Chairlift Stories

In my last blog, I attempted to “measure” skiing and made a point that, even with state-of-the-art detachable chairs, we’re still spending a significant portion of our ski time sitting on lifts. Long ago, when all chairlifts were slow and time ran more quietly than it does these days, I used to tell my children stories on the way up the hill. My son Thomas was not really into that, but my daughter Charlotte insisted for a new story every ride we took. This, and a hot chocolate, were her main motivators to go out and ski. Under this sort of constant and, I admit it, pleasant pressure, I developed a creative technique for generating “chairlift-time stories” that would be varied in length and content, but would always include a measure of creativity should the lift stop for a while, the wind blow too hard or the temperature suddenly drop to subzero levels.

Over the years, this routine became another habit of mine and I always enjoy striking up a conversation on the chair or joking around with my fellow passengers. Since I was born in France, my accent has always been a dead giveaway that I turned into a conversation ice-breaker and a fodder for endless discussions on all subjects. All kind of questions have sprung up and I have learned – often at my own expenses – how to articulate an answer that is well-rehearsed and why not, peppered with humor.

I have a great deal of admiration for anyone who can think on their feet, particularly “improv comedians,” and have spared no effort in using that skill during a typical chairlift ride. One of the essential information I memorize is the average ride time for each lift; I get it from the “Lift Information” box located at the bottom right hand corner of the Deer Valley Winter Trail Map, on the side showcasing the panoramic ski map. Since the average uphill time is around six minutes, I refrain from telling stories that are too long as I must find enough “wiggle room” for a casual opening and partying words to “sandwich” the core story. There is no denying that high-speed lifts are forcing me to be more concise than I used to be!

The next important point is to tailor the story to the audience. If the others passengers are into their 60s or above, talking about body aches, prescription medicine or AARP always goes a long way as it often build bonds that may leave us standing and talking for another 15 minutes at the top of the chair! If the skiers are in their 30s and can’t stop fidgeting with their iPhones or Blackberries, tech talk often becomes de rigueur. If they all board the chair with extra wide, double rocker skis, a little expose showing some knowledge about big mountain skis is hard to avoid in order to strike a meaningful conversation.

If kids are sharing the chair, there’s always that good tale, but young folks’ attention is much harder to earn these days and the story needs to be new, exciting and not a re-hash of something they have already heard from a much better story-teller. In the past, when I told stories to my daughter, I’d pay enormous attention to my surroundings; if I happened to spot some rabbit tracks on the snow, I got her a special bunny story. If I couldn’t tell what the tracks really were, it could turn into a jackalope’s sighting, another misdeed from Sasquatch or some unsolved snow mystery. It just had to make some sense, contain a beginning, a middle and an end, but if told well and with a flurry of special details, it could turn me into a mountain wizard.

Finally, there’s always the big joke. On snow of course, and with some pun intended, this remains a slippery area that should only be tackled when all the previous options are perfectly mastered. If someone asks a really stupid or even a demeaning question, I will return the favor by telling an egregious story so long as I can keep a straight face, interact well with the offender(s), and make sure I have enough material left to make it to the top, including a great punch line. Of course, I always try to do it tongue-and-cheek and I keep my sense of humor while delivering the message. If I ever mess up, I do my very best to exit as fast as I can and vanish quickly into the ski crowd as soon as I unload the chair.

Now you’ll ask me: “What am I to do if I grossly underestimate the time to tell the whole story?” It’s quite simple; make an appointment with your listeners at the base of the same lift for the second, third and final installments!

Mahre Training Center Ski Camp Wrap-up

Deer Valley Resort has been hosting the popular Mahre Training Center Ski Camps for six seasons beginning with 2004-2005 winter. These three- and five-day sessions provide skiing fundamentals and are conducted in part by their creators, Olympic medal winners Phil and Steve Mahre. The Camps were held in Keystone, Colorado, for 19 years before the Mahres approached Deer Valley with a proposal to hold them here.  The venture has proven very successful for both parties.

 We traditionally hold three 3-day weekend Camps (Friday-Sunday) and two 5-day Camps (Monday-Friday) from December to early February; and, this year, we tried a 5-day Camp in December running from Saturday to Wednesday that met with mixed reviews.  Our last session for this season was a 3-day Camp that ended February 10 and had 48 participants.  Our return rate has continuously increased from year to year; and the current economy hasn’t put a damper on our bookings.

 The Camps include six hours of daily instruction by Deer Valley’s top ski instructors, as well as indoor sessions, unique Mahre Training Center progression, a video and other amenities, including skiing with the Mahre brothers, breakfasts and lunches and a closing awards dinner.  The Camps are open to all skiing ability levels, and participants must be 12 years or older.  (Advanced reservations are required; call 435-645-6648.  Lift tickets are included in the price of the Camp.)

 Perhaps our most prominent attendee is a gentleman from Australia who has been coming to our Camps for three years now.  This year he attended three Camps–two 5-day and one 3-day! And his wife attended two Camps. They plan their summer vacation around the Mahre Ski Camps.

 Phil Mahre, who resides in Washington state, recently carried the 2010 Olympic torch in its only visit to the United States for a ceremony at the Peace Arch border crossing in Blaine, WA.  Phil, who won medals at the 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid and the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, was cheered by a crowd of several thousand people waving U.S. and Canadian flags and signs with the Olympic rings.

 The success of these Camps takes the dedication, cooperation and hard work of multiple departments here at the Resort.  Thanks to everyone who has a hand in these events, and special thanks go out to:

 ‡  Carolyn Allen and her Silver Lake Lodge staff for room set-ups during the Camps
‡  Jim Bragg and his Race Hill crew for the excellent training courses and fun races
‡  Kris Anderson and her Snow Park Lodge staff for breakfasts and après ski lectures/seminars
‡  The Mountain Operations staff for their superb on-snow operations and assistance
‡  Annie, Vince, Tuck and Suzi at Sharpshooters Imaging for videos and photos

How should we measure skiing?

It seems obvious to me that skiing should be satisfying before we think about measuring it. To me, a good skiing experience means feeling in control, comfortable with the elements and having fun. So, how should we put numbers on that great sport? Many years ago, skiing acumen was often measured by ski length. If you were a male and skied on a pair of 223 cm downhill skis, you’d make a memorable impression. If the length was 215, you were looked up to, and if you wanted to “blend-in” with other “serious skiers” you couldn’t ski much shorter than 207. Of course, now ski length doesn’t carry the clout it used to and had nothing to do with the “amount” of skiing one could aspire to…

In the old days, skiing 15 days in a season was substantial; later, with a full, two-day weekend, doubling up that number wasn’t unusual during the course of a winter. Today, if you speak to some mature Deer Valley season-pass holders, they may confess that they’re doing their best to ski “their age” (that is, ski as many days in a season as their number of birthdays) or even aim for the century mark; in fact, I knew of a local contractor who had vanity license plates proudly stating “100 days” for the number of days he skied in a season. Granted, those are just days, like they could be years, but it doesn’t say how intense skiing can be, namely how many hours a skier is strapped to the skis, from just a couple of to a long, seven-hour day…

This is where the matter becomes tricky, because without some kind of ski-meter attached to the skis, how can we measure the daily dose of skiing? Europeans might be “measuring” their ski areas the right way; they don’t use skiable acreage, but “miles of ski runs” instead. It’s not uncommon to see some of their largest ski areas boast “50 miles of runs” or something like that. While this is a precise measurement, it doesn’t say much about slope and snow conditions and there could be some enormous difference between one mile of “green,” beginner run, and just one-tenth of a mile of “black diamond” chute! With the limitations of this linear measurement, there ought to be a better yardstick that relates to the total energy expended by the skier and this might be vertical drop.

“Vertical drop” is simply the measure of how tall a ski hill is; if the elevation at the top of the gondola is 7,950 feet and its base is 6,570 feet, the vertical rise is 1,380 feet. This measurement implies more than just a fixed distance but a variety of options to descend that hill. It could be a gentle slope or a more intimidating expert run blending mileage and difficulty in opposite proportions. The next logical thought would be “how much ‘vertical’ can be skied in one day?” Another loaded question, because it depends on the skier’s ability, the type of lift used, the steepness of the slope and both snow and terrain conditions. For some, 15,000 feet means a full day while for others it might be 30,000 or even more. If you’re worried about keeping track of all these numbers, there are even tools available, like high-tech wrist watches that will do the computing for you!

Modern infrastructure makes a big difference too; do you remember the old days when riding up a lift took forever? It wasn’t unusual that ninety-percent of ski time would be consumed riding up the mountain. This isn’t the case anymore, particularly in Deer Valley, where the vast majority of lifts are now high speed chairs and a gondola. Some actually stand out so much that “vertical skiing” records were broken just this year, with over 115,000 vertical feet tallied in just one day, most of it on “Sultan Express,” breaking a previous 108,000 feet record set back in 2007, in nearby Snowbird!

There are in fact very few ski-lifts, the world over, that come close to Deer Valley’s “mighty” chairlifts. Of course, you can always find a steep slope and hire a helicopter, but this can be outrageously expensive, not counting the “carbon footprint” consequences… All this means that with lifts like Sultan, Lady Morgan, Sterling or Wasatch, among many, Deer Valley Resort makes it possible to get a full ski day within a few hours, as long as you are in shape, can time your outing while other skiers have lunch and pick well-groomed runs. With all the extra time left from your “compressed skiing-time,” you’ll be able to catch up with your work, go shopping, enjoy more après-ski time and indulge on a leisurely dinner. But again, that’s all about quantity and never forget that quality of skiing is job-one, long before considering metering everything in your skiing life!

I can’t believe that February is already here!

We have had some amazing new snow over the past couple of weeks and “knock on wood” that it keeps coming!  I skied the other day and it was incredible; we had 5 new inches over night and is was a perfect Utah bluebird day. If you have not been here yet this season I encourage you not to miss the fantastic conditions!

 Recently, I also had the opportunity to eat at Deer Valley’s Fireside Dining.  Since I was on maternity last season this was my first time back in over a year.  It was sooooo delicious!  The raclette cheese with our house made fig mustard and the strawberry chutney with tarragon, veal stew, beat salad and white chocolate Grand Marnier are among my favorites.  I also had the privilege of taking the sleigh ride to complete the evening.  It is a great place to bring the entire family.

 Valentines Day is just around the corner and I would highly recommend making reservations for The Mariposa!  It is Deer Valley’s most romantic dining experience and beyond the atmosphere, the food is over the top.  The tasting menu is the way to go with the wine pairing…I think I just decided where my husband and I are going for Valentines Day.

 Another fun adventure is snowmobiling at Deer Valley’s Summit Meadows Adventures which is located just outside of Park City.  It is a great way to spend an afternoon with your friends and family.  We had an awesome time in the meadow while getting to know the machine. But nothing beats the views back into Park City, I almost forgot how beautiful it is.

 Keep the Snow Dance going because it is working and we will see you on the slopes!

U.S. Freestyle Olympic Team

Deer Valley has had an exciting past month!  We hosted the FIS Freestyle World Cup on January 14 – 16, Sundance was in town and most recently the naming of the U.S. Freestyle Olympic Team took place at Deer Valley. I almost forgot to mention all of the amazing snow that we have received in the past week!

 This past Tuesday the U.S. Freestyle Olympic Team was announced here at Deer Valley.  We are very excited for all of the athletes that made the team; including 2005 Moguls World Champion and Deer Valley Resort’s own Nate Roberts.  The Olympics will open with women’s moguls in Vancouver on Saturday, February 13, 2010.

 2010 U.S. OLYMPIC FREESTYLE SKI TEAM
name, hometown, age as of opening ceremonies, birthdate, (past Olympics) 

 AERIALS

Men
Matt DePeters, Hamburg, NY, 22, 8/20/87
Dylan Ferguson, Amesbury, MA, 21, 8/10/88
Jeret “Speedy” Peterson, Boise, ID, 28, 12/12/81 (2002, 2006)
Ryan St. Onge, Winter Park, CO, 26, 2/7/83 (2006)

Women
Ashley Caldwell, Hamilton, VA, 16, 9/14/1993
Emily Cook, Belmont, MA, 30, 7/1/79 (2006)
Jana Lindsey, Black Hawk, SD, 25, 9/18/84 (2006)
Lacy Schnoor, Draper, UT, 24, 6/12/85

 MOGULS

Men
Patrick Deneen, Cle Elum, WA, 22, 12/25/87
Michael Morse, Duxbury, MA, 28, 4/2/81
Nate Roberts, Park City, UT, 27, 3/24/82
Bryon Wilson, Park City, UT, 21, 4/7/88

Women
Shannon Bahrke, Tahoe City, CA, 29, 11/7/80 (2002, 2006)
Hannah Kearney, Norwich, VT, 23, 2/26/86 (2006)
Heather McPhie, Bozeman, MT, 25, 5/28/84
Michelle Roark, Denver, 35, 11/16/74 (2006)

 SKI CROSS

Men
Casey Puckett*, Aspen, CO, 37, 9/22/72 (1994, 1998, 2002, 2006)
Daron Rahlves*, Sugar Bowl, CA, 36, 6/12/73 (1998, 2002, 2006)

 * Past alpine skiing Olympians

Congratulations to everyone who made the team and we wish you all the best of luck!