DV lists its vertical drop as 3,000 feet. This is one of the few places where DV takes liberties with the truth. Technically, yes, the difference in altitude between the top of the Empire Canyon Express chair and the Gondola base is 3,000 feet, but you can’t ski it without having to ride lifts along the way, because the mountain(s) go both up and down along the way. DV sprawls over 1,800 acres of skiing spread across five mountains. Changing mountains requires going up one mountain, then skiing down to the base of the other. With the ups and downs, it is just over 4 air miles and 6 miles of skiing to get from the top of Empire to the gondola base. It takes at least 25 minutes to make the trip, if you know how to do it.
Snow Park base, the main starting point for skiers, is located in a mountain bowl, with a big parking lot surrounded by condos occupying most of the valley. The base lodge, Snow Park Lodge, and lifts sit at the bottom of Bald Eagle Mountain. Houses, some for rent, and condos, many for rent, line many of the runs on Bald Eagle Mountain. Think of the various bases as stacked in tiers, one above the other. The gondola base is the lowest, then Snow Park. Silver Lake, Flagstaff, and Empire are on the same level, 1,000 feet above Snow Park. This makes the trail map confusing, until you learn the directions of the ups and downs.
GETTING AROUND (I tried to give directions as if you are standing on top looking downhill, skier’s left or right, except for which way to turn when unloading from a lift)--To Get From the Gondola Base to Snow Park--At the top of the Gondola, ski straight ahead on Deer Hollow (green). Keep to the left, because three runs branch off Deer Hollow. When you come to an intersection with a cat track coming from the left, where Deer Hollow turns to the right, stop and locate the cat track that continues straight ahead, Little Stick (blue). Go down Little Stick to Snow Park Base.
To Get From Snow Park Base to the upper mountains--Bald Eagle, Flagstaff, and Empire Canyon--Easy blue run: Go up the Carpenter chair, the chair closest to the lodge. At the top of the chair, ski straight ahead, and the easy blue run takes you down 500 feet to the Bald Eagle Mountain base (Silver Lake or mid-mountain base). You will see the base of a chair ahead loading people to come up the hill you are skiing down. Go to the left of that chair for the Wasatch and Sultan chairs, go to the right for Flagstaff and Empire Canyon, pass the lodge, pass the base of the Sterling chair, and go under the bridge to Quincy.
For beginners: To skip the blue run at the top of Carpenter chair and take the Silver Lake Express form Snow Park Base. This chair carries you up and over the top of Bald Mountain, unloading in the little valley in front of Silver Lake Lodge, with beginner access to the Wasatch chair (turn left on unloading) or Quincy, Viking, Red Cloud, and Judge chairs. Turn right and go pass the Sterling chair base and under the bridge.
To Get From the top of Bald Eagle Mountain (Wasatch, Sultan, and Sterling chairs) to Flagstaff and Empire Canyon--Scenic route: Go under the Sterling Chair as close to the rope as possible to Sunset(green). Whenever there is an intersection, go left until you can’t, because left is uphill. Take the Quincy chair at the end of the run. The run names you will be on are Sunset, Sunset West, and Ontario, but just remember to bear to the left.
Intermediate, fast route--Go down Birdseye--Stay to the left of the Sterling chair. Pass the base of Sterling chair on its left. Make a sharp left and go under the bridge to Quincy. To Get to Empire Canyon--First you have to get to the top of Flagstaff Mountain. Follow any of the above routes to Quincy chair, which goes to the top of Flagstaff Mountain. Turn right when you unload and go straight across the mountain, under the Northside chair to Bandana (green). Go down Bandana. When you see the lodge, go to the closest chair to the left of the lodge, Empire Canyon chair (advanced intermediates and experts only).
AT THE END OF THE DAY--To return from Empire Canyon, start by taking the Ruby chair to the top of Flagstaff Mountain. To return from Flagstaff, take Ontario (green) to either Viking or Judge chairs. Ski to either the Silver Lake Express, which goes to Snow Park base, with no more skiing involved, or the Homestake chair to the top of Bald Eagle Mountain, from where you ski down to the Snow Park Base (green, blue, or black). To return from Bald Mountain, either go down Birdseye to the Silver Lake Express, which goes to Snow Park base, with no more skiing involved, or the Homestake chair to the top of Bald Eagle Mountain, from where you ski down to the Snow Park Base (green, blue, or black), or go down to the Wasatch chair base and take the chair across the gully from Wasatch, Crown Point Chair. Caution: There is no easy(green) way down from Crown Point.
To get to the bottom of the Wasatch chair from Sultan or Mayflower: For Mayflower, turn right and go straight across Stein’s Way to the cat track into the trees, from where you ski down to Sultan chair. From the top of Sultan chair, go down any run to the left of the Wasatch chair.
From Deer Crest: See above for going from the gondola base to Silver Lake.