The Prescription for Happiness- The Montage Day Pass

What do you do when you are completely frazzled or just plain worn out?  I was in that state myself a few weeks ago because in the span of a three week period, I had two separate weeks of grueling meetings in LA and a total of seven days of company here at home in between.  Visitors warm the soul but can wear you out at the same time. The prescription to clear up my condition was a “be good to Nancy day.”

A “be good to yourself day” is just as it sounds.  Here are the parameters:

Do whatever you want when you want to.
Eat whatever you want.
Rules are suspended for the day.
No clocks or watches – be in ‘real’ time.
No checking email.
No appointments unless it falls under “do whatever you want.”
Nurture yourself in whatever form that takes.
Let everything else simply wait because it will all be there later.

The first thing that came to my mind for my “be good” day was the Montage Spa.  My girlfriends were out of town or working so I was on my own. When I inquired about a day pass, there came a welcome surprise.  Guess what? Two crisp twenty dollar bills opened the door to the wellness center for classes, the gym, both indoors and outdoors pools and the “Art of Spa” in the ladies lounge area -this had to be best value in Park City.  I was in.

My prescription for happiness was:

The indoor pool. The mosaic tiles reminded me of the beautiful pool at Hearst Castle, and I had been dying to swim at Montage since I first laid eyes on it. I ended up swimming for half an hour when the plan was just to take a dip.

Nap on the lounge chair.  The outdoor deck with the amazing view was another option but this was an indoor day.

The Art of Spa: Steam room, followed by a cold Vichy shower, then the sauna, whirlpool, and relaxation on comfy lounge chair.

Ladies lounge and meditation room:  Wrapped in the soft silky robe, I was greeted with a glowing fire in the fireplace.  I chose an overstuffed chair in the corner, made a cup of earl grey tea and while it steeped, I grabbed a bite of dried fruit and a fig bar to nibble on.  Pulling a cozy fuzzy blanket over me, I sunk into the chair, read and simply enjoyed the quiet.

What is not to like about this day?  I think I will have to change the name to “be great to Nancy day.”  My prescription for happiness has been filled.

Has yours?

Gearing Up

Just like skiing, mountain biking is a wonderful sport that can be fraught with frustration if not started the right way. The problem is that, if we can ride a bicycle, we generally assume that we already know everything about the technique and the equipment, and don’t need any lessons. While this seems logical, mountain-biking is a totally different universe, because there is highly specialized equipment just for it, plenty of gravity going up and down, uneven terrain, and most often than not a narrow, single-track involved!

These differences are the key reasons for considering professional help that can take a rank beginner into a smart mountain-bike rider. Things like learning the basics of using the brakes the proper way, understanding the “platform” concept, knowing about correct body placement and feeling comfortable with obstacles and single-track riding. These elements where probably not part of the curriculum used by your mom or dad when you learned how to ride your first bike!

This said there are countless reasons for getting into mountain biking; most folks get into the sport either by accident, special circumstances, like a visit to Deer Valley Resort, or just because they want to try something new. There are also many ways to get started. First, there’s the gentle one, which consists of beginning on asphalt bike-paths, staying on flat terrain and progressively tackling the more challenging trails. Then, there’s the “full-immersion” program that takes rank-beginners into the heart of the matter, with guts and gusto, straight up into the mountain. These forms of entry points often match certain age groups too. Middle-age people will gravitate towards the former, while teenagers and young adults may pedal more assertively into the sport and enjoy a faster learning curve.

Going at mountain biking progressively is probably a good idea for middle-age and older individuals. These riders can be a bit apprehensive and often don’t have as much time available for the sport. They can transition naturally from their regular biking experience into some slightly heavier equipment in which familiarity with the proper use of gears, brakes and terrain requires some time to be learned. After practicing these skills for a while on bike path or gravel road, they’ll be ready to explore more complex terrain and get familiar with uphill climbs, descents and single-track trails.

If the riders aren’t quite ready for taking that step, either because they are just afraid or don’t have the stamina the activity requires, they might be better off switching to a lighter, cross-country mountain bike design that can be used either on gentler terrain and on wider trails covered with asphalt, gravel or dirt. Before they do, however, it might still be an excellent idea to take a few more lessons. On the other hand, if riders get comfortable on single trails and their ups and downs, improvements will largely be a function of time, mileage and increased level of difficulty. It is at this stage that a good combination of lift-assisted biking and practicing on blue runs can provide this key ingredient that’s so important in mountain-biking: Experience!

If the riders are young, energetic and fearless, they can literally take the plunge either by mean of lift-assisted, downhill biking or ease into single-track cross-country riding. As mentioned earlier, the participant’s age plays a crucial role. Teenagers and young adults can learn with buddies and thanks to a combination of grit, good balance, athletic abilities, peer pressure and lots of practice; they will learn the rudiment of the sport and improve quite rapidly.

Again, for all of these groups, the best way to get started is by taking lessons as there is a technique to be learned and this can save a lot of grief to the newcomer. Without lessons, these skills must be acquired the hard way and this can translate into a much longer process. In fact, unless the rider can get out 20 or 30 times each season, like some of the locals do, the morale of a successful mountain biking experience is to take lessons from the start, stick to practicing and getting out as often as possible.

Now, don’t delay, take that first step into mountain biking before the season is over!

‘Dust in the Wind’

Actually, there wasn’t any wind the night Kansas played with the Utah Symphony. There was, however, perfect, custom-ordered Park City weather. Yes, it had rained off-and-on all day, but the late afternoon cloud-cover, with just a hint of sun peeking through, provided lovely light (and very low UV index) for the first half of the evening.

Taking in the sunset while some classic ‘70s and ‘80s tunes rolled over the hills felt like the icing on the cake of luck. (Just wait, “Cake of Luck” is going to sweep the interwebs. You’re welcome.)

Add to that a Deer Valley gourmet picnic basket, and it was, in fact, a turn-key, perfect date night. (I’ll leave out the part where Jeff had an unfortunate mishap with our crummy beach chairs—now crummy beach chair garbage—that left his fingers pinched.)

I had the odd discovery that Kansas formed its band the year I was born—and I wasn’t entirely sure how I was supposed to feel about that. Does that make me old? Them? Frankly, I didn’t want to think that hard. I did, of course, feel grateful for the well-researched Program the Utah Symphony publishes. I’ve always enjoyed the band’s hits—and wasn’t so familiar with the rest of their catalog. But, in truth, it didn’t matter. They played their hearts out for us—and the Symphony’s “warm up” set list was delightful, playful and, yes, gorgeously performed. (Indeed, Star Trek was involved. And, no, I did not wish to be beamed anywhere.)

You know how dedicated skiers are fond of saying, “There’s no such thing as a bad day on the mountain?” I think that should be extended to evenings, too. Yes, I’ve sat through a rainy night at the Symphony in the Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater—but I’ve never once regretted it. Did I mention the perfect weather? And, I felt just guilty enough that I saved the beautiful desserts to take home for the boys.

Trail Ride through Deer Valley with the Horse Whisperer

What I love most about living in Park City is that everyone wants to visit, especially our adult children.  I don’t even have to guilt trip them about visiting their mom! They come willingly because there is so much to do. When our son, Brian, age 24, came last week, we decided after days filled with hiking, fishing, target practice, and a new adventure called “rifle golf” ( that’s another story) we decided to go on horseback trail ride at Deer Valley.

I grabbed my “Cowgirl Up” ball cap, threw on my jeans and my cowgirl shirt before heading out. We found Boulder Mountain Ranch tucked away by Stein Eriksen Lodge in a bend on the mine road.  We chose a two hour ride and were fit with horses based on our ability.  A few instructions and we were off.

The experience of riding a 1000 lb. animal on a trail is very different than the boots on the ground experience of hiking.  Obviously you are higher up, with an added six feet or so and you cover more than twice as much ground, but it’s more than that. The horse itself brings with him a whole new perspective.

If you listened closely to our guide, Dennis, and got into the mind of the horse, you not only had an easier time on the trail but a much more interesting one as well. Our group headed past “the beach” at Silver Lake Lodge and ducked into an aspen grove as we took the Sultan Out and Back trail.  This was when I realized that Dennis wasn’t just a guide but kind of a “horse whisperer.”  When he gave us our trail ride tips, he came from a place of understanding, compassion and respect for the animals so you realized you were on a special creature and not just on a ride.

Here are a couple examples of his direction and the depth behind it:

Stay close and follow the horse in front of you.  I know this is an obvious tip if you are on a trail ride.  But Dennis explained the horse’s nature as a pack animal; it is natural for them to follow each other.  For animals that live in packs, there is safety in numbers.  When they are out in the lead or on their own, they have a heightened sense of danger resulting in skittishness.  But when they are following, they relax and then calm is the result. It’s easier for them and, of course, for you.

Don’t let them eat.  Dennis made a strong point in telling us well before we hit the meadow that the horses will see this as “the buffet” and will go into “all you can eat” mode.  We watched for them to take their first bite so we could nip it in the bud with a quick yank on the halter and kick with our heels.  When we showed them right away we wouldn’t let them get away with it, they stopped trying.  It worked!

He went on to say that for thousands of years horses lived a nomadic lifestyle and never knew when their next meal would be.  They are “programmed” to eat when possible even if they aren’t hungry since their next meal could be days away.  Understanding their nature made it easier for us to discipline them – we knew they were well fed, and they also weren’t trying anything out of the ordinary.  We all enjoyed our rides much more without them putting their heads down to eat all the time.  Instead, they were paying attention to the trail so we could also.

As we stopped for a view of the Jordanelle Reservoir and the Uinta Mountain range, I was also getting to know, Ben, my horse. His favorite place to ride was with his nose right next to the flank of the lead horse.  I think if he could have sat in that horse’s lap, he would have. Talk about a follower!  But when my husband’s horse, Uno, tried to do that to him, Ben would have none of it.  He stamped his feet and aggressively swished his tail in Uno’s face to let him know to stay back.  I guess this is a case of “do as I say and not as I do.”

When we got to the end, we got to make a steep decline to get to the stable and Ben wanted to continue his flank attachment style of following.  In other words, he wanted to go double in a single lane. So I decided to “cowgirl up” and use what I’d learned from our horse whisperer guide, and actually said out loud, “I don’t think so Ben.  Just hold up a sec and give us some room here, my friend.”  The words were superfluous but the quick yank back worked and he immediately backed off so I could enjoy the last few moments of my ride down the switchbacks into the stable.

Dennis warned us that our legs might be a bit wobbly when we dismounted.  Mine were.  Two hours was the perfect ride for us — not too short and not too long. Overall it was “mission accomplished” for a great outing with our son because he wants to come back and do it again.  That’s all a mom can ask.

Note – For information on Boulder Mountain Ranch trail rides or to make a reservation, see their website bouldermountainranch.com.  You can call (866) 783-5819 or email them at bouldermountainranch@allwest.net.

Summer Adventure Camp

We have had an incredibly busy schedule—keeping up with our kids’ schedules this summer. Park City is an embarrassment of riches in many areas, and kids’ summer camps are no exception.

Lance attended two separate weeks of camp at the Utah Olympic Park (UOP)—he tried what amounted to about a kajillion sports, including ski jumping into the Splash Pool, and—wait for it—luge. Gulp.

Also on the Menu O’ Fun this summer: skateboard camp, karate camps, and the delightfully injury-risk-free tie-dye camp and art camp. And, of course, they made time in their hectic schedules of fun, fun and more fun, to attend a couple of days at Deer Valley’s Summer Adventure Camp.

This is not to say the summer has been without challenges. At UOP, Lance had to face his fears before jumping into the pool—and we had to do some fleet-footed parenting work to get him to even try. But he did—and whether he ever takes up freestyle skiing in earnest is of no consequence. What he learned from the process of learning was invaluable.

Deer Valley Summer Adventure Camp was a great learning experience, too. For one thing, the kids got to go to the Utah Museum of Natural History on a field trip. It’s a beautifully designed facility, and every exhibit has interactive elements for visitors of all ages. The next day was “Silly Sloppy Science,” which found the kids using recycled material to build boats, making glop, and lots of other silly, science-y things.

And while there were lots of obvious learning experiences to be had in those days, we all learned a few nice life lessons in the balance. For instance, because the first day the kids attended camp was a field-trip day, there was a lot of hustle-and-bustle, and not a lot of get-to-know-you time. It was something I hadn’t considered when I signed them up—and something I’ll take into account in the future. Both boys greeted me with relief when I picked them up, and spent much of the evening telling us why they had not had fun at camp. Both asked if they had to go the next day.

“Yes,” I told them. “You are going to give this camp a second chance. You’ve never had a bad day at Deer Valley, and everyone’s entitled to a bad day.”

When we arrived at camp, the counselors seemed genuinely happy to see my boys, which was reassuring. Still, I took the opportunity to share the kids’ reports from the previous day. My goal was to give constructive feedback, and offer context that might be helpful to the counselors. It appeared to be received that way. Still, I mentioned it to the desk staff on my way out. Impressively, the woman I spoke with asked specific questions about what the kids hadn’t liked, what I’d found disappointing—and took notes. They also told me they appreciated my honest, constructive feedback. This thrilled me. My measure of good service isn’t a trouble-free experience, but how the team handles the situation once it’s been brought to light. By the time I left, I felt confident the kids would have a better day. The proof was in the pudding—we showed up early and had to bribe them away from the fabulous time they were having. Thank goodness for the frozen yogurt at Deer Valley, Etc.

‘Scaring off the Bears’- A Mom’s Hiking Survival Guide

Sometimes, you don’t know how much you don’t know … until your child asks you a question. Who’s with me? Can I get an A-Mom? (Yes, you may groan at my bad joke.)

Thankfully, the question Lance posed on a chairlift this summer (“How did the ski trails get their names?”) wasn’t the type to send me into Parent Panic Mode. And it’s not just because a good parent knows which friends are in her corner to help (though, truthfully, that’s a big, big part of my “not panic mode”.) Yes, I knew if I asked my friend Emily, she’d be able to answer the question, but I didn’t realize that she’d turn it into a fun mother-son bonding adventure, custom-built for Lance and me. That’s because I never realized that Deer Valley offers private, guided hikes all summer long.

Enter Howard. He’s been skiing in Park City since before the secret got out about, well, the awesomeness that is Park City skiing. He’s worked at Deer Valley as a mountain host for another whole bunch of years. Which is alarming when you consider that he’s only 25. I kid—he’s not 25. I won’t reveal his age, but as we learned on our hike, he’s already outlived many of the miners, who died young because of the nature of their work, and the quality of health care that was available to people in the 19th century. In Howard’s case—like that of many local residents—it’s easy to stay young and healthy if you work above ground and exercise as part of your job—or lifestyle, or both.

Now, I’ve hiked the Silver Lake trail more times than I can count. But never have I hiked it in such a well-guided, well-informed manner. Howard met us and presented options. We chose a chair lift ride up Sterling Express for a three-mile downhill that would have us crisscrossing some of our favorite ski runs. Like Homeward Bound and Ontario.

Lance’s questions—and some neither of us thought to ask—were answered in earnest by a charming, friendly, Howard. He pointed out the 360° views (including Heber City, the Jordanelle Reservoir, and the sweep that includes Park City and beyond to Wyoming from the top of Bald Mountain). We got to peek at the reservoir used to hold (and recycle) water for snowmaking. And…we found out that all the trails were named for mine claims. Well, all but a few—but I’ll leave it to you to guess which ones.

One of my favorite stories is about the Ontario Mine, which you can see from lots of different vantage points on the mountain. It’s particularly easy to view from, say, Viking chairlift on the way to Stein Eriksen Lodge. The original owners of the mine were, in fact, Canadian. Then, George Hearst purchased it. His son, William Randolph Hearst, ran it for a time, but wasn’t keen on mining—and he wound up taking over his father’s newspaper in California, the San Francisco Examiner. Fun fact: I worked for Hearst Publishing for a time—as the Entertainment Editor at Good Housekeeping Magazine. And I never realized that Park City and I had Hearst connections in common.

Of course, as with any family activity, there were parenting lessons to be had. Mind you, this was not our first hike together—and not our first “long” hike this year. Part of the third grade curriculum in Park City is a hiking and camping unit (yes, they clear out the desks from the classroom and hang out in tents for a few weeks), culminating in a hike at Red Butte Gardens in Salt Lake City (incidentally, it’s a great day-trip from Deer Valley). But at one point, a small hissy fit ensued, about three quarters of the way down Ontario.

“I can’t go another step! My feet won’t take me!” Poor kid was about to crumble.

I was about to give him a “dig deep” speech, worthy of the Olympics, when Howard announced we were within half a mile of the finish. Lance perked up, and we began to pick up our pace. A few minutes later, Lance offered this.

“You know, all that fuss before?” he began. “That wasn’t real. That was just a bunch of noise I was making to scare off bears.”

And, the belly laughs ensued.

Keep reading for Lance’s version of the hike…

I expected this hike to have fewer flies.

That’s the first thing I thought of as we started out on the trail at the top of Bald Mountain.

Seriously. BALD. Except for some flies.

Our guide, Howard, suggested that if we started moving, maybe the flies wouldn’t buzz. Or at least bother me less.

Howard was trying to tell me some interesting facts about the trail names, but I was more distracted by the flies.

My mom tried to distract me with snacks. She always has snacks. Once, she pulled a 2-foot long Laffy Taffy out of her tiny little pocketbook. But that’s a whole other story.

Along the trail, we found some animal habitats. We took guesses about whether they were many entrances to one animal’s home or lots of different animals’ homes, including a mansion for animals or a ski hut.

Howard filled me in on a lot of the different trail names. They are named after mine claims. I learned that naming a mine claim is the way that miners (a loooooooong time ago) let other people know it belonged to them.

My favorite trail name is Success—because the miners named it after what they hoped would happen to them when they searched for silver.

Did you know that Ontario is named because the miners who claimed it were Canadian, eh?

Howard showed us the Ontario Mine, which was the last running mine in Park City, and you can see it from lots of different places on the mountain at Deer Valley.

He also showed us pictures of the miners. They looked old—but Howard said they looked that way because they worked hard in dirt, dust and bad conditions. Back then, people didn’t live to be very old at all, but they definitely looked old in the picture.

Howard suggested that we go to the Park City Museum, because there is a big “Wall O’ Mine Claims” (I don’t think that’s the real name for it!) — it’s a map of town that shows all the names of every claim that existed.

I think that’s a really good idea. I went there on a field trip with school in second grade, and I really want to go back so I can learn more about the mines.

If you are thinking about hiking at Deer Valley, I think you should ask if Howard can be your guide–he’s very nice, and he knows a lot. And if you see me skiing with my family this winter, you can stop me and ask me questions about the mines and the trail names, and I’ll tell you what I remember!

A Long and Winding Trail Into Mountain Biking

Our first experience with mountain biking can be traced back more than a quarter of century ago, when we moved from New York to Park City, Utah. Then, Deer Valley Resort was just 4 years old and there wasn’t any lift-served mountain biking available; in fact, mountain biking had barely been invented. This period of the early 80s was only the dawn of that great sport and just a select few began to get excited about it.

I remember that for the summer of 1987, my wife and I bought two Scott mountain bikes, with fat tires, 24 speed and zero-suspension. We tested them on the asphalt a few times, but used them mostly to take a weekly trip to Old Town Park City and while I may have tried mine on a few dirt trails, I soon found out that it was more work than what I had bargained for and concluded that it was simply not for me. As summer turned into fall, the bikes were relieved of their duties and stayed quietly in our garage until the end of the decade.

Fast-forward to 1990; this was a new and exciting year for us; I was now between two jobs while building a new home. That year, we first sold our residence and the two venerable bikes inside the garage were conveniently “bundled” with the house to give the transaction more of a “mountain” flavor. Our move to a new home also coincided with a noted progress in mountain bike technology: The advent of front suspensions. That’s right, until that time there was no difference between the front fork of a road bike and that of a mountain bike. They both were stiff, unyielding and quite shaky on rough terrain. Getting rid of our first bicycles gave us the opportunity to upgrade to a pair of brand new bikes that had a semblance of front suspension.

This time again, similar scenario; we only used them for a limited number of outings, albeit more audaciously; we began venturing into singletrack trails and I even remember flying over the handlebars in a trail called “Trans-Wasatch,” just where the St. Regis hotel now stands. Through sheer luck and some divine intervention I survived the move as I miraculously landed standing up on my own two feet. Needless to say that after a mishap like this, both bikes were “grounded” for good, and they paradoxically remained hung-up forever, high in the ceiling of our large garage.

That lasted right after the Salt Lake City Olympics, when our children left us and my wife and I suddenly became empty nesters in an over-sized home; we eventually sold the house, negotiating once again the pair of unused bicycles as part of the real-estate settlement. We subsequently lived three full years without bikes in the garage. In 2005 however, I relapsed into my two-wheel pursuit and purchased two-state-of-the-art mountain bikes (front and rear suspensions, disk brakes, the works…) My wife gave me the kind of look that means something like “you’ll never learn…”

We got our bikes in the fall and began to use them on the easy stuff, like the Park City Rail-Trail plus some other bike paths and even made a few timid forays into single-track territory. While the new, modern bikes were literally a “game changer” as they’re more efficient, comfortable and user-friendly, we were both anxious, not quite knowing if my latest infatuation would last. What got us going was the investment we had made and while we realized that a third time wouldn’t automatically be a charm, we just didn’t want to give up only after having tried our hardest.

What made all the difference however, was that I was now retired and we suddenly had much more time on our hands. While we continued for a while on easy paths like the Rail-Trail and both the Farm and the McLeod Creek trails, we then dared to try the lift-assisted mountain bike trails in Deer Valley, but still were woefully inexperienced to fully appreciate them. We then honed our skills on the easy trails that crisscross the Round Valley open space that stands between Park City’s new hospital and the Park Meadow subdivision where we live.

A steady practice on that gentle but technical terrain began to bear fruits and eventually would make a huge difference in our gathering the prerequisite technique and mileage that are the foundation of enjoyable mountain biking. This in a nutshell is how we become more attracted to the world of singletrack trails and almost without realizing it, began to become more confident and enjoyed the sport so much more. Each subsequent season, more days were added to our schedule with greater challenges that turned into better skills, growing assurance and much more fun.

We can now use the Deer Valley lifts and enjoy riding Sunset and Naildriver on the way down as if we had done it for a lifetime. We love the sport and, this season alone, have logged more than 40 days by the end of July! Make no mistake though; mountain biking isn’t an easy sport to pick and stay with, and I bet that there are a multitude of mountain bikes out there that, just like our first two sets of bikes, are hanging alone in some garage, even though they were purchased with the very best of intentions! In some next blog, I’ll try to explain how everyone can get some great “traction” in mountain biking without working too hard or even thinking that they where just not made for that sport. Stay tuned…

An Evening with the Utah Symphony

I’ll admit it.  I hid the chocolate. It’s not like I needed to because there were also two pieces of lemon cake right on top of the gourmet picnic basket I carried to our blanket on the lawn at the Opera Hits concert with the Utah Symphony.  I just wanted the chocolate raspberry truffle tartlets all to myself.

You can come right out and say that’s selfish and I must be an awful person. It is all true – I can’t deny it.  But I have to say if you’d seen the desserts in the Deer Valley gourmet picnic basket, you would have done the same thing or at least thought about it.  I simply couldn’t help myself.

Food is important especially when you are enjoying an outdoor venue. I remember a few years ago, I went camping by the beach in Bodega Bay, California with my brother and sister-in-law. They invited their neighbor who brought two cans of tuna as her culinary contribution to our weekend.  I am dead serious. By the way, she also sat in my chair the entire time and I had to sit on the ice chest (but I am not the least bit bitter.)  When enjoying the outdoors, you don’t want the ordinary. You want something special.

On the lawn listening to the operatic voices of angels – the sopranos, the tenors and the opera choir backed by the full symphony orchestra, we had that something special. My husband and I lingered and enjoyed the bottle of Pinot Noir with our Brie, apples, grapes, crusty baguettes, and antipasto before feasting on a salmon steak and filet as well as the amazing lemon cake.  What a great night.

Later when we got home, he dug through the basket, found the chocolate tartlets and said, “Look, I found these for you.  You can have them both.”

“Chocolate raspberry tarts? Oh I love them. Thank you, Honey.  That is so sweet of you,” was my shy reply. He obviously didn’t know someone had hidden them in the bottom and he clearly is a better person than me.

Come on though. Wouldn’t you have done the same thing?

Mountain Biking Mama

I’ve often said I have a lot of respect for skiers who take up the sport as adults. It takes a certain amount of courage, to say the least. I have a hunch that I’ve learned exactly how much courage that is—because on a recent day in Deer Valley, I began to conquer my fear of riding my bicycle downhill.

Mountain biking (and I’m sure the same is true for road cycling—I just haven’t tried it yet) is as much of a head-game as skiing. For me, it’s more, I think—in part because I’m learning as an adult. I wore my first pair of skis at age 3, and began weekly lessons at 6, so skiing is as natural to me as walking—and at least 10 times more fun. Logically, I know I can handle just about anything on a bike—I’m physically fit—well for a normal person, not a competitive athlete (I have to remind myself, because living in Park City it’s easy to take your decent fitness level for granted when you’re surrounded as we are by elite athletes). I’m up for challenges. I understand the mechanics of the sport. My psyche, however, disagrees. And, frankly, I’m sick of hearing second-hand about how great my husband’s mountain bike rides were. Or weren’t. Even a bad ride is brag-worthy, at least in my house. And I’m done with feeling left out.

Thankfully, there is Jeff. Not, mind you, my wonderful husband Jeff. For whom I am always thankful. But Jeff the Awesome, Patient and Kind Mountain Biking Coach. I am sure his official Deer Valley title is something more like Mountain Bike Guide or Instructor or whatever it is that doesn’t describe him well enough.

So, Coach Jeff took me to Lot 3—that’s right, to the parking lot. Little known fact: There are mountain bike practice features at the back of Lot 3. We ran through some basics, and I was proud to have arrived with A-plus skills in braking appropriately (right brake first then add left, or equal pressure to both); creating a “platform” by bringing both pedals parallel to the ground, and standing on them as I bring my tush back behind my bike seat. (I’m sure it looks even sillier than it sounds, but believe me, it creates the most control over the bike.)

Then came the frustrating part—as much as I knew I could take a gentle downhill turn—KNEW IT—I couldn’t get my brain to let me. After MUCH unprintable sputtering from me, Coach Jeff took control of the moment.

“We’re going to change things up,” he said. “No use having you frustrated.”

What he meant was: After one more quick test on the practice track, he was taking me up Silver Lake Express chairlift to ride down the mountain on a trail called Tour De Homes. I gulped only a little as I noticed the trail marker bore the international symbol for “Intermediate”—the telling blue square. Um, ok. I guess I’m ready, I thought.

“You will gain confidence as we ride. You’ll see. It will be fun,” he said. “I promise.”

Ok, he was right. I walked a fair amount–but I have decided that there’s no shame in walking where you’re completely out of your depth as a rider. It’s called SELF PRESERVATION, people. And I had two kids at Deer Valley Summer Adventure Camp who were expecting to see their mom at 5 p.m. pickup. So, I walked some. But, mostly, I rode. I rode down slopes I didn’t think I could. I looked ahead and not down, not at obstacles, but rather at the path I wanted to follow. Just like in skiing, if you don’t want to ride into the tree, for heaven’s sake, DO NOT LOOK AT THE TREE.

In point of fact, I looked at Coach Jeff’s awesome day-glo biking socks, which were a great focal point.

I am going to have to learn to talk less when I ride—because every time I called out “I’m doing this!!!!” on something more technical than I’d been able to handle only minutes earlier—I lost it. LOST.

Tour De Homes, by the way, is a great hiking or biking trail. It starts behind Last Chance on a private ski run, and winds around until you actually come out onto Last Chance, just below the “Bear House.” We rode some single track through the meadow at the bottom of Last Chance, taking a moment to appreciate, mutually, how much we love skiing Dew Drop, and then worked our way down Rosebud, across some more single track beneath Solid Muldoon, Champion and Big Stick, and into the trees next to the Burns Lift. This was, by far the smoothest, prettiest part of the ride. The trail itself is tree-lined and did I mention…smooth? I even took the steep part back to Wide West with some middling success. Enough that Coach Jeff said, “You know, that was steeper than the part you walked at the trail head?”

And, yes, I flew down the Carpenter road—faster than a person is allowed to take it on skis, in fact. Speed, it turns out, is a good acquaintance. We’re working our way up to a friendship. Coach Jeff, though, whether he likes it or not, is a brand-new friend.