Trip of a Lifetime Winner: Deer Valley

Scott Dwyer was the winner of SKI Magazine’s Trip of a Lifetime Contest to Deer Valley Resort. While flying home following the trip he was able to reflect and so kindly shared his experience with us. Enjoy!

I’m here to say that dreams really do come true and, when those dreams include Deer Valley, there is a very fine line between fantasy and reality. At times, the delineation between the two is only separated by the smile on my face and the joy in my soul.

I suppose I could qualify as the quintessential reader of SKI Magazine and fan of Deer Valley: I typically read the magazine cover-to-cover, and, prior to my first visit to Deer Valley last year, considered reading the trail map to study the terrain and amenities a mandatory night time activity. Further, I was well aware that Deer Valley was awarded the top spot in the reader rankings for the fifth year in a row and knew the exact dates the SKI Magazine Deer Valley Trip of a Lifetime entries were open.  Like many I’m sure, I submitted an entry and forgot about it.

In late December, though, my fantasy turned into reality as my email inbox glowed with the subject line “Trip of a Lifetime Winner: Deer Valley”! It took several glances to confirm it as fact and me not delusional.

It didn’t take long to fall in love with Deer Valley during our first visit, but I suddenly knew that our second visit would be infinitely more special. Sure, my wife and I looked forward to sitting in Cushing’s Cabin while gazing out over the majestic snow-covered peaks again, but imagine our delight when we discovered our award included elegant accommodations, a loaded welcoming gift basket, lift tickets, and all meals highlighted with dinners at the Seafood Buffet and Mariposa! Yes, our second visit would be special!

While all of the resort amenities were nothing short of remarkable, the highlight of our trip was meeting a bunch of really nice people. These are not just ordinary people; these are a cadre of very special people that elevated a very nice trip to a magical experience and helped us turn the resort into “Our Deer Valley.” It is impossible to mention everyone that had an impact on our trip, but some highlights include: breakfast with Communications Manager Emily Summers, meeting other members of the marketing team that had a hand in making our trip happen (thanks Terry, Ed, and Coleen!), our Mariposa waiter Jon Good, a litany of on-the-mountain hosts and guides, and ski equipment storage representatives that handled all of our gear with warmth and a smile.

How do you say thank you for something like that? I suppose a vote towards the sixth straight number one ranking is a good place to start. That is kind of a given, though, and I wanted to do something more. You see, leading up to our first visit, I became so enamored with the 30th anniversary Deer Valley logo that I decided to paint it.

(Scott’s fantastic painting for Deer Valley’s 30 Year Anniversary)

This year, though, required something more unique, so I used the view from Cushing’s Cabin as inspiration and painted a fall scene using the Deer Valley logo and a large number one. I’m proud to say that both are now in the possession of the resort and, I hope, serve as just one reminder of how special this place makes people feel.

(Scott’s latest painting)

So, on the plane ride back to North Carolina with my wife by my side, I started typing…and thinking. My thoughts were dominated by the reality that our stay at Deer Valley was really an Experience of a Lifetime, a remarkable series of events that we will never forget. And, while our vacation did many things, it certainly made me wonder how quickly we could get back, hopefully sooner than later. Until that time, I’ll be filtering through my memories of a special place and thinking of what to paint next year. For that, I’m certainly open to suggestions.

Playdate on the Snow

There are things my friends who don’t live in Utah will never understand. Like how some parents willingly sign waivers for their children to learn to ski jump. Maybe you caught the viral video of a local fourth-grader who overcame her fears to conquer the K40 jump at Utah Olympic Park. She’s the daughter of a friend of mine, and I couldn’t have been more impressed with her courage. Fact is, she did it as part of a program that is designed for kids to try all the sports that the amazing facilities in Park City have to offer.

And, quite frankly, maybe the fact that these kids have resorts like Deer Valley to use as a playground is part of what puts them in the mindset to try the harder stuff.

To wit: my kids have skied since they were preschoolers. The equipment is as familiar to them as their street clothes. And, in fact, they often schedule playdates that occur on the slopes.

On a recent Wednesday, my friend Heather and I rallied our four year-olds (who required zero convincing) for a playdate at Deer Valley. We lucked into a great strategy, taking each other’s child as our ski partner. They each listened much better to the other parent when it came to pointers about technique.

And these three-foot wonders took on every obstacle Wide West had to offer, plus Success and then…the bottom of Little Kate.

If you read my Birthday post, you’ll recall that Seth was eager to tackle Little Kate that day. “Let’s do it!” He’d said to me.

I’d held back—not because he didn’t have the chops for a blue, but because I worried that another skier, crossing Rosebud from the top of Little Kate, might not see him making his turns.

Intellectually, I knew that he’d be even more excited to do it when I finally acquiesced. But emotionally, I felt badly for holding him back in that moment.

Of course, my fears were unbidden. We stuck to skier’s left, and the kids took the trail with aplomb. I’m not ready to sign off on the ski jumps, yet, but if he asks me in a few years, I may just have to say yes.

It’s My Deer Valley with Stephen Harty

We couldn’t wait to sneak down to the bakery and catch up with Silver Lake and Empire Pastry Chef, Stephen Harty. The man behind some of the wonderful desserts at the resort shares with us “His Deer Valley.”

When did you come to Deer Valley?

I started as a seasonal baker in the Snow Park Lodge in the 1995/1996 season (17 years and counting). I was a production baker working three 6 a.m. shifts, so I could get out skiing for two hours after my shift, and two 8am shifts. I had a young family so I had Tuesdays and Thursdays off to be Daddy daycare/preschool.

What does a perfect ski day mean to you?

Big POW and still snowing! I love those days when it just keeps on coming. I’ll admit I am a “crack of ten o’clock” skier so all day dumps suit me. The storms from the south that bring the biggest snow to the Sultan side of the resort are my favorite.

Where is your favorite place to eat at Deer Valley?

The Natural Buffet during lunch at all three lodges offer such a variety of unique salads, creative sides, as well as house made dressings and of course homemade breads, you can’t beat the great tastes. You do have to be creative in the way you stack your plate to get the value as well as the flavors.

What do you enjoy about baking?

The great thing about baking at Deer Valley Resort is that we do such a wide range; from artisan breads and baguettes, bulk production of cookie dough (huge amounts) and carrot cakes, small production of high end plated desserts (with all their sauces and garnishes), elaborate wedding cakes, and chocolate. I truly enjoy the variety. I enjoy the creativity and the science of baking, especially at the varying altitudes. I enjoy working with new flavors and products to keep Deer Valley baked goods at the fore front of trends. I enjoy mastering the classic recipes so we can put our own twist on them. And I really enjoy all the taste testing!

Your must have treat at Deer Valley?

17 years and 1000’s of batches of cookies and I still love the cookie dough! Plus all the chocolate that we serve.

What run is a must for every ski day?

Anything off-piste off the Sultan lift and Ontario bowl (I have some “secret stashes” in there that are good for days after a storm).

Who is your favorite person to ski with?

I have been riding chairlifts with my beautiful bride, Sandy, for 25 years. We celebrate together on our first ride up each year and I look forward to continuing for 25 more.

Can you share a recipe with us?

French Silk Pie
Yield: 1 Pies

5 oz Unsweetened Chocolate
8 oz Butter,Room Temperature
8 oz Brown Sugar
1 1/2 t  Vanilla
1 c  Pasteurized Eggs
1    10″ Brisee Shells,Pre-baked
-
Whipped cream,AS Needed
Chocolate Shavings,AS Needed
1.  Pre-bake 10″ brisee shells.  Let cool completely.
2.  Melt unsweetened chocolate over a double boiler.  Set aside.
3.  Cream butter until very soft.
4.  Add brown sugar and beat until very soft and fluffy.  Stopping to
occasionally scrape.
5.  Add vanilla extract.
6.  Add melted chocolate and mix until combined, scrapping occasionally.

7.  Add eggs VERY SLOWLY, about 1/4 cup at a time, incorporating well
after each addition.  Stopping to scrape occasionally.
8.  It will take awhile to add all of the eggs if you do it correctly.
**If you add the eggs too fast-the batter will be grainy and not light
and fluffy**
9.  When all the eggs are added divide into crusts.  Using an offset
spatula, spread to smooth out top.
10.Wrap and Chill.
11.  To Serve:  Finsh top with whipped cream pipped in a shell pattern
using medium star tip. and sprinkle with chocolate shavings.

Epic feast at the Seafood Buffet

One of the best reasons to do a specialty clinic at Deer Valley is not necessarily the top-flight ski instruction—although, that’s certainly a worthy selling point. It’s the chance that lightning will strike, and you’ll be placed in a group with interesting people you wouldn’t have otherwise met. And if you’re really, really lucky, they’ll become your friends. This certainly happened last year , when I met Stacey and Jackie and our talented, big-hearted instructor Letitia.

We’d all stayed in touch, and tried our best to plan a Women’s Weekend Redux—and we almost succeeded. Jackie had family commitments that kept her from the March weekend we’d chosen. Stacey and I, however, were in “game on” mode. Stacey’s pregame strategy consisted of quick witty emails to me that described her ski days (“found my mojo in Perseverance Bowl today!”) and accused me of leaving her in the dust after I completed the Mahre Training Center camp at Deer Valley in February.

My pregame strategy was entirely different: I invited Letitia, along with Stacey and her husband Steve, to join Jeffrey and me at Seafood Buffet on the Thursday evening before the Women’s Weekend began. I half-joked that I wanted to see to it that Letitia overate, so that she’d go easy on us in the morning. I had another thing coming.

Before we embarked on the epic feast, Letitia tried to prep us for the coming weekend. “You can’t expect the same magic we had last year in our group,” she said. “You can only hope for it. And you—” here, she turned to me—“you are probably going to land in a higher group than mine. I hear you’ve made more progress.” Stupid me, and my big mouth.

Stacey added, “I don’t want you to feel obligated to ski with me. I don’t want to hold you back.”

I tried to remind myself that I’d learned not to downplay my ability—but I really couldn’t imagine that the differences in my skiing would be that great. .

Instead of engaging in a debate, I suggested we embark on the team activity at hand—tackling the Seafood Buffet.

The great thing about this restaurant is the subtle sense of surprise.

First, whether you’re a rookie—and yes, we had what we termed a “Seafood Bufffet Virgin” at the table (Hi, Steve!)—or a veteran, you can’t help but be surprised by the abundance of choices and the quality of the food—both in taste and presentation.

Second, there are always some new items woven into the mix—on this evening, there was a runaway hit with an appetizer of a roasted tomato stuffed with warm goat cheese—and a hint of heat.

Third, no matter how hard you try to pace yourself, you will always, always surprise yourself with the quantity of food that you’re able to consume in an evening.

We chided each other over sushi—“Don’t fill up on the rice! You need to save valuable digestive real estate for the crab legs!”

Letitia uttered a maxim that is as true as the local’s rallying cry (“No friends on a powder day!”) when there’s a foot of fresh on the hill—“There’s no waiting,” she said. “When you’re ready for the next course, you go get it.”

Our Virgin was not disappointed. Neither were the rest of us.

Skiing the X-Files is just like Stand-Up Comedy

I’ve been fantasizing about skiing the X-Files since JF Lanvers posted a series of blogs (with video!) about this mysterious tree run in Empire Canyon. I knew it would be fun, if I could work up the nerve—I didn’t realize that skiing it would mark a major milestone in my life. Of course, it goes without saying the big-deal milestones of my life—marriage, motherhood—are beyond comparison. And I’m reasonably certain that I’ll be hard-pressed to compare even my best day on the slopes to those moments. (However, in the unlikely event that I am invited to compete in the Winter Olympic Games—Senior or otherwise—I reserve the right to revise that.). Still, it was something I’d long-fantasized about, and hoped I’d do someday.

In fact, skiing the X-Files was exactly—EXACTLY—as much fun as one of the most treasured moments in my professional career: The night I opened for Caroline Rhea at Caroline’s Comedy Club in New York City.

The back-story is that I was the assigning editor on a story that Caroline Rhea, one of the funniest people in America, did for a magazine where I worked. We spent a lot of hours together—and in that time, she decided I was funny, that the silly stories I told her about my life and my family were actual “bits,” and that the world needed to hear the comedy of Bari Nan Cohen. Oy vey. I balked for a half-second and then realized I had access to a unique opportunity.

So she helped me hone this material and, there I was—legs shaking with adrenaline and with a view from the stage of that freaky digital countdown clock that only the talent can see. 2:59, 2:58…breathe.

I was reminded of this experience on the last day of this year’s Women’s Weekend Specialty Clinic, which found me, by 10 a.m., hiking across the ridge above Daly Chutes, like I owned the place. (For the record, it’s wider than I thought, and has one of the most breathtaking 360 degree views I’ve ever seen—and not a clock in sight.) The hike made me grateful that I’d (mostly) kept up with my running habit this winter—I was only a little winded as we crested the highest point of the ridge. And, yes, I had a stellar mentor in my instructor Letitia, who’d sized up my skills and determined that X-Files needed ‘em.

Thus, we glided over to the entrance to X-Files. And as we found turn after turn, I was nearly overcome with emotion. (“Don’t cry—your goggles will fog,” I told myself.)  It’s beautiful and peaceful there. And eminently skiable—the trees aren’t nearly as tightly packed as they look from the “outside.”

As I completed turn after turn, I found myself drawing on all the preparation I’d unwittingly done for this moment, pulling a variety of tools from the skill sets Letitia and the other teachers had drilled into me over the course of three days. Side-slips turned into swooshes of snow pushed out of the way, wedge Christies became parallel turns. Just as the days leading up to my comedy debut were spent under Caroline Rhea’s careful tutelage on projection and timing, so that on performance night, I’d be good to go.

I can’t say with any certainty that either performance was “pretty” from a technical standpoint. I can, however, confirm, that both hold places of honor in the category I like to call, The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had Standing Up. And no, I’m not working blue right now.

But what I can tell you is this: In both instances, I didn’t really care how it looked. I was having so much fun, how it looked, well, it just didn’t matter. In both instances I had a great support system. In the club, I’d planted some key friends and colleagues in the audience. In the trees, I had Letitia, my pal Stacey and two other women who were just rockin’ ski companions. We cheered each other on, the same way my friends had laughed at my jokes louder than anyone else in the club.

The skills I brought into the X-Files—timing, correcting my form errors to prevent falling—even looking past the trees (for, if you look at the tree, you will most certainly ski into it) and reaching down the hill to make the turn—had their roots in those rehearsals with Caroline. You need to think fast when you’re onstage, you need to revise your bits to fit the audience, and you need to have good timing, you need all those things to be able to improvise. You need to look beyond the clock and read the audience. Caroline Rhea may not think of herself as a ski instructor, but I’m telling you, I would have had a lesser foundation for absorbing the lessons I’ve had on the hill, without the comedy coaching.

And, while the bragging rights to both things are cool, it’s not really (much) about that. There is a certain satisfaction that comes from knowing you have the tools to do something.

I’d like to say I didn’t continue past my one night in comedy because life got in the way. That could be true. But comedy requires singular focus, driving passion, and the ability to travel the country for low-paying gigs rife with hecklers in the hope you can eke out a living—and the very faint hope you’ll get famous doing it. As it happens, the night I did standup occurred during my last weeks in New York—my heart was already in Park City, we’d just closed on the house; Jeff was checking on things, scheduling the water softener installation; service on the furnace, making sure the lawn sprinklers were set properly, meeting the neighbors. And maybe if I hadn’t planned the move, I might have taken some improv and stand-up classes in the city, and given it a go on open mic night.

Instead, I followed my heart and my skis to Utah—and learned to ski the trees. Decently. I’m not stopping ‘til I’m awesome at it. And then, who knows?

So, if you were one of the hundred or so people in the world who got to witness my comedy debut, all I can say is: Come ski with me sometime. I’m a better skier than I am a comic. And if you weren’t—maybe I’ll dig up the video of my time on stage and show it to you.

Free ski check—free advice

For most of us, it’s the little things that make-or-break an experience. Deer Valley’s free ski check is one of those things.

There isn’t a bathroom break or mealtime when I don’t take advantage of the free, secure ski storage located at every lodge on the mountain. And, yes, I am one of those skiers who checks in my gear at the end of the first day of the season—and every day thereafter.

I like it for a few reasons. First, I am one of those people who can never remember where I parked my car—or which rack I used to stash my skis during lunch. Second, there’s no chance of me grabbing another skier’s similar gear by accident—or vice versa. The fact that it’s free makes it a no-brainer.

However, the system isn’t flawless. If you’re the sort of person who can’t remember where you put your keys (ahem), you may be prone to losing the little numbered tag. And I’m not sure which is more frustrating—being the person who arrives at ski check in the morning, having stored their gear overnight, only to have lost the tag, or being in the line of good, tag-wielding folks who have to wait while you fill out the paperwork and fail miserably at properly describing your ski by make, model and color. (This particular predicament is not limited to those with rental gear. My friend Steve forgot the pertinent details of his skis once, and I once described the color of my skis as yellow, when the rest of the world would see them as a light, bright green). So, yes, I’ve been both people in this scenario—and found them to be equally frustrating.

Lucky for you, I’ve learned a few things from these experiences. Here’s my quick list of tips for avoiding the dreaded lost tag:

  1. Use your smartphone to take a photo of your tag. The guys at ski-check suggested it to me—and it works. If you lose the tag, you’ll be able to show the photo to the attendants at ski check, so they can retrieve your skis. You will still have to fill out a form, but it will eradicate the sweat-it-out search-by-sight that will otherwise ensue. You’ll still have to fill out a form, but it will take seconds instead of minutes. I pull out my phone and open the camera app as soon as I hand off my skis and poles.
  2. If you’re checking multiple pairs of skis for your family, photograph them separately with your phone, and put the corresponding skier’s name in the caption
  3. Attach a carabineer to the ticket ring on your jacket or ski pants. I know it’s tempting to take that wristband-sized loop and, yes, wear it on your wrist. Resist the urge. The minute you take of a glove, or remove your jacket for lunch or a bathroom break, that long-forgotten “wristband” will fly off, unnoticed and lay, useless, on the floor. Use the carabineer to hold any tags you acquire over the course of the day—whether you are using the basket check in the basement of Snow Park or Silver Lake lodges, or simply checking your skis in at lunch. You’ll never be at a loss for the tag’s location.
  4.  If you own multiple ski outfits and alternate them regularly, pick a spot in your boot bag that always houses the carabineer at the end of the ski day. This seems like a very basic rule, but it’s one that will save you a lot of headaches.

Got any other great tips for absent-minded folks like me? Leave them in the comments.

Deer Valley Tops the “Bucket List”

Climb a volcano. Get the other guy elected. Perfect your chili recipe. Learn to play the oboe. Visit New Zealand. What do all these activities have in common?  They are written on someone’s “bucket list.” In case you don’t know, a bucket list is a list of things you’d like to experience before you die or “kick the bucket.” (Check out bucketlist.org) This list is much different than a list of New Year’s resolutions which are simply meant to be broken – a bucket list is put together with a fair amount of contemplation and meant to be both fun and meaningful.

Sometimes plans, even bucket list plans, are meant to be changed. Ron and El DeSimoni from Kinnelon, New Jersey wrote a bucket list a few years ago to ski a different resort “out west” each year.  They’d skied in Vermont their whole lives and once they got a taste of the snow out west, they wanted more. They skied in California, then Colorado and Montana – every year brought with it a new adventure.  Well that WAS their plan until they came to Deer Valley last year, then they ditched their plan and came back.

That is when I met them.  Though they were veteran skiers, they decided to take a refresher lesson to work on turn control and were paired up with me for a Max Four lesson.  From them I learned more about my home resort than I learned anywhere else – I discovered I had stumbled onto a gem. I wanted to know why they weren’t headed off to a different resort next year.  Why change the bucket list? Here is what I found out:

What is so special about Deer Valley to you?

“The mountain is beautiful and there is lots of terrain here.  We like to explore the whole mountain and not stay in one place.  At Deer Valley, the runs are well taken care of – all skiable.

The mountain hosts are helpful.  One of them suggested the Lady Morgan lift – “there is a wonderful green run there, Pearl, and the views are amazing.”  We headed out there and loved every minute of it.”

What was your favorite run?

“I’d have to say the blue runs on Flagstaff Mountain – Hawkeye and Little Boulder.  They are challenging enough for us as well as nice and wide.  All the runs on Flagstaff are great for us.”

Biggest surprise on the slopes?

“The parking lot was full but there were no lift lines.  You never even noticed it on the mountain either – we always felt comfortable (even though it was a busy weekend.)

We also never felt lost.  A mountain guide was always there to guide us.  They acted like they really wanted us back. It’s great having that service. The whole experience was wonderful.”

Biggest surprise off the slopes?

“They really bent over backwards where we stayed to make it wonderful. I can’t say enough about the Silver Baron Lodge.  They gave us a fabulous room – no problem.  Shuttle service – no problem. They did everything for us. We were well taken care of.”

Guess what?  They are booking at Deer Valley for a third straight year. Hope to see you on the mountain next year Ron and El!

Katie learns just how much fun spring skiing can be on Day #3

So truth be told, I love to complain. If it were a sport in the Olympics, I would hands down take the gold, silver and bronze. So although I’ve said that I hated skiing before and I’m starting to like it now, doesn’t mean that I didn’t have my fair share of complaints during this whole experience. I won’t lie and say it wasn’t cold, and that falling didn’t hurt, or even that it was an easy experience that I fell in love with instantly. But I will tell you that it was something that I have zero regrets doing and that I may not be a diehard skier now, but through this experience I have grown to be more patient, more confident, and willing to put effort into it even though I’m not that great. It’s easy to love something that you are good at, but much more difficult to find fun in something that you’ve sworn to loathe.

After my first and second lesson, I was pleased with my progress and thankful for the chance to learn a new skill, but I really had zero intentions of ever going again (this is where my excellent complaining skills came into play). And then I was informed that I got one more lesson! I was excited, but also really nervous because I was probably going to have to really ski, like actual runs, with actual potential to eat it hard core. So while heading up the canyon I told myself that it was fun and I loved it and I would live. Cue complaining, again.

And then I got my stuff and we were off, just to the beginners slope at first but Eddy assured me that we would hit the actual slopes today in his perky-I-love-skiing-more-then-life- sort of way that he does best. The first run down I was shaking and not loving it, and then all of the sudden it hit. I felt that I was OK and that I could survive the full lesson and then real skiing began.
We went to some of the runs where it was super sunny, and created a whole new type of snow that I was not used to. Snow that’s a little slushy is clearly my kind of snow. It makes turning a bit more difficult but helps keep your speed in check, no complaint with that. Not to mention the sun! It was so beautiful and made the resort look so much different in such a breathtaking way. We made it over to Deer Crest and Eddy could easily sense my change of mood and knew that this sort of skiing was Katie Fredrickson sort of skiing. We went down our first run which was an easy blue, and I felt good about it. Then we did the same run again, and again, and again. It got to the point where I could relax and enjoy the run, instead of focusing on what my feet were doing.

Then Eddy told me that I was ready for a harder run and that it was not much different at all. Looking at this run was very frightening. I looked at Eddy and said, “Alright crazy, what run are we really going to do?” After about five minutes of me standing there and Eddy reassuring me about a million times that I was more than capable to handle this run, we set off. Turns out, I could handle that run, and had fun all the way to the bottom. When we reached the bottom Eddy started laughing and I asked him what was so funny, assuming I looked like a spazz. His reply was, “Look at you, actually skiing and you are smiling. First time I’ve ever seen that smile!” No joke this was when I knew that I would come back and ski on my own sometime.

Eventually we met up with Deer Valley blogger JF Lanvers and he asked me how I was doing. My answer was, “fantastic, we are skiing and looking legit!” And his response is probably the greatest thing that I have ever heard. Imagine his French accent and his smiley face saying, “Well why else would we ski but to look cool?” LOVE IT! We got some good runs in, I did fall (which was so kindly edited out of JF’s video), but if you don’t fall, you’re not trying.

This experience was the only thing that would ever have made me enjoy skiing. I’ve even have plans to go within the next week. I never thought I would actually have plans to go skiing. Thanks to everyone at Deer Valley, especially Eddy, you all made me like skiing and build the skills so that I can learn to love it.

Ski Lessons Day Two: The Hockey Stop

Deer Valley is renowned for having world class instructors. After my Max Four ski lessons, I now know why.  After two days of lessons, I was able to execute smooth parallel turns on the wide runs and make short tighter turns on the steeper runs.  Friday morning, I’d never even done a blue run and by Sunday, I’d skied seven.  Even better, the unexpected happened.  I learned the hockey stop.  Can you believe it?  I can’t!

I first took notice of the hockey stop when my husband and I were in the crowd at the base of the Freestyle International World Cup Ski Event at Deer Valley in February.  These incredible athletes flew in the air, twisting and turning only to land on their skis and immediately execute a hockey stop spraying the crowd with snow dust as they did so.

When my instructor, Mark, asked us if we knew the hockey stop, my lesson buddies and I excitedly said, “No but we want to!”  Mark, I am sure, was planning on teaching this powerful tool for safety’s sake since learning to stop on a dime not only builds confidence but prevents injury.  For me, it was all about the “cool factor.”

You see, I have three grown sons (ages 22, 24 and 29) who are all good skiers and snowboarders.  We all skied together this past Christmas and they were nice enough to do one run with their mother but were bored and subsequently ditched me (of course they all showed up suddenly around lunch time since I had the credit card.)   I can’t blame them because I was terribly slow and no fun to ski with since I didn’t know what I was doing.

The hockey stop is a life changer for me.  I have a plan for the next time we ski together: ski straight toward the three of them; slight jump turn, then rooster tail spray them from head to toe.  Then when they look at me in shock, I will say, “What?” with a shrug.  That is my plan and my instructor, Mark is making that happen for me.

We started on a green run to practice.  He gave me the basics – little jump, turn on edges, face forward.  We all did a pretty good job.  Ok now pick a point in the distance so your upper body doesn’t move – little jump, turn on both edges, keep your poles behind you.  We all did it on the practice run and then we were off to the blue runs where the rubber hit the road.

I walked away from my lessons with a new sense of self.  If you watch closely, you’ll see my head held just a touch higher with the inner knowledge that I am now “a skier” with a plan.

Best of Both Worlds: Spring Break and Deer Valley!

When I’m asked about my favorite time of the ski season, I seldom give a straight answer; instead, I like to walk the inquirer through the different months of winter and explain what I like most about each one of them. It generally goes something like that:

November is not really a ski month for me. First and foremost, it’s Thanksgiving, and the weeks before the Holiday, I slowly get used to the idea that a new snow season is upon us.

December, is when skiing begins in earnest, and is time for me to re-enter the world of snow and skiing, both mentally and physically.  It’s a gate that opens up on a new season.

January means a traditionally cold and snowy weather plus a hint of Hollywood flavor as the month ends with the Sundance Film Festival.

February is always a very busy month; from the time the Freestyle World Cup begins, it never lets up. It is the heart of winter with people, events and tons of snow. Plenty to keep my adrenaline pumping…

April is always the frosting on the cake and connotes memories of spring skiing as well as surprising powder days, but it’s a truncated month that closes another ski season and try to usher spring, as we know it, in the Rocky Mountains.

This leaves me with March – my all around favorite – because it incorporates the very best there is about winter. This is always the month when snow depth is at its highest, when bright daylight returns, when the sun finally packs all of its tanning power up and when it’s possible to ski with less gear and feel an incredible sense of lightness. It’s also the right time to trade goggles for sunglasses, regular gloves for lightweight spring ones, thick padded parkas and pants for windbreakers and t-shirts. 

The snow always display its full variety; it all begins with perfectly crafted “morning-corduroy,” produced by a team of groomers who had all winter long to hone their skills and deliver the most sophisticated arabesques on some tantalizing runs. It continues later in the day with great spring snow that gives skiers license to venture to places they ordinary would never set ski on. All this festival of light and visual art only seems to be there to be interrupted by a surprise snow storm that reset back the clock several months to recreate perfect powder conditions, bottomless snow and “face-shots” galore! 

Once the storm is over, the sun return with even more potency and it is time – once more – to fully appreciate and indulge the “Beach” at Silver Lake and pretend this few hours of harsh winter never happened. It’s time also for switching from hot spicy cider and gluhwein to light beer and tropical cocktails. 

March at Deer Valley Resort has to be the real reason why spring breaks were invented in the first place, and for that reason alone, it should be a crime to spend them anywhere else. If you’re like me and March is your ski month, celebrate it by spending a well-deserved spring break with us. Besides there’s no better place to enjoy March Madness while cheering for our favorite teams following a long and exhilarating day on the slopes with family and friends!