Nastar Magic

One fine Monday, I found myself out skiing with my kids. Or, dare I say, out-skied by my kids.  I’m pretty fast, when I want to be, but on this day, I felt like I was skiing in  molasses. This, friends, is not to say the snow conditions were not perfect. They were. Therein lay part of the problem. So lovely was the snow, so bluebird the day, my kids were zooming around the hill like Mario Andretti on a country road—or at least how I imagine a racecar driver would take a country road.

None of this, by the way, is said by way of complaint. It is a point of pride that my kids engage with this sport, and love it as much as their parents do. And, I’m telling you, this is the year our family ski days turned a corner (if I’m to drag that racecar metaphor out for another go-round). No longer are we enduring endless laps on Wide West. Gone are the days of one-run-and-done. Our family can take a trip down nearly any intermediate run without hesitation.

So, when we took some laps off of Flagstaff Mountain, and then Bald Mountain, I was in my glory. Except for the fact that they were moving so quickly (sometimes in a little tuck), that I was in constant “worried mother” mode. It wasn’t that I needed to ski fast to keep up, it was that it was nearly impossible to “hover and sweep” to protect them from other skiers who may not expect pint-sized Speed Racers, however well-skilled they may be.

As I chased them down Birdseye ski run, delighted by their enthusiasm for the run, I wondered, “What if I could channel this energy, this need for speed?”

Would it shock you to learn that my boys were, ahem, ahead of me?

“Mom! Look! It’s the Nastar Course! May we race, please?”

What if, indeed.

I raced NASTAR as a kid—it’s a grass-roots public recreational ski race program. The largest in the world, as a matter of fact. And I remember the thrill of coming down the course off the “Triple Chair” run at Pico, and hearing my name called. My kids have run the Deer Valley Nastar course before, along with courses at other resorts, but they wanted to show off for me.

Race

This, friends, was a boon. A boon, I tell you. Not only did they do laps on this course, but I got to do a couple of quick runs down Little Reb ski run, solo, to wait for them at the bottom. Fewer more lovely words were ever spoken, at least on that day, than “Wait for them at the bottom.” Here, they could ski fast, to their hearts’ content, and I could simply enjoy watching them. No other skiers on the course, except my cute boys. Even the announcer got in on the game, “Here’s Lance and Seth, and their Mom at the bottom taking pictures for future Facebook posts,” he called out on the first run.

The fun thing is, we got to ski together before and after each run. Because, of course, one boy earned a medal, and we had to go to the top of the course to collect it. Then, the other wanted to try for a medal, and then they both earned medals, and we had to go back up to the top of the course and collect them. So, we’d ski down McHenry ski run to the Wasatch chairlift, ride it up, ski Birdseye or Nabob ski runs down to the top of the course, and repeat the process. Finally, after three races, I called the Costanza Rule, and declared it time to find our way to the car. “You can race more for Daddy this weekend,” I said, explaining that we’d be back as a foursome in a few short days.

And then, we were off to Little Stick ski run, and I was back on Mommy Patrol. Hilariously, there were several skiers on the trail who identified my plight. “You just have to hope,” one woman said, helpfully, as she watched me attempt to keep my kids safe. “Wow! They are great!” said another couple, navigating the bottle neck at the bottom of the first section of Little Stick. “Thanks!” I shouted over my shoulder. “You should see them race!”

Give your Skiing the Boot

I’ve been having a lot of conversations about boots, of late. It’s happened with enough frequency, that I’m taking to my soapbox for a Public Service Announcement. Get thee to the boot-fitter, stat.

I know, you and I may not know each other. But in my un-scientific sampling of friends, I’m noticing a trend. Nobody’s skiing comfortably in their boots. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I was one of those folks for a few weeks.

Remember, a couple of years ago when I found Boot Nirvana?

Well, I realized, a couple of weeks ago, that Nirvana had left the building. I found myself committing all manner of cardinal boot sins. Like clamping down my buckles, for instance. Bad skier. Baaaaad.

Then, there were signs that I should heed the warning my boots were sending me—in the form of achy joints after skiing (doesn’t happen when my boots are fitted properly) and knees that felt “tweaked,” for extra measure.

I heard instructors telling tales of students showing up in tears because their boots were ill-fitted and causing them extreme pain.

I skied with a friend who was skiing in boots that, to my non-professional eye, were at least two sizes too big. And her husband, who was skiing with 99 percent of his lower-body wardrobe tucked into the cuff of his boot. (“Repeat after me,” Jeff scolded, gently. “Nothing goes inside the boot except your sock.”)  I’d dismiss this as a rookie error, but another friend, who’s a lifelong skier, was making the same mistake.

Then, a girlfriend injured her ankle, skiing at another resort. It was a really bad sprain—she’s off the hill for at least a few weeks. “I think my boots are kind of loose,” she admitted. She’s an expert skier. She should know better. But, she’s also a parent, and in the habit of deferring nuisance tasks like gear maintenance in favor of other tasks related to her kid’s skiing safety gear, etc. I get it.

Finally, after all that, I marched myself in to see “my” Boot Fitting Dude at Jans. No sooner had I put down my boot bag than he was extricating the boots from it, spiriting them off to the shop in the back and asking me questions as he went. “Mm hmm, mmhmm,” He nodded his assent to my “complaints,” and then disappeared. Moments later, he was back. We were trying the boots on. There were some minor tweaks. My awesome fit was restored. It took—wait for it—fifteen minutes.

Even if you think your boots are fine, do yourself a favor and spend fifteen minutes with a boot fitter. The good ones (and there are a lot of them in this town) are never going to try to sell you on a new boot if you don’t, honestly, need one. They’ll just fix you up and get you back on the hill. You’re welcome.

Camera-Ready Skiing

A wise friend once told me: “Nobody wants to watch your skiing videos.” She’s probably right. However, I’m here to make an argument for watching your own skiing videos.

One of the benefits of enrolling in a Specialty Ski Program at Deer Valley is that it usually includes video sessions. I’ll be the first to admit that video days make me a little edgy—I feel like it’s the “final exam” I couldn’t possibly study for, or the one moment I’m going to make the “wrong” kinds of turns. I feel this way about the ski off at the beginning of a clinic, too. But the truth is, you can get a lot out of watching yourself—and your classmates ski.

The Women on Wednesdays program includes two video days. I missed the first one, due to the plague hitting my house in the form of strep throat. But on the final  Wednesday, there was another opportunity to ski for the camera. Our video point was on the section of Solid Muldoon ski run, just below the Little Bell ski run. The Murphy’s Law of Video Day is that, inevitably, other guests ski in front of your camera angle. Sometimes, they mistakenly think the camera is set up for them,  in fact. But the video crew are pros at keeping their focus on the students.

We watched the playback in the video shack that is tucked in the trees between Solid Muldoon and Success ski runs. There, under the guidance of our awesome coach, Donna McAleer, we were able to critique and appreciate our skiing. I say “appreciate” because when you’re well-coached in one of these clinics, there turns out to be a lot to like in what you see on the screen.

I was shocked to see that my form had improved dramatically since the beginning of the season. My stance was strong, and balanced. My edges were engaged. My arms were reaching forward at the correct angle to keep me facing downhill. Unbelievably, neither my coach nor my classmates had a single note for me. The notes for the other women were minor tweaks to form, that were helpful to all of us. We even busted our coach for a couple of form slips. (She got us back by making us ski a “Cowboy Drill,” down the Success ski run, using an improbably wide stance. It was, of course, enormously helpful, but I’m sure we looked ridiculous to the other skiers.)

“Video is very powerful.” Donna reminded us. “Even if you can tape each other—everyone has a phone with a camera, now—it’s a good way to check your form.”

Later that day, one of our classmates took that to heart. We were on our second run of moguls off the Orion ski run. Donna told us she wanted to watch us from the bottom, so she skied ahead. We all agree that it’s a gift to watch Donna ski. She’s strong and graceful. “You looked like that,” said my new friend Kim. “Really.”

I did not believe her. Our first run had been good—I found a good line and just skied it. The snow was soft, the bumps were forgiving, and I had just cruised down them. But I had not considered that it had looked at all good, from a technical standpoint.

“Here, I’ll tape you,” she said. And then Kim revealed herself to be a true friend. It was absolutely frigid out there. Single digits. Wind chills. Cold. And she took off her glove and then held up her iPhone, and proceeded to film her classmates.

Off I went. I don’t think it was my most graceful run, ever, but I can see where my turns and form are consistent, and I know if felt good while I skied. See for yourself.


I got to the bottom, and Donna said, “What are you thinking about when you are coming down?”

“I’m not,” I told her. “Perhaps the trick for me is to get out of the habit of over thinking, and just ski.”

“Good point,” she said, as we turned to watch the other women descend.

After we closed down Empire Express chairlift, we cruised over to Hidden Treasure ski run, and found an entrance in the trees, skier’s left, that would take us to the lower section of Square Deal ski run, for more bumps practice. I had not seen the video, yet, but I knew my “don’t think just ski” approach was working, so, I worked it.

Our final run of the clinic was the Solid Muldoon ski run “Ski it to the bottom, and I’ll see you inside,” Donna said. Or I think she said that, because I took off. I locked the image of the morning’s video in my brain, set my edges in, leaned forward and zoomed down the run. I’ve always had a little love-hate relationship with the very bottom of Solid Muldoon ski run. The fact that it turns, goes steep and is often a little, shall we say crispy, can mess with my head. On this day, my skiing brain was having none of that. She was just riding that hill for all that it had to offer. My classmates and our coach were not far behind, but they all remarked on my speedy run.

“Before you ask, Donna, I’ll tell you,” I began. “I was thinking about that image of myself on this morning’s video. I skied it just like the woman on the screen.”

Olympic Fever!

Did I ever tell you about the time I earned the nickname “Rocket Girl?” True story—but it wasn’t about my lightening-fast skiing (which, yes, is a skill I have in my quiver, now, thanks to some excellent coaching in my Women on Wednesdays Ski Clinic. But more on that, soon).

In the 2002 Winter Games, Jeff and I volunteered at Utah Olympic Park, in food and beverage services. (For those of you who were in the volunteer corps, we wore the blue coat.)  Jeff was mostly in the office trailer, managing the other volunteers. I, however, was driving those fun AWD buggies around, loaded with Pop-Tarts and Nature Valley bars. And, one fine evening, during the ski jumping competitions, I wore the Rocket Pack. This, friends, is a metal tank in an insulated backpack. It has a dispenser for plastic cups on the side, and a hose with a soda-gun type trigger-dispenser at one end. It was filled with hot chocolate. It weighed—well, a lot. It was, conservatively, about half as long as I am tall. Since I may be 5’1” in boots, this isn’t necessarily huge…until I put the thing on my back and went to my assigned post. I was to climb the stairs next to the jumps and serve cocoa to the judges. Hilarity ensued.

The fact is, that volunteer experience has had a lasting impact—we are, forever, “Olympics People.” I think most people in Park City, who were here, then, feel that way, too. So, as the Olympics kicked off, I got excited all over again. Truth be told, I started to feel Olympic Fever at The FIS Freestyle Ski World Cup Competition at Deer Valley, last month.

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Just approaching the venue, my friend Miriam and I were reminding each other, and explaining to my friend Kathy, what Deer Valley Resort looked like during the 2002 games. Actual stadium bleachers at the base of the venue, plus, SRO areas. Jeff and I rang cowbells as we watched the freestyle skiers throw down amazing tricks.

Even at the decidedly smaller-scale World Cup event, it’s obvious that there is a ton of work that goes into creating it. I wanted to know more, so I caught up with a few of the folks who make World Cup happen. Here, some fun facts about World Cup from Jim Bragg, Mountain Venue Services Manager, and Chris Cowan, Mountain Venue Services Assistant Manager. Study up and impress your fellow viewers with these tidbits:

It takes a village to run a venue. While there are many volunteers that work on World Cup at Deer Valley, It took about 1,200 staff hours for “Field of Play” set-up, maintenance, operations and teardown. This doesn’t include the snowmaking crew, 151 volunteers and a bevy of other “unseen” heroes that make the event happen.

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Course specs are, well, quite specific. The moguls course, per FIS regulations, has a maximum length of 300 meters. Champion runs approximately 280m. “The course the athletes compete on is defined by 10 control gates on each sideline, and is about 10 meters wide,” notes Jim.

Athletes choose their own line. “There are four ‘zipper lines’ the athletes can choose from to do their run,” says Chris.”

Building a course requires art, science, machine and muscle. “The mogul course is brought to grade and the bumps and jumps are roughed in using a winch cat. Due to the steepness of Champion ski run, a snow cat with a winch is used. After the snow cat “cut” is done, moguls are shaped by about 20 volunteers (with shovels), under the supervision of a Chief of Course and a Chief Builder,” says Chris. “Once the bumps are shovel shaped, the Wasatch Freestyle Team runs the course to complete the bumps and better define the “zipper lines”. The jumps or “kickers” are created using wooden jump forms. Snow is shoveled into the forms and mixed with water from snowmaking hydrates alongside the venue to build the “kickers.”

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Course conditions are weather-dependent. Yes, I know, that’s a bold statement of the obvious. The weather for this year’s World Cup was a mixed bag of wind, rain, snow and more wind. “The first night of competition the course was very fast, with steady uphill winds throughout the night. This hampered visibility for the athletes as well as the judges. The athletes had trouble seeing the course and the judges had difficulty viewing the athletes (especially with sporadic winds gusts),” says Chris. “On Saturday, the second night of mogul competition, wind and a few inches of fresh snow and warmer temperatures changed the conditions of the course, especially the “kickers”. These condition changes had an obvious effect on the athletes; many had trouble staying on course and with the transitions after landing tricks off of the “kicker.”

The pine bough grindings at the base of the jumps aren’t debris—they are a safety measure. “The lighting was also very flat Saturday night, so guests may have seen more pine bough grindings on the course,” says Chris. “The pine bough grindings are used on the jump landings to improve depth perception for the athletes and help them get oriented while in the air before landing an aerial maneuver off one of the “kickers”. The practice of spreading pine bough grindings or chips is also used on the landing hill for the Aerial athletes. Pine boughs are chipped and collected from the Park City Christmas tree recycle lot. Typically, 50-60 bags of pine boughs are used between both venues.“

I feel the need—the need for…CHEESE.

Well, dear reader, I have found my people. They are cheese people. Clark Norris, executive chef at Silver Lake Lodge and Corrine Cornet-Coniglio, have brought the art of handcrafted cheese to Deer Valley. And, considering I have the need to eat cheese nearly every night—sometimes as my meal—it stands to reason that I would find a certain connection with people who revel in the joy of cheese-making. Not to mention cheese-eating.

Imagine my delight when I was invited to a cheese tasting with this dairy-loving duo. And then, imagine the expression on my face when a plank of assorted cheese was set between us in a booth at Royal Street Café. Trust me when I tell you, we were the envy of every passer-by. (One skier stopped, tableside, and said, with some reverence in his voice, “Is that a thing you can order? Because I could just have that for every meal.”) Seriously, I could get used to this.

Over bite after bite of perfectly-aged and cured cheeses, we discussed the roaring success of the new-this-year Deer Valley Cheese program. The cheeses are not only served in all the restaurants, but they’re sold at the Deer Valley Grocery~Café.

“It’s all we can do to keep up with demand,” Clark admitted. “The other lodges are using Meadowlark a lot.” That would be the double-cream soft-ripened cow’s milk cheese. It’s in a white rind, and handmade in the Frence Moule a la louche tradition.

The name actually reflects the cheese’s origins. “There is always a meadowlark in the valleys of Heber and Midway, singing over the pastures as the cows graze,” he said. “This cheese is truly “terroir’—“

“Wait,” I interrupted. “Explain that term, please?”

“Terroir is the French tradition of making cheese from local cows eating local grasses,” Corrine said. “I’m very proud that we make Utah Terroir cheese, born right here.”

Corrine acquired an interest in learning the art of French cheese making as result of her former career selling cheese-making equipment. “I was traveling a lot in France and Germany,” she said. “And I just wanted to know how to do it.” Cue the career change, and she’s been making cheese for 10 years.

I deferred to the experts in choosing accompaniments for each cheese. Corrine steered me to the black walnut confit with the Blue Belle. “It’s aged over 60 days, “ she explained as she made the first cut into the new wheel. “The Blue has a mind of its own, so the first tasting is always a surprise.”

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For the record, that surprise was totally pleasant. A fun fact: Every line in the blue cheese is the result of forty holes that are poked in each wheel to give the culture room to grow.

Next, we tasted some house-dried pears with the Meadowlark—firm, buttery and delicious. Then, the Moon Shadow. I can’t say, out loud, that I have a favorite among these cheeses, but this one comes awfully close. It’s ash-ripened, and while the goat’s milk is 100 percent local, the ashes are imported from France. “They are vegetable ashes from the vine leaves in the Loire Valley,” Corrine explained. I can’t stress enough how much this sort of detail makes my day. Eating a product that is hand-crafted with such care is a privilege—and it’s clear Corrine feels the same way about making it.

“I work at night when no one is here,” she explains. “Cheese doesn’t like to be stressed or rushed—me neither. And, it needs to age.”

We moved onto Provence Kid, the fresh goat cheese encrusted with Herbes de Provence. It is served in a bruschetta on the Royal Street Café menu (yum), and is the so good that if I were to be left, unattended, with a jar of this cheese, I would eat it directly out of the container in an embarrassingly brief timeframe.

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Fair warning—Corrine and Clark rigidly adhere to the sanctity of the goat’s milk season. So, if you are having a hard time finding the goat’s milk cheeses in mid-February or early March, fear not—they will be back as soon as the milk supply is replenished. Trust me, it will be worth the wait.

In the meantime, pick up some of the Triple Truffle, a triple-cream Camembert-style Brie that is infused with black truffles from Umbria, Italy. Trust me, it’s not a bad way to pass the time. Creamy and earthy, it’s the kind of cheese that makes a person want to alternate bites with sips of wine.

We were all smiles at the table as we finished up our tasting—all of us noting that the experience had lifted our moods. “We don’t do this enough,” Corrine explained. “Sitting and tasting is a luxury.” And then, she said something that will now be my personal mantra:

“If you’re having a bad day, say, “Cheese.”

Well played, Corrine. Well played.

Women on Wednesday Ski Clinic

I’m already digging Women on Wednesday. I signed up hoping to find some more confidence in my skiing, and I found myself surrounded by women with the same goal. One classmate happens to be a pal, Kellie, with whom I don’t ever get to spend enough time, so: Bonus!

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Here, my “High Five” to the program, thus far:

1. Those Wednesdays are stretching out in front of me with “practice” time in-between.

2. I’ve scored Donna McAleer, my friend and sometime ski companion, as an instructor. “Can you be taught by Donna?” my husband wondered, aloud, after the first night. “She’s a good friend, you’ve known her so long.” The answer is, without a doubt, yes. “She graduated from West Point,” I reminded him. “I’ll do what she says.” Also, she loves her job, loves to ski, and is a professional, fun teacher. This, I told him, was the easiest choice in the world.

3. Including Donna and myself, there are four New Englanders in our group. I could not help myself, saying aloud to one of them, “I love listening to you speak. It sounds like home.” Wicked awesome.

4. The method to Donna’s madness is brilliant. Our first day out offered us some rather “crunchy” snow. A little firm, and some patches with thin cover. Donna would not allow us to be daunted. In fact, if we skied a particularly gnarly trail, there was no question we would ski it a second time. “You spend the first run figuring out the terrain,” she explained. “Then you spend the second run using what you learned to ski it better.” She’s so right. I am the first person to say, after a “scratchy” run, “Let’s go find some softer snow.” But it’s the wrong tactic. Skiing something twice gives you confidence. Abandoning it after one run leaves you defeated.

5, I found out how to overcome the anxiety I feel when visibility is poor: Make the next turn. This seems obvious. But if you’ve ever gotten to the top of the run and thought, “How am I going to ski if I can’t SEE?” This tip is for you: You don’t need to see the whole run. You just need to be able to see one or two, maybe three, turns ahead of where you are. One is sufficient. I found myself in low visibility, repeating a mantra: “Make the next turn,” all the way down Nabob. It’s one of those skills we all have, but don’t realize. Yes, you can ski, safely and enjoyably, in minimal visibility.

Eat it Up

We gathered as soon as I had dropped off my kids at day one of Children’s Sunday Ski Experience. There were seven of us, and we dove into the day’s powder with gusto. My friend Stacey, who I met four years ago during Women’s Weekend, was first to say, “I am a Powder Day Plus One Skier.” Meaning she likes a good powder dump as much as anyone, but prefers to ski on it after the groomers have had their way with it, the next day, thank you very much.

My friend Kellie and I were fresh off our first Women on Wednesdays lesson, so we were eager to see if we remembered all the mad skills we’d picked up on that day. Our group also contained two Miriams (one I’ll call Mir, to keep them straight), Catherine, who skis DV only occasionally, and Sue. We were all of compatible levels, but Mir and Sue are likely the most experienced and confident skiers, and Catherine is a good, gutsy skier. Mind you, in the days leading up to this outing, I got comments from several of my friends, saying they were a little nervous to ski with me—which made me laugh. “We are skiing for lunch, people,” I reminded them. “It’s social and fun.”

What followed was exactly that. A fun, social day, laughing as hard as we skied—which is to say, plenty. I couldn’t get away with copping out of much, since Kellie and I had just skied together on Wednesday, and she knew what I could do. Which is, of course, how I wound up taking Square Deal ski run from the top, rather than snaking around to the trees on skier’s left of Hidden Treasure and cutting in below the first long pitch. I was so pleased with myself that whenever I answered a question from my kids, that night, I simply said, “Square Deal. From the Top.” It wasn’t always the answer they were looking for—or, rather, it wasn’t ever the answer they were looking for—but, they got the message: Mama is hardcore, now.

Fresh Tracks under Quincy Lift

Of course, I couldn’t resist finding a path to hike through the glade between Hidden Treasure and Square Deal, a few hours later. Kellie was kind enough to snap some photos of me, and of Stacey, as we stopped to admire the gorgeous surroundings.

We skied a little of everything that day—those who were tired, nursing injuries or wanting an easier run felt no pressure to do what the bumps-and-powder-chasers were doing. One of my favorite runs of the day was suggested by Stacey: Orion to Solace, off of Empire Express chairlift. It left me feeling like I could ski anything, even though I had passed on the opportunity to take Daly Chutes with Mir and Sue.

Powder from Stacey

As I suspected, it mattered not which terrain each of us skied that day, but rather that we encouraged each other to eat it up, and take in as much powder and as many turns as we could, before the promised lunch. Ah, yes. Lunch,

Royal Street Café did not disappoint. Mulled Wine, and Blueberry Vodka Hot Chocolate—honestly, we could have stopped there. But with such a delicious menu, why would we? We split a few appetizers, and enjoyed our entrees. Mostly, though, we enjoyed each other’s company—no one in the group, aside from me, knew everyone in the group when we started the day. But after a day of riding chair lifts, together, the lunch conversation flowed easily. By day’s end, I was floating down to ski school pickup, on Stacey’s words: “Powder Plus Zero!”

Food

Skier’s Superstition on a Powder Day.

02082014 002So, I’ve told you before about my skier’s superstitions—that I believe in a freshly washed car being an invitation for two feet of snow to dump onto the resort, for instance. I’ve also come to believe that posting about early symptoms of powder flu is a bad idea. Here’s why: I had an amazing day skiing with my girlfriends on Sunday. I was already scheduled to be back on the mountain Wednesday, for my second session of Women on Wednesdays. That left me two days to get work done, manage some chores, and generally behave like a responsible adult. No, I wanted MORE. I texted a friend, I posted on Facebook. And…

I awoke to punishment—my kids were paying the price for my greed, in fact.

They woke up sick. Not the kind of “it’s just a sniffle” sick that would let me send them to school, either. Verifiable temperatures. These boys had coughs that could not be controlled by any amount of disgusting syrupy medicines. Call-the-doctor-at-8 a.m. because-your-six-year-old’s-fever-is-pushing-103 sick. And did I mention that my husband was out of town, day three of a six day business trip? And that I had been so blinded by powder, the previous day, that I missed every single clue that they were coming down with something?

Umm, no. I not only missed a great powder day, but I also missed the opportunity to ski with my Women on Wednesday group. Sure, there are worse fates. I got lots of extra snuggles from my kids. I made them chicken noodle soup and plied my own immune system with green juices, for good measure. I was informed that “Mommy School,” is way more boring than actual school, by my six year old. I’m calling it a win.

But, mark my words, I will never, ever, ever take to social media and attempt to wrangle a powder posse for the following morning. And, I most certainly will not take for granted the fact that I had a day of devouring delicious powder runs as if they were so many chocolate truffles, just the day before.

What are some of your ski superstitions?

Celebrity SkiFest: A Conversation with Mark Feuerstein

Mark Feuerstein

The star of Royal Pains—and too many movies to list, here—has been skiing his whole life. And when I caught up with him at Celebrity Ski Fest, we immediately bonded over skiing—and the fact that his son was lucky enough to spend the day with Letitia Lussier, who is not only one of my favorite instructors, but is a Feuerstein family favorite, as well.  And while Mark was excited to tell me about his races—or, at least the first race—he may have a second career in journalism. Before I realized it, he was grilling me about the skiing life.

BNC: Tell me about your races!

MF: I would certainly like to dwell more on the first one, because I won that one.

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BNC: So, lets!

MF: The victory of the first one far exceeded the loss of the second one, and that is because Patrick Warburton and I raced once, two years ago, and kind of a rivalry was established. So that felt good. Then, for the second—Tim Daly is a very good skier, and I was racing against him.

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BNC: Yeah, that’s a problem.

MF: And I was beating him the first half of the race, but I got too excited, I caught an edge, and he just swooped by me and I could not catch up.

BNC: Are you staying warm?

MF: Yes! They have these new things called heaters on your boots, which I have never seen. They are phenomenal. I have been rocking those, but I can’t say they keep your toes warm.

BNC: I wear them every day that I ski. And on the colder days, they don’t always keep up.

MF: And you ski every week?

BNC: Yes, I do—multiple times a week, actually.

MF: Wow. Do you get as good a workout as a hike?

BNC: Oh, yeah. If I ski hard. If I’m on the bumps with my friend Mel—or really, behind her.

MF: So, you’re very good.

BNC: No, I’m not.

MF: [Looks as though he doesn’t buy it, and takes a different journalistic tack.]

Did you ever ski competitively?

BNC: Yes—if you count my stint on the Hopefuls devo team at Pico Peak in Vermont—where I was more concerned with getting down safely, than quickly. Let’s say it was a short-lived career. I’ve been a happy recreational skier my whole life.

MF: I grew up skiing on the east coast. I broke my thumb when I was about ten, skiing at Catamount, where I slid down an entire sheet of ice on my thumb. So I know how to persevere. East coast skiing is a different sport—it’s like an endurance test!

BNC: Without the Deer Valley dining options—so, what’s your favorite thing to eat at Deer Valley?

MF: I just enjoyed the roast turkey that I had. That was lovely.

And, the S’mores at 4 p.m. every day at the Montage Deer Valley are all one needs, with three children, to keep your children happy. So, I am very happy about the s’mores.

BNC: How old are your children?

MF: They are 7, 5 and 4.

BNC: Are they all skiing?

MF: Just my son today. I want to get my older daughter out, but I can’t force her…

BNC: That’s the whole trick, you can’t force them because you want them to love it.  Also, Swedish fish.

MF: Oh? Is that part of the incentive?

BNC: Yes, I have a ten year old and a six year old, and it’s Swedish fish in the cargo pocket of your ski pants, so that at the bottom of every run, you go, Hey, Nice Job! And hand them a fish.

MF: Like a biscuit!

BNC: Yes, I’m not above it. Also, multiple hot chocolate breaks, and cookies as big as their heads.

MF: Bribery—it will get you everywhere.

BNC: Yes! It is all you need as a parent…you can dress it up, call it “incentive” “reward.” It’s bribery, people, and it works. How did you potty train your children? You bought them a condo in the Hamptons, because they WENT IN THE POTTY.

MF: That’s exactly right, we are still paying the mortgage on that.

BNC: I know! I did the same thing—and we live here. So it required a G5.

(We kid, people. We kid.)

Lessons from a Local Tourist

One of my favorite things about living in Park City is that we sometimes have the opportunity to “check out” of our regular routine and check in to a hotel and play the part of tourists.

We got to do this on the second weekend of ski season, when Jeffrey and I were invited to dine and stay at Goldener Hirsch Inn, at Deer Valley’s Silver Lake Village. We made arrangements for the kids to spend the night with our good friend (and theirs) Mel. But we also had the chance to bring them up to the property to see what it was like.

Bari Nan Blog done

It turned into a brief glimpse of what it means to take a ski vacation with the kids. I’ve always tipped my hats to families who pack up all their gear and brave the wilds of air travel to then decamp to Deer Valley for a ski vacation. It seems daunting, but of course, it’s not without rewards. And, I realized, there are lots of ways in which being a tourist is way more fun than being a local. (I didn’t have to do a single household chore while I was at the Hirsch.)

As we proceeded through the weekend, I picked up a few insider tips and tricks that might make your vacation here a little easier to manage.

Tip #1: Call about early check-in

Granted, if you are traveling here during the busiest weeks, your room is unlikely to be available before the property’s official check-in time. But most lodge/hotel/inn style properties will have secure baggage storage, so that you can stash your belongings and get on with your day, as quickly as possible after arriving. We were visiting the Goldener Hirsch on a “pre-holiday” weekend, meaning they were not busy, and were happy to welcome us early, so we could take advantage of the ski-in, ski-out location. It was a massive luxury to be able to layer up and boot up in the room—which had a lovely sitting area with plenty of room to organize our stuff. Even if you are not staying in a slopes-side property (as I don’t, nearly every night), it pays to get geared up as head-to-toe as possible, at your lodging location. Fewer items get dropped or left-behind if you are wearing them. By the same token, if you’re looking for a more leisurely approach, don’t hesitate to take advantage of the lockers and basket-check at both Snow Park and Silver Lake Lodges.

Tip #2: Invest time in getting your ducks in a row  

Note that in the tip, above, I did not say “get on the slopes as quickly as possible after arriving.” Honestly, when you’re traveling with kids, it is well worth the investment of time to allow a few business hours after your arrival (whether it’s the afternoon/evening you arrive, or the next morning) to sort out all the gear and arrangements. For instance, getting fitted for your rental gear the night before your first ski day is a great time-and-sanity saver (the Deer Valley Ski Rental Shop at Snow Park Lodge is open until TK time). If you or your kids are taking ski lessons, visit the Children’s Center or the Ski School well before the lesson’s start time to make sure all the waivers are signed, and that any allergies or special requests are noted in the file. I did exactly that. We pulled up to Snow Park Lodge, and Jeff dropped me off at the curb before he pulled into a designated “waiting” spot. I’m telling you this detail for two reasons: First, this really is a quick errand. Second, if you are going to be at the lodge for more than 10 minutes, find a spot in the regular parking lots.

Bari Nan fireplace done

It took just minutes for me to visit the Children’s Center and make sure everything was in order for the boys’ lessons the next morning, as well as for the Children’s Sunday Ski Experience programs that begin next month. The super-helpful staff even printed the tickets for the private lesson Jeff and I had scheduled with Letitia Lussier, and my ticket for the Women on Wednesdays program, which begins next month. I learned that one of the members of the team, there, has the initials J.Z. so I couldn’t resist taking a photo of “J.Z. and His Ladies.”

“We wish more people did what you are doing,” the staffers in the Children’s Center explained. “It makes it less stressful for everyone.” I thought back to many seasons’ worth of chaotic first-days of the CSSE, and realized how right they are. Granted, the staff there are over-the-top helpful, but walking into the morning rush, with overheating geared-up kids, can be an unnerving experience. If you can’t get to the Ski School ahead of time, take a moment, a day or two before you depart for your vacation and call the Children’s Center to make sure everything’s arranged as you planned.

Tip #3: Manage Expectations—the kids’ and your own

Jeff and I agreed that we’d count on getting no more than two runs in with the kids, Saturday afternoon. Any additional snow time would be considered a “bonus.” (Granted, this would be an expensive proposition if we didn’t hold season passes, but we do, so we figured a couple of runs would be a good idea. But it can also work if you plan to do a half-day ski day, which will likely involve more than two runs, but not leave you all to exhausted to enjoy the rest of your vacation.) So, we let the kids know that we wanted to just “test” our ski legs, and have a nice lunch at Silver Lake Lodge restaurant. This dovetailed nicely with one of my oldie-but-goodie tips:

Tip #4: Leave them wanting more

This one never gets old. (For the Seinfeld fans, I call this the Costanza Rule.) If you want your kids to love skiing, call it a day while they are still enjoying it. The pros at the ski school say that frequent breaks can be the key to a successful day. We did exactly two runs on Ontario and then it was time to break for a late lunch. Yes, the lifts were still running when we finished, and the kids were BEGGING for more runs. “You will have all day tomorrow to ski,” I reminded them. Then, I engaged my supermom powers with a deft “look at the birdie” distraction move: I asked if they wanted to go back to the Goldener Hirsch and check out the live music in the lounge. People, there was yodeling. And it was a big hit. Also, there was a little nook on our guest room’s floor, where several varieties of freshly baked cookies, some hot beverages and fresh fruit were laid out for guests to enjoy. So, my chocoholic big boy availed himself of a chocolate chip cookie, while his (shockingly) sweet-tooth-impaired younger brother delighted in choosing and eating an apple. This was just one of the great details we appreciated at the Inn.

Tip #5 Stay Hydrated

While Jeff and I were in our private lesson with Letitia, on Sunday, she told us about a seminar she’d attended, through the Professional Ski Instructors Association, that focused on hydration. Among the highlights: Flying is dehydrating, as is staying at a higher altitude, as is eating spicy food and drinking alcohol. So if you do any or all of these before you make your first turns, you’re already at a hydration deficit. Then, when you’re skiing, you lose water through your breath, in the cold, dry air. Boom. Then, your muscles aren’t working at their capacity—and, to boot, once you start to dehydrate, your ability to feel thirsty shuts off. So, drink lots of water—and take plenty of breaks for water throughout your ski day. (I reviewed the previous evening’s delicious tasting meal at the Goldener Hirsch restaurant, including the bottle of Pinot Noir that Jeff and I shared, and realized, that I could benefit from an extra glass of water or two throughout the day.)

Tip #6 Know thyself

If you are tired, take a break. If you know you didn’t get enough sleep, or had a sore back the day before, take it easy. Skiing within your limits is way more fun that pushing yourself to the point of injury. Take an early lunch if your energy is starting to flag by 11 a.m. This is a great strategy, also, because the restaurants aren’t crowded, and then, when the rest of the skiing population is at lunch at noon, you’re back out on empty slopes. This is especially helpful if you are skiing with your kids—you get the benefit of keeping them fed and hydrated, and enjoying quieter trails with them. Plus, you can be the hero and call for a hot cocoa break at 2 p.m.

 Tip #7 Invest in a caribiner

Among its many handy uses you can attach your basket check tag, or ski-check tag to the handy metal clip—sliding those around your wrist or shoving them into a pocket can create an opportunity to lose those items. (Also, take a photo of the tag with your smartphone, so you can show it to the ski check staff in the event you do lose the tag, somehow.) Collecting your whole family’s tags at the end of the day, in one place,  is a great way to keep track of them. I use some sort of memory device to recall whose is whose. For instance, my current ski-check tag says “1619” and since I often think of myself as younger than I am, I told myself, “For the purposes of this exercise, I am in my teens.” Then, when my kids got their tags, I noticed that the older child had a tag with a higher number than his brother’s tag. There’s always some funky way to recall which tag correlates to which family member, so I find them where I can.