Letters from Melissa: Steeps and Stashes

Dear Thor,

What a great experience I had with you back in March and now Deer Valley is ramping up the excitement for this season. I have been hiking the trails around Deer Valley this summer, which are covered in a plethora of wildflowers in all of the colors of the rainbow spectrum!

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One of the great hiking-only trails at Deer Valley is the Silver Lake Trail to Bald Mountain, where I could look down on the steep slopes above the Mayflower chairlift. Hiking those trails the other day and reminiscing about your expert group lesson inspired me to write this letter to you for potential skiers looking for an adventure this coming season, especially your Steeps and Stashes!

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Your three-day expert instruction was exactly what I expected and more. As I entered my 50s last fall, I made a commitment to live life testing my abilities and accepting new challenges. Deer Valley’s three-day program for advanced and expert skiers, with you as our formidable instructor, definitely tested our group’s abilities, extending us beyond our comfort zones. Although I have been skiing for over 40 years and used to race and teach, last season was the first winter I have been able to work on my confidence in the trees, in moguls and on steep terrain. It was so fun to look down on the far western black diamonds and now green slopes where we had skied with you.

On the very first day, our group met at the base of Deer Valley’s Snow Park Lodge at 8:30 a.m. for introductions, and then we were off for a couple of warm-up runs and our two groups were divided. I soon learned I would be joining your group with another woman from Pasadena and a father-son from Park City. The small group size was just about right, though I know you could handle more skiers. Right from the start you let us know that safety was your number one priority and you would be challenging us as you raised the bar little by little.

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As soon as the groups were divided, we were off to test our abilities. The morning was about attacking moguls, but attacking them with gentleness in a way that taught us to love mogul skiing. Throughout the morning and into the afternoon we skied some of the steepest runs in all of Deer Valley, including where I was hiking during the month of July, above the Mayflower chairlift on my way to one of the highest peaks in the area, Bald Mountain.

We learned to find the sweet spot on the top of the mogul, just like a tennis player might hit the tennis ball with that perfect ping on the racket. One of my favorite recommendations that you gave us was to “find the line.” Some skiers might move from mogul to mogul, finding the smaller ones and then following the grooves around each one, but we learned to follow the line of the mountain and not to veer off of our lines. We kept our bodies downhill. If a mogul was too big, you taught us to cut it in half, which might be obvious to more advanced mogul skiers, but your program is geared to skiers who have not taken the next step to get out of their comfort zones and gain confidence.

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You did an amazing job having us all push ourselves, little by little, which reminded me of my great-grandfather, an Olympic pole vaulter, setting the bar just a little higher with each attempt. You reiterated about “skidding” on our skis and getting us out of carving our turns. “More skidding. Yes, that’s it,” you would say, until we got the feeling and the motion right.

At lunch in the private Mariposa dining room, fragrant with the smell of the blazing fire, we all went around the table recalling the primary points we learned about mogul skiing. Our list grew longer and longer. Finding the line. Skidding. The importance of the perfect pole plant. Timing. Accuracy. Rhythm. We all agreed we had already improved dramatically and we were only half way through the first of three days.

Our group was coming together like a team as we all supported each other. With the soft snow conditions, you purposely sought moguls to give us confidence before taking us to some of Deer Valley’s steepest runs. We skied very hard that first day, but left us wanting more as our Improvements were coming fast and furiously!

For newcomers to Deer Valley, this three-day program proved to be the perfect introduction to some of the more inaccessible trails in all of Deer Valley. We would all say good-bye at the base on day number one, knowing that we had improved dramatically and we still had two more days to go.

Thank you for helping us build confidence and show us the mountain like we could have only dreamed about!

I truly hope you are having a great summer and looking forward to new students in this season’s Steeps and Stashes. The Deer Valley hikes have been great and keeping me in shape. I hope you’re working your muscles, too, oh mighty, Thor!

All my best,

Melissa Marsted

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