In Search of Smooth Skiing

Want to ski more, improve your form and strain less? Bring smoothness into your skiing. Do as little as you have to, but whatever you do on your skis, do it right, effortlessly and invisibly. Trying hard is exhausting and there’s always a better way to execute, but we live in a world of instant-everything. We want to pick up skills quickly, become an all-around skier overnight and can’t stand suffering a long and endless learning curve while state-of-the-art equipment, well-groomed slopes and some fast instruction can get us there in a matter of days. Yet, speedy learning always comes at a price; we get the rudiments, we garner the large building blocks, we’re ready to fly solo, but we’re still missing this magic quiver of “insider-knowledge” that may unlock the doors to stress-free skiing.

The technique from thirty years ago was developed around equipment that often was crude, generally difficult to harness and not nearly as forgiving as it is now. Before reaching today’s levels of excellence, snow grooming often was hit-and-miss and it took countless drills and practice before skiers could become autonomous and able to truly enjoy themselves. The flipside to that drudgery however, was that these same skiers, after spending hours learning some grueling basics, became much more aware of what happened under their feet and around their ankles. They were alert to the messages they were receiving from the terrain, knew how to set an edge accordingly and could read the snow and the slope so well that they’d telegraph instantly to their edges what would become cat-like moves over the snow. Anyone who knows skiing well will agree that edge-control still remains the sport’s Holy Grail.

If elevating your skiing to the upper echelon is important to you and if you still have the nagging feeling that you’re missing this elusive tiny bit that robs you of a limitless supply of fun, there’s probably some room left for fine-tuning your technique and becoming one of these smooth skiers you see floating on the snow and that seem impervious to anything. The beginning of a new season is the perfect moment for deciding to hone those important skills, fine-tune them, finally master that ankle and edge sensitivity that will spring your technique forward in a matter of weeks and let you enjoy it for a whole season. While they’re fairly easy to understand, these subtle elements of skiing are extremely difficult to just pick up on your own. They require repeated drills, a perfect model to follow, an attentive outside observer and some highly skilled coaching. Why not then commit to spending your first hours of the winter with a trusted instructor that can share all these precious tips with you and guide you into a entire season of effortless skiing?

Mommy Survival Skills

Ok, I’m taking an informal poll. On school days, I can get away with getting out of bed within a few minutes, plus or minus, of my kids. But on ski days, I need a head start. 

I try, as best I can, to get the gear laid out the night before. I make sure to charge up the battery packs on my boot heaters (these are a must, and I will extol their many virtues in a forthcoming blog post, promise.), assemble both kids’ base layers, I get the kids’ stuff into neat stacks in the mudroom—and try to get them about 85 percent dressed before we get in the car. Admittedly, there have been mornings when I have had to dig in the hamper for ski socks or long-johns, but with the advent of fabric freshener sprays, this is an acceptable practice.

The one item I never have to scramble for is the kids’ ski passes. Thanks to Ski Uncle, they are attached to their helmets. I am not a fan of hanging anything around their necks to begin with, and I think it’s a dicey proposition that often results in the pass itself flying up to hit them in the face. Plus, after wrapping the pass cord around the helmet’s goggle buckle, we seal the deal with duct tape—it ensures the pass is always on them, since they are not allowed to board the lift without their helmets. On the off-chance they misplace the helmet, it’s easily ID’d as theirs at lost-and-found.

 Oh, and can I, on that note, extol the virtues of Lost & Found at Snow Park Lodge? Goggles, shades and even (once) my wallet AND cell phone (sorry, honey), have been recovered there thanks to the kindness of the strangers at Deer Valley.

 What’s your ski-day morning survival secret?

Heidi’s Ski Season Countdown

There are only 16 days left until we open…but who’s counting! We kick off the season on December 4 and will be hosting the Celebrity SkiFest on Birdseye ski run.  I will be one of the Pros competing in the race. The event will air on December 5 on CBS at 5pm EST. There is nothing like racing right out the gate cold turkey. Hopefully my 26 years of racing gates will be automatic. It’s only Tommy Moe, Phil Mahre and Steve Mahre who are racing anyway! Hmmmmm, not bad company.

Am I ready for another winter?? Of course I’m ready to ski and am hoping for lots of powder.

How have I gotten ready for the ski season? Nothing like how I did when I was competing for the US Ski Team because that only added lbs. to my frame. I think everyone has their own way to get in shape. There is no right or wrong as long as you exercise. I have enjoyed my road bike, hiking and started back into running! There is nothing better than just getting back on skis and working those muscles that don’t fire during the summer months. Oh the soreness after the first couple of days. Skiing is the best way to get in shape for skiing!

See you on the slopes

I Ski For Lunch- Part 1

This is not the last time you will read that particular line in my posts. I often say that the cookies at Deer Valley, consumed at lunch on my first ski trip to Park City, were a deciding factor in our plan to move here. Letty Flatt, Deer Valley’s inspired executive pastry chef, and her team have probably heard that particular gem before.

The Vermont day lodges my youth offered fare with little allure, aside from a candy counter with a seemingly unlimited supply of Charleston Chews, which my erstwhile ski buddy and best friend Nancy and I buried in the snow banks before “lunch” (read: hot dog of indeterminate fillings) and took great joy in literally cracking open on the armrest rail (we called it a safety bar, back then), on that first post-lunch run, for the true culinary delight.

So the variety of dining options at Deer Valley (each of which I’ll tell you about, extol the virtues of, rave over, and generally create raison-du-drool, in this space in the weeks to come) never cease to impress or delight me.

But here’s what I’m loving this week. We’re getting ready for Thanksgiving—which is a fabulous holiday, and also part of the most excruciating period of the ski season: The part called, WAITING FOR DEER VALLEY TO OPEN.

That’s not exactly the love part. Patience isn’t something I possess in abundance.

But this is: My husband is a great cook. And he, blessedly, works alone. Leaving me to take the kids hiking on Thanksgiving morning (along with my in-laws, who will be visiting this year) and then set the table. In theory, I’d handle dessert. He doesn’t really bake (though he could). I do—but not in an awesome way. Just well enough, you know? Which would be fine. But I’d have to reserve time in the kitchen. Which could be an issue. But then my husband mentioned, just this morning, that he saw an ad in the paper in which Deer Valley pies were advertised. Which kills several birds with one stone. He gets to keep the kitchen to himself, and we get awesome pies for dessert. Total crowd pleasers. And, thank you, it makes the seemingly interminable eight-day wait from Thanksgiving to opening day at Deer Valley, just that much easier to bear. After all, it only takes closing one’s eyes while taking a bite of pecan pie to imagine you’re après lunch at Snow Park Lodge.

More information about the Deer Valley Bakery can be found here:

Helmet Covers

Last year, the Big Guy decided he didn’t want to wear his puffer fish helmet cover anymore. The attention it garnered from every passerby was starting to embarrass him—and he also worried that it might get caught in the trees when he skied through them. Ski Uncle had started to offer US Ski Team stickers as prizes for particularly adventurous runs, which Big Guy proudly affixed to the helmet, and I think, above all, this is what convinced him he needed to say goodbye to the Puffer fish. I, for one, was not ready.

First of all, I can’t stand how cute he looks in it. But more importantly, it made him easy to recognize–to the point that I used it as a tool for my career as a Mommy Spy. After ski-school drop-off, I could ride Carpenter lift and catch sight of him underneath me, returning from a run on Little Baldy. More importantly, when we skied together, it made him easy to find on the hill—whether I was following his lead, or waiting a few feet below him as he carved his turns.

 Plus, there were no strangers in the lodge. People stopped to compliment him on his “hat,” and inevitably asked me his age, and, upon learning that we are locals, asked me for tips on skiing with their kids and grandchildren, or how to entertain them après ski in town. Often, people would ask to take his picture. On one such occasion he said “No,” a little bit forcefully. I made a wry comment that his agent had advised him against camera-phone shots, the visitors and I shared a laugh, and we moved on.

Months later, I found myself at a Hollywood party. If it sounds fancy, let me promise you—it was. I was among a large group of journalists mingling with talent (and the agents and publicists that represent them) from Fox TV shows. Yes, I met the cast of Glee (love them!.) But I also caught up with a talent manager I hadn’t seen since we’d worked together on his client’s photo shoot for the magazine where I’d worked 15 years earlier. “Wow! You live in Utah! That’s amazing!” (I get that a lot.) “Yep, and I have two kids,” I mentioned, reaching for my phone to produce pictures. “Look, here’s my older one, on skis!” Tom, my pal, did a double take. “Wow, that WAS you!” I gave him a confused look. “I was with a friend at Deer Valley last winter, and we saw the two of you on the patio at Snow Park—I remember we wanted to take his picture and he said no!” He went on to say, he’d recognized me, but didn’t know I lived in Utah, and so he’d assumed it was someone who looked like me. Then, “Later, we saw him skiing—that kid is good! I can’t believe that’s your son!!”

Believe me, my momma-pride was on, well, eleven (Spinal Tap fans, can I get a Woot Woot?). Still, with both kids on the mountain this winter, I’m hoping I can offer them new funky fresh helmet covers for Hanukkah this year, so I can keep them in my line of sight.

 What’s the coolest helmet cover you’ve ever seen?

Do your kids wear ‘em?

Do you love ‘em or hate ‘em?

Let me hear from you.

The Equipment Quandary

It all started in September; I have been wracking my brain ever since trying to figure out which ski I should get for this snow season. Now, I seem to be running out of time as I still have not figured out which set of boards I should pick. I’m not talking about any specific brand or model; I’m simply wondering about which ski design might best fill my needs for the winter of 2010-2011 and the seasons beyond.

I used to be an early adopter, but have long left that trait to younger and much more adventurous folks. I will only adopt a radically new concept if I have heard and read enough good reviews about it and if the product in question does offer a significant step forward over its predecessors. So here I am, ready to flip a coin between a pair of wide skis with traditional camber and the new, so-called “tip and tail rocker” and also – I need to flip another coin – one of these “full rockers.” Now, I am torn, laminated, exhausted by this camber discussion. Oh boy, do I miss the time when the argument was limited to a sidecut, an underfoot width or whether a ski should have a cap construction or look like a vintage 1970 design!

My problem, I know it, is that I’m one of many skiers that still delude themselves in believing there’s a ski that can do it all; you know, the jack of all trades and master of none. That’s right, I’d like a ski that behaves superbly on groomers, can surprise me positively in 10 inches of new snow and is guaranteed to impress my buddies when we’re flying over bottomless powder. This is enough to paralyze any skier and freeze him in place until the snow melts, spring returns and I don’t want that. Of course, my budget as well as the only space left in the ski rack inside my garage just allows for one single new pair of boards for this winter. I need some form of catalyst or act of God to force me to moving forward, making a choice, doing something…

One of the challenges is also my set of beliefs. Being an “old dog,” I still think that the longer the skis the smoother the experience, more like riding in a Lincoln Continental versus driving a Mini Cooper. This is another limiting element, because while I still can live with a traditional ski up to 186 cm in length, a “rocker” ski would define a much longer board that wouldn’t fit inside my streamlined, cool looking Thule ski box. As unbelievable as this may sounds, the size of my ski box is probably what will settle the battle, make me forgo my craving for innovation and instead force me to carry-on a few more seasons with tradition. I didn’t even have to lose my sanity, my temper or my camber over this. Yeah, I’ll go with a traditional wide ski and 90 mm width underfoot. I’ll console myself by keeping looking forward to some brand new and revolutionary gear some other ski season…

October Snow

How much things can change in a week! I unexpectedly woke up to the sound of snow plows the last week and thought maybe it was a bit premature.  However as I looked out the window, sure enough the rain hard turned to snow over night. I probably had almost 4 inches in the driveway. It continued to snow most of the day but more importantly it stayed cold, until today!

Deer Valley Resort, October 25, 2010

I definitely got the itch to ski last week as the snow fell.  I went to the Warren Miller movie premiere in Park City and organized my ski stuff for the season. Even though today is a beautiful Utah day the desire to ski is still strong. My skis, boots and ski outfits continue to arrive at the front door. My boys are looking for their new ski stuff too, but I have to remind them that Santa brings new skis only if they are good. Although this week’s weather is supposed to be nicer , the mountain tops are still white.  At least I’ll still get to exercise outside a few more times to make sure I am ready for opening day, December 4!

See you on the Slopes!

“Get it in Gear”

Opening day may be more than a month a way, but in our household, ski season is ON. How did I know? For one thing, Big Guy, age 7, appeared in our bedroom last Friday morning at the crack of early to exclaim, “It’s going to snow on Monday!!!” He’d been checking Doppler Radar on the computer, apparently.

 The weather defied his prediction, however, offering a dusting that very evening on the top of Bald Mountain. Thus, our preparations kicked into high gear.

First, we adjusted the fit of the helmets. Little Guy, age 3, now fills out his helmet just a bit past the smallest setting; Big Guy’s fits on the largest setting of his. Little Guy is otherwise well-equipped with hand-me-down ski clothes from big bro, and the too-cute-for-words 16cm boots, which were a gift last year from his “ski Aunt and ski Uncle” and Elan Spyder skis purchased for him last year by his parents and the grandfather known affectionately as Parka. You can see him modeling the boots, along with his erstwhile companions, Dine Dine and Ding Dong, below. You’ll notice that he’s sporting them indoors—and while their intrinsic value as an any-outfit accessory is unimpeachable, I must put in a plug here for the age-old tradition of letting your kids play in their gear inside the house. Find a carpeted area and have them practice putting on, walking around in, and taking off the boots, then help them click in and out of the bindings and help them shuffle their feet along the carpet a bit. The more playtime they have with the gear indoors, the easier it will be to get their buy-in to put the stuff on when it counts. And believe me…no ski day was ever enhanced by a gear-related meltdown.


But, the gear has to fit in order to play this game. In this spirit, we piled into the car with Big Guy’s ski gear and headed to the local shop to whose Grow-With-Me program we are subscribers. He’d burst through three shoe sizes in the past 7 months, so it was no surprise the boots were too tight. Even less surprising, it was time to jump up 10cm in ski size—and the tech told us as we departed that he’ll count on seeing us mid-season for a longer ski yet.

Next stop, the outlet mall, where we replaced the ski jacket that had been lost—yet again!—at the end of last season. (Am I the only parent who has considered having jackets surgically attached to her kids?) Also purchased, some après ski mocs for Big Guy.

Next on the list: new goggles and some new gloves for the Big Guy, too. I can’t stand the shoddy make of most kids’ ski gloves, so if you’ve had luck with a particular brand, leave it in the comments section.