Our Holiday Traditions

As we are originally from the French Alps, our “family holiday celebrations’ differ in some subtle ways with mainstream American traditions. Yet over the years, we have weaved them with the local customs and today we have something quite unique, very healthy and fun!

Typically, French folks are more New Year-centric than Christmas-oriented; as a result, New Year’s celebrations are a much bigger deal; as an example in the old country, Happy New Year wishes can last the whole month of January and most people would feel slighted if you forgot to present your very best wishes to them. With these notes of caution in mind, I will attempt to explain how the Holiday Season typically unfolds for us…

Because of my upbringing, of my entire career and my playful retirement years, skiing occupies the centerpiece of our Holiday Season. Even though we can ski all winter long, we make sure to come out and mark this celebratory period by leaving our own ski prints on the local slopes; some might call them “garlands,” but to us, they are always very serious tracks!

During the past five years, our daughter Charlotte, who lived in California for many years, was in the midst of this Holiday fun. She could almost come on the spur of the moment and be with us after a short, ninety-minute flight. However, things have changed; after taking a new position in our Nation’s Capital, in early November; she had not accrued enough vacation time to make the visit all the way to Utah worth her while. This will have to wait until next winter season.

Luckily, our son Thomas, his wife Juliette and our grandson Finn live nearby in Salt Lake City and were present the Sunday before Christmas to mark their return to the slopes. This day, as it often does, concluded with a wonderful Raclette meal, similar to the delicious dish available at the Fireside Dining in the Empire Canyon Lodge at Deer Valley.

We do Raclette, because it is a hearty meal, perfect for winter, and our son and his wife are vegetarians. Now, I will have to digress and explain once and for all what that delicious food is all about. That alpine specialty goes back a very long way; it was already mentioned in some medieval writings as a particularly nutritious dish consumed by peasants living in the mountains of Valais, a French-speaking canton of Switzerland, as well as their French counterparts living on the other side of the Alpine divide, where I hail from.

The name itself comes from the French verb “racler” which mean “to scrape.” In that case, it is cheese that is been scraped from the open surface of an eighteen-inch, half-wheel of Raclette cheese, which open surface is heated until it almost flows into your plate when scraped down with a knife. Now, you can understand why most of our family entertainment revolves around a wheel of Raclette cheese…

This vital detail leads us to Christmas Eve, that took us to the Salt Lake Valley were a wonderful dinner and present unwrapping took place, and the event revolved around our four-year old grandson. The excitement was palpable and the spurs of joy endless, as the many presents got unwrapped… This year, a perfectly timed snow storm made for driving down to the Valley a bit more interesting, keeping me perfectly focused on the road.

I must confess that my wife and I didn’t have the fortitude to wait until Christmas Eve for opening our own presents. We were a bit concerned about the upcoming roll-over of the ancient Mayan calendar on December 21, and didn’t want to take any chances, so our own presents have been put to good use since the beginning of the month. Let’s call our singular practice a “test,” just to make sure that we had the right presents from the get go…

This said, on Christmas Eve, I received a special present from my son that has to do with DNA and will finally tell me where I come from (besides France) once it has been analyzed by some Silicon Valley laboratory. The rest of the evening was spent watching our grandson responding to his new toys and playing with most of them.

After December 25, we got a short reprieve during which there is always more skiing, additional great snow (another Deer Valley Holiday tradition), there are a few parties, here and there, but far less than when I used to be professionally active, and there is barely any room for celebrating my birthday sandwiched somewhere between Christmas and the New Year, just before we tip into a brand new year.

On New Year’s Eve, we may go bowling with my son and his family, watch the ball fall in Times Square and go to bed early so we can go skiing on New Year’s morning… Granted, there’s always room for a fine meal and a delightful sip of Champagne…

By the time 2013 rolls over, we’ll have long been “party-exhausted” and won’t have much energy left for celebration. It will then be time for some serious work; our winter ski season will finally begin in earnest!

My Deer Valley – Donna McAleer, Ski Instructor

Last spring, I was out for a run in the Swaner Nature Preserve—and I ran past my friend Donna McAleer with surprising ease. In fact, I was so shocked that I had passed her up on the trail that I stopped, turned around, and greeted her with: “What’s wrong?” You see, at best, I’m a mediocre runner, and at her worst, Donna—well, in truth, I’ve never seen her at her worst. Until that day. “I’m recovering from stomach flu,” she confessed. “But my mind was racing and I had to get out for a run.”

Donna, you see, was midway through her campaign for a seat in the United States Congress, representing Utah’s District one. She’s a West Point Alumna, retired United States Army officer, and is the award-winning author of Porcelain On Steel: Women of West Point’s Long Gray Line. Oh, and she once served as a bobsled driver in a bid to compete in the sport in the 2002 Olympics. Which is, in case you are wondering, how she came to live in Park City, and eventually lead the People’s Health Clinic, a local non-profit dedicated to giving free and low-cost health care to underserved populations.

If that’s not evidence that she’s hard to catch, I’m not sure what is. Donna’s daughter Carly attends the same school as my sons—and we met about five years ago, when her daughter and my son were attending a local music program together. As two preternaturally busy moms, we bonded and recognized both kindred spirits and the opportunity to help each other out, and a friendship—with a side-order of carpool—was born.

Amidst all of this, the 40-year veteran of ski slopes has spent the last nine years as an instructor in the Ski School at Deer Valley—and eight years as a member of the Deer Valley Synchronized Ski Team.

It will surprise you not at all that the only time we could connect our schedules for a chat was at 6:15 a.m. on a recent morning.

1. Have you always skied on the powdery slopes of Deer Valley? No, I grew up in the east, and I learned to ski on the blue ice and in the frigid temperatures of Okemo Mountain in Ludlow, VT.

2. What interested you in teaching in the first place, and what is your favorite part about teaching at Deer Valley?   I love being outside and sharing my love of the sport with others.  And I love helping guests improve their confidence and ability. Plus, Deer Valley has the best office view, anywhere.  Any day on the mountain is better than a day in an office!

3. How often does the Deer Valley Synchronized Ski Team practice?
We do about eight sessions prior to the performance on December 30 – we train at 4:15 p.m., riding last chair to the the top of Carpenter Express and we get one run. By the time we get to the bottom it’s kind of dark. It’s a hard-core dedicated group of 12-15 of us, that have been skiing together for six-eight years.

4. Has the team ever participated in competitions? Here’s a little bit of quick history: in the mid-80s Deer Valley had a nationally-ranked synchro team, and the Deer Valley team were the world champions in 1995. After a while, the team disbanded and Andy Lane started it up again about five years after that.

5. You put on a great show for the guests—what makes it pleasurable for you? I love that we are all working to help each other get better—that is the great thing about synchro, even as an instructor, you are constantly working to improve your skills and it’s about the discipline, about skiing in line and on time and turning to someone else’s cadence.  vidually beautiful, we have gone through PSIA certification together, and synchro became a part of our training, part of our commitment to each other and the resort

6. What’s the mood like during the event? It’s very festive—at Deer Valley, the night before New Year’s Eve is all about the retro ski clothes—probably because you don’t want to ruin good ski clothes, since you are carrying torches that throw off embers. But you see these great, “sexy” 80’s one-piece ski outfits—which are the original synchro team uniforms. Visually, it’s very pretty, we are in headlamps, carrying torches coming down Big Stick and Wide West. . The the night before new year’s – suynchro demo component to it along with the torchlight. It’s not a competitive team anymore.

7. When and how will we get the best view?
It starts at 6 p.m. and we encourage guests to come at 5:45 p.m. People typically line the plaza at Snow Park and the staging area for ski school. There is hot chocolate, hot cider and the mascots are there. It’s very festive. The perfect way to do it is to plan to dine at Seafood Buffet, so that you can check out the show at the same time.

8. What is the secret to good synchronized skiing?
You have to be able to do the simple really well—and when it happens it looks really good. What you look for is everybody in synchronicity: are they in line, do they have the same shape of turn, how closely they are skiing? We want to provide a team performance, it might be opposite synch, in two parallel lines, skiing in opposite directions, everyone is in cadence. We do different size turns, different shapes, and it all gets back to just the fundamentals of skiing, all the things we teach people, the foundations of good skiing—good turn shapes, moving down the hill, using turn shape to control our speed.

9. You’re an author, an executive and a former candidate for the US House of Representatives, a mother, a wife (in no particular order!)—did skiing play a role in your ability to balance all of those roles at various times? Can you see any lessons you learned during and after your campaign that have parallels on the ski hill?
Being a writer—bringing a book to publication, writing is a solitary act. In terms of my book, thousands of hours of interviews and editing, and 19 manuscript drafts, and it takes a team to publish it. Similarly, while there is only one name on the ballot, it takes a team to make a campaign viable. Skiing is like that—it’s an individual sport, but you’re moving in relation to others. And the act of skiing—moving our bodies, maintaining dynamic balance, you need to be in balance over varying terrain, how we balance and how we stand on our skis, we want to always be moving forward and in the direction of our turn, down the hill, forward and across the skis. My campaign slogan was, “Not left. Not right. Forward.” It applies to a lot of sports, especially skiing, and for me it was a key point in how we think about our political system and we are so quick to make an assumption on how someone votes or legislates—no one is really moving forward and that’s a big issue in our political movement.

Also, another parallel between politics, writing and skiing: sometimes less is more. Really good writing is simple. Thomas Jefferson said, “Never use two words when one will do.” And sometimes we get so bogged down, so focused on technique, that we don’t just ski, we have to let it go.

10. Did Deer Valley play a role in your campaign at all?
My campaign manager is a ski patroller at Deer Valley—and , despite having met and had lunch together in the cafeteria, it was politics that brought us together. He had run campaigns on the east coast, but we bonded over the fact that we share the love of the mountain. There were a number of colleagues from all departments at Deer Valley that were part of the campaign as volunteers, making phone calls.

11. How did your experience as a teacher at Deer Valley Ski School prep you for life as a candidate? During the campaign I found myself relating moments on that trail to moments on the ski trail—There are always obstacles. In skiing we call them moguls, and you need to be able to be flexible to adapt to the terrain. No two ski lessons are ever the same, even with the same client. That’s the cool thing about teaching skiing,—to help someone, to understand how different people learn— you have to be adaptable and flexible in all these situations. In the campaign you want to stay on your message and how you are trying to interact with voters and you may take a different line, you need coaching, good peripheral vision….and you need to be an active listener in both environments, you need to understand what those people’s goals are—you have to be a good observer.

Look for Donna and the rest of the DV Synchronized Ski Team at Snow Park Lodge, starting at 6 p.m. on December 30, 2012.

Click here to check out the Deer Valley Synchro Team in action last season!

Stein Eriksen Lodge Takes Their Gingerbread (and Their Guests) Seriously

My friend Stella, age two and a half, was a little intimidated. She came to Stein Eriksen Lodge for a gingerbread  adventure.  To tell you the truth, I was there for the exact same reason.  I met her and her Nana in the lobby to check out the huge Whoville gingerbread creation and to participate in the gingerbread house making class to bring one home to my family.

When we walked in the room, we noticed lots of kids, moms and aunties all eager to play with the cake, candies and icing.  In front of each chair were gingerbread walls and a roof as well as bags of candy for decoration.    Stella sat down in her chair and Executive Chef Zane Holmquist greeted her with a big smile and asked her how old she was. She looked up at the chef in the Santa hat, and around the room at the pastry chefs and the other kids and suddenly was unsure of herself.  She was not even three years old so when all this attention was focused on her,  her lips started to quiver like she was just on the cusp of starting to cry.

Chef knew just what to do. He gently sat down next to her and started to work on the base of her gingerbread house.  He asked her to put her finger on top of the wall to hold it while he set another in place. She did comply but with a little apprehension.  Once the walls were up and roof on, he did something I found very interesting.  He let her lead.  He simply asked her to point to where she wanted him to place the candy to decorate her house.  She didn’t have to talk: it wasn’t a complex transaction. She just needed to point.


And point she did. When she pointed to the side of the house, he placed a candy in that exact spot and she was hooked!  This lasted until the house had a candy corn hedge against the frame, snowmen candies adorning the house and ribbon candy shingles on the roof. He didn’t miss a beat when she wanted him to double stack candy on candy.  The head chef from this Forbes Five Star, AAA Five Diamond hotel sat with this tiny girl and helped her build the house just the way she wanted to.


When they were done, and he went on to help the next child, she was beaming.  She talked a mile a minute to everyone and literally danced around the room.  When she got home, she talked non-stop about her gingerbread adventure as she proudly showed off her creation.

It took Chef Zane and a team of a dozen pastry chefs three months to build the Whoville gingerbread house which decorates the lobby of the Stein Eriksen Lodge.  It is complete with the Grinch’s mountain hideaway (the Grinch with his little dog looking on) and dozens of marzipan Whoville figures surrounding Christmas tree in the center of their town. It only took him a half an hour to win over a little girl who will now be a lifelong gingerbread house fan.


I wish I had thought to ask him of which accomplishment he is the most proud.

My gingerbread creation

December 25 Tradition

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (the much-fabled East Coast), Jeff and I had a December 25 tradition—spending the day at the movies and dining on Chinese food.  It was, to this Jewish family, nearly sacred. Our Park City tradition involves a full ski day at Deer Valley, including breakfast. I couldn’t wait.

However, I was so excited to get to breakfast that I left the house without my typical double-check of the contents of everyone’s ski bags. (I blame Betty the Bichon Frisee, who camped out on the ski bags as if to dare us to leave the house.  Still, I was so distracted by the threat of her wrath that I blame her for what happened next.)

I know that my husband is an adult, and can check to see if his gloves are in the bag—but I’ve made this my domain, and I dropped the ball. We discovered this as we unloaded the bags at the resort, so he doubled back to Jeremy Ranch for the gloves, while I went in with the kids to order breakfast.

We have a few folks we count on seeing—including The Perkins family. (If I tried to explain the many ways this family matters to ours, we’d be here all day, and I wouldn’t get to type a single word about the skiing.) Suffice it to say, they are dear, dear friends, and we look forward to standing in line at the breakfast grill with them every year.  This year, we noticed that we’re not the only folks who know that Deer Valley has the best breakfast menu in town. The giveaway that it wasn’t a skier’s-only affair: A little girl in a red taffeta party dress and Mary Janes, her mom in cute jeans and high-heeled leather boots.

“That little girl is definitely not skiing,” quipped Lance.
“But she looks so cute, it doesn’t matter,” I countered.

Cold Eggs Benedict (Jeff’s—I ordered anyway, not sure if he’d be back in time to do it himself) could not ruin our day. The kids dug into their breakfast choices—Belgian Waffle for Lance, Froot Loops for Seth (they are a near-delicacy in our house, so rare is the appearance of sugary cereal in our cupboards.), and, eventually, so did Jeffrey.

What followed: hours of bluebird day skiing, running into more good friends in the lift lines, and a chance encounter with Ruby the Raccoon. Seth challenged her to a race, but her human companion suggested they simply take a run together. I should add that I’d been trying to get Seth to follow my turns all day, to middling effect—but for Ruby? The kid made perfectly carved parallel turns. Go figure.

All day, the kids (and we) had been anxiously keeping tabs (via text and flight tracker software) on our friends’ progress from Miami. Finally, just before last chair, they appeared—suited up and ready to ski. What followed was more laughter than one could hope for in a single ski run, as we reacquainted the Florida kids (two of whom spent their earliest years in Park City) with the sport. (And a special shout-out to Lisa Palmer-Leger for capturing these priceless memories with her camera.)

Oops….Took the Wrong Run

“If you see anything in yourself to make you proud, look a little farther and you will find enough to make you humble” this is a quote by Wellins Calcott, Thought Moral and Divine.  Try skiing if you are looking for some humility. Last week I wrote about opening day and how “hardcore” I thought I was. Well pride cometh  before the fall.  Today I didn’t resemble a hardcore skier in any way shape or form. Thank goodness for the two good Samaritans who helped me out.

Day three of season two and I was enjoying my third beginner run, Ontario, and I noticed the sign for Hidden Treasure so I made a mental note to circle back.  I had skied that run during my Max 4 lessons last year but had completely forgotten how steep the top was.  From the lift, it is deceiving since the steepest part is hidden from view. From my vantage point, the run looked perfect so I decided Hidden Treasure would be my first intermediate run of the year.

The cross country style narrow connector trail should have been the first clue that I was in over my head but I had already committed to the run so I ignored that warning.  When I finally got to the top of the run and looked down, I saw something that spelled double trouble for me – a steep and bumpy run —  not a good combination.

Hidden Treasure is the run to the left that ends under Quincy Express chairlift

I took stock of the situation.  My options were to climb back up the hill and skate ski through the narrow uphill trail back to Ontario or traverse the steep part of this hill and take Hidden Treasure. Not normally one to retreat, I decided to go for it. It didn’t take long for me to get intimidated and lose all my confidence. I fell a couple times and did something unexpected.  I totally forgot everything I had learned. In my lessons last year, I was taught to traverse back and forth across the run slowly or to simply position myself to slide sideways down the hill using my edges to stop me.  Well, in the moment, I forgot all that.

Panic set in.  In my lifeguard days many years ago, I had to memorize the definition of panic so I know it well —  “a sudden unreasonable and overwhelming fear that destroys one’s capacity for self help.”  Since I wasn’t thinking straight, I simply took off my skis, threw them on my shoulder and started hiking down one step at a time through the powder.

I had only seen two people pass me the whole time so there weren’t many people on the run but the ones that did come by, stopped to help.  The two good Samaritans on skis reminded me of much easier ways to get down the steep part of the hill. With one below me and one above, I put my skis back on and then followed one traversing across while the other looked on until I got past the steeper part.

Once I got to the middle of the run, I could see why they called it Hidden Treasure (instead of Nancy’s Nightmare.)   I felt like I was floating on this powdery wonderland.  This my friends is snow. I thought I knew what snow was before but I really didn’t. Thanks to a couple of really nice Deer Valley patrons, I got to enjoy it. My story fortunately has a happy ending and as I shared it many people have laughed and told similar stories. But it didn’t have to be that way –  I could have had the wonderful experience without the panic.  Here is how:

  • Read the map. Deer Valley puts out a daily groomed status trail map so you can determine ahead of time the state of the run. It is also on the website so you can check it from your smart phone. It is possible, I might have been able to do that run earlier in the day.  Since it was on a “first shift groomer schedule,” it was pretty bumpy by the time I got there.
  • Ask a mountain host. These helpful people are everywhere! I could easily have discussed my plans and gotten advice from the mountain host at Flagstaff Mountain (right at the big map).  I am sure, he or she would have sent me down an easier run like Hawkeye instead.
  • Go with a friend.  When you are taking on a new challenge, go with a more experienced skier in case you need some coaching.
  • Take a tour. If you are an intermediate level skier or higher, catch up with the FREE mountain host tour.  The intermediate tour leaves daily from Snow Park Lodge at 10 a.m. and Silver Lake Lodge at 1:30 p.m. (Click here for a full schedule) Then go back and ski your favorite runs by yourself later.
  • Take a private lesson.  I know this sounds simple because having an instructor take you down new and more challenging runs just seems like common sense.  You learn more, are safer, and enjoy the experience much more.

Hey good Samaritans out there, I want to give you a shout out of thanks for stopping to help. Maybe someday when I actually really am a hardcore skier, I will pay it forward.

I ended my ski day on this run!

NASTAR National Pacesetting

Its official, the 2012-13 winter season has started with a bang! First, the Celebrity Skifest events, which were followed by the big three-day snowstorm that dropped enough snow to ski the Daly Chutes in Empire.

Most recently, I participated in the NASTAR pacesetting trials at Snowmass.  I go to the national pacesetting trials in order to get a handicap for Deer Valley’s NASTAR racing course. By doing this I can give handicaps to the race crew and I set the pace time every Saturday so it’s as if you’re racing against AJ Kitt who is the NASTAR National Pacesetter.

The NASTAR national pacesetting trials consist of three days of ski races, seeing old athlete friends and ski racing fans.  Of course there is a lot of skiing involved while we are at Snowmass, but there is also time to catch up and recap old time stories.

Bobkie

Bobkie at NASTAR

This picture is me with AJ Kitt, Bobkie (Aka Bob Roll, the Tour de France color commentator and long-time professional bike racer!), my friend Ivan and his son Nicholas. If you think I look as if I never skied before but that’s because I’m having too much fun and not thinking about skiing, my form or even my crooked goggles!

NASTAR Pacestting crew

NASTAR Pacestting crew

But of course, the best part of the pacesetting trials are the ski races and trying to set your best time. Each year, I am reminded that NASTAR is a huge part of skiing culture. It was great to see Ivan’s 10-year-old son skiing so well and enjoying watching everyone else. I can only image he was hoping that someday maybe he’ll be the fastest.

If you’ve never experienced NASTAR, come to race Deer Valley’s race arena at Silver Lake or to any NASTAR course at participating ski areas.  A full list and more info can be found at NASTAR.com.

You’ll get hooked and want to come to the finals with us in the spring! Race fast and most importantly have fun. Ski racing and the NASTAR program has blessed me with the best friendships and memories!

See you on the slopes!

Looking at my Ski Crystal Ball

When I contemplate this brand new ski season, I often have a hard time seeing clearly into my “Ski Crystal Ball.” Skiing is for me something that happens, not an event or a succession of situations that can be planned, guessed or predicted like you would plan an outing, a family celebration or of course, a career. I guess there’s not much planning that goes into my skiing. That’s right, I’ve never looked at one single season thinking that I will be accomplishing this, that or achieve some other things (besides maybe a goal for skiing my age).

Even though I’m extremely goal-oriented for all the other areas of my life, this approach has never permeated into my skiing outlook. I probably am a fatalistic skier who wait for the snow crystals to randomly and gracefully align themselves and provide me with some heavenly snow experiences. It is true though that when I’m skiing, my competitive spirit – not my planning mind – eventually comes alive and takes hold of me.

For example if its already 2 pm and I am enjoying the runs that crisscross the Lady Morgan Chairlift, I will think, “…let’s do six more of them!” This mere thought pushes me and I end up having ridden Lady Morgan Express seven more times in that sixty minute time span! The performance wasn’t planned, it simply happened… I have never promised myself to ski 100 days per season, but I generally end up close to that round number, so while it’s hard to say that I’m not planning these kinds of minute details, they just seem to happen…

As a perennial late-bloomer, I must have reached my peak performance on skis in my early sixties (yes, dear reader, there is plenty of hope!) and one day, as I happened to boast a bit too much about some of my ski exploits, a slightly older and wiser friend of mine told me in no uncertain terms: “Silly you, at your age, what do you have to prove?” These words of wisdom were not lost on me, the skier, that always looked at performing better and faster, whenever possible.

This competitive approach of mine was colliding with certain issues that develop as one gets further into the years and as physical strength begins plateauing, if not declining, but is certainly no longer improving. Over the past couple of seasons, I have found that I was getting a bit less nimble, less powerful and considerably slower.

You might say that I was finally growing up as I had implicitly understood that speeding and risk-taking might finally prove to be harmful to me. This, in part, is the reason why, from that point forward, my goals on skis won’t be measured so much in speed, quickness or slaloming through a tight grove of aspen trees.

Instead, they will be qualitative in nature and are likely to consist of skiing much more often, but when I will do it, I will also concentrate on being that much smoother and my focus will be on saving all of my resources to enjoy a longer, fun-filled day on the slopes. Another new measuring stick for me would be the amount of time there’s a grin on my face and this should at least be in the 90% range, to make each day of winter another great moment on skis.

Sure, I’ll still go fast when I can and when it can make me more efficient, but never again at the expense of my own safety. I’ll think more about being lighter on my skis, on better using the terrain to check my speed and to my mechanical advantage, to make my turns effortlessly and remain “one” with the terrain. That’s about right, less brute force and more “caresses” on the snow, this is how my skiing will be looking like, this season and beyond!

With this in mind, when I review what’s inside my Snow Crystal Bowl, I see more slow fun, more perfect turns, more time to enjoy the whole experience, more seizing of the moment and with all that, always the surprise that comes with the never-ending adventure that skiing really is!

Celebrity Skifest and Deer Valley Memories

I say it a lot: Nobody has a better life than I do. I don’t say it boastfully—I’m just so thoroughly appreciative that I get to do work that I love while indulging in the Park City lifestyle 24/7. Entertainment journalists aren’t exactly a dime a dozen in the mountains, to be sure. (In fact, I had a conversation on this topic on the chairlift en route to Celebrity Skifest—with a fellow Vermont expat who lives in LA, and, it turns out, works at a PR agency with which I do a lot of business….the world is never smaller than on the chairlift at Deer Valley.)

Sure, once upon a time, I took a limo to the Emmys, but nothing beats taking a chairlift and a quick run down Silver Link to get myself to an event. Long live Celebrity Skifest.

Watching the race is always a blast, and I could hardly contain my glee as the snowfall intensified. Still, I had work to do. Again, in that once upon a time, I sat in the backstage press room asking actors about which designers they wore, and how surprised they were to win their award. But on this day, I was chatting up actors about our shared love for skiing at Deer Valley. I captured our shared “snow-eating grins” as well as some of their favorite Deer Valley ski memories:

“The people at Deer Valley are great,” Cheryl Hines told me. “Every guest gets treated like royalty—and I’m certainly not royalty!” Her trademark smile was in full evidence as she described the feeling she gets on a great powder day. “it’s a clear day and you stand on the top of the mountain and you can see everything,” the Suburgatory star explained. “There’s no feeling like it.”

The next thing I knew, I turned around and found myself face-to-face with Rosie Perez. I reminded her that we’d worked together when I’d been an editor at Glamour and Self Magazines, and we had a chance to catch up. “I’m not skiing,” she told me. “But I am so taken with what Bobby Kennedy is doing with the Waterkeeper Alliance, holding corporations accountable.” And, to be sure, she was a powerful one-woman cheering squad.

Julia Ormond was so taken with the action on the hill, I hated to interrupt her—but we wound up chatting about the beauty of pulling oneself out of the comfort zone. “Honestly, I hate the idea of putting myself out there as a skier—I’m not used to powder, and I’m not that confident, but for something as good and compelling as the Waterkeeper Alliance, I’ll do it,” she said.  “For a good cause, you have to get over yourself. It’s important.”

Moments later, we were chatting about the beauty of the falling snow, and I fell into a conversation with Rob Morrow—someone I look forward to seeing every year, because, like me, he’s unabashed about his love for skiing at Deer Valley—and I’m always thrilled to note that he shares that with his wife and daughter.

Rob told me that he was temporarily converted to a “trees and powder skier” by his friend and fellow actor, Tim Daly, on one fine powder day last year. “He took me to some places I’d never been—and would never have gone on my own,” Rob told me. “Suddenly, I’m a snob for powder and trees.”

A moment later, Rob confessed to me that he’s so taken with the beauty and the people at Deer Valley that he and his wife have a long-held fantasy of “finding a year to just move here.” I didn’t hesitate to tell him that he’d have no regrets.

The Double Life of Snow Park Restaurant

Snow falling slowly to the ground is transcending and full of magic. A blanket stitched together one fat flake at a time, it smooths the sharp edges of the world offering a more tender landscape to the senses. Few things are more inviting than the best snow on earth, and few places more than Deer Valley. Under a dark Utah sky and through the lights of the Snow Park Lodge, my friend Kate and I walked toward the Seafood Buffet last night, all smiles after several days of great skiing.

I had come to lunch last week at the Snow Park Restaurant, enjoying New York Strip with béarnaise, Seared Scallop Florentine, and a piece of cheesecake that was, as Will Ferrell says, “Scrumtrulescent.” The Scallop Florentine is easily one of my new favorites. I am almost certain that it is meant to be served over pasta, but with scallops that tender and a simmering sweet sauce I couldn’t let anything get in their way.

Instructors from the Deer Valley Ski School were enjoying lunch a few tables away, hands gesturing in smooth arcs and deep angles like pilots talking about turns and maneuvers carved out of the sky. Like many Mondays at a ski mountain everyone was very relaxed and in no hurry. I browsed the food, taking note of the house made bratwurst and gourmet pizza for my next day visit. When I was asked to come back for Seafood Dinner I readily agreed.

As we were seated for dinner the restaurant was relaxed, guests mingling at the tables and serving stations. I was immediately drawn to the Natural Buffet, specifically the Opillio crab. I may live in the Wasatch now but was raised in Maryland. Hardly a crab has gotten by me over the years. After living near the southern tidewaters for the past several years Kate naturally leaned toward the fresh shucked oysters, and steamed clams and mussels. As we began to eat it occurred to me that few foods encourage sharing like seafood. Take two or more people with a passion for sustainable gathering from the sea, and the conversation will travel up and down the coasts of the country. 

Our talk was punctuated with trips to the sushi bar and carving station (Double R Ranch prime beef!) along with our server recommended sable fish and ahi tuna.

After nearly an hour of talking and eating we made a last foray, standing at the bakery trying to make the most difficult decision of the evening. Chocolate raspberry torte and coffee finished us, the mesmerizing spell of a great meal slowly receding. Several inches had fallen while we were inside, promising a great day to come and capping a wonderful evening.

Make reservations for yourself and some friends online or by phone at 435-645-6632. If you can, take a friend who has never been to Deer Valley before. The look of contentment on their face at the end of the evening is almost as rewarding as the meal itself. Thanks to Ryan and the rest of the staff of the Snow Park Restaurant for an outstanding meal.

 

Ski Season Two: Hardcore Opening Weekend

On opening Saturday, I asked a friend of mine if he was coming back on Sunday too, and he answered, “You are going tomorrow? You are hardcore. ”

Hardcore?  In my mind, hardcore means tearing down the mountain at break neck speed and taking Bode Miller style Giant Slalom turns.  That’s hard core, not me skiing on groomers opening weekend at Deer Valley.

But you know … Just maybe… I might actually…be.

Opening day was amazing as the ski gods were with us when sky decided to dump buckets of snow on the mountains. So taking JF Lanvers advice, I decided to start slow by doing a few easy runs to get my ski legs back and remember what I learned from my lessons last year. My husband met me for lunch at Silver Lake Lodge and we enjoyed the Celebrity Skifest from the warmth and comfort of the lodge while eating pizza and a heaping bowls of steaming pasta.  This seemed like the perfect opening day to me.

Sunday morning after Mass, I quickly ate breakfast and changed into my ski pants (though I did see several people who were obviously going directly to the slopes the moment the service let out – their ski attire gave them away.) The storm seemed heavier on Sunday and by the time I got there, the lines were short. I was able to get right on the lifts every time — no waiting at all.

Since I lacked a face mask, my chin and cheeks were getting pretty cold though the rest of me was warm.  On the lift, I could pull my scarf and jacket up like a mummy to keep my face warm.   But on the runs, the snow stung me hard as I skied down the hill. I could care less and was loving being out there.

Deciding whether or not to take that extra run, I stopped and took stock of myself. My fur lined hood was covered in snow, my bangs were mangled and tendrils of hair were frozen to my scarf.  My face was burning from the fresh snow and wind on the lift, and so were my quads from those first runs.  I wondered for a minute if I was crazy.  Only the crazy people are out now.  This was not a day for fair weather skiers.

Then I thought, you know…I just might be…. hardcore!  No helicopters were involved, no back country or avalanche precautions were necessary, but for me… getting out there, pushing myself on the groomers, staying out even when the snow was dumping down and stinging my face and when most folks were in the comfort of the lodge (or home by the fire,) there I was taking one more run.

Some people might think my experience was relatively mild but for me …my second season opening weekend, I guess I would have to say it was hardcore.

What about you? What makes you a hardcore skier?