World Cup Skiing at Deer Valley is a Family Affair

Bryon and Brad Wilson

Bryon and Brad Wilson

Through the years I have met many of the best athletes in skiing. From club level kids that have risen to X Games podiums to Stein Eriksen, each time I meet someone who has competed at a world class level I am fascinated by what motivates them. What drives them to risk so much in a sport that many see only as recreation?

With Deer Valley Resort’s World Cup week about to begin, I sat down in the Snow Park Lodge with two members of the U.S. Ski Team, Bryon and Brad Wilson, to find out more about their lives as World Cup Mogul Athletes, and did my best to not ask who would win in a head to head dual mogul race.

Why Bumps?

Bryon: One thing about freestyle that is appealing is that you can always improve in some aspect of the sport, whether it’s turns, speed, or degree of difficulty in jumps, there’s no perfect run. There’s an idea of perfection.

Brad: When we first started skiing as just weekend skiers, the best skiers on the mountain were the freestyle team, they were shredding the bumps. If you knew how to ski bumps, you knew how to ski everything else.

How close have you come to perfection?

Bryon: I had one run in Are, Switzerland, for Junior World Championships..

Brad: I was thinking that same run for you.

Bryon: Yeah, everything happened. I nailed my top jump, skied out of it fast, perfect, came down and nailed my bottom jump too.

Brad: Fast

Bryon: And it was fast. I scored something ridiculous like 28.6 or something.

Brad: Out of thirty, it’s the highest score in FIS history.

Bryon: It happened at the Olympics too, when I got my bronze medal, everything came together. Everything was crisp and clean, kind of fell into place. It was special.

When it goes wrong what is your thought process?

(both laughing)

Bryon: Relax the body and take the hit. In Lake Placid I hit a control gate on the right side, and it threw me into this, like death spin down the side of the course and I hit about eleven posts.

Brad: Like a pinball machine. That moment when you’re skiing down the middle. You feel good, as fast as you can go, and then you start going a little bit forward – “there’s no way out of this.”

Bryon: They taught us how to fall in gymnastics, how to relax.

Brad: Our Mom said growing up you’re never going to get better unless you crash.

The speed athlete’s take through the mogul course is incredible. How fast?

Bryon: I think about thirty-two, thirty-five miles per hour. I use a metronome. If I watch a really fast skier in World Cup, I’ll take his cadence and try to match it in my own run. I use it for visualization, so I’m not rushing or going too slow.

How are you guys feeling this year?

Bryon: Good.

Brad: I had a rough week last week, I wasn’t there mentally and didn’t really perform the best I could at Lake Placid. It makes you itching for more; I’m going into the rest of the season with a different mindset.

Checking out Deer Valley's venue

Checking out Deer Valley’s venue

How many World Cup stops have you had, and what’s the remaining schedule?

Bryon: We have competed in four already- and have Deer Valley, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Spain, and then Lake Tahoe for Nationals.

Do you guys get down time in any of these places?

Bryon: Not really. Once we get on the road – we get there, we train, we compete, and we leave.

Brad: We might get a day in Norway.

Brad: When we get to Russia it’s a test for the Olympics; we’ll be there a week early to adjust to the time zone.

No sweet Japanese powder when you compete in Inawashiro?

Bryon: No, (laughing) nah, we go to ski a gnarly course, super steep – it’s really steep. We’re having duals on it this year, which is pretty crazy. It’s like three cliff drops into the top jump, and you want to take as little speed as you can because once you land you’re booking. You’re out of control, basically, the one who can hold on is the one who’ll come out on top.

Brad: I’m excited to ski it. It’s one of those courses growing up, you see it on World Cup and you’re like, oh my God. Deer Valley is one of those courses too.

Bryon: Yeah, it’s a beast.

Let’s talk tricks. Where do you see it going?

Brad: I think if they start allowing doubles in bumps…

Doubles?

Brad: Double flips, double anything. A Double Full is a seven twenty (note – two full spins) but it’s one single flip. They don’t allow two flips.

Is that about safety?

Together: Yeah.

Bryon: All the specs would have to change to allow doubles. They’re looking at a new format for dual moguls, this is a proposed thing, where they take out the bottom section, so it would just be a big table to finish off.

That’s a huge transition in the discipline, that’s straight up incorporating park skiing.

Brad: That’s what people want to see, you know? They love seeing the duals, big jumps, and big airs. People throwing their biggest degree of difficulty, I think it would be good for the sport.

Are you prepared for doubles?

Bryon: Yeah, we do them all summer so when they come we’ll be able to do them.

Any double corks yet? (note – a double/triple cork is nearly impossible to explain. In half pipe and slope style skiing it is considered the most difficult maneuver as it is combined with multiple spins.)

Bryon: Double Cork 10 (two off axis flips with three spins) I haven’t done on snow, but on water pretty consistently.

Brad: I think that would be the hardest one to throw with the amount of air we have.

Bryon: You don’t want to take away from mogul skiing either, you’re skiing the moguls between the jumps as well.

Brad: Fifty percent of the score is for turns.

Bryon: Freestyle moguls are what we do.

547991_184311291685322_753787909_nWho are some of the skiers you guys look up to?

Brad: Coaches.

Bryon: Yeah, Coaches.

Brad: Our Wasatch (Freestyle Team) Coaches, Jon O’Brien, Rick Shanor, Scotty Meyer, and also growing up Tony Gilpin. When we lived in Montana he would compete against us all of the time, but that one dual that we beat Tony, it was a huge step. Our parents joke about it all of the time, but that’s when they said we’re actually going to go somewhere.

Bryon: All of our coaches have had some kind of positive impact on our skiing, and our lives really.

Guy’s you can trust.

Brad: Yeah, exactly, knowing you can trust what they had to say.

Bryon: Growing up in Montana there was this group of great local skiers that were kind of our role models. That was important for us to have up in Montana, to see where we could get. To have a tangible goal.

If you weren’t skiing bumps, no ski team, none of that – what would you be doing?

Bryon: We’re both into art. I do wood carvings; I really enjoy doing wood sculpture, trout mostly. I would get into that, a little more into canvas painting.

Where does that come from?

Bryon: Our parents are really good artists.

Brad: The other thing too, is we were really into a lot of sports growing up, football, and baseball. I think that or gymnastics would’ve been something we pursued.

Bryon: We’re both competitive; I think we would have gone into something where we could stay competitive.

Brad: To get where we are now our parents sacrificed a ton, they would have given up so much for any sport we do.

After an hour of talking it was evident what motivates the Wilson brothers on their journey through the ultra competitive world of mogul skiing. Time and time again they gave credit to their parents and the skiers that they watched growing up as positive influences in their lives. It is no wonder Deer Valley sponsors these young athletes in their pursuit of World Cup and Olympic victories. A shared value system and passion for skiing is evident after even a few minutes with Brad and Bryon.

World Cup week is upon us and it is a blast! Head to the mountain to watch the men and women compete in aerials and moguls, paying close attention to the two former Jr. World Champions. This is a pre-Olympic year, a year when some of the most stunning and perfect runs will be laid down in one of the most difficult courses in World Cup bumps. This is Deer Valley in February and you do not want to miss it!

Want to see what it takes to win an Olympic Medal? Check this out.
Bryon Wilson Olympic Medal Run

And is this the future of World Cup Mogul maneuvers?
Bobby Brown Triple Cork

You Never Ski Alone at Deer Valley Resort

Ron Purvis, Paul and NancyLast year during my Max 4 lessons, my instructor gave me some poignant advice. While trying to keep up with the two guys in my group, I fell.  He counseled, “Nancy, skiing is an individual sport; always ski at your own pace.  We will wait for you at the bottom.” Since then, I have not had a problem skiing alone. I often grab my equipment and ski for a couple of hours by myself.

The truth is, you are never alone at Deer Valley.  The skiers are very warm and friendly.  After my New Year’s ski day with my neighbor, I decided to go up by myself to practice what he’d taught me. It was going to be an “intermediate” day for me and my plan was to warm up on a couple of green runs and then hit the blue runs on Flagstaff Mountain.  At the bottom of Blue Bell, my day took an unexpected turn for the better.

Standing in the single line waiting for the chair, the lift operator asked, “Do you know Ron?” I smiled though no one could see the smile since I was covered completely with a scarf, face mask and helmet.  He went on to tease that Ron always buys you a latte if you ride the lift with him. I mentioned I would hold him to it as Ron and his son, Paul, visiting from Chicago, and I took our places on the chair lift.

LatteWith the latte as an icebreaker, we chatted it up. When they found I was skiing alone, they invited me to ski with them. Turns out, Ron was someone I wanted to meet anyway since he is a ski technician in the Rossignol Demo Ski Yurt near Empire Canyon Lodge. You can try before you buy so you know what you like when you are ready to make a purchase. “Sure I’ll ski a few runs with you guys,” was my answer.

So off I went to all the intermediate runs on Flagstaff with my new buds. I followed them all over the mountain – cutting through the trees between the runs.  We took a break at Silver Lake Lodge, where a latte was placed in front of me.  There plans were hatched. You see, I had never been to the top of Bald Mountain (in winter) at 9400 ft., since I was too nervous to go by myself.

It became their mission to take me. So we got on the Sterling Express chair lift and headed up.  They warned me that Bird’s Eye was a little steep at the top but wasn’t any more challenging than the runs we had just done on Flagstaff.  The views were amazing at the top of the mountain and the guys watched me traverse the top of the run with super slow methodical (but safe) turns until it evened out.  At the bottom of the hill, I embarrassed myself and ran into the ropes while queuing up at Homestake chair lift. They teased me saying, I was supposed to be fast at the top and slow at the bottom of the hill, not the opposite!

SkiingMy new friends skied all the way to Snow Park with me to “walk me home” and as we said goodbye, they said, “It’s good that you were slow since it’s Paul’s first day out and you helped him to pace himself.” They were being kind, of course, but their gesture was appreciated.

Speed is relative, you know.  Little did these guys know that this was the absolute fastest ski day ever for me.  Fast or slow, the truth is you never truly ski alone at Deer Valley.

Semper Paratus – “Always Ready”

2013-01-15 11.04.58 Part I

Somewhere up in the snow, along a ridgeline outside of Park City, a group of skiers move through the blue on white Wasatch landscape. The squeaky crunch of a chalky snowpack and heavy breathing are interrupted by quick conversation and casual observations. A day trip to some lower angle snowfields has yielded good turns and spirits are high. Apparent stability has everyone eyeing steeper terrain. One by one they ascend a minor looking slope, each focused on the turns waiting above. The first sign of trouble is word passed down the track that something slid around the turn. Everyone moves quickly to see what happened. The seemingly small slope they were headed too broke away with the first skier; a large debris field lies below them.

At Deer Valley, in the Bald Eagle Patrol shack, a German Short Haired Pointer/Lab named Ninja is enjoying a sun-warmed spot on a Naugahyde bench.

Ninja Patrol Shack

With a half raised head he sees his friend and teacher Sue listening to her radio as she grabs her pack. A skier is missing in the backcountry; a frantic phone call from the scene reports beacon searches unsuccessful. The urgency of her movements flips a switch in Ninja and he is immediately at the door.  Sometimes it’s a chairlift or snowmobile to shuttle them to a scene. Today they hurry to a landing zone as a chopper beats out a steady cadence, coming in low and fast. In seconds Sue and Ninja are airborne and banking hard out beyond the ski areas boundary.

Once on scene the rescuers begin collecting and assessing information while Ninja surveys the half-acre field of avalanche debris. Without ever having met the person he knows they are out there somewhere. He wouldn’t be there if they weren’t. While the people around him are visually inspecting the area Ninja has his nose in the air, sorting and remembering various smells. The young dog jerks with anticipation as Sue kneels close, one hand on his back. “O.K. Ninja,” Sue whispers, his body trembling uncontrollably with anticipation, “SEARCH!”

Ninja search

 Part II

Ninja was nearly two months old when Sue had come to see his litter. She had already been to see over forty puppies at that point, trusting standard tests and her own intuition to pass on all of them. Now, with Ninja and three of his siblings sitting in the half lean puppies tend to have, Sue started the tests again. The first was simple. Pots and pans banged together caused the puppy to Ninja’s right to jump back startled and wary. She knew he would not work. Avalanche dogs are often around loud and sudden noises and can’t be easily distracted or frightened. One by one she rolled the remaining pups on their backs. Ninja and his sister worked against her hand with moderate effort, unsure that total dominance suited them. The third lay frozen in complete submission. While a good avi dog must listen and perform it must also be able to push back on the handler when it senses it is being led away from it’s proper training. Removing the passive puppy she inspected the remaining two. Standing up and walking away Sue looked back to see if either dog had followed.  The sister remained seated while Ninja was happily trotting behind her, only stopping when reached her feet. Sues search seemed to be over. After administering a few more tests such as squeezing between his toes to establish pain tolerance (he did not care at all, good for a dog that will work outside a lot), holding him in the air (think future chairlift rides, and he was indifferent), and playing tug (never had and loved it!) Sue was confident that she had found Deer Valley’s newest trainee.

Puppy Ninja

There was a final and substantial hurdle for Ninja to overcome. Lila, a full Lab, was the most senior and experienced avalanche dog, with thirteen years on the Deer Valley Ski Patrol. She was known to be particular about her coworkers. With a few sniffs and a lick Ninja was deemed worthy to begin training. Training that would take more than a year and lead to the focused and determined dog that was now searching the snow for the missing skier. An animal with a nose thousands of time more sensitive than ours and indomitable spirit that will not let him quit.

Lila and ninja-1

Part III

At the scene of the avalanche time is on every single persons mind, raising even the most experienced professionals level of anxiety. Except Ninja. With no concept of the “golden hour” the young avalanche dog moved rapidly back and forth across the debris, ducking and weaving as every scent except the one he was looking for swirled around him. After several passes with no success his training kicked in and he stopped, turn to Sue, and sat. “Ninja, search!” she says with a flick of her arm. Assured that he is doing right he immediately resumes a pattern reminiscent of a bumblebee, his nose leading him. Within seconds Ninjas demeanor changes from “searching” to “found” and he starts frantically digging through snow that is setting up like concrete. Rescuers move in with probes and shovels, quickly finding a ski boot attached to the missing skier, nearly thirty inches under the surface. Resuscitation efforts begin and the skier is loaded into an air ambulance for the flight to the hospital, only time and circumstances to decide recovery. To the side Ninja is receiving his reward for doing his job – an exuberant game of tug with Sue, punctuated by loud praise and hearty body hugs.

Ninja rescue

The story is fiction, but the dog, the trainer, and the jobs they do are very real. Deer Valley ski area and its employees put great effort into being ready for a call to action like the one described. Here are some thoughts on how to approach and treat a working dog like Ninja.

  • Always ask the handler before approaching the dog. When not busy they can often let the animals under their care meet new friends.
  • Keep in mind they may be on their way to help someone or training. Now might not be the best moment for introductions.
  • These animals are highly trained athletes and their diets are tailored for their work. Treats may harm the animal or impact its ability to perform when needed.
  • Your ski edges will cut their paws and it can happen before you know it. If an Avi dog runs up to you try not to move around unless you are sure their legs and paws are clear of your skis. A good sniff and they usually bounce away.
  • Give them nothing to do but train and lay in sunny warm spots. Be prepared when entering the backcountry, even within sight of the ski areas. Chose your days and your lines with care.

Day after day, the whole day through –
Wherever my road inclined –
Four-feet said, “I am coming with you!”
And trotted along behind.
- Excerpt from Rudyard Kipling’s “Four Feet”

A Local’s View of Sundance Film Festival – Opening Weekend

Ticket holderSince moving to Park City, I suddenly find that I am extremely popular with my out-of-town friends.  This could be due to my outgoing personality or wonderful hospitality but it’s doubtful.  The real reason for the sudden surge in attention is my location—Park City, my home, is the host city of the Sundance Film Festival.  I don’t take this personally instead I simply roll with it and enjoy having so many visitors.  My husband and I are never lonely.

LA girls at Sundance resort

First dibs for the opening weekend of Sundance went to my LA girlfriends.  I think I enjoyed showing them around town even more than they enjoyed their first Sundance Film Festival and first time setting foot in the State of Utah.  Experiencing Sundance thorough their eyes made my own experience so much more fun especially since we started off our experience riding the city buses to Main Street and the High West Distillery for whiskey tasting.

Here are some highlights of my LA girls Sundance experience:

Seeing ice fisherman on drive to Sundance Resort –Our official Sundance experience started on Friday.  With some local’s tickets in our hands, we drove through Heber City and over to the Sundance Resort to view our first film. This gave the girls a chance to see Utah’s beauty but also to observe a sport they don’t have in Southern California – ice fishing.  The girls who had totally stressed over what clothes to bring since it was 10 degrees at night were shocked to see people voluntarily sitting on a frozen lake on a folding chair fishing.

Sundance Resort

First film –loved it.  We saw a film titled, “The Machine That Makes Things Disappear.”  The film was about hopes and dreams of young people in Georgia (not the state but the country).  The film was fascinating and haunting so we talked about it over a wonderful lunch at Sundance for hours afterwards and all agreed we’d like to see it again. They loved it!

tickets at sundance resort

Second film – not so much.  We won’t name names but our second film was a head scratcher for all of us.  We all were wondering how it passed the jury to be entered into the film festival.  Part of being a film buff at Sundance is to expect the unexpected and enjoy the experience regardless if the film suits your particular taste.

Sundance

Main Street. We hit all the sponsor venues we could: the HP technology and the lounge for drinks and music. The L’orel make-up bar and Adobe card making station. We were very impressed with the music cafe and became instant fans of an incredible singer, Kat Edmonson and chatted it up with her afterwards.  The LA girls spotted Josh Radnor also listening so we talked with him for a minute and he was kind enough to snap some photos with my friends.   We met the adorable Stella Artois girls handing out special glasses and gifts.

Stella girls

Riding the special event buses – the event buses are part of the Sundance experience because you definitely don’t want to try to park anywhere near Main St.  So those — well most– who ride the bus are in a great mood and super friendly.  We met all kinds of people in-between venues including film festival groupies from all over the world and a screen writer and his entourage from my girlfriend’s backyard in LA.

Bus stop

We now have some new friends and some great experiences from the Sundance Film Festival.  The girls have already put in a “reservation” to stay with us next year.

LA Girls

 

An Open Letter to Fair-Weather Skiers

Dear fair-weather skiers,

As I write this, it is -18 on a Monday morning.  It’s a one-ski-run kind of day, but there are deadlines to be met, so, I won’t get that run. (“Wait,” you say. “One run? How about no-run? Who in their right mind will go out in sub-zero temps in order to ski?” Um, who said anything about being in my right mind?).

But I want to thank you for all the amazing runs you let me have, yesterday. While my children were in their first day of Children’s Sunday Ski Experience (appropriately layered and covered: 2 sets of base layers, each, plus face masks, toe and hand warmer packs, etc., along with promises from instructors of frequent warm-up breaks), my friend Mel and I were crushing it.

I should add these were my inaugural “grown-up” turns of the season. We’ve had at least a half-dozen family ski days since the resort opened, but neither Jeff nor I had taken a single run without the kids. I’m not complaining—these family ski days have been nothing but a blast. But I hadn’t tested my mojo yet, and I wondered if I still had it. I needn’t have worried. Mel and I took our well-layered selves for a full day of carving and bumps—all over the resort, and had mojo to spare. Our boot heaters were turned on (though mine lost ground around the end of the second hour, then caught up during lunch and held up fine through day’s end), and we pulled our hands into fists inside our gloves and around our warmer packs on every lift ride.  And with every run we completed, we congratulated ourselves for having the good sense to come out and enjoy the snow.

It was a glorious bluebird day—we kept our body temperature up in the morning by taking our first three runs on Hidden Treasure. The fact that you have to skate-ski through a giant meadow before reaching the top of the trail is not only a great lower-body workout, but a smart way to keep warm. And then, there’s the sweet reward: The view from the top. I should note that it was too cold to take pictures—but this one was worth the cold hand.

Fair weatherAfter the third run, we took off for Lost Boulder—though I immediately detoured onto Lucky Star, only to be richly rewarded with yet another empty trail of sweet, soft snow.

Mel is a former nationally-ranked competitive mogul skier, so I knew just skiing behind her on the bumps would help me up my game. When we saw, from our perch on the Northside Express chairlift, that the moguls on skier’s left of Lost Boulder had some nice texture, we decided to ski down Lost Boulder to test them out. Spoiled by the pristine conditions of the other trails, we sniffed at a couple of scratchy spots on the Boulder and then dropped into the bumps. Afterward, I told Mel, “I need to do it again, since I stayed in a squat for most of that run, rather than standing up properly over my skis.” She chuckled her agreement, and we scoped out an entry point from the trees on Lucky Star, since we far preferred the conditions on that trail to the top of Lost Boulder. We found our connection and floated through some delicious powder to the moguls. I stood tall and did a better job of picking my line a few turns ahead. Thus acquitted, we moved on to Blue Bell- Silver Buck-Star Gazer-Gemini. Gemini greeted us with layers of un-groomed powder, before we connected to the bottom of Silver Buck to ride the Silver Strike lift. By now, we had to admit that we were rather cold. “Let’s take an early lunch,” I suggested. Mel agreed, and we skied the same loop, but took the cat track toward Viking lift, and noticed that it was already noon: proof positive we’d been having way too much fun. We made our way inside to Silver Lake Lodge, which had only short lines at high noon—fellow hungry skiers sporting snow-eating grins. We were in on a shared secret—there was killer skiing to be had.

We took a longer lunch than usual, treated ourselves to a shared plate of fries with our sensible entrees, reveling in our morning—and the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company for an entire day. We mused about our shared love of our Volkl Kenja skis, and our stubborn insistence on keeping a one-ski quiver. I received a scolding call from an instructor friend of mine, insisting that I wasn’t taking frequent-enough breaks for the cold temps—all based on a (correct) hunch. I boasted, via text, to Jeff, who was trying to conceal his envy. And, noting that we had 90 minutes before we needed to meet the boys at ski-school pickup, we headed back out.

Funny enough, the conversation drifted to warm-climate vacations—even as we zoomed down Kimberly to check out the new high-speed quad lift, Mountaineer Express overlooking the Jordanelle Reservoir. We bantered about how best to spend a beach vacation, fantasized about Hawaii and Mexico, all the while carving our way along Navigator toward Deer Hollow.  The new lift was a bona fide treat—don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: the merits of a detachable high-speed lift cannot be overstated, particularly when temps dip, and you want to keep your sitting-down time to a minimum.

We gobbled up soft, sweet snow on Fairview—which made for a more-than-pleasant cruiser run. The next run was utility-minded: Deer Hollow to Little Stick to Carpenter—Little Baldy needed our attention. We picked up Little Bell at the top of Success, and enjoyed the piles of crud and moguls it offered up. And then, cutting across Success from Solid Muldoon, we approached Dew Drop. And there, friends, was the reason I must thank you: Fresh, untracked corduroy. It seemed only a handful of folks had made turns on this trail—and it was nearly 3:00!  After zooming down Little Kate, we started to notice the cold again. Still, we weren’t ready to stop—“Let’s just do a bunch of runs on Wide West,” Mel called out, gamely. So, we did—and on this sunny, protected stretch of snow, we felt warmer and satisfied that we hadn’t wasted a minute of skiing. Also, it took my mind off the fact that some of my fellow “mommy spies” had witnessed my older son’s “lawyer skills,” as he tried to convince his instructor to call off the lesson after the first hour. I could only speculate on the disgruntlement that awaited me. I needn’t have worried—two beaming kids arrived moments later, begging to ski a few more runs.

So, my fair weather skier friends, while I realize this post may be self-defeating, I wish to thank you for letting us have the mountain (nearly) to ourselves. Fear not, we took a few extra runs with you in mind. Help yourself to the bragging rights. You’re welcome!

 

 

Skiing with Family and Friends

Happy New Year! Yes, I’m a bit late, but between the holidays, family, working AND a child’s broken tib/fib it’s hard to catch a breath! So it’s time to catch up.

First, my family (both brothers and their families) joined us for the Christmas holidays. There were nine of us living and skiing together. It’s so much fun to ski with them. This is how we started skiing and along the way wives, husbands, nieces and nephews have joined us. The banter between my brothers and I still hasn’t changed. They really think they can beat me, although, I’m not sure they ever did. In fact, the only person around here who has that bragging right is Deer Valley’s own Ski School Instructor, Andi Wieser. He took my time down by .11 after 16 years of pacesetting on the Nastar course. WOW! That’s a long time.

One of the best parts about skiing with the family is watching my nieces get ready and keep up with the group. This is their main ski trip of the year and I have to say, they hold their own. I can’t imagine the fear factor of skiing here in the Wasatch Mountains when they are from New Jersey.  I have nephews that set a quick pace for their cousins. They did a great job, and I think you can see the fun factor in the picture below.

Family Pic
I’ve also been working with my ski sponsor, Blizzard/Tecnica and skiing on my new 2014 skis!  The company needed some photos of the ski tops sheets for upcoming shows and catalogs. (You can see them in an earlier post before the season started.) They ski magnificently and the graphics are sweet looking, don’t you think? It was fun to meet up with the Blizzard/Tecnica group and ski last week. I was able to show them a bit of Deer Valley and spoil them at Royal Street Café for lunch. To tell you the truth, I felt a bit uncomfortable skiing with this crowd of ‘A Teamers’, Marcus Caston, Claire Abbé, Adam Cole, photographer Frank Shine and Joe Dunn, Sports Marketing Director. I think I held my own, but the ages of these skiers really made me feel like their Mom. It would have been fun to ski with my Mom.

IMG_0340 copyIMG_0318 copy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK- just a quick update on my son, Lucas, who I mentioned at the beginning of the post. He’ll be OK, but got his first taste of being an athlete. His goals for the season have needed to change, but he’ll be back ready and stronger for next season.

And in other news…the new snow has brought great skiing! Take a peek at the video by JF Lanvers below. I think we were all hoping for more snow, but any new snow is good snow! Stay warm and enjoy the slopes. Sundance is in town so you know what that means? We’re in for a snowstorm!  It’s a sure thing- ‘just as hosting a Downhill, it’s guaranteed to snow.  That’s the saying in the ski racing world.

Be safe and see you on the slopes!

My Deer Valley – Brian Kahn, Mountain Host

Six. That is the most layers my friend Brian Kahn has worn to work in his role as Mountain Host at Deer Valley. But, he says, it’s worth the extra effort to share his love for the resort with  guests. “I don’t take for granted living in wonderful Park City,” he told me. “Helping a guest to have a great ski and vacation experience is fulfilling;  I am proud to live here and love to show off Park City’s wonderful attributes.”

Mountain Host fits Brian in another way—it’s a job title that comes with many hats: tour guide, concierge, first-chair aficionado. Off the hill he wears even more hats: Husband to Jessica, father to Shane, age three. Portfolio Manager for Responsible Asset Management; principal at Jupiter Peak Financial, his business consulting firm. But whether he’s standing by a trail map offering advice, or leading a First Tracks tour, Brian says the three and a half days per week that he spends on the hill are something he “craves.”

What drew you to the mountain host position?
Deer Valley Resort. I have degrees in Tourism Management and Marketing from the University of Colorado, Boulder and studied resorts and hotels that were/are at the top of their game. Working for Deer Valley—which has always been at the top of the game—isn’t a dream anymore, it is a reality!

What is your secret to staying warm as you stand in the cold for hours at a time?
Paying attention to temperature and wind speeds, mentally preparing and wearing a lot of layers.

Morning view during First Tracks-Dec 31, 2012

What is First Tracks?
First Tracks is a small part of our overall role, but it is very, very enjoyable. Guests pay for a private tour experience just before the lifts open to the public. Riding the lift with a small group of guests as the sun is rising over the Uintas is magical. We are ‘pace setters’ and also on the lookout for our guests’ safety as First Tracks takes place while we are still prepping the mountain.

What other tours are available to guests?
We lead four complimentary mountain tours per day, meeting at Snow Park and Silver Lake Lodges. In the morning and afternoon, we have one expert tour and one intermediate tour leaving from both locations. We quickly assess the guests ability and take them to terrain they are going to enjoy and act as concierges on skis – answering questions, telling the history of the mountain, the mining history of Park City. And once our guests take tours, they get hooked. (For more information about Deer Valley’s complimentary Mountain Host tours, including times, please visit our website.)

Some guests want to ski with others that are at their same ability. Some are looking for dates that they can ski with! Some are out alone on business or their spouse is in a lesson, and they feel more comfortable skiing with a host and others of their same ability than skiing alone. They end up coming back to skiing again with us because we know their ability, the terrain, where to avoid lines (if any) and we keep them moving. We can cater to their questions, too – where to go for a family meal, where to go for upscale dining and what other activities are in town such as the Utah Olympic Park, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and more.

What makes Deer Valley family-friendly for your family?
The fact that there are so many choices for ski school is a big deal. Because Shane is so little—he’s three—we set him up for success with lessons on Friday afternoons—because it’s generally warmer on the hill in the afternoon. We are looking forward to sharing quality time together in a sport his mother and father love—and to teaching him to be a safe and responsible skier.

Describe your perfect DV ski day:
This year, I’m having a lot of fun skiing with my wife, Jessica. Now that Shane, is starting ski school, she’s getting back into skiing more frequently—I just bought her some great powder skis and she’s rocking them!

Honestly, my perfect ski day starts the night before— I start to get antsy, especially before a powder day. It annoys my wife, because I make sure her clothes are out and there’s no wasted time so we’re out the door with plenty of time to make first chair. I like to head out to Lady Morgan because it’s the most bang for your buck—you take 6 runs, and you are thrashed. Then, I move over to Empire, I always go high up in elevation where the snow is lightest. I’m not eating until I’m pretty much exhausted, and then I take a break in the restaurant and relax and get a bowl of chili wherever we are on the mountain.

 

Good Luck Charm- Three Mountains on New Year’s Day

Skiing three different mountains on New Year’s Day has got to be some kind of a good luck charm, don’t you think? My neighbor Dave wanted to ski with me for a day and help me practice my side slips and turns on steeper runs (after reading about my panic attack on Hidden Treasure.) Looking over the map at day’s end, I realized he had taken me to uncharted territory — skiing three different mountains in one day and on New Year’s Day no less!

We started on Bald Eagle Mountain and took Little Stick stopping along the way to practice the side slip technique for steeper slopes or when too close to the edge to turn safely. Dave made a perfect zig-zag on the hill maneuvering his skis by leaning forward and backwards. Unfortunately, mine looked more like a snow angel but eventually, I got the hang of it and felt more secure in steeper terrain.

A new mountain! We headed to Little Baldy Peak on a nice long green run – Deer Hollow that leads to the new Mountaineer Express chairlift. We worked on “patience turns” and Dave showed me how to read the fall line of the run like a golfer reads the greens to putt. You could call it the Zen of Skiing as I started to get the feel of the snow and the skis instead of always being concerned with forcing my next turn.

Flagstaff Mountain was next so we headed up Carpenter Lift and scooted across the “beach” at Silver Lake Lodge to the Viking Lift. It was practice time and we took a mix of greens and steeper blues and I found myself hooting and hollering feeling more and more in control on steeper runs and with increased speed.

Finally I was told that I must be tired because I was planting my poles opposite of what I was supposed to and I had reverted to my lean back ski stance. Have you ever felt like a little kid who knows he has to come in but just can’t stop playing outside? That was me but I knew it was time to go.

Heading back to Snow Park, I was treated to “animal house” on Lucky Chance. No, not the classic movie, but a series of houses that have whimsical statues of animals adorning their decks, yards and rooftops. We saw raccoon, elk, bear, and moose as well as a totem pole with a bald eagle’s nest atop. These sights made for an interesting run.

Studies have shown that good luck charms boost confidence which actually help people perform better. Professional athletes have superstitions like Wayne Gretzky putting on his pads the same way every time and Brian Urlacher eating two chocolate cookies before every game. Maybe there is something to the three peaks on New Year’s Day. Our rational minds will tell us that my skiing improved because my friend (former ski instructor) took me out and gave me some pointers and tips. But, I am going to hold out on the thought that there is something to the spending the first day of the brand new year standing on top of three different mountain peaks.

How many people get to do that in their entire lives? I think a new tradition is born.

Mariposa’s New Menu

One recent Thursday, Jeff and scored one of those rare mid-week nights out, sans kids. We felt like we were getting away with something. (For the record, our lovely friend Mel was watching the kids, so it’s not like we left our grade schoolers to fend for themselves.)

By the time we arrived at The Mariposa and began to peruse the menu, my suspicions were confirmed: We were getting away with something—the small-plates format, introduced this year, truly lets you explore the menu without overdoing it.

Whereas previously tasting-sized portions were available only to guests who ordered a specific tasting menu, now, guests encouraged to create their own tasting menus, customizing portion sizes at single, double or triple—to their liking and appetite. This is a great improvement over the previous setup, when pacing a meal could get awkward if some at the table ordered a tasting menu while others stuck to, say, a first course and an entrée.  Oh, and when some of us couldn’t control our urge to try it all, only to wind up with—at worst—the need to lie down in an adjacent empty booth to accommodate a food coma, or—at best—a nasty food hangover from overeating. (Or, both. Not that it ever happened to me. Or to anyone I know. Really.)

Also, I’m crazy about the fact that you can order wines by the glass in five-ounce or three-ounce pours—I love pairing food with wine, but I’m nothing if not a lightweight drinker.

I noticed that the new menu invites a lot more conversation about the food—the mood in the dining room was lively, and I couldn’t help but overhear a family of five at the next table, animatedly debating which “favorites” deserved a second-round order. A shout-out to the family at the round table next to our booth: I like your style!

Our server, Bill, was quick to point us to the menu’s newest additions—and to point out that the elderberries for the Pontack sauce on the beef short rib are harvested over the summer, from the slopes of Deer Valley. We dabbled in the familiar, and exulted in the new: Yes, there was a double-order of buratta, that decadently creamy handmade mozzarella.

The shrimp ravioli didn’t disappoint, and neither did the seared scallop with risotto. We dipped into Fresh Maine Lobster Chowder, and shared three meat dishes—Veal, Bison and Beef Short Rib. None of the flavors competed, but they all stood out from one another.

Shockingly, there was room for dessert—and here’s where it got fun: Pop Rocks Cookie. Yes, those pop rocks. Baked. Into. A. Cookie. It’s a complement piece on the Java Cone dessert (so many textures and flavors on this plate!), but honestly, it’s so much fun, I might have to call ahead next time and order a batch of the cookies, just for the surprised look I’ll get from my dining partners’ faces.