Peeking Into a Lift Operator’s Life

In any skier’s typical day, each chairlift or gondola ride always involves a Lift Operator. This key employee is constantly making sure that everyone is safe and well cared for. The constant interaction between Lift Operators and skiers has perked up my curiosity and prompted me to know more, and understand better, what motivates these seemingly tireless mountain workers.

DV_08065

Late this season, one early morning, just before his shift, Kevin Combs, one of the many Deer Valley’s Lift Operators, took the time to listen to my questions and shone a rather enthusiastic light on his daily life:

dv-liftop

JF: How long have you been a lift operator?
Kevin: This actually is my first year.

JF: What was your occupation before that?
Kevin: I was a machinist, back east, in Massachusetts. I moved to Utah in November.

JF: How do you like working with Deer Valley Resort?
Kevin: It’s fun. It’s a great experience being here, lots of great people to work with, everyone has a smile on their face and always ready to serve our guests and makes sure everyone has a great experience, whether we’re talking about guests or fellow employees.

JF: Were you a skier before you came here?
Kevin: Oh, yes! I have been skiing since I was 12 years old.

JF: So, I guess you learned and skied in New England?
Kevin: Oh yeah, I skied the ice, which is something you have to learn on the East Coast. I can guarantee that it makes a good technical skier out of anyone who learns over there!

JF: How often to you get to ski?
Kevin: That’s what makes the job so exciting: I get to ski every day; whenever I get a break, I ski, it’s great!

JF: Even on your days off?
Kevin: You bet, I ski every day that I can, I wouldn’t miss a beat!

JF: Where, on the mountain, do you work?
Kevin: I am working out of Empire Canyon. I either work on Empire or Ruby Express chairlifts. I also help around on the mountain when another lift is short of people. I’ll rotate as needed.

JF: Since this was your first season, have you visited other Utah resorts?
Kevin: I’ve almost skied them all; the only ones I think I haven’t skied yet are Solitude, Powder Mountain and Snowbasin.

JF: When you’re skiing Deer Valley, what’s your favorite run?
Kevin: I’m into extreme skiing so I love to ski a lot around Lady Morgan, because of its great tree skiing and its cliffs. I’m particularly fond of Centennial Trees, and of course, I ski off Empire Express in places like Daly Bowl and all the surrounding Daly Chutes. When I happen to find an untouched area, I just “drop-in…”

JF: Are you skiing alone or with buddies?
Kevin: I do a lot of skiing by myself. This said, I have a lot of friends who ski with me; I do my own things in the morning, and then I hang with them in the afternoon because sometimes they can’t quite follow me. But I like to ski with everybody and together, we always have a great time; I guess that’s what skiing is all about!

JF: What would you say are the skills required to do your job well?
Kevin: Before anything, you need to be a great people person. You need to be concerned about skiers’ safety and comfort, especially those who are less advanced and aren’t always familiar with riding lifts. Sure, it also helps to know a little about things mechanical, the lift itself, because it’s a big piece of machinery. For instance I pay attention to noises that may come from the lift; with my mechanical background, I can alert Maintenance to a problem if there seems to be one. Of course, the job also demands that one is a decent skier so you can ski to and from work, can relate well to our guests and have a wonderful interaction with them.

JF: Does a healthy passion for skiing help?
Kevin: Oh yes, most definitely! If you work as a Lift Operator and are not really here for skiing, you miss out a lot. Of course you can take the job just for the love of the mountains, but a passion for skiing shows and makes all the difference. Working no longer feels like work!

JF: What would be your next professional goal with Deer Valley Resort?
Kevin: I’d probably love to move up to Ski Patrol, because I like to help people and be on skis. For me, being outside and helping people are the two main reasons why I love with my life at Deer Valley!

JF: If people reading this blog were interested in a position like yours, what kind of advice would you give them?
Kevin: Don’t be scared by the responsibilities and by all the impressive machinery; the work is totally doable. The training Deer Valley provides is great, everything is fluid, all the kinks have been purged, and of course, there’s all the skiing!

DV_08215

JF: What will you do this summer?
Kevin: I’m planning to get a job with an online sport equipment supplier in the Salt Lake Valley. During my spare time, I also plan to mountain bike a lot here and around Moab!

JF: Sounds exciting! So, you’re looking forward to another winter season with Deer Valley Resort?
Kevin: I think so; I’m now convinced Deer Valley is the place to be. It’s a lot of fun here. We’re surrounded with lots of great, helpful people all the time. I’ve never had a bad day here, which is simply… amazing!

Heavy Lifting!

Last Saturday I went to shoot a video about a helicopter that was removing the old Deer Crest chairlift. This job is a necessary first step before receiving the slightly larger towers that are being built for the new Mountaineer Express chairlift on Little Baldy Mountain at Deer Valley. Before I even left home, I saw a strange helicopter flying by the Wasatch Mountains. A few moments later, I was picked up at Snow Park Lodge by Chuck English, Deer Valley Resort’s Director of Mountain Operations.

On the way up to the lift, Chuck explained that Dopplemayr, the company supplying lifts to Deer Valley, had orchestrated a complex and precise operation to remove the eighteen towers assemblies that constituted the Deer Crest chairlift and bring them down to the bottom of the lift in less than two hours. He further explained that the helicopter used for the operation was a very expensive piece of equipment, costing around $4,000 per hour of flight time. I knew a few things about choppers, but not much about the special machine that came that morning. That one was used for hauling timber, moving lift towers around or even fighting fires.

The aircraft in question was a 1998 K-1200 made by Kaman Aerospace Corporation, powered by a 1,500 hp engine and owned by Timberline Helicopters, Inc. of Sandpoint, Idaho. This company is specialized in ski lift, power lines and pipelines construction, as well as logging among other diversified activities. This model, also called K-Max has two main intermeshing rotors but no tail rotor. Its two rotors turn in opposite directions, with each rotor mast mounted on the helicopter in a slight angle relative to the other and in such a way that the blades intermesh without colliding.

This original design is what allows the helicopter to function without the need for a tail rotor. This configuration is referred to as a synchropter. Such helicopters offer both high stability and powerful lifting capability, further they are more efficient, have a natural tendency to hover and are excellent for precision work in placing suspended loads. They’re also more responsive to the pilot’s control inputs, making it possible to easily and precisely swing a very heavy load; in fact, this flying crane can lift more than it own weight – 6,000 lbs – and while it burns an average of 85 gallons of fuel per hour during lift operations like this one, it remains the most efficient lift-to-fuel ratio of any helicopter in its class.

Like on fixed-wing aircraft, the lift of the helicopter rotating wings is produced by its reaction with the surrounding air. The denser the air, the greater the reaction. As the aircraft climbs in altitude, the air becomes less dense, so the amount of lift is reduced. This is because the atmospheric pressure acting on a given volume of air is reduced, allowing the air molecules to move further apart. At some point in a climb, up into a high mountain environment for instance, the lift produced by the thinning air is only enough to maintain the altitude, but no longer enough to climb. This constitutes the absolute ceiling for the aircraft.

The air density is not just a function of altitude though; the atmospheric pressure plays a role too; if the pressure is lower, the air is not as dense. Same effect with the temperature; as warm air expands, the air molecules move further apart, creating lighter air, but the reverse is also true as cooler air will create denser air conditions. Finally moisture influences lift as well; as the water content of the air increases, the air becomes less dense, decreasing performance. Increased relative humidity also contributes to that loss of lift.

To illustrate these physical facts, the working crew that day was telling us that while performing a similar work at 11,000 feet elevation at nearby Snowbird, earlier in the week, the weather was so hot and humid that the helicopter had a challenging time carrying some of its loads. At times and when the parts allows it certain elements like the sheave assemblies must be removed from the cross arm that sits on top of a chairlift tower and be replaced later on. In terms of lifting performance, the K-Max cargo hook capacity is rated at 6,000 lb at sea level. At 10,000 feet it’s about 5,163 lb and at 15,000 feet it falls significantly to 4,313 lb.

At the end of August, when the towers will have been manufactured, the helicopter will return to replace the new infrastructure of what will be the new “Mountaineer Express” chairlift. I hope I’ll get to be invited again to shoot the scene and focus on the wonderful choreography between some heavy hardware, a team of skilled craftsmen and a wonderful flying machine…

 

Easy Breezy Summer Day

Some days you don’t feel like exerting yourself -no biking and no hiking.  You just want to chill, relax and have an easy -breezy day.  Last Saturday was one of those days. We had some friends visiting from California so the chairlift to Deer Valley’s Bald Mountain was just what the doctor ordered.Great views – aspens, pines, and mountain bikers below us.  Now you are talking!

As we approached the top of Bald Mountain, my friends innocently asked me which runs I ski.  Since they aren’t skiers, I could easily have said something like, “Oh Grizzly and Orient Express but my favorite on powder days is Mayflower Bowl.  I stay away from Morningstar when it is really cold because I just can’t catch my edges but otherwise it is an exhilarating run.”

All that would have been a completely fabricated — a bald faced lie so I didn’t do it but it would have been fun to see if they believed me.  Well, instead I looked at them and laughed saying, ” None! Are  you crazy?  See the black diamond?  Let me explain what that means.  That  means not Nancy.” (Well, not yet anyways). 


We walked over to Sultan Express lift to see views of the Jordanelle Reservoir and the Heber Valley from what felt like the top of the world. We could see the Uinta mountain range from there.  I pointed out the Blue Ledge run to my friend and we stood at the blind drop off edge to get a feel for what it would be like to fly over the ledge on skis.  We stood near the top of Thunderer run and looked down on a black diamond run but with our feet firmly planted on the ground.


Mountain bikers and hikers were unloading to make their trek down the mountain as we climbed back on the lift to ride down.  The view of Park City and the valley was breathtaking.  I pointed out Flagstaff Mountain where I do hang out on the single blue and green runs.

All this sitting on the chairlift and relaxing made us thirsty! 

We headed up to Stein Eriksen Lodge to lounge on their patio, drink local brews, visit and watch the wind blow through the aspens in an easy breezy way.

Slow lifts: Endangered Species?

Not so long ago, most ski lifts were slow. They provided us with a chance to catch up, regroup, think about our technique, rest our legs and even munch on a sandwich or a bar. They also gave us a chance to talk. Talk about anything: from views, to snow quality, to weather, good restaurants or cool equipment; the list could go on forever… In those days, even though chairlifts could be painfully slow, we got to the top without realizing we had spent fifteen solid minutes hanging up in the air.

We had to wait until 1981 to see the first ever, high speed detachable quad in the world, installed in the Rocky Mountains. Since then, that precious “chair-time” has been rapidly eroding; at the best American resorts, high-speed chairlift are becoming the norm. Next winter, what used to be the perfect illustration for today’s subject, the Deer Crest chairlift, will undergo a total metamorphosis and in the process, will shed its fixed grips, its slow, easy pace, for a brand new detachable design that will whisk skiers, in less than half the time taken previously, to the top of the Jordanelle Gondola. In the process, it will also get rechristened “Mountaineer Express.”

Back in February of 2010, I wrote a blog about chairlift stories, set back in a time where most chairlifts hanged to a fixed grip, moved up much more slowly and were the perfect place for telling, trading or making stories, as long as the company was receptive and the weather wasn’t extreme. Of course, things have changed a great deal with the spread of portable music players and the proliferation of smart phones. Now, a short life ride is all the time one needs for checking emails, tweeting or responding to a Facebook post. What I’m trying to say is that today, chairlifts have become more an opportunity to catch up on-line than striking a long and profound conversation. From that viewpoint, the demise of the slower lift might accompany the end of endless chat aloft. So much for long conversations or even for a quick lunch up in the air (Deer Valley restaurants are a much better culinary alternative anyway!)

And with the switch to faster ski-lifts what about our own, tired legs. I can think of many time when finally sitting down while riding up the mountain was a welcome relief! One might argue that nowadays skiers are much more fit and don’t generally look for the “rest” provided by a slow moving seat. I would add that with so many new spas available in and around Deer Valley, soothing options are today more easily available and have become so common-place that a tired pair of legs can soon be pampered and repaired into peak shape after a solid day of hard skiing.  On the flip side, one aspect no one will miss with detachable chairlifts is the “bump” in the back of our calves that could be common place if we didn’t pay attention or if the lift attendants weren’t so kind to be holding (or bumping) the chair for us.

This creature-of-comfort consideration also brings up my last argument: Today, with much faster ski-lifts, the same amount of skiing that used to take an entire day, can be compressed into half that time thanks to these express chairlifts and there’s now more time for enjoying all the extra resort activities that have sprouted in recent years. We all know that multitasking doesn’t work too well, so why not ski more intensely for fewer hours on these state-of-the-art lifts and use up the extra time for a longer and much more civilized lunch break, some early après-ski, a shopping spree, a spa session or for discovering snowmobiling or a hike in snowshoes?

So, well before the last slow chairlift is slated for demolition, Deer Valley Resort recognizes that some chairlifts should, for the time being, remain in the slow lane if you need to share very long stories or if you want to relax your legs for more than just six or eight minutes. I’m not talking about the few beginner lifts that are found on Wide West or the short connecting chairlifts that are spread all over the mountain, but bigger lifts like Mayflower or Red Cloud. They both run in parallel with a much faster chairlift and will also get you to the top, giving you much more time to catch your breath, enjoy the vistas and smell the snowflakes!

Of course, if that story has made you really nostalgic about slow chairlifts and you can’t wait until this winter to experience these slow, classic machines, now is the time to jump on any of Deer Valley’s express chairlifts when they’re running at low speed during the summer season to accommodate mountain bikers and pedestrians; that way you’ll be able to fully enjoy the ride, marvel at the scenery and trade some really good stories, but don’t delay, summer will soon be over!

Empire Canyon Grill with Andrew Fletcher

Deer Valley is lucky to see visits from both loyal locals and returning out-of-towners. Many guests return each season with specific traditions that they must incorporate into their Deer Valley experience. A best kept secret for many skiing at Deer Valley is Empire Canyon Grill, located in the Empire Canyon Lodge, tucked away at the base of Empire Canyon Express Chairlift.

We caught up with Andrew Fletcher, Empire Day Sous Chef to share his favorite things about Empire Canyon Grill and Deer Valley.

When did you come to Deer Valley?

I arrived at Deer Valley in November of 1998 for one ski season, and have been here ever since.

What does a perfect ski day mean to you?

Any day on the slopes!  If you are cold you can come inside and warm up by the fire.  If it is sunny you can sit out on the deck.  You can always find the perfect run at DV no matter what day it is.

What is your favorite thing on the menu at Empire Grill?

The Steak Baguette at the specialty grill.

Who is your favorite person to ski with?

My wife and daughter.

What is your must have treat at Deer Valley?

A beer on the Empire or Sliver Lake deck after a day of skiing.

What run is a must for every ski day?

Magnet on Lady Morgan.

What is your most memorable chairlift ride?

I was once on a chair with two men who had just retired and were going to ski every resort in the U.S. that season.

Empire Canyon Grill is open during the ski season for continental-style breakfast from 9:15 – 11 a.m. daily, featuring fresh pastries, homemade granola and beverages including espresso, latte and cappuccino. Open for lunch from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., offering a traditional and gourmet grill, Natural Salad Buffet, soup, chilies, paninis and fresh baked goods.  Afternoon snacks are available until 3:30 p.m.

Mother-Son Night at World Cup

World Cup Fever hit hard in my house.

So did the regular fever, which turned out to be strep—but it only derailed our mad spectating skills for one night. More on that in a minute.

No sooner had Sundance ended, than my family was plotting out our strategy to be spectators at the VISA Freestyle International . We decided that the moguls on Thursday would be my mother-son night with Lance—in part to compensate for my all-day birthday ski date with Seth earlier in the week, while Lance was busy being a third grader. Said third-grader wasted no time telling his teacher that he’d be out late Thursday at the World Cup. Thankfully, Park City teachers get it—Lance said Ms. Thompson was really excited for him.

The buildup was immense—so when we got home from karate and I discovered that little brother had a fever, I saw Lance try to mask his disappointment at the prospect of missing out on our evening. Dad, of course, saw no reason for us to change our plans—all Seth needed was one parent in the house to take care of him. Mom and brother? Redundant.

So, we bundled up and off we went. I can safely say there was nothing the kid did not enjoy about the World Cup—from the walk through the parking lot to the chairlift ride with no skis, to the hike up the bottom of Little Stick. Seeing all the kids (and some adults) sliding on their bottoms off the runout on the bottom of Solid Muldoon was a hoot, too. And then…the holy grail:  We were lucky enough to be invited to the VIP Tent, so my soup-loving boy got to enjoy a second dinner of Tomato Basil Soup and unlimited cookies.

And this kid—he may be but a yellow belt in karate, but he’s got a black-belt in events. “Mom, it’s warm in the tent, and we’re bundled up—let’s take our soup outside and eat where it’s cooler,” he said, wisely. “Plus, we won’t miss a minute of competition!”

And, of course, the competition was amazing.

In the process, I think I found the phrase that will make my kids roll their eyes in that “Mom, you’re such a dork, you always say that!” way that teenagers acquire. It is…

“You know, if you were growing up in New York City, you would not get to do this!”

Admittedly, it’s kind of a preemptive strike against the kind of groaning I have anticipated as soon as my kids figure out that my old life as an Entertainment Editor in New York City involved premiere tickets to just about every major studio release, house seats to popular Broadway shows, and concert tickets with backstage access at lots and lots and lots of teenybopper concerts. I once said to Ski Dad that I wondered if, for all the effort we put into moving to Utah and creating a certain kind of life here, if our kids would “reward” us by lusting after city life, as a sort of karmic joke. (I was the originator of that particular bit—growing up in Vermont, I pined, pined I tell you, for life in the big city. Three cities and twelve years later, I was done.)

So, yes, I went ahead and made that statement, aloud, to Lance as we got ready to watch the women’s and men’s moguls’ competition on Thursday night. Shameless.

But something cool happened. Lance got the same look of awe on his face watching the competition as he got when I took him to see American Idol Live on Tour, or the first time he watched Star Wars. He was both completely absorbed in being entertained, and impressed with what it took to make this entertainment happen. And you know what? Even though mom’s job still have the kind of perks that get us into VIP tents, that wasn’t the thing that impressed him about the experience:

“Mom, look how good they are,” he said. “I’m thinking about how hard they all worked to get here. It’s a lot of work, isn’t it, Mom?”

For once, I just shut my mouth and let the experience speak for itself.

Thanks, Lance.

Isn’t it amazing how one good storm can change the mountain?

Due to Mother Nature’s sleepiness this year I hadn’t attempted to ski any of our off-piste areas. Some of you might be saying, “Deer Valley off-piste?” But believe me; Deer Valley has a variety of skiing for all skier types.

One of my favorite stories is many years ago, before we even had Empire Canyon, Daly Chutes and Lady Morgan. A group of my guy friends were planning on skiing somewhere other than Deer Valley because we were in the middle of a big storm. I offered to ski with them at Deer Valley and show them around the powder, but they insisted we didn’t have enough.

Well the next day, they agreed to meet me. They still were full of skepticism thinking the “powder day”  was wasted. Well, I’ll put it this way, by 1 p.m. they were crying “Uncle” and needed to stop. We didn’t ski a single designated trail. Of course all in bounds, we just stuck to the all bowls and trees.

We started in Mayflower Bowl for a few runs then crossed into Perseverance Bowl. We got to the top of Sultan Express and dropped over into Ruins of Pompeii on down into the trees that lead you back to Perseverance. As we grabbed the lift again and rested, I lead them down to the top of Triangle Trees right were Tycoon and Reward split. They were having the time of their lives. Once we got in the heart of Triangle of Trees you heard the “powder day cheers” coming from all, we hit Rattler, grabbed Wasatch Express chairlift to make our way into Sunset Glades then Ontario Bowl. Even though we had been skiing over 2 hours they couldn’t get over the lines still untouched in Ontario Bowl.

After a few laps in Ontario they asked for lunch and promised they would never say that they could “out ski” Deer Valley again.

Fast forward a few years, we now have Empire Canyon with the Daly Chutes and Lady Morgan. It’s quite the work out to hit all areas I’ve mentioned on one powder day. It can be done but the legs might fumble at the end. People ask me how big Deer Valley is, I say “you can’t ski it all in a day”.

Also, I like to showcase Deer Valley’s varied terrain to dispel the myths of us being only intermediate. One run that makes me gather my thoughts before I enter is Challenger (Daly Chutes). No matter the abundance of snow Challenger is just that, challenging. It is very narrow at the entry. I’m not sure two skiers could enter at the same time. Once completed you look back up, out of breath and realize the steepness and narrowness you just navigated. Quite Exhilarating!

If you still don’t believe me, now that I have described some of our black diamond skiing; then come check it out for yourself and maybe I can help. But don’t get caught off guard either, our groomers like Tycoon, Reward, Keno, Magnet and Legal Tender keep you challenged too.  Some much to ski but so little time. See you on the slopes.

Attempt at skiing, #2!

I woke up this time and felt so much more at ease for the upcoming ski adventure. I knew that I could at least wedge down the mountain if absolutely necessary, but that Eddy probably would be rather disappointed (and that is something that I couldn’t handle).

After I went through the process of getting all my equipment I met up with Eddy on the beginners slope and felt even more at ease with the situation. However, unlike my first day I was not ready for the cold. I realize that you can’t always have a beautiful sunny day, but from my personal experience, I can say without a doubt that if you don’t like being cold and you are trying to learn to ski, you won’t have a great experience. Eddy gave my some hand warmers to put in my gloves and we made our way to the lifts.

The first couple of runs we took just went very slow and reviewed all that we had learned at a slow pace. I cannot say enough how great Eddy is! He was trying to cheer me up because I was frustrated at how I wasn’t doing as well as before and not to mention that I had turned into the abominable snowman. As great as he is, cheering me up was not happening and I was losing my excitement quick. Eddy then suggested we take a break and warm up inside, which I was more than happy to do. We then met up with JF Lanvers in the lodge who was very excited and couldn’t wait to see how much more progress I had made. Eddy delicately explained it was too cold to get as good while showing me puppy pictures to bring my smile back. I think that the most important thing that Eddy taught me in this lesson was that you can’t be hard on yourself and you need to be patient (whether that is with your progress or with the sun).

We decided that it was time to give it another chance because the sun had come out and I was on a cute-puppy-picture high and now was as good of a time to try as any. We started with our run and the difference between that run and the previous runs was unbelievable! I was for sure not as good as I had been towards the end of the first lesson, but I was much, much, MUCH better than before. My mood instantly got better and I was ready to go. (Again mad props to Eddy for being able to read me and know how to best ensure I had a good day!)

After a few runs on the bunny hill Eddy decided that it was time for an actual run. My heart just about stopped and I was less than enthused to fall down a very large and much longer hill. Eddy promised me that he would never endanger me by putting me on a run that he didn’t know I could handle. Eddy is a very optimistic person clearly, because I for sure felt like that was something that I could not accomplish. But he had never steered me wrong so I needed to trust him and everything he had taught me…

Fast forward to the top of the run which was called Success, which Eddy promised was super easy and just a longer version of the bunny hill.

At the top of the run I snapped this pic to both A) show the world my mastery of the sport B) lie to the world and say I skied skillfully down the run.

We started down the run and I cannot believe what happened. I destroyed it (In a good way!). I did so well and I felt that excitement of skiing and accomplishing something. I did fall twice, on two flat parts because I was spazzing out and looking directly down which you should not do! Eddy told me half way through that he had a secret that he would tell me when we finished, which I knew was something I was either or that the run was maybe not the easiest of the beginner runs. I flew down the rest of the mountain (still a bit of a ski hazard so if you ever see a fully purple ski suit looking a little nervous and in the way, it’s me and I will apologize now if you run into me, I’m sure it’ll be great meeting you like that.)

At the end I felt so accomplished and was so happy to be able to say that I skied my first run and lived to tell the tail. I was so proud of myself and I know that Eddy was really proud of me as well. He then proceeded to tell me that I had just skied the hardest beginner’s hill and “killed” it. Eddy is very sneaky and totally tricked me into realize that I’m good enough for even the more difficult beginner runs.

Long story, very short; Had a really hard morning, decided I hated skiing, hung out with Eddy and listened to him and finally skied down an actual run. Decided that I like skiing and I have a lot of potential to be good at it.

As always, a special thank you to JF Lanvers for catching my lessons on video and showing everything I cannot describe in words.

So I Guess Snow has a Purpose…

Hating no feeling in my toes, not wanting to look like a total spazz and hating snow were all major causes of me hating skiing… and winter. However, I must confess that even though I had never tried skiing, it sure sounded like something that I would hate. Then finally after 21 years of being completely adamant about not skiing, I was given enough grief that I thought I’d give it a try. Living in Utah which has The Greatest Snow on Earth®, being only 20 minutes away from the best ski resort in the country and being given this opportunity, I’d be crazy to not at least try, right?

Fast forward to the actual morning of my first lesson and the decision seemed a whole lot less great then I had previously assumed. While driving up the canyon I couldn’t help but assume the worst; that I’d be awful, everyone would see me fall on my face, that my instructor would give up and say I was a lost cause, etc. But now, I can say with certainty, that if you’re going to learn to ski (when you suffer from over thinking like I do) the only place to do it is Deer Valley. When I reached the resort I looked around and was truly blown away. Not only by the people in epic snow gear, but also how beautiful the snow was, how cozy and warm the lodge was and how everyone was in this insanely cheerful-happy-to-be-alive mood. Needless to say, I was in love with the environment and ready to pack up and move there. But in all seriousness, even just being around people who love to ski that much was infectious and a lot of my nervousness went away just by being there.

I went to the ski rental shop and got my boots, skis, poles, and the name of my own private instructor (feeling pretty legit at this point). And then I looked outside and it all became very real: the bunny hill in all its glory. I walked out and was instantly greeted by a very smiley man in a very green ski outfit who pointed me in the direction of my instructor Eddy. Eddy, from Michigan, who was so nice and made me feel sure that I was in good hands. Eddy told me that I was lucky to learn from him because he knew all the secrets and was going to make me a pro in no time. “I’m going to show you that you already know all the things you need to ski, but you just didn’t know you knew it.” Sounded good enough to me because the easier the better and a lower chance that I would look lame.

We went inside first and did some very basic things like walking and standing which I’m already good at, so my self-confidence was soaring pretty high. Eddy reassured me that being on skis would be just as easy if I just gave it a chance and listened to what he had to say. After I was feeling like I could take on just about any run, I actually got on to a pair of skis and felt a whole lot less confident. Eddy taught me the basics of getting in and out of skis, walking, turning (a lot harder than one would think) and finally how to move enough to get to the chairlift. As odd as it sounds, the chairlift was the thing that I was most worried about. After Eddy reassured me about seven times that it really wasn’t that bad we pushed our way up and got on the chairlift. It was truly that simple, which is a very obvious statement, but really not bad at all and probably the silliest fear ever.

After we got of the lift with no problems, because Eddy is a chairlift master (or it’s just super easy to get off a chairlift) we made our way to my very first attempt at skiing down a mountain. Eddy turned around and skied backwards while teaching me the ‘wedge’ technique which is how you stop. We went down the hill three times just practicing the wedge and learning how to stop which was probably the most important thing I learned. As Eddy put it,” The two things that you should have learned by the end of the lesson are: how to get control and how to keep it.” I truly could not have had a better experience learning how to ski. Eddy and all of the staff were so nice and so patient that I felt completely at ease to take things as slow as I needed and that made all the difference. By the end of the half day lesson I was parallel skiing down the mountain with no problem! It truly seemed like a miracle but I was assured that it actually happens all the time which is neat but made me feel less like a natural skier pro extraordinaire.

After a fantastic BLT from the Deer Valley Grocery ~Cafe and repeatedly boasting to my sister that “I killed it” and was “practically the next Lindsey Vonn” I realized that skiing was something that I could learn to actually like. I’m not going to lie and say it wasn’t hard but I would say that it was way more fun than it was effort. I can’t wait for my next lesson so that I can get even better and feel even more comfortable skiing.

JF Lanvers caught up with me during my lesson and captured the whole thing on video.

January Learn To Ski & Snowboard Month

January Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month began in 2007 and has since grown to include 32 states and over 300 resorts. Deer Valley Resort is proud to participate in this great national program.

What is Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month?

“Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month in January encourages children and adults to learn by taking lessons from professional instructors. It also challenges current skiers and snowboarders to improve their skills through lessons.” (According to skiandsnowboardmonth.com)

What is Deer Valley offering in January for Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month?

Deer Valley is offering a Learn to Ski Lodging Package this year for out-of-town guests.

Whether you are new to skiing or perhaps have just taken some time away from the sport, what better time to visit Deer Valley Resort than during National Learn to Ski Month! Save 25% on lodging, adult ski rentals and two MAX 4 semi-private group lessons. Valid January 2 – 12, 2012, and January 17 – 31, 2012.

Deer Valley is also offering a Ski Utah Learn to Ski Program on January 28, 2012 for locals.  

Date: January 28, 2012
Program: Ski Utah Learn to Ski Program – Never-ever skiers and locals only (local is anyone with a current Utah driver’s license. Lesson Time:   9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Maximum: Limited to the first 55 registrants.
Participants: First-time skiers (never-ever skied before).
What is included: Ski lesson, lift ticket, ski rentals (helmet not included) and locker token.
Age: Participants must be 13 years or older. Cost: $39 for the package, per participant ($13 for a lift ticket, $13 for ski rental equipment and $13 for the lesson)
What to bring:  Appropriate ski attire (pants and a jacket), gloves, goggles/sunglasses and sunscreen.
Reservations: Must be made prior to January 26, 2012.  Reservations can be made by calling 888-754-8477 or 435-645-6648 and mention “Ski Utah Learn to Ski Program” One lesson per participant.

*Though January is known as Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month, Deer Valley is a ski only resort.

To celebrate Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month Deer Valley will be following a local, never-ever skier as she learns to ski this January.

Meet Katie Fredrickson

Katie is 21 years old and is studying History at the University of Utah. Born and raised in Utah, Katie is looking forward to finally learning how to ski.

“Living in Utah you are surrounded by people who ski, it’s easy to feel left out when all your friends leave you down in the valley on powder days.”

With the improvements Deer Valley has made to its Wide West beginner area the environment should be less intimidating for Katie.

“I’m stoked I don’t have to get on a chairlift right away. The conveyor lifts on the beginner hill seem a lot less scary. I think it will help me to focus on learning to ski and not freaking out about getting on and off the chair.”

We took Katie down to the rental shop to get fitted for skis and boots. It’s important to follow the steps when renting gear for your first time skier.

When you first enter the rental shop you want to make sure you fill out the proper form before anything.

The rental shop has several tools to help you determine your ability and type of skier.

There are lots of friendly customer service employees to help you out.

Boot fitting will be your first stop.

Followed by getting measured for the right ski…

Finally you will be fitted for the right length of pole

We asked Gary Wassmar, our rental shop manager for some tips on renting gear for first time skiers.

Tip #1: When trying on boots make sure you toes touch the end with straight legs. You know they fit properly when your foot slides back with your knees bent

Tip #2: For beginners, your ski length should come right below your chin

Tip #3: To choose the right size poles, your arm should be a 90-degree angle holding the pole under the basket

Katie has her first lesson Friday, January 6. Check back here to see how our first time skier does!