The Sun Shines on the EBS Lounge

In the early days of winter it is easy to cope with the darkness and bitter temperatures through the wonders of powder skiing. After not skiing for so many months early bedtimes are no problem, the rest welcome and satisfying. We dine and sing our way through the holidays, all the while dreaming of February face shots and seamless groomers. Mid-winter finds us celebrating the milestones of our favorite future ski champions. Your child’s first true carve, and their exuberant laughter as they veer off trail for every powder patch they see mark the days of January. By the time of late February storm cycles our legs are strong, our spirits sated, and imaginations nearly refilled for another season.

Then the most magical experience in all of life begins; the tulip and Lily of the Valley bulbs stir just beneath the surface of the soil, the sun warms the breeze as trout begin to rise and swirl more often, and the familiar scents of spring flow through long shuttered windows.

Skiing in the sunshine of spring is not a continuation of the previous three months, not the same thread that wove our lives together in mittens and heavy coats. It is a new skin worn under sleeveless vests and sunglasses, embellished with cold beverages and decks filled with people randomly looking at the mountain, at the sun, and smiling.

Spring at Deer Valley is the time to stand atop the Champion bump course across from your lifelong buddy, like two teenagers in ’69 Camaros revving your engines at the same stoplight. Both of you looking all the way down the street to the deck of the EBS Lounge, knowing that somewhere down there a pretty girl is briefly looking up the hill, knowing you have only this one shot at glory.

And when the light turns green you both drop, accelerating through the same bumps that Brad Wilson burned down on his way to his first career World Cup podium in February. Your rhythm is just right, your pole plants just right, and in the back of your mind you already hear the sound of après applause from the EBS deck – just before leaning back ever so slightly.

036_Deer Valley ResortSpring at Deer Valley, on the deck of the EBS, is a time and a place to give cheers to your best friends, to rub your knees and look back up the mountain at the bump line you almost had. To smile in the sunshine and wistfully hope for a few more face shots before summer, before next year when those high fives from fellow skiers on the deck will be yours.

~ I think I was supposed to be writing a bit more specifically about the menu and atmosphere of the EBS, but an hour basking on its deck last week caused my overactive imagination to free float through the crowd, and imagine what their day and winter must have been like. With live music on the weekends and an outstanding drink menu, including a simple yet delectable martini created by founder Edgar B. Stern, be assured you can satisfy your après spirit in comfort and style this spring. Cheers! _MG_8553

Skiing… A Love Story

lvTo be perfectly frank, I don’t like the title to this essay. It’s borderline trite, fairly vague, and leads to some pretty personal emotions. But, I cannot get those words out of my head this week. Since they popped up they have been pushing and pushing on me to write; although I am intimidated by the prospect.

I believe there is magic in skiing. It has been the most powerful force in my life since junior high. Skiing was the safe place I could go after losing my best friend in a car accident. He was gone, but all of our pre-adolescent hiding places on the ski hill were still there for me. In high school it was the equalizer between myself and other traditional student athletes. I couldn’t read a defense to save my life, but my offensive skills in bumps at 30 miles an hour were to be reckoned with. Each time I stood unsure in life I put my boots on and transformed into a capable and confident young man. That is the power of skiing, and I had fallen in love with it.

kjAt 22 I found myself finishing several successful deployments in the military service and unsure how to move forward. Skiing and I had taken a break for those four years, seeing each other infrequently, each changing in important ways. I missed it, so I packed my sea bag and moved to the Wasatch Mountains, skiing in the Rockies for the first time and quickly falling in love again. Along the way I met a beautiful woman that worked for a local lodge, carelessly living and loving in the way that only 23 year old’s can. As my second winter season ended, the riptide current of life pulled us apart, heartbroken and theatrically sad. Another person gone yet skiing remained.

Time passed, finding a different perspective and life outside of skiing and away from Utah seduced me. Money was more than abundant through the bubble that was the Mid-Atlantic housing market of the mid-2000’s, and I was well placed to capitalize on it. With an ego that only a 30 year old up and coming man could muster, I stood on job sites watching my work unfold and declared myself to be at the top of my game. Laughter and love permeated every part of life and skiing became secondary to worldly pursuits. You know the things that seem so important to have before you find what it’s like to have nothing at all. Before you find out what and who is really important in life.

gcI did not stop skiing, but I treated it as a mistress. Something hidden and not shared with the ones I loved, believing that it was mine alone. When the recession began (does anyone remember that?), and my world was dismantled one possession at a time, I tried to turn to the mountains again, but the rolling green hills of Appalachia were no longer enough. With everything gone, but the love of my family and some very close friends, I began to miss my old flame. Her mountains reaching above the clouds to the bluest sky I had ever witnessed, the comforting embraces of her deep, light snow, the whispered sweet nothings as I flew between the spruce and the fir. I knew that to love I must live, and to live I had to go back to the mountains of Utah.

bmA year has passed since returning, and the love affair I began with skiing as a child is in its twenty fourth year. We have seen each other grow and change, enduring periods of separation and doubt. Through our relationship there have been celebrations and tragedies along with friends made and lost, but in the end we haven’t lost that spark, that feeling you get when you open your eyes and know you will spend the day in love. Happy Valentine’s Day. I hope it’s full of love and fresh snow!

It was lunch with Paralympics Champion and Deer Valley Ambassador Stephani Victor and her Husband/Coach Marcel that put the title of this essay into my head. When they return from World Championships in several weeks I will be skiing with them again and learning what it’s like to ski sitting down, how the Paralympics work, and why poorly termed “disabled” skiers consider themselves far more able bodied than you or me.

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World Cup Skiing at Deer Valley is a Family Affair

Bryon and Brad Wilson

Bryon and Brad Wilson

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

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

Why Bumps?

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

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

How close have you come to perfection?

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

Brad: I was thinking that same run for you.

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

Brad: Fast

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

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

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

When it goes wrong what is your thought process?

(both laughing)

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are you guys feeling this year?

Bryon: Good.

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

Checking out Deer Valley's venue

Checking out Deer Valley’s venue

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

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

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

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

Brad: We might get a day in Norway.

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

No sweet Japanese powder when you compete in Inawashiro?

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

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

Bryon: Yeah, it’s a beast.

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

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

Doubles?

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

Is that about safety?

Together: Yeah.

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

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

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

Are you prepared for doubles?

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

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

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

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

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

Brad: Fifty percent of the score is for turns.

Bryon: Freestyle moguls are what we do.

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

Brad: Coaches.

Bryon: Yeah, Coaches.

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

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

Guy’s you can trust.

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

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

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

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

Where does that come from?

Bryon: Our parents are really good artists.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Semper Paratus – “Always Ready”

2013-01-15 11.04.58 Part I

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

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

Ninja Patrol Shack

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

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

Ninja search

 Part II

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

Puppy Ninja

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

Lila and ninja-1

Part III

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

Ninja rescue

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

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

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

The Double Life of Snow Park Restaurant

Snow falling slowly to the ground is transcending and full of magic. A blanket stitched together one fat flake at a time, it smooths the sharp edges of the world offering a more tender landscape to the senses. Few things are more inviting than the best snow on earth, and few places more than Deer Valley. Under a dark Utah sky and through the lights of the Snow Park Lodge, my friend Kate and I walked toward the Seafood Buffet last night, all smiles after several days of great skiing.

I had come to lunch last week at the Snow Park Restaurant, enjoying New York Strip with béarnaise, Seared Scallop Florentine, and a piece of cheesecake that was, as Will Ferrell says, “Scrumtrulescent.” The Scallop Florentine is easily one of my new favorites. I am almost certain that it is meant to be served over pasta, but with scallops that tender and a simmering sweet sauce I couldn’t let anything get in their way.

Instructors from the Deer Valley Ski School were enjoying lunch a few tables away, hands gesturing in smooth arcs and deep angles like pilots talking about turns and maneuvers carved out of the sky. Like many Mondays at a ski mountain everyone was very relaxed and in no hurry. I browsed the food, taking note of the house made bratwurst and gourmet pizza for my next day visit. When I was asked to come back for Seafood Dinner I readily agreed.

As we were seated for dinner the restaurant was relaxed, guests mingling at the tables and serving stations. I was immediately drawn to the Natural Buffet, specifically the Opillio crab. I may live in the Wasatch now but was raised in Maryland. Hardly a crab has gotten by me over the years. After living near the southern tidewaters for the past several years Kate naturally leaned toward the fresh shucked oysters, and steamed clams and mussels. As we began to eat it occurred to me that few foods encourage sharing like seafood. Take two or more people with a passion for sustainable gathering from the sea, and the conversation will travel up and down the coasts of the country. 

Our talk was punctuated with trips to the sushi bar and carving station (Double R Ranch prime beef!) along with our server recommended sable fish and ahi tuna.

After nearly an hour of talking and eating we made a last foray, standing at the bakery trying to make the most difficult decision of the evening. Chocolate raspberry torte and coffee finished us, the mesmerizing spell of a great meal slowly receding. Several inches had fallen while we were inside, promising a great day to come and capping a wonderful evening.

Make reservations for yourself and some friends online or by phone at 435-645-6632. If you can, take a friend who has never been to Deer Valley before. The look of contentment on their face at the end of the evening is almost as rewarding as the meal itself. Thanks to Ryan and the rest of the staff of the Snow Park Restaurant for an outstanding meal.

 

A Dirty Little Secret

I recently came across a pamphlet titled “Do you have a gambling problem?” Certainly not I thought. However, a closer inspection of the symptoms made me realize I was not being very honest with myself. I don’t mind some low stakes poker and betting on who catches the first trout, or what year Picabo Street won Olympic Silver in the Downhill, but I will never take out a second mortgage to cover a loss.

So what’s my problem? Check out my symptoms and you tell me.

* Being preoccupied with skiing
* Increasing your skiing risks
* Trying to cut back on skiing without success
* Reducing the time you spend at work/with family because of skiing
* Reviewing past skiing experiences in your mind
* Constant daydreaming of that one big score

Based on the fact that my mother still waits for first chair by skating back and forth to warm her legs up, I would say that my problem is genetic so there may be no help for me.

Of course the Deer Valley Blog may not be the best place to get help. I doubt anyone reading this could find one thing wrong with that list. 11 days 12 hours 8 minutes and 50 seconds until we ski folks! I can’t wait to see you out there, and by the way – do you know what year the aforementioned silver medal was won? No cheating, Google to find out or guess in the comment section.

Introducing… Josh Spiker!

 

My name is Josh and…

I came to Utah in 2001 for many of the same reasons you have. The exhilarating powder skiing, incredible vistas, and an opportunity to escape from the world’s breakneck pace. That’s how life feels when you are on the mountain; as if everything else is outside and you are experiencing something very different and very special.

Many years later I keep coming back to the mountains of Utah, like an old prospector always digging for another payday. And just like that old digger I have staked my claim in certain parts of the Wasatch Mountains, while powder fever keeps me looking for new chances at glory. That fever has led me over the same path that the Utah Ski Interconnect Adventure Tour takes, from the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon to the stunning Deer Valley Resort.

Super light Utah powder? Check. Over 2,000 acres of skiable terrain? Check. Meals that make you want to bag everyday life to become a full time foodie? Well, you get the idea. Deep snow, fast turns, and après activities with old and new friends alike make Deer Valley the perfect place to hang my helmet in 2012-13. It is, as they say, a chance to put on our goggles and see the big picture.

From world-class service to World Cup skiing I will share my experiences at SKI Magazine’s eight times ranked #1 ski resort, meeting the people who make it happen and reveling in the passion they share for their work.

If there is something you want to see, eat, or ski head to the comment section and let me know! In the meantime I will be doing the snow dance, probably in my ski boots, definitely like no one is watching.