Chicks on Sticks 2015

Okay, I’m just going to go ahead and say it—whoever came up with the phrase “No Friends on a Powder Day,” never met my friends. I don’t want to brag, but I have hands down, the best friends, because they all agree that the best way to enjoy powder is with each other. Last year, our annual Chicks on Sticks outing occurred on an epic powder day, and it’s safe to say that the powder would have been less enjoyable without each other’s company.

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As it turns out, you don’t need tons and tons of powder to have an epic day—as long as you have great company. I met up with Miriam, Stacey, Mir and Kellie in Snow Park Lodge at Deer Valley Resort. We lingered, just a bit over coffee, and then suited up. Stacey had been out most recently, and told us where the best skiing was. So, off we went to find it.

Let me say this, too. I had made sure to advertise the day as a mellow one—“Guys, remember, it’s all about lunch,” I wrote in one email. “So I don’t want to hear, ‘my knee hurts, so I can’t come,’ or ‘I can’t keep up with you!’”

Well, on the one hand, I meant every word of it. On the other hand—our definition of “mellow day,” may, in fact, contradict the term, “mellow.”

I could not wait to to try out my new boots. Mir was the first to notice: “Hey, you’re in the perfect position,” she said, as we skied down Star Gazer. “You’re skiing great.”

With my ego duly stoked, I set about ripping up the mountain.

In truth, our group skied quite companionably, and pressure-free, at our own paces. I think this is the secret to a good, social skiing day—coming down the mountain safely, comfortably, and at your own pace. The fact that I was trying to rip up the mountain, was, in fact, my own internal pressure meter pushed up to “high.” By the next day, this would prove to be a boneheaded strategy, but while I was skiing, I couldn’t have had more fun.

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The only thing better than the skiing that day was the chairlift rides. We mixed it up, and talked about everything from business to writing, kids and spouses, skiing and travel. And while some years we plan an elaborate sit-down lunch, this year, we decided that we felt like keeping it casual. We ate at the Snow Park Restaurant, where the awesome conversation continued.

Sadly, I had to cut out early to take care of a sick kiddo at home. I had planned to go home and then return to the mountain to pick up my healthy child at ski school, but my friends offered, generously, to ski until pickup time and bring him home for me. See? Told you, I have the best friends.

#SkiTheDifference with Bari Nan Cohen

#SkiTheDifference is, quite possibly, my favorite hashtag because it represents everything I love about the Deer Valley Resort experience. To me, it means that it’s possible to feel, simultaneously, the satisfaction of a weary body, shredded by incredible terrain, and the unmitigated joy of having been pampered, throughout the day. As I wrote here recently, it can be a spiritual experience to #SkiTheDifference.

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For me, the “Difference” is in the details—many of which come into play before you’ve clicked into your bindings. I love the fact that ski valets meet me when I open my car door and offer to help with my family’s gear. I’m thrilled by the dedicated parking for the Children’s Center, because it’s one less hassle in the experiment of skiing with young children. And, trust me, each time is an experiment in patience, resilience and fun.

When you head for the parking lots there’s never any guesswork about where and how to park—friendly attendants wave you into open spaces and keep the lots from getting unruly. This year the additions of small structures over the staircases that lead from lots 2 and 3 to lot 1 ensure that the stairs don’t accumulate a lot of ice and snow. Another shift is the boarding area for the parking lot shuttles in the turnaround under the plaza. It’s was moved a few feet and benches that were up against the building are now arranged in a comfortable waiting area. When I discovered this change I thought, “I didn’t realize the waiting area was ‘broken,’ but someone saw a better way.”

The on-mountain experience has the same attention to detail. The Mountain Hosts who will tell you the skinny on the best terrain they skied that day and lift operators who brush off the seats of the chairs before you board. There is delicious food in every lodge, with friendly people there to make sure there’s a clean table at the ready. Thoughtful touches like hand lotion dispensers in the bathrooms, complimentary glove dryers in the lodges, and ski check corral near every lodge. Suddenly a ski day (itself, a treat) is elevated to a resort experience.

These are experiences available to every skier on the hill, from beginner to expert. For those of us lucky enough to live here, #SkitheDifference mean our kids know their way around the entire mountain. They know that they can ask, nicely, for help boarding a chairlift. #SkitheDifference means my family can ride a lift together and then divide and conquer: two of us can take an easy run and two of us can ski the bumps, and then we all meet up at the bottom to compare notes. It means that there is always something to please every palate in the restaurants (even if it drives me nuts that there are so many choices, and my kids default to pasta, almost every time).

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This is the mountain my family calls home.” The chefs at Snow Park kept me well-fed throughout the winter I was pregnant with my second child while my husband and our firstborn tore up Wide West ski run. When the boys were tiny it took an army of ski valets to help me schlep the stroller, the ski gear, the kids and the other “stuff” kids require into the lodge. I never asked for help, it was always handled before I realized that I needed it. When I ask my kids about their favorite restaurants, The Seafood Buffet tops the list. We’ve celebrated birthdays and anniversaries at Mariposa, entertained friends at Fireside Dining, toasted visitors at Royal Street Cafế , and destroyed chili fries at Silver Lake Restaurant. We’ve even shared breakfast with Olympic champions at Silver Lake Lodge, more than once, simply by happenstance. “When did they get so big?” is a familiar refrain in the shops and restaurants around the resort. #SkiTheDifference is a community. And that, for us, has made all the difference.


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Skiing is a state of…style

I’ve taken the idea that skiing is a state-of-mind to a new level this year. Some in my family would argue that this isn’t entirely a good thing. But I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to dress when you’re off the slopes, is in clothing that tells the world, “I am a skier. I love to ski. I even wear clothes with skiers on them!” Bear with me.

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Recently, my good friend Shari had sent me a photo of a cute sweater she found in the Talbot’s outlet. Neither of us are regular shoppers in that store, and yet, their sweater selections caught our attention. She popped into the store one afternoon and hit the jackpot: a sweater with a pattern that depicts a skier carving turns (stylishly, of course) down a tree-lined slope.

“That’s it!” I announced, I proudly showed the text message to my family. “I need the skier sweater.”

My style-minded spouse and oldest child looked at me, incredulously. But young Seth aligned himself with me and Shari. “You NEED that, Mom! It’s awesome. And you and Shari will MATCH.” He said with all the urgency only a seven-year-old can muster (which is to say, quite a bit). The other two looked on, quizzically, as we high-fived.

Fortunately, the doubting duo know to humor the person who makes sure that the ski bags are packed every night. [Which is how, on a recent afternoon, while Seth was at a play-date, they came to walk into Talbot’s with me, wearing their best game-faces.] To our delight, a dear friend’s mom was working in the store—and she produced not just the sweater, but also a turtleneck with a pattern of little skiers all over it. “Oh, and what about the skier scarf?” she asked, proffering one from a nearby rack. Sold, sold and sold. I grinned from ear-to-ear, as my middle-schooler shook his head in anticipation of the sheer embarrassment of being seen with me, dressed in theme clothes. (Silently, I reminded myself that if I’m not embarrassing my kid, I’m doing something very, very wrong.) My husband pointed out that I had owned a similar turtleneck, back when we first met, over 25 years ago. It occurred to me that he may not have meant this in a good way. Still, nothing could dampen my glee.

Once home I admired my loot and took a great deal of joy in photographing the apparel. I sent the photos to Shari, “I will take your skier sweater, and raise you a skier turtleneck and a skier scarf. I WIN!” She immediately wrote back that she’d be returning to the store to complete her own set. This emboldened me to send boastful text messages, photos included, to a few friends who have, like Jeffrey, known me since the last time I thought that these items were at the height of fashion. I would be lying if I told you that the responses were not filled to the brim with celebrations of my awesome style.

I will be modeling this look all over town. I have paired the scarf with basic black leggings and turtleneck, and the sweater with a pair of motorcycle-style jeans in a light blue that perfectly matches the shade of the sky on the sweater. Clearly, it’s not a “technical” piece, but what fashionistas (like, ahem, myself) would call “a statement piece.” So, I’m now on the hunt for retro-styled ski clothes—you know, Fair-Isle knits, and maybe a more technical version of the cute, printed ski-turtlenecks of my childhood. I draw the line at the neon-colored one-piece ski suit—for now.

What is your skiing state of style? Tweet me  or @Deer_Valley.

What else to do with your kids around Deer Valley

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Hard as it may be to believe, my family does not spend every spare minute of every day during winter skiing. Sometimes it’s too cold (yes, I admitted that double-digit below-zero weather is enough to send even the hardiest of die-hards indoors), sometimes your legs are literally skied out, and sometimes, well, you need to eat.

Herewith, some of our family’s favorite alternative activities.

Please, sir, I want Smore

St. Regis

This ski-in, ski-out hotels at Deer Valley offer s’mores, nightly, from 7-9 p.m. at their outdoor fire pits. The St. Regis offers an extra layer of fun—as in, funicular. If we didn’t know about the S’mores (or, you know, the decadent mussels available at J&G Grill (or at the bar), the ride alone would be reason enough to take a break from skiing. 

Fun Fine Dining

Seafood Buffet

This is the kind of fine dining that works really well for families. During ski season, the Snow Park Lodge restaurant is converted into the Seafood Buffet. Don’t let the “buffet” moniker fool you. This is an experience in indulgence. It’s also a great way to introduce kids to a variety of different foods, textures and seasonings. They can try a little bit of a lot of things, and then go back for more of their favorites. Plus, there’s always a crowd-pleasing Mac-n-Cheese on the menu, just in case. The fact that getting up from the table is encouraged is enough to make it kid-friendly, all on its own. Add to that the extensive dessert display, and you’ve got a winning evening.

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Its all about the Climb

The Mine, Bouldering Gym

A recent addition to the Park City sports scene, the Mine is an all-ages experience, with rock-climbing wall routes for all abilities. My kids are particularly fond of the “TreadClimbler,” a human-powered vertical treadmill with rock routes galore, on—yes—a never-ending loop. More than just a bouldering gym, the Mine offers yoga, as well. And, if you present your day pass from a local ski area, during the month of February, you can receive a 50% discount for a Mine Bouldering Gym day pass, so you can relax and recharge with some climbing and yoga.

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Skating Fun!

Park City Ice Arena

Even with it’s schedule full of practice sessions for local figure skating, speed skating, hockey and curling clubs, the Park City Ice Arena carves out at least one—if not two—public skate sessions daily. The rink offers skate rentals and loaner helmets, so all you have to do is arrive with layers to keep you cozy (word to the wise, dressing kids in ski pants means they will slide when they fall, making it less traumatic) and a pair of gloves, and you’re good to go.

Look out below!!

Sledding

You can tote a sled to the ice arena for a dual-activity afternoon. Recently, we did this with my cousins, and it was a huge hit. The hill outside the Park City Ice Arena slides steep and fast, so you’ll want to don a helmet before you bomb down the hill. Tiny shredders may enjoy the shorter and slightly gentler slope outside the Park City Library.

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Kick and Glide!

Nordic Skiing

Sometimes the best way to be hospitable is to get out of the way. In that spirit, my family opts, often, to make room for visiting skiers at the resorts during the busiest weeks, by hitting the nordic trails instead of the alpine hills. There are many, many miles of groomed trails, which you can use free of charge thanks to Basin Recreation and the Mountain Trails Foundation. But if you need rental gear and skiing in one handy location, nordic athletes have two options: White Pine Touring on Park Avenue (in the Hotel Park City), or The Jeremy Ranch Nordic Center on the Jeremy Ranch Golf and Country Club’s golf course. Both locations offer rentals, lessons and trails for every ability level—in both skate skiing and classic configurations.

These are just a few of the awesome options available in town. I’d love to hear about your favorites in the comments!

 

Ski Mom Survival Guide

Each phase of my children’s lives brings me a different perspective on what are the essential survival skills for a skiing mom. When the kids were tiny it was the simple fact of remembering that sometimes a “ski day” meant a total of 30 minutes on snow, and then hour after hour of building Lego creations in the lodge, with frequent breaks for cookies.
As they’ve gotten older my “survival skills” have expanded to include having the boys manage their own gear and allowing them to lead me toward more technical terrain. The “mom” in me doesn’t want to believe that they can handle it. The “skier” in me could not be more proud.

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I think a successful family ski experience boils down to keeping a balance between the supremely efficient and the supremely silly. Here, in no particular order, are my tips: .

 

  1. CREATE HABITS: Knowing that you have to lay out gear the night before so that kids can dress themselves (to the best of their developmental ability) is a great habit to get into. Insisting that they wear all their gear in the car including boots, is another habit. This way you simply have to run down the mental checklist as you eyeball them when they exit the car: Helmet, goggles, neck gaiter, jacket, pants, boots. When you leave the mountain, run through a similar checklist, then again when you exit the car at home. Make sure all the gear is removed from bags, and laid out to dry, when you get home.
  2. BOOK LESSONS: Ski School is often the saving grace of the family ski vacation. I live here and it has been the saving grace of entire seasons of skiing. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, instructors know how to coach people so that the equipment is doing the lion’s share of the work. People who haven’t had lessons don’t always know what their equipment is capable of doing and the ensuing overcompensating can result in very sore legs. Second, it gives your family the chance to “wow” each other with skills you developed while apart. Third, you acquire only the best skiing skills out of the gate and if you haven’t skied in a while, a good instructor will help break you of some old habits.
  1. GOOF OFF: Alternate challenging terrain with something less challenging. If your kids are starting to explore intermediate terrain, it’s still important to ski the easier stuff. I have found that my kids get as much of a mental boost out of being the masters of Wide West ski run as they do when they lay claim to bragging rights on Square Deal ski run. Also, some wise instructors have told me that when you catch your “french fries” skier suddenly relying on the “pizza” wedge, it’s time to dial back the difficulty until they find the “fries” again. Plus, some of the obstacles on easier terrain can do wonders to help improve overall skill levels.
  1. USE YOUR PHONE’S CAMERA: You can create a combo-platter of trail-memory backup and scrapbook-ready photos if you snap photos of your family standing under the trail markers at the beginning of a run. At the end of the day, you can look through the photos and make a note of trails you want to ski again. Share your photos on social media with the resorts hashtag to connect with other ski families and to learn local secrets. We use #SkiTheDifference at Deer Valley Resort.
  1. CARRY CANDY: If I have said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times. A stash of candy in your pocket can go a long way toward keeping kids’ energy and excitement levels high. Recently when skiing with my extended family, my cousin Erica quipped that she’d just enjoyed a “grape smelling” run, as Lance skied in front of her while enjoying a grape-flavored candy.

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  1. AVAIL YOURSELF OF THE BASKET CHECK, LOCKERS and SKI CHECK. If you’re skiing consecutive days use the complimentary ski storage at Deer Valley. If you know your family will have “boot fatigue” by day’s end, stow your snow boots in the lockers or basket check in the bottom of Snow Park Lodge. Basket check is great if you know you’re going to be spending part of the day in the lodge entertaining yourself (book) or a young family member (small bag of toys).
  1. CONSIDER SEASONAL RENTALS. Some local shops have amazing seasonal rental programs for kids. We have used the one at Utah Ski and Golf for Lance. Many of these programs charge a flat fee for multiple seasons. Seth is in the Surefoot and Jans programs for boots and skis. At Surefoot, we receive credit toward the next size up, at Jans, we trade in skis and bindings for a 30% discount. Buying adjustable poles for both boys has saved us a bundle too.
  1. SHARE OFTEN. We all have different preferences for lunch. Lance eats a giant bowl of chicken noodle soup, every day. Seth is my pasta friend. I’m partial to the baked potatoes with various toppings. Jeff’s a fan of the daily specials at Snow Park Lodge. We’re all fans of the french fries, so we usually just get one plate to share between us. This is a strategic move that leaves plenty of room for dessert even if that’s just a shared cookie.195 Deer Valley Bakery
  1. CREATE GAMES ON THE LIFTS: Have your kids count the number of orange helmets they see. Winner gets an extra piece of candy. Everyone in the family can point out skiers who are demonstrating good form, or form we’d rather not emulate. This exercise can help everyone visualize their ideal turn.
  1. FOLLOW YOUR KIDS: If they have attended even one day of ski school, their instructor let them in on “secret” trails or even special ways to attack not-so-secret trails. From exploring the “whoop-dee-dos” on the side of the trail, to taking a detour through Bucky’s Backyard, your kids will delight in leading the way and more than likely, the upper hand in confidence on the terrain.
  1. LEAVE THEM WANTING MORE: This is another thing that bears repeating. Cut the day a little short, maybe two runs fewer than you think the group can handle. You get bonus points if you receive a ton of protest from your newly-addicted skiers. Remember, when you’re six, “a long time ago” is when you were four. So, no matter how much fun they had before 2:30 pm, if the day sours at 2:45, that may be all they remember. Giving them the opportunity to hunger for more days is a guaranteed way to ensure they’ll be ready for more the next time you ski.
  1. AVAIL YOURSELF OF APRÉS. Whatever your poison, cookies and cocoa or cookies and creme de cacao, remember that you deserve a reward for shepherding your family through another ski day. I’m a fan of EBS Lounge in Snow Park Lodge, there’s usually live music on weekend and holiday afternoons. 

Gearing up!

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Cup like a Local

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shabbat on the Slopes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Top Five “Only in Park City” Experiences

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

1. Everyone gives back

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

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

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

2. We WIN Lost and Found

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

Photot Credit: Michael Larsen of Larsen and Talber

Photot Credit: Michael Larsen of Larsen and Talber

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

Photo Credit: Michael Larsen of Larsen and Talber

              Photo Credit: Michael Larsen of Larsen and Talber

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

3. We Chase Balloons

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

4. We get customer service

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

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

5. We Dress for Success

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

Photo Credit: Michael Larsen of Larsen and Talber

            Photo Credit: Michael Larsen of Larsen and Talber

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

Jam-packed Summer

Dear Reader,

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

Kids from FB

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

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

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

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

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