#SkiTheDifference with Doug Gromley, Deer Valley Resort’s Ski School Adventure Club Lead Supervisor. Watch the video here http://bit.ly/12mwWbW
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 @BryonWilson10 Brad @Wilsfreestyle
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.”
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.
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!
A wise friend once told me: “Nobody wants to watch your skiing videos.” She’s probably right. However, I’m here to make an argument for watching your own skiing videos.
One of the benefits of enrolling in a Specialty Ski Program at Deer Valley is that it usually includes video sessions. I’ll be the first to admit that video days make me a little edgy—I feel like it’s the “final exam” I couldn’t possibly study for, or the one moment I’m going to make the “wrong” kinds of turns. I feel this way about the ski off at the beginning of a clinic, too. But the truth is, you can get a lot out of watching yourself—and your classmates ski.
The Women on Wednesdays program includes two video days. I missed the first one, due to the plague hitting my house in the form of strep throat. But on the final Wednesday, there was another opportunity to ski for the camera. Our video point was on the section of Solid Muldoon ski run, just below the Little Bell ski run. The Murphy’s Law of Video Day is that, inevitably, other guests ski in front of your camera angle. Sometimes, they mistakenly think the camera is set up for them, in fact. But the video crew are pros at keeping their focus on the students.
We watched the playback in the video shack that is tucked in the trees between Solid Muldoon and Success ski runs. There, under the guidance of our awesome coach, Donna McAleer, we were able to critique and appreciate our skiing. I say “appreciate” because when you’re well-coached in one of these clinics, there turns out to be a lot to like in what you see on the screen.
I was shocked to see that my form had improved dramatically since the beginning of the season. My stance was strong, and balanced. My edges were engaged. My arms were reaching forward at the correct angle to keep me facing downhill. Unbelievably, neither my coach nor my classmates had a single note for me. The notes for the other women were minor tweaks to form, that were helpful to all of us. We even busted our coach for a couple of form slips. (She got us back by making us ski a “Cowboy Drill,” down the Success ski run, using an improbably wide stance. It was, of course, enormously helpful, but I’m sure we looked ridiculous to the other skiers.)
“Video is very powerful.” Donna reminded us. “Even if you can tape each other—everyone has a phone with a camera, now—it’s a good way to check your form.”
Later that day, one of our classmates took that to heart. We were on our second run of moguls off the Orion ski run. Donna told us she wanted to watch us from the bottom, so she skied ahead. We all agree that it’s a gift to watch Donna ski. She’s strong and graceful. “You looked like that,” said my new friend Kim. “Really.”
I did not believe her. Our first run had been good—I found a good line and just skied it. The snow was soft, the bumps were forgiving, and I had just cruised down them. But I had not considered that it had looked at all good, from a technical standpoint.
“Here, I’ll tape you,” she said. And then Kim revealed herself to be a true friend. It was absolutely frigid out there. Single digits. Wind chills. Cold. And she took off her glove and then held up her iPhone, and proceeded to film her classmates.
Off I went. I don’t think it was my most graceful run, ever, but I can see where my turns and form are consistent, and I know if felt good while I skied. See for yourself.
I got to the bottom, and Donna said, “What are you thinking about when you are coming down?”
“I’m not,” I told her. “Perhaps the trick for me is to get out of the habit of over thinking, and just ski.”
“Good point,” she said, as we turned to watch the other women descend.
After we closed down Empire Express chairlift, we cruised over to Hidden Treasure ski run, and found an entrance in the trees, skier’s left, that would take us to the lower section of Square Deal ski run, for more bumps practice. I had not seen the video, yet, but I knew my “don’t think just ski” approach was working, so, I worked it.
Our final run of the clinic was the Solid Muldoon ski run “Ski it to the bottom, and I’ll see you inside,” Donna said. Or I think she said that, because I took off. I locked the image of the morning’s video in my brain, set my edges in, leaned forward and zoomed down the run. I’ve always had a little love-hate relationship with the very bottom of Solid Muldoon ski run. The fact that it turns, goes steep and is often a little, shall we say crispy, can mess with my head. On this day, my skiing brain was having none of that. She was just riding that hill for all that it had to offer. My classmates and our coach were not far behind, but they all remarked on my speedy run.
“Before you ask, Donna, I’ll tell you,” I began. “I was thinking about that image of myself on this morning’s video. I skied it just like the woman on the screen.”
The best ski lesson for your child or grandchild is one where you give them a kiss on the cheek and leave them to the instructor. The problem is you are just as excited about the lesson as they are! You want to be up close and personal to observe and take photos to memorialize the event.
That’s how my friends TJ and Lin felt when they set up a ski lessons for their granddaughter (and my little friend) Stella, age 3. The grandparents felt like it was important for the little one to have a positive experience right from the start. They called in Deer Valley ski instructor, Mark Shepard to teach her on her first day. Mark has a keen ability to really hone in on what a skier needs to make marked improvements. He helped TJ (a lifelong skier) make drastic improvements on the bumps and Stella’s Mom and Dad take on the blues. So why not make it three generations.
Mark was open to splitting a private lesson. The first hour, a private lesson just for little Stella and the rest of the morning went to their daughter and son-in-law (both beginner skiers.) He started little Stella’s lesson in the lodge practicing “pizza and french fry” on aluminum pie pans (no skis yet – just with boots) until she got the concept down cold. The grandparents were quickly forgotten as Mark got right down to Stella’s eye level. Though TJ and Lin wanted to stick around, they knew better.
They also had a secret weapon – a serious telephoto lens! TJ is a wildlife photographer — an expert at quietly watching from a long distance and snapping amazing photos. He put those skills to the test for Stella’s lesson.
Here is what he observed (while in stealth mode) from way over on the other side of the run:
Mark carrying little Stella to the hill.
Practicing now with skis on.
A typical three-year-old, Stella points out an airplane in the sky during the lesson. Mark simply lies on his back to enjoy the delight of the plane with her.
In about an hour, Stella is skiing!
The moral of the story is you can have the best of both worlds. Your child or grandchild can enjoy their lesson and you can have photos to remember the event. All you have to do is walk softly and carry a big telephoto lens.
For more information on ski lessons at Deer Valley Ski Resort, click here.
I’m already digging Women on Wednesday. I signed up hoping to find some more confidence in my skiing, and I found myself surrounded by women with the same goal. One classmate happens to be a pal, Kellie, with whom I don’t ever get to spend enough time, so: Bonus!
Here, my “High Five” to the program, thus far:
1. Those Wednesdays are stretching out in front of me with “practice” time in-between.
2. I’ve scored Donna McAleer, my friend and sometime ski companion, as an instructor. “Can you be taught by Donna?” my husband wondered, aloud, after the first night. “She’s a good friend, you’ve known her so long.” The answer is, without a doubt, yes. “She graduated from West Point,” I reminded him. “I’ll do what she says.” Also, she loves her job, loves to ski, and is a professional, fun teacher. This, I told him, was the easiest choice in the world.
3. Including Donna and myself, there are four New Englanders in our group. I could not help myself, saying aloud to one of them, “I love listening to you speak. It sounds like home.” Wicked awesome.
4. The method to Donna’s madness is brilliant. Our first day out offered us some rather “crunchy” snow. A little firm, and some patches with thin cover. Donna would not allow us to be daunted. In fact, if we skied a particularly gnarly trail, there was no question we would ski it a second time. “You spend the first run figuring out the terrain,” she explained. “Then you spend the second run using what you learned to ski it better.” She’s so right. I am the first person to say, after a “scratchy” run, “Let’s go find some softer snow.” But it’s the wrong tactic. Skiing something twice gives you confidence. Abandoning it after one run leaves you defeated.
5, I found out how to overcome the anxiety I feel when visibility is poor: Make the next turn. This seems obvious. But if you’ve ever gotten to the top of the run and thought, “How am I going to ski if I can’t SEE?” This tip is for you: You don’t need to see the whole run. You just need to be able to see one or two, maybe three, turns ahead of where you are. One is sufficient. I found myself in low visibility, repeating a mantra: “Make the next turn,” all the way down Nabob. It’s one of those skills we all have, but don’t realize. Yes, you can ski, safely and enjoyably, in minimal visibility.
Meet the newest contributor to the Deer Valley blog, Summer Sanders. In 1992 at the Olympic Games, a 19-year-old Summer Sanders won four Olympic medals, bringing home 2 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze. The moment she hung up her Speedo, she embarked on a television career, hosting shows for MTV (Sandblast), the NBA (Inside Stuff), Nickelodeon (Figure It Out), and Fox (The Sports List, Skating with Celebrities), and acting as a correspondent for shows such as Good Morning America, Rachael Ray, and The Today Show. She has been a contestant on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” and the Food Network’s “Guy vs. Rachael Celebrity Cook-Off”. Sanders recently created and hosted “Find Your Fitness” on MSN, where she challenged herself to try new fitness trends for the education and amusement of the audience. A health and fitness realist, Sanders is a working mom who prides herself on living a hands-on active lifestyle and being a “life is perfectly imperfect” motivator. She has two children, Skye (7) and Spider (5), with her husband Olympic skier Erik Schlopy. Follow the Deer Valley blog and keep up with Summer as she blogs about her experiences at Deer Valley.
It is now official, my kids, who are 6 (Spider) and 7 (Skye), are way better skiers than I am. I’ve had a hunch for a few years but after this past weekend, I have proof. Together, my kids and I took a family ski lesson at Deer Valley, something that I’d wanted to take for a few years but never got around to scheduling. My kids are solid skiers already, but I wanted us to feel good about it as a family and really know where we could go together to enjoy a day on the slopes. Our instructor took us through all the amazing kids runs at Deer Valley, most of which were in the trees, which my kids think are fabulous, and with names like “Oompa Loompa”, “Ruby’s Tail”, “Bucky’s Backyard” and “Quincys Cabin”, you knew it was going to be nothing short of heaven for the them, their mama was another story.
Let me be very honest with you. Up to this point, I had never taken the kids skiing by myself. There was way too much room for error in the process for me to stomach it, the gear, the schlepping to and from, and keeping myself from getting lost. It was all a little too much for my swimmer brain to handle.
Our instructor’s name was Lance Swedish, and he was awesome. It took the kids about 25 seconds to warm up to Lance, and then it was game on. I worried for a second whether he could keep up, not only with the kids skiing (they aren’t first timers), but with all of Spider’s questions. He must have asked Lance 20 times how old he was. It’s still a mystery, although we do know he isn’t 100 or 22. We started by skiing down one run so he could assess our skiing abilities. Although I was worried to finally hear that I was at the bottom of the class, I’m happy to report that I did not feel judged in the slightest. After that run, Lance suggested that we all ski without poles just like Spider. My son doesn’t like them. His reasoning is that you are a much more centered skier without your poles. So he stashed our poles and away we went. I think this is the point when I realized that this “lesson” was more for me than anyone else in our party. Lance even said to me at one point, “Your kids are great skiers, so let’s work on you.” I was both proud of them and cracking up inside because what he said was so true. I was kind of thrilled at the opportunity to get better. I know the longer I wait, the more I’ll fall behind my kids.
The day started strong and fast, and we never slowed down. We cruised thru Bucky’s Backyard and his front yard. We skate-skied across a run to reach the super famous Oompa Loompa Land, where I unsuccessfully tried to convince the kids to sing the song from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” We skied Ruby’s Tail and a few other unnamed spots. I stayed with the kids for most of this adventure, and along the way I picked up some wonderful tips.
- Keeping your hands out in front is key for balance.
- Bending your knees into a bump actually slows you down.
- If you fall you must, without fail, scream “WIPE OUT!”
- When jamming out of the trees into the open run, always check to see if someone is coming or have a “look-out person”.
- Screaming for no reason is absolutely fine, you’re in the trees, you can say it was someone else.
- There is always a hard way and an easy way down.
Yes I did get scared a few times on along the way. I mean speed is my enemy, my nemesis even – although you’d never know it watching my kids zoom by. The bumps and I don’t always get along, I have yet to conquer my fear of tree skiing. A little fear is part of the fun. I did really get a little more than scared at the top of “Toilet Bowl” (It does have another name but once you hear toilet bowl that’s all you remember, that and the fact that the kids kept saying “Mom, you’re gonna get flushed!”)
I stood at the top while listening to Lance give us instructions and decided I needed to put tip #6 to work. I’m happy to report that there was and easier way down, and after checking with the kids and they were both ready to do it, (Lance also assured me they were strong enough skiers to handle it) I met them at the bottom. I listened to their hootin’ and hollering and giggling until they shot out of the trees with the biggest smiles on their faces. What a fabulous day!
I have shared my day with so many of my local friends, and every time they look at me with this hilarious expression and say either “that is the coolest thing ever, I didn’t know that existed” or “Oh bless your heart.” It was such an awesome three hours full of fun, knowledge, and memories. I think I’m more than prepared to take on the mountain with my kids. I may not quite be able to keep up, but I’m definitely more prepared and confident that we’ll be fine and have a wonderful time. Next up is a powder skiing lessons.