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!

Tips For Beginners: Ski With Friends Who Are Better Skiers Than You Are

There is nothing worse for a beginner than to let yourself get dragged up the mountain to runs that are more advanced than your ability. Just when you are building up your confidence, you can lose it quickly!

Picture this, you’ve been taking lessons and practicing your skills. You’re feeling pretty good about yourself. Your well meaning friends, who’ve completely forgotten what it’s like to be a beginner and don’t realize where you are skill-wise, say…

“Oh, you can do that run.”

Followed by,

“I’ll take you.”

A little voice inside your head is telling you not to go. Your ski instructor just got through explaining that skiing is an individual sport and suggested you to work on your new skills before heading to the top of the mountain. Set them to muscle memory! Going to more challenging terrain often makes you revert to bad habits, wiping out what you’ve just learned. 

Does this sound familiar anyone? The whole idea spells disaster. You can’t blame your friends or your sweetheart. They mean well. All they want to do is to ski with you. 

The problem lies in the incongruity in experience. Their warm-up runs are your most challenging runs. While they are ready to head off to new territory, you are perfectly content where you are.

You want to hang with them and they with you. Everyone wants to have a great time. What are you going to do? 

Deer Valley is a perfect place to ski with friends of different abilities. If you look closely on the trail map, you’ll see that five of the six mountain peaks have nice, long “green” beginner ski runs. Beginners can enjoy gorgeous views and experience the entire resort instead of being relegated to just a few areas. 

You can ski side-by-side with your friends and ride up the lift together. Enjoy the best of both worlds: skiing with your group and staying within your ability. 

You just need a little planning and a little guidance from a mountain host is always helpful.  As the beginner, you know your limits so take an active role in planning your day. Simply pair up your beginner runs with blues and blacks that interconnect or are side-by-side.

Here are some examples I’ve found that lend themselves well to this strategy:

Bald Eagle Mountain – Success and Solid Muldoon Ski Runs (at the top)

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You take Success ski run top to bottom.

Your friends start at the top of Solid Muldoon ski run (which is way too steep for a beginner but a sweet intermediate run.) and they connect with you on Success where the two runs meet by the little cabin.  Then you ski together all the way down.

Perfect!

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Variation – alternate ending – Rosebud and Little Kate ski runs.

You take the Rosebud ski run at the end.

They take Little Kate ski run at the end and wait for you or meet at the Carpenter Express chairlift.

Flagstaff Mountain – Lily and Blue Bell Ski Runs 

Blue Bell Ski Run: This run has beginner (green) “split offs” and is one of the easiest intermediate (blue) ski runs at Deer Valley Resort, so you might want to try it if you are an advanced beginner. The top of Blue Bell ski run is steep so take the “Blue Bell Green Ski Run” cut off. 

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Instead of taking Blue Bell at the top of Quincy Express chairlift, head toward Ontario, and turn left right past the Sharp Shooter photographer.  You miss the steeper part. 

There is another “green split” on Blue Bell ski run where beginners can take Lily and Lower Lily ski runs and circle back to Blue Bell ski run. Before you do that, take a peek at the bottom of Blue Bell ski run to decide whether you want to continue or not. 

The run gets a little steeper but its very wide. It’s like a football field, it’s so wide. You might be able to do it. Trust your judgement. If you want a green run all the way, simply head over to Lily and Lower Lily ski runs and meet your friends at the bottom of Blue Bell ski run. 

They take Blue Bell top to bottom.

Ride up in chairlift together and do it again! (And again. And again. Love this ski run!)

Little Baldy Peak – Deer Hollow and Fairview or Silver Hill Ski Runs

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You take Deer Hollow ski run and slip onto Gnats Eye ski run at the top which connects back to Deer Hollow ski run. 

Take your time and enjoy this nice long wide run. (One of my very favorites.) 

They take Fairview or Silver Hill Intermediate ski runs which flow into Deer Hollow. 

There is a trick to this strategy. I find this works best if my friends go twice for every run I do. Then I don’t feel like they are always waiting for me. I’d rather wait for them and not feel pressure to go faster than I’d like to.

Fairview and Silver Hill ski runs are shorter and my friends are faster; they ski two runs for every one run I take. We catch up on Deer Hollow ski run or at the base of Mountaineer Express chairlift. 

Wait for each other at the lift and take it up together.

Lady Morgan – Pearl and Magnet Ski Runs

Ski with your black diamond friends on Lady Morgan.

If you look at the map, you can see Lady Morgan works well for a beginner and advanced group. The lovely Pearl ski run with breath-taking views snakes around the mountain and is a favorite for beginners. 

You take Pearl ski run.  Also you can try Dakota (an easier blue) if it fits in your ability level. Then head down Webster ski run to the Lady Morgan Express chairlift.

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Your advanced friends take Dakota ski run to the black diamond Magnet ski run and either meet you on Webster ski run or ski it twice and meet you at the lift. 

See how easy it is?  You can enjoy your day on runs within your ability and they can weave in-and-out skiing with you while popping onto some blue and black runs.

With a little planning and taking control of your day, you can have a fantastic ski with your sweetheart or with your friends so everyone is happy. Isn’t that the whole idea?

Stop by and talk with any mountain host to plan your runs.  Let us know how it goes and what  we should add to our list for the next post.

Enjoy!

Learning to Ski at 65: First Day 2014 – 2015 Season

People are often surprised when I share that my husband Jay who is over 65 is learning to ski. When you think about it though, it makes perfect sense. Your mid-sixties is a great time to learn a new sport, like skiing!

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Sometimes going back to an old sport can be frustrating. When Jay was in high school he was a scratch golfer. Then he didn’t play for many years.  When he did rekindle his desire to play golf it didn’t go so well for him.

In his “mind’s eye” he saw himself as his younger self who hit the ball far, straight down the fairway or curved on demand.  He was an excellent chipper and read the greens fully expecting to make his putts.

Sometimes in real life, when you haven’t played a sport in a long time and you are 15 years older, you don’t live up to the mental picture from your youth. When Jay shot an 80, he became frustrated and disappointed.

He was completely supportive of me when all I did was hit the ball in the air 50 yards at a time.

“Great shot” he’d say (when it really wasn’t so great).

Once we were playing with my father who remarked, “That was a terrible shot [Nancy made]. Why did you say it was good?”

Jay said, “She got it up in the air.”  (Implying that I’d been essentially rolling the ball on the ground 20 yards at a time in previous shots.)

I was excited since I was making progress even though the ball was not even close to my target.  When Jay would hit a drive four times as far as me and then grumble under his breath, I couldn’t understand.  The shot sure looked fantastic to me!

Skiing is different.

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Since Jay had never strapped on a pair of skis until two years ago, he didn’t have a high performance mental picture in his head to live up to.  He had an appropriate expectation — gain some skills, build on them and have a ton of fun.  While the grandkids are young, learn to ski to be able to be on the slopes with them. Create memories that will last a lifetime.

To reinforce his skills and set him up for a successful ski season, he started the season with a Max 4 lesson. One thing Jay did learn from golf, was to take lessons early and often in order to improve quickly.

Here’s what he said about his Max 4 Ski Lesson at Deer Valley Resort.

“What I love about skiing is you can become relatively competent pretty quickly.”

“I can get good enough to enjoy myself and have fun – skiing is essentially sliding in the snow, right? Sliding down the hill is fun.”

“Skiing is an individual sport so no matter your level, you can have a great time.”

Jay’s instructor reinforced what he’d learned last year and focused on the fundamentals. She also gave him some skills to practice to improve his control.  He is excited, having fun and making progress. Who could ask for more?

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Jay’s instructor also reinforced the idea that Jay is exactly where he needs to be in his skiing skills development and he should enjoy every step of his skiing journey.

Which is a lot more than he can say for his golf game. For more information on Deer Valley’s Max 4 Ski Lessons – click here.

 

Summer Training with Bryon and Brad Wilson

On a warm sunny day, during the #DeerValleySummer, I headed out of the office and caught up with Bryon and Brad Wilson at the Utah Olympic Park in Park City, Utah. It was my first time at the Utah Olympic Park and I was surprised to see so many skiers jumping off of ramps into water and then swimming to the edge of the pool with skis on. Air bubbles, operated by a Utah Olympic Park employee, softened landings into the pool. I thought this was an ingenious idea.

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For those of you who might not know, Deer Valley Resort sponsors Bryon and Brad Wilson, two of the current U.S. Freestyle Ski Team athletes. Deer Valley began sponsoring Bryon in 2010 and in 2012 added Brad to their roster of athletes. I wanted to know what it took to be a world-class athlete and how a winter athlete trains when the snow melts.

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Ryan: How do you guys train during the summer?

Bryon: We have a great facility at the Utah Olympic Park, where I spend a lot of my time.There are many ways for us to access crucial training time nowadays. Later this summer, we will be in Whistler BC, Canada, getting some snow time on the glacier.

Ryan: As brothers do you always train together or do you have different training techniques?

Brad: We always train with each other, which is really nice because we are constantly pushing each other.

Ryan: How often will you be at the Utah Olympic Park training?

Bryon: We can get a good two months at the Utah Olympic Park. I really enjoy training up here.

Ryan: What is the biggest difference jumping into water instead of onto snow?

Brad: Jumping in water allows you to crash without the consequences you have crashing on snow.  And a lot of crashing is involved when learning a new trick.

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Ryan: What do you wish to improve upon, going into next ski season?

Brad: I am currently ranked fourth overall and there is a lot I need to work on to be in that top spot.  Improving my jumping skills is going to be a major focus this summer.

Bryon: I’m always looking to push my abilities to the next level and learn something new to help myself improve.

Ryan: Looking back on the last ski season, what stands out the most for each of you?

Brad: The Olympic experience stands out the most for me. Being able to compete in the Olympics has been a dream ever since I started competing.

February 9, 2014 - Source: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images Europe

February 9, 2014 – Source: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images Europe

Bryon: One thing that stands out for me every year is competing at Deer Valley Resort in front of huge crowds. I also love Champion ski run.

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Ryan:  What do you guys do for fun, when you are not skiing?

Bryon: We got into mountain biking since we moved to Park City, also golfing and fishing.

Brad: The thing I do most is art; I think it’s the perfect thing to do to relax in between training sessions.

Ryan: How did you get into art, Brad?

Brad: Being from Montana, we grew up in the outdoors. Everything we did, we did outside. But the art is just something I was inspired to start doing and have been trying to perfect ever since.

Ryan: What do you have coming up in the next few months?

Brad: Off-season training is in full force. It is going to be very busy until the snow falls. We’re in Whistler this summer for three weeks, we go to Mount. Hood for a week, then Chile for two and a half weeks. Next, we go to Switzerland in September for another three weeks. Between these camps, we will be spending our time at the Utah Olympic Park.

Have you ever gone off the ski jumps at the Utah Olympic Park? Tell me about it in the comments below or on Twitter @RyanMayfield or @Deer_Valley and don’t forget to keep up with the Wilson brothers on Twitter; Bryon   Brad  

Deer Valley’s Invisible Safety Net: Part Four

Doctor Peter Taillac and Ski Patrol’s Hylton Early have told us how to make the best of your Deer Valley ski vacation. Today, they will conclude their great tips series by discussing safety issues that are of concern to our most advanced skiers and learn how to stay safe under most weather and snow conditions!

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JF: Can you tell us about avalanche control and snow safety in general?

Hylton Early: These are issues that we take extremely seriously at Deer Valley. We have a snow safety program that includes four rescue dogs that are specifically trained for avalanche rescue both at Deer Valley and out in the back country as well. We do conduct explosive control work to make sure that the runs are safe. That doesn’t mean it’s a guarantee that they will be absolutely safe as avalanches are an inherent risk of skiing, and it’s important to keep this fact in mind.

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JF: Is Ski Patrol available for on-hill, last minute updates?

Hylton Early: Yes, you can always check-in with Ski Patrol at the top of Bald Mountain or the top of Empire before you head into areas that could be avalanche-prone. This way, you will also get the latest reports because the Ski Patrol staff would have been there early on and will able to tell you where the safe lines and the best places to ski are. If you’re not quite sure about what to take along, the Ski Patrol is available to remind you about the necessary equipment you might need to stay safe out there.

JF: What about ropes line and closed signs?

Hylton Early: You always want to respect these. They’re in place for a reason. Just like anybody else, we want to open runs as fast as we can but we want to make sure that they are safe before opening them to skiers!

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JF: Any advice for the lone skier?

Hylton Early: It’s very important to let someone else know where you’re going and to have a plan of a place to meet up. In today’s cell phone culture, it’s easy to get complacent, but your battery can die or your phone can fall out of your pocket, so it’s always good to have a fail-safe meeting point, like meet for lunch at a certain lodge. If you are skiing some expert terrain, I would really recommend that you always ski with a partner, so if you were to get injured, this buddy can provide aid to you and let the Ski Patrol know where you are.

JF: How can skiers reach Ski Patrol?

Hylton Early: The Ski Patrol number 435-645-6804 is located on the back of all the trail map, or you can dial extension 6804 from any mountain phone. It’s a smart idea to program it into your cell phone. You can of course always report an injury to any lift employee as well. The Deer Valley Mobile App also has a button to immediately call Ski Patrol.

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JF: Do you have tips for the great Deer Valley powder days?

Hylton Early: Everyone gets so excited and so filled with adrenaline on these wonderful powder days, that it’s always a good idea to remember to ski safely and to follow the Skier’s Responsibility Code. The most obvious incident is when you lose your ski in deep powder; if your ski came off, make sure to remember the last point when you saw it, which will help greatly if Ski Patrol comes to help you locate it. If you’re skiing the trees, always be on the watch out for stumps and obstacles and be also aware of tree wells; some people have the smart idea of carrying a whistle clipped to their jacket that can serve to alert others of you were to fall into a well and signal your location; this warning signal also comes very handy if you were injured in any location hidden from view.

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JF: Doctor Taillac, is there anything you’d like to add to these details and advices aimed at keeping us safe on the mountain?

Doctor Peter Taillac: I just would like to compliment the Ski Patrol for the great job they do, here at Deer Valley Resort. They’re very knowledgeable and take a great deal of pride in what they’re doing for skiers. They are very diligent at keeping up with their medical training on regular basis so they stay very sharp. We feel that they have a great relationship with the Clinic. Our doctors and nurses know what they’re talking about when they bring in a patient. Guests are safe, here at Deer Valley, they have a great medical safety net available to them and if there is an incident, they’ll be in very good hands.

JF: Hylton, do you have any other comment on behalf of Deer Valley Ski Patrol?

Hylton Early: Unlike many ski resorts that have a mix between professionals augmented by part-time ski patrollers. Deer Valley Ski Patrol is 100% professional and this allows us to keep the highest level of training standard and care for the benefit of our guests.

Thank you for following this four part series on Deer Valley’s Invisible Safety Net. If you missed any of the posts follow the links below.

Deer Valley’s Invisible Safety Net: Part One

Deer Valley’s Invisible Safety Net: Part Two

Deer Valley’s Invisible Safety Net: Part Three

Deer Valley’s Invisible Safety Net: Part Four

Deer Valley’s Invisible Safety Net: Part Three

In the two previous blogs, we’ve learned from Doctor Peter Taillac and Ski Patrol’s Hylton Early about the amazing “Doctor Patrol” roaming the slopes at Deer Valley Resort, and we received some great tips for planning a perfect ski vacation. Today, they’ll share more tips aimed at enhancing your safety on the slopes.

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JF: Let’s talk about gear for a moment; what precautions should people take with their own equipment?

Hylton Early: Obviously, you want to make sure that your equipment is in good shape. You want to check that the ski brakes work properly, or if you happen to Telemark, for instance, you must make sure you have safety leashes, a requirement that is part of the skier’s responsibility code. It’s also a good idea to have your bindings checked once a season to make sure they are still properly adjusted to your boots and set to your weight, age and ability. Also if you haven’t skied on them for a season or two, it might be a good idea to have them tuned up so bases are flat and your edges are sharp enough so they respond as expected when you need them.

JF: What trends are you seeing these days in terms of skier’s injuries?

Hylton Early: In leg injuries, most are in the ligaments that surround the knee like the ACL and MCL as well as strains and cartilage tears. Lower in the list might be tibia injuries or even farther down the list, a few traumas involving the femur.

Doctor Peter Taillac: I agree, these are the most common ones. One of my pet peeves is that people have their bindings set too tight. When you fall and the skis start to twist, they twist the knee with it and, as I always like to say, either the binding is going to open or the ligaments in the knee are going to be hurt. I prefer to see the binding go! So, again, it is super important that your bindings are properly adjusted to your weight and your ability and I personally prefer to have my binding set on the low side than ending up with a twisted knee!

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JF: Like for “defensive driving”, are there similar tips that would apply to a ski day.

Hylton Early: It all starts with knowing the conditions on the mountain, reviewing the weather report and the groomed run report Deer Valley puts out everyday, so that you know what the conditions are going to be, and also are prepared for a changing weather. A run may different at 10 a.m. than it will be at 2 p.m. Don’t assume necessarily that it’s going to be the same thing. The analogy you made to driving and skiing can be very similar. It all starts with knowing the Skier Responsibility Code, making sure your equipment is in good shape, that you stop in areas that are safe and that you never forget that the skier ahead of you has always right of way.

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JF: Are these precautions enough?

Hylton Early: Probably not if you truly want to ski “defensively.” You may want to go a little bit farther, like always looking around you to see what other skiers are doing, looking all the way down the run so you can anticipate both the snow and terrain conditions as well as the skiers’ traffic ahead of you. In addition, even though skiers behind you should be mindful of what you might do, like turning to the right or to the left, it’s always a good idea to look over your shoulder to verify that you can change direction safely, and this alone goes a long way to avoiding a possible collision.

JF: What about the use of electronic devices while skiing?

Hylton Early: You want to make sure that if you need to text or call someone, you come to a full stop into a safe spot where you’re visible from above. Of course, don’t text or phone while you’re moving. If you want to listen to music – not something we would recommend as we think its best for you to hear what’s around you – keep it in an appropriate volume, or better yet, just place one ear-bud into one ear instead of both so you’re still can hear the sounds around you.

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In the conclusion of our “Doctor Patrol” series, we’ll cover more talks about safety in powder snow, powder conditions and the like. Don’t miss it!

Deer Valley’s Invisible Safety Net: Part Two

In our previous blog, we were introduced to the amazing “Doctor Patrol” at Deer Valley. Today, both Doctor Peter Taillac and Ski Patrol’s Hylton Early will dispense some great advice about making your ski stay with us as fun and safe as possible.

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JF: What about some physical conditioning prior to going skiing?

Hylton Early: There are many things you can do to prepare yourself for your ski trip. Doing exercises, like some body weight squats, single leg squats, strengthen your leg muscles, and so on. There are many sources: On line tips and videos, books or magazine that list good physical conditioning exercise for skies. If you have a personal trainer, ask for a specific program prior to your ski vacation.

JF: What advice would you give to guests coming to Deer Valley Resort to ski?

Hylton Early: There are a lot of things you can do to prepare for a great day on the slopes. First, make sure to hydrate and make time for a good breakfast that will give you enough fuel for a fun day out. Also, give yourself the time to acclimate to our higher elevation. You don’t want to forget your sun protection that you will re-apply as the day progresses and don’t forget good eye protection. You also want to make sure you have warm clothing and well thought accessories like good gloves and neck gators or face-masks. People more sensitive to cold may also consider getting some hand and foot warming products or devices.

JF: What about helmets?

Doctor Peter Taillac: This by far is my favorite subject and perhaps the most important piece of equipment. For me, it’s a big issue, because in my emergency department, I take care of skiers who crash with helmets and skiers who crash without them. I can tell you that my patients with helmets are always far better off. Even if they hit their head hard and get knocked out, they aren’t as likely to be permanently brain-injured. Those who don’t have helmets, even if they just suffer a small hit to the head can sustain a severe concussion or some internal bleeding that can cause permanent damage. The helmet is the equivalent to wearing a seat-belt in a car; it makes all the difference in the world in your outcome should you be unlucky enough to be in a ski accident.
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JF: Sounds like we should never hit the slopes without wearing a helmet!

Doctor Peter Taillac: Absolutely! The only permanent injury that you can sustain while skiing is a head-injury. If you break your tibia, fracture your arm, dislocate your shoulder or get a severe chest or abdominal injury, even with some internal bleeding, these traumas, for the most part, can all be repaired. A head injury however is a totally different story; too often, we don’t have the technology available to make a severe brain injury get better.

JF: What about inserting some periods of rest into a ski vacation?

Hylton Early: It’s always a good idea to take a break and it’s even better to always listen to your body; if you do, it will tell you if your knees are aching or your back is sore. One good thing you can do is go out on the first chair, right around 9 a.m. and ski till 11 a.m. when the conditions are going to be best. That way, instead of putting in a full day, you can take the afternoon to relax. Listening to your body is paramount, especially if you are of a more advanced age or know you have difficulties acclimatizing to higher altitudes.

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JF: Doctor, is there anything you’d like to add on getting used to higher elevations?

Doctor Peter Taillac: Well, it’s important to realize that it always takes a couple of days to adapt from sea level to an altitude of 7,000 – 8,000 feet. I would recommend that if visitors want to ski on their first day, they take it very easy, stay on the lower, less challenging slopes, and just ease into skiing that very first day out. As they start feeling more comfortable, they can go a little bit higher on the mountain and try more difficult runs the next days. I personally found that, as Hylton mentioned, getting an early start and taking a nice, long lunch break, perhaps even a little snooze, and then come back out, is a really good way to make for long but not exactly exhausting day.

JF: Do you have any special recommendations for small kids?

Doctor Peter Taillac: Kids often won’t tell you when they’re cold until it hurts, but their small bodies can loose temperature much faster than adults, because they have disproportionately bigger heads and most of the heat is lost through the head. So for kids, having warm clothing, good cover over their head and ears, in addition to their helmet, is always important. Lastly, for everyone and for all kids in particular, it’s always a good idea to dress as if it’s very cold, make sure to layer your clothing so if there’s a need to shed a layer latter on, as the weather warms up, that’s fast and convenient. It’s a lot easier to take a layer off than putting one back on.

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In our next blog, we’ll talk about ski equipment and safety on the mountain. So please stay tuned for next installment of “Deer Valley’s invisible safety net!”