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The Pleasure Of Skiing Deer Valley (PHOTOS)

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I'm berping my way down the mountain, trying to stay on my feet. No, that isn't a typo. My fearless instructor, Lance (his lack of fear undoubtedly stemming from his 24 years of experience with beginning skiers like me) started off our lesson this morning by reminding me that skiing is all about Balance, Edges, Rotating my hips and putting Pressure on the snow. Between berping, finding the "spot" where my balance lets me ski with ease and joking around with Lance, my morning lesson flies by, and I turn out to be a wildly better skier than I'd hoped was possible after just three hours.

It's been a weekend to remember: I've flown out to Utah because I've heard that the people, the snow and the hospitality can't be beat. Toward that end, I start my trip by heading to the Red Iguana, a Salt Lake City meeting place that's known for its 10 kinds of mole sauce and its excellent margaritas. But when I see the 45-minute line winding its way around the outside of the joint, I almost give up. Good thing I don't; I get into a lively conversation with some locals, who recommend a great Sunday brunch spot, and I eventually sit down to quite a tasty plate of enchiladas with potatoes and chorizo, plus some of that top-notch mole sauce.

The altitude (and, OK, I'll admit it, the margarita) start to get to me just a touch, so I head out for an early night at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco, my Salt Lake City home. The lobby's funky and fun, with a big fireplace and a wine and cheese hour every evening, plus dogs of all descriptions; after all, at Kimpton hotels, pets are important guests, just like their humans.

When I get to my room, it's just as memorable: no standard beige here. Instead, the two double beds have designer touches, the furniture's in lots of colors and a goldfish swims around in a bowl on the nightstand. Even better? The bed boasts tons of pillows, all the better to get a great night's sleep before my ski adventure.

The next morning, I'm up early to head out to Deer Valley, the family ski resort that has ranked number one in the country year after year. Let me tell you, this place is luxe: The ski rental people get on the floor to help you put your boots on, there are "hosts" all over the mountain who smile and ask you if you're having a good time and the lifts don't ever seem to stop mechanical problems. Luckily for me, the area's just gotten dumped with snow, but it's not too cold, so the fresh air smells great and the conditions are ideal.

When I accidentally run into a small tree, there's soft snow to catch me; when I get into a groove berping down the mountain, there's "corduroy" groomed snow to keep me gliding like the pro I most certainly am not. And when I get hungry -- all that berping makes me work up an appetite -- hot chocolate with the works (whipped cream, marshmallow and caramel) gets me going again. Still, a hot tub is going to feel awfully nice; in finding "the spot," I'm working muscles I didn't even know I had.

There's only time to try out about eight of Deer Valley's 90-odd trails before I'm so tired I could drop. It's time for a nap, then dinner. And let me tell you, even though I consider sleeping from the time the slopes close until morning, I end up being so glad I don't.

I call the Deer Valley folks for a complimentary ride up to the restaurant, situated at the top of the mountain. My impression is that a shuttle bus is coming for me. Nope. It's a fancy SUV with my very own driver -- such is the service that Deer Valley Resort provides to every single guest. We head up the mountain, passing trees covered with fairy lights for what seems like miles. And then we're there. And I'm in heaven.

Fireside Dining is a simple concept, but one I've never seen anywhere else. The centerpieces in the ski lodge-like space are four floor-to-ceiling fireplaces, in front of which are cooked the four courses. Fireplace One? Raclette, complete with bread and cornichons and cold cuts. Fireplace Two? Stews. Fireplace Three? Leg of Lamb. Fireplace Four? Fondue.

The dim light from the fireplaces is romantic, the food is super tasty and my muscles relax as the evening ends.

When it's time to head home to Philadelphia, I'm sorry to leave Utah. Next time? I'm bringing the husband and kids to berp down the mountain with me.

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