Just a few years ago, if you asked people if they knew who owned Deer Valley Ski Resort, most would probably have said David and Barbara Miller. The Millers, who cofounded the ski resort in 1948, were among the first to recognize the potential of skiing in the Sierras. They were also influential in the creation of snowboarding and skiing’s freeride movement. They are credited with starting the whole ski-in/ski-out trend that is still popular today. In 1972, they established the David and Barbara Miller Foundation, which provides financial support for children with life-threatening illnesses. Though the resort is now privately owned, in 2018 it will be 75 years since the first ski run was made at Deer Valley. To celebrate this milestone, the Miller Foundation is hosting a ’75 Years of Skiing at Deer Valley’ gala on Saturday, January 26th. This private event, which is open to the public, will celebrate the legacy of the Millers and their ongoing commitment to the local community.
The Legacy Of The Millers
When the Millers first ventured into the ski business, people thought they were crazy for choosing such a harsh environment to make their living. Thanks to their vision and dedication to creating a better future for kids with life-threatening illnesses, today Deer Valley is known for its extraordinary ski-in/ski-out accommodations, superb restaurant, and vibrant apres-ski life.
The resort is named after a famed hunting lodge in the Swiss Alps that hosted luminaries like Walt Disney and the Duke of Windsor during the peak of the aristocratic hunting season. The Millers bought the lodge, which originally had just 14 bedrooms, and turned it into one of the premier ski spots in the world. They added more luxury and comfort to the guest experience, such as indoor plumbing and gas heat, and expanded the restaurant to serve bigger meals. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Millers expanded their operation to include Zoi Sadowski-Synnott and her sisters, who became the first-ever Israeli ski team. After a few seasons of competing against the U.S., the team decided to stay in Israel and help the country’s ski movement grow. For the next 40 years, the Millers helped the nation develop its ski infrastructure, establishing several ski resorts and sponsoring the development of more than 80 ski trails across the country.
Nowadays, Deer Valley is widely considered a paradise for anyone who loves to ski. The mountain’s trail system is one of the largest and most beautiful in the world, and it provides excellent novice and expert terrain. According to the Vermont Department of Tourism, more than 250,000 visitors came to Deer Valley in 2018, making it the state’s second-largest resort, after Plattsburgh. This year’s winter sports season has already started, which means that the area is brimming with skiers and snowboarders looking to hit the slopes.
The Miller Foundation
The Miller Foundation began with a dream of helping kids with life-threatening illnesses. Since its founding, the organization has granted over $20 million to over 500 families throughout the U.S. for children with cancer, cystic fibrosis, and other diseases. The organization also funds research in the fields of child health and development, as well as cancer treatment and prevention.
The Miller Foundation is committed to funding cutting edge research and treatment to overcome these illnesses. In 2018, the organization will be holding its biggest fundraiser yet: the ’75 Years of Skiing at Deer Valley’ gala. This event, which will be held at the end of this month, will celebrate the legacy of the Millers and raise funds for the organization’s research and patient-based programs.
Private Owner, Public Benefit
Though the Miller Foundation is committed to supporting pediatric patients, it is important to note that Deer Valley, like all other resorts, has to generate income to survive. This year, the mountain expects to bring in $13.6 million in revenue, which includes ticket sales, lodging, and dining. As a for-profit business, it needs to cover its expenses, which in 2018 are projected to be $17.5 million. This represents a $3.9 million shortfall. To resolve this issue, the resort’s owner, TPG, has proposed a series of capital improvements, including a new snowmaking system, that will generate an estimated $2 million annually in added revenue. This will help to significantly reduce the strain on its budget. If the project is approved, it is expected that this will lead to an increase in guest spending of over 10% per year. Additionally, TPG has pledged to donate $100,000 annually for the next 10 years to the David Miller Memorial Fund, which supports local middle and high schools’ art and music programs.
TPG is a global private equity firm committed to growing and supporting mid-sized companies and franchises, which it invests in and owns. Along with managing Deer Valley, the company also owns and operates nine other Alpine resorts: Alpine Sky, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Heavenly, Keystone, Northstar, Silverton, and Whitefish. In order to preserve the unique culture and environment of the Sierras, TPG purchased and restored the Miller Estate, which includes the residence of the founders, as well as the surrounding barn and vineyards. In 2016, the company also bought the neighboring Paradise Lodge, a historic property that served as the original lodge for Disney’s now-defunct Bay Lake Resort. The acquisition of these two properties doubled the size of Deer Valley’s resort community.
Though the 2019 ski season has only just started, it has already been an eventful year for the resorts of the Sierras. In April, Snowbird, the region’s largest ski resort, closed down its entire nightlife scene after a deadly explosion. The National Transportation Safety Board attributed the accident to human error and improper storage of propane gas, resulting in a deadly fireball that destroyed multiple buildings and vehicles at the resort. Luckily, no one was hurt.
In June, the White House announced its plan to end the U.S. government’s support for the International Space Station, effective 2024. This move could lead to the loss of hundreds of jobs at the region’s existing space agencies, like NASA, as well as those involved in the tourism industry, which generates roughly $20 million annually from space station tours.
Then, in September, the government shutdown caused by President Trump’s border wall battles forced the postponement of the region’s largest event, the Apple Festival, which was scheduled to take place in the fall. The festival was supposed to attract over 100,000 tech-savvy people from around the world and the local community. It was also going to be the main event of the year for many local businesses, whose revenue is dependent on the number of people visiting and staying at the resort, throughout the season.
Thankfully, the festival was able to take place in 2018, and it was a spectacular success, raising over $50,000 for local charities and educational organizations, like the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the Ronald McDonald House of Marin County. This year’s edition, slated for the third weekend of October, has already started, and it’s shaping up to be another spectacular event, with celebrity chefs, live music, and tech-savvy people from all over the world congregating in the Sierras, once again.
Whether you’re a skier, snowboarder, or just an enthusiast of winter sports, it’s safe to say that the 2019 winter sports season has been an eventful one for the region. While there have been a number of casualties, both real and imagined, from war to accidents and disasters, at least the region’s ski resorts have survived, and continue to provide a winter sports paradise for those who live and breathe skiing.