JF’s Mid-Season Review

As February begins, I feel that we have now stepped into the second half of winter with longer days, deeper snow, great light and an urgent need for generous layers of sunscreen. Before we turn the page on the earlier portion of winter and look to its brighter second half, I wanted to share with you my on-snow experiences so far so we can compare notes or make you feel just a tiny bit jealous if you haven’t skied yet!

With me, winter always begins with great expectations of bottomless powder, but I publicly refrain to verbalize these thoughts as I actively manage my expectations. In fact, when I speak to other skiers, I loudly claim that I expect nothing in terms of snowfall, so Mother Nature will constantly surprise me!

While most of my skiing took place at Deer Valley Resort, I began skiing late November at nearby ski areas. The snow received through November bode very well for another great season. Still, I kept my exuberance in check and prudently, adjusted my expectations. In spite of that, I watched the weather like a hawk. It’s not something I just do daily, but several times in the course of a single day. Over the years, I have become partial to the Weather Underground website and app, that I find most accurate.

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While other weather stations give me a week preview of the weather to come, this one predicts up to ten days into the future. So if there’s something I don’t like today, I generally can find what I want to see in one of the nine remaining days. If a ten-day time span sounds like overkill, there’s the more granular hour-by-hour detail that enables you to poke your nose out when the snow stops and the sun starts filtering through the clouds.

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But enough said about weather and snow, let’s go back to my early season skiing. The very early weeks are often a progressive process. It always takes time to get a big resort like Deer Valley 100% open. That’s good, because a finite run work-in-step with early season physical conditioning and the time needed to reawaken skiing skills.

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I have had a wonderful ski season so far. I’ve skied just over 50 days and just shy of one million vertical feet. I hope to reach the century mark in ski-days before the season is over. I was lucky enough to avoid an imprudent white ermine that was crossing the bottom portion of Perseverance ski run and startled a large jack rabbit at the top of Centennial Trees ski run.

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So where did all of my skiing take place? It began on groomers; Deer Valley Resort grooms its runs better than most and the experience is always good whether we receive a foot of fresh snow a day or not. My favorite groomed runs remain both Nabob and Jordanelle ski runs and many of my days at Deer Valley are marked by one of these two runs.

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Most of my skiing takes place around my three favorite chairlifts: Sultan, Wasatch and Lady Morgan. While they’re spread at the opposite ends of the resort, with so much challenging terrain and fast chairlifts, I’m able to accomplish one full day of skiing within just a few hours. The snow cover has been especially good on Ruin of Pompeii and Grizzly ski runs, two of my favorites. These runs are wonderful; not only are they longer and more challenging than most, but they both end as a groomed segment just in time to relieve some very tired legs.

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I also like Wasatch Express chairlift for the large array of ski runs it serves. My favorite one is definitely Rattler ski run that sends an invitation as one rides up the chairlift. The early season has had great snow cover on this run.

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From the Lady Morgan Express chairlift, I’m partial to Argus, Hillside and Centennial Trees. I find the two first trails extremely technical and they never fail to provide me with a good challenge. Centennial Trees ski run remains the forest wonderland where some regular and well-thought out glade skiing keeps making the ski experience better, season after season for me. The bonus with skiing Lady Morgan is it always provides me with an excellent excuse to ski Ontario Bowl on my way back, with more trees and steeps to round off the experience of the day.

Here’s to 50 more days on the mountain this season!

David Smalis’ Deer Valley Difference™

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.

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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. 

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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!

Scarecrows at the McPolin Farm

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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.

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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:

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From Snoopy to Star Wars, characters are always popular; there’s something for everyone…

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The majority of creations are just fun and whimsical…

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What would a display of scarecrows be, without a few crow-creations?

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Of course, there is always room for the spooky kind…

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Education wasn’t forgotten either!

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…As well as worthy causes, like the ALS bucket challenge.

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What would Park City be without sports of all kinds?

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… and skiing, of course!

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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!

Kathy Sherwin’s Deer Valley Difference

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.

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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.

Kathy in the early days at Deer Valley Resort with late husband Chris Sherwin.

Kathy in the early days at Deer Valley Resort with late husband Chris Sherwin.

 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Kathy on a muddy day of cyclo-cross.

Kathy on a muddy day of cyclo-cross.

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. 

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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!

Kathy sharing trade secrets with the Travelocity Gnome.

Kathy sharing trade secrets with the Travelocity Gnome.

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.

Things you never thought you could do on a mountain bike

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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.

Healing Faster

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.

Assistant Bike Patrol Manager, Chris Erkkila

Deer Valley Resort’s Assistant Bike Patrol Manager, Chris Erkkila.

Trail Testing

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.”

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Snow Riding

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.

The Mega Avalanche race in Europe

The Mega Avalanche race in Europe

Performing tricks

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.”

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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.

A Week’s Worth of Mountain Bike Trails at Deer Valley Resort

dvr-1wkBike1 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.Day 1Whatever 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. dvr-1wkBike3 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! dvr-1wkBike4 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.” dvr-1wkBike5 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.Day 4To 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. dvr-1wkBike8Having 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. dvr-1wkBike7 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!”

How big are your wheels?

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.

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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…

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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.

JF: Why?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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