Meet Deer Valley’s Avalanche Dogs

If you have shopped at the Deer Valley Signatures stores, you may have noticed the Avalanche Rescue Dog Benefit Merchandise, also know as “Avy Dog.” If you are a frequent Deer Valley skier, you may also have encountered one or several dogs sporting the Ski Patrol logo on their back. To get their full story, I met with Chris Erkkila, Deer Valley’s Ski Patrol Assistant Manager, who told me everything I always wanted to know about these “mountain saviors.”

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The Deer Valley Avalanche Dog program dates back twenty years. From the time one of the resort’s patrollers worked tirelessly to get it off the ground to this very day, it has evolved to the point that Deer Valley’s Ski Patrol now has three avalanche dogs, with at least one on the mountain every day. These dogs are owned by their handlers and go home with them every night.

Let’s begin by meeting them. We have Ninja, a male Pointer/Lab mix, that is almost four years old; Piper a female Shepherd mix, an 11 year old veteran that also happens to be Chris Erkkila’s dog and Izzy, a female Lab/Boarder Collie that is nine years old. The Wasatch Backcountry Rescue (WBR), a local non-profit organization oversees the training and certifications. Nine ski areas are member of the WBR, and account for a total of 30 to 40 dogs.

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A lot of work and training is involved with avalanche dogs. “When we select a puppy,” explains Chris, “we have a series of puppy aptitude tests. In every litter of puppies there’s an Alpha pup, the most aggressive and strongest of the litter. We generally look for the next pup down from the Alpha, one that doesn’t seem to be scared of anything, has strong senses, is apt to attach and interact with humans. We also want a dog that is very curious, has high energy and a strong drive.”

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Of course, there are other considerations. Some breeds are better suited than others for the job. A thick coat is definitely an advantage compared to a thin one; with it, a dog can stay warm longer, while thin-haired dogs may have to wear an extra coat. There are also breeds that have a higher sense of smell than others. Labrador retrievers, German shepherds and boarder collies are better suited than most.

Size matters too; large dogs get tired faster because of the mass they must carry and may develop orthopedic problems faster. Then there’s the mere fact of getting around. Carrying the dog down the slope, loading it up on a chairlift, a snowmobile or a helicopter can be hard with larger dogs. Conversely, a small dog will have a harder time climbing on big chunks of snow or walking into deep powder. The happy medium seems to fall right between 40 and 60 pounds.

Once the puppy is selected, training begins at once with with socialization and obedience. Then training for search follows. It begins very progressively by using one of the dog toys and hiding it behind a tree, then burying it under the snow. This is followed by using articles of clothing like a scarf or a wool sweater scented by a human being, and slowly, the search training evolves to a real person. First, just by hiding behind a tree, before the person is actually buried under the snow. Some avalanche dogs can smell people that are buried under 15 feet of snow.

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A person’s scent permeates throughout the snow pack and eventually makes its way through to the surface. The surface scent may get to an area that is not necessarily the actual body location. The scent works its way trough a cone-shaped path that may follow a slanted trajectory depending on the snow structure. In addition, windy conditions or even just a slight breeze may affect how a dog will catch the scent coming out of the cone.

The dog must be led in relation to the wind. Upwind, it becomes impossible for a dog to catch the scent. Stormy and blizzard conditions may make locating very tricky and difficult. The same applies to terrain conditions that generally are always steep, rugged and involve snow density of varying degrees. Around an avalanche, the surface of snow can be rough and will tire a dog very fast. This is why dogs are often carried to the rescue site so as to save as much of their energy as possible.

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Dog certification is handled by the WBR. Three levels are offered: A, B, and C. Level C designates a candidate entering the program. Level B is for dogs capable of searching within the ski area boundaries. Level A is the full certification and applies to dogs capable of searching both within the ski area and the backcountry. Dogs cannot be tested for Level A until they’re at least 18 month old. For most dogs, it often takes two winter seasons of work and training to pass the the Level A test. Sometimes, it may take a dog three full years to reach Level A.

From that point on, dogs can expect to work on search and rescue until they are about 10. Piper, Deer Valley’s oldest dog, is 11 years old; she’s still going strong, but may be an exception amongst her peers.

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Training is a big endeavor that must be kept up. Deer Valley avalanche dogs stay active year-round. During the off-season, their handlers take them around the resort while mountain biking or working on trails. Their dogs must stay active and obedient while also receiving some agility training to mitigate an off-season sedentary time period. On occasions, outside agencies, like the Summit County Sheriff Department, may come up and expose the dogs to cadaver work, materials they don’t encounter on a daily basis. 

Having the dogs out in the summer help them familiarize themselves with the whole mountain environment; this way, they become closely acquainted with the terrain and their surroundings. Chris adds, “I can see the evidence of this in the winter as my dog recognizes the very details of the terrain she traveled back and forth during summer, she tends to follow her usual path in a winter environment.”

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I asked Chris if any of the three Deer Valley dogs have been involved in actual search and rescue operation: “Yes, we’ve been dispatched quite a few times to actual avalanche sites. One of the most interesting instances, happened late in May, near Sundance resort. We were flown up in a helicopter to Mt. Timpanogos where the search operations took place.”

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At Deer Valley, the “Avy Dogs” perform a very vital and necessary function. They can be seen as an extra insurance policy. Some might argue that these dogs are seen as “low-tech” assistants in a array of new high-tech devices that are being used to locate skiers or measure avalanche danger. “Sometimes dogs can pickup where high-tech left off,” Erkkila explains, “just a couple of years ago, we were all out doing avalanche beacon drills training, and low and behold the beacon batteries died. I had to bring my dog Piper, to find the beacon buried deep under the snow. She found it pretty quickly, so technology is as good as battery life, and with Piper we don’t have to worry about that!”

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With always one dog on the mountain on any given day, skiers have the opportunity to visit a Deer Valley Avy Dog at one of the patrol shacks. Just ask to find out where the dog or dogs are for the day. Chris Erkkila offers: “Come and say hi, collect one of our new trading cards that we created for each one of our dogs, and come take some photos!” 

JF’s Five Favorite Ski Runs at Deer Valley Resort

I love to ski Deer Valley and I am fond of many of its trails, some more than others. If I were asked to list my top five favorite trails I’d be forced to leave many of the ones I like on the table. For these top five, I’d probably break them into two categories: groomers and natural terrain.

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Among the groomed runs that stand out for me, Jordanelle ski run tops them all. This double blue ski run follows the Jordanelle Gondola from top to bottom. It’s perfectly groomed everyday and skis best in the morning, when the sun begins shining and heats it up ever so slightly to make its pristine corduroy feel “creamy” under the skis. I see the run as a white, undulating ribbon that unfurls towards the reservoir and freeway below.

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Ski this on a perfect bluebird, because it’s mostly about expansive views for as far as the eye can see. Again, early morning is best. I call it my “little downhill run!” I also enjoy the relaxing ride up the gondola, sitting quite comfortably, either enjoying the views of the reservoir and the distant Uinta Mountains, or just facing up Little Baldy Mountain and getting a close view of the wonderful ski-in, ski-out homes and their stunning designs.

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In the “groomer” category, my second favorite is Nabob, a blue ski run. I like it because it’s also always groomed and it offers a huge variety of terrain and grade. Starting at the top of Bald Mountain, it faces north, keeping the best snow on the mountain, and offers panoramic views of the entire town of Park City, reaching all the way to Kimball Junction, framed by distant mountain ranges. In the middle of Nabob, there are tree islands creating natural markers, adding fun and character to the run.

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The grade is gentle before plunging once more towards a flatter transition leading to the Nastar race course and the Silver Lake Lodge. Finally, Nabob ski run makes a sweeping turn to skiers’ right and plunges towards the Wasatch Express chairlift below. I like to use Nabob as a warm-up run and often repeat it before going elsewhere on the mountain. I find it easy, varied and fun. It is the perfect run to ski with family and friends, or people you’ve never skied before and want to assess their skills before picking an itinerary for the rest of the day.

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Of course, I only ski groomed runs a small percentage of my time and prefer powder, trees and crop. That’s my preference and that’s what make skiing interesting for me! In that category, I also have many favorite trails, but here are just three that complete my list of five favorite ski runs.

Mayflower Bowl overflows with scenery. Just like Jordanelle ski run, this bowl overlooks the reservoir and towers over the beautiful Heber Valley. This time, we’re no longer in the “blue” category, but in the single and double black diamond class. A snowy or very cold day is the best time to enjoy the Mayflower Bowl to take advantage of the best possible powder conditions. The bowl can be accessed on skiers’ right from the first third of Stein’s Way ski run. After crossing the entry gate, you find yourself standing on a mostly convex slope that conceals what lays beneath the horizon.

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Watch for some of the avalanche control craters and begin your descent. Soon what you thought was already pretty steep becomes even steeper. You have now committed to the Mayflower Bowl and the rest of the run comes in to full view: a seemingly never ending open space that gradually goes from extremely steep to gentle, before vanishing into the aspen groves below. The run is engaging, stimulating, seems endless and forever fun!

On a snowy day or right after a major snow fall, this is a “must-ski” trail for any powder hound worth their salt! You don’t generally run “laps” on Mayflower Bowl. Once is a good measure; twice perhaps if you decide to venture into the nearby chutes, to skiers’ right, another double black diamond. 

DThen, there is spring skiing, when powder turns to corn. It brings another totally different experience that is quintessentially “Deer Valley”. It is best consumed in the morning when the sun has just begun to bake the spring snow and when the ski edges can get a good grip into the buttery snow surface. Like skiing the bowl in powder, it’s a unique feeling too, but this time the sensations can be totally different!

Ruins of Pompeii is a black diamond ski run that begins at the top of Bald Mountain and drops you to the lower part of Tycoon ski run and ends up at the base of Sultan Express chairlift. Until this season, I wasn’t particularly infatuated by this ski run, but it has grown on me to the point that I have now become a fan of its varied terrain.

dvr-5run8aThe entrance to Ruins of Pompeii ski run is hidden from views behind a curtain of pine trees. As you poke your head through them, you soon appreciate the steepness below and begin studying a safe spot for your first turn! The initial pitch is super steep and there are even a few trees interspersed in the middle to make linking turns even more challenging!

DThis part is followed by a gentler slope where most skiers are allowed to regain their composure before it transitions toward trees to skiers’ right, or continues down the rest of the trail into a long gully, to the left. The latter is the complete run and is guaranteed to focus one’s energy and attention until the trail merges with Tycoon ski run, one-third of the total distance away from Sultan Express chairlift. An alternative is to take Peerless ski run, through the trees, and rejoin Perseverance Bowl. I choose this option half of the time, because I find it more varied and since I adore skiing in the forest, much more!

dvr-5run9For me, Centennial Trees is the holy grail of tree skiing at Deer Valley Resort. This double diamond begins skiers’ right, at the top of Lady Morgan Express chairlift. It’s only trees and it’s very challenging, always fun, and filled with surprises. The top is forested with large pine trees and can get quite bumpy as each turning spot is marked by a giant evergreen. After a major snowfall, though, the moguls disappear and this the best time to enjoy it!

The middle portion of the descent brings some gentler grade and transitions from the pine tree forest into aspen grove. Every tree is an open invitation to weave your way around it and an opportunity to search for the next possible turn. It never stops, it’s relentless and, in our mountain parlance, it’s a true “ski-turner!” The lower segment of the trail keeps on running through the aspens while plunging into a gully that demands a last-ditch effort and some extra nimbleness.

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Unlike most trails, this one isn’t over until it’s over, as total focus is necessary to keep control and remain standing on the skis. Each season, the Deer Valley “Glading Team” has been enlarging Centennial’s skiable acreage by opening more paths and increasing the number of options available to skiers. If you love double-diamond tree skiing, don’t miss it!

James “Jamo” O’Reilly’s Deer Valley Difference

A wonderful home away from home is central to a perfect Deer Valley Resort vacation. To make sure guests have long-lasting memories of their ski getaway, James “Jamo” O’Reilly, General Manager of Black Diamond Lodge, ensures that his staff love what they’re doing and leave no stone unturned to exceed their guests’ expectations. I recently had a chance to visit this stunning property and asked Jamo the secret behind a perfect stay.

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JF: What a beautiful lodge, Jamo!

Jamo: Thank you.

JF: What services do you provide for Deer Valley Resort guests?

Jamo: In the winter, we operate Black Diamond Lodge like a hotel. We have a fully staffed front desk from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., we offer concierge service five days a week and our guests have access to our shuttle service throughout the Park City area. They also have two ski valets at their disposal to help them from their lockers to the mountain; we also have a full housekeeping department that offers daily housekeeping.

JF: How large are your units?

Jamo: Our units range from 3,000 to 4,800 square feet and feature one to four bedrooms. In addition, the larger units offer lots of extra common areas and many of them have an additional living room, entertainment or play area. All of the Black Diamond Lodge residences have outdoor decks with mountain views. Easy access to the slopes, the ski school and many other Deer Valley Resort services make Black Diamond Lodge a perfect choice for families.

JF: What did you do before becoming Black Diamond Lodge’s general manager?

Jamo: I spent 20 years working at Rustler Lodge at Alta Ski Area. My career path is a classic “Utah ski bum story.” As a teenager, I moved to Alta from Rhode Island and worked several years in maintenance. I then went back to school to get my degree to become a school teacher, but it didn’t work out, so I returned to Alta and spent another eight years as the Assistant General Manager at the Alta Rustler Lodge. Since my wife and I always had the dream of moving to Park City, that goal materialized four year’s ago. I first worked at a few different properties, one of them being The Deer Valley Club two years ago. I began working  at Black Diamond Lodge in April of 2014.

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JF: What did you do when you started at The Deer Valley Club?

Jamo: I was a night supervisor; I stayed in that position for a little over a year and was promoted to Assistant General Manager of the Deer Valley Club prior to my becoming General Manager of Black Diamond Lodge.

JF: With so many hospitality companies around Park City, why choose a position with Deer Valley Resort?

Jamo: Deer Valley Resort has an incredible reputation as a fantastic employer. This was the ideal choice for me.

JF: Did your expectations come to fruition?

Jamo: Absolutely! I took a pretty big career risk when I accepted the night supervisor position at The Deer Valley Club; it was a step down from the position I held before. It was the leap of faith needed to get my foot in the door at Deer Valley Resort and today I could not have asked for anything better. Within two years, I find myself the General Manager of this beautiful property, I’m thrilled!

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JF: The cream always rises to the top!

Jamo: I don’t know if I fully deserve this promotion but I did my very best to get it. To complement my professional experience, I once again returned to school, went through the Executive MBA program at the University of Utah and graduated in 2010. This has also helped me along in my career with Deer Valley Resort.

JF: Even though you’ve been in the hospitality industry for quite a long time, are there elements that you’ve learned through your association with Deer Valley Resort?

Jamo: Most of my past experience was with a privately owned hotel, working for one individual owner in a small business environment. Working here is quite different. First of all, the properties are owned by individual owners. Then, I must also work with a homeowners association. All of of this has taught me to earn the trust, not only of the guests, but that of all the homeowners as well.

JF: How have you been doing in managing the varying interests between homeowners and guests?

Jamo: I drew from the fact that integrity is part of the Deer Valley core values. If you follow your heart, do what’s right, strive for full transparency and disclosure between homeowners, guests and the resort, everyone gets their fair share.

JF: As your Deer Valley career has evolved, what kind of support did you receive from the company?

Jamo: Jeff Bennett, the General Manager of the Deer Valley Club, has been a fantastic mentor. I wouldn’t be in my position if it were not for the help and support Jeff gave me along the way. I’ve also spent a lot of time with Kim McClelland, the Director of Lodging, who has been another wonderful mentor. Another benefit of working for a very well established organization like Deer Valley Resort is having access to their Human Resources department, another priceless resource; this too, helped me succeed in my position.

JF: On the subject of human resources and potential employee positions, what would you say to individuals considering employment with Deer Valley Resort?

Jamo: I would say that it’s a wonderful place to work, packed with great opportunities. The working environment is extremely rewarding and always positive. Of course, the skiing is fantastic and the employee benefits are incredible.

JF: Are there specific qualities that can accelerate the career path of an employee?

Jamo O’Reilly: You just have to be honest, hard-working, responsible and reliable. The hospitality work is not that difficult. You just need to show up, have a good attitude, be smart, make good decisions and feel happy with what you’re doing. It’s rewarding to be able to provide a positive experience to the guests and be part of making their vacation a success.

JF: From your perspective, what constitutes the Deer Valley Difference?

Jamo: It’s the fact that our employees are empowered and encouraged to offer a personal touch and have a personal connection with our guests. This is what translates into the seamless, perfect experience our guests enjoy. It begins when they check into our properties, reserve their activities, instantly access the chairlift, enjoy great food and it ends a with a fun evening with family and friends. When all is said and done, the Deer Valley Difference boils down to the fact that every employee has the possibility of having a great impact on someone’s experience at Deer Valley. They just need to keep it in mind and run with it!

JF’s Mid-Season Review

As February begins, I feel that we have now stepped into the second half of winter with longer days, deeper snow, great light and an urgent need for generous layers of sunscreen. Before we turn the page on the earlier portion of winter and look to its brighter second half, I wanted to share with you my on-snow experiences so far so we can compare notes or make you feel just a tiny bit jealous if you haven’t skied yet!

With me, winter always begins with great expectations of bottomless powder, but I publicly refrain to verbalize these thoughts as I actively manage my expectations. In fact, when I speak to other skiers, I loudly claim that I expect nothing in terms of snowfall, so Mother Nature will constantly surprise me!

While most of my skiing took place at Deer Valley Resort, I began skiing late November at nearby ski areas. The snow received through November bode very well for another great season. Still, I kept my exuberance in check and prudently, adjusted my expectations. In spite of that, I watched the weather like a hawk. It’s not something I just do daily, but several times in the course of a single day. Over the years, I have become partial to the Weather Underground website and app, that I find most accurate.

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While other weather stations give me a week preview of the weather to come, this one predicts up to ten days into the future. So if there’s something I don’t like today, I generally can find what I want to see in one of the nine remaining days. If a ten-day time span sounds like overkill, there’s the more granular hour-by-hour detail that enables you to poke your nose out when the snow stops and the sun starts filtering through the clouds.

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But enough said about weather and snow, let’s go back to my early season skiing. The very early weeks are often a progressive process. It always takes time to get a big resort like Deer Valley 100% open. That’s good, because a finite run work-in-step with early season physical conditioning and the time needed to reawaken skiing skills.

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I have had a wonderful ski season so far. I’ve skied just over 50 days and just shy of one million vertical feet. I hope to reach the century mark in ski-days before the season is over. I was lucky enough to avoid an imprudent white ermine that was crossing the bottom portion of Perseverance ski run and startled a large jack rabbit at the top of Centennial Trees ski run.

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So where did all of my skiing take place? It began on groomers; Deer Valley Resort grooms its runs better than most and the experience is always good whether we receive a foot of fresh snow a day or not. My favorite groomed runs remain both Nabob and Jordanelle ski runs and many of my days at Deer Valley are marked by one of these two runs.

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Most of my skiing takes place around my three favorite chairlifts: Sultan, Wasatch and Lady Morgan. While they’re spread at the opposite ends of the resort, with so much challenging terrain and fast chairlifts, I’m able to accomplish one full day of skiing within just a few hours. The snow cover has been especially good on Ruin of Pompeii and Grizzly ski runs, two of my favorites. These runs are wonderful; not only are they longer and more challenging than most, but they both end as a groomed segment just in time to relieve some very tired legs.

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I also like Wasatch Express chairlift for the large array of ski runs it serves. My favorite one is definitely Rattler ski run that sends an invitation as one rides up the chairlift. The early season has had great snow cover on this run.

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From the Lady Morgan Express chairlift, I’m partial to Argus, Hillside and Centennial Trees. I find the two first trails extremely technical and they never fail to provide me with a good challenge. Centennial Trees ski run remains the forest wonderland where some regular and well-thought out glade skiing keeps making the ski experience better, season after season for me. The bonus with skiing Lady Morgan is it always provides me with an excellent excuse to ski Ontario Bowl on my way back, with more trees and steeps to round off the experience of the day.

Here’s to 50 more days on the mountain this season!

David Smalis’ Deer Valley Difference™

David Smalis manages a lodging reservation team whose job it is to paint a vivid picture of a winter vacation home that will perfectly match the needs of its guests. Every piece of the puzzle needs to fit and this requires superior listening abilities, tireless research and absolute integrity during the entire process. David began working for Deer Valley Resort as an intern during the 2007-2008 ski season and is now the Assistant Manager of Deer Valley Resort Lodging and Reservations; he shares with us the essence of his experience.

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JF: David, what exactly are your responsibilities with Deer Valley Resort?

David: I supervise a team of Vacation Planners, that’s what we call our reservations agents. Our team fluctuates from about five individuals during the summer to around 10 in the winter.

JF: How do your Vacation Planners work with guests?

David: Mostly over the phone; they take in-bound calls related to lodging reservations and associated activities, when needed.

JF: What did you do prior to your employment with Deer Valley Resort?

David: I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and lived there until I was 24. I went to college at Arizona State University. I was already familiar with Park City since my family used to vacation here. I decided to come to Utah while in college, just to do something different; since I really liked the ski industry, I applied to work at Deer Valley Resort.

JF: What was your job at the time?

David: I began with an internship on the mountain with the Race Department and came back to start as a Vacation Planner the next summer. 

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JF: What specifically attracted you to Deer Valley Resort?

David: I was already familiar with the resort and that’s what brought me to my internship. Later, having worked with a travel agency during college, I had the skills required for the Vacation Planner position.

JF: What did you expect as you started your internship?

David: Since my internship counted for credits during my last semester in college, I expected to have fun skiing, get credits for my work and then come home. At that time, I didn’t expect to be here full-time!

JF: What made you change your mind?

David: Once I came back home after my internship, I realized that I wasn’t tied down to anything since I was finished with college. I still needed to get a job, so I came back to Deer Valley Resort.

JF: What were your key motivations for returning?

David: Skiing has been a passion of mine since a very young age, and not just skiing, but also the general atmosphere surrounding the sport; since I was familiar with this area, it seemed like a natural choice. I have been a life-long golfer as well, so with the best of both worlds within easy reach, skiing in winter and golf in summer, I couldn’t be happier.

JF: The perfect confluence.

David: Exactly! In college I majored in communication and I felt that I could go in many directions with it. The fact that I was able to find a job up here I could enjoy as well helped to seal the deal. I found something that I enjoyed doing in a place where I enjoyed being!

JF: Compared to your previous jobs, what has your Deer Valley work experience been like?

David: I worked through college at a travel agency in Tempe, Arizona, which gave me some valuable experience as it relates to the travel industry. This said, the company I worked for was neither too organized nor the most professional, and I found a stark difference when I joined Deer Valley Resort. Here, people stay employed for years and years, something I haven’t seen in other companies!

JF: What impressed you the most at Deer Valley?

David: The executives really set some great examples conducive to cementing a strong team spirit. They’re not above helping employees when the need arises. I’ve seen the president of the resort taking skis at the ski corral during a busy time, just because there was a need. Likewise, I’ve seen other executives clearing tables during Christmas and these kinds of situations go a long way towards creating a unique and wholesome work climate.

JF: How much support did you get along the way?

David: I found that Deer Valley has a culture of promoting from within whenever possible. This helps a lot when you start from a ground-level position and can see that possibility. But you need to have the motivation to move up the ranks. I had it and I’ve always received all the support I needed from my superiors.

JF: Would you like to share some advice for people looking for employment with Deer Valley?

David: I have had nothing but good experiences at Deer Valley. It’s a great place to work and the company treats people very well, but it’s not a job where you can just come in and go through the motions. You must care a lot and be intensely driven in making a real difference to our guests.

JF: A real difference? Is that what defines the “Deer Valley Difference™”?

David: The easiest way to answer is by using the three circle model, “Take care of the guest, take care of the company, and take care of each other.” If you do all three and have them in mind whenever you are making a decision on the job, you are making that Deer Valley Difference™ a reality.

JF: Would that difference influence your making a lifelong career with Deer Valley Resort?

David: When I look at the resort’s master plan and what is going on at the moment in town, I’m truly excited for the future. So to answer your question, I would love to work for Deer Valley for the rest of my career; that would be an ideal scenario for me!

Scarecrows at the McPolin Farm

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As you drive to Deer Valley Resort on State Route 224, it’s impossible to miss the McPolin Farm that stands as the gateway to the town of Park City. This iconic farm, purchased by the citizens of Park City in 1990, is meant to enhance the entry corridor and maintain some precious open space.

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Since those days, the barn and farm have been extensively refurbished, stabilized and regularly maintained, mostly through the continuous support and work of the Friends of the Farm volunteer organization.  The McPolin Farm is also available for community events like the annual Scarecrow Festival which kicked off on September 27 and will be displayed through Halloween. A variety of scarecrows are displayed along the paved, multi-use trail that parallels the main highway.

On the last Saturday of September, Parkites created themed and handmade scarecrows. Everyone put on their creative hats, brought clothes, shoes and accessories and created a collection of unique characters.

In exchange for a donation benefiting the McPolin Farm, organizers provided the stuffing material and a support stand for each scarecrow. Events including games, pumpkin carving and face painting were held while the scarecrows were assembled. Creativity went wild and the end result is stunning!

Now the show is yours to enjoy. This past weekend, we took our grandson and he had the time of his life discovering the whimsical and sometimes spooky creatures that were lining the path. We checked each scarecrow from head to toe, laughed when we read their stage name and took lots of photos. Following is a pictorial summary of what we liked most:

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From Snoopy to Star Wars, characters are always popular; there’s something for everyone…

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The majority of creations are just fun and whimsical…

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What would a display of scarecrows be, without a few crow-creations?

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Of course, there is always room for the spooky kind…

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Education wasn’t forgotten either!

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…As well as worthy causes, like the ALS bucket challenge.

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What would Park City be without sports of all kinds?

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… and skiing, of course!

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But above anything else, Snow, and lots of it!

Don’t wait; bring your kids or grandchildren along with their friends, and enjoy a day out. Just make sure to park across the street in the parking lot and walk through the tunnel to get across the highway to the Farm. Everyone will be guaranteed a great time, will get plenty of fresh inspiration and perhaps will want to create their very own Scarecrow next September!

Kathy Sherwin’s Deer Valley Difference

Fresh out of college, Kathy began her career at Deer Valley Resort as a Ski Instructor before joining the Ski Patrol team and then moving on to the resort’s Human Resources department. She didn’t stop there and worked part-time in retail at the resort’s Signatures Stores, while she pursued a career as a professional cyclist. Today, she is the Tour & Travel/International Coordinator in the Marketing department. Before she re-invents herself once more, I stopped Kathy for a few precious minutes to uncover the secret of her breathless career path with Deer Valley Resort.

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JF: What was your life like before Deer Valley Resort?

Kathy Sherwin: I was raised in Tacoma, Washington and always was a very active child. I was a tomboy, I guess; I already had my little BMX bike and built a track for it in the back of the house. I also played soccer, tennis and was put on the ski bus every week by my parents.

JF: Where did you go skiing?

Kathy Sherwin: Snoqualmie Pass, Crystal Mountain and White Pass; those were the main places I learned to ski; I was always on the go!

JF: As you grew up, which career path did you want to pursue?

Kathy Sherwin: It’s kind of funny; I wanted to be a doctor. As I started volunteering and working in that field, I soon realized that everyone was sick. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be around all these sick people all the time and started looking instead into preventive approaches to healthcare which led me to a healthier lifestyle. I met my late husband in college and he was the one who had a bicycle and said, “Hey, let’s commute to school everyday.” It was of course much faster to ride our bikes than drive for 40 minutes in Seattle’s traffic. That’s how I got back into bike riding.

JF: I guess, biking was well planted into your DNA.

Kathy Sherwin: Yes. I remember telling my mom, “I want to bike race!” when I was 6 years old, but it didn’t happen.

JF: So you are at the university and then you graduate; what brought you to Deer Valley Resort?

Kathy Sherwin: My late husband said, “I’ve heard about Deer Valley Resort, it’s a great place in Utah; they treat their employees extremely well.” So we went, we got jobs, he became a Mountain Host and I became a Ski Instructor.

Kathy in the early days at Deer Valley Resort with late husband Chris Sherwin.

Kathy in the early days at Deer Valley Resort with late husband Chris Sherwin.

 JF: Had you taught skiing before?

Kathy Sherwin: Yes, I forgot to tell you; I had taught skiing at Ski Acres, next to Snoqualmie in Washington, during my last year of college.

JF: What were your expectations when you arrived at Deer Valley Resort?

Kathy Sherwin: That we would work there for a season or two and leave.

JF: And move on to another place?

Kathy Sherwin: Yes, but Deer Valley Resort was so fantastic and with the employee benefits, the way we were treated, and the tight-knit family atmosphere, it was hard to think about leaving.

JF: Were you hooked?

Kathy Sherwin: Totally!

JF: What did you learn during your first season?

Kathy Sherwin: The importance of customer service. If you had a question from a guest and didn’t have an answer for it, you would go find it out and would get back to the guest no matter how much work it meant and whether it took a few minutes or an hour. I thought it was pretty cool because many other places didn’t know how to service their customers that well.

JF: What else did you learn?

Kathy Sherwin: The other thing that I discovered, that I thought was really neat and interesting, was that all the departments were working well together. So we got along well with the kitchen and the kitchen would help us, Mountain Hosts would help us too; soon, the other departments would pitch in. The philosophy was, “We’re all under one roof, we’re trying to achieve the same goals, so we need to help each other to achieve them.”

JF: Did you feel this came naturally from all your coworkers?

Kathy Sherwin: We had orientation and training, but no one can force a certain attitude on you. With the kind of employees that we have, many of them so well-educated, this way of acting comes quite naturally. It isn’t pushed down your throat and most people buy in to that concept.

JF: What’s remarkable about your career at Deer Valley Resort is the impressive range of positions you have occupied over the years; tell us about that.

Kathy Sherwin: The ski school came naturally because I had done it previously. Still continuing on the thought that I wanted to go into medicine, I became an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and joined the Ski Patrol for a few years. Then about a year later, after my husband and I married, I had the urge to get a “real job” and an Administrative Assistant position in Human Resources became available. I applied and got the job.

JF: Was it a year-round job?

Kathy Sherwin: Yes, salaried, full-time. I did it for a little over 10 years and worked my way up to HR Manager by the time I left. I decided to then pursue my passion of racing a bicycle full-time.

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JF: Did you take a sabbatical or did you find some other working arrangement?

Kathy Sherwin: What I did was to work on-call with the Deer Valley Signatures stores. I would come to help over Christmas, holidays and other busy periods and did this for six years. In the meantime, I was racing my bike full-time, traveling the world and training daily.

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JF: How did that passion for mountain bike racing develop?

Kathy Sherwin: When I was sitting in the HR department, I watched the NORBA (National Off Road Bicycle Association) series come through and set up mountain bike races; I wondered what this was all about and thought it would be cool to try one day.

JF: Did you have any mountain biking experience?

Kathy Sherwin: Not really, I would occasionally ride a hard-tail mountain bike and eventually I ended up getting a full-suspension one. I loved it and started to race. My first competition was the Intermountain Cup Series, 14 years ago. I participated as a beginner and won my category, which was a real shocker to me.

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JF: What happened after that?

Kathy Sherwin: Everyone was excited for me and told me to go on to the next race, which I did and won! Then I got a local sponsor and little by little, I built my resume up to garner even more sponsors, about ten of them. I was able to accomplish all this without even setting the goal of becoming a professional in the first place.

Kathy on a muddy day of cyclo-cross.

Kathy on a muddy day of cyclo-cross.

JF: Is this how you went on to race nationally and joined the international scene?

Kathy Sherwin: Right. I raced in Canada, Belgium, Scotland, Germany, among other countries.

JF: How long did you race as a Professional?

Kathy Sherwin: About six years.

JF: How did you return to Deer Valley Resort?

Kathy Sherwin: I always knew I wanted to return to Deer Valley and this was always part of the plan. I knew I wanted to work in the Marketing department. A position became available when my husband was sick with cancer, which made the transition so timely. 

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JF: How do you like working in the Marketing department?

Kathy Sherwin: I love it. It’s amazing, as a professional athlete, how you must learn to sell yourself. First I was really shy about it, but it soon became a matter of survival. You learn how to push yourself and show what is important to the person you’re selling something to. It’s amazing how my competitive experience translated into the sales and marketing process. Add to this my love and passion for Deer Valley Resort, the best product out there, all these pieces make it so easy!

Kathy sharing trade secrets with the Travelocity Gnome.

Kathy sharing trade secrets with the Travelocity Gnome.

JF: In looking back over your remarkable career, where do you see the essence of the Deer Valley Difference?

Kathy Sherwin: It’s all in the guest service quality, being upfront with all the experience and value we’re offering our guests. The key is to provide guests with an experience that is always over the top and makes a true difference for them. I love being part of that entire process. I would also add that the company’s leadership has a huge influence on the Deer Valley Difference. For example, Bob Wheaton, our President and General Manager, is instrumental in making it work by leading through example and there’s a trickle down effect throughout the entire work force. This and the fact that we’re all empowered to think out-of-the-box when it comes to solving problems and finding solutions for guests, continuously fuels a customer service experience second to none.

JF: In closing, and for our readers considering a Deer Valley Resort career, what advice would you give them?

Kathy Sherwin: They should know that our employees are kind, open, willing to engage guests, hardworking and willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. Another very cool thing about Deer Valley Resort is that we hire a lot from within – I mean a lot. So go get that “entry-level” job, because, before you know it, you can have a year-round position; this is exactly what I did.

Things you never thought you could do on a mountain bike

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Your brand new mountain bike is ready to take you on the many exciting trails that Deer Valley Resort has to offer. You may also know the expression, “He who can do the most, can (also) do the least,” and this perfectly applies to this piece of equipment because of its versatility and ruggedness. Today’s mountain bikes feature highly-engineered features, some powerful hydraulic disc brakes and great riding comfort thanks to a full suspension frame. This said, did you even suspect that there was more than one way to enjoy these sturdy and highly technical bikes? I found out by asking some of the experts who work at Deer Valley Resort. In just a few minutes, I was amazed to learn at what a mountain bike can accomplish.

Healing Faster

If you have injured your leg and you’re anxious to get back on your skis in the winter, chances are that your doctor or surgeon will prescribe a strong rehab program involving the use of a bike. Since stationary bikes can be boring after awhile, consider using your mountain bike instead. You don’t need to take it to any expert single track trails though; just ride it on a nearby asphalt or gravel bike path.

Earning a Living

Besides being a professional mountain bike racer, becoming a mountain bike patroler is a neat way to earn a living by using a mountain bike everyday. Patrol work involves a fair amount of trail maintenance activities and you’ll soon find yourself carrying a rake, a pick ax or even a chainsaw while riding. Earning a living this way also applies to the lift operators who, at the end of their shift or the end of the day, can jump on their bikes and ride down the mountain for fun. Policemen in Park City also share in that perk by carrying a service bike on the back of their SUV’s.

Trail Research and Development

New trail ideas generally begin on a map. Very soon however, they must be fine-tuned in their real environment. Most of the time, new trail paths cross obstacles like ski runs, undulating meadows, creek beds, rock formations and forested areas. It often helps a great deal to trace the ideal contours of the trail through that variable terrain by first riding it, before any trail is cut, to uncover the most natural path. On grassy meadows or on ski runs, the bike lays the grass down and works as a fine tracing tool.

Assistant Bike Patrol Manager, Chris Erkkila

Deer Valley Resort’s Assistant Bike Patrol Manager, Chris Erkkila.

Trail Testing

There are moments when it’s time to test a section of a new trail; the builder has to be the guinea pig and test a delicate passage or a tricky area, just like a test pilot would do. On segments of trails that are built around a big rock drop or a succession of large stumps, patrol staff and trail builders will use a bike without a rider. The bike is rolled over the obstacle to make sure that the chainring won’t hit anything. Chris Erkkila, assistant bike partrol manager, says that he uses this technique as a training tool, “When I teach new bike patrollers how to ride on tough terrain, I follow the same procedure and tell them that if the bike clears the obstacle, so can they.”

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Snow Riding

Surprisingly, mountain bikes do quite well on snow. No, we’re not talking about the fat-bikes with gigantic tires that are becoming the new rage in winter, but just your run-of-the-mill mountain bike. They perform well as long as there is fairly good hard-packed snow; you want to look for smooth surfaces and avoid too much tire penetration. Lowering the air pressure helps traction. Of course, when there’s deep snow over some hard pack, the sensation can be one of a kind especially if the snow is some dry, Utah powder. Says Doug Gormley, lead bike instructor, “I have been in a foot of dry, fluffy snow with hard-pack below and the sensation was out of this world.” The Mega Avalanche race in Europe would be another opportunity to test your bike in a group setting and experience mountain biking as a four season sport. Please remember that mountain bikes are not allowed at Deer Valley Resort during the ski season.

The Mega Avalanche race in Europe

The Mega Avalanche race in Europe

Performing tricks

Like any other bicycle, a mountain bike can do wheelies and a variety of tricks. The price to pay is a few more pounds to maneuver, but it’s doable. Wheelies, manuals, bunny hops and the whole panoply of tricks ingrained into BMX culture are totally possible with a mountain bike. Riders can take their “fat tires” on prepared tracks and do some dirt jumping. Most of the time, a bike with only front shocks will suffice and will feel a tad lighter. Besides the added weight, mountain bikes have other limitations. BMX bikes are lighter and tend to soar higher in the air. BMX bikes also have smaller wheels and a shorter wheelbase making them perfectly adapted to the terrain prepared-tracks and dirt jumps, but if you don’t own a BMX, there’s still plenty of fun to be had on your mountain bike.

Going Up and Down Stairs:

I have saved this one for last, because I’ve always been fascinated watching mountain bikers going down stairs without even thinking twice. In fact, I have been told that it’s possible to ride down huge staircases that wind back and forth into corners and zigzag all the way. Yet, as surprisingly as it sounds, the reverse is also true. With proper gearing, climbing stairs is also possible on a bike. You can also use a mountain bike as a trial bike, on which you balance the bike and literally hop the stairs. Doug can do it and he said, “My very first experience was in a building. For stairs, a full-suspension bike is better for both pedaling up the stairs and going down the stairs. A bike without suspension would actually be better for hopping.”

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Upon reading this short overview, you now have a good idea of the amazing capabilities of your mountain bike. What cool things do you do on your mountain bike? Tell us on Twitter @Deer_Valley or in the comments below.