2011 FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships

I can feel the excitement as the 2011 FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships are about to start! I’ve been skiing most everyday and showing my groups the venue for the Ski Cross, Moguls and Aerials. Even though I’m not competing there’s always a bit of excitement anticipating the competitions.

The athletes from all over the world are arriving and training. I remember as an athlete arriving to the host resort. You see the hill and start to wonder is this going to be where I achieve my goal and win a word championship medal? Even though I competed in Alpine, the Freestyle World Championships athletes still share the same anxiety.

I’m sure (from my experience) that the athletes are excited and want to get the games going. They have been competing all season and now the big event of the season is upon them. The US athletes are for sure at an advantage because they are at their “home hill”. They have trained and competed here before. But they are also at a big disadvantage. Competing in the World Championships is pressure enough but competing in them in your home country in front of your friends and family adds so much extra pressure.

There is so much that goes along being in the World Championships. People may think it is just showing up on your competition day and hope to have the run of your life. Well not really. There are always responsibilities such as press conferences, fitting in training and the gym, sponsor dinners and family time. This is always the case as an elite athlete but it seems to be that much greater and packed together at World Championships or an Olympics. I keep referencing the “home” turf advantage/disadvantage because of all the things the athletes need to do. They also want to get to their favorite restaurant, shop or hang out to burn off some nerves and make them relax. Some much to do and such little time to fit it all in.

I attached a photo I thought would represent the feel of the World Championships. What’s missing from this picture? Whether it is a World Cup or World Championship being at home always brings out athletes from the past that participate in sponsor functions. We are there to cheer on our present athletes and maybe help them manage the pressure? But for sure it’s always fun to get together and share the stories of our past experiences of glory and not so much glory.

 Good Luck to all the Athletes! See you on the Slopes

Sunshine in Empire Canyon

Empire  Canyon has always been one of my favourite places to work. If it’s not snowing, then the sun is out and you get a spectacular view from 9,570 feet.

There’s also a couple of aspen glades that have a great contrast against that blue sky, like Zebra trees. The name says it all…


Caroline Crandall sneaks a line through the aspens

Sundance on The Slopes

 WARNING: This post involves just a teensy bit of name-dropping.

Celebrity culture being what it is, there are not that many well-kept secrets in show biz anymore. But here’s one: The best week to ski in Park City is during Sundance. For 10 days, the hotels are filled with mostly people who are not skiing.

So, I celebrated the first day of the festival by launching my new favorite day 1 tradition: Skiing with a Golden Globe Winner.

Lest you think any Golden Globe winner will do, let me set you straight. In my world, the only one that matters is my pal Melissa Leo, who picked up her award for Best Supporting Actress last Sunday night. (Let me bore you with the details: We were introduced years ago by a mutual friend, Thelma Adams, who is the author of a just-published novel, Playdate…In case you had not noticed from my previous posts, I have pretty awesome friends, famous and not-famous, but all of them very accomplished and scary-talented. Which is good, because their successes delightfully reinforce my slacker-ski-bum self-image.)

Melissa arrived in town on Wednesday, straight from the New Orleans set of Treme, the HBO series she’s acting in now. For years, as her local buddy, I’ve helped her get set up for skiing during the festival, but it’s never worked out for us to ski together. When I told her I was free to ski the following day, she whooped almost as loudly as I had in my living room when I saw on TV that her name was called as the winner.

Soon enough, I was scooping her up at her hotel and we were booting up in the locker room at Snow Park Lodge. Melissa showed off her newly acquired, brand-new 20 year-old boots—she’d schlepped them from place to place in order to ensure she’d have them handy to come to Utah for Sundance. “I had a similar pair that I tried to replace for four years,” she told me. “And I managed to find these—they’d stopped making them., but somehow, I was lucky enough to find one last pair.”

I couldn’t resist asking the most obvious question. What was it like to win a Golden Globe??

 “There’s a lot of shock,” she confessed about her winning moment, as we waited in line to get her lift ticket. “I carried it around for a few days just so I could see that it had really happened.”  I wondered aloud if the award would feel left out that it didn’t come along for the ski day…

 We hopped on Carpenter lift, and as we slid our skis toward Silver Link, the tone of the day was set. Whooping and hollering ensued. We kept grinning at each other as we took in the perfection that was the bluebird day, the corduroy that seemed to be laid out just for us. We compared notes on skiing technique, working motherhood (she has a 23 year-old son who is currently living in Germany). But, mostly, we reveled in the dumb luck that found us enjoying a blissful ski day smack in the middle of the week, just before the wave of the Sundance Film Festival would sweep us away from the hill.  We giggled as we took turns carving past each other. More hooting and hollering. Finally, as we headed toward lunch, I declared, “Decorum is overrated.” Indeed.

 We sat down to lunch at Royal Street Café, and promptly ordered a blueberry mojito—with two straws. We found just a little humor in the fact that we’d have to wait 20 minutes for the clock to strike noon before the bartender could mix the drink.  We busied ourselves with tuna tartare, edamame, the black bean soup special and the iceberg wedge. And then compared notes on our experiences growing up in Vermont.

Before long, Melissa would be in glam-mode again, red-carpet ready for her Sundance premiere, Red State. But this day was about fun, friendship and food.

PS:  The award for best excuse for bailing on a fresh powder day: Melissa Leo, doing press for Red State the morning she received her nomination for an Academy Award!

Father Knows Best? Nah.

A few months ago, my dad called to tell me he’d hatched a plan for his next visit.

Considering one previous visit found me helping the kids select the most absurd Halloween mask they could find for their beloved grandfather to wear for Trick-or-Treating on Main Street, and another found me videotaping my father, a 68 year-old attorney, trying out the bungee trampoline at an amusement park, my interest was, shall we say, piqued.

 “What if I came out in January, took a week’s worth of ski lessons and then skied with the boys on the weekend?”

 I was thrilled by this idea–but also slightly suspicious. After all, he’d dived into ski school when I was in middle school, because I’d threatened to (wait for it) quit the sport.  Perish the thought. My dad, wise man that he is, felt like I might regret such a choice (which begs the question, Why, oh why, was I allowed to quit the violin??) – so he offered a deal—he would sign up for lessons simultaneously with my pre-race program at our local resort, and we’d meet up in the afternoons for some Dad-and-Daughter skiing.

 This is Parenting 101. Lead by example. Support your kids in their activities. Show up. Play along. My Dad, of course, got an A in this course.  And as a grandparent, he seems to go after extra credit, too (see: bungee jumping, above).

This plan, by the way, worked out really well—I improved rapidly, my dad, perhaps a little less rapidly. We found ourselves on a favorite blue—one with just enough steep to make it interesting, and about a third of the way down, my dad launched a yard sale. I skied up to him, a little worried. “Dad, are you ok?” Gamely, he began to collect his gear, and shake the snow out of his ski hat (pre-helmet culture, indeed). “Yep, I’ll be ok!” So, loving daughter that I am, I said, “OK, see ya!” And shot off toward the bottom. I know, very, very ungrateful. Bad, bad kid. I’m not entirely sure why his skiing tapered off, but given this history, it’s a wonder the man would volunteer his vacation time to relearn the sport and risk being exposed to such compassion again.

 And yet, he did.

 And he loved it.

I lined up two Max 4 lessons and a full-day private for “Parka.”(For reasons none of us can remember, Big Guy started calling him that around age 1, and it stuck). I wanted him to feel comfortable skiing wherever Big Guy wanted to take him on Saturday.  We had many, many discussions about gear. He reported to me mid-morning the first day that he’d struggled mightily with his boots, tried in vain to find the right positioning for his hat/gaiter/goggles arrangement. In a moment of mock exaggeration, this man who bikes hundreds of miles every summer, said drily, “You know, you just get on the bike….” I got a call from him from the chairlift that afternoon. “I’m skiing Success, and loving it. I will be here all night. Don’t wait for me for dinner.” I informed him the groomers may take issue with his presence after 4pm, so he decided to come home after all. But first, he stopped in the ski school office to change his lesson the next morning to the afternoon. It was my request—I couldn’t stand the thought of him having so much fun and not bearing witness to it.

Our ski morning together was a blast. He kept thanking me for helping him arrange it all. “I’m really having FUN!” And he was. He was also exercising caution. His stance was slightly hesitant, and his pace was deliberate rather than relaxed. Which was fine. I didn’t want to push. We parted ways after lunch—he headed off to his lesson with a sarcastic “see ya!” and I met up with my friends Lisa and Dave for a few runs on Flagstaff.

 The next morning, I decided to tag along for the first half of his lesson. I met Parka’s instructor, JR, and explained, “I’m just along for the ride—it’s his lesson.” As we descended our first turns, I shouted that I would ski ahead to watch—and to take some pictures and video. I was blown away by his improvement since the previous morning. We soon found our way over to Flagstaff, and did one of my favorite loops. Blue Bell to Silver Buck to Stargazer to Gemini. When we got to the Stargazer portion, my dad said, “Well, this is going to scare me a bit.” He then executed ten perfect, balanced turns to the top of Gemini. “Wait! I was just getting that! I want to do it again!” No lack of enthusiasm here.

 Soon enough, we were heading toward lunch at Snow Park when my father made a confession. “I made a mistake,” he said, with more than a hint of woe in his voice. He looked at me a little sheepishly before he continued. “I thought a full day lesson would be too much. So I cut it to a half day when I made the other switch. But now, I feel so great I want to keep going!”

 Sigh.

 “I can fix it. With my favorite tool,” I said, taking my cell phone out of it’s designated pocket in my jacket. Quickly, I was connected with a friendly member of the staff. “My dad thought he knew better,”I explained. This may not have been the first time someone decided to extend their day, because the very helpful gentleman on the other end of the call offered a knowing chuckle as he restored the reservation . Mission accomplished. JR and my dad and I sat down to a quick Snow Park Lunch (hello, Natural Buffet) before I scooted to town to pick up Little Guy and they headed off to ski more. We agreed to meet up an hour later on Wide West. Little Guy was keen to show his skills to his grandfather. He demonstrated three of his top skills (Candyland, Racecourse and Exhaustion Meltdown).

little guy skiing

 Unfortunately, by the next morning, Parka was sidelined with a minor but ski-boot-prohibitive foot injury, and he couldn’t complete the mission.

We all solved the problem at once. “When can we schedule a return visit?” Fab.

Revisiting the Measure of Skiing (Part 2)

 This is the second part of my January 14 blog in which we discussed sport watches that can measure vertical drop.

I knew that GPS was a great tool for tracking someone’s travel, including time, distance and elevation and had considered buying a portable device for sometime. I had seen a few wrist versions, but found them too bulky to wear. During this past summer, I was introduced to the latest in personal GPS technology: Garmin, well-known for its navigation and communication devices had the perfect replacement for my aging Sunnto, and this past Christmas I received the ultimate ski-geek present, a Garmin Forerunner watch, that could precisely measure my skiing and provide me with lasting memories of my on-hill adventures. I should say that besides being a skier, I’m also a road runner, a mountain biker and a hiker, so this watch would be used in all of my other outdoors endeavors. 

 

Upon familiarizing myself with the new toy and installing the software, I tested it early January on my daily jogging course and discovered how easy it was to operate. Upon returning home, I just had to download the data on my computer before discovering in graphic details what I had done. Measuring my skiing would be the same and I couldn’t wait to testing it. This rather small watch only shows the time elapsed, the distance covered and the pace or speed per lap, while it’s worn; you must therefore download the complete data into a computer at the end of the day, and only then, do you get the full picture. To get started with recording a typical skiing day, you first need to get a satellite signal, then just pressing “start” gets you going and you don’t have to worry about anything until you take a break, have lunch or get to the end of the day. At that point, just pressing “stop” ends the recording session. 

 As my next test was skiing at Deer Valley Resort, I choose to sample most of its ski runs. As I was ready to board Carpenter Express, I located the satellite, pressed the “start” button and was on my way to a three-and-a-half hour adventure that would take me to Empire Canyon, Bald Mountain and Deer Crest. 

When I returned home, I downloaded my ski day and could see right away that I had skied for 3 hour 28 minute, covered more than 36 miles (riding lifts and actual skiing,) reached a maximum speed of 47.2 mph near the base of the Deer Crest Gondola, skied a total vertical of 24,809 ft and reached an elevation of 9,553 ft at the top of Empire. Most telling however was the graph of my itinerary showing all the territory covered in just a few hours. 

 

Another interesting graph was the one showing the vertical drop for each one of the runs taken that illustrated multiple laps, and steep as well as flat sections encountered along the way. 

 As an option, all this data can be put together in an animated format that shows the entire travel during the time my skiing was recorded.  In that animated “Player” view, I can actually re-live my skiing in accelerated time, showing all the ups and downs and the choreography of time, distance, elevation and speed.  So with these results in hand, it’s impossible not to love this new Garmin. I plan to use it most of the time I ski Deer Valley this winter and do the same this summer when I ride my mountain bike or just go hiking. This by far is the best outdoors and fitness monitoring tool I’ve ever owned, and priced like a good quality watch, I don’t see why you should deprive yourself either!

The best and most visually rewarding feature is that it’s possible to integrate your entire course into Google Earth and discover each one of your runs in a vibrant, three-dimensional format (too bad Google Earth only renders a green, summer view!)

Finally, if some of your friends are equipped with other Garmin products that are ready for the special software, you’ll be able – if you so choose – to be seen by them and they may also share their on-snow exploits as well, making you all a very happy, busy and accountable family of skiers!

The joy of learning

Sometime between my Little Guy’s first runs and the second day of this season, I lost the fear and found the fun.

I was worried I could not keep him adequately safe on the hill, all by myself.

I was worried he would not listen.

I worried I was not worried enough.

And then I relaxed.

I started pouring on the praise, and using the chairlift as a time not only to soak up the moments of one-on-one time, but to point out the turns other skiers were making.

I watched him find his love of learning, as he set out upon yet another run, and tried his best to emulate those turns. I saw his determination grow. And I heard his rallying cry.

Then again, so did the rest of the people skiing Wide West on the first Sunday in January. As he wedged his way down the racecourse, I heard him release a primal scream of joy. “Aaaaaaaaaah!” All the way down the hill.

 Did he want to turn into the Magic Carpet area and try a few turns without the edgie wedgie?

“Aaaaaaaaah!” in the affirmative.

 Once there, his screams continued. The laughter they encited was contagious.

He continued as we returned to the racecourse—our runs in the Magic Carpet corral were only semi-successful, but he was determined to strut his DIY wedge for all it was worth.

Again, the scream of joy.

Again, the laughter of onlookers. Powerless against the charms of the scream, I looked up at the chairlift riders and informed them, “The sound effects are at no additional charge.”

Exuberance, your name is Little Guy. And I adore you.

For me, the teaching moments were not as much for his benefit as for my own. The only thing that matters when you are skiing with a three year-old is this: It’s a party. On Skis. Nuff said.

What is Skiing Without Après?

Not real skiing!

This is why we should ski hard and till the end. Tire our legs out so we can reward ourselves. Once again I’ll tell you about some of my favorite spots:

I usually enjoy heading to Edgar’s Beers & Spirits (EBS) Lounge at the end of the day. This is at the base of the mountain in Snow Park Lodge and named after our founder Edgar B. Stern. There is a lot of history about him and his family and the development of Deer Valley. Also, you’re at the base of the mountain so if you get to comfortable there’s no worry about making the last chair. And it’s easy to get comfortable here because there is a big screen TV which usually has the hottest football game or some sort of World Cup ski event playing.  On weekends, there is live entertainment. Here you can find something for everyone’s taste. If you’ve skied hard enough, try Edgar’s favorite drink, the Edgartini!  Just one though! You still need to get back to the hot tub.

Another spot is the BEACH at Silver Lake. This is at mid-mountain and directly outside the Silver Lake Lodge. You know you’re at the beach when you collapse into one of the white beach chairs. Of course this spot is better on some days more than others. When it’s a bluebird day it’s a perfect spot no matter the temperature. (Well, maybe as long as it’s not below zero!)  The sunshine is beating down on you and you are looking up Bald Mountain watching other skiers and seeing the runs you have just conquered. Not a bad view! I have made this spot a tradition for closing day.   Grab a beer from the Silver Lake Restaurant and toast to the mountain for a great season or day.

If you don’t want to be outside, Royal Street Café is also located at mid-mountain inside Silver Lake Lodge.  Here you can enjoy all sorts of nice drinks including the most popular one on the mountain, Deer Valley’s Blueberry Mojito. Remember though, you at mid-mountain, so if you started at Snow Park you’ll need to make sure you get on the chair by 4:15. But if you’re staying at mid-mountain than you’re almost home!

Your probably wondering what my favorite après drink is, I have to go with my regular Chardonnay. Those of you who know me I’m sure you’re laughing. I don’t change too much or shy away from my regulars; Skiing, Tuna Tacos, Chardonnay! I know I’m boring!!

Cheers and See you on the slopes!