Toasting Season’s End

On my last ski day of the season, I raised a glass (shocking, I know) with dear friends and Ski Dad (we’d spent the morning showing off our dueling mad-skill-sets for the first time since we had completed our respective three-day clincs), feeling quite satisfied. Not only because I’d tackled endless crazy terrain all morning with my favorite people, but because, whee!, I’d discovered a new favorite libation at Royal Street Café. I’d like to think that every patron who sits down at RSC at 11:30 gets the same question from the servers: “Would you like to put in a cocktail order now, so that it’s ready for you at noon when we can serve it,” but I suspect that Rebecca, our fabulous server that day, has been reading my blog entries.

I, of course, insisted that my friends have the Blueberry Mojito, but determined that I was under professional obligation (to you, dear reader) to test a new beverage—The RSC St. Germain Elderflower Cocktail. It is the winner of  the 2010 Park Cit Cocktail Contest and it’s a winner in my book, too.

The very prospect of a new drink prompted me to look at the menu in a new light, and indeed order something new—the RSC Fish and Chips. Made with Steelhead Trout, the team at RSC takes this pub standard to a new level.

Our server, Rebecca, (did I mention that she’s awesome?) insisted that we have dessert—and so, the mini ice cream sandwiches were ordered, and devoured.
As I licked the last of the decadent fudge dipping sauce off my spoon, I worried that I might have après lunch legs awaiting me for the afternoon. Turns out, that St. Germain cocktail offered a certain salvo for that particular ailment. I was, it turned out, refreshed and recharged.

We found some lovely powder (yep, there was still fresh stuff) and more than one “Woo hoo,” was heard from our crew.

Vacation Cooking for Locals (and others)

Sometimes, I feel like my life couldn’t feel any more like I’m on the most excellent working vacation ever. And then I find a way to enhance that feeling. To wit: On a recent day, I had to go to the mountain to fetch my broken-beyond-repair skis from Jans—and spend a few minutes researching the skis I should demo for my next purchase. I had Little Guy with me, which is code for: The conversation sounded absurd. “So, if I want an all-mountain ski—HEY LITTLE GUY, LEAVE THAT DISPLAY ALONE PLEASE—but something that will float nicely in powder, what do you think—GET OUT FROM INSIDE THAT HANGER ROUND.” Yeah, ever-so-productive and not at all frustrating, right?

Naturally, I aborted the mission and we headed back toward town and the rest of our errands. Only, I had one more stop to make—Deer Valley Plaza. Because I realized that it was closing in on dinner time, and I had many other errands to run. Sigh. So, I did what any self-respecting vacationing Mom would do. I stopped at the new Deer Valley Grocery and Deli (for old-timers, its in the space formerly occupied by the Stew Pot) to see what I could score in the way of take-out. And score I did: My family would feast that evening on not one but two different types of ready-to-bake pot pies. Chicken and Potato Leek. And while the Chicken Pot Pie was the bigger hit, in true Deer Valley form, neither disappointed.

What a treat to be able to pick up something that was, frankly, better than homemade. (I’m only a mediocre cook, I can make great soups, but my family are not the biggest soup fans. It’s quite the conundrum.) The crust was perfect—buttery-flaky. And the fillings were seasoned flawlessly. And, I was a big culinary hero just for putting some frozen food in the oven. (And the crowd goes wild….)

I’m a great fan of loading the slow cooker in the morning for a worry-free après ski dinner, but this could be my new go-to plan. It certainly requires less forethought. And much less chopping.

Also, Deer Valley Grocery~Cafe will remain open when the resort closes! You can now enjoy a Deer Valley to-go dinner all year!

“Spring” Skiing

These last few days have been a lot of fun. A mix of sun and snow that has made taking photos a pleasure. A few extra laps with the camera at work over the last couple of days has given up some amazing photo opportunities.
Here’s some photos fromthe recent 2 days. Smiles all around here!

Lose yourself in Ontario Bowl and Woods!

Every time my skiing takes me around Flagstaff and Empire Canyon, I always make a point, on my way back to Silver Lake and Snow Park, to ski Ontario Bowl or the adjacent woods. I find it a great alternative to the Ontario or Hidden Treasure runs that are widely used by all the other skiers. If I decide to ski the Bowl, I will rarely hike to its very top from the entrance gate located off the Ontario run, but rather catch the traverse found on skier’s right, at the top of Hidden Treasure. This access gives me all the choices I want while saving me both time and effort.

Like most skiers, I often traverse all the way to the main bowl that offers the most open terrain and then ski down to the bottom of the Ontario run before catching the Judge lift, or why not, riding again Quincy for some additional laps. There are however two notable alternatives to the main bowl and one of them is the expansive wooded area, called “DT’s trees”, that stands to the skier’s left and can be accessed from the beginning of the access traverse. This section, where the trees are gladed well enough to allow turns in most directions, is quite sheltered, keeps the snow fresh longer and offers an infinite array of runs that are never the same. The only trick is to maintain a diagonal direction so as not to “run of out trees,” something that can be easily mastered after just a few descents.

My favorite line however is located on the edge of the trees and on the ridge portion that separates the trees from the bowl. While this run may get bumpy at times (a price to pay for its popularity) it’s always fun and varied as its grade changes all along the way, keeping the itinerary interesting. It ends up by funneling into the trees and lands somewhere above the Quincy chair. So if you didn’t know the Ontario Bowl and its multiple options, make sure to keep them in mind on your way back from Flagstaff and Empire; soon you’ll consider it your “dessert” too, after a long and fun-packed ski day!

Spring Skiing Tips

As the weather starts to change and create spring skiing conditions, I thought I would throw out some spring skiing tips.

First and foremost, make sure you have plenty of sun block. I learned the hard way! When skiing at high altitudes, the sun is more intense especially when reflecting off the snow. It’s best to start skiing as early as possible before the sun is at its peak.
Absolutely sunglasses or goggles are just as important as the sun block. The spring sun and snow are more intense on your eyes.

Another perk to starting your day earlier is Corn Snow! As the temperatures become warmer the snow gets very soft and this can be difficult and tiring to ski. Corn Snow is what we call the conditions before the snow gets to a mashed potatoes type consistency. Corn Snow is almost as good as a powder day!

It’s not a bad idea to wax your skis too. Spring snow can be dirty and your skis will not glide as well as they should which makes unnecessary work for you. Be aware of your energy level on those warm bluebird days. Skiers tend to become tired quicker in the due to varying snow conditions.

As always, the cure to tired legs is a hot tub during après ski to get ready for the next day of sunshine!

We’ve had a few bluebird days so far, but with plenty of snow left and 7” last night, you may have a great sunny day with corn snow and the next day be out enjoying the powder again!!!

See you on the slopes.

Field Trip to Daly Chute #2

Another day, another Chute!

In fact, this time, I wanted to check the Cataract side at Daly and particularly Chute #7, but its access was closed for avalanche control.  Instead, I set my sight on Chute #2.  It grabbed my attention with its impressive, overgrown cornice. As usual, we had our little chit-chat:

Chute #2: I saw you flying by, probably intent on skiing the “X-Files…”

JF: Not really; I wanted to descent Chute #7, but it’s closed!

Chute #2: Have you seen that big, new cornice of mine?

JF: I’m impressed, can I jump it; what do you think?

Chute #2: If I were you, I’d practice a bit, before making a fool of myself…

JF: Nay; I think I can do it, I’ll launch, we’ll see!

Chute #2: Good luck, big shot!

The video is here to tell the whole story like it is..

Mahre Camp

The first week of February brought a palpable tension to my house. Ski Dad’s anxiety over his impending Three Day Mahre Ski Camp at Deer Valley was ever-present. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that a) Ski Dad’s work-day-to-ski-day ratio has been waaaay out of whack in the last few years. Whereas, I capitalize on any excuse to make turns, it seemed, increasingly, that Ski Dad found any excuse not to. And b) in our house, ski legends and twin brothers Phil and Steve Mahre have only one title that matters: Mel’s Uncles. Mel used to have a job title here—Babysitter Extraordinaire. And while that’s still an apt description of one of her many skill sets, she’s become our honorary daughter. We all take very good care of each other. So, in that spirit, Ski Dad pleaded with Mel (more than once) to reassure him that the uncles would not be too hard on him during the camp.

And where I bounced out the door in anticipation of beginning my three-day Women’s Ski Clinic the previous week, Ski Dad pushed himself out the door on that Friday morning. I had faith—not in the Mahres giving him any sort of special treatment, but in the system—both the Mahre Camp teaching system and that of the overall let’s-have-fun vibe in the Deer Valley Ski School. Still, I worried—just a little–that Ski Dad would not be able to let go and enjoy himself.

Turns out, even just a little bit of worry was, well, overkill. He called at lunchtime with a voice that packed 20 pounds of fun into a five-pound bag.  “Thank you for letting me do this! This is amazing! You can’t believe what I’m doing on the hill! These guys rock! Oh—I have to go! Thank you, Thank you, Thank You!”

Ok, I did not need the thanks—but that tone was all I needed to hear. Over the course of the weekend, he described the setup—50 skiers broken up into ability groups to ski with 16 of instructors trained in the specific discipline that is Mahre skiing. And either Phil or Steve spends half a day skiing with each group.

At the end of day one, Ski Dad said this: “I have been skiing for 30 years. I feel like today, I finally learned how to ski.”

At the end of day two, he said: “I am taking off next Friday to ski with you.” After he picked me up of the floor from a dead faint, he continued. “This camp is not for anyone who can’t check their ego at the door. Sheila (Ski Dad’s group coach) took apart my skiing, bit-by-bit, and put it back together. You have to be willing to do drills again and again, and trust that the outcome is going to be better skiing.”

On the morning of Day 3, Mel and her uncles and aunts joined us for breakfast at Snow Park—with Big Guy and Little Guy serving as the entertainment committee before we delivered them to their final day of ski school, and the adults split off into “Camp” mode. The mood was light, everyone was pumped for a great day—especially Ski Dad. 

At the end of the day, Ski Dad, settled into a corner of our living room couch with a well-earned beer, said this: “I may be sore from all the work I did, but skiing—for the first time in my life—was pain-free. Because, finally, I’m skiing with correct form and technique. Phil said it best—if you’re not skiing properly, in correct form, then you’re just taking your skis out for a ride—doing all the work while they have a fun day. The reality is, they want to take you out for a ride, so you can enjoy the day, and they can work.”

He went on to say that he finally realized why he’d skied less and less with each year we’ve lived in Park City. “When you are on vacation, skiing is just part of the fun you are having—so if it’s somehow painful, you grit your teeth and get through it, and then you go and do all the other fun stuff—eating, going shopping, walking on Main Street, whatever—and it’s worth the pain. But you can’t sustain that for more than five days a year.” And now, thanks to Mel’s Uncles, he doesn’t have to. 

P.S. Ski Dad is never without a camera. But the Mahre Camp was so intense, he found not one opportunity to take a photo of all the work they were doing on the hill. So I guess we’ll all have to take his word for it and sign up for one of the camps next year.  See you then!

A Valid Reason for Wearing a Helmet

It took me a long time before shedding my woolen ski hat and making a move to wearing a ski helmet. The reason for not wearing one earlier is a complicated personal story, woven in tradition, nostalgia and frankly, in not seeing a need for it.

 That’s right, in spite of skiing some 2,300 days so far in my existence, I never hit anything hard with my head, except for a tiny branch or the slope during an occasional, spontaneous and involuntary flip that had me landing on my head; all my other contact with hard stuff always took place elsewhere on the body… While I thought that wearing a ski-helmet might be a wise move, I was concerned about my peripheral vision, my ears being covered, not being able to hear my fellow chairlift passengers and also about some sense of claustrophobia or imprisonment, having my head in a “bucket.”

 That was until wearable video-cams came along. Last season, I began shooting ski videos in earnest and had no other mean at my disposal, but holding the camcorder in one hand while trying to ski. On easy “groomers” that was easy. On steeper slopes, it became more of a challenge and in bumps, well, I might as well have not done it. So, torn between my desire to shoot video while skiing and finding a steadier platform for attaching the camera, I had no other choice but contemplating the use of a helmet.

Sure, I had considered by-passing that protective headgear in using the straps that came packaged with my new video cam, but the attachment quality seemed somewhat flimsy, so I had no choice but settle on the steadier platform offered by a hard-shell. I purchased my helmet this early January, tried it on while skiing several times before installing my video-cam mounts and discovered several positive aspects about wearing it that I didn’t even thought even existed.

First and foremost, my new headgear is warm, especially if you are bold like me. If it’s too hot during spring skiing, it also offers an “air-conditioning” option that can be actuated by opening some vents on the top. Another nice advantage is that I’ll never have to look for my goggles again. They reside on the helmet, no matter what, even if on a sunny spring day I decide to wear my sunglasses instead. Then, there is the end of day bonus, when I’m done skiing, I grab the helmet, throw head-liner and gloves inside and there’s only one single item to be worry about, and oh yes, I almost forgot; my head is now much safer!

Safety. Safety. Safety.

A couple of days ago, I was reading an interview of actor Liam Neeson in Esquire Magazine. Whether or not you are an entertainment junkie like me (hey, I get paid for this addiction, so let’s not knock it!), if you are a skier, you know the sad fate of Neeson’s late wife Natasha Richardson, who suffered what appeared to be a mild concussion as a result of a fall on the bunny slope of a Canadian ski resort two years ago. Richardson left behind a loving family, including two young sons, who live every day with the understanding that her death may have been prevented if she had received immediate medical attention after the fall, rather than ignoring the advice of Ski Patrol and her instructor to do just that.

As a mother and a skier, Richardson’s death has weighed heavily upon me. By nature, I’m cautious. As a kid, I earned the slowest times on the race-course because my fear of crashing outstripped my desire to be a competitor. As an adult, I am hyper-aware of what’s going on around me on the hill—I regularly cede right of way in the name of safety, and I know if I’m ever the uphill skier headed for the makings of a crash with another skier, my best and only option in that moment is to fall down. I also know that if I do have a crash, I’m going to take seriously every shred of advice offered by the pros—from the Ski Patrol to any medical professionals I may encounter as a result.

 Nothing ruins a bluebird day like a preventable accident.

I know, I’ve talked mountain safety before, but I’m feeling like I need to do it again. Especially after the events that transpired Sunday. Also, we’re heading into a very busy period at Deer Valley, so I want to make sure that everyone has a great experience on the hill—and avoids the dreaded run….to the hospital.

I hit the slopes on a perfect day with two friends—both far more skilled and experienced skiers than myself (notice a recurring theme? I tend to push myself by skiing with excellence. My dad always said, “It’s hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys.”)

Anyway, we had the usual tumble-bumble of getting everyone packed off to ski school, and my girls and I hit the lift for our first run. We agreed that the place we wanted to spend our time was Deer Crest, given the beauty of the day, and with the hope that it would be less crowded than other parts of the mountain.  We opted to get over there by skiing Big Stick to Little Stick to the bottom of Deer Hollow. It’s a great run to warm up on, because it’s such varied terrain. Big Stick offers a couple of steep sections, and Little Stick and Deer Hollow give the skis and legs a chance to get in sync for carving.

 I’ll add here that we weren’t out to break any records or do anything nuts. It was to be a day of socializing, skiing, and I hoped to learn a little by osmosis. So as we began the run, we spaced ourselves out, so that we could make our warm-up turns at our own paces. I’m the most familiar with the mountain, so I took the lead. One of my friends, at the last drop before Big Stick intersects Roamer, pulled ahead of me. For some reason, I stopped for a second to check on the other. I found her splayed out on the hill; we shouted down to our other pal, and she popped her skis off and hoofed it back up the trail.  

A man was collecting her poles and asking, “Are you OK?” Although, I have to say, he was kind of barking at her—demanding that she be OK, and when she didn’t respond immediately (she couldn’t, she was catching her breath, getting her bearings and trying to decide), he snapped, “You could at least answer me!” The scary response from my friend (After she politely said, “please don’t yell at me,”) was:  “I don’t know.” She went on to say to the man: “I didn’t see you—how did you collide with me?” He couldn’t answer. She (and we) did the only sensible thing, which was to stay still and breathe deeply, and calmly, so that we could, together, ascertain whether she was fit to keep skiing. Luckily, we didn’t have to make that call ourselves. A passing skier stopped, and identified himself as an off-duty instructor from the Deer Valley Ski School. After our friend explained that her head hurt and she felt nauseated, the instructor called Ski Patrol. No sooner had he placed the request than a patroller skied along the trail and stopped to help. 

As the ski patroller took control, my friend explained that she was knocked down by the other skier. Although he seemed unwilling to take responsibility for causing the accident, there wasn’t much doubt he was the uphill skier, so in my mind, he bore the brunt of responsibility. And to his credit, he did the right thing by sticking around to talk to patrol.  Ultimately, the patrol member made sure to tell my friend that her well-being was more important to establish in this moment than fault—and after further examination in the First Aid House at Snow Park, my friend was transferred by ambulance to Park City Medical Center to have a CT scan, to determine the extent of the injury. Fortunately, she checked out fine—and sense of humor intact. When the attending physician handed her the radiology report, and said, “It’s good,” my pal cracked wise: “Not GREAT?! What about GREAT?!” “Um, it’s either good or bad,” the doc smiled. “We’ll take good,” I said, swiftly, as though there were some danger of the doctor changing the report.

As we drove back to the mountain to meet our families for lunch at Silver Lake, my friend said, repeatedly, “Thank God I was wearing that helmet!” I could not agree more.

So here’s my take-away from the “lost” ski day. I’d trade anything not to have seen the value of skiing in control (something my friends and I pride ourselves on) and the value of wearing a helmet firsthand. The only thing worse than a ski day wrecked by a trip to the ER is a ski day wrecked by a trip to the ER with worse results than we saw.

 All three of us agreed that taking EVERY necessary precaution to make sure that the injury was mild was worth the perceived inconvenience (or added drama) to the day—and when it was over, we all admitted to having had Richardson’s accident top-of-mind as the events unfolded.

 Please be safe out there. And if an accident should happen, remember, the Ski Patrol have no investment in having you take every precaution—other than seeing you safely back on skis, as soon as possible.