Isn’t it amazing how one good storm can change the mountain?

Due to Mother Nature’s sleepiness this year I hadn’t attempted to ski any of our off-piste areas. Some of you might be saying, “Deer Valley off-piste?” But believe me; Deer Valley has a variety of skiing for all skier types.

One of my favorite stories is many years ago, before we even had Empire Canyon, Daly Chutes and Lady Morgan. A group of my guy friends were planning on skiing somewhere other than Deer Valley because we were in the middle of a big storm. I offered to ski with them at Deer Valley and show them around the powder, but they insisted we didn’t have enough.

Well the next day, they agreed to meet me. They still were full of skepticism thinking the “powder day”  was wasted. Well, I’ll put it this way, by 1 p.m. they were crying “Uncle” and needed to stop. We didn’t ski a single designated trail. Of course all in bounds, we just stuck to the all bowls and trees.

We started in Mayflower Bowl for a few runs then crossed into Perseverance Bowl. We got to the top of Sultan Express and dropped over into Ruins of Pompeii on down into the trees that lead you back to Perseverance. As we grabbed the lift again and rested, I lead them down to the top of Triangle Trees right were Tycoon and Reward split. They were having the time of their lives. Once we got in the heart of Triangle of Trees you heard the “powder day cheers” coming from all, we hit Rattler, grabbed Wasatch Express chairlift to make our way into Sunset Glades then Ontario Bowl. Even though we had been skiing over 2 hours they couldn’t get over the lines still untouched in Ontario Bowl.

After a few laps in Ontario they asked for lunch and promised they would never say that they could “out ski” Deer Valley again.

Fast forward a few years, we now have Empire Canyon with the Daly Chutes and Lady Morgan. It’s quite the work out to hit all areas I’ve mentioned on one powder day. It can be done but the legs might fumble at the end. People ask me how big Deer Valley is, I say “you can’t ski it all in a day”.

Also, I like to showcase Deer Valley’s varied terrain to dispel the myths of us being only intermediate. One run that makes me gather my thoughts before I enter is Challenger (Daly Chutes). No matter the abundance of snow Challenger is just that, challenging. It is very narrow at the entry. I’m not sure two skiers could enter at the same time. Once completed you look back up, out of breath and realize the steepness and narrowness you just navigated. Quite Exhilarating!

If you still don’t believe me, now that I have described some of our black diamond skiing; then come check it out for yourself and maybe I can help. But don’t get caught off guard either, our groomers like Tycoon, Reward, Keno, Magnet and Legal Tender keep you challenged too.  Some much to ski but so little time. See you on the slopes.

World Cup FEVER

I’ve got World Cup Fever. I’ll tell you that right now. Sundance has not even ended yet, and I’m already counting the minutes until the 2012 VISA Freestyle International. The party starts February 1 with a concert on Main Street, featuring Robert Randolph and the Family Band. I’m especially psyched because this year is the 10th anniversary of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, and the concert will also include a special anniversary celebration. If, like me, you were a volunteer during the games—or just an avid spectator, dressed head-to-toe in Roots garb, wear your 2002 gear to the party on Main Street; prizes will be awarded for creative Olympic spirit.

I will be there in my official SLOC blue vest, blue jacket and black Olympic fleece. My kids were born after the Games, so I am eager to share some of that excitement with them. Sure, they’ve seen photos of Mommy and Daddy volunteering, and heard the stories, but having them see some of the Olympic stuff in action will be really fun.

And, yes, I’m letting them stay up late to attend the concert…and some of the events on the snow later in the week. There’s nothing like watching a freestyle event under the lights, cheering for the “home team.” And so much the better when the home team lives and trains in our town! So—are you coming? What are you looking forward to attending during the World Cup competitions? Any suggestions for ways I can stand out in the crowd in my Olympic garb?

Skiing doesn’t have to be difficult!

If you still believe that skiing is hard to learn, long to master and also expensive, there is a way to change this misconception. During the month of January, Ski Mountains around the country, including Deer Valley Resort, offer a learn-to-ski program specially targeted to those who never had a chance to pick up the sport during their early years or when they couldn’t quite afford it.

I wish I had been able to learn skiing by taking some easier way and didn’t have to struggle as much as I did when I first encountered the sport. At that time, even though I lived in the Alps, there was no convenient and affordable program available for school-age kids like me and my modest beginnings on snow were placed under the banner of “teach yourself to ski,” with a wooden pair of skis handcrafted by my own dad, including a set of basic bear trap bindings with non-releasable cable clasps.

As for the conveniently located “beginner slope” next to the family house, it offered no lift of any kind to carry us to the top of a hill that consisted of a short and fairly steep slope, cut into the forest that surrounded a fairly large meadow. That ski run, a trench into the trees, was crowned with a makeshift jump. That’s right, it was almost as if I was expected to jump before I could even learn how to ski, but that’s how it was in these days. Then, the line between modern alpine skiing and Nordic remained still a bit blurred and jumping continued to be considered as being part of the total ski experience.

I don’t even remember exactly what I did, but I must have somehow practiced sliding on the snow and perfected a semblance of “hockey stop” before I dared to launch off that crude jumping hill. That’s right; I could descent and stop by making one single right-hand turn at the bottom of the hill (I’m a lefty…) In addition to my forays into catching big air off that jump, I also had to participate in some cross-country races which I hated with a passion, as my crude wooden skis and their bare bases could not perform nearly as well as the real cross-country skis owned by my most fortunate school mates.

So that’s how things began for me. Later, I remember working as a lift attendant during the school holidays. This entitled me to a free ski pass and that’s how I seriously learned how to ski – never with formal lessons – but through simple observation, imitation and sheer mileage. I wish I could have had access to some formal type of instruction, but it never came until the time I decided to become a ski instructor. Only then, did my technique get “corrected” and my terrible skiing “habits” unbent by some high ranking and very dogmatic “ski professors.”

Just a few days ago, as I was shooting a video about Katie Fredrickson taking her very first steps on skis, I was amazed by the evolution of the ski equipment now made available to beginners and by the markedly improved teaching methods that can, in just a couple of hours, turn a non-skier into someone able to evolve independently on snow and enjoy the thrills of sliding down some pretty long runs…

January is almost over, but it’s not too late for seizing the opportunity of learning how to ski in the very best environment and under the guidance of the most conscientious and talented ski instructors in America. If you or someone you know has been putting off that first day on skis forever, now might be the time to make that life-changing move. Just learn more about that great program and register yourself or your friends to the Learn-to-ski program at the Deer Valley Ski School. You’ll be glad you did it and your friends will thank you for it!

Attempt at skiing, #2!

I woke up this time and felt so much more at ease for the upcoming ski adventure. I knew that I could at least wedge down the mountain if absolutely necessary, but that Eddy probably would be rather disappointed (and that is something that I couldn’t handle).

After I went through the process of getting all my equipment I met up with Eddy on the beginners slope and felt even more at ease with the situation. However, unlike my first day I was not ready for the cold. I realize that you can’t always have a beautiful sunny day, but from my personal experience, I can say without a doubt that if you don’t like being cold and you are trying to learn to ski, you won’t have a great experience. Eddy gave my some hand warmers to put in my gloves and we made our way to the lifts.

The first couple of runs we took just went very slow and reviewed all that we had learned at a slow pace. I cannot say enough how great Eddy is! He was trying to cheer me up because I was frustrated at how I wasn’t doing as well as before and not to mention that I had turned into the abominable snowman. As great as he is, cheering me up was not happening and I was losing my excitement quick. Eddy then suggested we take a break and warm up inside, which I was more than happy to do. We then met up with JF Lanvers in the lodge who was very excited and couldn’t wait to see how much more progress I had made. Eddy delicately explained it was too cold to get as good while showing me puppy pictures to bring my smile back. I think that the most important thing that Eddy taught me in this lesson was that you can’t be hard on yourself and you need to be patient (whether that is with your progress or with the sun).

We decided that it was time to give it another chance because the sun had come out and I was on a cute-puppy-picture high and now was as good of a time to try as any. We started with our run and the difference between that run and the previous runs was unbelievable! I was for sure not as good as I had been towards the end of the first lesson, but I was much, much, MUCH better than before. My mood instantly got better and I was ready to go. (Again mad props to Eddy for being able to read me and know how to best ensure I had a good day!)

After a few runs on the bunny hill Eddy decided that it was time for an actual run. My heart just about stopped and I was less than enthused to fall down a very large and much longer hill. Eddy promised me that he would never endanger me by putting me on a run that he didn’t know I could handle. Eddy is a very optimistic person clearly, because I for sure felt like that was something that I could not accomplish. But he had never steered me wrong so I needed to trust him and everything he had taught me…

Fast forward to the top of the run which was called Success, which Eddy promised was super easy and just a longer version of the bunny hill.

At the top of the run I snapped this pic to both A) show the world my mastery of the sport B) lie to the world and say I skied skillfully down the run.

We started down the run and I cannot believe what happened. I destroyed it (In a good way!). I did so well and I felt that excitement of skiing and accomplishing something. I did fall twice, on two flat parts because I was spazzing out and looking directly down which you should not do! Eddy told me half way through that he had a secret that he would tell me when we finished, which I knew was something I was either or that the run was maybe not the easiest of the beginner runs. I flew down the rest of the mountain (still a bit of a ski hazard so if you ever see a fully purple ski suit looking a little nervous and in the way, it’s me and I will apologize now if you run into me, I’m sure it’ll be great meeting you like that.)

At the end I felt so accomplished and was so happy to be able to say that I skied my first run and lived to tell the tail. I was so proud of myself and I know that Eddy was really proud of me as well. He then proceeded to tell me that I had just skied the hardest beginner’s hill and “killed” it. Eddy is very sneaky and totally tricked me into realize that I’m good enough for even the more difficult beginner runs.

Long story, very short; Had a really hard morning, decided I hated skiing, hung out with Eddy and listened to him and finally skied down an actual run. Decided that I like skiing and I have a lot of potential to be good at it.

As always, a special thank you to JF Lanvers for catching my lessons on video and showing everything I cannot describe in words.

Dinner at The Mariposa

Each mountain range has its summits and among them, there’s always a towering giant that dwarfs the rest of the peaks.  The same is true for great mountain dining. Without a doubt, if Rocky Mountain Dining were like a formidable chain of mountains, The Mariposa at Deer Valley Resort would be its Mt. Everest….

Dining at The Mariposa doesn’t take the courage or skills required for a seasoned mountain expedition though. It’s conveniently located at Silver Lake Lodge, mid-mountain, but the short winding road that leads to its door guarantees both a quick and easy access from the valley below. Inside, a rustic, yet very elegant decor, along with an attentive and expert staff, greets the diners.

Last Friday night, my wife and I made the trip up to this pinnacle of fine dining and both had a wonderful time. Our table was tucked into a quiet corner near the fireplace and still provided us with a full view of the restaurant’s beautiful dining room.

We began by sharing a new appetizer, the Fruits de Mer, which consisted of a selection of ahi, crab, scallop and oysters that all blended beautifully and were the perfect prelude for preparing our taste buds for the delights that would follow.

We then sampled the Burrata salad with fresh basil and cherry heirloom tomatoes, along with some fresh mozzarella and baby arugula, all seasoned with a delightful olive oil and balsamic dressing that was fresh, light and delicately savory.

For the main course, we couldn’t resist the appeal of the Seared Bison Filets that were seasoned with foie gras, cipollini onions, St. André cheese and accompanied by a wonderful gratin as well as a marvelous wine sauce. This beautifully lean meat was fabulously cooked and was nothing short of exquisite. This was the crowning moment of the evening, the very top of this culinary Everest!

For wine, we picked an Alexana Pinot Noir, from Oregon, which we found light, yet bursting with fine tannins, a “finish” that never ceased and that proved perfectly balanced for the menu we had composed.

To prepare us for our descent, we selected the special Deer Valley cheesecake and the flan, accompanied with macarons and amaretto crème anglaise. They both were delectable and completed a wonderful evening that, we felt, took us even higher than Mt. Everest, right up to Cloud Nine!

Reservations can be made by calling 435-645-6632, between 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

If you live in Utah, you should be Skiing!

Did you know January is National Learn to Ski & Snowboard month? Do you know what this means? A lot of good deals! There are 32 states that participate across the country in this program. Here at Deer Valley, from January 17-31 we are offering a Learn to ski package: 25% off lodging, adult rentals and two Max 4 lessons. Why not come visit Utah during this time and take advantage of the great deals offered during learn to ski month. On January 28 we are also offering a day for Utah locals. If you’re a never ever or spent some time away from the sport, come visit Deer Valley. For $39, the program includes a ticket, rental equipment and a lesson! Reservations can be made by calling 888-754-8477 or 435-645-6648 and mention “Ski Utah Learn to Ski Program.”

I think this is such a great program for the sport of skiing. Do you realize we live in a state with the best skiing terrain and The Greatest Snow on Earth ® and ONLY 20-25% of Utahans ski? Come up to the mountains and get into the clean, fresh air. Take advantage of these programs and you’ll be hooked. It’s always a good idea to take a lesson especially if you’re a never ever skier instead of adventuring out with a friend. You’ll be taken care of, reassured and protected. It’s normal to be a bit fearful but you’ll be in good company with our professional instructors. (Take a look at Katie’s progress here). If you’re not skiing you’re missing the best part of living here in Utah. I can understand its cold or looks extreme but remember the technology of ski clothing is so more sophisticated and the pictures/videos you see in ads and movies aren’t where the Instructors will take you, I promise.

If you’re a social person grab some friends and take a group lesson. If you’re shy, take a private lesson with no pressure from other skiers. I suggest picking a nice day to be introduced/re-introduce to the sport. Reward yourself! Take a few runs, grab a cookie and rest. Make it fun. Start slow and build your confidence. Taking advantage of these programs will allow you to enjoy your day instead of feeling you must stay outside all day to get your “money’s worth.”

Baby steps before big steps. Athletic stance and a fun attitude is all you need to start. Have fun and see you on the slopes.

 

Behind the Scenes with Ski Patrol

Deer Valley patrollers all look the same. That’s what we hear, anyway. We understand. With our chiseled, All-American looks, not to mention our identical red-and-black uniforms, it can be hard to distinguish one patroller from the other, or tell how many of us there are on the mountain.   

It’s the question I’ve received most often: “How many of you are working today?” Followed by: “What the heck do you guys do all day?” 

Here are the numbers: 

Roughly 40 full-time patrollers at Deer Valley

17 of them are rookies

20-30 others are part-time or on-call

25-30 patrollers are on-duty on any given day

3-7 patrollers are assigned to each of the resort’s six patrol shacks 

Together, patrol represents a varied lot, ranging from former tree-trimmers who hail from Minnesota, to former real estate developers who lived in Florida, to paramedics, firefighters, physicians’ assistants, and journalists-on-hiatus (ahem).   

We’ve proven, however, a truly cohesive unit, one united by the drive to maintain Deer Valley Ski Patrol’s reputation as one of the elite patrols in North America. More on that in a future post.  

Our day starts with morning meeting at 8 a.m. Picture roll call from any police procedural, and you get the idea – albeit without the Formica desks or crusty sergeants. 

For about half-an-hour, we review major events from the previous day, the ski-trail grooming plan, any projects that need attention (such as opening or closing trails), and the weather forecast. If there’s time, we do a practice assessment: one patroller plays a patient, the other the first-responder – think of it as early-morning amateur theater, replete with a peanut gallery. Then we head to our assigned mountains for opening runs.   

Each patroller is tasked with skiing several particular trails during openers. The main purpose is to ensure each run is safe to open to the public, a task which includes surveying the snow conditions, making sure bamboo and rope lines are firmly planted in the snow, and checking that pads are still in place on lift towers, trail signs, snow guns, and other obstacles. Opening runs are also when we plant our slow signs.  

The rest of the day then proceeds much you might expect: responding to skier-wrecks, installing or removing bamboo and rope lines, performing speed control, training, and otherwise skiing around. The end of the day approaches at 3 p.m., when Empire Patrol begins its sweeps, closing that portion of the mountain and funneling skiers back toward the Silver Lake and Snow Park lodges.

 Sweeps are staggered across each mountain. And in addition to ensuring that no guests are left on any runs, we also prepare the trails for Deer Valley’s overnight workers: the snowmakers and snowcat operators. We remove the slow signs we installed that morning and pull back rope lines to allow the snowcats to groom the trails. If all goes according to plan, we’re off the slopes by 5:15 p.m., just as the cats are rumbling from their garage off Ontario run.

The day flies by. With six mountain peaks as our office, how could it not? Next up: more on responding to skier wrecks, the divide between “wreck” and “project” patrollers, and The Wheel of Misfortune. 

Any questions? Shoot an email to alneuhauser@gmail.com.

Sun! Snow! Tourists!

It’s January in Park City!

Sun! Snow! Tourists!

It’s my first year on Deer Valley Ski Patrol, and I’m here to see it all. Eight weeks ago, I resigned my full-time job as an editor with Patch Media in New Jersey, and accepted a position with patrol – a job I’ve wanted to do since my first trip to the slopes as a 6-year-old. It meant leaving family and friends more than 2,000 miles behind, and moving to a town where I didn’t know a single soul. What’s more, by pure coincidence (I think, anyway), this season has so far proven one of Utah’s driest on record, with December experiencing its lowest level of snowfall in recorded history.

This rookie season on patrol, however, could hardly be better. Heck, I’m beaming even as I write this blog post. Joining DVSP marked one of the biggest transitions of my life. But from the DVSP team, to the resort’s leadership, to the guests, these past eight weeks have proven some of the most fun and fulfilling I’ve ever experienced.

This blog will record the life of a rookie patroller with DVSP. Previously, it was penned by Matt DeWaard, a long-time patroller, former hill captain, and great photographer who left a big pair of ski boots to fill. Over the course of the next four months, I’ll bring you photos, videos, and insight into the day-to-day life of a first-year patroller. Send thoughts, questions and suggestions to alneuhauser@gmail.com. You can also learn a little about my own background by visiting www.alanneuhauser.com.

Below, here are photos of patrol from early in the season. Far, far more to come soon!

So I Guess Snow has a Purpose…

Hating no feeling in my toes, not wanting to look like a total spazz and hating snow were all major causes of me hating skiing… and winter. However, I must confess that even though I had never tried skiing, it sure sounded like something that I would hate. Then finally after 21 years of being completely adamant about not skiing, I was given enough grief that I thought I’d give it a try. Living in Utah which has The Greatest Snow on Earth®, being only 20 minutes away from the best ski resort in the country and being given this opportunity, I’d be crazy to not at least try, right?

Fast forward to the actual morning of my first lesson and the decision seemed a whole lot less great then I had previously assumed. While driving up the canyon I couldn’t help but assume the worst; that I’d be awful, everyone would see me fall on my face, that my instructor would give up and say I was a lost cause, etc. But now, I can say with certainty, that if you’re going to learn to ski (when you suffer from over thinking like I do) the only place to do it is Deer Valley. When I reached the resort I looked around and was truly blown away. Not only by the people in epic snow gear, but also how beautiful the snow was, how cozy and warm the lodge was and how everyone was in this insanely cheerful-happy-to-be-alive mood. Needless to say, I was in love with the environment and ready to pack up and move there. But in all seriousness, even just being around people who love to ski that much was infectious and a lot of my nervousness went away just by being there.

I went to the ski rental shop and got my boots, skis, poles, and the name of my own private instructor (feeling pretty legit at this point). And then I looked outside and it all became very real: the bunny hill in all its glory. I walked out and was instantly greeted by a very smiley man in a very green ski outfit who pointed me in the direction of my instructor Eddy. Eddy, from Michigan, who was so nice and made me feel sure that I was in good hands. Eddy told me that I was lucky to learn from him because he knew all the secrets and was going to make me a pro in no time. “I’m going to show you that you already know all the things you need to ski, but you just didn’t know you knew it.” Sounded good enough to me because the easier the better and a lower chance that I would look lame.

We went inside first and did some very basic things like walking and standing which I’m already good at, so my self-confidence was soaring pretty high. Eddy reassured me that being on skis would be just as easy if I just gave it a chance and listened to what he had to say. After I was feeling like I could take on just about any run, I actually got on to a pair of skis and felt a whole lot less confident. Eddy taught me the basics of getting in and out of skis, walking, turning (a lot harder than one would think) and finally how to move enough to get to the chairlift. As odd as it sounds, the chairlift was the thing that I was most worried about. After Eddy reassured me about seven times that it really wasn’t that bad we pushed our way up and got on the chairlift. It was truly that simple, which is a very obvious statement, but really not bad at all and probably the silliest fear ever.

After we got of the lift with no problems, because Eddy is a chairlift master (or it’s just super easy to get off a chairlift) we made our way to my very first attempt at skiing down a mountain. Eddy turned around and skied backwards while teaching me the ‘wedge’ technique which is how you stop. We went down the hill three times just practicing the wedge and learning how to stop which was probably the most important thing I learned. As Eddy put it,” The two things that you should have learned by the end of the lesson are: how to get control and how to keep it.” I truly could not have had a better experience learning how to ski. Eddy and all of the staff were so nice and so patient that I felt completely at ease to take things as slow as I needed and that made all the difference. By the end of the half day lesson I was parallel skiing down the mountain with no problem! It truly seemed like a miracle but I was assured that it actually happens all the time which is neat but made me feel less like a natural skier pro extraordinaire.

After a fantastic BLT from the Deer Valley Grocery ~Cafe and repeatedly boasting to my sister that “I killed it” and was “practically the next Lindsey Vonn” I realized that skiing was something that I could learn to actually like. I’m not going to lie and say it wasn’t hard but I would say that it was way more fun than it was effort. I can’t wait for my next lesson so that I can get even better and feel even more comfortable skiing.

JF Lanvers caught up with me during my lesson and captured the whole thing on video.