Heavy Lifting!

Last Saturday I went to shoot a video about a helicopter that was removing the old Deer Crest chairlift. This job is a necessary first step before receiving the slightly larger towers that are being built for the new Mountaineer Express chairlift on Little Baldy Mountain at Deer Valley. Before I even left home, I saw a strange helicopter flying by the Wasatch Mountains. A few moments later, I was picked up at Snow Park Lodge by Chuck English, Deer Valley Resort’s Director of Mountain Operations.

On the way up to the lift, Chuck explained that Dopplemayr, the company supplying lifts to Deer Valley, had orchestrated a complex and precise operation to remove the eighteen towers assemblies that constituted the Deer Crest chairlift and bring them down to the bottom of the lift in less than two hours. He further explained that the helicopter used for the operation was a very expensive piece of equipment, costing around $4,000 per hour of flight time. I knew a few things about choppers, but not much about the special machine that came that morning. That one was used for hauling timber, moving lift towers around or even fighting fires.

The aircraft in question was a 1998 K-1200 made by Kaman Aerospace Corporation, powered by a 1,500 hp engine and owned by Timberline Helicopters, Inc. of Sandpoint, Idaho. This company is specialized in ski lift, power lines and pipelines construction, as well as logging among other diversified activities. This model, also called K-Max has two main intermeshing rotors but no tail rotor. Its two rotors turn in opposite directions, with each rotor mast mounted on the helicopter in a slight angle relative to the other and in such a way that the blades intermesh without colliding.

This original design is what allows the helicopter to function without the need for a tail rotor. This configuration is referred to as a synchropter. Such helicopters offer both high stability and powerful lifting capability, further they are more efficient, have a natural tendency to hover and are excellent for precision work in placing suspended loads. They’re also more responsive to the pilot’s control inputs, making it possible to easily and precisely swing a very heavy load; in fact, this flying crane can lift more than it own weight – 6,000 lbs – and while it burns an average of 85 gallons of fuel per hour during lift operations like this one, it remains the most efficient lift-to-fuel ratio of any helicopter in its class.

Like on fixed-wing aircraft, the lift of the helicopter rotating wings is produced by its reaction with the surrounding air. The denser the air, the greater the reaction. As the aircraft climbs in altitude, the air becomes less dense, so the amount of lift is reduced. This is because the atmospheric pressure acting on a given volume of air is reduced, allowing the air molecules to move further apart. At some point in a climb, up into a high mountain environment for instance, the lift produced by the thinning air is only enough to maintain the altitude, but no longer enough to climb. This constitutes the absolute ceiling for the aircraft.

The air density is not just a function of altitude though; the atmospheric pressure plays a role too; if the pressure is lower, the air is not as dense. Same effect with the temperature; as warm air expands, the air molecules move further apart, creating lighter air, but the reverse is also true as cooler air will create denser air conditions. Finally moisture influences lift as well; as the water content of the air increases, the air becomes less dense, decreasing performance. Increased relative humidity also contributes to that loss of lift.

To illustrate these physical facts, the working crew that day was telling us that while performing a similar work at 11,000 feet elevation at nearby Snowbird, earlier in the week, the weather was so hot and humid that the helicopter had a challenging time carrying some of its loads. At times and when the parts allows it certain elements like the sheave assemblies must be removed from the cross arm that sits on top of a chairlift tower and be replaced later on. In terms of lifting performance, the K-Max cargo hook capacity is rated at 6,000 lb at sea level. At 10,000 feet it’s about 5,163 lb and at 15,000 feet it falls significantly to 4,313 lb.

At the end of August, when the towers will have been manufactured, the helicopter will return to replace the new infrastructure of what will be the new “Mountaineer Express” chairlift. I hope I’ll get to be invited again to shoot the scene and focus on the wonderful choreography between some heavy hardware, a team of skilled craftsmen and a wonderful flying machine…

 

Park Silly Market Serious Enjoyment

We came to Park Silly Sunday Open Air Market for the music – specifically the George T. Gregory band who were playing at the Main Stage.  I had read the promo in the Park Record -they combine some of my favorite genres with blues, pop jazz, and rock so we wanted to check them out.  As we headed down Main St toward the stage, we ran into a few silly people.


Let me ask you this-If you saw a grown woman wearing a curly bond wig, and sporting a plastic inner tube around her waist with a froggy on it, would you stop and wonder or stop and stare?  How about a man with a blue face on one side but normal looking on the other?  A guy in a wide brim purple hat with feather trim and a purple tie dyed shirt? Usually yes, but not at Park Silly Market.  The volunteers and coordinator enjoy not taking themselves too seriously so when I asked the inner tube sporting lady to pose for a picture and couldn’t quite get out of my mouth why, she simply said, “because I am silly?” Yes, wonderfully silly.

I noticed that even though some of the volunteers were dressed in silly ways, they were doing serious work.  One was focusing on open areas to add more booths for the farmer’s market and another was working the sound board for the band.  The silliness set a relaxed vibe for the rest of us to enjoy the open air market with booths full of local artisans and food vendors as well as the shops and restaurants up and down historic Main St.


We came for the music and ended up walking home with a fresh loaf of Tuscan sour dough bread, lots of locally grown organic veggies, a big bag of kettle corn (after shamelessly stuffing our faces with samples) and a pink fish shaped bubble maker with a battery powered fan for our two year old granddaughter’s upcoming visit. We’ll probably play with it ourselves a few times before she comes — just to be silly. Seriously.

Easy Breezy Summer Day

Some days you don’t feel like exerting yourself -no biking and no hiking.  You just want to chill, relax and have an easy -breezy day.  Last Saturday was one of those days. We had some friends visiting from California so the chairlift to Deer Valley’s Bald Mountain was just what the doctor ordered.Great views – aspens, pines, and mountain bikers below us.  Now you are talking!

As we approached the top of Bald Mountain, my friends innocently asked me which runs I ski.  Since they aren’t skiers, I could easily have said something like, “Oh Grizzly and Orient Express but my favorite on powder days is Mayflower Bowl.  I stay away from Morningstar when it is really cold because I just can’t catch my edges but otherwise it is an exhilarating run.”

All that would have been a completely fabricated — a bald faced lie so I didn’t do it but it would have been fun to see if they believed me.  Well, instead I looked at them and laughed saying, ” None! Are  you crazy?  See the black diamond?  Let me explain what that means.  That  means not Nancy.” (Well, not yet anyways). 


We walked over to Sultan Express lift to see views of the Jordanelle Reservoir and the Heber Valley from what felt like the top of the world. We could see the Uinta mountain range from there.  I pointed out the Blue Ledge run to my friend and we stood at the blind drop off edge to get a feel for what it would be like to fly over the ledge on skis.  We stood near the top of Thunderer run and looked down on a black diamond run but with our feet firmly planted on the ground.


Mountain bikers and hikers were unloading to make their trek down the mountain as we climbed back on the lift to ride down.  The view of Park City and the valley was breathtaking.  I pointed out Flagstaff Mountain where I do hang out on the single blue and green runs.

All this sitting on the chairlift and relaxing made us thirsty! 

We headed up to Stein Eriksen Lodge to lounge on their patio, drink local brews, visit and watch the wind blow through the aspens in an easy breezy way.

Slow lifts: Endangered Species?

Not so long ago, most ski lifts were slow. They provided us with a chance to catch up, regroup, think about our technique, rest our legs and even munch on a sandwich or a bar. They also gave us a chance to talk. Talk about anything: from views, to snow quality, to weather, good restaurants or cool equipment; the list could go on forever… In those days, even though chairlifts could be painfully slow, we got to the top without realizing we had spent fifteen solid minutes hanging up in the air.

We had to wait until 1981 to see the first ever, high speed detachable quad in the world, installed in the Rocky Mountains. Since then, that precious “chair-time” has been rapidly eroding; at the best American resorts, high-speed chairlift are becoming the norm. Next winter, what used to be the perfect illustration for today’s subject, the Deer Crest chairlift, will undergo a total metamorphosis and in the process, will shed its fixed grips, its slow, easy pace, for a brand new detachable design that will whisk skiers, in less than half the time taken previously, to the top of the Jordanelle Gondola. In the process, it will also get rechristened “Mountaineer Express.”

Back in February of 2010, I wrote a blog about chairlift stories, set back in a time where most chairlifts hanged to a fixed grip, moved up much more slowly and were the perfect place for telling, trading or making stories, as long as the company was receptive and the weather wasn’t extreme. Of course, things have changed a great deal with the spread of portable music players and the proliferation of smart phones. Now, a short life ride is all the time one needs for checking emails, tweeting or responding to a Facebook post. What I’m trying to say is that today, chairlifts have become more an opportunity to catch up on-line than striking a long and profound conversation. From that viewpoint, the demise of the slower lift might accompany the end of endless chat aloft. So much for long conversations or even for a quick lunch up in the air (Deer Valley restaurants are a much better culinary alternative anyway!)

And with the switch to faster ski-lifts what about our own, tired legs. I can think of many time when finally sitting down while riding up the mountain was a welcome relief! One might argue that nowadays skiers are much more fit and don’t generally look for the “rest” provided by a slow moving seat. I would add that with so many new spas available in and around Deer Valley, soothing options are today more easily available and have become so common-place that a tired pair of legs can soon be pampered and repaired into peak shape after a solid day of hard skiing.  On the flip side, one aspect no one will miss with detachable chairlifts is the “bump” in the back of our calves that could be common place if we didn’t pay attention or if the lift attendants weren’t so kind to be holding (or bumping) the chair for us.

This creature-of-comfort consideration also brings up my last argument: Today, with much faster ski-lifts, the same amount of skiing that used to take an entire day, can be compressed into half that time thanks to these express chairlifts and there’s now more time for enjoying all the extra resort activities that have sprouted in recent years. We all know that multitasking doesn’t work too well, so why not ski more intensely for fewer hours on these state-of-the-art lifts and use up the extra time for a longer and much more civilized lunch break, some early après-ski, a shopping spree, a spa session or for discovering snowmobiling or a hike in snowshoes?

So, well before the last slow chairlift is slated for demolition, Deer Valley Resort recognizes that some chairlifts should, for the time being, remain in the slow lane if you need to share very long stories or if you want to relax your legs for more than just six or eight minutes. I’m not talking about the few beginner lifts that are found on Wide West or the short connecting chairlifts that are spread all over the mountain, but bigger lifts like Mayflower or Red Cloud. They both run in parallel with a much faster chairlift and will also get you to the top, giving you much more time to catch your breath, enjoy the vistas and smell the snowflakes!

Of course, if that story has made you really nostalgic about slow chairlifts and you can’t wait until this winter to experience these slow, classic machines, now is the time to jump on any of Deer Valley’s express chairlifts when they’re running at low speed during the summer season to accommodate mountain bikers and pedestrians; that way you’ll be able to fully enjoy the ride, marvel at the scenery and trade some really good stories, but don’t delay, summer will soon be over!

Magic in the Air – Park City Fourth of July Parade

When the Quail Fire bathed Park City in smoke and ash on July 3rd and fireworks shows in Summit County were cancelled, I wondered if it would put a damper on the Park City Fourth of July Parade.  With news that the residents in Alpine were safe as firefighters contained the fire, and the smokey skies quickly cleared, it turns out that was not a problem!

We decided to take public transportation to the parade but as we waited at the bus stop, a rust colored Jeep carrying two ladies pulled up. Our neighbor and her friend offered us a ride and  it didn’t take us long to jump in the backseat. Now I can cross “riding in an open Jeep with the wind in my hair” off my bucket list!

Our ride dropped us off near the Miners Hospital in City Park (close to the BBQ) and the parade end. The parade route was packed even though we got there an hour and a half early. The shady spot we found on the grass was about four rows deep.  Walking up the street, I was excited to see parties on every porch and every  spot on the curb taken by eager onlookers waiting for the parade to start.  No worries about lack of participation this year. 

Who gets an F-16 fly over from Hill Air Force Base at their hometown parade? We did and the crowd went crazy.  The fly over signaled the start and before long we were enjoying marching bands, parade waves from classy cars, a parrot riding on the handle bars of an 1890′s bicycle, karate kids executing spin kicks, horse drawn wagons, mariachis, and float after float. We overheard people excitedly announcing the upcoming floats, “Hey there’s …. Deer Valley…. Skull Candy…. US Ski Team…. Park City Luge Team…Montage… Park Silly Market, etc”

After the parade, we headed to the BBQ at City Park, shared a table and ate pulled pork sandwiches and cole slaw while listening to the band. Someone from Frontier Bank inflated a beach ball and got the crowd going as the ball bounced from the dancers  back and forth to the picnickers providing additional entertainment for everyone.  I only observed one casualty – a lone beer spilled in the process.

Maybe it was the shared experience of the fire threat the day  before that set the tone but I noticed something different – everyone seemed  friendlier.  It could be that it was always that way but I was just paying more attention this year because I live here now.  I don’t know. I have to believe there something magical was in the air.

Think about this. Just when Park City needed it the most, it rained.  Did it rain on July 4th?  No.  After record setting consecutive days of no measurable precipitation, it rained on July 5th. It was just enough rain to perk up the grasses to give them their lush green color (hence the name Park City) and just  enough rain to ensure the Quail Fire was thoroughly doused and no longer posing a threat to our precious town and our neighbors on the other side of the mountain.

But did it rain on our parade?  No.  Of course not.

Magical, isn’t it?

Deer Valley Grocery and Cafe – Nature at Your Doorstep

When you live in Park City, you live right in the center of paradise.  To a mountain lover like me, Park City is the most beautiful place on earth.  So when I am inside working on a stretch of long days in my home office, I go a little stir crazy.  Last week was one of those weeks.  I didn’t see the light of day with what seemed like an endless stream of projects. At the end of four intense days, I asked my husband, Jay, to get me out of the house, even if it was just for a drive. Well, he had a better idea.  He drove me directly to the Deer Valley Grocery ~ Cafe for a relaxing dinner on the deck.
I’d had breakfast inside the cafe last winter and loved their strong coffee and hot oatmeal with what seems like a hundred condiments piled on top – brown sugar, sliced almonds, raisins, etc. but I had never been there for dinner so I took my time in ordering.  Jay immediately went for the made-to-order cheeseburger when he saw the grill outside on the deck.  I had much more of a challenge with the tapas menu.

Clayton, our waiter, explained they have about twenty different small plates -tapas- which they constantly rotate.  The six I had to choose from all sounded wonderful – there were chicken lettuce wraps, smoked duck empanadas, Brussels sprouts with bacon and shallots, short ribs, grilled asparagus, etc.  You can see my dilemma.  With some help from Clayton, I settled on the duck empanadas and added a Caesar salad.

We grabbed our silverware, two glasses of water, our little number, and headed out to the deck.  In the evenings, the entire deck is shaded so every table is a prime location. We chose a table in the corner overlooking the pond and adjacent to pots overflowing with flowers.  When we sat down, Jay looked at me and said, “I had no idea this place was so nice!”

We love historic Main St. but the cafe had a whole different vibe to it. Nature was at our doorstep. Fish were jumping, mallard ducks were swimming by, and egrets were on the shoreline stalking their evening meal.  We were informed the pond is often frequented by moose wandering in for an early evening swim, and osprey circle and dive for fish. 

To our delight, Clayton walked out with a tub of breadcrumbs and gave us quite the show as he dropped them one by one into the water.  We watched fish versus ducks in what I dubbed, “The Battle of the Breadcrumb.” The ducks were often the victors but the fish gave a valiant fight as the jumped on top of each other sometimes coming completely out of the water to get closer to their treats.

When our dinner arrived, we scrambled back to our table. A waitress brought out a tray of condiments that included local mustards.  She was kind enough to leave it for Jay so he could sample them to his heart’s desire. The empanadas were delicious and the salad was the kind of Caesar I like, which I can only describe as “Caesery.” Even though we were stuffed, we opted for the bread pudding with caramel sauce anyways.  We knew we couldn’t eat the whole thing so we took the rest home after eating a couple of delicious bites.

Sitting on the deck after a glass of wine and a delicious meal, I felt reconnected with the paradise I love.  With the fish jumping, ducks swimming, and a slight breeze kicking in, the deck started filling up with more patrons and Jay smiled as he overheard someone say, “I had no idea this place was so nice.”

 

 

 

The Deer Valley Grocery ~ Café is open daily from 7:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. and is located in the Deer Valley Plaza building at 1375 Deer Valley Drive, Park City, Utah.

For more information and a sample menu click here.

Park City Date Night

I got my first sunburn in Park City on a date night with my husband, the first Wednesday we lived here, in 2001. Yes, I said a sunburn, at night. It was my first glimpse that life at 7,500 feet was going to be even more of a change than I had expected.

By now, I’m a pro. So when I headed out for date night with Jeff last Saturday night to Royal Street Café’s table at Savor The Summit, I was prepared. To wit: in addition to a cute dress and lipgloss, I did a generous application of sunscreen, and made sure I had a cute hat for the occasion—thank you, gold, sparkly cowgirl chapeau—and big, glam shades.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Savor The Summit, you see, is a dinner party for the whole town. Restaurants set up long tables that span the length of Main Street, with a band rocking out at Miner’s Plaza, across from Cows.

And, because of the “mixer” style of the evening, there’s a chance you’ll get to spend time with new friends amidst the many familiar faces. Which is, I’m happy to report, exactly what happened to us. We not only enjoyed Deer Valley’s newest cocktails, Flower and Pine and Rosemary Radler, mixed and served by the resort’s award-winning mixologist, Bonnie Ulmer, but we got to indulge in some fun new preparations of Royal Street Café culinary faves—gazpacho shooters? Yes, please. Crawfish Bisque? But, of course. Ahi Tostada? Yummmm.

I’m proud to say, our table was an enthusiastic participant in the street-long “wave” that happened several times during the evening—and, because I’m competitive in all things, I made sure to give a friendly chide, via Tweet, to the adjacent table of Chimayo diners, whose “wave” was, to my expert eye, a bit, ahem, lackluster. We can’t all be awesome, though, can we?

Thrillingly, the evening has had many, wonderful, summery social aftershocks. I swiftly planned a walk with my friend Leslie Thatcher, KPCW’s news director, who’s still rehabbing her knee after surgery, and a “rookie” bike ride with Park City Magazine Editor Kristen Case—because, yes, eleven years in, I’m still a beginner. I’ll report back on the success of these and other summer adventures. For now, I’ll leave you with this very strong suggestion for your summer vacation planning: Save the date for Savor the Summit 2013.

A New Experience: Savor the Summit

“Try fifty two new things” was last year’s New Year’s resolution.  I chose it because I noticed that as people get older, they tend to get stuck in their ways and I didn’t want that to happen to me.

When Emily Summers, communications manager at Deer Valley Resort (and fellow blogger) invited me to “Savor the Summit”, I didn’t let her know that I had absolutely no idea what it was.  I just moved here less than a year ago and previously only came to Park City for the Fourth of July and a week in August so I never even knew about “Savor the Summit”.    

Even so, I immediately replied to Emily with a “Yes …plus guest” figuring it would be another new experience.  Also with the words “savor” and “summit” in the title as well as “Royal Street Cafe” being associated with the event, I figured the night would be something special.

I was not disappointed. When my husband, Jay, and I stepped on to Main Street, we saw what must have been the world’s largest dinner table with white linen table cloths, sparkling crystal glasses, and crisp folded napkins stretching from the top of Main Street as far down as I could see.  What a sight! When we made our way to the Royal St. Cafe table, Emily greeted us with a huge smile, introduced us all around and showed us our places.

Being a transplant from California, I pay close attention to the wine. I am not a wine snob by any means but I might be mistaken for one.  You see, I love the “nose” on a wine.  To sip a wine without swirling it and putting as much of my face as possible into the glass to breathe in the aroma seems like a waste to me. I’d be missing the best part!   You can see how someone observing me might think that I am some kind of wine expert but I am far from that.  I simply enjoy the olfactory experience. Before taking my first sip, I am sure to take my time and enjoy the bouquet the vintner has prepared.

Imagine my excitement when the Royal St. Cafe served a 2009 Etude Pinot Gris from the Carneros region in the Napa Valley.  It had a wonderful fruit filled nose and a crisp taste that went well with the seared tuna tostada.  No one at our table noticed me swirling and sniffing because they were all taking photos of the presentation of this first course and then, of course, tweeting the photos to their followers.

Our meal was only interrupted by two other things – the landing of a large butterfly on our centerpiece and a crowd wave which I assume was started by the Wasatch Brewery at the top of Main St.  Even though we were seated at an elegant meal, the wave seemed completely natural and our whole table participated enthusiastically.

After that, my attention was once again drawn the wine – a 2009 Greg Norman Estates Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia.  After enjoying my wine ritual, I was brought back to reality when the Niman Ranch Beef Filet with Cabernet reduction sauce, farmer’s market vegetables, foraged royal trumpet mushrooms, and crisp potato anna was served. I noticed there was music everywhere and the balconies up and down the street were full of people enjoying their own libations as well as observing the Grande Table from above.  

 

I don’t remember who gave me the idea a year ago to try fifty two new things but it was a good one.  That openness to new experiences and celebrating life put me in touch with my spirit of adventure.  I was open to my husband’s suggestion to moving to Park City and of course to attending a very special event like no other – Savor the Summit.