Deer Valley Resort Vying Again for World’s Best Ski Resort Award

Beginning today, competition for the second annual World Ski Awards commences and Deer Valley Resort hopes to maintain its title as United States’ Best Ski Resort from the inaugural award year and vie for World’s Best Ski Resort. The World Ski Awards serves to celebrate and reward excellence in ski tourism and focuses on the leading 20 nations that are shaping the future of the ski industry. Launched in 2013, World Ski Awards was developed in reaction to an overwhelming demand from the ski industry for a fair and transparent program with a mission to serve as the definitive benchmark of ski tourism excellence.

World Ski Award

“Deer Valley Resort won the distinction of being named United States’ Best Ski Resort for 2013 among a short list of USA finalists,” said Bob Wheaton, president and general manager of Deer Valley Resort. “It was an honor to have our commitment to excellence rewarded by industry peers and the guests and fans of the resort who voted for us. We strive to work just as hard every year and will hopefully continue on to be named World’s Best Ski Resort.”

Voting for the 2014 World Ski Awards opens June 6 and closes September 26, 2014. This year’s country winners will be announced at a red carpet World Ski Awards ceremony at the A-ROSA Kitzbühel, Austria, on November 22, 2014, as part of the three-day program of VIP events and networking activities. Voting will take place at worldskiawards.com and World Ski Awards’ Facebook page.

The World Ski Awards is part of World Travel Awards, currently celebrating 21 years as “the Oscars of the travel industry.” For more information on the award and voting for Deer Valley® as World’s Best Ski Resort, please refer to the resort’s website at deervalley.com.

2014 Ski Season Review

The season is officially over. Each year seems to go by faster and faster and this year was no different. Maybe it’s my age or just trying to manage family, work, ski races, sports and the boys’ schoolwork, but it’s safe to say there is not much down time. However, I was able to check off two bucket list items this season. First, I was able to go heli-skiing this January with some close friends. It was a lot of fun and lived up to my expectations.

Heli

Unfortunately, I was not skiing closing weekend at Deer Valley Resort because I was happily checking off another bucket list item of mine. I was in Augusta, Georgia, at the Masters Tournament. No, not the skiing masters. You wouldn’t believe how many people thought “skiing” until I clarified that it was in Augusta, Georgia. I remember watching the Masters with my mom on television. She never picked up a club but loved the game. I started golfing a few years ago and have been hooked ever since. My golf game is nowhere near my skiing ability though. If you’re a golfer this is a bucket list item for sure. My mom loved Fred Couples. I knew she was with me last weekend as I stood inches from him teeing off and putting. This was a gift to her. Thank you to the Sports Alliance for this great raffle package that I won. My golf season will start this Friday at the Park City Mountain Resort golf event as a guest and supportive friend to our great neighbors.

Thinking back on a wonderful ski season, the Deer Valley Celebrity Skifest comes to mind. This year the boys won. I like to think they requested the faster course again but my age maybe catching up to me. I had some great powder days with guests at Deer Valley Resort this season. This was my 18th season at the Resort and it still makes me proud to say I work at Deer Valley. Every morning I get to work with amazing mountain hosts, lift attendants, ski patrol and ski instructors, all of whom have a smile and warm hello for guests. You definitely get the feeling we are all on the slopes looking out for each other!

Next ski season can’t come soon enough. Thanks again to everyone who played a part in making this season such a great success. I’m excited for spring and summer and the adventures that come with warmer weather. Golf, concerts at Deer Valley, paddle boarding and mountain biking should make for a great summer in Park City.

See you on the trails!

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

John Guay 2

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!

Do You Set Challenges to Push Yourself?

Do you ever set random challenges for yourself? For example, when you are running, do you set a target to run to “the flagpole” or “to the end of the street?”  I do. It’s a simple way to push yourself to do a little more than you ordinarily would. Bring on the challenge!

Today I challenged myself to be “last tracks.” I made that up. I don’t know if that’s actually a skiing term like “first tracks.”  I wouldn’t actually know since rarely, if ever, am I out late in the day. I am in the lodge by the fire with a warm cup of cocoa in my hand by the time 4:00 p.m. comes along. I never paid attention to when the lifts close.

Today was different. I decided not to be an early bird and challenged myself to take the last chairlift (or close to it) of the day.

photo 1 (12)

It was a beautiful warm spring day with blue skies. I had a chance to come out and ski for a few hours on the first day of April so I wanted to make the most of it. I decided to stick around Carpenter chairlift and see how many runs I could do (and snap a few photos.) I bounced between Last Chance and Solid Muldoon ski runs.

The clock said 3:45 p.m. as I hopped on the lift so I figured, no problem, I can ski another half hour and take the last lift up before Carpenter closes. As I took a run on Last Chance ski run, the weather changed as it often does in the mountains and it started to snow.  Snow is always a good thing for skiers so I had a big smile on my face.

photo 3 (8)

At the end of the run as I headed toward the lift, my smile disappeared. It was snowing harder now and the wind was whipping up a bit so everything was white. Skiers were ignoring the snowfall and lining up for the lift but I hesitated.

Here was my deciding moment. Meet the challenge or fall short? What would you do?

I asked myself, “Are you going to cowgirl up and take another run? Are you going to stay out to the last possible moment and push yourself or are you going to go in?

I stared at the lift and looked at the snow whipping past and let several people pass me saying, “Go ahead, No problem.  I am taking pictures.”

The clock said 4:00 and the sign said, “Last lift at 4:15.”

photo 5 (4)

With snow blowing in my face, I turned on my heels while saying under my breath, “Close enough! This girl is headed in.”

So maybe my little challenge wasn’t met but the ski day was fantastic anyways! Check out more photos from my spring ski day at Deer Valley Resort below. Do you think I should have made one more run? Tell me in the comments or on Twitter @nancy_moneydiva.


photo 2 (15)photo 4 (4)

2014 US Freestlyle National Championships at Deer Valley Resort

Over the past 15 years, Freestlyle skiing has become a Deer Valley tradition. Not only did the resort host the 2002 Olympic Aerials, Alpine Slalom and Mogul events, but it has also held two World Championships and a dozen World Cups over this time span. The very first Freestyle World Championships were held in 1986. Two years later, mogul skiing was a demonstration sport in Calgary before becoming an official medal event at the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics. World class mogul skiers who come to Deer Valley Resort to compete appreciate its challenging run on Champion ski run, as well as its impeccable and fun filled organization.

Like an overwhelming number of mogul enthusiasts, I never miss the annual Freestyle World Cup at Deer Valley early in the year, and the dual moguls event in particular. Why the dual moguls? Because it’s a turbo-charged version of the regular event, as not just one, but two competitors, are jousting neck-to-neck, fighting the tremendous pressure of completing the run, in addition to managing the thought of having an opponent just ahead or right on their tail.

dvr-FNCp (6)

For the spectators it doubles up the excitement and the potential for upsets. All these elements are why I didn’t want to miss the dual mogul event when I heard that the 2014 U.S. Freestyle National Championships would be held at Deer Valley Resort at the end of March. Since I couldn’t attend the regular mogul competition on Friday, I set my sights on the dual moguls held the last Sunday of March.

dvr-FNCp (28)

I must admit that the usual Deer Valley spring sun wasn’t present that day. Instead, a fierce blizzard had taken over the mountain, with strong gusts of wind and a steady snowfall that would increase in ferocity as the competition came to its conclusion. There were about 60 men and 40 women engaged in that event and all would dual in a succession of heats, beginning at round 32.

dvr-FNCp (25)

As an official Deer Valley blogger and videographer, I was given access to the start of the race, where competitors get a plunging view of the slope below. In reality, the slope on Champion ski run is so steep that from the start, competitors can just see one edge that transitions down into the finish area. That’s right, the grade is so forbidding that the whole field of moguls isn’t even discernible – it’s a straight line separating start and finish – and the two sets of jumps can barely be spotted as the eye scans down towards the area where the spectators are massed!

dvr-FNCp (1)

That said, it takes a lot of courage, cool concentration, good preparation, and great physical shape to launch from the top of Champion! I watched the entire competition, making notes and taking pictures. While the fresh snow falling in abundance kept the course rather soft, it held remarkably well and the only challenge was visibility that, at times, made the contest even much more competitive than it would have been under normal, sunny circumstances.

In particular, it wasn’t easy on competitors who had to constantly switch goggles because of the heavy snow that dumped nonstop, and to make things even more stressful, skiers had to duel from a round of 32 participants, something unusual when compared to World Cup events where it only start at 16.

dvr-FNCp (39)

As usual, the women completed their runs first and the contest was won by Eliza Outtrim, from Hamden, Connecticut, who had already won the single mogul event on Friday. These successive victories brought Outtrim a total of three U.S. Titles to her name! Second in that dual mogul contest was Sophia Schwartz from Steamboat Springs, Colorado while Elizabeth O’Connell from Winter Park, Colorado took third.

dvr-FNCp (44) (1)

In the mens category, Bradley Wilson, a Deer Valley Resort athlete, climbed on the highest step of the podium, while local Nick Hanscom from Park City took second, preceding Joe Discoe from Telluride, Colorado.

When the race was over and just after the award ceremony took place in the finish area, I ran into Bob Wheaton, President and General Manager of Deer Valley Resort who introduced me to Skip McKinley, one of the male competitors.

dvr-FNCp (46)

Remarkably, Skip ran the rental ski department at Deer Valley some 33 years ago, but even more remarkable was the fact that the man was still competing at Deer Valley Resort that day, and managed to finish in the top 40 at more than 60 years of age.

What an incredible achievement and what an inspiration to all of us that would love to ski bumps but no longer have the skills, nor the “suspension” required to make it to the bottom of the course. Way to go Skip!

dvr-FNCp (34)

 

The Little Things Make the Difference

photo 2 (13)

Deer Valley Resort is where I learned to ski, so I don’t know anything other than being spoiled. Until my friends came up for a girl’s ski weekend, I didn’t fully appreciate all the special things that make Deer Valley so wonderful.  Sometimes when you don’t know anything else, you don’t realize how good you have it.

Here are a few things that delighted my friends about skiing at Deer Valley:

Drop off is easy. The ski concierge helps you unload your skis and poles and hold them for you while you park.  It’s so nice to not have to lug your equipment up from the parking lot.

photo

Toasty warm boots and gloves. There are boot warmers in the locker room at Snow Park  (and at Silver Lake Lodge and even at Cushing’s Cabin) so you can slip your feet into toasty warm boots for the start of your day (or after a break.) Having warm boots makes them easier to slip on, too. Sometimes, I’ll pop my gloves on the warmers, too if it a little chilly outside.

photo 2 (10)

Fresh flowers. How nice is it to have fresh flower arrangements in the ladies room?  Also with our high desert climate in Utah, it sure is helpful to have hand lotion to keep hands soft after washing up.  Ladies, do you agree?

photo 1 (10)

Mountain Hosts. The informative Mountain Hosts are perched at strategic locations to help you figure out your next move.  Since my girlfriends hadn’t skied in a few years, we tapped the Mountain Hosts to help us decide which runs to take and in what order.

Choices for great eats. You can find just about anything you’d like to eat one of the Deer Valley Resort restaurants.  Do you want pizza or sushi? World famous turkey chili or a salad bar? Would you like to sit down for fine dining? You got it. Not only are there the lodges at Snow Park, Silver Lake and Empire, but you can also experience dining at the Royal St Café, Montage, Stein Eriksen Lodge and St. Regis.

Ski storage for lunch. When you take a lunch break, you can store your skis for no charge so you never have to worry that you forgot where you left them or that you’ll mistakenly pick up someone’s that look just like yours. You can also leave your ski’s overnight at no charge and even have them waxed and ready for you the next day for a small charge.

photo 4 (3)

Boot baskets. The daily basket rental allows in-and-out privileges from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.  This makes it easy to drop a layer when you start to warm up and store your car keys for the day. (Yeah, I don’t bring my keys with me on the chairlift or down any ski runs for obvious reasons.)

photo 1 (11)

If you are coming back the next day, you can also store your boots overnight for no charge. This way in the morning, all you need is you and your helmet! Your skis, poles and boots all can be stored overnight waiting for you the next day — gratis from Deer Valley.

A ride to your car. The Deer Valley tram comes by every few minutes and drops you right by your car. All you have to do is remember which lot you parked in. You can be like me and forget where you left your car since you are so excited to ski in the morning. I am often seen walking through the parking lot at the end of the day, clicking my door opener and listening for a sound.  Works like a charm.

photo 2 (14)

When I was a kid, my father worked in Washington D.C., so my family went to the Smithsonian all the time. Seeing the Star Spangled Banner, the Hope Diamond, and the Bill of Rights was a regular occurrence for me – I thought all kids were “Smithsonian museum rats.”  I really didn’t know how good I had it back then.

Now as an adult, having the opportunity to ski at Deer Valley, I am spoiled once again and so are you. Isn’t it wonderful?

Family Fun on the NASTAR Course at Deer Valley Resort

Family

I know a thing or two about competitive fire. Living with an Olympic ski racer in Park City, Utah my kids are growing up on the slopes. I definitely feel like a fish out of water at the start of the NASTAR course, but I love it anyway!

Just picture it: I’m standing at the top of the race course, eyes focused on the first gate and occasionally at the tough competition to my right. I know this girl well. She loves speed and she knows how to work her skis like she is straight off the World Cup circuit. It runs in her family; well at least half of her family. Let’s face it, my almost eight-year-old daughter is better than I am on skis. But I am addicted to the competition. It’s the speed, intensity, terrain, and of course, the final gate and the finish that keep me coming back. NASTAR is ski racing at its amateur best!

Summer Start

Every time I squeeze my size 11 foot into my ski boot, I grimace, and then I smile thinking of making my way to the NASTAR course at Deer Valley Resort. It’s a family affair for us, which is one of the reasons I love it so much. The kids and I can’t wait to get out there and compete. We love being able to measure our improvement and of course just the adrenaline of the race. Of course, we are usually just competing against each other but there is still so much fun in that. Skye and I will joke saying, “You’re goin’ down, circus clown!” And while I try my hardest, she beats me every time. I probably ask my husband how I can get faster about 20 times every run. Mr. three-time Olympic skier just chuckles, knowing that speed is actually NOT my friend and replies, “We can get you there. You gotta get out of the gate faster.” And I’m fairly certain my face lights up at the prospect, and my brain in pure Jim Carey from Dumb and Dumber style says, ”So you’re sayin’ I have a chance!”

My kids LOVE the medals. And don’t get me wrong, I’m fond of my NASTAR silver too, but my true motivation is that desire to just shave a second, or even one-hundredths of a second off my time. It’s scary and exciting and it takes me back to my days in the pool, working on being my personal best. I have such appreciation for the best skiers and their abilities, and it’s fun to PRETEND to be one for 25 seconds. Plus, they announce your name!

Kids Start

So if you’re wondering what I’m talking about, the NA-tional STA-ndard Race, or NASTAR was started in 1968 by Ski Magazine to allow your average recreational skier (like me) to compete against friends and family regardless of when and where they race. You can find a course at over 115 resorts across the country and measure yourself against the best, your little bother, or in my case my son and daughter. There is a pace setter that establishes the course time at each course, and the timing and medals are based off of that. Our course setter at Deer Valley Resort is Heidi Volker. I know her as an Olympian and mom. I asked her a few NASTAR questions that I would like to share.

Summer: Why NASTAR? Why do so many people like it and what does it let you compare?

Heidi: People love NASTAR courses because it allows you to compare yourself to the best in ski racing like, Ted Ligety and AJ Kitt. Ted is racing on the World Cup so AJ Kitt is the national pacesetter and travels around to handicap racecourses. Racing always get you hooked.

Summer: How can a family use NASTAR for fun and growth in their skiing?

Heidi: Families can use NASTAR to compete against each other for bragging rights. This creates healthy and fun competition for your family.

Summer: Does it teach kids the skills of racing and/or more?

Heidi: NASTAR does teach the basics of ski racing. The courses are about a fourth of the regular length of World Cup races.

Akeeno Clarke’s Deer Valley Difference

Akeeno Clarke

Akeeno Clarke

New to Deer Valley’s staff, Akeeno Clarke is a culinary extern who comes to us from Jamaica. Born in Hanover, Parish of St. James, Akeeno went to culinary school in Montego Bay. He currently works as a Chef at Royal Street Café.  

JF: Why did you pick culinary school?

Akeeno: Because in Jamaica, you want to set an example for youngsters like yourself. In high school, I was actually granted a culinary scholarship to go to Spain, and I ended up working for the Grand Palladium Palace, one of the most famous hotels on the island of Ibiza. When I returned from that experience, I felt compelled to further myself professionally and to commit to a culinary career.

JF: How did you become aware of Deer Valley Resort?

Akeeno: In Jamaica, we don’t know much about skiing. I was approached by my Dean who told me about a program offered by Janus International, involving hospitality student exchange for bachelor degree graduates like me. I actually sought out this program and that’s how I was told about an opening at Deer Valley, in a state called Utah. I’d never heard about that place. The only thing they told me was to bring some warm winter clothes because it was going to be cold!

JF: Get ready for some snow!

Akeeno: That’s right, be ready for the snow. So, I looked up on the Internet, I explored the Deer Valley website and after I completed that first Skype interview, I immediately felt the love. I liked the people I talked to and I jumped on the opportunity!

JF: What did you expect when you took that job?

Akeeno: Apart from expecting some very cold weather, I was told in the interviews that the resort was ranked number one in America. I was also told in one these interviews by Chef Chris Gibson at the Royal Street Café, that everything in the kitchens is made from scratch. Their dressing, their tomato sauce and everything else are all made from scratch, from quality, fresh ingredients.

JF: Were your hopes realized?

Akeeno: When I got there, not only did everything I had imagined materialize, but my expectations were absolutely exceeded. I must commend Chris Gibson as he set the tone and shone a very distinct light on what was supposed to be done.

JF: How would you compare your previous experience, abroad in Spain, with that at Deer Valley?

Akeeno: I must say that Spain and America are two distinctly different nations. The way of doing things is also different; while the internship in Spain was very enriching, Deer Valley offered both a much more friendly and professional work place. I guess Deer Valley has been improving its services, its culture and its environment for a much longer period of time. Nevertheless, both places will have been great experiences that I will treasure for a long time!

JF: This obviously is your first season at Deer Valley Resort?

Akeeno: Yes, my very first season, but I hope the first of many more to come!

JF: Are you saying that you are hoping to return next winter?

Akeeno: Definitely, if I am given the opportunity!

JF: What were your first impressions when you began to work?

Akeeno: From the get go, the minute I arrived, Chris told me, “Jump in the kitchen!” and proceeded to show me around. While I was already getting involved, I began to pick up bits and pieces of the job, that I guess, make the “Deer Valley Difference.” The whole training was communicated to me in a very friendly manner. What surprised me the most was how everyone was treated equally, the same rules that applied to the managers also applied to the staff and whether I was hard at work or just having fun skiing, I was always treated with respect and friendliness.

JF: Precisely, let’s talk about your skiing experience. I guess you had never seen snow before you came here, right? When did you arrive?

Akeeno: That’s right; snow was new to me! I arrived on January 13, and it was cold and snowy; it had just snowed the day before.

JF: How did you learn to ski?

Akeeno: That’s surprising because when I first came here, I was shocked; I arrived from a warm country into a very cold place. I told myself, “I’ll never go skiing!”  I had heard about a couple of ski lessons that were coming up, but I never went to any of them. Then my friends, back in the kitchen, kept on telling me, “You need to go skiing, you need to come with us!” I’m talking about guys from Argentina or from the Philippines and one day someone summoned me one more time to get on skis. It’s at that moment that I finally decided to give it a try. I actually never took a ski lesson. My buddies showed me how to do it; that was it and now I’m doing it almost every day!

JF: You mean to say you’re skiing every day? That’s a fast learning curve!

Akeeno: You’re right, I’m skiing almost everyday and to my surprise I’m enjoying it very much. I love to ski!

JF: Aside from skiing, what are the most important things you’ve learned since you’ve been at Deer Valley?

Akeeno: First, I’d say that they’re a lot of different cultures in the work place. You need to be receptive to all the people that surround you. Coming from Jamaica where the culture is a lot different, in Deer Valley I needed to learn how to interact with all my co-workers whether they came from Argentina, Peru or Paraguay. Another important element of what I learned is the barrage of recipes I’ve learned to prepare. But what I learned the most has been about quality and consistency in all the meals I prepare, and my own ability to control my attitude in that high stress level job. Those are by far the most important skills I’ve learned at Deer Valley and I treasure them.

JF: Now, if you had friends who might be interested in taking a position at Deer Valley, what would you tell them are the required qualities to successfully accomplish the job and be happy?

Akeeno: As a matter of fact, when my friends back in Jamaica ask me what it would take to get a job like mine at Deer Valley, I always tell them that they must be a consistent person, they must be very punctual, they have to show up early on the job everyday. I mean they’re not supposed to be at work watching the clock, they have to be committed to their task. Much of this has to do with the high standards Deer Valley is setting. People working here have a mutual interest with what Deer Valley is trying to create and what they want to achieve for themselves.

JF: This makes a lot of sense. Now, in your view, what is so special and so different about Deer Valley Resort?

Akeeno: What’s really special about Deer Valley? As I mentioned before, it’s all the employees. They all know how to provide quality in a consistent manner. It never changes; everyone is aware of the standards Deer Valley is setting. It’s not like one day you can provide a certain level of service and a totally different one the next day. For instance the “Deer Valley Difference” is found in details like when you are about to ride the chairlift, the lift attendant brushes the snow off the seat and says, “Enjoy your day skiing!”, regardless of whether you are a guest or a resort employee. They will repeat these gestures and say something nice to you every single time; it never changes…

JF: The same measure for everyone?

Akeeno: The exact same!

JF: Akeeno, anything else you’d like to say?

Akeeno: I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Deer Valley, its staff, its managers and all my co-workers. Thank you for accepting me and for sharing your knowledge with me. When I return to Jamaica, this will have been a life changing experience for me that I will share with every one I come in contact with. I only hope that I can keep on working at Deer Valley Resort for many more seasons!