The Change Up

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I know it’s hard to believe, but there are days when my family opts out of skiing. Some weeks, we are just being courteous–like during Presidents’ Week, or a busy Spring Break weekend. We want to make sure we leave plenty of good skiing for those of you who don’t have easy access to the hill every day of the week. (Oops! I didn’t mean to rub that in. Sorry.) Other weeks, the task of loading up and gearing up just seems too daunting for the adults in the house.  And now that the resort is closed for skiing until December 7 we have rely on these “day off activities” to keep us busy during shoulder season.

Luckily, Park City is full of “backup plans” when skiing isn’t an option.  A “day off”  in Park City may differ a little from a day off in another town…we locals are not terribly good at sitting still. (Yes, by “we,” my family will argue, I mean “I” am not good at that whole sitting still thing. But in Park City, I’m in good company.)

The nice thing about these sports is that you can go after it hard, and get in a workout, or use it as a relaxing family bonding activity.

Just like skiing: if you aren't falling, you aren't learning.

Just like skiing: if you aren’t falling, you aren’t learning.

Ice skating: The Park City Ice Arena, located on SR 248, in the Round Valley sports complex, is one of my family’s favorite places to hang. Sometimes, we make a plan to meet friends, other times we luck into finding them there, by happenstance. Public skate hours vary, but there are at least two hours a day when you can rent skates, borrow a helmet (and even gloves), and get gliding. http://www.parkcity.org/index.aspx?page=190

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I’ve skated my whole life (though, that statement shouldn’t conjure images of me landing triple-axels). My friend Shannon, a pro, is threatening to teach me, but I’m thinking that might be a form of penance for some bad deed she did in a former life. I happen to love the atmosphere of the rink. Usually, there are members of the Park City Figure Skating Club who are practicing their jumps, twists and axels. What’s incredible is to see the pint-sized grade school girls flying through the air. Budding hockey players practice their stops, slides and stick work. Often, I’ll spy some teenagers on a date, hands intertwined, or a snake-chain of tweens, racing around the rink. And always, families. My kids and I like to play hide and seek (we duck into the penalty boxes), practice our backward skating, and “race” around the rink. In fact, we’ve been at the rink so much this winter, I treated myself to a pair of used skates. They really are a treat, since they used to belong to a coach in the figure skating club, and just like high-end ski gear purchased at the local’s ski swap, they are tricked out (custom boot, high-end blade). Translation: complete overkill, but at a deep discount, so why not?

Cross country skiing: The first pair of skis I wore (sometime around age 2) were Nordic kick-and-glides that actually strapped on to my regular snow boots. Nordic skiing was a fixture of my childhood in Vermont, so I’ve always loved the opportunity to share it with my kids. There are miles of groomed public trails around town, but since we don’t own gear, we generally go to White Pine Touring, which is located on the Park City Municipal Golf Course (it’s the PCMGC pro shop during golf season) at Hotel Park City. You can gear up and get on 3K or 5K tracks, and then head all the way out past the white barn, if you’re ready for more. http://whitepinetouring.com/cross-country-ski-area.php

There’s something immensely gratifying about the low-key, yet high-energy, endorphin producing nature of the sport. When I’m with my kids on the track, I don’t get the same kind of workout that, say, Nancy Anderson churns out, but I’m happy just to be outside, sharing a great lifelong sport with my guys. Honestly, you can make the day as challenging or relaxing as you want, and an hour or so is as much fun as a whole afternoon. If you have ever spent a week or a ski season explaining to your young Phil Mahre or Heidi Voelker why they can’t use poles yet, Nordic offers an added bonus: they’re standard issue in Nordic skiing (NB: that still means a lot of work for mom or dad.).

Swimming: One of the best parts of staying in a lot of the lodging properties at Deer Valley Resort is that they have super-heated outdoor pools. One of my favorites is at The Silver Baron Lodge, where the outdoor pool has a sweet little water slide. But if you don’t happen to be a guest there, you can pay for a day pass to the Silver Mountain Sports Club in Prospector and visit their domed leisure pool, complete with lazy river and giant water slide (just check the lifeguard hours before you go, since the water features operate only during those hours, which are limited during the school week.) We lucked into an afternoon there where we had the place to ourselves (the lifeguard told me it had been packed before lunch; my kids had spent the morning at ice skating camp in the arena, so we used the pool for a post-lunch “warm down” activity). When my kids were born, my mother, and mother-in-law told me, “If they’re cranky, put them in water.” No piece of advice has been better used in my home. Baths, pools, sprinklers, whatever. And vacations (stay-cations or traveling vacations, alike) often produce extra-tired crankiness. This pool figures heavily into my parenting strategy. And, yes, it’s about the closest you will get to finding me sitting still.

Deer Valley Weight Loss Program- How to Slim Down Without Even Trying

A friend of mine spent an entire month participating in a live-in healthy weight loss program last summer. The group met with a nutritionist every day and had healthy balanced meals prepared for them on-site. A trainer worked them out six days a week, five to six hours a day both indoors and out.

I was very proud of him that he made a lifetime commitment to his health (and lost a few pounds,) however, the clinic just didn’t seem like much fun especially for an entire month.  I thought to myself, instead of booking a month at a boring weight loss clinic, why not put together your own weight loss skiing plan for a month at Deer Valley ski resort?  Let’s face it, skiing is a blast and burns a boatload of calories.

025 Mountain Scenic_Deer Valley ResortPersonally, I didn’t lose any weight this ski season.  When I stepped on the scale, the needle never budged.  But everyone kept asking me if I lost weight. I didn’t but what I lost this ski season was inches — two pant sizes to be exact. Even my feet have shrunk, (which is kind of creepy by the way) and I am buying shoes a half size smaller.  Seriously, who cares what the scale says!

Nancy PostThe weird thing is I haven’t done anything differently … except for skiing. I still am addicted to pretzels and wheat thins. I drink wine, eat pizza, cookies and chocolate — all in moderation. No deprivation diets in my house!  Even so, my pants hang on me and my suits need altering.  My body composition has changed with fat being replaced by muscle which is not reflected in the scale.  The only explanation I have for this phenomenon is skiing.

Since I had so much fun this ski season, I skied whenever I possibly could even when it was five degrees or snowing. Once I was there, I stayed out until I absolutely had to come in — my inner child wanted to continue playing in the snow!  This practice helped me lose inches without even noticing and could work easily for everyone.  Anyone wanting to lose their “muffin top” could put together a do-it-yourself weight loss plan and call it the “playing in the snow” program.

014 Deer Valley Resort Birdseye ViewAccording to Livestrong, downhill skiing with moderate effort for a 150 pound person burns about 400 calories per hour.  Taking into account the downtime riding the lift, you could easily ski three full hours in a day even with frequent breaks and burn about 1,200 calories a day. You only need a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat.  So with a ski program, you could lose inches without severely limiting calories.

Here are some ideas on how to put it together:

Ski three days on and take a rest day the fourth day – repeat for an entire month.

Try cross country classic or skate skiing to mix it up and burn even more calories.

Improve your skills and book some Max-4 lessons.

Incorporate a specialty clinic like the women’s ski weekend where you ski three days in a row with the same group and same instructor.

Eat healthy lunches like the “natural salad bar” or “turkey chili” at Silver Lake Lodge or Snow Park.Natural Buffet

Pile your plate high with good healthy delicious food at the Seafood Buffet or Fireside Dining.

If you want to eat the cherry pie, ski an extra half hour that day and indulge with a small portion.Cherry Pie

On your rest day, go to the spa at Montage, Stein Eriksen Lodge or St. Regis and get a massage, sit in the sauna, and/or steam room to relax, revitalize tired muscles and pamper yourself.

Now that’s my kind of a weight loss program!  You learn a new sport or improve your skills. When you are having fun, of course, you are going to get out there earlier and stay longer.  Getting slim by playing in the snow worked for me.  Do you think it might work for you?

Leaving My Son in the Dust

Nancy and RickSons have a special bond with their mothers. Well, at least when they are little since when most kids enter high school they are embarrassed to be seen with their parents.  I remember begging my mother to park down the street when she picked me up from school so I didn’t have to be seen getting in the car with….gasp…my mother.  She refused, of course.  I dreaded the time when my kids didn’t want to be seen with me.

It didn’t happen in high school with my youngest son, Rick (now 23).  He seemed to actually like having me around. In fact, he would even dangle his arm over my shoulder at…gasp….the mall! I thought we had bypassed the “my mom is embarrassing” stage until he came home from college saying things like “You aren’t going to wear THAT, are you?”  I guess certain things are unavoidable in life.

We came full circle recently when he came to visit. He is now a college graduate and a contributing member of society. He is also a snowboarder but wanted to switch it up and ski with me at Deer Valley.  His last memory of me skiing was not a good one – it was well over a year ago when we first moved here and before all my lessons!  He even took embarrassing photos of me traversing back and forth across the run and falling since my technique was so poor. He and his brothers ditched me after one run.  Who could blame them?

Nancy Rick JayThis time was different.  He was on skis instead of his board and I had been practicing, taking lessons and attending clinics. He started off on the Wide West run using the “magic carpet” people mover to get his “ski legs” since it had been 12 years since he had been on skis. Once he had the basics down, we headed up the Carpenter Express chairlift to Success.

I planned on taking the Rosebud cut off since it would be a bit easier for him for his first run.  He didn’t see me and stayed on Success where the bottom is a tad steeper.  I caught up with him and as anticipated, he had some initial challenges and stopped halfway down.

This was my opportunity – one that rarely comes and I wasn’t going to lose it. You see, Rick is a good athlete, and I knew he would quickly pass me up.  I wanted to show off my hard work and newly found mad ski skills.  So I did what any self respecting mom would do — I executed a controlled sideways slide then an abrupt hockey stop spraying him in the process.

With a straight face, I said, “Let’s face it, I am better than you.”

Then I took off.

Nancy and Rick SPWe had a great laugh as he told the story to family and friends at Snow Park Lodge.  Rick and I skied the rest of the afternoon with my friend Michelle and in no time, he was skiing beautiful turns, enjoying himself and waving at me as he passed me by. His wave, however, was one of respect.

It takes hard work and determination to learn to ski especially when you start after age 50. To be able to spend the day skiing with my son and have him dangle his arm over my shoulder again is a wonderful feeling and definitely worth the effort.

Thank you, Deer Valley.

Looking Back at Another Ski Season

In my December blog, I was trying to see into the future and guess what the new ski season might bring.  If you read that piece, you might recall that I had no specific goal in mind. I was just going to “play it by ear” as I had done it for almost six decades. Now, peeking into the crystal ball is over. It’s time to look into the rear view mirror…

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One truth I learned this season is that each ski day – just like our fingerprints or our irises – is totally unique. People often say, half-jokingly that there’s “no bad day skiing” and while I subscribe to this truth, I can also assert that each daily ski experience teaches us something remarkable, provides us with one-of-a-kind sensation and makes us constantly view the sport under a fresh angle.

When you live near a ski paradise like Deer Valley Resort, it’s very easy to become spoiled and only go out when all the ski planets and stars are in perfect alignment. It’s so easy to become very picky and, often times, far too demanding. If we don’t keep our attitude in check, we might surprise ourselves muttering “I only do perfect blue-bird days, and today there are just too many jet trails in the sky…” then dismiss another beautiful opportunity to make some great turns. Thank heavens, I have not yet reached that level of decadence!

This said, going out skiing when you live in a ski town truly requires a certain fortitude and discipline. Plus some extra tenacity that can make a whole world of difference between a fun-filled ski season, in which one can get up to speed and enjoy the sport to its fullest, and a succession of sporadic outings where the “ski legs” never seem to appear, even on closing day.  Like many, I love powder and was rewarded earlier in April when we received some 18 inches of outstanding new snow.  I was able to re-live the soft, forgiving and all-absorbing feelings that come with a generous cushion of genuine Utah dry powder.

Unlike the way I was used to (until last year) when I could get my fix of “pow” on a near daily basis, I made do this season with looking forward to the next snowfall and was quite appreciative when there were only six inches of fresh under my skis instead of the 24 I had come to expect. At this point, I would open a technical parenthesis and say that with the new, extra wide skis, “bottomless” powder has lost its seminal meaning.  Moderns skis won’t sink, but for a few inches, no matter how far the hard bottom actually is from the surface!

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Of course, I’m not a “dyed-in-the-wool” corduroy guy either, and I remain more attracted by the rough and tumble terrain, the one that is peppered with hidden obstacles like trees, “Volkswagen bumps” and small cliffs, the one that also requires tight turns and accepts the occasional “friction” between rocks, stumps and ski bases.  I am talking about the kind of terrain that abounds on the west side of Lady Morgan, Daly Bowl and Chutes, and Son of Rattler, just to name a few famous Deer Valley spots!

Son-of-Rattler

All this to say that in a winter with less than average snow, skis used in that type of terrain generally take a beating and, to avoid it, I have overstayed the allotted time I normally use “rock skis,” and extended their short, transitional lives to almost a full season.  Of course, in March as the snow turns to spring quality, I had plenty of opportunities to try my brand new skis on Deer Valley’s legendary corduroy, but for the most part, I spent a season taming some very unruly and hard to control “rock skis”.

I do believe that adversity makes us tougher as well as better and this is precisely what this season did to me. After skiing on my sub-par skis for months on end, I had an epiphany when I tried the new boards I had set aside, on some groomed runs or tested them on the April 9, miracle dump! This means I wasted no time:  While agonizing on my old skis, I was just getting better and doing my utmost to push-back my own technical decrepitude!

Oh, yes, I almost forgot! There was another great lesson I learned this winter.  Early January as I was filming Heidi Voelker, the new snow was beautiful but had blown into the open areas, which combined with a low visibility made skiing tricky, if not treacherous. Filming a fast skier like Heidi on bumpy terrain with a helmet cam isn’t easy either as the main objective is to keep the head – hence the camera – steady, constantly aimed at the skier and of course, try my best to stay in control. Suffice to say that I took at least two spills that cost me tons of energy. I discovered that, at my age, getting back on my feet is much harder than it used to be!

In conclusion, while I didn’t quite make it to the century mark in terms of days I skied this season, I still came quite close to that number with quality and fun-filled skiing, and this is perfectly fine with me.  I had some wonderful moments, great memories, not one single bad fall and no collision either; my body is still whole. I am now ready to rest for a few months with the firm intent to do much, much better next season!

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Peeking Into a Lift Operator’s Life

In any skier’s typical day, each chairlift or gondola ride always involves a Lift Operator. This key employee is constantly making sure that everyone is safe and well cared for. The constant interaction between Lift Operators and skiers has perked up my curiosity and prompted me to know more, and understand better, what motivates these seemingly tireless mountain workers.

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Late this season, one early morning, just before his shift, Kevin Combs, one of the many Deer Valley’s Lift Operators, took the time to listen to my questions and shone a rather enthusiastic light on his daily life:

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JF: How long have you been a lift operator?
Kevin: This actually is my first year.

JF: What was your occupation before that?
Kevin: I was a machinist, back east, in Massachusetts. I moved to Utah in November.

JF: How do you like working with Deer Valley Resort?
Kevin: It’s fun. It’s a great experience being here, lots of great people to work with, everyone has a smile on their face and always ready to serve our guests and makes sure everyone has a great experience, whether we’re talking about guests or fellow employees.

JF: Were you a skier before you came here?
Kevin: Oh, yes! I have been skiing since I was 12 years old.

JF: So, I guess you learned and skied in New England?
Kevin: Oh yeah, I skied the ice, which is something you have to learn on the East Coast. I can guarantee that it makes a good technical skier out of anyone who learns over there!

JF: How often to you get to ski?
Kevin: That’s what makes the job so exciting: I get to ski every day; whenever I get a break, I ski, it’s great!

JF: Even on your days off?
Kevin: You bet, I ski every day that I can, I wouldn’t miss a beat!

JF: Where, on the mountain, do you work?
Kevin: I am working out of Empire Canyon. I either work on Empire or Ruby Express chairlifts. I also help around on the mountain when another lift is short of people. I’ll rotate as needed.

JF: Since this was your first season, have you visited other Utah resorts?
Kevin: I’ve almost skied them all; the only ones I think I haven’t skied yet are Solitude, Powder Mountain and Snowbasin.

JF: When you’re skiing Deer Valley, what’s your favorite run?
Kevin: I’m into extreme skiing so I love to ski a lot around Lady Morgan, because of its great tree skiing and its cliffs. I’m particularly fond of Centennial Trees, and of course, I ski off Empire Express in places like Daly Bowl and all the surrounding Daly Chutes. When I happen to find an untouched area, I just “drop-in…”

JF: Are you skiing alone or with buddies?
Kevin: I do a lot of skiing by myself. This said, I have a lot of friends who ski with me; I do my own things in the morning, and then I hang with them in the afternoon because sometimes they can’t quite follow me. But I like to ski with everybody and together, we always have a great time; I guess that’s what skiing is all about!

JF: What would you say are the skills required to do your job well?
Kevin: Before anything, you need to be a great people person. You need to be concerned about skiers’ safety and comfort, especially those who are less advanced and aren’t always familiar with riding lifts. Sure, it also helps to know a little about things mechanical, the lift itself, because it’s a big piece of machinery. For instance I pay attention to noises that may come from the lift; with my mechanical background, I can alert Maintenance to a problem if there seems to be one. Of course, the job also demands that one is a decent skier so you can ski to and from work, can relate well to our guests and have a wonderful interaction with them.

JF: Does a healthy passion for skiing help?
Kevin: Oh yes, most definitely! If you work as a Lift Operator and are not really here for skiing, you miss out a lot. Of course you can take the job just for the love of the mountains, but a passion for skiing shows and makes all the difference. Working no longer feels like work!

JF: What would be your next professional goal with Deer Valley Resort?
Kevin: I’d probably love to move up to Ski Patrol, because I like to help people and be on skis. For me, being outside and helping people are the two main reasons why I love with my life at Deer Valley!

JF: If people reading this blog were interested in a position like yours, what kind of advice would you give them?
Kevin: Don’t be scared by the responsibilities and by all the impressive machinery; the work is totally doable. The training Deer Valley provides is great, everything is fluid, all the kinks have been purged, and of course, there’s all the skiing!

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JF: What will you do this summer?
Kevin: I’m planning to get a job with an online sport equipment supplier in the Salt Lake Valley. During my spare time, I also plan to mountain bike a lot here and around Moab!

JF: Sounds exciting! So, you’re looking forward to another winter season with Deer Valley Resort?
Kevin: I think so; I’m now convinced Deer Valley is the place to be. It’s a lot of fun here. We’re surrounded with lots of great, helpful people all the time. I’ve never had a bad day here, which is simply… amazing!

Snowshoeing to Fireside Dining

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As this winter season ended, we wanted to try one more great snow activity: a snowshoe tour at dusk just before a delightful dinner at Fireside Dining at Empire Canyon Lodge! Marrying these two activities is almost like taking a trip through nature that miraculously leads directly to some old-world mountain setting.

Because of the changing snow density, spring season snowshoeing always entails more workout than during mid-winter and after a strenuous trek all the way to the bottom of the Daly Chutes, we returned to the Empire Lodge where a true “mountain feast” was awaiting us at Fireside. I have a soft spot for Raclette and took full advantage of this high-energy, Swiss delicacy while reminiscing the good old days when I still was living in the Alps.

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After one generous serving of Raclette and its delectable accompaniments, the beef medallions was definitely my favorite main entree, along with a nice serving of “haricots verts” (these fine French green beans, sauteed the Gallic way…) This wonderful dinner was crowned by some tantalizing desserts inundated with melted caramel, white and black chocolate. These wonderful dishes made us forget the effort we had just produced while strapped to our snowshoes and almost succeeded in restoring us to full strength, ready for another round of snowshoeing under a moonlit sky!

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That first – and only – snowshoe tour of the day was led by Justin, who works for All Seasons Adventure, Dear Valley’s on-site, independent activity provider. Before dinner, I spent a few moments chatting with Justin and here’s what he had to share about snowshoeing at Deer Valley Resort.

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How long have been guiding snowshoeing tours?

I’ve been guiding for 4 1/2 years, snow-shoeing the whole time and guiding in a number of other activities.

What kind of special skills – if any – are required to snowshoe?

Nothing in particular; just go out and do it. We cater to any fitness and skill levels. From beginners to the most advanced and ambitious snowshoers.

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What’s a good time to go snowshoeing?

You can do it during the day, morning, afternoon, dusk or evening, by star-light. We can organize a dinner snowshoe like tonight at Fireside, or hike over to Silver Lake Lodge and go to the Mariposa, Royal Street Cafe, Glittertind or Goldener Hirsch.

Do you provide lights for these evening outings?

We do. A lot of time we don’t need them, as the moonlight or even starlight is usually sufficient, but we have lights in case there’s some cloud cover.

What happens if your guests are into stargazing or astronomy?

We actually have a device that you can point at the stars and that uses a laser and GPS locator which can tell you what star you are looking at.

How long does a typical snowshoe tour last?

Usually one hour and forty-five minutes to two hours, but we can do them as brief as 45 minutes or as long as four hours.

Can guests cancel the outing when snow is falling hard and there’s too much snow?

If it’s snowing, it’s generally a wonderful time to be out snowshoeing. If the snow fall is significant, we make sure our guide stays ahead of the participants to pack down the snow. If the weather is simply too harsh, the outing maybe canceled and there’s no-cancellation fee to the guest.

Where are you taking your guests?

It depends a lot on what they like. Often times the trails are through the trees but we can go off-trail, through powder or just stay on the packed trails. A lot of our trails offer a wonderful diversity, so we’ll just pick an itinerary based upon our guests’ needs and desires. Our main concern is to keep everyone safe within the constraints of avalanche conditions…

Is snowshoeing a family activity?

Absolutely! Younger kids may have a harder time with it, but it works perfectly for anyone from about six or seven years old up until … indefinitely. We have had octogenarians take a tour with us!

Do you have gear to fit everyone?

Yes, we offer a full range of sizes in snowshoes and poles.

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How should people dress?

We normally recommend that people wear snow-pants, dress in layers on top, have sunglasses, gloves, a hat and wear sunscreen on sunny days. We can provide over-boots which are like a Cordura gaiter that cover the whole foot in the case guests don’t have good shoes and can cover their tennis shoes to keep their feet dry.

How long in advance do we have to book a tour?

During the busy season, like Christmas, Sundance Film Festival, Presidents’ Day week-end, 48-hours in advance is recommended. Other times, we can get people out with just two or three hours notice!

Can special event be combined with your snowshoe tours?

Definitely. We can cater to our guest’s needs to create a custom tour however they’d like it. We’ve done anything from a 50 year old birthday party to even marriage proposals; you name it!

How can we reach you and where are you located at Deer Valley Resort?

We have a desk at the Snow Park Lodge that is staffed from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. everyday during the ski season. If you need to contact us on the web our address is allseasonsadventures.com or you can reach us by phone at 435-649-9619.
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**Snowshoe tours and Fireside Dining will start again in December 2013. Please call to make reservations after Labor Day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lego Maniacs

This time of year is what the locals call “shoulder season.”  The resorts are closed for skiing and the town quiets down quickly.  Here is a suggestion for what to do while exploring Main Street during the 2013 spring shoulder season:

photo (16)In my house, we speak three languages: English, Star Wars and Lego.

photo (14)Lego, often, is the predominant language, with my kids’ brick creations often expressing their every Star Wars fantasy, or say, their love for their mom. To wit: I came home one day to find that Seth had re-purposed the helicopter skids from one set, and the light sabers from another, plus the pirate’s ponytail from a third, to accessorize a mini figure into “Mom.” Perhaps my obsession with skiing is noticeable to my kids?

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(It is to everyone else, of course. Witness the sign I received as a 40th birthday gift from “Florida Keys Girl and Guy”, that reads simply: Eat. Sleep. Ski., that now hangs prominently in my home.)photo (19)

 Anyway, I knew we had a home run of a family activity when I saw that the Kimball Art Center (kimballartcenter.org) was hosting The Art of the Brick, an exhibition of the artist Nathan Sawaya’s sculptures that are made entirely out of our favorite molded bricks. We marveled at the skill with which he had created 3-D sculptures, optical illusions (“canvases” that looked, from afar, to be paintings, but turned out to be portraits rendered with the smooth sides of the bricks.)

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Naturally, the exhibit includes a play area in the gallery lobby for visitors to attempt their own creations on-site. (With Seth unable to pass up a chance to build, Lance, Jeff and I took turns visiting Mark Maziarz’s fascinating “geolines” exhibit, in which he has manipulated his signature nature images into a new art form.) http://www.kimballartcenter.org/?exhibit=geolines-by-mark-maziarz

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The Kimball is a great stop any week of the year, but if you have Lego fans in your life, get there before April 21, or log on to www.brickartist.com/exhibitions to see where the show is headed next.

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Diary of the Powder Flu

The drug of choice: powder.

The drug of choice: powder.

The signs were everywhere.

11:30 p.m. April Fool’s Day: The snow is dumping into my back yard, sticking. I feel the familiar flutter in my stomach, the tickle in my throat: the first signs of Powder Flu.

6:30 a.m.: April 2. Jeff utters the only sentence that can seal my fate: “There are 14 inches of fresh powder on the resort.” My response: “And there’s only one cure for the Powder Flu–skiing!”

Like a madwoman, I begin texting our visiting friends at their hotel. I’m willing to ski (gasp) another resort, if it means that we can get out together. No response. I begin to worry about their well-being. Did body snatchers come for them in the night?

8:05 a.m.: I have no time to worry. That old skier’s saw, “No friends on a powder day,” is ringing in my ears. I’ve made breakfast for my family, revoked allowance, rewarded compliance, kissed two sons and one husband goodbye for the day, slurped down a protein shake, and called the gym to cancel my reservations for back-to-back spin and strength conditioning classes. I’m selecting late-season base layers (running tights and a long-sleeved running t-shirt), grabbing necessities, loading the car.

8:23 a.m.: I’m thinking it could be worth skiing that other resort. I call a friend who is as die hard about “her” mountain as I am about mine. She has to work. I am sitting in traffic. It’s possible that my little Powder Flu is an epidemic. I notice that the “other mountain” is socked in, but I see Deer Valley with blue sky above it. A sign. I leave messages for two DV pals, and then start to grin as I approach the parking lot.

Top of Hidden Treasure9:05 a.m.: I glide my MomWagon into the space, and raise my arms over my head in victory. Then, a car pulls in next to mine. I hop out and scream the name of the driver: “Donna McAleer!!!!”  Just when I had resigned myself to skiing solo (figuring I could post my arrival on Facebook and find a pal or two), Donna simply pulled into the space next to mine. “I heard your voice and thought, I just wrote your name down to call you later. I need to ask you about a few things.” Within moments, we’re on Carpenter Express chairlift.

“I believe in signs,” she confides. “Do you?” I tell her that I’ve never been a single adult, but I would have made a HIGHLY annoying singleton. I would have seen “signs” of destinies better left unwritten, everywhere. We laugh, and then dive in to our catch-up.

I have just about 90 skiable minutes in this day. Kindergarten pickup is at the unforgiving hour of 11:15 a.m. We determine to make the most of it. Instinctively, throughout the morning, we divide our discussion into chunks that can be expressed in the length of a chairlift ride and digested in the trees.

We have a quick conference about our trail plans. Donna is not only a veteran ski instructor at Deer Valley, but she’s a veteran of the US Armed Forces. I know better than to second guess her knowledge of the mountain, or her strategic advice. “We’ll go to Empire, it won’t be crowded,” she says.

knee deepThen, as we approach Quincy, I notice all the skiers coming down Hidden Treasure seem impossibly short. Wait…they are all of average height, but skiing in knee-deep powder. Wow. “Did you see that??!” I am shrieking. The line and lift attendants are laughing at me. “We have to ski that. NOW!” So much for deferring to Donna.

Hidden Treasure, as always, delivers. My quads are wishing I’d gone to the killer spin class, but I’m thrilled. As we board the chair again, our plan is to head over to Empire to ski in  Anchor Trees. I have a fleeting thought that we should check out Guardsman’s Glade. Donna, it turns out is also a mind reader. “Bari Nan! What about Guardsman’s Glade?” Boom. We’re there. We make second tracks. It’s bliss.

Hidden TreasureNext up, Empire. We scoot down Orion. I lose sight of Donna, call her and tell her to take Anchor Trees without me—I’m having too much fun in the moguls. (Ok, I’ve skied that Orion-to-Anchor combo a zillion times, and somehow, the fog in that section of the resort conspires to make me doubt my line to the gladed entrance.) As it turns out, my mojo turns on in full force in the second stretch of bumps on Orion. I’d do laps on that run, if I had more time today. I reconnect with Donna as she comes out of the trees on the mid-trail run-out, and then we’re down another pitch of moguls like we were born to ski it. We ride one last lift together. “I’m going back for one more run,” she says, as we part.

10:30 a.m.: I hit Hidden Treasure once more. It’s decidedly choppier than an hour ago. I crush it. Then it’s up Judge, and on to the Silver Lake Express (my quads thank me), because I know the conditions on the lower mountain will not meet my powder snob standards, today. I enjoy the view. I look down at some favorite runs, longingly, feeling a pang of regret for my sensible decision. I click out at the bottom, hustle to my car, jump out of my gear and into the driver’s seat.

11:05 a.m.: I have hit three red lights, and I’m more than 10 minutes away from my kids’ school. I start speed dialing other kindergarten moms. Voicemails. My epidemic suspicions are confirmed. I reach Lisa, and she says she’s happy to wait with Seth for an extra few minutes.

11:18 a.m.: The phone rings as I’m pulling off the highway. It’s Michele, another mom in the class. “We are just coming out of the parking lot at the mountain…” I interrupt her, tell her that I’ll wait with her son, and pull in to find our boys. She and her husband arrive five minutes later, and we compare notes on our skiing, give ourselves a pat on the back for capitalizing on the Powder Flu. “I’m in need of some sunscreen for my gums,” I tell them. “I can’t stop smiling!”

Post Script: 1:45 p.m.  I’m on Highway 224, driving toward Kimball Junction from town, when I look to my right and see Donna, still in ski gear, behind the wheel of her car. Of course I call her, and she says, by way of answering the phone, “I kept saying, just one more run.”

The Just Because- Cupcakes

photo (27)Certain things simply create a special occasion. The Black and White Cupcake at the Deer Valley Grocery Cafe is one of those things.

In our family, the Black and White Cookie (particularly from the now-shuttered Bruce’s Bakery in Great Neck, New York) held a revered place in the dessert galaxy. The Deer Valley Black and White Cupcake is right up there. It’s not a comparison, given the obvious cookie/cupcake distinctions. However, it has the same capacity, within its category, to create dessert nirvana.

Which is why, on a recent Sunday, we picked up four…and saved them until the next night. A simple way to turn Monday into an art form.

Learning to Ski at 65 – Call in the Professionals

photo (31)While I certainly don’t agree with it, I can understand why many people wouldn’t venture to learn to ski after age 65. The older you get, the more you realize that life (and your body) is fragile.  It doesn’t help that everyone loves to tell skiing horror stories, either.  You might ski a hundred times and have an amazing day after day but do you share those stories? Of course not.

Everyone tells the story of their most dramatic day that either involved extreme fear, pain or a combination of both. For example, my brother told me the story of when he skied in college as a novice with his buddies in California, his friends took him in the trees instead of staying on groomed runs. He fell flat on his face with his skis sticking straight down and he couldn’t get back up! His toe nails turned black and eventually fell off since his boots were too tight.  Unfortunately, this happened to be my first introduction to skiing, and I was left with a less than favorable impression.

Another favorite storytelling subject is “falling” which involves ledges, trees and collisions with other skiers.  Then there is the story of a friendship ending day when someone is taken to a black diamond mogul run, chute or bowl that is way too advanced for them.  The friend ditches them and leaves them to somehow slide or trek down alone, scared and angry.

Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?  Doesn’t really make you want to grab your gear and head to the lift.   Why would you put yourself through this at 65? Well if you read this previous blog, you’d know why my husband is doing it. He wants to ski next season with our three year old granddaughter. He also wants to do it right so he can enjoy himself and minimize his chances of injury. At 65, he also certainly can’t afford to waste time learning things the wrong way and then having to relearn them.  He wants to do it right.

We called in the professionals.  We booked a couple one-on-one private lessons with one of Deer Valley’s professional ski instructors.  Since Mary Lou Mignot helped me bump up to a solid intermediate skier at the Women’s Ski Clinic Weekend, we asked for her to put together a Beginner Boot Camp for Jay.

It worked!

photo (30)Mary Lou got Jay from surface lifts on Wide West to the Carpenter Express chairlift in a matter of a few hours but more than that, he got a solid foundation in balance and control that will stick with him forever.  The lesson began with helping Jay get a feel for the skis and enjoying the slide. He then learned to take the wedge to more of a parallel turn and control his speed.

By the second lesson, he was very comfortable on the lifts and enjoying runs following Mary Lou’s ‘S’ shaped turns and having her follow him observing and providing tips to improve. He even kept his cool when some pint sized skiers went flying out of the trees within a couple feet of him. They didn’t faze him one bit and he passed his first test for skiing with grandchildren.

There were no dramatic stories of run-ins with trees, crashes, or cliffs.  He did catch the bug, however. You may know it well.  It’s the bug that changes your whole perspective on life;  the one that makes you excited when it snows on April 1st,  where you count the number of ski days left in the season and you no longer talk of events in years but in terms of “ski seasons”.  You know what I am talking about.

photo (32)It makes all the difference in the world to start your ski experience off well. Especially as you get older, you don’t take anything for granted … especially a ski season at Deer Valley.