David Smalis manages a lodging reservation team whose job it is to paint a vivid picture of a winter vacation home that will perfectly match the needs of its guests. Every piece of the puzzle needs to fit and this requires superior listening abilities, tireless research and absolute integrity during the entire process. David began working for Deer Valley Resort as an intern during the 2007-2008 ski season and is now the Assistant Manager of Deer Valley Resort Lodging and Reservations; he shares with us the essence of his experience.
JF: David, what exactly are your responsibilities with Deer Valley Resort?
David: I supervise a team of Vacation Planners, that’s what we call our reservations agents. Our team fluctuates from about five individuals during the summer to around 10 in the winter.
JF: How do your Vacation Planners work with guests?
David: Mostly over the phone; they take in-bound calls related to lodging reservations and associated activities, when needed.
JF: What did you do prior to your employment with Deer Valley Resort?
David: I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and lived there until I was 24. I went to college at Arizona State University. I was already familiar with Park City since my family used to vacation here. I decided to come to Utah while in college, just to do something different; since I really liked the ski industry, I applied to work at Deer Valley Resort.
JF: What was your job at the time?
David: I began with an internship on the mountain with the Race Department and came back to start as a Vacation Planner the next summer.
JF: What specifically attracted you to Deer Valley Resort?
David: I was already familiar with the resort and that’s what brought me to my internship. Later, having worked with a travel agency during college, I had the skills required for the Vacation Planner position.
JF: What did you expect as you started your internship?
David: Since my internship counted for credits during my last semester in college, I expected to have fun skiing, get credits for my work and then come home. At that time, I didn’t expect to be here full-time!
JF: What made you change your mind?
David: Once I came back home after my internship, I realized that I wasn’t tied down to anything since I was finished with college. I still needed to get a job, so I came back to Deer Valley Resort.
JF: What were your key motivations for returning?
David: Skiing has been a passion of mine since a very young age, and not just skiing, but also the general atmosphere surrounding the sport; since I was familiar with this area, it seemed like a natural choice. I have been a life-long golfer as well, so with the best of both worlds within easy reach, skiing in winter and golf in summer, I couldn’t be happier.
JF: The perfect confluence.
David: Exactly! In college I majored in communication and I felt that I could go in many directions with it. The fact that I was able to find a job up here I could enjoy as well helped to seal the deal. I found something that I enjoyed doing in a place where I enjoyed being!
JF: Compared to your previous jobs, what has your Deer Valley work experience been like?
David: I worked through college at a travel agency in Tempe, Arizona, which gave me some valuable experience as it relates to the travel industry. This said, the company I worked for was neither too organized nor the most professional, and I found a stark difference when I joined Deer Valley Resort. Here, people stay employed for years and years, something I haven’t seen in other companies!
JF: What impressed you the most at Deer Valley?
David: The executives really set some great examples conducive to cementing a strong team spirit. They’re not above helping employees when the need arises. I’ve seen the president of the resort taking skis at the ski corral during a busy time, just because there was a need. Likewise, I’ve seen other executives clearing tables during Christmas and these kinds of situations go a long way towards creating a unique and wholesome work climate.
JF: How much support did you get along the way?
David: I found that Deer Valley has a culture of promoting from within whenever possible. This helps a lot when you start from a ground-level position and can see that possibility. But you need to have the motivation to move up the ranks. I had it and I’ve always received all the support I needed from my superiors.
JF: Would you like to share some advice for people looking for employment with Deer Valley?
David: I have had nothing but good experiences at Deer Valley. It’s a great place to work and the company treats people very well, but it’s not a job where you can just come in and go through the motions. You must care a lot and be intensely driven in making a real difference to our guests.
JF: A real difference? Is that what defines the “Deer Valley Difference™”?
David: The easiest way to answer is by using the three circle model, “Take care of the guest, take care of the company, and take care of each other.” If you do all three and have them in mind whenever you are making a decision on the job, you are making that Deer Valley Difference™ a reality.
JF: Would that difference influence your making a lifelong career with Deer Valley Resort?
David: When I look at the resort’s master plan and what is going on at the moment in town, I’m truly excited for the future. So to answer your question, I would love to work for Deer Valley for the rest of my career; that would be an ideal scenario for me!
As you drive to Deer Valley Resort on State Route 224, it’s impossible to miss the McPolin Farm that stands as the gateway to the town of Park City. This iconic farm, purchased by the citizens of Park City in 1990, is meant to enhance the entry corridor and maintain some precious open space.
Since those days, the barn and farm have been extensively refurbished, stabilized and regularly maintained, mostly through the continuous support and work of the Friends of the Farm volunteer organization. The McPolin Farm is also available for community events like the annual Scarecrow Festival which kicked off on September 27 and will be displayed through Halloween. A variety of scarecrows are displayed along the paved, multi-use trail that parallels the main highway.
On the last Saturday of September, Parkites created themed and handmade scarecrows. Everyone put on their creative hats, brought clothes, shoes and accessories and created a collection of unique characters.
In exchange for a donation benefiting the McPolin Farm, organizers provided the stuffing material and a support stand for each scarecrow. Events including games, pumpkin carving and face painting were held while the scarecrows were assembled. Creativity went wild and the end result is stunning!
Now the show is yours to enjoy. This past weekend, we took our grandson and he had the time of his life discovering the whimsical and sometimes spooky creatures that were lining the path. We checked each scarecrow from head to toe, laughed when we read their stage name and took lots of photos. Following is a pictorial summary of what we liked most:
From Snoopy to Star Wars, characters are always popular; there’s something for everyone…
The majority of creations are just fun and whimsical…
What would a display of scarecrows be, without a few crow-creations?
Of course, there is always room for the spooky kind…
Education wasn’t forgotten either!
…As well as worthy causes, like the ALS bucket challenge.
What would Park City be without sports of all kinds?
… and skiing, of course!
But above anything else, Snow, and lots of it!
Don’t wait; bring your kids or grandchildren along with their friends, and enjoy a day out. Just make sure to park across the street in the parking lot and walk through the tunnel to get across the highway to the Farm. Everyone will be guaranteed a great time, will get plenty of fresh inspiration and perhaps will want to create their very own Scarecrow next September!
Fresh out of college, Kathy began her career at Deer Valley Resort as a Ski Instructor before joining the Ski Patrol team and then moving on to the resort’s Human Resources department. She didn’t stop there and worked part-time in retail at the resort’s Signatures Stores, while she pursued a career as a professional cyclist. Today, she is the Tour & Travel/International Coordinator in the Marketing department. Before she re-invents herself once more, I stopped Kathy for a few precious minutes to uncover the secret of her breathless career path with Deer Valley Resort.
JF: What was your life like before Deer Valley Resort?
Kathy Sherwin: I was raised in Tacoma, Washington and always was a very active child. I was a tomboy, I guess; I already had my little BMX bike and built a track for it in the back of the house. I also played soccer, tennis and was put on the ski bus every week by my parents.
JF: Where did you go skiing?
Kathy Sherwin: Snoqualmie Pass, Crystal Mountain and White Pass; those were the main places I learned to ski; I was always on the go!
JF: As you grew up, which career path did you want to pursue?
Kathy Sherwin: It’s kind of funny; I wanted to be a doctor. As I started volunteering and working in that field, I soon realized that everyone was sick. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be around all these sick people all the time and started looking instead into preventive approaches to healthcare which led me to a healthier lifestyle. I met my late husband in college and he was the one who had a bicycle and said, “Hey, let’s commute to school everyday.” It was of course much faster to ride our bikes than drive for 40 minutes in Seattle’s traffic. That’s how I got back into bike riding.
JF: I guess, biking was well planted into your DNA.
Kathy Sherwin: Yes. I remember telling my mom, “I want to bike race!” when I was 6 years old, but it didn’t happen.
JF: So you are at the university and then you graduate; what brought you to Deer Valley Resort?
Kathy Sherwin: My late husband said, “I’ve heard about Deer Valley Resort, it’s a great place in Utah; they treat their employees extremely well.” So we went, we got jobs, he became a Mountain Host and I became a Ski Instructor.
JF: Had you taught skiing before?
Kathy Sherwin: Yes, I forgot to tell you; I had taught skiing at Ski Acres, next to Snoqualmie in Washington, during my last year of college.
JF: What were your expectations when you arrived at Deer Valley Resort?
Kathy Sherwin: That we would work there for a season or two and leave.
JF: And move on to another place?
Kathy Sherwin: Yes, but Deer Valley Resort was so fantastic and with the employee benefits, the way we were treated, and the tight-knit family atmosphere, it was hard to think about leaving.
JF: Were you hooked?
Kathy Sherwin: Totally!
JF: What did you learn during your first season?
Kathy Sherwin: The importance of customer service. If you had a question from a guest and didn’t have an answer for it, you would go find it out and would get back to the guest no matter how much work it meant and whether it took a few minutes or an hour. I thought it was pretty cool because many other places didn’t know how to service their customers that well.
JF: What else did you learn?
Kathy Sherwin: The other thing that I discovered, that I thought was really neat and interesting, was that all the departments were working well together. So we got along well with the kitchen and the kitchen would help us, Mountain Hosts would help us too; soon, the other departments would pitch in. The philosophy was, “We’re all under one roof, we’re trying to achieve the same goals, so we need to help each other to achieve them.”
JF: Did you feel this came naturally from all your coworkers?
Kathy Sherwin: We had orientation and training, but no one can force a certain attitude on you. With the kind of employees that we have, many of them so well-educated, this way of acting comes quite naturally. It isn’t pushed down your throat and most people buy in to that concept.
JF: What’s remarkable about your career at Deer Valley Resort is the impressive range of positions you have occupied over the years; tell us about that.
Kathy Sherwin: The ski school came naturally because I had done it previously. Still continuing on the thought that I wanted to go into medicine, I became an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and joined the Ski Patrol for a few years. Then about a year later, after my husband and I married, I had the urge to get a “real job” and an Administrative Assistant position in Human Resources became available. I applied and got the job.
JF: Was it a year-round job?
Kathy Sherwin: Yes, salaried, full-time. I did it for a little over 10 years and worked my way up to HR Manager by the time I left. I decided to then pursue my passion of racing a bicycle full-time.
JF: Did you take a sabbatical or did you find some other working arrangement?
Kathy Sherwin: What I did was to work on-call with the Deer Valley Signatures stores. I would come to help over Christmas, holidays and other busy periods and did this for six years. In the meantime, I was racing my bike full-time, traveling the world and training daily.
JF: How did that passion for mountain bike racing develop?
Kathy Sherwin: When I was sitting in the HR department, I watched the NORBA (National Off Road Bicycle Association) series come through and set up mountain bike races; I wondered what this was all about and thought it would be cool to try one day.
JF: Did you have any mountain biking experience?
Kathy Sherwin: Not really, I would occasionally ride a hard-tail mountain bike and eventually I ended up getting a full-suspension one. I loved it and started to race. My first competition was the Intermountain Cup Series, 14 years ago. I participated as a beginner and won my category, which was a real shocker to me.
JF: What happened after that?
Kathy Sherwin: Everyone was excited for me and told me to go on to the next race, which I did and won! Then I got a local sponsor and little by little, I built my resume up to garner even more sponsors, about ten of them. I was able to accomplish all this without even setting the goal of becoming a professional in the first place.
JF: Is this how you went on to race nationally and joined the international scene?
Kathy Sherwin: Right. I raced in Canada, Belgium, Scotland, Germany, among other countries.
JF: How long did you race as a Professional?
Kathy Sherwin: About six years.
JF: How did you return to Deer Valley Resort?
Kathy Sherwin: I always knew I wanted to return to Deer Valley and this was always part of the plan. I knew I wanted to work in the Marketing department. A position became available when my husband was sick with cancer, which made the transition so timely.
JF: How do you like working in the Marketing department?
Kathy Sherwin: I love it. It’s amazing, as a professional athlete, how you must learn to sell yourself. First I was really shy about it, but it soon became a matter of survival. You learn how to push yourself and show what is important to the person you’re selling something to. It’s amazing how my competitive experience translated into the sales and marketing process. Add to this my love and passion for Deer Valley Resort, the best product out there, all these pieces make it so easy!
JF: In looking back over your remarkable career, where do you see the essence of the Deer Valley Difference?
Kathy Sherwin: It’s all in the guest service quality, being upfront with all the experience and value we’re offering our guests. The key is to provide guests with an experience that is always over the top and makes a true difference for them. I love being part of that entire process. I would also add that the company’s leadership has a huge influence on the Deer Valley Difference. For example, Bob Wheaton, our President and General Manager, is instrumental in making it work by leading through example and there’s a trickle down effect throughout the entire work force. This and the fact that we’re all empowered to think out-of-the-box when it comes to solving problems and finding solutions for guests, continuously fuels a customer service experience second to none.
JF: In closing, and for our readers considering a Deer Valley Resort career, what advice would you give them?
Kathy Sherwin: They should know that our employees are kind, open, willing to engage guests, hardworking and willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. Another very cool thing about Deer Valley Resort is that we hire a lot from within – I mean a lot. So go get that “entry-level” job, because, before you know it, you can have a year-round position; this is exactly what I did.
Your brand new mountain bike is ready to take you on the many exciting trails that Deer Valley Resort has to offer. You may also know the expression, “He who can do the most, can (also) do the least,” and this perfectly applies to this piece of equipment because of its versatility and ruggedness. Today’s mountain bikes feature highly-engineered features, some powerful hydraulic disc brakes and great riding comfort thanks to a full suspension frame. This said, did you even suspect that there was more than one way to enjoy these sturdy and highly technical bikes? I found out by asking some of the experts who work at Deer Valley Resort. In just a few minutes, I was amazed to learn at what a mountain bike can accomplish.
If you have injured your leg and you’re anxious to get back on your skis in the winter, chances are that your doctor or surgeon will prescribe a strong rehab program involving the use of a bike. Since stationary bikes can be boring after awhile, consider using your mountain bike instead. You don’t need to take it to any expert single track trails though; just ride it on a nearby asphalt or gravel bike path.
Earning a Living
Besides being a professional mountain bike racer, becoming a mountain bike patroler is a neat way to earn a living by using a mountain bike everyday. Patrol work involves a fair amount of trail maintenance activities and you’ll soon find yourself carrying a rake, a pick ax or even a chainsaw while riding. Earning a living this way also applies to the lift operators who, at the end of their shift or the end of the day, can jump on their bikes and ride down the mountain for fun. Policemen in Park City also share in that perk by carrying a service bike on the back of their SUV’s.
Trail Research and Development
New trail ideas generally begin on a map. Very soon however, they must be fine-tuned in their real environment. Most of the time, new trail paths cross obstacles like ski runs, undulating meadows, creek beds, rock formations and forested areas. It often helps a great deal to trace the ideal contours of the trail through that variable terrain by first riding it, before any trail is cut, to uncover the most natural path. On grassy meadows or on ski runs, the bike lays the grass down and works as a fine tracing tool.
There are moments when it’s time to test a section of a new trail; the builder has to be the guinea pig and test a delicate passage or a tricky area, just like a test pilot would do. On segments of trails that are built around a big rock drop or a succession of large stumps, patrol staff and trail builders will use a bike without a rider. The bike is rolled over the obstacle to make sure that the chainring won’t hit anything. Chris Erkkila, assistant bike partrol manager, says that he uses this technique as a training tool, “When I teach new bike patrollers how to ride on tough terrain, I follow the same procedure and tell them that if the bike clears the obstacle, so can they.”
Surprisingly, mountain bikes do quite well on snow. No, we’re not talking about the fat-bikes with gigantic tires that are becoming the new rage in winter, but just your run-of-the-mill mountain bike. They perform well as long as there is fairly good hard-packed snow; you want to look for smooth surfaces and avoid too much tire penetration. Lowering the air pressure helps traction. Of course, when there’s deep snow over some hard pack, the sensation can be one of a kind especially if the snow is some dry, Utah powder. Says Doug Gormley, lead bike instructor, “I have been in a foot of dry, fluffy snow with hard-pack below and the sensation was out of this world.” The Mega Avalanche race in Europe would be another opportunity to test your bike in a group setting and experience mountain biking as a four season sport. Please remember that mountain bikes are not allowed at Deer Valley Resort during the ski season.
Like any other bicycle, a mountain bike can do wheelies and a variety of tricks. The price to pay is a few more pounds to maneuver, but it’s doable. Wheelies, manuals, bunny hops and the whole panoply of tricks ingrained into BMX culture are totally possible with a mountain bike. Riders can take their “fat tires” on prepared tracks and do some dirt jumping. Most of the time, a bike with only front shocks will suffice and will feel a tad lighter. Besides the added weight, mountain bikes have other limitations. BMX bikes are lighter and tend to soar higher in the air. BMX bikes also have smaller wheels and a shorter wheelbase making them perfectly adapted to the terrain prepared-tracks and dirt jumps, but if you don’t own a BMX, there’s still plenty of fun to be had on your mountain bike.
Going Up and Down Stairs:
I have saved this one for last, because I’ve always been fascinated watching mountain bikers going down stairs without even thinking twice. In fact, I have been told that it’s possible to ride down huge staircases that wind back and forth into corners and zigzag all the way. Yet, as surprisingly as it sounds, the reverse is also true. With proper gearing, climbing stairs is also possible on a bike. You can also use a mountain bike as a trial bike, on which you balance the bike and literally hop the stairs. Doug can do it and he said, “My very first experience was in a building. For stairs, a full-suspension bike is better for both pedaling up the stairs and going down the stairs. A bike without suspension would actually be better for hopping.”
Upon reading this short overview, you now have a good idea of the amazing capabilities of your mountain bike. What cool things do you do on your mountain bike? Tell us on Twitter @Deer_Valley or in the comments below.
Just as we proposed a selection of hiking trails to fill a week’s vacation at Deer Valley Resort, Ski Patrol/Mountain Bike Manager Steve Graff suggested we do the same for mountain biking. Steve wanted to contribute his intimate knowledge of and experience with the local terrain, in an effort to build a fun-filled, week-long, mountain biking itinerary. If you’re looking for some great rides next time you visit Deer Valley Resort, read on.Whatever the vacation, the first day is often best spent getting acquainted with the destination, its environment and everything it has to offer. If your mountain bike skills aren’t that great or if you never had any opportunities to ride single track on a mountain bike before, a wonderful idea is to come up to Deer Valley Resort and let one of the mountain bike guides familiarize you with the equipment and give you some useful pointers on how to make your whole week a fun and life-changing experience. If you are already very fit or have some serious riding skills and are comfortable negotiating single track trails, a good introductory ride might be “Lost Prospector” in Park City, one of Steve Graff’s little secrets:
“A great entry-level trail, with nice views, shaded tree sections and some exciting switch backs. The trail is moderate in terms of difficulty level and a wonderful way to refresh your riding skills. “
If you are renting a bike, make certain it fits you properly and will work with the kind of riding you plan to do; either cross-country, downhill or something in between. If you own your bike, make sure it has recently been serviced, is well adjusted, the gears and brakes are functioning perfectly and tires are in good condition and adequately inflated. Be sure to wear a good pair of gloves so you can get a good grip on your handlebars. Of course, you must wear a helmet and bring sunscreen, wrap-around sunglasses, food and water. If you forget any of these items, you can find them at the shops around Deer Valley Resort. Having some tools or replacement parts, like an extra inner tube and some basic bike tools is also a good idea, especially if you ride alone. Even if you are not a seasoned bike mechanic, make a point to pack some tools and some essential replacement parts as you may find a good samaritan on the trail who may stop to help you out. When riding Deer Valley’s lift-served trails, you can call Bike Patrol for assistance at 435-615-6208. After reacquainting or familiarizing yourself with basic riding skills, your second day should be filled with lift-served mountain biking. Using chairlifts will provide you with a full day experience that would be near impossible to accomplish if you were to climb on your own, unless you are a fitness machine or an endurance athlete. Using the chairlifts enables you to fill your day with mountain biking activities and practice all the skills that have either been dormant or that you’ve learned the day before. A lift-served day should be on any weekly mountain biking itinerary. It’s best to stay on the Sterling Express chairlift and find a trail you like, such as Naildriver, the least difficult route down Bald Mountain, or Sunset, another easy trail, and ride those down as many times as you possibly can. Familiarity with a trail breeds confidence, develops quick responses and yields much more enjoyment since you’re not worried by what’s coming up next. Steve Graff is partial to Deer Camp Trail:
“This is another fun trail I like to recommend for its variety of terrain, its scenic views, its aspen groves and its frequent wildlife sightings.”
While Deer Valley’s weather is great most of the time, what should you do if the weather suddenly turns on you? “If you are on the trails and a thunderstorm happens and if you’re in the middle of a meadow, you don’t want to be the largest object around,” said Steve. “Likewise, in the trees you don’t want to be under the largest pine tree; seek shelter in places that aren’t too exposed.” To preserve the trail, do not ride when conditions are rainy or muddy. Rain storms are generally short-lived, so be patient. Any trail on the valley floor that is either asphalt or gravel is where you should be. If rain persists, take the rest of the day off, visit Park City’s historic Main Street, or do some shopping until everything dries up and the sun returns! Now that you’ve spent time on these trails and practiced your skills, taken advantage of the energy-saving chairlifts and become comfortable riding single track on easy trails, you might want to increase the technical difficulty. On the third day, if “downhill” appeals to you, you can seek out more challenging trails. The Aspen Slalom trail which follows the Sterling Express chairlift down, is a good candidate to begin that process. Another one that Steve recommends is Twist and Shout, a steep, single track with tight curves and lots of trees. He also suggests that you hit Payroll trail in the Empire Canyon area, “This is a wonderful course that really flows well, with a number of rollers, drops and bermed-out turns.” On the lower mountain, there’s Devo, another trail with steep sections and numerous turns that will test your technical abilities. Keep in mind that lift-served mountain biking runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week at Deer Valley Resort through Labor day. Also, know that the trails aren’t patrolled or swept at the end of the day like ski runs are in winter; there are 60 miles of trails on the resort, with multiple entry and exit points along a given trail, making any attempt to sweep them totally unpractical. This said, if you need any assistance during the hours the chairlifts are open, Deer Valley Patrol Staff are available to help patch an injury or solve mechanical problems. Just call 435-615-6208 or speak to a lift operator for assistance.To ramp our itinerary up, the fourth day is a great time to venture out to the Mid Mountain Trail. This stunning, single track trail traverses Deer Valley Resort, Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort at elevation of 8,000 feet, offering scenic vistas and lush pine forests interspersed with aspen groves. Before leaving, make sure to obtain Mountain Trails Foundation’s map at any Deer Valley Mountain Bike Office for the sections of the trails that are beyond Deer Valley Resort’s boundaries. The best plan is to leave from Silver Lake Village in the morning and head towards Park City Mountain and Canyons resorts. This itinerary can take two forms; either you ride between Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort or you continue on all the way to Canyons Resort. The decision time occurs 15 miles along the way, when you are in sight of the Spiro Trail sign; either you choose to descend via Spiro Trail into Park City and cover the remaining three and a half miles to the base of Park City Mountain Resort, or you carry on for another nine miles, all the way to Red Pine Lodge at Canyons Resort, where you can either download the gondola at no charge or drop down to the base of the resort via Holly’s Trail (expert) or Ambush Trail (Intermediate). In terms of time, count on two hours to ride Silver Lake to Park City and three to four hours to ride to Canyons Resort. From either base areas, there is always the possibility to catch the free city bus back to your place. Having proven your mettle on the fourth day, the end of the week deserves another great ride with one of two adventure-filled options. The first choice is mostly uphill and begins in Park City at the Spiro Trail. To access the trailhead, park in the Silver Star lot or use the nearby bus stop. From the trailhead, keep to the right and merge onto Armstrong Trail. Climb four miles to Mid Mountain Trail, turn left and continue until you see the new Pinecone Trail. This combination is not for the faint of heart as it grinds its way from Park City, at 6,900 feet all the way to the top of the Wasatch Ridge at 9,500 feet! An alternative is to begin at Silver Lake Village and ride the Mid Mountain Trail to the Pinecone Trail. Another option is to ride the Wasatch Crest Trail that straddles the Park City valley and Big Cottonwood and Millcreek Canyons. The Wasatch Crest Trail can be taken from Guardsman Pass, using the Scott Bypass Trail or the Wasatch Connect trailhead, located just down the road on the Big Cottonwood side of the valley. It can also be accessed from the top of Pinecone trail. This trail eventually continues towards Millcreek Canyon which comes out in the Salt Lake Valley. This route is smooth and fast with awesome views of the Wasatch Back and Big Cottonwood Canyon, fields of wildflowers, meadows and trees. Upper Millcreek Trail opens July 1. Bikes are only allowed on this trail on even-numbered days and this classic ride leads you all the way down to the mouth of Millcreek Canyon. Of course, you will need to organize a shuttle to pick you up at the bottom, upon completing your ride for your return back to Deer Valley Resort. Pack your lunch, for those both make for big, long days filled with lots of adventure!
Once more, we have suggested a week’s worth of mountain biking filled with miles of excitement, memorable views, athletic ascents and thrilling downhills. I asked Steve Graff if he had anything to add to this impressive Itinerary. He just said; “Make sure to have fun every mile of the way. If you find some trails too hard, simply return to some easier ones. Again, the name of the game is to recreate and have fun!”
If you are a mountain biker or know someone who is, you may have heard the debate raging on about mountain bike wheel diameters. From 26 to 27.5 and all the way to 29-inch, there seems to be little consensus. To attempt to sort out what the ideal wheel dimension is, I recently sat down with Chris Erkkila, assistant mountain biking manager and Doug Gormley, lead bike instructor at Deer Valley Resort.
JF: Sometimes I wonder if I have the right size wheels on my mountain bike and if I am not giving away performance by staying on traditional 26-inch tires?
Chris Erkkila: It’s been a steady progression. In the old days, I’ve saw downhill bikes with a 24-inch wheel in the back and a 26-inch wheel in the front. And then, a few years ago, the 29-inch craze hit so big that the bulk of our rental bikes were all 29-inch wheels! Now, with the 27.5-inch design gaining acceptance, the pendulum has swung back to a position that manufacturers are finding to be a right size that covers everything.
Doug Gormley: Just like Chris, I’ve experienced all wheel sizes, from 26, to 27.5 and 29-inch. There’s no “holy grail” though. All these sizes have strengths and weaknesses. A very simplified argument for the 27.5 is that it “splits the difference.” It falls somewhere in the middle, albeit not quite exactly…
JF: What’s the most obvious benefit of a large, 29-inch wheel?
Chris Erkkila: The theory is that the larger the diameter, the more efficiently it rolls; that’s right, rolling gets easier with bigger wheels. This is the reason why the settlers in the west put large wheels on their wagons; it was much easier for them to go over ruts, wood stumps and rocks.
JF: What was your experience with last year’s rental fleet and its 29-inch wheels?
Doug Gormley: Overall, it worked out really well. There were some issues with some of our smaller riders feeling a bit awkward on the bike. One of the positives was that a 29er rolls over rough terrain very well. For somebody who is struggling to maintain momentum, these wheels can roll over features that would normally hang them up. Another advantage is that this larger wheel provides more traction and also brakes more effectively.
JF: Any downside to a 29-inch wheel?
Chris Erkkila: Well, going downhill gets you more centrifugal force with 29-inch tires, which causes the larger wheel to resist turning. Another possible drawback is that larger wheels create a longer wheelbase that makes turning in tight corners a little bit more challenging.
Doug Gormley: I agree; they are not as maneuverable. I do think there are some people who thought the bike felt a bit cumbersome and awkward at times. This is why our rental fleet will mostly be 27.5 this summer.
JF: But, I’ve also heard that larger wheels make it less likely that the rider will fly over the handlebar; is this true?
Chris Erkkila: Ha, ha! I think the chances are really still there. Maybe just because they can roll over stuff more smoothly, you might be less prone to do it, but if you aren’t very gentle with the new, powerful, hydraulic disk brakes in front, you might still go over the handlebars!
JF: I still don’t understand which wheel performs better for downhill versus cross-country use?
Doug Gormley: Downhill riders need smaller size wheels for nimbleness and maneuverability. Today, in World Cup competition, most riders are still on 26-inch wheels, but more and more are moving to the new 27.5.
Chris Erkkila: You won’t see downhill racers riding a 29-inch, because, as Doug said, it’s less maneuverable; but he’s right, they are leaving their 26-inch for these new 27.5-inch wheels.
JF: So, are you suggesting that 27.5-inch might be a happy medium?
Chris Erkkila: From what I understand, the trend began in Europe with the “650B,” as they call the 27.5-inch over there. It was actually borrowed from road bikes, then adapted to mountain bikes and from that point forward, it was enthusiastically adopted and caught on rather quickly.
JF: Is there a reason for a holy war to settle the perfect wheel size?
Doug Gormley: No, there are so many factors to consider that each size can be fully justified. If you’re into cross-country, 29 might be the obvious choice, but if downhill is your thing, a smaller wheel will work better. I still feel very strongly that there is no panacea, though.
JF: Have the junior riders been spared that tug of war?
Doug Gormley: If anything, there are many junior bikes that benefit from a 24-inch wheel. There are lots of factors like clearance over the top tube, rider’s weight and height that come into play in that category. There are still lots of benefits to 20, 24 an even 26-inch wheels for youngsters.
JF: Are these new 27.5-inch wheels adapted to women’s bike frames?
Chris Erkkila: When the first 29er came out, companies scrambled to place these larger wheels on existing frames, with obviously less success on women’s frames. It wasn’t always a good match. Today, with the growing popularity of 27.5-inch wheels, manufacturers have been adjusting their frame design and construction to work better with that diameter.
JF: As every ounce seems to count enormously, how is wheel design impacted by the quest for weight reduction at all cost?
Chris Erkkila: It was pretty rare to see “everything carbon fiber” 10 to 15 years ago. This has changed and today you’ll see frames and rims made of that material. A larger wheel is heavier and light weight materials become more attractive. Carbon fiber is one of these materials, extremely light and strong but less sturdy than aluminum. If you crash and your bike goes flying off the trail and you damage the carbon fiber, it’s pretty catastrophic. You can put a dent in an aluminum frame and still ride it to a certain extent and be okay. Today, it’s quite common to see carbon wheel sets matched with carbon bike frames. Because of the rocky nature of some mountain trails, there’s obviously a risk that a close encounter with rocks and other obstacles could severely damage these pricey rims.
JF: Do you feature carbon rims in your rental fleet?
Doug Gormley: No, and it’s essentially a matter of cost. These rims are still very expensive! Sure, they’re very lightweight, strong and super stiff. Sometimes even too stiff!
JF: All these considerations about sizes and materials shouldn’t make us forget the critical element that is the tire. What’s new in this area?
Chris Erkkila: We are seeing more tubeless tires these days, just like the ones you have on your car. Tubeless tires allow you to ride on less pressure and they’re also lighter. To a certain extent they also reduce the chance of getting a flat tire.
Chris Erkkila: Because you can hit certain obstacles on the trail without getting a pinch-flat or “snake-bite” as some folks call it. This happens when the inner tube gets pinched against the rim and you get two holes in the tube. In theory, running without a tube eliminates this, but you should still pack an extra tube, just in case.
Doug Gormley: Our rental fleet is still running with tubes and tires. On a personal level, I’ve been slow embracing the tubeless trend, because it had not prevented me from getting flats. Even with my best tubeless set up, I still carry a tube as a backup.
JF: Are bikes delivered with tubeless set up?
Chris Erkkila: Not usually, it’s more an after-market option.
JF: Let’s talk about inflation. What tire pressure do you recommend?
Chris Erkkila: Several factors should be considered. One is downhill versus cross country. Others are how much a rider weighs, what type of terrain is involved as well as particular trail conditions. I’m 6 feet tall, I weigh 200 pounds, so I inflate my cross-country bike in the high 30s psi (pounds per square inch). On the other hand, my downhill bike is only inflated at 20 to 25 psi. Typically, the lighter you are, the less air you put in; but when you do that, you might increase traction too much. Conversely, the more air you put in, the less rolling resistance exists.
Doug Gormley: In our rental operation, we’re about at 35 psi with the bikes. In some instances, we go as high as 38. This is the best balance we find between good traction and pinch flat avoidance. Of course, if we see a rash of pinch flats, we can always raise that threshold.
JF: I’ve always been told that, prior to going downhill, it make sense to let some air out; is that right?
Chris Erkkila: Oh, yes. It’s hard though; the biggest mistake people make is to just do it “by feel”; unless you do this very often, you’ll mess up. The only way you’ll know for sure is by using a pressure gauge.
JF: On these big, fat tires, what kind of tire tread works best for Deer Valley’s trails?
Doug Gormley: The manufacturers are all doing a good job at matching tire tread with bike suspensions, dimensions and performance. We’ve selected a trail bike that is the equivalent of an all-mountain ski; it is very versatile and the tread selected for these bikes strikes a nice balance between cross-country and downhill.
Chris Erkkila: Tires are like shoes; you might prefer Nike over Adidas, so it comes down to personal preferences. Of course, here we have dry, dusty soil and our tires are suited for these conditions. When we get a rain day at Deer Valley Resort, we call it a “powder day” because if you get just a little bit of moisture on the trail, it gets “tacky” and you can go a bit faster and carry more speed into the turns; it’s fun!
JF: What an enlightening conversation about wheels! As many riders are headed for Deer Valley Resort and get ready to hit your trails this summer, what last piece of advice do you have for them?
Chris Erkkila: There’s no one right wheel size for any certain type of rider. It’s up to each person to go out and try what seems to work best. The 26-inch size probably isn’t going to be around for much longer. It’s going to be 27.5 and 29-inch for the foreseeable future, with the latter wheel size likely to be preferred by many cross-country riders.
Doug Gormley: Beyond this discussion about wheels, we see a large variety of bikes on the mountain. Ultimately though, a good all-mountain trail bike works best, whether you ride the lifts or just pedal. Having a very versatile bike with a suspension offering four to five inches of travel works very well and allows you to accomplish everything you want in a day while truly enjoying it!
If you love to hike, would like to explore the mountains around Deer Valley Resort and are staying in town for more than just a couple of days, there are a multitude of ways to get fully acquainted with the area and get you so excited that you’ll want to come back for more. To help sort out some of the best Deer Valley hikes, I spent time with Steve Graff, Deer Valley’s Mountain Bike Manager, brain storming about what kind of graduated mountain hikes could fill an active vacation week. This is an overview of the options we picked for you.
A wonderful way to begin is to spend the first day getting acquainted with the weather, the elevation and the terrain. Using the chairlifts on that first day is ideal for minimizing the impact of the altitude. For instance, start at Silver Lake Lodge and begin by riding up Sterling Express and then hike down the Silver Lake Trail. It is a hiking-only trail, so you’ll find only hikers on it. A little over two miles long and dropping 1,300 vertical feet, the trail begins at the top of Bald Mountain at 9,400 feet and meanders all the way down to Silver Lake Village. “Of course, if you are in excellent shape and neither the jet lag nor the altitude seem to bother you, you can do this in reverse by hiking up the Silver Lake Trail,” says Steve Graff. Most people can do it in about an hour depending on their condition. Morning is a great time for this hike. The views are incredible around the east side of Bald Mountain as one sees the Jordanelle Reservoir and, in the distance, the Uinta Mountains… In this high desert climate, mornings are generally very cool. In summer, Deer Valley’s morning temperatures range from the upper 40s to the lower 50s at sunrise, before reaching a daytime high somewhere between 70 and 80 degrees. Crisp, mountain air and beautiful, clear views reward the early morning hiker. So, if you choose to hike early to the top of Bald Mountain and get there any time after 10 a.m., you can ride the chairlift down at no charge. Just make sure to wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, a light jacket in the event of a sudden storm and always carry more water than you think you’ll need.
For the next day, a great hike is to follow the Ontario Trail from Silver Lake Village. This trail wraps around the west side of Bald Mountain and offers totally different views. It passes some old silver mine remnants including historical, weathered equipment and winds its way to the top of the mountain at 9,400 feet. Once more, there’s always the option of riding Sterling Express down, or if your legs are still strong and willing, hike down the Silver Lake Trail and make a loop out of it. Just like Silver Lake, Ontario trail is a hiking-only trail. On average, it takes one to one-and-a-half hours to get to the top. When hiking, remember that shoes often cause problems and while you should always wear sturdy hiking shoes on your hikes, make sure they are well broken-in before you start hitting the tails. Always take the time to lace them up properly and make sure to wear good socks. If blisters appear on the first days, the best approach is often to take a day off and have a break. If this is not possible, purchase some moleskin at the local drugstore. Steve suggests “Another option would be to combine a hike up Silver Lake Trail with a descent down Ontario Trail and make it a five-mile round trip with a return by noon at Silver Lake, just in time for lunch at Royal Street Café.”
The third day could be a perfect opportunity to begin hiking from a lower elevation, starting at Snow Park Lodge, and hike up the Deer Crest Trail. This hike is a little over three-miles long, all the way to Silver Lake Village. It is also a multi-use trail, where both hikers and bikers are allowed. The rules of the trails are that bikers yield to hikers. This said, if you notice bikers coming your way and can afford to step off the trail, let them pass; this is a gesture that is always appreciated. A smile and a greeting also go a long way; in short, by just being respectful of each other, all trail users can co-exist very well. The Deer Crest Trail offers yet another set of great views all the way up. Instead of just stopping when reaching Silver Lake Village, continue on to the Mid Mountain Trail and catch Red Cloud Trail up to the top of Flagstaff Mountain at 9,100 feet. From there, ride the Ruby Express Chairlift down to the Empire Lodge. Once there, hike back to Silver Lake via the same Mid Mountain Trail. Upon reaching Silver Lake Village, give your legs another break and download the Silver Lake Express chairlift. Both chairlift rides are free, as there’s no charge for the downhill rides, only the uphill part. This hike is a half-day hike. Including the two chairlift rides, it takes an average person between three-and-a-half to four hours to complete the whole loop. This too can be a perfect morning hike but can also be done at any time during the day. “One of the advantages of hiking at Deer Valley Resort is that the lifts are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, and that there’s always a staff of professional patrollers available to help for any reason,” remarks Steve Graff.
If the weather stays nice, as it does most of the time in the Wasatch Mountains, and no rain is on the forecast, a change of pace is always a wise idea around mid-week. Day four could be used for a guided hike. Deer Valley’s guided hikes are an excellent opportunity to learn what makes the area so unique, see more of nature and hike a little bit less. The resort has a number of guided hiking tours that can be customized to the needs and wants of all guests. They can be focused on local mining history, flora or wildlife. Some of the Deer Valley Guides have a vast knowledge of the local mountains and their surrounding areas. These tours should be booked in advance and can either accommodate small parties (up to five hikers) or larger groups (six to ten hikers), and are all reasonably priced. If you are looking for an even slower day, keep in mind that there is plenty of easy hiking waiting for you around Deer Valley and Park City without climbing a mountain. You can wander on the many trails that criss cross the valley floor, like the Poison Creek Trail, the Rail Trail, the Farm Trail or the more rugged Round Valley trail network, you can use the city-wide free bus system to combine them or when it’s time to return from your adventure.
To crown a typical five-days hiking week, a special trip could take you from Silver Lake to Shadow Lake, a truly picturesque destination, right below Jupiter Peak in Park City Mountain Resort. Another adventurous option is a long-distance hike on the Mid Mountain Trail, another multi-use trail, from Silver Lake Villate to Park City. This hike is a 7 to 8-mile trek, with little change in elevation but it will cover the whole distance that spans the two resorts. If you intend to embark on these longer hikes on your own, make sure you take along copies of the Deer Valley Resort summer trail map and the Mountain Trails Map, should you decide to push all the way to Park City Mountain Resort or even Canyons Resort. Steve stresses “In case of an accident, make sure to have the mountain patrol number on your cell phone (435-615-6208) and remember that you can call between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. After these hours, dial 911 for any emergency.” With very few exceptions, cellular phone coverage is pretty good and is available from almost everywhere on the trails. You could either turn around on the Mid Mountain Trail, working it as an up and back, forge ahead to Canyons Resort if you feel unstoppable, or choose to go down the Spiro Trail to Park City. When you reach your destination, either take advantage of the Park City free bus system to get you back to your accommodations or have lunch or dinner in Park City. This option, that takes about two-and-a-half hours to complete and can be a great afternoon trek since most of the itinerary is well shaded.
This is it; we have just summarized a week’s worth of hikes packed with adventure, gorgeous views and discovery at every corner. You might wonder if there are dangers lurking at the edge of some of the trails. I asked Steve Graff about that and he said “The number one danger in hiking is the weather; always check the forecast before you go and watch for events like thunderstorms or a sudden cold snap.”I also asked him about wildlife and he assured me that most animals will move on and get out of the way, except for moose. Steve added “If you run into a moose, give it plenty of space, make sure you don’t get in between a cow and calf, be patient, try not to startle them, this is their home; remember, you’re just a visitor.”
Now, it’s time to enjoy a week of happy trails in and around Deer Valley Resort.
When Mom and Dad are avid mountain bikers and love to race on fat tires, the next great thing to do is bring the whole family along and have a fun, late day competition, where every one can enjoy the company of friends in a cool mountain environment. That’s what the Midweek Mountain Bike Race Series is all about and they have two upcoming events at Deer Valley Resort. To learn more about the series, I met with Brooke Howard, one of the race co-directors, during a Round Valley event, in Park City, Utah.
JF: How did this program get started?
Brooke Howard: Jay Burke, the original founder of the series, started it at nearby Solitude Resort. At first, it was just a very casual, small group of racers who wanted to compete. Jay was also the founder of the Park City Point 2 Point and as this program grew in popularity, it quickly captured his entire focus away from the series.
JF: So what did you do?
Brooke Howard: At that exact same time, I wanted to start a midweek type of event, maybe not necessarily in mountain biking, but our family came out to the series every Tuesday; it was a wonderful event. My husband and my kids raced and the idea of seeing the series go away was simply terrifying. I met up with Jay and we took over the series. Today, Luke Ratto is my partner and the series’ other co-director.
JF: When did you take over?
Brooke Howard: In March of 2011, so this is our fourth year.
JF: At the program’s inception, how many participants did you have in a given race?
Brooke Howard: Jay was averaging 75 racers and when we took the program over, our first race attracted close to 150 participants, including the kids. We nearly doubled the attendance and today we are averaging about 230 participants per event.
JF: Counting the kids?
Brooke Howard: Not counting the kids! We have about 40 plus children at each event and those are free to participants.
JF: How many events do you have in a season?
Brooke Howard: We organize 12 events.
JF: Where do they take place?
Brooke Howard: We have two at Corner Canyon (near the Point of the Mountain, in Draper, Utah), one in Heber, Utah, four at Solitude, two at Deer Valley Resort, two in Round Valley (Park City) and one at Snowbird.
JF: How long is a loop for the kids?
Brooke Howard: For the kids, we do a mini loop that takes about 15 minutes and depending on the location, we offer different options. For instance, at Deer Valley Resort we create a skills course for them.
JF: What’s the course for adults?
Brooke Howard: For beginners we average four miles. The sport class is about eight to ten miles and the Pros and Experts are between 12 and 16 miles.
JF: Is it the same course for everyone?
Brooke Howard: Yes, for the most part. In the majority of cases, it’s just a matter of doing loops and on other courses, we will have a break-off loop.
JF: Is it always a cross-country type race?
Brooke Howard: Yes.
JF: Why do you offer free registration for children under 12?
Brooke Howard: Mostly to give them a taste of what mountain biking is all about, get them outdoors and exercising. As a matter of fact, and with few exceptions, all the children that come out here are children of racers competing in the main event.
JF: Lucky kids!
Brooke Howard: Right! But that’s not all. Summit Bike Club coach Kristi Henne coaches the free kids race too, so you can see that children are especially cared for and receive our undivided attention.
JF: So you’ve created a program that fosters both a fun and active family outing that everyone can look forward to?
Brooke Howard: Absolutely!
JF: Did the series start with that scope in mind?
Brooke Howard: For me personally, that’s what it was from the beginning: something we did on Tuesday’s with other racers. It’s a casual, family-friendly event, filled with camaraderie and aimed at encouraging health and fitness while helping grow the sport.
JF: How do you get the word out?
Brooke Howard: Facebook is a very good friend of ours, but most importantly, it’s word of mouth.
JF: Are bike shops helping you too?
Brooke Howard: Yes, we have flyers and posters in all the Wasatch Front bike shops, from Springville all the way to Ogden, Salt Lake, Heber, and of course Park City. Bike shops are also actively involved with the series. Locally, we work with White Pine Touring; they support the races in Park City and at Deer Valley.
JF: I’ve also noticed your impressive list of sponsors.
Brooke Howard: Among the main ones, there’s Mark Miller Subaru, our title sponsor behind the funding of our series, and there’s also Backcountry.com who came in last year, as well as Scheels, our 2014 “Wrench’n Sponsor”. Sheels has “trail marshals” who are out on the course, packed with a supply of tools, tubes and the like to help those in need of a fast repair or a tire change. All of our sponsors provide raffle prizes at the end of each event and the end of the season.
JF: Are there prizes at each event?
Brooke Howard: Yes, there are prizes at every single race and our sponsors also provide a monster raffle at the end of the season. Instead of honoring the winners after each race, we accumulate their points and, at the end of season, we award the top five finishers in the expert and pro class with some money and winners in the sport class are awarded with some prizes or a pass for next year. We also give a little goody bag to all the children.
JF: What about the monster raffle?
Brooke Howard: We reserve this one for those who participate in six or more races; prizes are season passes to a ski resort, bike racks and other sporting equipment.
JF: That’s quite a comprehensive program.
Brooke Howard: Indeed! While we are on the subject of rewards, I would also like to mention that, at the end of the season, a portion of our proceeds go back to help maintain the trails and keep providing a wonderful experience to all trail users. All of our funds go back to the trail community both in terms of physical work and cash.
JF: You said earlier that you have two events scheduled for Deer Valley Resort?
Brooke Howard: That’s right. The first event is at Snow Park on June 24 and the next one is at Silver Lake on July 22.
JF: Are both events for children and adults?
Brooke Howard: Yes. Snow Park will be set up as a skills course for kids, while Silver Lake will offer the regular children’s race.
JF: I’m sure many locals will be eager to participate. Could you tell us more about these two events?
Brooke Howard: Registration always begins at 5 p.m. If you register online, the adult entry fee is just $15, or $17 if you register at the race. The free kid race always starts at 6 p.m. and the adult race begins at 6:30 p.m. The adult race is a staggered start, beginning with the pro men and continuing all the way to the beginners group.
JF: Are spectators encouraged to come and cheer the racers?
Brooke Howard: Absolutely! Spectating is free and we love to have crowds at the finish line. We would just love to see you all come out and have a great time mountain biking and cheering the competitors.