Carving Skis, Powder Skis and Skis In Between

I often look at my ski rack and wonder what I could change to make skiing even more fun and a little easier. In other words, which ski do I really need? This basic question conjured up so many parameters that just one simple answer seemed totally impossible. But I was determined to find out and what follows is the story of my search for the perfect ski.

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I began by visiting the Rossignol North American Headquarters, right here in Park City, Utah. I spent some time with Nick Castagnoli, communication and public relations officer for the brand. Deer Valley Resort works closely with Rossignol, one of the world’s leading equipment manufacturers, both at its Empire Test Center and also in all of its ski rental operations. Nick took me to the showroom where next winter’s collection was already on display. Needless to say that I was overwhelmed by the breadth of models available, but his expertise quickly brought some order to my confused mind.

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He first introduced the carving skis, Rossignol’s new Pursuit line. “These are pure carving tools,” said Nick, “Their mid-sole dimensions only range from 71 to 73 mm. These are fast edge-to-edge. You barely roll your ankle and you’re gone.” He immediately saw that this wasn’t quite my type of ski and explained that the carving and powder ski categories were bridged by a wonderful family of All-Mountain skis, called the Experience Series for men and the Temptation Series for women. “From coast-to-coast these skis represent the majority of our sales. They stand as benchmark of versatility for consumers. Not everyone skis deep powder.” added Nick.

I asked what might be the best width for me in the Experience line and Nick suggested that I try a few different versions at the Rossignol High Performance Test Center at Deer Valley Resort. I also asked what seemed to be the practical range of acceptable ski width (this is measured in millimeters under the foot at the mid-section of the ski) for the kind of skiing I was doing. Nick just smiled and said: “We’ve seen all kinds of widths in recent years, but the pendulum always swings back. Today from 85 to 110 mm seems to be where it’s at!”

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Nick skis on the Soul 7, a powder ski, the other flagship of the Rossignol line. “Skiers want a ski that’s versatile. Something that works for any occasion. The Soul 7 is an aspirational ski; Everyone wants to become a good powder skier.” He went on to explain the distinctive, longer lightweight (air) tip in that series of skis designed to minimize swing-weight and also match the rocker location. Nick explained, “weight is a big deal for us. Lightweight is the trend these days, so we are working hard at making both our skis and bindings significantly lighter, which in turn makes skiing much easier without compromising performance.”

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My meeting with Nick Castagnoli brought me one step closer to understanding what would be the perfect ski for me. But since I didn’t want to leave any stone unturned, I returned to the Rossignol High Performance Test Center, located near the Empire Canyon Lodge at Deer Valley Resort. I had paid one visit in January and needed to refresh my memory.

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I wanted to ski again on the Soul 7, Rossignol’s best-selling freeride ski (the Savory 7 is the women’s equivalent). If you’re not familiar with the term freeride, simply equate it to powder or deep snow skiing. This very distinctive yellow ski spans over backcountry, freestyle and powder skiing. Its particular “rocker” design is meant to prevent tip flapping and brings an effortless flotation. Because of this the ski literally plows its way through the most challenging snow conditions, from bottomless powder to forbidding crud and even spring snow. The ski also does a decent job on hard-pack but this is not where I would primarily use it. I particularly liked its tip that projects higher up, offering an added feature when going over unknown terrain in fresh snow or extremely deep moguls.

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Since I don’t spend much time skiing hard-pack, I didn’t look at or test the carving skis that Rossignol offers in this product category. I was looking for the everyday Deer Valley ski, that I think I found in the Experience series. I just want my skis to initiate easily when I take them in tight forested spots and yet I need them to be stable when I happen to find myself on groomed runs, which is where I often end up during the early and late portions of the season. The rest of the time my favorite playground is natural terrain, trees, crud (mostly) and powder of variable depth each time mother nature programs a snowfall!

I remember trying both the Experience 84 and 88. The 88 was the one I liked the most. I found it to be very versatile for my type of skiing and solid enough in terms of quickness and stability. It can carve when it has to and is very responsive, perhaps because of its more subtle rocker design. I also found it quite stable and easy to control when it had to plow through changing snow conditions or transition from smooth to bumpy terrain.

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That’s it; I have determined that the Experience 88 is the perfect ski for me. Doing a little homework was worth it and made me confident that I didn’t have to make much compromise as I have done so many times before. I’m satisfied that I have made the perfect choice, found the right equipment for me, and can already look forward to the next ski season! I hope this helps you choose your perfect ski too. 

Best Memories from My 2014 – 15 Ski Season

Each passing ski season brings us more memories and more experiences, but if we don’t make a conscious effort to inventory them all while they’re still vivid in our minds, they’ll quickly vanish. Here are a few snapshots of events that, for me, have made this winter another one to remember and treasure.

My best spring skiing season ever!

When the powder settled, this season might be called the “Endless Spring” as spring skiing conditions had never been so good for so long. The incredible layer of snow blown earlier in the winter made for a long lasting and consistent base that comfortably took us to Deer Valley’s closing day with still plenty of skiing to be had. In late March, I ran laps everyday under Sultan Express chairlift from 9 a.m. until noon and had the time of my life, mixing smooth cruising runs with interludes on corn snow when the sun had just begun to bake its surface. It was the best spring skiing I’ve experienced in the thirty years I’ve lived in Park City!

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Exploring Bucky’s Backyard with my grandson

My seven year-old grandson likes skiing under the condition that the experience be “super fun.” Just sliding down any hill won’t do. Which is why, when Finn goes skiing with grandpa, the outing has to be worth the effort and must include some adventurous skiing. What better place to take him than down one of the children’s features at Deer Valley called Bucky’s Backyard? It’s replete with humongous moguls, gulleys, ups-and-downs , downs-and-up. It’s relentless, it goes through the trees and the smaller the legs the swifter the action! Finn asks to do it again more times than not. 

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Impromptu Doctor visit, audience with a Judge.

When I ski Deer Valley by myself, and return home, my wife never fails to asks me if I have seen people we both know. I proceed to tell her that Deer Valley is a big mountain and that it’s very hard to recognize acquaintances with their gear on. With helmets and huge goggles these days, identifying folks on the hill has become all but impossible. This said, I had two interesting, random encounters this winter while riding Deer Valley’s chairlifts.

The first one happened as my wife and I were boarding Wasatch Express chairlift and a “single” joined us for the ride. He looked familiar to us and we must also have looked the same to him. After a long moment of silence, we realized he was our family doctor and he recognized us as two of his patients! Never before had we had seen him on the slopes in his ski outfit!

The second one also happened on Wasatch Express chairlift when I was skiing alone and was joined by a Deer Valley Mountain Host. We immediately started up a conversation and my female companion told me about a mishap she just had with her car on the way to work at the resort. As I began to empathize with her, she picked up on my French accent and recognized me as one of her neighbors from down the street. I didn’t know she was a Mountain Host, I only knew her as one of our Summit County Judges!

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Face shots with my daughter

My daughter lives and works in Washington D.C. and whenever she comes to visit she must have some power over the jet streams and what’s inside the clouds, because it never fails to snow. Of course, new snow means powder skiing! She got to sample the powder with me in December when Empire Bowl opened and was shredding again Centennial Trees with her Dad in early March when some 18” of new snow brought us a welcome refill.

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Running into… wildlife!

I must say that this winter season has been full of surprising encounters with wildlife on, and off, the Deer Valley slopes. The first encounter happened in December when I spotted a sage grouse ambling on the edge of Birdseye ski run. The sighting recurred late March from the Sultan Express chairlift. I spotted another sage grouse crossing at the bottom section of Tycoon. In both situations the birds didn’t seem to care about the skiers and the snow they were carving. Like the proverbial chicken, they were “just getting to the other side of the trail.”

In December an imprudent ermine in his white camouflage took upon himself to cross the trail in the area of Tycoon and Perseverance. I almost ran over him if it were not for a the last second wiggling of my skis!

In February, I was skiing down Centennial Trees when I startled a large snowshoe hare that sprung ahead of me. Rather I should say that the hare startled me! I tried to catch up with the furry critter but he left me in the dust or better yet, in the powder!

I will leave the biggest and the best of these encounters for last. Late March as my wife and I where returning home from skiing and riding the Crown Point chairlift, we saw a large female moose either grazing or looking for some dropped ski poles, smart-phone or gloves, under the lift towers.

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Now, time for you to write your list down and share your best snapshots of the season!

Five Things I’ve learned this season

We learn a lot each season about skiing. As the 2014-2015 winter comes to a close, here are five of my key “take-away” that I want to share with you.

5.  Always Keep Hoping

Last December I was expecting countless days of bottomless powder that mother nature seemed to have a difficult time dispensing. All season long I kept looking forward to “face shots” in spite of an indifferent weather forecast, unexciting predictions from the Farmer’s Almanac and the fatalistic attitudes of many of my friends. To further protect me against the fear of drought, I pushed back any thoughts of perfect bluebird days (we got many of these) and tried instead to focus on that pesky jet stream. In hopes it would redirect its precipitation towards Utah. Obviously, none of my wishful thinking worked too well and I hope it didn’t upset Mother Nature. Since I’m an optimist, I don’t think I did. I was just doing a steady job hoping and in the end, it worked to a large degree because I skied plenty of good snow this winter.

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4. A bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush

My main season’s objective was to ski 100 days! I had never done it before in a non-professional capacity, so I was determined to achieve it. I must admit that when one lives in Park City it’s extremely hard not to become complacent in getting out to ski. For many of us, the sky is never perfectly blue and the snow never fluffy or deep enough. This year became the “no excuse” winter. No matter what the weather or the snow was said to be, I went out, did my skiing and without one single exception ended up pleasantly surprised. I was always glad I did it! Each of my ski outings always exceeded my expectations and I have surpassed my goal!

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3. Skiing is All About Terrain and Exploration

Too much snow can make us a bit lazy. Normally curvy, bumpy and otherwise varied terrain, looks like a flat surface on top of six feet of snow. Conversely, a thinner cover exposes more of the terrain. It shows every single little detail and nooks and crannies come in full view. This is what tempts me to explore and play in new terrain. In fact, a little bit less snow than usual reveals more of the terrain’s true texture. It also forces us to discover subtle passages into the trees, a stash of powder that no one even knew existed, an interesting short-cut, or a new path that even the most seasoned Deer Valley skier never suspected.

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2. Don’t Let Your First Run Define Your Ski Day

This winter I sometimes found it difficult to warm up as I began my ski day. My first few runs were more awkward, not as smooth and more tentative than my last run from the day before. I had noticed some of this in the past but it seems that it came out much more acutely this season. After a few more runs, my normal feelings returned and took over for the rest of the outing. It might be the simple reality that we all need to warm up or recover this animal instinct that makes us ski, as if we had been secretly endowed with that wonderful skill at birth.
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1. Easy Does It

Skiing is a wonderful way to have lots of fun outside. For some skiers the experience can be one of contemplation. For many it’s the thrill of gliding and the sensation of freedom that feels like almost flying. For many proficient skiers, it’s a combination of speed, strength and perfect execution. It’s fair to say that most skiers over exert and use up far too much energy when they are on the slopes. For life-long skiers like myself who no longer are as young and vivacious, skiing can still be enjoyable as a fusion of smooth and efficient execution. It behooves us to remain super-light and always fluid on the snow. This is a bit difficult to describe. It’s a blend of minimalism, lightness and very subtle gestures. In fact smooth skiing resembles piloting. Skiers drive their skis where they want them to go and let the forces of gravity do the heavy lifting. Granted, they need muscle strength but mostly to resist compression, accelerations and maintain an edge. Skiing effortlessly, just like a feather on the snow, has become my ultimate creed!

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Lunch at Silver Lake

There are many ways to enjoy a great lunch at the Silver Lake Lodge. There are three Restaurants in this lodge; Bald Mountain Pizza, Royal Street Café and Silver Lake Restaurant. I wish I could tell you how wonderful every one of them was in great detail. For this article we’ll focus mostly on Silver Lake Restaurant.

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To make this food review more fun, I have asked five Deer Valley skiers about their lunch experience at Silver Lake Restaurant. As you read on, you’ll discover that each experience varies a lot depending on the circumstances, the company, the mood, the weather and what happened that day.

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Debbie from Florida:

The snow that began early this morning is still falling at noon and is likely to continue all day. No sitting on the deck today! The kids went straight to the Bald Mountain Pizza in search for some pizza and pasta. My husband and I picked a nice table just by the fireplace, we can use the rest. We’ve been playing all morning around Flagstaff Mountain, exploring the glades along Red Cloud chairlift and getting a few face shots! Now we just need to warm up a bit with a visit to the Soups and Stews station. I’ll go for the Turkey Chili and some fresh veggies while my husband is considering the roast sirloin, the sun-dried tomato soup, and may also pick the jumbo baked potato with fresh salsa and turkey chili toppings. Maybe dessert after if we can find room! 

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Greg from Texas:

Since today is our first day, we need to acclimate a bit and start progressively. We’re so fortunate to have such a postcard day with new snow and a deep blue sky. We decided to stop at 11:45 a.m. for an early lunch and get a table on the outdoor deck in full sun. My wife and I chose the Natural Salad Buffet. We both feel good and want to eat as much green as possible, spiced up with caper berries, olives and herbs. I know that I’ll go with some oriental veggies, while my wife is eyeing a piece of fresh bread and perhaps a small serving of penne pasta salad. I may also make a quick stop at the bakery and pick a jumbo cookie to cap off our first lunch on the mountain!

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Monika from New Jersey:

Another “bluebird” day, we’ve planned for lunch break at the Silver Lake Restaurant! We found a table right on the deck facing Bald Mountain. Five non-stop laps on Nabob and Keno ski runs have worked up my appetite. While my friends may be going for some soup and some chili, I’m headed towards the grill for a hamburger and a large serving of fries. Since I’ve been such a good trooper all morning, I feel that I deserve to take a longer lunch and may indulge in a local beer as well! My friends have pointed the bakery area out to me and I already know that it will be quasi-impossible not to stop by it. If I do, and deep inside I know I will, I’ll pick up a chocolate silk pie that I’ll share with Sarah. It may take some time before we step back into my skis again this afternoon, but we’ll make it up tomorrow!

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Frank from California:

It’s still snowing so my buddies and I have been exploring the Daly Chutes and skiing Ontario Bowl non-stop. I was a little hesitant when I dropped into Chute 10; but I guess peer pressure helped a lot! We’re all famished and the four of us decided to make a stop at The Carvery and really take care of our sudden hunger. Today’s roast is a marinated New York strip served with béarnaise that, with a slice of German chocolate cake, will go a long way in restoring my strength. Just add a draft beer each to that!

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Karrie from Missouri:

We can only ski until two and need to pack soon to catch our flight back home. Lunch will be from the Silver Lake Restaurant Deli. I enjoyed skiing Mayflower with Eddie, my instructor. I got a made-to-order deli sandwich with house roasted turkey breast, accompanied with some yummy condiments. A good cup of coffee along with a slice of fruit pie will keep my attention and give me the physical strength needed, not so much to end my ski day, but to leave this wonderful place!

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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!