Lessons for a Memorable Mother Daughter Ski Day

Lessons for a Great Mother/Daughter Ski Day at Deer Valley Resort

Getting away from the daily grind and escaping to the silence and solitude of snow capped mountains is something this mom dreams of. Where piles of laundry are replaced by a blanket of fresh falling snow. Where my snug fitting helmet drowns out the constant river of minutia that continually babbles from my 10 year old daughter. To simply have a little “me” time.

So what the heck was I thinking, inviting all of these people with me??

It’s not what I was thinking, it’s what I knew: The more the merrier! This day on the slopes was meant to be shared, and I was going to have a blast with moms who have become friends and their sweet gals, too.

When it came time for my daughter to have her second round of ski lessons to help her become the pro she sees in her mind (see her first time here), I knew from experience she’d do best with her gaggle of gal pals.

Lessons for a Great Mother/Daughter Ski Day at Deer Valley Resort

Each year, Ski Utah offers a Ski Passport program that gives 5th graders the opportunity to ski at each of Utah’s 15 resorts three times during the ski season for a one-time processing fee of just $45. 6th graders can sign up too, receiving one pass to each of the 15 ski resorts.

Ali and her friends each had their Ski Passports in hand so it was a no-brainer we should have them all come up together.

But then I had an epiphany! Let’s make this a mom and daughter date and invite the moms along for the ride. Why should the kids be the only ones to have all the fun?

I’d skied with each of the girls together but this was a first with the moms. There are a few rules of thumb I followed in gathering this larger group together and I must say, it made the day a total success.

Lessons for a Great Mother/Daughter Ski Day at Deer Valley Resort

Invite Skiers of the Same Level

A group that skis together has fun together. Making sure each of the young girls were all at the same level of skiing was paramount to turning the day into a fun day instead of a purely teaching day. And that went for the moms too.

Two of us moms grew up skiing and had skied together before so that was a no-brainer. Two moms had taken up the sport just a few years before. One mom just switched over from snowboarding to skiing, she realized it was no fun to have to rescue your fallen daughter on skis while on a snowboard.

Not to worry, moguls and bumps for the two more experienced in the group have given way to long cruisers on Deer Valley’s perfectly groomed runs. We were more than happy to spend the day working on our turns with the rest of the crew.

For the girls, they had all been skiing together before and loved having their freedom of riding the lifts on their own. And us moms were more than happy to let them.

Lessons for a Great Mother/Daughter Ski Day at Deer Valley Resort

Take It Easy

With five moms who are used to being in charge, five girls who were beyond chatty with excitement and two cars with plenty of gear to keep straight, the decision was made early in the game to take it easy and don’t rush the morning. We put the girls all in one car with one mom driver so they could crank up the tunes and chit chat away while the other moms piled into the other car for a more leisure ride of discussing school politics, hair dye and the latest episode of Scandal.

Once we arrived at Deer Valley, we consciously didn’t rush. Nor did we have to. Everyone from the shuttle driver to the ticket agents and the lift operators made it simple for us to ease into our snow day.

Lessons for a Great Mother/Daughter Ski Day at Deer Valley Resort

Independence Day

Being together as moms and daughters doesn’t mean we had to be glued in pairs like animals on Noah’s Ark. Instead, the moms were happy to let our gals head up on the first chair on their own and leave us in their snow dust as we followed a few chairs behind.

As luck would have it and being the extra observant mothers that we are, one of us spied a single blue ski pole half buried in the snow under the chair. “I hope that isn’t ours,” said one mom, as the other mom immediately replied, “Oh no, it is. I bet it’s Katie’s.” “Yep,” we all agreed in unison. “If it’s anyone’s, it’s Katie’s.”

Long story short, we spent our first two laps on Silver Link ski run searching for the easiest route to gather Katie’s pole. But good moms (and daughters) that we are, there was no blaming, there was no sulking, it just became an adventure for us all to map out and go on together. Finally, we put in a call to Deer Valley Ski Patrol to retrieve it for us.

Saved!

Deer Valley Natural Buffet Snow Park Lodge

Ladies Who Lunch

With a few runs under our belts the girls were already asking for lunch. What? After operation pole retrieval It seemed like we’d just gotten there. But why fight it? Sure, let’s get some food in those bellies, because we all know a hungry kid is a grumpy kid. And truth be known, I knew what was in store so I was more than happy to belly up.

We headed back down to Snow Park Lodge for a feast. When Katie’s mom jokingly told her she’d packed her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich she almost fell off her of chair. As the most adventurous eater of the junior group, this was her favorite part of the day.

Lessons for a Great Mother/Daughter Ski Day at Deer Valley Resort

There was no shortage of variety for all of us to load our trays. As a fan of the Natural Buffet salad bar, I was pushing it like a used car salesman. Where else on a ski hill can you get a daily variety of ultra fresh salads to accent your baby greens? Italian Wheatberries and Tomato Salad, Rainbow Pasta and Shrimp Salad or Sczechan Eggplant Salad with baby kale, fried tofu and sugar snap peas! Not to mention steamed artichokes with saffron aioli and Deer Valley’s own housemade cheeses and an assortment of olives that made a meal in themselves.

Even so, two of the moms simply couldn’t resist Deer Valley’s famous Turkey Chili. And, really, why should they? It’s the best.

Lessons for a Great Mother/Daughter Ski Day at Deer Valley Resort

Grilled cheese, more turkey chili, and for our wonder-eater Katie, the special Ruben Cheese Burger rounded out our tastings.

Of course treating the girls to whatever dessert they wanted (carrot cake for my girl!) gave each of us moms a reason to ask for a bite (or five) as we discussed who was on what diet and how it was going. No blame here, we were working up an appetite.

Lessons for a Great Mother/Daughter Ski Day at Deer Valley Resort

Ditch the Kids

As every mom will tell you, we love our babes. But how great is it to put them into the capable hands of someone else so we could be on our own for a little faster paced afternoon?

Enter Letitia Lussier, a Deer Valley ski instructor since 1981, she knew exactly what motivated these girls and was ready to teach them a lesson or two that they wouldn’t usually hear—or listen to—from their dear old moms.

Lessons for a Great Mother/Daughter Ski Day at Deer Valley Resort

After assessing their abilities, Letitia took the girls down Silver Link and then over to Quincy Express and Silver Strike Express chairlifts, where they happily skied blue ski runs and discovered hidden trails through the trees. As moms will do, we followed along for a run or two and then headed off on our own girls day adventure.

It had begun to snow harder at this point, making for a fluffed layer of Utah’s famous light powder on the expertly groomed runs. We couldn’t have asked for more.

Lessons for a Great Mother/Daughter Ski Day at Deer Valley Resort

Lessons for a Great Mother/Daughter Ski Day at Deer Valley Resort

The moms made our way over to Empire Express and skied longer and faster than we had with our mini-me’s, giving our thighs and form the workout they both needed.

Or, something like that.

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to Snow Park to meet up with our gals and start the trek back home.

Why oh why did it have to end?

Lessons for a Great Mother/Daughter Ski Day at Deer Valley Resort

Take a Selfie

After finding our girlie group and thanking Letitia for an amazing day on both spectrums of the age range, we brought the cars up and readied ourselves for the ride home.

But first, of course, we posed for a selfie.

In this day and age you simply can’t escape getting a group photo (or 19) to document the day. And why would you?

Because these memories are what mom and daughter dates are made for.

Lessons for a Great Mother/Daughter Ski Day at Deer Valley Resort

What We Learned

Lily
Favorite part of the lesson: I really liked our ski instructor. “She told me to lean forward more and it just helped a lot.”

Favorite thing about Deer Valley: “My favorite part about skiing at Deer Valley was hanging out with all of my friends and their moms. The runs were really groomed. Yeah, it was awesome.”

Favorite lunch: “Cheeseburger and a chocolate chip cookie”

Sara
Favorite part of the lesson: “I liked learning how to ski the trees. She took us on more inclines and more steep hills, too. She helped us learn how to balance and keep more on our turns by bouncing and staying on one foot and on the balls of our feet with our knees and shoulders past our toes.

Favorite thing about Deer Valley: “The thing about Deer Valley is that the runs are really groomed and it just makes it a lot easier.”

Favorite lunch: “Grilled cheese and a chocolate croissant.”

Ali
Favorite part of the lesson: “My favorite thing was going through the trees like when we went into Bucky’s Front Yard and the other trails. That was the most challenging part of it. She taught us to stay far apart from everybody and that we can’t go close to each other, and for everybody to go at their own speed. And she told me to not lean back on my skis.”

Favorite part of Deer Valley: “I like the runs by Quincy Express chairlift the best. And riding the lift with my friends. And lunch. And it snowed!”

Favorite lunch: Turkey chili and carrot cake

Katie
Favorite part of the lesson: “The best thing I learned today was to balance on your skis more. The instructor first had us pick up our outside leg and then she had us stop and just pick up the other leg and then only have the tip of the ski on the ground and everything else up when we’re turning.”

Favorite part of Deer Valley: “They have a lot of area to ski and the bathrooms are super nice.”

Favorite lunch: “I got a special Ruben with cheese on it and chocolate chip cookie.”

Grace
Favorite part of the lesson: “I learned that you have to keep your body forward and that you have to ski aggressive!”

Favorite part of Deer Valley: “Probably going down Success ski run with my mom and the hills and how it’s so beautiful with beautiful trees in the mountains, and probably the food. I have so many things.”

Favorite lunch: I had the famous Turkey Chili with some bread and apple cider and a huge cookie. It was so good.”

For a list of kid’s trails, download the Kids Adventure Map here.

To sign up for Youth Ski School, visit here.

For a list of on-mountain dining options, visit here.

Heidi Larsen is the creator of foodiecrush.com, the blog and online magazine featuring family friendly recipes and inspiring photography. She also photographs Deer Valley Resort’s food and fine dining when not enjoying quality time on the ski hill with her husband and 10 year old daughter. See more of what she’s crushing on at Facebook and Instagram.

Three Things that Make a Good Ski Lesson Great at Deer Valley

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Our daughter, Ali, has been skiing since she was three years old. She’s now 10 and just like in nearly every other facet of her life, there’s been a shift. Oh, hello, our young tween who is figuring out she has a mind of her own.

When she was younger, we’d all ski together, guiding our little cherub with our ski instructing wisdom that she happily took to heart, heeding it as if it was written on the golden tablets themselves. A year or two later, she took a series of large group ski lessons where the kids mostly played follow the leader, but that gave her the basics and got her to keep track of her own gear. I say yes to that!

Then she hit the magic age of eight, and listening to mom and dad’s advice to keep her knees bent, close the gap from pizza to french fry, and can you please ski just a little faster?!!?!, went straight out the window.

It was time for the pros to take over. We needed another round of ski lessons, but this time with more focus and attention on just her. We needed to push our little Lindsay Vonn-wanna-be to the next level and not destroy our skiing as a family in the process.

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Our daughter loves her friends almost as much as mom and dad (yikes! that teen thing is hiding right around the corner) and when she goes skiing, being on the snow with her pals is one of the best parts of her day. So we gathered a group of some of her friends and headed to Deer Valley Resort.

This group of gal pals all ski at about the same level. They can easily cruise the greens and are firmly entrenched in the blues. They plow through the trees on their way to Quincy’s Cabin and are all at the stage of making the leap from an advanced snowplow to a graceful parallel. But they needed to be pushed out of their comfort zone, and neither my husband nor I could take them there.

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Enter ski instructor Kristin Egan, a 26-year veteran of the Deer Valley Ski School and a Park City local. As impressionable young girls who are always on the lookout for great role models, we’d hoped they’d have an instructor who was a woman. The girls were thrilled to be paired with Kristin.

The half day lesson took the girls from the bottom to the top of Bald Mountain, over to Empire and back again. Kristin saw what motivated each of these young skiiers and assigned them each something to work on as they went down the mountain.

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Sarah said, “I liked when she explained to us the easiest ways to stop on a steep hill. You can stop by doing a big C turn, or if you’re going faster you can do a J.”

Katie said, “She had me ski on one leg for a whole minute and to practice so I could feel the turns.”

Elise said, “Kristin showed me how to put my skis sideways on the mountain and take little bounces down, or slide slip, to get out of a tricky spot.”

And Ali said, “Mom, she was really nice. She told us WHAT to do and not just to do a good job.”

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After experiencing a day of ski lessons at Deer Valley, I realized there are three things that are essential to taking a ski lesson from good, to great.

  1. Keep class size to a minimum. Deer Valley’s ski school kids private lessons are kept at the small size of just 4 or 6 per class and are available for all ages 3 -18 and abilities. As we all know with any school situation, small class size emphasizes personal attention. While we could have chosen to send Ali up on a ski lesson by herself for the ultimate one-on-one ski education, we felt like having the girls together motivated them to challenge one another. Because who wants to be outdone by your bestie? Not these gals.
  1. Experience is essential. Deer Valley Resort has over 550 ski instructors total and 176 of them have been teaching at Deer Valley from over 10 years. These instructors are experienced professionals who take their jobs very, very seriously. And love it! With these years of experience, there’s an emphasis on safety, certification and of course, motivation by having fun. With years of instructing under their goggled helmets, there’s not much they haven’t run across when it comes to inspiring, coaching and wrangling kids.
  1. Time for food! As parents, we all know that if a kid is hungry that kid is no good at all. When hunger pangs appear, attentions leave the mountain and there is no one, and no way, to motivate a hungry, grumpy kid. If your child’s ski lesson includes lunch, you want your kid to have a great one. In a group lesson Deer Valley treats their child patrons just as well as the adults and provides a delicious, nutritious lunch menu created specially for them by Executive Chef Jodie Rogers. It makes lunch almost as much fun for the kids as the time they’re having on the hill. Pass the Bucky’s Beef Sliders, please!

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

 Deer Hollow

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.

 

Deer Valley Resort’s 2014-2015 Digital Winter Guide

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Deer Valley Resort has launched the digital Winter Guide for the 2014-2015 season. The guide is available as a free download from the iTunes App Store within the SKI Magazine newsstand. In addition, a web-based version of the interactive guide can be downloaded at deervalley.com for any tablet, laptop or desktop. The media rich tool is full of helpful tips on how to plan your Deer Valley ski vacation, best ways to navigate the resort and its amenities, as well as insider knowledge on what to expect upon arrival at the resort with its on-mountain restaurants, hundreds of luxurious condos and variety of skiable terrain.
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Additional resources in the 2014-2015 digital Winter Guide include resort stats, travel information, reservation contact information and a video series featuring resort employees, athletes and partners.

To download Deer Valley’s Winter Guide, please visit: deervalley.com/WinterGuide

For more information on Deer Valley’s Winter Guide, visit the resort’s website at deervalley.com

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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.

Eric Schramm Photography 2013

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  

John Guay, one of Deer Valley Resort’s “Super 33!”

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Director of Skier Service, John Guay oversees the entire Deer Valley Ski School, the resort ski rental operations, children’s center and lift ticket sales. So, if you are a skier and are about to enjoy Deer Valley Resort, you will appreciate the many services that John has developed and polished over a period of 33 years!

JF: What did you do before joining Deer Valley Resort?

John Guay: I was in snow ski school supervisor at nearby Park West, today known as Canyons. I began there on the first of January 1975. At that time, the ski school director was short staffed and asked me if I wanted to teach skiing.

JF: Did you take the job?

John Guay: Yes, I gave it a try and that’s how I got involved. I begin by teaching groups of kids coming from Salt Lake City, I joined PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America), went through my certification process and ended up as a supervisor there.

JF: How was business during these early years?

John Guay: Quite different from today. The teaching quality had room for improvement. I remember teaching up to 25 kids in one class! We also had some peculiar habits; the lodge and the slopes at the resort were taken over by the staff to the point that, some days, there wasn’t much space left for the guests. We were all thinking about skiing and obviously didn’t focus much on ski guests.

JF: How did you make the transition from Park West to Deer Valley?

John Guay: As a ski school supervisor, I enjoyed working with instructors and loved my position. Yet, at the same time, this small resort had a lot of financial challenges. This is about the time when we began to hear about Deer Valley Resort coming to the area and bringing a new dimension in professionalism and service.

JF: What did you decide to do?

John Guay: I figured that if I wanted to stay in the ski industry and start a stable career, I needed to take the jump. I applied for a position with Deer Valley to find out what this new resort was all about.

JF: Did you see Deer Valley as a diamond in the rough?

John Guay: I think so; part of it was the consistency of work and the chance of being associated with a professional company. In addition, we also experienced some tough drought years in the late seventies and snowmaking was barely beginning. A little resort like Park West had very limited snowmaking infrastructure and the rumor about Deer Valley was all about modern chairlifts, snowmaking and grooming, so these possibilities alone had a huge appeal on me.

JF: Can you share with us how your first interview with Deer Valley went?

John Guay: Sure; I applied for a supervisor position. We met at Silver Lake in the spring of 1981. There was no lodge yet, so we met in a small cabin, I believe it was a real estate sales office for the Silver Lake Village. We met Stein Eriksen and some other people. We all went on the mountain where a great number of trails had already been cut. It was immediately apparent to me that all the runs had been laid out really well, you didn’t traverse much as all the trails were cut into the fall line. This was really impressive. It was also at the end of a great snow year and skiing that day was fabulous; I remember following Stein on a brand new mountain where nobody had been before!

JF: What happened after that first visit?

John Guay: I started in November of 1981. It took a while until we knew who was going to be head of the ski school. Sal Raio, a coach of the PSIA demonstration team, got the director position. When I met Sal, he offered me a job of supervisor. There would be two of us overseeing a staff of 24 instructors. He gave me the initial task of creating a weekly schedule that I had to prepare in one month. The group of instructors Sal had put together was hugely experienced and this created a tremendous challenge for me to earn the trust of such an impressive team.

JF: In this early years, was the concept of superior guest service already part of the Deer Valley’s culture?

John Guay: Yes. It started with that initial interview with Stein the spring before I was hired. Already, the idea that the mountain was for the guests stood as a central principle. Later that first season, Edgar Stern, Deer Valley Resort’s founder, explained a number of concepts during our early training sessions. It started with the anticipation that guests have before they even get to a resort, then their experience when they reach the place, the importance of a friendly and professional staff to greet them, the pristine beauty of manicured slopes up above, and so on.

JF: So, from the get go, Edgar Stern’s vision was already guest-centered.

John Guay: Absolutely! Edgar Stern always stressed that the guests expect people that are friendly, attentive, always ready to help and answer questions. A ski vacation is a major endeavor and when guests reach their destination, they’re pretty much frazzled and need to be well cared for.

JF: I can appreciate the importance of feeling welcomed.

John Guay: But that wasn’t all; there was also the importance of well groomed runs, which was kind of a revolutionary idea back in 1981; then of course, came the the cuisine, having nice restaurants could make a tremendous difference, because back in these days, food quality at ski resorts was poor. Finally there were ancillary concerns like attention to details, like having coffee always at the right temperature, picking up papers around the resort and the like.

JF: How did the staff buy into that culture?

John Guay: Well, it took some time. At first, there was some fall-out, it wasn’t without some challenges. Communicating that vision was tough, but for those of us who stayed with it, the effort was well worth it. And this probably explains why over the years, we’ve reached a tremendous employee retention rate.

JF: Did these high expectations influence hiring?

John Guay: As I got involved with the hiring process, we followed a very strict approach. You had to have an in-person interview. We certainly looked at job-specific skills, in terms of teaching experience. Obviously, we knew that we could teach people how to ski better or how to become better teachers if they lacked a bit in these areas, but we realized that we couldn’t change a person. In other words, a person’s demeanor, personality and attitude had to offer the right fit for what we were trying to achieve.

Then there was also the family experience weighting heavily into Sal’s vision; we wanted people that were family friendly. At that point though, the industry’s approach, as far as instructing was concerned, was to get a foot in the door, get some teaching experience, starting with beginners and children, and then move on to experts and adults. But the reality is that most adults and experts don’t need ski lessons nearly as much as children and first-time skiers, so we needed instructors that were good at the whole package and were willing to teach kids and could be really good with them.

JF: Are you saying that you were looking for staff members that had empathy and could put themselves inside the ski boots of these new skiers?

John Guay: That’s exactly right; it’s easy for people who are just good skiers to lose track of that concept. We needed people that enjoyed working with first time skiers, that were patient, that didn’t move too fast, and that had great communication skills.

JF: How does Deer Valley Resort stands in terms of teaching culture?

John Guay: From the get go, we’ve always embraced the PSIA humanistic teaching philosophy by creating unique lesson plans tailored to the needs of our students.

In the late ’90s though, we began to compare our most successful instructors with the PSIA methodology. We found out that our best instructors didn’t operate in a linear fashion, but instead followed some basic themes in working with their students. We came away with a three-part teaching model. The first element was the relationship. Then came the activities and finally the supporting information that could take the form of visual aids or verbal comments.

JF: You weren’t just focused on skiing technique?

John Guay: That is correct; the mechanical aspects of skiing were only part of the process as we were pushing even more towards the development stages of our learners and we made certain that our staff embraced that approach and could influence generations of skiers season after season. Kids that once started with us are now bringing their own children.

JF: Does this mean that entire generations of skiers have become loyal customers?

John Guay: Yes, we’ve created a continued, natural cycle. While our clientele may sometime question the value of the money spent in ski school, we do strive to exceed their expectations. We know that if we do a great job taking care of our skiers, they’ll want to return and get more of that special time Deer Valley is able to supply. So part of our teaching philosophy is to learn how to turn a pair of skis and the other part is to create a fun and comfortable environment to the point where guests truly enjoy themselves, want to come back and and bring their own children into the process.

JF: Would you say that Deer Valley leads the way in terms of ski instruction?

John Guay: Deer Valley occupies a very unique position because of its unique ski-in, ski-out properties, its overall design and lay out as a resort, as well as the popularity of its programs and the volume of its activities. We, in fact, have a very hard time to meet the demand we’ve created. We recruit on a year-round basis, we hire and train people all the time and have become the largest ski school in the region. Surprisingly, this high volume of activity has enhanced the quality of our staff; they are not just instructors, they double as concierges and will do whatever it takes to satisfy our guests.

JF: Has this success had a synergistic effect on the entire resort?

John Guay: I think so; our training programs are designed to break down the individual “silos” that unavoidably prop up between divisions. We spare no effort to present a common face for Deer Valley and if a guest bumps into anyone working at the resort, whether it’s a lift operator, a customer service person or a food service employee, each one is trained to address that guest’s question or need and do whatever it takes to find the right answer or solution.

JF: Now, when you look into the future, how do you create new services?

John Guay: Over the years, we’ve never ceased to come up with innovative ideas. We tried moguls, telemark and parallel workshops, women specific programs and so on. Some programs have showed some staying power like our women programs or the Mahre Camps. More recently, we introduced Steeps and Stashes, a program that capitalizes on Deer Valley’s unique variety of terrain. We’re definitely looking at adding new products, yet a the same time, we don’t want to detract from our high-demand areas which always have been the lower ability zones and the new families with children.

JF: So after 33 years of exciting and nonstop developments, what in you views constitutes that Deer Valley Difference?

John Guay: First and foremost it is the quality of the guest experience. Hiring the right people and communicating that vision to all the staff, no matter what position they’re in is a crucial component in reaching that goal. We’re all here for that guest. The real vision is that when we are working, the mountain is there for our guests. When we are not working, we can be just like a guest and can go out and enjoy that same experience. But before anything, we want to take care of the guests that are here so they enjoy their experience!

Deer Valley’s Steeps and Stashes

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Secrets Revealed

If you believe you know Deer Valley Resort inside-out, you might be missing out on a whole lot of fun! To make sure that no stone is left unturned in the 2,026 skiable acres that Deer Valley has to offer, there is now a simple solution within your reach: enroll into Deer Valley Resort’s new ski school clinic “Steeps and Stashes,” and you’ll get a clear insider view into the myriad of secrets and untold ski runs Deer Valley has in store for its visiting guests.

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Call this, skiing off the beaten path, taking the trails less traveled or exploring a new world of ski possibilities, but when you enroll in this eye-opening program you’ll discover, as I did, that almost half of Deer Valley acreage is tree skiing! I would never have guessed it! Tree skiing isn’t just about the fun of slaloming through aspen and evergreen trees, but it’s also penetrating into a micro-climate where the snow stays better and for much longer, as it generally remains sheltered from the sun, the wind, and also because most skiers who aren’t in the know will seldom venture there on their own.

For visitors and locals alike

“Knowledge is power” and the more you know about a ski resort, the more emotionally invested you become in its assets and the more valuable it becomes to you, your friends and your family. Knowing a resort well, is not just for the out-of-town visitor, but for locals too, who often believe they know Deer Valley like the back of their hand while, in reality, what they know only represents the tip of the iceberg. This was just as true for me when I signed up for the program. As an almost 30 year Park City resident, I didn’t suspect that I could learn so much about new, fun spots on that mountain. All it took was a couple of days to turn that paradigm on its head.

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Great skiing starts with a good group

We first gathered on Saturday morning in the 2002 Room in the Snow Park Lodge, where we met other participants and our ski instructors. At 9 a.m. sharp, we found ourselves at the base of Carpenter Express chairlift. We rode the chairlift together and after taking us down “Big Stick,” the instructors broke us up into groups of similar levels and affinities.

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We ended up with three groups. I don’t know exactly what the other groups did that morning, but Thor, our instructor took us up to the top of Bald Mountain and since there was a fresh serving of new powder from the day before, he led us down into Sunset Glade, an expansive aspen grove that I’ve never been too familiar with. To my delight, I discovered many lines and stashes that I didn’t even suspect existed.

We then proceeded to Quincy Express chairlift, we zoomed down Bandana ski run and set up shop around Empire Express chairlift. We first tested the powder around Anchor Trees. I liked it a lot and migrated for more tree skiing to the X-Files, where we took two great consecutive runs. All along, Thor gave us some valuable tips aimed at helping us stay nimble and weave smoothly around the giant evergreens.

After the trees, the steep!

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Soon, it was time to move from these secret stashes to the steep component of the program. We peaked over the intimidating cornice that lines up Daly Bowl, wondering if we’d muster the audacity to let us drop down into the steep slope below. Thor led us by sheer example and then, the peer pressure pulled the trigger; one after the other, we all took the plunge and boy, were we proud we did it! 

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After a communal lunch at Silver Lake Lodge, we continued to explore the infinite forest that seem to line every single run Deer Valley has to offer. While I had already experienced many of our morning runs, most of the afternoon paths Thor took us to were either totally new to me or brought a brand new twist to some old spots that I had explored before. Deer Valley has so many “powder stashes” that I wouldn’t want to write a comprehensive guide about them; it would take almost forever to list them all!

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The March afternoon sun combined with a relentless rhythm soon began to weigh on our legs and it was time to go back to Snow Park Lodge where we were shown some instruction videos that came in quite handy, as our experience of the day was still fresh in our minds and made us relate perfectly to the situations we all had encountered hours earlier.

Day Two: Moguls on the Menu

Sunday came a bit too early as we had little time to adapt from the spring time-change, losing one hour of sleep in the process, but this didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for this second day of “Steeps and Stashes.” I was invited to move to another group, led by John, another Deer Valley instructor. While the previous day had been centered on powder and steep terrain, it was now time to perfect our mogul technique on a variety of trails ranging from Empire Bowl, all the way over to Mayflower Bowl.

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I used to like bumps when I was much younger and today, as my body has lost some of its flexibility, I carefully avoid confronting their destabilizing nature on almost any ski slope. This time, John found the right words and added some effective tips to reconcile me with that wavy and uneven terrain called moguls.

“Shopping for Turns” anyone?

That morning, John kept on discouraging us to endlessly “shop for turns,” an expression that means waiting forever for the perfect spot, the right conditions and the good moment to initiate a turn. This also means that when we do this, we eventually run out of real estate and end up on the edge of the run, still “looking.”

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Instead, he showed us how to “ski the zipper,” the holy grail of mogul skiing. If this terminology sounds a little odd, just remember that the “zipper line” means that great bump skiers go straight down the mountain, allowing their knees to flex over the moguls instead of turning around them. That’s what is called the zipper line. It’s named that way because skiers remain within a narrow corridor that’s only as wide as their shoulders are broad.

Seeing is believing

What a bumpy day this Sunday ended up being! We did easy mogul trails in the morning and John gradually increased the gradient throughout the day. Eventually he took us just under the Red Cloud chairlift where we were filmed on video, doing our very best to “ski the zipper.” Just before noon, John stopped us at the Deer Valley video cabin theater, right off the edge of Success ski run, where we were given an opportunity to marvel at our own exploits along with those of our teammates.The whole session was commented in details by John, questions were asked and the whole video was seen at least three times before we were finally satisfied.

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After lunch, the session continued, mostly under the mogul theme, sometime on easy terrain, sometimes on steeper runs and by 4 p.m. we were all a little tired but extremely happy that we had completed a wonderful two-day ski clinic. We learned a lot about Deer Valley Resort’s boundless powder and tree skiing. We tame our innate fears on Daly Bowl, reconciled ourselves with the secrets of mogul skiing and picked up so many new skills that we can’t wait to do it over again very soon!

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