lobby, rooms set up in a semi-circle facing the outdoor pool and fire pit, a Golden Door spa and even a singing cowboy on staff. (They also have a resident dog, an Alaskan Malamute named Roxy, on staff – dogs are the new “de rigeur” ski resort feature!). The Waldorf is a bit overshadowed by the Montage and St. Regis but I would definitely consider it the next time we went to Park City and didn’t need to be in Deer Valley proper (and their shuttle service to Snow Park is every 30 minutes).

My biggest disappointment at the Montage (and judging from the comments of most of the guests staying there that weekend, theirs too) was the shuttle service. The one 8-person van running on a 45-minute basis when you have a packed hotel with children just doesn’t cut it. How they didn’t anticipate this (or fix it after the first day) is beyond me. While there were many customer service managers doing everything they could to make everyone happy (the service at the hotel otherwise is stellar), they couldn’t get this right. It created for a stressful situation. Here’s why: The children’s ski school ends at 3:45. By the time you pick them up and get your equipment, the van is already gone at 4 p.m. (or if you rush and make it like we did – there wasn’t enough room to accommodate us). Then you have to wait until 4:45 with children who are cold and worried they will miss the s’mores and Monty who makes his rounds at 4:30-5. Only one day did they bring extra vans after numerous guest complaints (even then, about six children were stuffed in the back with the ski equipment due to lack of room…and I’m sure breaking every insurance policy). Then the last day, the actual “President’s Day”, we were told the van was “coming in 5 minutes” but in fact it was 40 minutes away – not deviating from the 45-minute transportation schedule. The van driver even had a meltdown in front of us because of the complaints he was getting from guests. It was really hard to watch the Westin, St. Regis and Waldorf-Astoria vans whisk by continually while we stood out there in the cold. We felt like fools.

In sum, the van service created for unnecessary stress. We were always trying to rush to make the shuttle which either didn’t have space for us or we had a long wait for – in my mind, not worth the rates we paid. The new hotel is obviously working the kinks out and, granted, this was their first holiday weekend…but how do you not anticipate this knowing your hotel is 100% occupied with families?

While the suite accommodations were luxurious and service otherwise exceptional at the Montage, we would choose the Stein Eriksen, St Regis or the Waldorf -Astoria next time.

What we loved: Overall, the service was eager to please and very accommodating. Daly’s Pub was the perfect spot for a quick dinner with the kids with lots of diversion to keep them happy for hours. Monty, of course.

What we didnt love:   A big turn off was the $15 daily charge for Wifi service. When you are paying over $1,200 a night, that service should be included. The front desk seemed to personally agree but “that is the hotel policy”.  They did offer to credit us for one day of WiFi which was appreciated.

The shuttle service…obviously.

Tip: Ask for a schedule of the exercise classes held daily at the gym/spa.  Call in advance for kids slippers and robes. Get skis and other equipment arranged in advance at Snow Park. It was too hectic at the Montage and a pain to bring them back when we could have done it at the mountain base of the ski resort.

Check out: Tubing at the hotel – we didn’t have time to do this, unfortunately.

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