Playdate on the Snow

There are things my friends who don’t live in Utah will never understand. Like how some parents willingly sign waivers for their children to learn to ski jump. Maybe you caught the viral video of a local fourth-grader who overcame her fears to conquer the K40 jump at Utah Olympic Park. She’s the daughter of a friend of mine, and I couldn’t have been more impressed with her courage. Fact is, she did it as part of a program that is designed for kids to try all the sports that the amazing facilities in Park City have to offer.

And, quite frankly, maybe the fact that these kids have resorts like Deer Valley to use as a playground is part of what puts them in the mindset to try the harder stuff.

To wit: my kids have skied since they were preschoolers. The equipment is as familiar to them as their street clothes. And, in fact, they often schedule playdates that occur on the slopes.

On a recent Wednesday, my friend Heather and I rallied our four year-olds (who required zero convincing) for a playdate at Deer Valley. We lucked into a great strategy, taking each other’s child as our ski partner. They each listened much better to the other parent when it came to pointers about technique.

And these three-foot wonders took on every obstacle Wide West had to offer, plus Success and then…the bottom of Little Kate.

If you read my Birthday post, you’ll recall that Seth was eager to tackle Little Kate that day. “Let’s do it!” He’d said to me.

I’d held back—not because he didn’t have the chops for a blue, but because I worried that another skier, crossing Rosebud from the top of Little Kate, might not see him making his turns.

Intellectually, I knew that he’d be even more excited to do it when I finally acquiesced. But emotionally, I felt badly for holding him back in that moment.

Of course, my fears were unbidden. We stuck to skier’s left, and the kids took the trail with aplomb. I’m not ready to sign off on the ski jumps, yet, but if he asks me in a few years, I may just have to say yes.

Epic feast at the Seafood Buffet

One of the best reasons to do a specialty clinic at Deer Valley is not necessarily the top-flight ski instruction—although, that’s certainly a worthy selling point. It’s the chance that lightning will strike, and you’ll be placed in a group with interesting people you wouldn’t have otherwise met. And if you’re really, really lucky, they’ll become your friends. This certainly happened last year , when I met Stacey and Jackie and our talented, big-hearted instructor Letitia.

We’d all stayed in touch, and tried our best to plan a Women’s Weekend Redux—and we almost succeeded. Jackie had family commitments that kept her from the March weekend we’d chosen. Stacey and I, however, were in “game on” mode. Stacey’s pregame strategy consisted of quick witty emails to me that described her ski days (“found my mojo in Perseverance Bowl today!”) and accused me of leaving her in the dust after I completed the Mahre Training Center camp at Deer Valley in February.

My pregame strategy was entirely different: I invited Letitia, along with Stacey and her husband Steve, to join Jeffrey and me at Seafood Buffet on the Thursday evening before the Women’s Weekend began. I half-joked that I wanted to see to it that Letitia overate, so that she’d go easy on us in the morning. I had another thing coming.

Before we embarked on the epic feast, Letitia tried to prep us for the coming weekend. “You can’t expect the same magic we had last year in our group,” she said. “You can only hope for it. And you—” here, she turned to me—“you are probably going to land in a higher group than mine. I hear you’ve made more progress.” Stupid me, and my big mouth.

Stacey added, “I don’t want you to feel obligated to ski with me. I don’t want to hold you back.”

I tried to remind myself that I’d learned not to downplay my ability—but I really couldn’t imagine that the differences in my skiing would be that great. .

Instead of engaging in a debate, I suggested we embark on the team activity at hand—tackling the Seafood Buffet.

The great thing about this restaurant is the subtle sense of surprise.

First, whether you’re a rookie—and yes, we had what we termed a “Seafood Bufffet Virgin” at the table (Hi, Steve!)—or a veteran, you can’t help but be surprised by the abundance of choices and the quality of the food—both in taste and presentation.

Second, there are always some new items woven into the mix—on this evening, there was a runaway hit with an appetizer of a roasted tomato stuffed with warm goat cheese—and a hint of heat.

Third, no matter how hard you try to pace yourself, you will always, always surprise yourself with the quantity of food that you’re able to consume in an evening.

We chided each other over sushi—“Don’t fill up on the rice! You need to save valuable digestive real estate for the crab legs!”

Letitia uttered a maxim that is as true as the local’s rallying cry (“No friends on a powder day!”) when there’s a foot of fresh on the hill—“There’s no waiting,” she said. “When you’re ready for the next course, you go get it.”

Our Virgin was not disappointed. Neither were the rest of us.

Skiing the X-Files is just like Stand-Up Comedy

I’ve been fantasizing about skiing the X-Files since JF Lanvers posted a series of blogs (with video!) about this mysterious tree run in Empire Canyon. I knew it would be fun, if I could work up the nerve—I didn’t realize that skiing it would mark a major milestone in my life. Of course, it goes without saying the big-deal milestones of my life—marriage, motherhood—are beyond comparison. And I’m reasonably certain that I’ll be hard-pressed to compare even my best day on the slopes to those moments. (However, in the unlikely event that I am invited to compete in the Winter Olympic Games—Senior or otherwise—I reserve the right to revise that.). Still, it was something I’d long-fantasized about, and hoped I’d do someday.

In fact, skiing the X-Files was exactly—EXACTLY—as much fun as one of the most treasured moments in my professional career: The night I opened for Caroline Rhea at Caroline’s Comedy Club in New York City.

The back-story is that I was the assigning editor on a story that Caroline Rhea, one of the funniest people in America, did for a magazine where I worked. We spent a lot of hours together—and in that time, she decided I was funny, that the silly stories I told her about my life and my family were actual “bits,” and that the world needed to hear the comedy of Bari Nan Cohen. Oy vey. I balked for a half-second and then realized I had access to a unique opportunity.

So she helped me hone this material and, there I was—legs shaking with adrenaline and with a view from the stage of that freaky digital countdown clock that only the talent can see. 2:59, 2:58…breathe.

I was reminded of this experience on the last day of this year’s Women’s Weekend Specialty Clinic, which found me, by 10 a.m., hiking across the ridge above Daly Chutes, like I owned the place. (For the record, it’s wider than I thought, and has one of the most breathtaking 360 degree views I’ve ever seen—and not a clock in sight.) The hike made me grateful that I’d (mostly) kept up with my running habit this winter—I was only a little winded as we crested the highest point of the ridge. And, yes, I had a stellar mentor in my instructor Letitia, who’d sized up my skills and determined that X-Files needed ‘em.

Thus, we glided over to the entrance to X-Files. And as we found turn after turn, I was nearly overcome with emotion. (“Don’t cry—your goggles will fog,” I told myself.)  It’s beautiful and peaceful there. And eminently skiable—the trees aren’t nearly as tightly packed as they look from the “outside.”

As I completed turn after turn, I found myself drawing on all the preparation I’d unwittingly done for this moment, pulling a variety of tools from the skill sets Letitia and the other teachers had drilled into me over the course of three days. Side-slips turned into swooshes of snow pushed out of the way, wedge Christies became parallel turns. Just as the days leading up to my comedy debut were spent under Caroline Rhea’s careful tutelage on projection and timing, so that on performance night, I’d be good to go.

I can’t say with any certainty that either performance was “pretty” from a technical standpoint. I can, however, confirm, that both hold places of honor in the category I like to call, The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had Standing Up. And no, I’m not working blue right now.

But what I can tell you is this: In both instances, I didn’t really care how it looked. I was having so much fun, how it looked, well, it just didn’t matter. In both instances I had a great support system. In the club, I’d planted some key friends and colleagues in the audience. In the trees, I had Letitia, my pal Stacey and two other women who were just rockin’ ski companions. We cheered each other on, the same way my friends had laughed at my jokes louder than anyone else in the club.

The skills I brought into the X-Files—timing, correcting my form errors to prevent falling—even looking past the trees (for, if you look at the tree, you will most certainly ski into it) and reaching down the hill to make the turn—had their roots in those rehearsals with Caroline. You need to think fast when you’re onstage, you need to revise your bits to fit the audience, and you need to have good timing, you need all those things to be able to improvise. You need to look beyond the clock and read the audience. Caroline Rhea may not think of herself as a ski instructor, but I’m telling you, I would have had a lesser foundation for absorbing the lessons I’ve had on the hill, without the comedy coaching.

And, while the bragging rights to both things are cool, it’s not really (much) about that. There is a certain satisfaction that comes from knowing you have the tools to do something.

I’d like to say I didn’t continue past my one night in comedy because life got in the way. That could be true. But comedy requires singular focus, driving passion, and the ability to travel the country for low-paying gigs rife with hecklers in the hope you can eke out a living—and the very faint hope you’ll get famous doing it. As it happens, the night I did standup occurred during my last weeks in New York—my heart was already in Park City, we’d just closed on the house; Jeff was checking on things, scheduling the water softener installation; service on the furnace, making sure the lawn sprinklers were set properly, meeting the neighbors. And maybe if I hadn’t planned the move, I might have taken some improv and stand-up classes in the city, and given it a go on open mic night.

Instead, I followed my heart and my skis to Utah—and learned to ski the trees. Decently. I’m not stopping ‘til I’m awesome at it. And then, who knows?

So, if you were one of the hundred or so people in the world who got to witness my comedy debut, all I can say is: Come ski with me sometime. I’m a better skier than I am a comic. And if you weren’t—maybe I’ll dig up the video of my time on stage and show it to you.

Free ski check—free advice

For most of us, it’s the little things that make-or-break an experience. Deer Valley’s free ski check is one of those things.

There isn’t a bathroom break or mealtime when I don’t take advantage of the free, secure ski storage located at every lodge on the mountain. And, yes, I am one of those skiers who checks in my gear at the end of the first day of the season—and every day thereafter.

I like it for a few reasons. First, I am one of those people who can never remember where I parked my car—or which rack I used to stash my skis during lunch. Second, there’s no chance of me grabbing another skier’s similar gear by accident—or vice versa. The fact that it’s free makes it a no-brainer.

However, the system isn’t flawless. If you’re the sort of person who can’t remember where you put your keys (ahem), you may be prone to losing the little numbered tag. And I’m not sure which is more frustrating—being the person who arrives at ski check in the morning, having stored their gear overnight, only to have lost the tag, or being in the line of good, tag-wielding folks who have to wait while you fill out the paperwork and fail miserably at properly describing your ski by make, model and color. (This particular predicament is not limited to those with rental gear. My friend Steve forgot the pertinent details of his skis once, and I once described the color of my skis as yellow, when the rest of the world would see them as a light, bright green). So, yes, I’ve been both people in this scenario—and found them to be equally frustrating.

Lucky for you, I’ve learned a few things from these experiences. Here’s my quick list of tips for avoiding the dreaded lost tag:

  1. Use your smartphone to take a photo of your tag. The guys at ski-check suggested it to me—and it works. If you lose the tag, you’ll be able to show the photo to the attendants at ski check, so they can retrieve your skis. You will still have to fill out a form, but it will eradicate the sweat-it-out search-by-sight that will otherwise ensue. You’ll still have to fill out a form, but it will take seconds instead of minutes. I pull out my phone and open the camera app as soon as I hand off my skis and poles.
  2. If you’re checking multiple pairs of skis for your family, photograph them separately with your phone, and put the corresponding skier’s name in the caption
  3. Attach a carabineer to the ticket ring on your jacket or ski pants. I know it’s tempting to take that wristband-sized loop and, yes, wear it on your wrist. Resist the urge. The minute you take of a glove, or remove your jacket for lunch or a bathroom break, that long-forgotten “wristband” will fly off, unnoticed and lay, useless, on the floor. Use the carabineer to hold any tags you acquire over the course of the day—whether you are using the basket check in the basement of Snow Park or Silver Lake lodges, or simply checking your skis in at lunch. You’ll never be at a loss for the tag’s location.
  4.  If you own multiple ski outfits and alternate them regularly, pick a spot in your boot bag that always houses the carabineer at the end of the ski day. This seems like a very basic rule, but it’s one that will save you a lot of headaches.

Got any other great tips for absent-minded folks like me? Leave them in the comments.

Letitia Lussier’s Deer Valley

To ski with Letitia Lussier is a singular experience—in that a day on the hill will reveal multiple facets of her personality, and of your own ski skills. Letitia was my group instructor during the Women’s Weekend last season .

As she guided us away from more populated runs, so that my newfound ski buddies, Stacey and Jackie, and I could drill down to better turns without distraction, she shared funny tales from her career, as well as from her life as an artist. And, quietly, with a lot of nurturing encouragement, she insisted we ski the trees. My mom and dad may shudder (a lot) when I talk about it, but if they’d been with us that day, they might even be convinced it was the safest place to ski anywhere.

Throughout the years, Letitia’s artist’s spirit has taken her many places in the summers, “ I live in Park City in the winter,” she says. “And I’ve lived in a variety of places in the summer- Wisconsin (x1),  Hawaii (x2), the red rock canyons of southern Utah (x2), Washington (x2) and Wyoming (x2) but I’ve also spent many summer here in PC.”

And, her work in the mountains feeds her muse when she steps into her home painting studio. Art lessons are life lessons, and vice-versa. “Every day I witness such incredible beauty,” she says. “I make it a point to take the time to notice, to really look at my surroundings as they change every day sometimes every hour. Inspiration is all around me which is reflected in my paintings of DV,” she says, “I’ve developed gratitude for the peak moments I experience in these mountains and in life. There is nothing more powerful.”

 

Hometown: Auburn, ME

Years in Park City: “I’ve been with Deer Valley since day one!” In other words, you do the math.

Year one as an instructor was…”Fun! We were a tight-knit group of 23, counting one supervisor and director. We worked hard and played hard. Now we are nearly 500 instructors.”

I’m a fan of teaching Adult Specialty Programs like Women’s Weekend because…With a well matched group you have the opportunity to learn from each other, to cheer and support one another. You have the chance to create friendships with shared interests and the added bonus of finding others at your ski ability. This cohesiveness can offer the right kind of learning atmosphere for these programs. The group dynamics can be so much fun when people want to learn and have a good time. We (instructors) love skiing and enjoying sharing that passion with others.

My ideal ski day at DV is…

A “bluebird” day of crisp blue skies and deep, fresh, sparkling champagne powder. As I ride up on the chair I look in awe at the evergreen trees which are laden with snow, even the tiniest of branches on the aspen trees are decked with snow giving them a lacy, intricate look. Reaching the summit I stand there transfixed as my breath is taken away by the expansive beauty. I can’t believe how lucky I am to witness such grandeur.  On my descent the quality of the snow as I ski through it is so light it blows up in my face refreshing me with every turn. There is a unique quality to the sound as I fly through it, it is effervescent like my favorite bubbly. The snow is so light and deep I have the sense that I am floating weightlessly down the mountain, it feels velvety soft beneath my feet.   Skiing down the slope I am enveloped in a rich alpine environment  that gives me a welcome feeling. Off in the distance, I hear the call note of the chickadee, it is a sound I recognize and enjoy. I spot some animal tracks in the snow, giving hint of the activities from the night before.   This place I call home has a life of it’s own, and I feel energized by it. Every run is through virgin powder, putting a grin on my face that stretches from ear to ear. I ski until my legs feel like noodles and I can no longer go on.

On days like this I ski with: Skiing with my beau, Tom. First chair. First run is where ever the snow looks the deepest.

My go-to areas on the mountain are…

Sultan and Empire

Favorite groomer? 

Tycoon

Favorite trees? 

Anchor Trees

Must-have lunch break plan:

Empire Canyon Lodge. Salad Bar. Arnold Palmer. Chocolate-chip Cookie

My most treasured apres ski ritual is…Enjoying a nice cold beer and reflecting on an exceptional day feeling totally spent.

Best lessons learned as a ski instructor:

How to deal with a variety of people. Developing patience is key— every person has their own pace and learning styles. Maintaining a sense of humor when things go awry. Sharing my passion is contagious—that never changes.

 

Leap Year Birthday Boy

Leap Year is now my favorite holiday—because it means that we get an extra ski day every four years! In honor if Leap Year, I’m introducing you to Deer Valley’s own…Leap Baby. He has skied at Deer Valley for ten years—which is astounding, considering he’s only having his third birthday this year. He has two younger siblings, Natalie and Ethan, both of whom have had more birthdays than Jack. While you struggle with the mental math, get to know my favorite Leap Boy!

Name: Jack Rubenstein, parents: Robert and Katia Rubenstein

Hometown: Hollywood, FL; He and his family are part-time Parkites, and they’re planning to celebrate Jack’s Bar Mitzvah next year (birthday confusion notwithstanding) at Temple Har Shalom in Park City.

Age: 3 or 12, depending on how you count.

Years skiing: 10

Happy Third Birthday Jack! What’s the best part of being a Leap Baby?
Thanks! The best part, probably, is not getting very old so soon, and I get to celebrate my birthday all week for three other years because I don’t have an official birthdate.

What are your three favorite runs to ski at Deer Valley?
Chute 1/ Daly Bowl
Chute 2
X-Files

What is your favorite restaurant for lunch at Deer Valley? And what is your favorite thing to eat there?
Royal Street Cafe- Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich with Hot Fudge
Stein Eriksen’s Buffet- everything

What is your favorite dinner restaurant at Deer Valley?
Seafood Buffet- I love the prime rib and shrimp and king crab. (Don’t forget the homemade whip cream at dessert!)

How many cocoa breaks do you like to take during a ski day?
Are you kidding? I’m here to ski not drink cocoa!!!!!

Which runs do you ski better than your dad
All of them. (Mostly, moguls.)

What is your favorite part of skiing with your dad?
Waiting for him at the bottom!

What is your favorite part of skiing with your whole family?
Ummmmmm…..

Do you like bumps or groomers?
Bumps

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I have no clue, I am only three years old.

What are you looking forward to about having your Bar Mitzvah in Park City?
The party, skiing, and getting presents

What is your favorite memory about skiing at Deer Valley?
Going down Chute 10 for the first time.

Mahre Training Clinic Part 2

Warning: I’m about to deploy every possible cliché about powder skiing.

Before I do, I’ll defend myself: Clichés are clichés because they are the truth.

And so, gentle reader, I Must. Speak. The. Truth.

Sunday was EPIC.

There were face shots.

It was POW-erful good skiing.

And Ep-ic.

I shredded that POW.

I shredded, hard, man.

I whooped and hollered my way all over the mountain. I skied. Oh, man, did I ski.

(Photo by Ryan Voight)

It was extra-fun because I was able to translate a whole arsenal of newly-acquired mad skillz…into the best powder turns I’ve ever made in my life. Did it help that I had Steve Mahre skiing behind me, turn for turn, calling directions into my ear?

Um, yes.

“Plant your pole, Nan.”

“Make a longer turn, Nan.”

“Be taller! Be TALLER!”

“Stay loose!”

“Good! Like THAT!!”

(Wait, really, did he just tell me I’m doing it right? Did STEVE MAHRE just PRAISE my skiing?! Um, yes. Well, that felt good.)

Yes, the powder day dawned on morning three of my long-awaited 3-day stint at the Mahre Training Center at Deer Valley Resort.

Last year, when Ski Dad completed the Mahre Training Center clinic, he told me that for the first time in over 20 years of skiing, he finally felt like he’d learned how to do it. Well, I can say, safely, that after more than 35 years on the hill, I, too, finally locked it in.  You’ll read more about what makes the camp special—and what it meant to my skiing—in the coming days, and likely in the coming months. It was that impactful for me.

For now, I’ll just let us all revel in the joy, the pure bliss that is an epic powder day. And I’ll maybe gloat a little about how good it felt to finally be one of “those” skiers, gliding through the soft stuff feeling (mostly) balanced and smooth. And the praise from Steve Mahre. Which didn’t hurt a bit.

Also, I have to tell you that at the end of the day, I found myself making matched powder turns next to my Mahre team’s coach, Craig.

“Oh my gosh, Craig! We’re those skiers!”

He shouted back to me: “Yeah, we are!”

Mahre Training Clinic Part 1

My Intermediate Days Are Behind Me.

As it turns out, this isn’t something new. They’ve been a thing of the past for longer than I realized.

The ski school gods know me a little, and decided to assign me to an “advanced” group when I signed up for the Mahre Training Center’s camp at Deer Valley. I balked, sort of. Then, they brought us all to Success for a ski-off. Mahre Camp veterans (and there are folks who go back 1, 3, 5 times…and more!) lined up on one side of the run, newbies on the other.

“Make your regular turns down to that sign that says “Ski Loose or Wild,” instructed Steve.

“All I see is a sign that says SLOW,” said one guest.

“Oh! That’s why I always get in trouble,” he replied. “I thought it was an acronym.”

The joke relaxed us a little. We skied down and the self-described Julie McCoy of the MTC, Chris Katzenberger (an impressive skier in her own right), waved us into place alongside our designated coaches.

“This is an advanced group,” noted Craig, our coach. “We’re going to have fun.”

The truth is, skiers of all levels and abilities have fun—there were a couple of Never-Evers in the camp, in fact. Skiers are divided into teams led by a coach who has been trained and certified in the Mahre method of instruction. The best way I can describe this method is that it takes apart your skiing, cleans out the bad habits and puts it back together so that you’re poised to think less and ski more.

By Saturday night, after two full days of skills-and-drills with my team’s coach, Craig a/k/a “Cruiser” I was on the verge of a breakthrough.

The first day was pretty cool—Craig kept mixing up hard-core drill work with free skiing, letting us try on for size the nuanced tweaks he was introducing to our skiing.

Craig told our crew of five, “I’m careful with what I tell you. I want you to know, I don’t want to overload you with information. So, I’ll watch you today and when I arrive at the one thing I want to ask you to work on, the one thing I think is holding you back, I’ll tell you.”

During lunch, Craig said he was about to start telling us what he’d observed. I listened intently each time he addressed another member of our group. I waited patiently for him to unlock my personal skiing secret. And then, as we skied into the afternoon, I waited some more. Finally, Craig took me aside.

I expected my ego to take a beating. It didn’t. In fact, it blew up a bit: “Bari Nan, I’m having a hard time—you’re tough,” he said.

I looked at him with a puzzled expression.

“You ski beautifully. I’m having a hard time coming up with what’s holding you back. There’s something in reserve—and I’m almost there, so be patient.”

Um, what?

“Wow,” I said. “I’m blown away. But maybe you should call Letitia and tell her—she made me confident, she gave me the tools to advance.” (Letita Lussier is another one of Deer Valley’s crown-jewel instructors. On the team since day one, in fact. And I was lucky enough to ski with her in Women’s Weekend last year. And, yes, I owe her a lot!)

Still, I heard myself say that, and I knew there was more to the story.

“I have to tell you, Craig, I am always and forever, in my mind, an intermediate skier,” I confessed. “And I think I need to work on that.

He nodded. He left it alone.

A few runs later, he addressed the group (and may I say, our group included a 71 year-old retired Rear Admiral in the Navy with as much grace and humor as anyone I’ve met, a 60-something triathlete who was determined to crack the code, an Australian math teacher with a sly, charming wit, and a Wisconsin woman possessed of quiet, disarming charm—and killer ski skills)—“Will you please repeat after me,” Craig began. “I am a smooth, strong and graceful skier.” We did.

“I want you to repeat it again—and tell yourself that as you make your turns,” he said. “Because that’s what you all are—you just have to acknowledge it, admit it and own it.”

Later still, he issued his diagnosis of my skiing. “You need to be taller in your stance,” he said. “And you need to work on flexing down into the turn and coming back up to full height to start the next turn.”

I went to bed that night thinking about how to inhabit my 5’1″ frame in a taller stance. And I thought about how that change was going to be mental as much as physical. I needed to finally own my skiing.

The second day, I worked at it. We were videotaped. Craig pointed out the ways in which I needed to rise up from my calves and straighten my upper body just-so. But as he described the technical stuff, I realized that I was holding myself back in those moments, that the reason I couldn’t pop up and commit to the turn was because, somehow, I didn’t feel like I could. Still, the video didn’t lie—I spotted the exact moment I wasn’t committing, and I connected it with the noise in my head that told me to hang back a little. The shift, it turned out, wasn’t about physical skill. The breakthrough would be entirely mental.

The next morning was “Epic Sunday”—the unexpected powder dump that threw a wrench into the groomer-based training that comprises the Mahre method.

“I am going to have to shake the idea, forever, that I am a low-intermediate level skier,” I confessed over breakfast to Phil and Steve.

“Yes, you should,” Steve said.

“But don’t worry—that’s very common,” Phil assured me. “It’s especially common among women. You’re better than you think you are.”

Moments later, Steve was addressing our team. He seemed to be apologizing to the group as he explained that today’s lesson plan—short turns, a sprint through the slalom gates and more videotaping—and learn a new way of skiing. He couldn’t hide his grin or the gleam in his eye as he explained it all.

We cruised the pow. The three guys took turns taking diggers as they tinkered with staying centered on the skis so the tips could float. We hooted. We hollered. I exclaimed, incessantly, over the luck of a powder day. Seriously, some might have called my enthusiasm tiresome. I could give a hoot. And a holler.

Craig and Steve kept reminding me I needed to be taller in my stance to stay centered. “And don’t forget to let your skis work as a unit,” Steve said. “They should push the snow out of the way, rather than carve in it.”

Which is how I came to be found barking orders at myself clear down the face of Bald Mountain. “Push! Push! Be tall! Be taller! Tallllllll.”

Um, yes, that was me. The crazy girl talking to herself as she skied.

And yet…there was payoff. First, the personal satisfaction I felt when I hit that sweet spot of powder skiing: smooth, controlled and balanced. Perfect pole plants, created with the flick of a wrist. And, finally, more praise from Steve.

“Bari Nan,” he said. “You’re six foot one.”

Date Night—Park City Style.

Saturday night, with my little one well into his second dose of antibiotics, and the big one eager to hang with Claire-the-cool-babysitter, Ski Dad and I headed out for a double date with our friends Miriam and Josh.

(Seth filling out his own prescription)

As I laced up my Sorels, zipped my fleece, and made sure my pockets were stuffed with packets of hand-warmers, I started to giggle—partly with anticipation for a grown-up night out, and partly in appreciation of the difference between dressing for date night in New York City—skirt, heels, cute-but-not-necessarily-warm top—and date night in Park City. I shared this with our friends when we picked them up a few minutes later, and Miriam said, “I know—I’m not even wearing makeup! I didn’t see the point.”

The mood in the crowd was festive, excited and very social. We ran into tons of friends—and even made a few new ones. Here I am with my new pal Mike Hale—locals know him as the star of commercials for the Acura and Chevy dealerships he owns in Park City and in Salt Lake City. We know him as a newfound friend. He immediately struck up a conversation with us, introduced us to his son (also Mike) and, yep, talked skiing. (Ok, we talked a little bit about business—he was quick to tell me I don’t have to drive all the way to Salt Lake to get my car serviced, since his shop can work on any type of car. And that his team will also wash and vacuum the car after they work on it. Which, any mom will tell you, is enticement enough!)

 

Most impressively, Mike told us how much he’s enjoying his first season skiing—on his new knee. This, my friends, was a lot different than date night chatter in New York City. And, to boot, I got my breath taken away—multiple times—by the excitement of the dual moguls competitions.

Here’s why: People crash. They cross in and out of each other’s lines. Their bumps skiing goes awry—massively awry. And then, poof! They regain their line, their balance, their mojo, just in time for the second jump near the bottom of the course, and POW! They land these killer, killer tricks. Perfectly. And it happens again and again. My favorite moment in competition was watching two US Women—Heather McPhee and Hanna Kearney—go head-to-head in the finals. Astounding, inspiring. And I can’t wait until next year.

 

 

Valentine’s Day Crush

My friend Josh likes the action verb “crush.”

But his version is more rockstar than cupid.

Let me explain:

When I bump into him and his son, Jack, at Deer Valley, he looks at me with a hint of irony and says, “We’re going to CRUSH Success!” And Jack, on cue, pipes up with a manly growl. Or, the best impersonation of a manly growl that an adorable seven year-old orange belt in karate can muster. Which is beyond cute.

And, yes, the kid can CRUSH a ski run.

And, so, in the spirit of Josh, Jack and Deer Valley skiers everywhere—and with apologies to David Letterman—I bring you:

Bari Nan’s “Top Ten Deer Valley Runs I Love to Crush….”

•Mountaineer

It’s longish and uncrowded; it’s got a couple of killer, empowering steep pitches. It carves like a champ.

 •Stein’s Way on a powder day

Yes, this is the run that inspires bragging rights. And while it’s a killer groomed run, nothing—and I mean nothing beats it on a powder day. When I have the top section to myself and I can bounce around in the powder, I sing while I ski. (Apologies to anyone in earshot…I can’t really carry a tune. But I can’t stop myself. I’m having too much fun). The pitches and dips on that run ride the way I would imagine a series of perfect rip-curl waves might ride…if I were a surfer. Which, for the record, I’m not.

•Tycoon

Steep, fast, and …steep. And long enough that if my form starts to tank, I have time to recover it and save face before I get to the bottom.

 •Supreme

Yes, I bust out the occasional Diana Ross tune while I make my turns here. There’s usually a little powder to be found on far skier’s left. Just enough to make it playful. There’s a neat little jug handle around the left side of the first mini-glade, and then three steeps that alternate with stretches I like to call “recovery flats.” Ski Dad and I did laps on Supreme a couple of weeks ago—and I’m still daydreaming about it.

 •Lucky Jack

Gladed rolling terrain unfurls after an initial quick, gentle drop. I’ll follow my kids through the trees on Ruby’s Tail or pick different lines to weave around the trees on Jack-proper. And, as with Supreme, the reward lies at the bottom…Empire Canyon Grill, home of the perfectly-crisp handmade potato chip. (You knew there would be food, right?)

 •Lucky Star

An excuse to sing Madonna while I cruise? Nuff said.

 •Blue Bell to Silver Buck to Star Gazer to Gemini

This run never fails to make me smile. The terrain starts out pretty mild, and ramps up as you turn down Star Gazer. And Star Gazer and Gemini are seldom crowded, so it can be fun to do laps here. And if I like the six or so turns on Star Gazer that link Silver Buck to Gemini, I’ll make sure that I finish the next lap by skiing Star Gazer all the way to the bottom. Then, I’ll scoot right onto Red Cloud Lift, eyeball the bumps below and see how brave I’m feeling (and whether there’s much life left in my legs).

If I’ve got the urge, I put a pin in it for a minute. Why?

•Star Gazer, top to bottom. That’s why. It’s usually good for two laps—three if it’s not crowded. After which, I slide into the line for Quincy Express, and make my way around the top of Ontario, and cut across the field, through the trees to my favorite run on the mountain.

•Hidden Treasure

I’m never bored here—powder or groomed, it’s a favorite run. Sometimes I’ll ski the top, then cut through the trees on skier left into Square Deal, making some gladed turns before opening up on the bumps. Other days, I’ll wait to cut into the bumps until they pop up after the trees toward the bottom of the run. It’s about 10 bump-turns to the bottom—just enough to say I crushed ‘em.

Finally, I’m ready to head home…

Solid Muldoon-to-Dew Drop-to-Little-Kate

It is, perhaps, my favorite way to (attempt) to end the day. It usually takes three tries. Because the first time, I am riding the high that comes from carving the top of Solid Muldoon, sliding across Success through the safety gates at the top of Dew Drop to the pitch that I know I should do with no turns, except that I can’t NOT turn. Weaving through the trees, finding little pow stashes at skier’s right and then zooming back across Success to Little Kate feels, strangely, like “home.” Or, rather, like I’ve just stolen home. By then, it’s 50/50 whether I’ll crush it or bottom out on my form from sheer fatigue. Which means there’s 100 percent chance I’ll do two more runs. One in which I’ll make a last-minute executive decision to do Solid Muldoon top-to-bottom, at speed. And the second, in which I’ll attempt to either redeem myself on Kate or relive the CRUSH.

Now…tell me what’s your Deer Valley crush run?