Diana Krall and the Utah Symphony

It’s no secret: I geek out at Deer Valley summer concerts. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new discovery, or an old favorite. If I’m outdoors, with people I adore, watching live music and enjoying a picnic basket prepared by the expert culinary team at Deer Valley, then I am a happy camper of the highest order. Couple that with bumping into dear friends our neighbor, Sue, our pal Nikole and making some new acquaintances (I’m looking at you, fun couple from Texas), and I’m good to go. However, if you give me a few extra hours in gorgeous weather, hanging out with my husband and listening to Diana Krall with the Utah Symphony? Well, I am pretty sure there is no better way to spend the evening.


Because Krall happens to be one of Jeffrey’s and my favorite artists, we wanted to arrive early to get good seats. Pro tip: You can buy “back-rest” style seats which sit flat on the ground, and still qualify for seating in the “blankets-only” section, which fills up more slowly than the “chairs” section. So even though we were not anywhere close to the front of the line-up at the gates before they opened, we scored a close-enough spot that we could hear and see well.

When I saw Krall perform years ago at Abravanel Hall, I felt like that experience ruined me for all others no way would another one of her concerts be as perfect. Well, simply put, I’m an idiot. This woman has proven for years that she will capitalize on any opportunity to top herself. The evening she played at Deer Valley was ample demonstration of this. The weather, too, seemed to rise to the occasion. Sure, it was hotter than usual that night, but it was also clear, gorgeous and, eventually, the kind of cool summer evening that reminds us of why we live in the mountains.


Krall, herself, remarked upon this several times, noting that Deer Valley is her favorite ski destination, that she always feels at home here. (This is a recurring theme for nearly every artist who visits the Snow Park Amphitheater stage whether for the first time or on a return visit. And, no, I don’t think it’s just stage-patter flattery.)

One of the reasons Krall is such a joy to watch is that she, herself, is a fan. More than once, in the course of her set, she simply stopped playing to watch her band members, or to take in the Symphony’s arrangement, under the direction of conductor Jerry Steichen. “I kind of get lost in the music and forget to play,” she admitted. “I’m just such a fan.” It’s an occupational hazard, likely, of surrounding yourself with other gifted musicians.

So, thanks, Diana Krall, for giving me even more reasons to love your music, and to geek out at my favorite venue. Hurry back, please.

2015 Kimball Arts Festival

Every local I know has a favorite way to enjoy the Kimball Arts Festival. Artists, like my pal Jenny Terry, thrill at the prospect of being invited to participate. Others have repeat gigs as festival volunteers, selling tickets at gates, staffing the kids’ activities, helping out the artists, and doing countless little tasks that most festival attendees never realize have to happen. And, of course, tons of locals turn out on the Friday night of the festival, when locals are offered free admission.

Photo courtesy of Kimball Art Center/Mark Maziarz.

Photo courtesy of Kimball Art Center/Mark Maziarz.

This year, as my family and I toured the festival, I realized that we, too, have our own Festival tradition the “Sunday morning stroll.”

We tend to arrive soon after the gates open on the final day of the festival. The sun isn’t quite high enough to beat down on the pavement, so it’s comfortable to walk around. We’ve likely enjoyed a late breakfast, so the kids aren’t clamoring for lunch the minute we arrive. And the crowd hasn’t hit its nadir yet, so we have the ability to chat with a few of the artists.

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Photo courtesy of Kimball Art Center/Mark Maziarz.

Also, we never know who we’ll run into. This year I had some marching orders. A friend in Boulder, CO had sent me a message that she wanted me to stop by the booth of an artist friend whose work she has photographed. We stopped to say hello to Dolan Geiman and got lost in his booth for a while, admiring his unique brand of “upcycled” art: objects layered and textured with a variety of media, and creating the kind of art that engages you in different ways every time you look at it.

Later as we made our way through some fascinating photography booths, we ran into our neighbor, Christopher, and his cousin. “I’m looking around to see what other wood workers are up to,” he explained. A talented carpenter, Chris is always eager to explore new ideas and inspirations.


Photo courtesy of Kimball Art Center/Mark Maziarz.

Of course, we stopped to see Jenny, who was thrilled by the response she received from her work this year. “I am so happy to see friendly faces,” she said. “I love meeting new people, but seeing my friends at the booth is a treat.”

Finally, we ran into our friend, photographer Mark Maziarz, who, it could be argued, had the most fun job at the Kimball Arts Festival: he was on duty capturing the presentation of awards to the winners.


Photo courtesy of Kimball Art Center/Mark Maziarz.

How do you enjoy the Kimball Arts Festival? Is there a method to your walk-and-hunt, or does each year give you the chance to do things a little differently than the year before? Let me know in the comments!

Race you to the top

This summer any time I was invited on a hike, it was a production. Knee brace? Check. Hiking poles? Check. I can remain in denial about advancing into middle age for only so long, right? Whatever.

Most days the hassle was worth the killer views, exhilarating endorphin’s, the works. Then, rather by accident, I happened into a pleasurable mountain climbing experience, the likes of which I had not enjoyed in several years: The scenic chairlift ride.

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My in-laws were visiting, and the kids wanted to show them the top of Bald Mountain, which is one of their favorite spots to ski. We were tempted by a text from our friends Stacey and Steven, who were planning to hike the Silver Lake Trail (one of my favorites we used to do it a lot when the boys were still riding in frame packs). We hadn’t seen them since winter, and they had just landed to spend the holiday weekend in their home. So the temptation to say, “yes,” was great. However, between my uncooperative knee and the in-laws’ recent arrival from their sea-level home turf, it seemed like a better idea to ride the lift up, and meet up with our friends afterward.

We split up into threesomes for the ride up on the quad chairlift. Dad, Grandma and Lance in one chair, Seth and Papa and me in the other.

It turns out, not every ascent has to be adrenaline-filled to be thrilling. The views, alone, were enough to stop me in my tracks. Even better were the moments when my kids pointed out their favorite ski runs to their grandparents. “See where those guys are mountain biking?” Seth asked. “That’s one of my favorite places to ski.” His grandfather was duly impressed with the kid’s ability to navigate the trees.

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We chatted, excitedly, about some favorite moments we had enjoyed on the mountain over the course of the ski season. We pointed out Sunset Cabin, where Seth helped me lead Temple Har Shalom’s famed “Ski Shul,” a ski-in ski-out Shabbat service, held each Friday at 3 p.m. during ski season.

Soon, we were disembarking from the chair (something that seems to inspire us to break into a jog, actually) and scrambling up the steps to the view area. While we pointed out ski trails and views of town to our visiting family, we took a bunch of photos. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Stacey and Steven, just summiting their hike.

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“Perfect timing!” I announced. “We couldn’t have planned that!”

We spent a few minutes more, exploring the mountain, and then added Stacey to one chair, Steven to the other, and began our descent. There is a good argument to be made for a round-trip chairlift ride, because the views of the Jordanelle (which you only glimpse for a few moments on the ride up) are expansive, spectacular, and in sight for a good several minutes on the way down.

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Of course, after all of that hard work, we needed refreshment. Thankfully, Steven and Stacey had the exact right trick up their sleeve a stop at the Snack Shack at Silver Lake Lodge to pick up Deer Valley’s famous chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches.

Snack Shack summer opening on June 19, 2015

Summer Shopping at Deer Valley

Summer sales are my jam. That’s when I pick up technical base layers at bargain prices, reduced-price ski pants off of the kids’ racks (for my kids and their vertically challenged mom), and lots of other winter gear basics that always seem to be in short supply in our house once the snow flies. So imagine my delight when I was strolling past the Deer Valley Signatures store at Silver Lake Village one day this summer and found a sweater. Not just any sweater, mind you, but one I’ll call The Sweater of Joy.


See, in the last few months, I’ve been reading “The Magical Art of Tidying Up,” by Marie Kondo, and I made a commitment to only acquiring (and keeping) items for myself that bring me JOY. This sweater passed the test on so many levels. First, it was available only in my size. Not too big, not too small. My size. Second, it was displayed on a rack outside the door, marked “SALE.” Bargain! Yay! The original price had been scratched out, a price about 50 percent lower had been penciled in. Third, and perhaps most importantly, it elicited a bunch of groans from my kids. “You’re buying that, Mom?” they aren’t always on board with my predilection for polka dots or for mixing bright hues in a single garment. It embarrasses them. SOLD.

I was so convinced that owning this sweater would bring me joy that I didn’t even try it on. (My mother-in-law, visiting us for the weekend, was shocked that I would purchase any item of clothing without trying it on. But hey, sometimes you’ve got to live on the edge, right?) I knew it would be the perfect piece to layer year-round bright enough to show flair at a summer concert, after sunset, or to lend a pop of color to a snowy day.

Truth be told, there was a rack full of awesome bargains. Leather jackets, marked down to well-below mid-winter prices, more sweaters, some pants. But the thing is, I knew not one of these other garments, no matter how lovely, would match this sweater in the JOY department. So off I went to the register, wherein I was greeted with yet another surprise, the sweater’s revised price tag did not reflect an additional discount being offered that day. I’m calling it a win.

You can grab the last of the summer sale items this weekend (September 19 and 20, 2015) at the Signatures store at Silver Lake Lodge before it closes for the season. Or stop by the Signatures Store on Park City’s Historic Main Street this fall. Let me know if you find any hot deals.

Women on Wednesday: Perfect Partnerships

Some of my favorite combinations in life can be described as perfect partnerships: peanut Butter and Jelly. My boys, when they’re getting along well. In skiing, there are a couple of “perfect partnerships” every skier should cultivate. One is an instructor who “gets” you and whose style suits yours. The other is a good shop that can guide you through the care and feeding of you ski gear quiver rather than just sell you what you think you want, or tell you what you think you want to hear.

Eric Schramm Photography 2015

The 2014 – 2015 season was my second year skiing Women on Wednesday, and when my two favorite “perfect partnerships” came together at the program’s welcome reception, I knew I was in for a treat. Jans Mountain Outfitters hosts the reception in their Snow Park Lodge store. Instructors and students mingle, meet and clinic veterans reconnect. I was happy to see Terri and Darlene, two members of the group I skied with the first year. And then, Donna—wonderful Donna McAleer. “The band is back together!” we shrieked (really, we did). I told them, excitedly, that our friend Kellie would be there in the morning, too. As far as I’m concerned, skiing with Donna is proof that perfect partnerships exist, especially when I think about the time we lucked into a ski day together, a couple of years ago.

We toasted our good fortune and then turned our attention to the excellent gear-head pep-talk from the Yoda of Jans Mountain Outfitters, Scott. (If, you know, Yoda were not short, green and hairy, but rather tall, gentle and genial.) “Please take advantage of the demo day we offer you,” he urged. “Finding the right pair of skis when you’re getting this level of instruction, can improve your skiing dramatically.” He also underscored the importance of a well-fitted boot.

He urged us to take advantage of the excellent tuning department. “Yes, I enjoy some privileges, but I will tell you that I never go out on the mountain without freshly-waxed skis,” he explained. “It makes the equipment work for you.” At that moment, I made a mental note to bring my skis in for a wax at the end of the following day. I’d logged more runs than I realized and the bottoms of my skis were, in fact, begging for some attention.

On day one there was a welcome breakfast, during which the catch-up continued, and students and instructors discussed goals for the five-week session. “We’re all here to have fun,” said Kelly, who supervises the Women on Wednesdays program. “So speak up if you’re not, so we know how to make it better.”

At the buffet, I bumped into a woman who had skied program the year before as well. “Wait a minute, I remember you,” she said. “Aren’t you an amazing skier?”

“Well, if you put it that way, of course I am!” I joked with her. “You’re my favorite, don’t tell the others!”

With my ego pumped, my pals Kellie, Terri and Darlene by my side, and the prospect of a sunny day on the slopes, I was ready to take on the day. A fun morning of get-to-know-you lift rides, including a warm up run on Success ski run, and a ski-off on Big Stick ski run, and we were split into our groups. We urged another woman to come join us with Donna. “We need a drummer!” someone said. “Come be our Ringo!”

Four instructors—two Advanced and two Expert—led us to the top of the double blue section of Big Stick, and we were told each group’s goals. Expert groups would spend the majority of their time, conditions permitting, off-piste, and likely in the Daly Chutes. “We’ll work on fundamentals on the groomers, double blues and blacks. So we can build confidence in every kind of conditions and terrain,” Donna said to the Advanced groups. “My group will go off piste, into moguls and probably the Chutes.” My heart skipped a beat, but I reminded myself this was a longer term goal, that Donna would build our group into a team that would be ready for the challenge by the time it presented itself. “Let’s go!” She said, as she prepared to make her first turn down Big Stick. “The Band is back together!”

All morning, Donna led us down double blue ski runs, Tycoon and Jordanelle were my two favorites. I love her “Ski it twice” mantra. If you like the conditions, ski it again. If you don’t like them? Ski it again because now you know how to adjust for the terrain.

Jordanelle Sign

By lunchtime, we were ready for a break—and lots of water, since we’d spent most of the day in the sunshine. The first day of Women on Wednesdays, we eat in Silver Lake Lodge, taking our trays to the Mariposa dining room, so that the instructors and students can compare notes on the morning. Instructors compare notes on the skiers they’re coaching, to make sure that everyone is placed in groups from which they will learn the most. And, as I learned, the resort uses this moment to make sure the groups are split into the promised 4 – 6 students-per-instructor ratio. “I’ve really enjoyed the morning skiing with you, but I want you to listen to what Kelly, who supervises this program, has to say,” she explained.

Kelly noted that if we wanted to remain as a group of seven, then we’d need to sign a paper that acknowledged that we were not getting the ratio we’d paid for. “Deer Valley wants to honor its promise to you,” Kelly said. “And we want to ensure a great experience.”

“I don’t care what I have to sign, I’m staying with you!” I announced to Donna—and the whole table. Everyone laughed, but I was dead serious. Still, It broke the ice enough for others to speak up. One of our group asked if she could move down to an Intermediate group from our Advanced crew. Another was encouraged—by the instructors and by the rest of us, to try out the Expert group for the afternoon. With that, we had achieved wiggle room, so that if one of the two changed her mind, there would be room to welcome her back.


With that settled, our newly-minted group of five headed for Stein’s Way—where conditions were not quite as stellar or consistent as promised, and for some reason, I lost all my mojo by the third turn. I clamped my boots down to the point of distortion and pain, and fought my way down the hill. The inevitable had happened—my boots were giving me every indication they’d seen better days. I made a note to stop into Jans to get my skis waxed—and to lay the groundwork for a boot fitting later in the week. I ended the day feeling grateful for perfect partnerships—and for the fact that four more weeks of fun lay ahead.

Remembering 2015 Summer Camps in Park City

Every year, I promise myself I’m not going to over schedule my kids’ summer. And every year the options for great camps in Park City expands to include even more fun options than ever before. I manage to fail miserably at finding them a few, measly unscheduled hours. So much fun is to be had in our great town’s amazing camp offerings, that if you’re  not careful, your kids can breeze through summer without a single chore or mind bending math problem. Sadly, for my kids, their mother is careful by nature.

So in that spirit this summer my family experimented with a mixture of camps and Camp Mom. Camp Mom weeks may include tennis, pool time, bike rides and something I call “skill building.” Select skill building seminars cover topics, including, “Mechanical Devices: The Vacuum Is Your Friend” and “Arts and Crafts: Laundry Origami.” I’ll report back on this special curriculum.

Luckily for my kids, their parents take fun, enriching experiences very seriously. We  alternated “Camp Mom,” with several fun, engaging camps. We’ve had some excellent summer experiences, beginning with my kids’ earliest summers, at Deer Valley Summer Adventure Camp.

I thought I’d give you a glimpse into some of the other offerings that my boys (Seth is 8 and Lance is 12) savored this summer:



The Park City Municipal Golf Course offered three week-long camps, half-days Mondays through Thursdays, where students learn golf etiquette, rules and basic skills. Thursday is game day and parents who drive the carts get to see, first hand, what their kids learned in four days’ time. I view driving as a chore. But driving a golf cart and “caddying” for these “pros”? A total treat. Just eavesdropping on their discussion of the rules, requests for Mulligans, and desire to coach each other into hitting straight (or, shall we say, attempting to coach each other into hitting straight), was all the entertainment I needed.


The Bobby Lawrence Karate Studio offered several no-experience-necessary camps for children ages 3-12. Each week is a different theme, with a Survivor week, a Ninja Warrior Week and a Spy Kids week. For beginners, it is a fun intro to martial arts. For current students, it can be an opportunity to fit a month’s worth of lessons into a few days, and become eligible to move up a belt rank. (Brown belt with green stripe: CHECK!)


My kids can’t get enough of these STEM Camps (Science Technology Engineering and Math) Offering everything from programming to grade-level math (and beyond), Lego Robotics to Chess, this Redstone-based learning center is staffed by young, energized counselors with a passion for STEM.

YOUTHEATRE at Egyptian Theatre Company

By the time my kids got to this camp in early July, I kept thinking how much fun it is to be a child in this town. Gangs of excited, creative children descend on Miner’s Hospital for a variety of camps—my older son chose Filmmaking camp and his little brother chose Puppetry. Lance’s film class wrote, directed and produced a “Ninja Western” mashup that was out-of-this-world funny and creative. Seth and his camp pals made puppets and then acted out “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” with Seth starring as … you guessed it, the Headless Horseman. The talented staff kept the kids on-task while encouraging creativity and expression. The weekly camps culminated in a showcase performance/screening of the week’s work. Lance loved the film camp so much, he is spent another week there in August.

theater dudes


The Park City MARC’s weekly tennis camps were offered in two, three and five-day packages, with drop-ins on a space-available basis. My kids have attended this camp for several years, and finish each session stronger than when they started.


Snyderville Basin Recreation District ran a series a fantastically fun summer day camps, with Summer Blast as the centerpiece. With daily swimming at the Ecker Hill pool, tons of sports, games and arts-and-crafts, it’s a guaranteed day (or week) of fun.



YMCA CAMP ROGER, which operated eight five-day sessions (you can link two together, if you choose), is located just about a half hour from Park City, about 15 miles up Mirror Lake Highway, outside of Kamas, UT. Lance had such a great time there last summer that Seth wanted in on the fun. So, for five nights, they get a vacation from “Mom’s Special Summer Curriculum,” in exchange for archery, hiking, campfire cooking, and mountain biking. Not to mention, the opportunity to eat spaghetti without benefit of utensils. With a skilled staff hailing from several continents, the kids are exposed to lots of different cultures and ideas, and the chance to make some new friends.

And…a couple we still have on our to-do list for next year.

FUNDamentals Camp at Utah Olympic Park

Before he was ten years old, my son Lance learned how to ski jump into the very same training pool used by Olympic athletes from all over the world. He also got to try out “street luge,” mixed in with gymnastics, tennis, swimming and golf. His younger brother is on deck to try it next year, and it’s quite possibly the most comprehensive sports-skills camp I have ever seen. The camp’s curriculum is focused on fostering a well-rounded appreciation of all sports rather than specializing in one specific sport. Plus, each day includes team-building activities and arts and crafts. And if you do as much recreational reading about “hyperspecialized” kid athletes, the existence of camps like this is the perfect fit.


The Park City Sailing Club has Learn-to-Sail Camps all summer long on the Jordanelle Reservoir. Sailing skills are taught from beginner through advanced, with mini-regattas throughout the summer. The club also hosts open sailing evening potlucks all summer long.


Basin Recreation’s super-popular water-fun camp is actually a week full of field trips to water parks and attractions all over the greater Salt Lake City area.

Summer Adventure Camp

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I love Deer Valley Summer Adventure Camp. I’m not just saying this because on a recent day,when I had the chance to visit camp, I was declared the winner of Four Corners, a fantastic running-around game that took place on the stage of the Deer Valley Amphitheater. (Seriously, the very same stage that has featured the likes of Grace Potter, Kristin Chenoweth, and countless other superstars serves as a play area for the campers!). So, yeah, I achieved rock-star status, in the eyes of a bunch of four-and-five year olds, on that very stage. And, really, I can’t think of a group of people better qualified to confer such status.

There’s a special magic to Deer Valley Summer Adventure Camp. I can say this, with authority, because it was the camp that turned my kids on to the idea of summer camp, in general, the one that planted the seeds for all the cool camps they have attended both in town and in the mountains, for the last eleven summers. The day I visited was rainy and cool—yet the dedicated staff turned every possible corner of the Snow Park Lodge area into a fun-filled playground.

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There was some cool game called Shark Attack being played by a group of older kids in the locker room. You can’t really appreciate how big the room is, until you see it used by 20 kids, instead of a hundred or more skiers. (Oh, so that’s why it never feels crowded: it’s huge!)

Prior to that, a group of over 20 kids and five staffers sat in a circle in one of the home-base camp rooms, sharing their names and favorite animals. For the kids, it was a chance to come up with the most unusual choices they could think of—and see if the counselors could top it. When one child said her favorite was the hammerhead shark, Will, a counselor, said, “Oh, that was mine!” and then proceeded to tell the circle that his second favorite animal is a platypus. Cue the huge laugh from the peanut gallery. As the game went on, and chatter started to creep in, the counselors had the opportunity to remind everyone about taking turns listening and sharing, it was the kind of learning-through-play that really works, and also helps keep order in a larger group of kids.

“This has been our busiest season, ever,” says Kelly Witter, Summer Camp Supervisor for the 5-6 and 7-12 year-old campers. “People like that we change it up every day. The parents like that we are electronics-free, and that their kids are always trying new things.”

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Another bonus? “We are well under the state’s ratio for staff,” she says. “With our 5-6 year-olds, we have 6:1, and with our 7-12, it’s 8:1. And our staff is engaged all the time with the kids.

The low ratios allow for plenty of exploration in the greater Park City community. “We have our own vans, so we can pick up and take the kids to the Utah Olympic Park museum on a rainy day—they’re out there, having fun, and moving around and they don’t even realize they are learning something, too!”

The camp staff works hard to make the camp feel like a community. “The kids who are here for ski school in the winter, and camp in the summer, they really feel part of something,” Kelly says. “And we work to make it so they are aware of the larger community, too.”

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For instance, each summer, campers create artwork that is displayed in a show throughout the Children’s Center lobby and the Snow Park Lodge hallways. The art is sold with the proceeds going to a local non-profit. “This year, we are donating the proceeds to Recycle Utah’s glass recycling program,” says Deer Valley Resort’s Children’s Programs Manager, Mya Frantti.

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Which may explain why I spied Kelly spraying a multicolored picnic table, at one point. “The kids and I colored this with chalk, for the art show,” she explained. “So now I’m sealing it—which, it turns out, can only be done with hair spray!”

See? Even the adults learn things at camp, in the name of having fun.

Creepy Crawlies at Camp

I’ve done plenty of celebrity interviews in my time. I have even attended the Emmy Awards, and more than one red carpet. But never have I seen a crowd so thrilled to see a celebrity than the day Kim’s Cold Blooded Creatures visited Deer Valley Summer Adventure Camp!


Kim, a Park City local for about seven years, has numerous snakes, spiders, tortoises, turtles and lizards that she and her family keep as pets. She makes it clear that the real stars of the show are her pets. She spends many days a week traveling to schools, camps and birthday parties for an interactive educational presentation, through which she educates kids (and any adults in the room, for that matter) about each creatures habits, habitats and defense mechanisms.

She is so popular around Park City, that when she brought out a baby Bell Python, a child called out, “You got a new snake!” prompting Kim to ask when the child had seen her last. “In June? Yes, you’re right this snake is about a month old!”


Her passion for such creatures started early. “I had an older brother who used to take me hunting for frogs and lizards when we were kids,” she said. “He passed away at 13 from leukemia so having these pets and learning about them, and now teaching about them, has been a way for me to stay connected to him and to honor him.”


And her educational business is a family affair. “These are all our pets, and they live at home with us,” she said. “I do this so people aren’t scared of insects and snakes when they might come across them in nature.” Assisting her on this day were her adult son, Alex, and his girlfriend, Kennedy (who initially had a snake wrapped around her head, prompting a camper, age five, to call out, “You’re Medusa!!”). “None of my animals are dangerous or I wouldn’t let you hold them,” Kim explained. “After all, I let my own son hold them, so you know you’re safe.” She also gently, but firmly, reminded the campers how to keep the animals safe by touching them gently.


The children sat as she brought out a variety of creatures, promising along the way, that there would be opportunities to hold them. “You don’t have to hold anything or touch anything,” she assured her audience. “None of my animals have ever bit or stung a person.”

Over the course of an hour, we learned that no one has ever died from a tarantula bite, that tarantulas will kick off hairs from their abdomen to irritate and scare off a predator, and that if you want to find scorpions, you can go out at night with an inexpensive blue light and the scorpions will glow under the light. We also learned that the Australian Prickly Stick insect, which are harmless (Alex was wearing one on his face at one point in the presentation), were used as doubles for poisonous scorpions in the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.


“It’s a very cool insect, and it hangs on really well,” Kim quipped.

We met a Madagascar hissing cockroach and a Peppered Roach, both of which serve as “nature’s recyclers,” eating dead plants, some animal carcasses and helping to create holes in the vegetation canopies in the jungle, so that sunlight can reach the lower plants.

We also met a Crested Gecko named Pop Tart, whose tail or lack thereof, proved cautionary (the pun is mine—apologies to Kim!) to the kids. “Someone wasn’t gentle enough with her at a birthday party, and her defense mechanism was to shed her tail,” Kim explained. “Dropping the tail distracts predators, but it doesn’t ever grow back.”


As she introduced a bearded dragon and various breeds of non-venomous snakes, Kim took the opportunity to educate kids on what it means to take responsibility for a pet. “You shouldn’t go to a pet store until you and your parents have done some research on exactly how big the pet will grow, and what kind of care they need,” she said. “Some people think if it doesn’t work out, the pets can go to live at a zoo. But zoos don’t want our pets, and pets need a forever home. So you need to be responsible about adopting pets.”

After all of the introductions were made, kids lined up to meet the pets, some wearing snakes, others holding tortoises, lizards and yes, even the tarantula. And, I daresay, they were gentler with the stars of this show than most adults are with human celebrities.


“This has been our most successful guest speaker, yet,” said Kurt Hammel, childrens programs assistant manager at Deer Valley’s Summer Adventure Camp. “I’ve never seen the kids so engaged.” (Word to the wise: I noticed Kurt snagging Kim’s card—so don’t be surprised if you bump into Kim and her Cold Blooded Creatures someday during the winter season, too!)


Beating the Back-To-School Blues

Every year, it happens. I’m nicely settled in to the routines of summer, and boom, just like that, it’s August, and the Back-to-School Crunch begins. This year I’m staging a full-on protest.

My primary weapon in this protest is denial, coupled with a healthy dose of over-scheduling fun and entertaining things to do. Lucky for me, Deer Valley is here to aid and abet, offering a packed schedule of activities, extending well past the start of school (August 20 in Park City, for those of you keeping score at home). And lucky for you, I can offer you a curated list of the best antidotes to those back to school blues.

Eric Schramm Photography 2015

There are still two awesome Guided Historic Hikes left in the season, September 20 and October 18. You can meet up at the bottom of Sterling Express (wear sturdy shoes and bring your own snacks and water, but leave your favorite four-legged friend behind please) for a fun, informative lesson on area history with Michael O’Malley.

In August alone, there are 4 concerts on the schedule, including the Gypsy Kings performing as part of the Big Stars, Bright Nights Concert Series. And with acts like the Crescent Superband on the bill for the Grand Valley Bank Community Concert Series (free every Wednesday), it’s hard not to find an excuse to get your boogie on.

Eric Schramm Photography 2015

But it’s the month of September that gets the credit for helping locals and visitors beat the Back-to-School Blues. A Labor Day weekend outing to Deer Valley can include watching mountain bikers race by Silver Lake Lodge as they participate in the Park City Point to Point Race, heading toward the Mid-Mountain Trail between 9 – 10 a.m. Combine this with a hike and scenic lift ride, followed by a great lunch at the Royal Street Café, and you’ve had a fun, jam packed morning.

Plus on September 6, Aloe Blacc performs as part of the Big Stars, Bright Nights Concert Series.

September 12 is another jam-packed day at Deer Valley. For starters, the Mid-Mountain Marathon departs from Silver Lake Village, with runners doing a couple of laps before they head out onto the trail. In the afternoon you can join The Christian Center of Park City’s 4th Annual Hike For Hunger. The Snow Park area will be transformed into a family entertainment area, with a bounce house and a climbing wall. “This year we are incorporating rides on the Silver Lake Express chairlift,” says Cindy Skelton, Senior Events Coordinator, “and there are trails that are appropriate for every level of hiker, some for families with small kids, and some for those looking for a bigger challenge.” Registration fees even include a meal prepared by Deer Valley chefs.

If by mid-September you’re already wishing you could run away from it all, you’re in luck at least for one day as the Discrete Peak Race Series hosts its final run of the season at Deer Valley Resort. Okay, so maybe it’s not so much running away, as it is running up but by the time you race from Snow Park Lodge to the top of Bald Mountain, you probably won’t remember why you were so stressed out in the first place.

See? I told you I could fix those Back-to-School Blues. What’s your favorite late summer pleasure at Deer Valley? Tell me all about it in the comments.

Park City’s Kimball Arts Festival July 31 – August 2 

When I was a child, one of the biggest events each summer in my small town was “Art in the Park.” It loomed large for me, my parents looked forward to it, there was always music in the gazebo at the park’s center, and the entire town seemed to turn out to stroll through booth after booth, where artists displayed their work.


When Jeffrey and I first moved to Park City, our arrival coincided with the Park City Kimball Arts Festival. I was thrilled, especially when I discovered that it was an even bigger affair than that of my own hometown. The show takes over all of Historic Main Street, hosts artists from all over the world, while still including a lot of local artists. It’s a thrill for me to see which of my friends are in the show each year, in part because when I visit their booths, I can see others appreciate their work as much as I do.


It’s no surprise to me that all of these years later, I greet the first weekend of August with eager anticipation, as the Park City Kimball Arts Festival (July 31 – August 2), rolls into town. Our children have attended the festival in baby carriers, strollers and backpacks, growing into walkers who stood in awe at the foot of giant, moving sculptures.


Art has a multi-generational appeal and the Kimball takes a lot of pride in making sure there is something for the whole family. From including large format sculptures in a sort of “garden” on Heber Avenue, to the shaved ice vendors and a variety of food vendors with tastes for almost every palate (we’re partial to the kosher hot dogs at Java Cow), to creating interactive experiences for kids. In fact, there’s a hands-on center for on-the-spot art projects (design-a-hat, tie-dye shirts, clay molding), and a “treasure hunt” with clues that can be answered by visiting various artists’ and sponsors’ booths, that help foster an appreciation for the arts in kids. In fact, I give the treasure hunt credit for serving as a great ice-breaker for my kids to get used to talking to artists about their work.


Often—by arrangement or by chance—some of our family visitors are in town for the art festival. Last year, one set of doting grandparents was in town, and both Lance and Seth undertook a photography project all their own. Then snapped photos of each other, of all of us, and asked each artist what inspired their work, and whether it was okay for them to photograph pieces that made an impression on them. More than once, the kids asked detailed questions about technique, and each artist took the time to answer in the kind of detail that only stoked the fire of curiosity. Of course, part of this project involved the camera on my phone, so I was able to see, nearly instantly, how they captured the spirit of the day.


What I found was a creative and playful photo essay of our “Day at the Kimball.” It made me wonder what other families do to engage their kids at the festival and in the art world in general. It made me wonder how my kids will approach the festival this year. So, if you see us wandering through the booths, trailing our smartphone-photographer kids, stop us, say hi, and tell us about your favorite part of the Kimball Arts Festival this year. See you on Main Street!