Gearing up!

“Do the boots fit? Have they outgrown their skis? Will their goggles cover their foreheads, or have they outgrown those too? What about mittens? We never seem to have enough mittens.”

These are the conversations that preoccupy my family’s fall weekends. We dig through ski bags. We try on helmets. And as been the beneficiaries of some pretty sweet hand-me-down jackets and pants, we have the kids try on the pieces that seem closest to their sizes.

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This year Lance is 11 which means that on his next birthday he will officially complete the annual rental contract at Utah Ski and Golf, he started at age three. Since enrolling he has upgraded to the front-entry boots. He has gone up to a ski length that is closer-than-ever to my own ski length. (Just as his bike is but one size smaller than mine.) We’ll be taking Seth to Surefoot and Jans to see where he falls on the trade-in scale—certainly he’s up at least a size in boots at least a size in skis. I thought recently, “there is nothing quite so humbling as marking the passage of time in outgrown ski gear.”

I am also humbled by the leaps in maturity, too. Lance turned the “boot corner” this year. The minute he slipped his feet into his new boots, he announced, “These feel great!” No drama, no discussion about how they “should feel.” He’s a skier. They felt right. He knew.

Lance turned another corner. When the tech asked about his ski level, we didn’t hedge. Our instincts and experience told us that he is, officially, a great skier. He attacked terrain with a different confidence last season, and he had the look—the one that says, “I can’t wait to attack it again.”

Share with me how you are gearing up your family for this season on Twitter   or @Deer_Valley. See you on the slopes!

World Cup like a Local

One of the great things about being at Deer Valley during World Cup Week is that you get to observe preparation for the venue from the ground up, watch the athletes train, and gain a real appreciation for all the work that goes into putting on this incredible event. When youre a Park City local, and a Deer Valley skier, you often test positive for a chronic condition: Olympic Fever. People in other towns around the globe are immune to this.

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They dont wait in line at Snow Park Lodge behind the once-and-future Olympic Freestyle champions. They dont support athletescareers by hiring themas babysitters, as baristasand cheering for them at every turn. For most of the world Olympic,isnt a word that pops into every conversationfor us, its just the air we breathe.

In our world its absolutely normal to hear USSA chief, Tom Kelly, urge locals in an interview on KPCW to go up to Deer Valley, spend the day skiing, stay for dinner and watch the competition.Its a normal-this-weekafter-school activity to zip up to Deer Valley to watch the training and the competition as the weeks events heat up. Thursday of World Cup week finds me rushing the kids through the after school routine, hustling them into layers, sticking adhesive sole-warmers to their feet, and loading them into the car, all so that we can get to the competition site as quickly as possible. Of course my kids are just as excited as I am to visit the VIP tent, mingle with the athletes, and practice their butt-sliding skills at the base of the course as they get to watch the competitors’ incredible athletic feats.

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The fact that our town plays host to the FIS World Cup Freestyle Championships each January means that on this weekend the entire social scene in town revolves around the competition. Are you going to the concert on Main Street, Wednesday?is an oft-overheard query as friends greet each other in line at Starbucks, at school pick-up, or at the gym. Weeks before the competitions I start getting calls from friends—“Are we going? Which night?

And then, gloriously, it is time for date night. Friday, when my kids are tired from the action the night before and relieved to be able to chill out in front of a movie, the grownups head to the hill. The previous weekend may have found us at the Symphony, or the Eccles Center, a movie theater, or a nice meal at Mariposa. But this week our culture is skiing and our wardrobe is warm and functional versus styled and fashionable. Our music is dispensed via giant amps on scaffolding and the polite applause is replaced with hollering, cheering and, yes, cowbells.

The best part is that you dont have to be an actual local to enjoy the experience like a local. The sense of community and pride, as the crowd applauds the grace of every well-landed trick, absorbs the shock of every fall, admires the grace of every athlete, is palpable and thrilling. Whether youre a local or a guest in town, bundle up, come on out and make some noise. And when you see me there, flag me down and tell me what youre loving most about the experience. Or just tell me below, in the comments. See you on the hill!

Shabbat on the Slopes

One of my favorite winter traditions is the Friday afternoon Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath) service in Sunset Cabin, at Deer Valley Resort. Affectionately referred to by members of Temple Har Shalom in Park City as “Ski Schule.” The service is informal and fun, it feels a little bit like camp, and a lot like one of the coolest ways to practice religion I have ever encountered. That is saying something, I have prayed on top of Masada in Israel, and once, my family and I led a service on a cruise ship.

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By the way, I’m uniquely qualified to  assess “cool ways to practice religion,” because I spent one summer at a camp called USY on Wheels, which is a motor-coach tour of the United States. USY is a youth group for Jewish teens, and the purpose of the trip wasn’t just to show several busloads of children the amazing cities and national parks, small towns and stretches of highway that make up our country, but to allow us to experience the idea that you can practice Judaism anywhere. We held services at the Grand Canyon, in picnic areas in Yellowstone, in hotel conference rooms, at highway rest stops. (My husband and I met on this trip, in fact, but that’s another story, altogether.)

Ski Schule has become a tradition for my family. The service is led by members of Temple Har Shalom, often by a rabbi, but frequently by a layperson, in addition to the regular Friday night services in the synagogue, itself. Members and visitors alike, delight in the bragging rights to what may be North America’s only ski-in-ski-out Shabbat service. One recent Friday, I was asked to lead the service. I jumped at the chance, and so did Seth, whose half-day Friday schedule made it easy for him to come help me. So, loaded up with a (homemade-by-me) challah, some grape juice and the key to the cabin, in a backpack, we headed for the hill.

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Every bit of the experience thrilled Seth and me. Setting up was a hoot, Seth found all the “secret compartments” where supplies were stashed. Quickly we gathered supplies, and unloaded the contents of the backpack, then hung the Israeli flag on the pegs outside the door of the cabin.

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Welcoming guests was a blast. Everyone was excited to be there. On this day, it was all locals—which made sense, since the majority of holiday guests were en route or just checking in for the winter break. Helmets were removed, friendly faces revealed—happily, my friends Sue and Ethan, also enjoying a mother-son ski outing, were among them. “I wanted to surprise you,” she said with an impish grin—acknowledging that she had made a zillion excuses as to why she could not join me, just two days earlier. Another guest invited her Mahre Camp coach to join us—something I’m sure he didn’t expect when he clicked into his bindings that morning. A family of three arrived, parents rejoicing in their daughter’s half-day of school, so they could share some turns and the service, together.

Soon, we sang some opening songs and then got down to business. The service is a complete, but abbreviated version of the Reform Jewish “Welcoming the Sabbath” service, held in synagogues around the world on Friday nights. Seth actually stepped up to lead a prayer (making his Jewish mother, who also teaches Hebrew School—kvell) and then, in the tradition of seven year olds, everywhere, grew antsy. “I’m hungry!” He announced just loudly enough that a fellow worshipper heard, and responded by producing a mini Kit Kat from his pocket. (Yes, dear reader, it was the rare candy-free ski day, and I won’t make that mistake again, anytime soon.)

As we concluded the service, I marveled at this amazing blend of communities—guests from all over the world will come to Sunset Cabin, all winter, to be among other worshippers. If you ask them, they will surely tell you the experience enhances, rather than interrupts, their ski day.

To me, Ski Schule (as well as the non-denominational Christian service, held in the same cabin on Sundays at 2 p.m.) is one of those experience that helps define the Deer Valley Difference. It provides a gathering spot for like-minded people to share an experience that is unique and gratifying, social and spiritual. Come to think of it, that’s how I often define a great day on the hill at Deer Valley. How about you?

Would you like more information about services at Sunset Cabin? Send me a Tweet   or @Deer_Valley.

My Top Five “Only in Park City” Experiences

Nearly every day, I find some reason to appreciate the moments and experiences that make life in Park City, Utah unique. Believe it or not, these moments don’t revolve entirely around sports experiences—though I engage in as many seasonally-relevant sports as possible every week. But sometimes, seemingly out of the blue, you get those, “Only in Park City” moments that fill you with wonder at the dumb luck of living in such a terrific place. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Everyone gives back

The ways in which we give back are so numerous, I can’t even begin to list them all here. Schools get kids involved early with opportunities to give—often having classrooms compete with pennies to raise funds for a charity, and once the students enter middle school, their curriculum includes community service hours.  Deer Valley connects hundreds of students each year with our state’s heritage at the annual Navajo Rug Show. Parents and non-parents volunteer time in the classrooms of our schools. Also, I have been asked annually to be a guest speaker on the topic of professional writing and blogging for the ninth graders in Honors English, as they embark on writing their own blogs. I’m very proud to be able to give back to my community in this way. And I’m hardly alone: When Lance attended a summer camp called Innovation in Action Institute (which focused on entrepreneurial skills), one local entrepreneur-parent gave a video-conference presentation to the students, while he was on a business trip. Countless friends of mine contribute their time to the Center for Advanced Professional Studies, run by the school district.

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And on November 7, the annual Live PC, Give PC Day of Giving will overtake the town, with volunteers wearing T-shirts, holding signs, calling in to KPCW and generally getting the word out that people can donate to one or more non-profits to help support the programming that keeps the town running (with ED, or otherwise.) It’s a great way for locals and guests to show their support for all the work our town’s non-profits do to benefit the entire community. It’s this kind of collaborative approach that makes our town unique—because we all feel that we’re contributing to the success of the town, beyond just spending money on ski passes and shopping in the stores.

Parkites love nothing more than sharing an experience—witness the countless outdoor concerts, where there’s a “huge crowd, whether it’s free or paid. But we seem to excel at the experience of giving.

2. We WIN Lost and Found

Our local radio station, KPCW does an excellent job sharing Lost and Found announcements. Dogs, wallets and cell phones figure heavily in these announcements. But once in a while, I’ll have an experience that wouldn’t happen in most of the cities I’ve lived in previously. To wit: One week, I enjoyed Standup Paddleboarding outings with friends, not once, not twice, but three times. My son, Lance, left a tote bag with dry clothes somewhere on the grass beach near the pond.

Photot Credit: Michael Larsen of Larsen and Talber

Photot Credit: Michael Larsen of Larsen and Talber

We discovered this after we arrived home, so we schlepped back to the Deer Valley Grocery~Café to look for it. Oddly, we couldn’t find it—but we did spot a towel and wet suit belonging to his friend Ben, who’d been with us that day. So the trip wasn’t for naught and I began to wonder if we’d actually brought the bag with us in the first place. Imagine my delight when, the following Wednesday after we’d finished paddling with our friends Tracy, Michael and their kids, I spotted the bag sitting between the building’s AC units.

Photo Credit: Michael Larsen of Larsen and Talber

              Photo Credit: Michael Larsen of Larsen and Talber

When I showed it to Michael, he was astounded—“That’s been here since Saturday?” he asked with the disbelief of a longtime city-dweller. So stunning was this discovery, that Michael took a photo of the bag in its waiting spot.

3. We Chase Balloons

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No matter how frequently it happens, my family and I never tire of noticing hot-air balloons dancing over the early-morning horizon. On a recent morning, there were three coming up over the ridge that we could see from our breakfast table. It looked improbably pretty, like a painting. One morning, when Seth and I had some time between dropping off his brother at camp and the beginning of his own camp, we saw a balloon that was about to land near a parking lot off of US 40. We drove over to watch the landing, so he could see how graceful it looks.

4. We get customer service

Deer Valley Resort is only one example of the way Park City does its best to be hospitable to locals and visitors alike, and to make sure the experience is stellar. Park City MARC runs terrific programming all year for our town’s youth, exposing them to skateboarding, soccer, fencing and basketball, to name just a few. One standout? The excellent tennis programs, including their camps, which my kids attended this summer.

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Of course everyone has an “off”day, and happened one day when my younger son was attending the tennis camp. I couldn’t get a straight answer on something that was happening at camp—the details of the situation are unimportant here, but the fact is when I expressed my concern, the front-desk staffers, Sadie and Marianne, heard it. Sadie escorted me to the operations office where I met Recreation Supervisor Tate Shaw. “I get that mistakes and oversights happen,” I told him. “But the mark of a good organization is how well the situation gets handled after the mistake.” Tate took my concerns seriously, addressed them with the staff and called the following day to let me know that it had indeed been resolved to my satisfaction. I know this seems like a small thing to some people—but if you’ve ever been stuck in an endless ladder of customer service auto-prompts with a big company, the fact of having an actual human being listen to you is not to be undervalued. The other thing that this experience reinforced is Park City’s small town charm and the “it takes a village” mentality, that comes to bear almost every day in little ways. When I expressed a concern about an issue in a program my child was in, it was taken as seriously as though it were a staff members child.

5. We Dress for Success

On most of the days that I took Lance to Standup Paddleboarding camp at the Deer Valley Grocery~Cafè Pond, I arrived ready to paddle.

Photo Credit: Michael Larsen of Larsen and Talber

            Photo Credit: Michael Larsen of Larsen and Talber

Except one day, I arrived dressed for the meeting I’d left briefly, to run Lance up to camp. As Trent came paddling ashore to greet Lance, he said with some surprise, “Oh, it’s YOU! I thought you sent someone else to drop off Lance!” The fact is most days I put on exercise clothes first—and may not find myself in street clothes until the following day. After all, when you’re fitting in exercise and sports around the other necessary activities of daily life and you have the kind of job that only occasionally requires a professional wardrobe, dressing for work has a different meaning. For someone who worked in fashion magazines for a very long time and once received a “once-over” from the editor of Vogue, it’s frankly a relief. There’s a definite vibe of “come as you are,” in Park City. Biking to a meeting is a good thing, riding a chairlift to one is even better. So if you see me looking like I’ve been loafing around in yoga pants or ski clothes all day, chances are you’re half-right—but in this town, that’s dressing for success.

Five For…Dancing?

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It would be easy to blame the euphoria I felt throughout the Five For Fighting concert at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater on the incredible gourmet picnic basket, the delicious red wine (and let’s be real, people), the salted caramel brownie on a stick. But not everyone had that particular delicacy and the euphoria of the evening was a shared audience experience. Because, you see, we were all on our feet dancing for most of the evening.IMG_7949

Nobody ever accused Five For Fighting’s John Ondrasik of being a purveyor of dance jams. Yet, there is something to be said about a performer whose energy is so infectious, whose lyrics are so heartfelt and whose talent is so worthy of celebration, that the crowd can’t help itself.

In fairness, the crowd was pretty excited before Ondrasik and his talented band members took the stage. Not only were we treated to two opening acts, one of them was Park City’s own Austin Wolfe. Locals are very proud of Austin—she competed on the most recent season of American Idol and made it to the top 15 female performers on the show. No lesser a star than Harry Connick, Jr. told her that she not only had the talent to be a star, but she had a cool name to boot. Still in high school, Austin has the stage presence of someone much older and a voice that can handle everything from standards to pop. On this night, she even got to sing “Happy Birthday” to her mom—we were fortunate to be seated just a couple of rows ahead of her proud family.

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And then, out came Five for Fighting. Before long, we were all singing along to his hits. Some of us (okay, Jeff and I and the fun woman just behind me who kept high five-ing with me as we danced) sang along to some of the lesser-known songs. In so many ways, it felt like an intimate party. John told a lot of great stories and he teased us for dancing to his not-dance-jams. He and the band played their hearts out. John told us we were his favorite crowd; he may say this to all the crowds but he told us that he doesn’t. And the thing is, I believed him. All three of the acts that night, Jesserae, Austin Wolfe, and John Ondrasik, had connections to Park City and Deer Valley. Jesserae, told us his family has a vacation home in Heber City and skis at Deer Valley. Austin Wolfe is a home-grown local and John Ondrasik told the crowd how much his family loves their ski vacations at Deer Valley Resort and how he plays in the Luke Robitaille hockey tournament at the Park City Ice Arena every year during the Sundance Film Festival. Like many of the audience members who aren’t lucky enough to live here full-time but who are lucky enough to visit here, often these performers consider Deer Valley a part of their hometown crowd.

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John solidified his connection to the crowd when he truly let whatever shred of his remaining “guard” down at the end of the show. “We were going to play two more of our songs, but you guys clearly want to dance, so we picked out some other songs—some party songs,” he announced. “But I forgot some of the lyrics, so you have to forgive me for reading some of them off the iPhone.” And that’s how we all came to sing along with the band, as they played Simon and Garfunkel’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”  It all felt so…familiar. Perhaps, in part, because he was foisting the mic into the crowd, giving solos to people at the stage’s apron—and I realized I’m not the only person in the world who thinks I am singing on key. In between songs, John had to hand off the phone to his drummer, “What’s your code? It locked up? Can you look up the lyrics for the next song?”

It takes a special guest to make the host crowd feel more welcome than when they walked into the venue. But it turns out this was just part of the magic of the evening. That, and the salted caramel brownies on a stick. More on those soon, I promise.

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Jam-packed Summer

Dear Reader,

I owe you an apology. I was too busy living the Park City lifestyle to write about it this summer. I didn’t have the heart to part with my kids for many full-day camps. As I write, the boys are in their first full week of school after a two-day opening “week,” and I am missing all the adventures we shared over the summer. I jokingly referred to the school-free months as “Our Summer of Academic Rigor,” because I was convinced that if I didn’t stimulate their minds in nearly equal measure to their bodies, all the things they’d learned in school would, quite simply, fall out of their heads. So, there were academic camps, sports camps, even a sleep-away camp for Lance one week. But I wanted to squeeze in as much time with these dudes as possible, so after every morning camp, we’d hit the pool together, or a trail, or, yes, the movie theater.

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We enjoyed lazy mornings too and we thrilled at the fact that when the day ended, there was no homework. We took our RV on a few trips and got rained out of a few others. Yes, the RV means rain isn’t a tragedy, but being cooped up in the RV because of the weather isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of fun. One of our trips took us to Bear Lake. It’s close enough for a day trip, so if you’re visiting Park City in autumn, a drive north to this turquoise-blue lake on the Utah/Idaho border is something to consider.

Bear Lake is known for its raspberries and its raspberry shakes. Garden City, Utah features a seemingly endless strip of “shake shacks,” whose shakes my family is more than happy to sample. There are ATV trails and tons of rentals available, a marina, beaches suitable for sunbathing or launching kayaks and paddleboards, yet you’re surround by lush trees and rugged mountains. Garden City boasts a multi-use path for biking and walking, that makes it a very biker/pedestrian-friendly location. Oh, yes, and there are also go-karts. My family loved racing around the track and then getting a shake to celebrate our “victory.”

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Like any vacation house, our RV is stocked with games. Our favorite, and one which I recommend to all travelers, is Story Cubes. Because it’s pocket-sized, you can take it with you on the plane, in a car or wherever. You simply roll the dice, which bear symbols instead of numbers, and players have to tell stories using the symbols they have rolled. This was the winner of the picnic table game night.

IMG_7472That’s just one highlight. I’ll be reminiscing about many more as the gorgeous fall descends into mud season and we have nothing but the memories of a sweet summer and the anticipation of a snowy winter (please!!) to get us through.

How was your summer? Did you jam-pack it as well? Tell me in the comments below or on Twitter  or @Deer_Valley.

Summer Fun, Family Style

It has taken me a little while to get into the swing of summer apparently, it’s taken Mother Nature a bit of time, too. We had a spring snowstorm on Tuesday June 17 but with the Community Concert series set to kick off the following night (yep, it had to be postponed) and lift-served hiking and mountain biking already in full swing, the storm felt like a summertime sucker punch. In our family, we’d already spent a day exploring the activities at YMCA Camp Roger, where Lance will spend a week this summer—his first sleep-away camp experience. I’m happy to report there were cute, cozy cabins each with its own fire pit, plus archery, basketball, mountain biking and horseback riding. What’s not to love? (If it were acceptable, I’d sign up!)

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In my house, summer means a new routine nearly every week—and sometimes every day. It makes me marvel when I get to the end of the day and haven’t messed up, taken people to the wrong locations or missed a start time. Yeah, it happens.

Certainly, we’ve already crammed a ton of summer fun into the two quick weeks since school let out. My boys have enjoyed several days of tennis camp at the Park City MARC. You know it’s a good camp when you sign them up for two days and they come out at the end of the second day and ask, politely, for a third. You can bet that they’ll be doing more of that camp. I’m guessing, too, that part of their love of tennis camp is that it takes place at the MARC, where there’s free access to a rock climbing wall—perfect for killing time before camp starts.

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Some weeks, their camp pursuits are more academic. Seth went back to school for a French Immersion Camp. He’s in a dual language immersion program at school and his teacher runs week-long camps so that the language doesn’t fall out of the kids’ heads over the summer. Of course, it culminated in a hike—this is Park City, after all. Lance, on the other hand, headed to Zaniac, an awesome learning center in Redstone, where he’s been taking math classes (which thankfully, he loves, and which seemed to boost his math grades at school…win, win!). The camp he chose was “Intro to Computer Programming,”and he couldn’t get enough of the half-day program, learning to write code in lots of fun ways. He even created a music video for “Radioactive,” by Imagine Dragons.

Most of the camps we’re enrolling in this summer are partial-day camps, in part because I figured out that while there are many awesome full-day options (including Deer Valley Summer Adventure Camp and options through Park City Recreation and Basin Recreation), I’ve realized that sending my kids to full-day camps often means someone else gets to hang with them while they are having fun and I get the cranky-exhausted kids afterwards. So, we compromise. There will be some full-day camps (they may yet decide to go to the UOP’s awesome FUNdamentals Sports Camp or Deer Valley’s Summer Adventure Camp, because, heck, it’s summer, and who wouldn’t want a full day of fun?) But mostly, we’ll do partial-day camps and then head to the pool.

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Cf course, we’re planning a bunch of RV trips too—Bear Lake in July, so we can get our fill of that area’s crystal-blue waters and famous raspberry milkshakes. I would love to hear what camps you’re sending your kids to in the comments below or Tweet me @BariNanCohen.

On Deck

Outdoor dining is one of my favorite parts of summer in Park City. The late sunsets and the crisp mountain air, plus a delicious meal are a combination I find hard to turn down.

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One of my favorite spots is the patio at Billy Blanco’s at Quarry Village in Pinebrook, because it overlooks the amphitheater where Mountain Town Music hosts concerts on Sunday evenings at six, the perfect, mellow end to the weekend. Plus, it’s two minutes from my house, so there’s that. I’m a sucker for their black bean soup, and the California Burrito, so I’m always excited to enjoy a meal on that particular patio.

Another favorite, of course, is the Deer Valley Grocery~Café—where the burgers are second-to-none and the patio has a nice awning, keeping the need for sunscreen to a minimum. Early evenings there, with nibbles and a glass of wine, may be my favorite. The light starts to dance on the surface of the pond and it’s pretty peaceful watching folks Stand Up Paddleboarding alongside the resident ducks.

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Of course, all this outdoor dining can create a wardrobe challenge. One minute, the sun is shining and you’re completely comfortable in lightweight summer clothes and the next minute, the sun has set and you’re thinking, “I’d give anything for a fleece jacket.” I think my best fashion discoveries of the season have been lightweight cotton shirts with sleeves that can be rolled up or down and a collection of layering pieces —I veer between denim jackets, fleece jackets, cotton cardigans and hoodies. Whatever the case, don’t leave for a deck-dining evening without a layer or two in hand. I would love to hear about your favorite places to eat during the summer. Comment below or tell me on Twitter @BariNanCohen. 

Nastar Magic

One fine Monday, I found myself out skiing with my kids. Or, dare I say, out-skied by my kids.  I’m pretty fast, when I want to be, but on this day, I felt like I was skiing in  molasses. This, friends, is not to say the snow conditions were not perfect. They were. Therein lay part of the problem. So lovely was the snow, so bluebird the day, my kids were zooming around the hill like Mario Andretti on a country road—or at least how I imagine a racecar driver would take a country road.

None of this, by the way, is said by way of complaint. It is a point of pride that my kids engage with this sport, and love it as much as their parents do. And, I’m telling you, this is the year our family ski days turned a corner (if I’m to drag that racecar metaphor out for another go-round). No longer are we enduring endless laps on Wide West. Gone are the days of one-run-and-done. Our family can take a trip down nearly any intermediate run without hesitation.

So, when we took some laps off of Flagstaff Mountain, and then Bald Mountain, I was in my glory. Except for the fact that they were moving so quickly (sometimes in a little tuck), that I was in constant “worried mother” mode. It wasn’t that I needed to ski fast to keep up, it was that it was nearly impossible to “hover and sweep” to protect them from other skiers who may not expect pint-sized Speed Racers, however well-skilled they may be.

As I chased them down Birdseye ski run, delighted by their enthusiasm for the run, I wondered, “What if I could channel this energy, this need for speed?”

Would it shock you to learn that my boys were, ahem, ahead of me?

“Mom! Look! It’s the Nastar Course! May we race, please?”

What if, indeed.

I raced NASTAR as a kid—it’s a grass-roots public recreational ski race program. The largest in the world, as a matter of fact. And I remember the thrill of coming down the course off the “Triple Chair” run at Pico, and hearing my name called. My kids have run the Deer Valley Nastar course before, along with courses at other resorts, but they wanted to show off for me.

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This, friends, was a boon. A boon, I tell you. Not only did they do laps on this course, but I got to do a couple of quick runs down Little Reb ski run, solo, to wait for them at the bottom. Fewer more lovely words were ever spoken, at least on that day, than “Wait for them at the bottom.” Here, they could ski fast, to their hearts’ content, and I could simply enjoy watching them. No other skiers on the course, except my cute boys. Even the announcer got in on the game, “Here’s Lance and Seth, and their Mom at the bottom taking pictures for future Facebook posts,” he called out on the first run.

The fun thing is, we got to ski together before and after each run. Because, of course, one boy earned a medal, and we had to go to the top of the course to collect it. Then, the other wanted to try for a medal, and then they both earned medals, and we had to go back up to the top of the course and collect them. So, we’d ski down McHenry ski run to the Wasatch chairlift, ride it up, ski Birdseye or Nabob ski runs down to the top of the course, and repeat the process. Finally, after three races, I called the Costanza Rule, and declared it time to find our way to the car. “You can race more for Daddy this weekend,” I said, explaining that we’d be back as a foursome in a few short days.

And then, we were off to Little Stick ski run, and I was back on Mommy Patrol. Hilariously, there were several skiers on the trail who identified my plight. “You just have to hope,” one woman said, helpfully, as she watched me attempt to keep my kids safe. “Wow! They are great!” said another couple, navigating the bottle neck at the bottom of the first section of Little Stick. “Thanks!” I shouted over my shoulder. “You should see them race!”

Give your Skiing the Boot

I’ve been having a lot of conversations about boots, of late. It’s happened with enough frequency, that I’m taking to my soapbox for a Public Service Announcement. Get thee to the boot-fitter, stat.

I know, you and I may not know each other. But in my un-scientific sampling of friends, I’m noticing a trend. Nobody’s skiing comfortably in their boots. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I was one of those folks for a few weeks.

Remember, a couple of years ago when I found Boot Nirvana?

Well, I realized, a couple of weeks ago, that Nirvana had left the building. I found myself committing all manner of cardinal boot sins. Like clamping down my buckles, for instance. Bad skier. Baaaaad.

Then, there were signs that I should heed the warning my boots were sending me—in the form of achy joints after skiing (doesn’t happen when my boots are fitted properly) and knees that felt “tweaked,” for extra measure.

I heard instructors telling tales of students showing up in tears because their boots were ill-fitted and causing them extreme pain.

I skied with a friend who was skiing in boots that, to my non-professional eye, were at least two sizes too big. And her husband, who was skiing with 99 percent of his lower-body wardrobe tucked into the cuff of his boot. (“Repeat after me,” Jeff scolded, gently. “Nothing goes inside the boot except your sock.”)  I’d dismiss this as a rookie error, but another friend, who’s a lifelong skier, was making the same mistake.

Then, a girlfriend injured her ankle, skiing at another resort. It was a really bad sprain—she’s off the hill for at least a few weeks. “I think my boots are kind of loose,” she admitted. She’s an expert skier. She should know better. But, she’s also a parent, and in the habit of deferring nuisance tasks like gear maintenance in favor of other tasks related to her kid’s skiing safety gear, etc. I get it.

Finally, after all that, I marched myself in to see “my” Boot Fitting Dude at Jans. No sooner had I put down my boot bag than he was extricating the boots from it, spiriting them off to the shop in the back and asking me questions as he went. “Mm hmm, mmhmm,” He nodded his assent to my “complaints,” and then disappeared. Moments later, he was back. We were trying the boots on. There were some minor tweaks. My awesome fit was restored. It took—wait for it—fifteen minutes.

Even if you think your boots are fine, do yourself a favor and spend fifteen minutes with a boot fitter. The good ones (and there are a lot of them in this town) are never going to try to sell you on a new boot if you don’t, honestly, need one. They’ll just fix you up and get you back on the hill. You’re welcome.