Tour of Utah Final Stage on Main Street in Park City

race startMain Street is the place to be when the cyclists take off and return for the final stage of the Tour of Utah. Even though many of us have never cycled in a race, we all can relate to the difficult sport.  I can’t even imagine five days of leg burning capped off with a sprint up Guardsman’s Pass in the last 5 kilometers of the race then racing at 50 miles an hour down the steep Empire Pass.  That’s brutal!

cyclistsI love the buzz on Main Street in Park City on race day. I attended last year and was shocked at how we were able to get such a great view of the finish line at this world-class race.  This year my focus was on the start.  My husband and I came early and set up on lower Park Ave so we could watch the riders from the beginning before all the breakaways.

support carsI found myself cheering for the support car from my favorite sponsors as they followed the riders on the course ready with a spare bike and tire.  It seemed a little odd to be cheering for a car in a bike race.  Then again, NASCAR fans across the nation cheer for their favorite cars (sans the drivers) as the support team drives across the country to the next race.  So I figure I am in good company.

subaru boothMain Street was packed with bike enthusiasts discussing the latest equipment and technology with vendors.  The BackCountry and Subaru booths were jammed with fans watching the race on the big screen TVs inside.

We picked up our swag from the vendors including our cowbell that we plan to send to our 3-year-old granddaughter (which she’ll love but just might drive her parents a bit crazy.)  We stocked up on Chapstick, hats, and sunscreen offered by the vendors.  We put our names in to win multiple bike jerseys – we’ll let you know if our names are drawn!  You never know.

backcountry stickMostly we walked away with an appreciation of the teamwork involved in cycling. At first glance it appears cycling is an individual sport. It’s not.  I really had no idea how the Lead-out man, the Peloton, and Domestiques on the team work together to produce a win.  Living in Park City, we have so many opportunities to learn about world-class sports up close and personal that we might not have the chance to see elsewhere.

backcountry tvThis may sound silly but I am looking forward to riding my bike on the trails in Park City using my “Competitive Cyclist” water bottle.  It will be a reminder for me to push myself, take one more hill and pick up my speed due to some inspiration I got on Main Street at the final stage of the Tour of Utah in 2013.

Montage Deer Valley Offers Exciting Summer Activities

For those of us who know the place, Montage Deer Valley often evokes a beautiful mountain retreat getaway, that offers the best in accommodations, superlative service and a suite of premier restaurants, but these marks of comfort should never make us forget that Montage is also all about outdoor activities, too. I wanted to find out for myself so I met with Andy Damman, Director of Resort Activities.

DVR-Montage (1)JF: Thanks for welcoming me. Tell me Andy, how long have you been with Montage Deer Valley?

Andy Damman: I have been here since September of 2010, about four months before the resort opened. As the director of resort activities I’m responsible for ski operations and tubing facilities in winter. The rest of the year, I’m running our Camp Compass program which includes hiking, biking and archery among other activities.

JF: Do these recreational activities address all age groups?

Andy Damman: Age-wise we want to able to accommodate everybody and we really mean it. We want our summer activities program to almost feel like “summer camp.” When guests come to the resort we want our activities to be readily accessible to all as they walk outside. Whether that’s life-size chess or checker by the pool, badminton, archery out on our Grand Lawn, volleyball, horse-shoe or, on a rainy day, a game of ping-pong. When guests walk out of these doors there’s always something fun they can participate in.

DVR-Montage (9)JF: How did you dream up all of these programs?

Andy Damman: We developed them from the ground up. We spent numerous meetings and countless hours designing them. We didn’t want to just pick five or ten activities, we wanted the sky to be the limit and, as of today, we keep coming up with more. We focused on creating outside activities that would be easy and fun to play with, not activities that keep people inside like Nintendo, Game Boys and other indoor entertainment. We wanted to give everyone the opportunity to get out and enjoy our beautiful mountain environment.

JF: How did you pick mountain biking as one of these focal points?

Andy Damman: Together, Deer Valley and Park City account for some 400 miles of dirt trails, many of them fully accessible from the backdoor of Compass Sports. We were able to work with Deer Valley Resort to create a program that would be fully integrated with their infrastructure and perfectly tailored to our guests.

DVR-Montage (8)JF: Excellent! Can you be more detailed about your mountain bike program and particularly, your special relationship with BMC?

Andy Damman: We went into this program with the mindset of picking the best partner possible; as you know, there are plenty of good bike companies out there that have a lot to offer, but as we began talking to BMC, a great relationship quickly developed and we’re about to become BMC’s test center for North America [BMC, which stands for Bicycle Manufacturing Company, is Swiss based]

JF: What makes BMC so special?

Andy Damman: I’d say high quality, excellent craftsmanship, exceptional ride and bikes ideally designed for this area. BMC the perfect fit for the Montage brand and its guests.

JF: How do you assist guests who rent your bikes and may not be familiar with mountain biking?

DVR-Montage (4)Andy Damman: We want to provide our guests all the assistance they need. New this year, we’re offering an introduction to mountain biking. It’s packed with instruction, lots of pointers, big smiles, fun and laughter. We actually take guests off property on a specific trail system that’s appropriate for all skill levels. Every morning at 9 a.m., we have a guide that’s available to our riding guests, and this coaching is included in the cost of the bike rental. These guides teach the foundation of the sport and give guests the skills and the confidence they need to enjoy riding a mountain bike.

JF: Do you do anything special in fitting your bikes to the rider?

DVR-Montage (5)Andy Damman: We carefully set everything up. Based on the rider’s weight and height, we set the tire pressure, we size the frame, we set the shock absorbers, we provide a guide who has no ego, is guest-oriented, and above all, wants every rider to discover the joy of mountain-biking. If guests rent a bike for more than one day, we will make sure that following their first ride the machine is thoroughly cleaned, lubed, works perfectly and looks immaculate for the next one.

JF: Do you have any promotional program associated with mountain biking?

Andy Damman: Yes, we’re participating in the great “Lift Package” program offered this summer in conjunction with Deer Valley Resort.  This offer runs from until September 2, 2013. The overnight package includes a $50 daily credit for breakfast, nightly valet parking and Deer Valley Resort chairlift passes.

JF: Is your bike program available to non-hotel guests?

Andy Damman: Our program is offered to our resort guests as a first priority. If there is space available, we will do whatever we can to accommodate other visiting guests as we are open to all people who come to see us.

JF: Can you share more technical details about your rental bike fleet?

DVR-Montage (7)Andy Damman: We’re very fortunate to have high-end products with BMC. These days, the name of the game seems to revolve around wheel sizes. We offer everything from 26 and 29 inch wheels, with the former being more nimble, more sporty, and the later having much better rolling capabilities once the bike is up to speed; larger wheels work perfectly on the smooth trails we have around Deer Valley Resort. Some of our bike frames are aluminum, others are carbon, but overall, our bikes climb very well, are very stiff for cornering and yet offer a very comfortable ride. The new thing in the industry this season is the full-suspension 29 inch wheel bike on ultra-light carbon frame!

JF: I see that you also offer road bikes…

Andy Damman: We have two models: The BMC TeamMachine bike, the one used by the Pros on the Tour de France; it climbs extremely well, descend extremely well; you don’t feel every bump along the way. That bike in my view is “a Ferrari with the comfort of a Cadillac!” Then we have the GranFondo Series, comfortable and designed for the long distance, a “century” rider (typically for longer rides 100 miles making a “century).

JF: What about mountain bikes for children?

Andy Damman: If kids can balance on two wheels, we’ve got a bike for them. We have 20 and 24 inch mountain bikes, both with full-suspension. My first year, here I remember we taught a child how to ride his first bike without training wheels and later that week we took him on his first mountain bike trail. Again, you don’t have to be between 18 and 25 to participate with us, we will accommodate anybody! Even if mountain biking seems outside of your comfort zone, we will give you the skills to get you into that comfort zone!

JF: Well this sounds inviting! Now, what else do you offer as part of your other Camp Compass activities?

Andy Damman: I’d like to start with what we call our “yard game programs;” we’re talking about basketball, volley ball, horse shoes, life-size checker and chess, shuffle board and the list goes on. At 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., we offer complimentary archery sessions for our guests. That’s on our Grand Lawn. We have sixty inch targets rounds to shoot at; every archery instructor that works for Compass Sports is certified. We make it fun by the fact that we start at 5 meters, 10 meters, 15 meters and keep working our way back, shooting at competition round targets. The range is extremely safe, everything is fun. And our guests shoot against the most beautiful backdrop, ever, right outside the doors, here at Montage…

JF: What about fly-fishing?

Andy Damman: That’s another great activity! We offer our very own fly-fishing program along with Joe Mitchell from Stonybrook Fly Fishing who – in my opinion – is the best guide in the Valley. This program like all the others we offer is all about our guests and their enjoyment. Fly-fishing with Joe is all about casting the rod, catching the fish with the most humble instructor there is. It’s just like oil on canvass to me!

JF: Is that a whole day trip?

Andy Damman: Most of our fly-fishing trips are either half-day or full day, our guests will be back just by dinner time at night, unless the fishing is so good that Joe decides to stay longer!

JF: …and dinner will be delayed! Well, this sounds like a treat. Anything else you would like to mention?

Andy Damman: Oh, yes! I almost forgot, we now have kites. We’ll be able to take our guest to the top of Guardsman Pass and fly kites, all kinds of them. So, please, stay tuned for that new exciting program!

JF: All these wonderful activities make me want to participate into all of them and I envy your guests for having to choose from such a wonderful array of outdoor sports that you’re serving spring, summer and fall.

Andy Damman: Every associate who works with us shares the same passion that we all have for these exciting activities. This is something our guests can discover, experience, and more importantly, can take away with them and remember fondly when they are home, long after their stay with us at Montage Deer Valley!

 

Mountain Biking Lessons: Zero to Intermediate in One Morning

nancyHave you ever had a song stuck in your head?  Over and over you hear something like, “Wake me up before you go-go… I’m not planning on going solo.”  The words keep coming back in a never-ending loop and finally when you think its over, there it is again.

Doug, our Deer Valley mountain bike instructor, got in my head during our lesson last weekend but fortunately in this case, it was in a good way. You see I have a bad habit.  I look down.  When I ski, instead of looking at where I am going, I look down right in front of me at all the obstacles I am about to hit.  Of course this means I have no time to react because I see them too late.

dougDuring our mountain biking lesson, my husband Jay and I learned a great many things including balance with the platform stance and transferring our weight way back on the bike so we are almost sitting on the back tire for steep declines.  We learned to trust the bikes; we employed controlled momentum and the 29” knobby tires took us over rocks, roots and gravel with no problems. The third important lesson we learned was vision.

Doug explained,  “When you look ahead to where you want to go instead of where you are, your brain registers everything in front of you even the fuzzy stuff in your peripheral vision.”  I took that to mean, looking down is a complete waste of time.  It’s also no fun.  When all you are looking at is obstacles, all you experience is fear.  When you look ahead to where you want to go, your brain is actively engaged in the strategy to get there, which is way more fun!

Somehow this concept I had been struggling with suddenly became very easy. The words, “Look up” were stuck in my head and I was automatically doing it.  Why now? I wondered.  Maybe it was because Doug, from a large Italian family, is a loud talker.  He told us growing up he couldn’t get a word in at the dinner table unless he spoke really loud and over top of his brothers. To the casual observer, his family dinner might sound like a heated argument but to them, it was a normal every day occurrence.  His loud clear instructions stuck with me – “Look up! Vision!  Choose your line.”

When you coupled the loud talking with his step-by-step instructions and attention to detail, we had a winning combination.  Since Deer Valley mountain biking trails start at the intermediate level, Doug started us in the parking lot where he built skill upon skill. He had us riding the bumpy stairs from one lot to the next.  He taught us how to take turns on specially prepared switchback trails beneath trees on the side of the lot. When we got the “Let’s do it!” from Doug, we headed to the lifts.

Nancy on Tour de Homes

Nancy on Tour de Homes

 

The lift operator handled each of our bikes hooking them onto the chairs behind us.  When we got to the top, we headed to “Tour des Homes” – the easiest mountain bike run but still an intermediate trail.  When we hit the first steep decent, I was prepared and looked up to where I wanted to end up – not at the ground in front of me.

The first turn – I looked ahead.

The first bump – I kept my eyes on where I was going.

When I encountered:

Rocks,

Gravel,

Grooves,

A narrow single trail,

And switchbacks with all of the above, I looked up the whole time!  I just kept hearing, “Look up!” both from Doug and also in my own head. I was cured!

Nancy's husband, Jay, on Tour de Homes

Nancy’s husband, Jay, on Tour de Homes

The most important part is we were also having fun. Jay and I hadn’t even dusted the cobwebs off our bikes this year. We’d never even ridden a single track in our lives and Deer Valley got us from zero to intermediate in one morning.  We were pretty amazed.  Our friends were amazed.  Our children were shocked.

after the lessonWe’re looking forward to taking our bikes up the lift and hitting the Tour des Homes many times this summer.  I love having that voice in my head saying, “Vision! Look up!” I hope it stays with me for the entire ski season, too.  Now, that would be wonderful.

The only problem I have now is I can’t get this tune out of my head, “Wake me up before you go-go … I’m not planning on going solo.”  Anyone have a cure for that?

To learn more about the mountain biking lessons and experience at Deer Valley Resort, click here.

Mountain Bike School: Q & A with Doug Gormley, Lead Mountain Bike Instructor

I’ve always been of the opinion that mountain biking is a far cry from regular bicycle riding and over the years, as I’ve fallen in love with this rugged sport, I’ve learned it the hard way and always wondered if some good tips or a few lessons wouldn’t have shortened my learning curve significantly. That curiosity of mine was finally satisfied when I got to spend a few moments with Doug Gormley, Lead Mountain Bike Instructor at Deer Valley Resort. I caught up with him as he returned from a ride with some fellow staff members…

DVR-DougGormley (5)JF: Hello Doug! Looks like you just had a wonderful ride?

Doug Gormley: Absolutely! Great ride, tons of fun!

JF: How long have you been a mountain bike instructor?

Doug Gormley: This will be my 20th summer teaching mountain biking at Deer Valley Resort.

JF: What about the rest of the year?

Doug Gormley: I also work for the resort. The last two years, I am one of the on-snow ski school supervisors and the 17 years prior, I was a ski instructor.

JF: So instruction is your calling; you know how to bring fun to the outdoors?

Doug Gormley: That’s the key to me; getting people out there and share the fun with them!

JF: Most folks think that because they know how to ride a bike they’ll breeze through mountain biking? What do you have to say about this commonly held belief?

Doug Gormley: I do think that’s a misconception. That’s not to say that people who are on bikes regularly can’t adapt to it quickly, but even the most experienced road bikers are often shocked at how much technique is involved with mountain biking and this is even more applicable to someone who only ride occasionally. Everyone will benefit from some good instruction.

JF: Could you define the fundamental difference between regular riding and mountain biking?

Doug Gormley: One of the biggest differences is how much time you spend standing up on the pedals during a downhill and remain seated going up, whereas a road biker will only stand up during a climb and will sit going down. There’s also a strong need for front brake use; this is hard to learn at first. The front brake has to be used all the time, in addition to the back brake. If the latter is the only one used, this will lead to skidding down the trails.

JF: If someone is a ranked beginner, how long will it take you to bring that person to some intermediate skills level and be able enjoy most of the trails at Deer Valley?

Doug Gormley: When beginners first show up for a lesson, we begin by spending a full hour doing drills, on our practice loop, near the lower parking lot; then, we take that person on the trails and practice the skills learned. Generally speaking, after a beginner gets here, it takes about two to three hours for that individual to get some basic technique and reach an intermediate level.

JF: As you’re instructing both skiing and mountain-biking, do you see some similarity between the two?

Doug Gormley: Oh yes. There are many similar techniques that apply to both, specifically vision, keeping pressure on the outside of the turn among others. In general, most skiers adapt very well; they can pull from some of their skiing techniques and adapt them to mountain bike riding.

DVR-DougGormley (4)JF: What’s the ideal age for starting youngsters on mountain bikes and how late can an adult begin?

Doug Gormley: The age issue is always difficult to answer. Our children’s clinic starts at the age of eight. Under that age, we require a private lesson. I have had a six year-old out mountain biking, but this might be a practical minimum while eight is definitely the perfect age to begin. At the other end of the spectrum, it’s pretty much like skiing, we can attract and entertain a very wide age range depending on the shape and motivation of the participants.

JF: What about gender differences?

Doug Gormley: As of yet, we don’t offer women-only clinics, but we have women instructors on staff and there’s always the possibility of private lessons to address some special needs. That said we have weaved teaching techniques and tips that take gender into consideration.

JF: This brings me to your Bike School program; what options are you offering this summer?

DVR-DougGormley (10)Doug Gormley: Every day, we offer a three-hour clinic for kids from age eight to 12, one begins at 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. and another from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. At the same time, we also offer an adult clinic geared towards the beginner/low intermediate skill level, from the age of 13 on up.  New this season is our “Guided Tour” for 13 and older; intermediate level or above, going at the same exact times (10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.). This new ride is meant to explore more of the mountain, with some use of the chairlifts, but it’s essentially a “get-out-and-pedal” opportunity, where uphill climbs and downhill segments are mixed we try to see all of Deer Valley, and in the end, give the opportunity to the participating two to five riders we take along to walk away a much stronger rider. Finally, we offer private lessons (two hours minimum required), these are totally adapted to the rider’s needs. Riders can come as downhill experts or total beginners we are staffed to cover all ability levels.

JF: So the “Guider Tour” sounds similar to your winter mountain tours?

Doug Gormley: Yes, but with the added benefit of providing participants with the expert advice of an instructor; so it’s not just a guided tour, it’s also a great opportunity for getting some serious coaching and useful tips.

DVR-DougGormley (8)JF: Let’s talk now about gear. Could you walk us through your new bike rental fleet?

Doug Gormley: We carry very high end bikes that work well on Deer Valley’s terrain. If you rent one our bikes, it can always be changed to a different size or if a bike has a problem of any kind it can be replaced on the fly. What’s nice about our rental fleet is not only do we provide bikes and helmets, but we include gloves, elbow pads and knee pads. Our downhill pads come with a full-face helmet.

JF: What about folks bringing their own bikes?

DVR-DougGormley (3)Doug Gormley: That fine as long as their bikes are equipped with front and rear brakes. A typical BMX bike wouldn’t qualify. A dual suspension bike works better on Deer Valley trails. So-called “Hybrid Bikes” can be more of a problem. Those type of bikes often don’t have the traction required and are not perfectly geared and setup to riding the true mountain bike trails we have.

JF: This is great information. Do you have any advice since Deer Valley Resort is now open for summer activities?

Doug Gormley: I’d say that it’s a shame that some people who have tried mountain biking in the past and have given up because they didn’t get the proper training or didn’t have the right equipment in the first place. The good news is that we can change that. With some solid foundation, good instruction and a sound technique, mountain-biking is a sport that a wide range of ages can enjoy and it will deliver an incredible amount of fun and satisfaction, especially if you are a skier. It’s a wonderful way to enjoy the mountain in the summer. So if you’re still standing on the fence, don’t hesitate. We have everything you need to attempt your very first steps or try an experience that you’ll want to repeat!

 

An Interview with Mark Nepermann, DV Summer Lift Operations Supervisor

Earlier this week, as he was busy getting everything ready for this year’s mid-June re-opening, Mark Nepermann, Lift Operations Supervisor took a few moments out of his time to talk about summer lift operations at Deer Valley Resort.  

DVR-ops-2JF:  Mark, I can see on your face that you’re ready for summer; I mean you appear to enjoy that season a lot. How long have you been working at Deer Valley Resort?

Mark Nepermann:  I have worked here for four winters and this will be my third summer. And you’re right; summer is my favorite time of the year! I’m originally from northern Illinois, I came out here after college for one winter and I loved it so much that I never left.

JF:  Now that the weather has been gradually warming up, are you and your staff ready for your summer season opening?

Mark Nepermann: Absolutely!  We opened on June 14 and will be operating our lifts through Labor Day, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., every day.

JF: Which chairlifts are open to the public?

Mark Nepermann: We’ll continue to offer rides on Silver Lake Express, Sterling Express and for the third season, Ruby Express.

JF: Who are your typical passengers?

Mark Nepermann: In the summer, mountain bikers are still the majority of our riders, we mount a hook on the sides of all the chairs to carry their equipment, we also get scenic riders who come to enjoy the incredible views that can be seen from our mountain tops.

JF: Do scenic riders have to ride down the lift?

Mark Nepermann:   No, we give them many options. They can either ride up and ride back down, or ride up and hike down, particularly on some of our hiking-only trails. They can also hike up and reward themselves with our complimentary ride down!

JF:  I’ve noticed that the lifts seem to be running slowly, why is this?

Mark Nepermann:  We run about half the speed that we do in winter, this allows passengers to easily get off upon reaching the top since they have to walk away and this takes just a little more time than sliding off the ramp with skis on during the winter.

DVR-ops-4JF:  What are these poles inside the bin, by the chairlift?

Mark Nepermann:  These are ski poles made available to hikers who want to use them, both at the bottom and the top of each chairlift; we just ask the hikers to put them back into the bin when they’re done using them.

JF:  Besides mountain bikes, are you allowing other devices on your trails?

Mark Nepermann: Sure, we see everything from old mountain bikes from the 1980’s, to the latest 50 pound downhill bike, to unicycles, mountain scooters or mountain boards, you name it.

JF: And you let them in?

Mark Nepermann:  We let riders use them as long as these machines are equipped with at least two brakes, so if one of them were to fail, there’s still a spare one. We also require all riders to wear a helmet and stay on the bike trails, even on these non-conventional devices.

DVR-ops-5JF: Are hikers also required to stay on the trails?

Mark Nepermann:  We prefer all users to stay on the trails in order to prevent trampling vegetation and avoid erosion.

JF: What happens when the weather suddenly changes?

Mark Nepermann:  Although heavy rain never seems to be a problem at Deer Valley Resort, the sole reason we would close down our lifts is if it rains hard for very long, riding could cause damage to the trails.  Thunder isn’t a deal-breaker, but lightning is.  If we see lightning we call “last chair” until the storm is passed and that is for the safety of both our riders and staff.

JF: So, when you compare winter and summer, do you find differences in your ridership?

Mark Nepermann:  Our summer guests are definitely more low-key than in winter; perhaps during the warm season people aren’t as eager to clock as many runs as possible, but we also have a wider variety of riders. Some are hard-core mountain bikers, some are nature lovers, others are here to discover mountain vistas for the first time in summer. Our guests’ expectations and interests are far less homogeneous than they are in winter .

DVR-ops-7JF:  How should people dress when they ride your lifts?

Mark Nepermann:  Temperature differences between the base and the top of the chairlift always plays a significant role. Temperatures may also change very fast if the cloud cover suddenly moves in or the breeze sets in. Just because it’s sunny and warm at Snow Park doesn’t mean that it might not be 10 to 20 degrees less at the top of Bald Mountain. We encourage visitors to dress in layers and carry a light jacket with them in the event of a sudden drop in temperature.

JF:  Any other useful tips?

DVR-ops-6Mark Nepermann:  Always carry lots of water to stay well-hydrated, don’t forget the sunscreen, another good tip is to make sure to wear a hat. Of course, all bike riders must wear a helmet. Also, having a cell phone is always a good idea in case of emergency.

JF:  So, why do you like summer at Deer Valley Resort so much?

Mark Nepermann:  I like to tell the guests I meet during winter that summers in Deer Valley are even better in terms of the multitude of options offered to visitors. There is a myriad of concerts, mountain biking, hiking, fly-fishing, golfing, great food on Royal Street’s deck and green vistas as far as the eye can see, plus it’s always 10 to 15 degrees cooler up here than down in the Salt Lake Valley. We’re a refreshing alternative to the summer heat, so come up and play with us!

Gearing Up

Just like skiing, mountain biking is a wonderful sport that can be fraught with frustration if not started the right way. The problem is that, if we can ride a bicycle, we generally assume that we already know everything about the technique and the equipment, and don’t need any lessons. While this seems logical, mountain-biking is a totally different universe, because there is highly specialized equipment just for it, plenty of gravity going up and down, uneven terrain, and most often than not a narrow, single-track involved!

These differences are the key reasons for considering professional help that can take a rank beginner into a smart mountain-bike rider. Things like learning the basics of using the brakes the proper way, understanding the “platform” concept, knowing about correct body placement and feeling comfortable with obstacles and single-track riding. These elements where probably not part of the curriculum used by your mom or dad when you learned how to ride your first bike!

This said there are countless reasons for getting into mountain biking; most folks get into the sport either by accident, special circumstances, like a visit to Deer Valley Resort, or just because they want to try something new. There are also many ways to get started. First, there’s the gentle one, which consists of beginning on asphalt bike-paths, staying on flat terrain and progressively tackling the more challenging trails. Then, there’s the “full-immersion” program that takes rank-beginners into the heart of the matter, with guts and gusto, straight up into the mountain. These forms of entry points often match certain age groups too. Middle-age people will gravitate towards the former, while teenagers and young adults may pedal more assertively into the sport and enjoy a faster learning curve.

Going at mountain biking progressively is probably a good idea for middle-age and older individuals. These riders can be a bit apprehensive and often don’t have as much time available for the sport. They can transition naturally from their regular biking experience into some slightly heavier equipment in which familiarity with the proper use of gears, brakes and terrain requires some time to be learned. After practicing these skills for a while on bike path or gravel road, they’ll be ready to explore more complex terrain and get familiar with uphill climbs, descents and single-track trails.

If the riders aren’t quite ready for taking that step, either because they are just afraid or don’t have the stamina the activity requires, they might be better off switching to a lighter, cross-country mountain bike design that can be used either on gentler terrain and on wider trails covered with asphalt, gravel or dirt. Before they do, however, it might still be an excellent idea to take a few more lessons. On the other hand, if riders get comfortable on single trails and their ups and downs, improvements will largely be a function of time, mileage and increased level of difficulty. It is at this stage that a good combination of lift-assisted biking and practicing on blue runs can provide this key ingredient that’s so important in mountain-biking: Experience!

If the riders are young, energetic and fearless, they can literally take the plunge either by mean of lift-assisted, downhill biking or ease into single-track cross-country riding. As mentioned earlier, the participant’s age plays a crucial role. Teenagers and young adults can learn with buddies and thanks to a combination of grit, good balance, athletic abilities, peer pressure and lots of practice; they will learn the rudiment of the sport and improve quite rapidly.

Again, for all of these groups, the best way to get started is by taking lessons as there is a technique to be learned and this can save a lot of grief to the newcomer. Without lessons, these skills must be acquired the hard way and this can translate into a much longer process. In fact, unless the rider can get out 20 or 30 times each season, like some of the locals do, the morale of a successful mountain biking experience is to take lessons from the start, stick to practicing and getting out as often as possible.

Now, don’t delay, take that first step into mountain biking before the season is over!

A Long and Winding Trail Into Mountain Biking

Our first experience with mountain biking can be traced back more than a quarter of century ago, when we moved from New York to Park City, Utah. Then, Deer Valley Resort was just 4 years old and there wasn’t any lift-served mountain biking available; in fact, mountain biking had barely been invented. This period of the early 80s was only the dawn of that great sport and just a select few began to get excited about it.

I remember that for the summer of 1987, my wife and I bought two Scott mountain bikes, with fat tires, 24 speed and zero-suspension. We tested them on the asphalt a few times, but used them mostly to take a weekly trip to Old Town Park City and while I may have tried mine on a few dirt trails, I soon found out that it was more work than what I had bargained for and concluded that it was simply not for me. As summer turned into fall, the bikes were relieved of their duties and stayed quietly in our garage until the end of the decade.

Fast-forward to 1990; this was a new and exciting year for us; I was now between two jobs while building a new home. That year, we first sold our residence and the two venerable bikes inside the garage were conveniently “bundled” with the house to give the transaction more of a “mountain” flavor. Our move to a new home also coincided with a noted progress in mountain bike technology: The advent of front suspensions. That’s right, until that time there was no difference between the front fork of a road bike and that of a mountain bike. They both were stiff, unyielding and quite shaky on rough terrain. Getting rid of our first bicycles gave us the opportunity to upgrade to a pair of brand new bikes that had a semblance of front suspension.

This time again, similar scenario; we only used them for a limited number of outings, albeit more audaciously; we began venturing into singletrack trails and I even remember flying over the handlebars in a trail called “Trans-Wasatch,” just where the St. Regis hotel now stands. Through sheer luck and some divine intervention I survived the move as I miraculously landed standing up on my own two feet. Needless to say that after a mishap like this, both bikes were “grounded” for good, and they paradoxically remained hung-up forever, high in the ceiling of our large garage.

That lasted right after the Salt Lake City Olympics, when our children left us and my wife and I suddenly became empty nesters in an over-sized home; we eventually sold the house, negotiating once again the pair of unused bicycles as part of the real-estate settlement. We subsequently lived three full years without bikes in the garage. In 2005 however, I relapsed into my two-wheel pursuit and purchased two-state-of-the-art mountain bikes (front and rear suspensions, disk brakes, the works…) My wife gave me the kind of look that means something like “you’ll never learn…”

We got our bikes in the fall and began to use them on the easy stuff, like the Park City Rail-Trail plus some other bike paths and even made a few timid forays into single-track territory. While the new, modern bikes were literally a “game changer” as they’re more efficient, comfortable and user-friendly, we were both anxious, not quite knowing if my latest infatuation would last. What got us going was the investment we had made and while we realized that a third time wouldn’t automatically be a charm, we just didn’t want to give up only after having tried our hardest.

What made all the difference however, was that I was now retired and we suddenly had much more time on our hands. While we continued for a while on easy paths like the Rail-Trail and both the Farm and the McLeod Creek trails, we then dared to try the lift-assisted mountain bike trails in Deer Valley, but still were woefully inexperienced to fully appreciate them. We then honed our skills on the easy trails that crisscross the Round Valley open space that stands between Park City’s new hospital and the Park Meadow subdivision where we live.

A steady practice on that gentle but technical terrain began to bear fruits and eventually would make a huge difference in our gathering the prerequisite technique and mileage that are the foundation of enjoyable mountain biking. This in a nutshell is how we become more attracted to the world of singletrack trails and almost without realizing it, began to become more confident and enjoyed the sport so much more. Each subsequent season, more days were added to our schedule with greater challenges that turned into better skills, growing assurance and much more fun.

We can now use the Deer Valley lifts and enjoy riding Sunset and Naildriver on the way down as if we had done it for a lifetime. We love the sport and, this season alone, have logged more than 40 days by the end of July! Make no mistake though; mountain biking isn’t an easy sport to pick and stay with, and I bet that there are a multitude of mountain bikes out there that, just like our first two sets of bikes, are hanging alone in some garage, even though they were purchased with the very best of intentions! In some next blog, I’ll try to explain how everyone can get some great “traction” in mountain biking without working too hard or even thinking that they where just not made for that sport. Stay tuned…

Mountain Biking Mama

I’ve often said I have a lot of respect for skiers who take up the sport as adults. It takes a certain amount of courage, to say the least. I have a hunch that I’ve learned exactly how much courage that is—because on a recent day in Deer Valley, I began to conquer my fear of riding my bicycle downhill.

Mountain biking (and I’m sure the same is true for road cycling—I just haven’t tried it yet) is as much of a head-game as skiing. For me, it’s more, I think—in part because I’m learning as an adult. I wore my first pair of skis at age 3, and began weekly lessons at 6, so skiing is as natural to me as walking—and at least 10 times more fun. Logically, I know I can handle just about anything on a bike—I’m physically fit—well for a normal person, not a competitive athlete (I have to remind myself, because living in Park City it’s easy to take your decent fitness level for granted when you’re surrounded as we are by elite athletes). I’m up for challenges. I understand the mechanics of the sport. My psyche, however, disagrees. And, frankly, I’m sick of hearing second-hand about how great my husband’s mountain bike rides were. Or weren’t. Even a bad ride is brag-worthy, at least in my house. And I’m done with feeling left out.

Thankfully, there is Jeff. Not, mind you, my wonderful husband Jeff. For whom I am always thankful. But Jeff the Awesome, Patient and Kind Mountain Biking Coach. I am sure his official Deer Valley title is something more like Mountain Bike Guide or Instructor or whatever it is that doesn’t describe him well enough.

So, Coach Jeff took me to Lot 3—that’s right, to the parking lot. Little known fact: There are mountain bike practice features at the back of Lot 3. We ran through some basics, and I was proud to have arrived with A-plus skills in braking appropriately (right brake first then add left, or equal pressure to both); creating a “platform” by bringing both pedals parallel to the ground, and standing on them as I bring my tush back behind my bike seat. (I’m sure it looks even sillier than it sounds, but believe me, it creates the most control over the bike.)

Then came the frustrating part—as much as I knew I could take a gentle downhill turn—KNEW IT—I couldn’t get my brain to let me. After MUCH unprintable sputtering from me, Coach Jeff took control of the moment.

“We’re going to change things up,” he said. “No use having you frustrated.”

What he meant was: After one more quick test on the practice track, he was taking me up Silver Lake Express chairlift to ride down the mountain on a trail called Tour De Homes. I gulped only a little as I noticed the trail marker bore the international symbol for “Intermediate”—the telling blue square. Um, ok. I guess I’m ready, I thought.

“You will gain confidence as we ride. You’ll see. It will be fun,” he said. “I promise.”

Ok, he was right. I walked a fair amount–but I have decided that there’s no shame in walking where you’re completely out of your depth as a rider. It’s called SELF PRESERVATION, people. And I had two kids at Deer Valley Summer Adventure Camp who were expecting to see their mom at 5 p.m. pickup. So, I walked some. But, mostly, I rode. I rode down slopes I didn’t think I could. I looked ahead and not down, not at obstacles, but rather at the path I wanted to follow. Just like in skiing, if you don’t want to ride into the tree, for heaven’s sake, DO NOT LOOK AT THE TREE.

In point of fact, I looked at Coach Jeff’s awesome day-glo biking socks, which were a great focal point.

I am going to have to learn to talk less when I ride—because every time I called out “I’m doing this!!!!” on something more technical than I’d been able to handle only minutes earlier—I lost it. LOST.

Tour De Homes, by the way, is a great hiking or biking trail. It starts behind Last Chance on a private ski run, and winds around until you actually come out onto Last Chance, just below the “Bear House.” We rode some single track through the meadow at the bottom of Last Chance, taking a moment to appreciate, mutually, how much we love skiing Dew Drop, and then worked our way down Rosebud, across some more single track beneath Solid Muldoon, Champion and Big Stick, and into the trees next to the Burns Lift. This was, by far the smoothest, prettiest part of the ride. The trail itself is tree-lined and did I mention…smooth? I even took the steep part back to Wide West with some middling success. Enough that Coach Jeff said, “You know, that was steeper than the part you walked at the trail head?”

And, yes, I flew down the Carpenter road—faster than a person is allowed to take it on skis, in fact. Speed, it turns out, is a good acquaintance. We’re working our way up to a friendship. Coach Jeff, though, whether he likes it or not, is a brand-new friend.

144 Days Off the Couch

I’ve got a goal, to spend the 144 days of summer off the couch.

The snow has melted and this week the kids get out of school for summer.  As the school year ends I’ve been able to fit in a couple events with some friends. The first was Running for Ed. No not a person but a fundraiser for our local schools-Ed as in education. This is a team of five and we each have two legs to run. The total course is 42 miles around town and change overs at the schools. Most teams have a theme or costume. We were the “Crayons.” When my friend Simone told me our costume I envisioned some sort of hat that was a crayon tip with a face cut out. I was pleasantly surprised (see photo). I joked I might wear it again for Halloween. One of the funniest comments of the day was when one of my teammates passed someone and she heard them say” I got passed by a crayon!” We also got placed in the last group (fastest runners) to start the relay. Not sure how that happened because I’ve never run a six minute mile in my life. Maybe it was because our captain was on the winning team last year. It was a blast for a good cause.

The next event was Little Red Riding Hood. I’m not sure how many women are riding their bikes but there’s a lot! One number that was tossed around was 3,000. You choose your own distance, my group chose 80 miles. This isn’t a team event but the seven of us got warmed up and into a rotation of drafting. There was no more talking or joking, our heads were down and we were rolling out the miles. If you didn’t know you would have thought we were professionals.  It ended up being a bit shorter than 80 miles but I was happy to see the finish.

It is always a fun time to get away with fiends for the night and share the day together. I’m not sure there is another place that has so many people that are active and enjoy exercising fundraising at the same time. Hopefully I’ll be able to continue my theme for the summer “144 days off the couch” as the boys get out of school for the summer. I might need to multitask and take advantage of time when the kids are in lacrosse & golfing camps. Oh to be a kid again! At least I feel like I kid when I’m with friends and exercising! Good thing my friends invite me to participate. They’re helping me to stay in shape over the summer for the winter! Or maybe they know I need to work off the winter lunches! Hmmm

Biking is for the Whole Family

Spring came early to Park City—in a town where odds run high for snow on graduation day, it can be confusing to be able to play outside like it’s Summer in April or May. But, friends, we’re muddling through, somehow. What with all the Chamber of Commerce weather, and the fact that my kids look at bike time as cross-training for skiing (Opening Weekend), this is bound to be the summer that improves our skiing by leaps and bounds.

In fact, it didn’t take long for us to get rolling in summer mode in our house. Seth, our newly-minted five year-old, with his newly-missing two bottom teeth, has determined that this summer’s theme is “Two Wheels or Bust!” It didn’t take much—just like when he wanted to learn to ski, he saw big brother do it, and that, friends, was that (Secrets to Success). We started offering various tips on technique, offered to put a broomstick in the well under his seat so we could help him balance, suggested he use his feet to push and glide off the ground while he got the feel for it. And, in typical Seth fashion, he looked at us and said, “Why don’t I just ride?”

So, he did. Here’s the footage

The next thing I knew, Jeff was in the garage, finding the pedals to put on his own bike. Poor guy had been so busy in the last few years, the only time his bike got to roll on the trails around here was when our friend Cheo came for visits and borrowed the bike (he’s a BYOPedal kinda guy). Now, though, the kids were on a roll, and Jeff was not going to miss out.

So, with images of family bike rides dancing in our heads, we hauled Lance’s first mountain bike with gears into Jans for a tune-up (it was a hand-me-down from friends), and took mine there for good measure. While we were there, Jeff noticed some shiny new objects—and started chatting with Stephanie, one of the expert bike fitters. Before long, she had Jeff set up on demos, and he was tooling around the neighborhood, trying to choose a new bike. I won’t bore you with the list of complaints he has for his old mountain bike. We think of it as Cheo’s bike, anyway, and now this will allow the two of them to go on rides together when he’s in town…but I digress.

I owe Stephanie, Marty, and the team at Jans a debt of gratitude for helping Jeff find a new bike. First, she took the guesswork out of what gift to give my husband for our 17th wedding anniversary this month. Yes, friends, in case you were wondering, the official gift for 17th anniversary is One Sweet Ride. Second, she singlehandedly helped reconnect my guy, who raced bikes in high school, with a lifelong passion—that’s going to help push his healthy lifestyle agenda to the next level. Also, they helped me entertain my kids during the whole bike demo process, allowing many pairs of shoes to be tried on, and selling us a couple of bags of candy, to boot. As in winter, I’m not above bribing with candy. [Upping the Ante on Bribes]

After all was said and done, I was inspired to get my like-new (as in gently used, because I bought it eleven years ago and have ridden just a handful of times) bike into the shop for a tune-up.

Some people in my house have described me as a reluctant biker—I’m not. I swear. I really, really WANT to bike. But I’ve never been a confident biker, which makes it hard to just get out and ride. When I first bought my bike, I took advantage of the variety of free, guided rides available to all levels of bikers through Jans and White Pine—some are even women-only. Somehow, though, once the boys were born, I couldn’t make the time for those rides. No, boys, I’m not blaming you. In recent years,  I promised my pal Emily that I would take some mountain biking lessons at Deer Valley—but other things took precedence.

Now, though, the same thing that motivated me to up my game on the snow has been brought to bear for biking; I will not be left behind by my family. So: First things first, I’m going to start riding on the flat trails around town. Next, I’ll join some of those evening rides at White Pine and Jans. And, because my kids are going to check out some Deer Valley Summer Camps, I’m going to book myself a mountain biking lesson on the mountain, too.

Let the games begin!