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.

Dropping by Daly Chute #4

This Thursday, as the gray skies were charged with snow, ready to fall and as I was skiing Empire Express, I chose to play around the X-Files. As I was ready for a second lap, I stopped on my way by Daly Chute #4 to get a closer look and had the following conversation with the Chute:

Chute #4: Hi, I haven’t seen you around in a while!

JF: Sorry, I was just skiing by, going to the X-Files…

Chute #4: I can’t understand what makes these trees such a big deal…

JF: You’d be surprised how fun they are today with six inches of new snow!

Chute #4: Hey, that’s just a temporary condition; why don’t you come a little bit closer…

JF: I’m not sure, I just wanted to say hello.

Chute #4: Are you telling me that you’ve become a big chicken? Get a bit nearer to the edge, take a look down!

JF: I’m impressed with what I see…

Chute #4: That’s what most people who come up here tell me before they turn around and ski elsewhere; what happened to courage? They say they’re “just dropping by,” but in truth they won’t!

JF: I’m not like that…

Chute #4: Okay, show me!

JF: I won’t jump the cornice though; I’ll catch it from skier’s left.

Chute #4: Good boy…

Now, enjoy the video!

My Favorites Part 2 – Ski Runs

It’s hard to talk about my favorite spots on the mountain because there are so many. It comes down to the specific day’s conditions. Each area has its advantages depending on if it is sunny, snowing, flat light or powder! I usually assess the weather and whoever I am skiing with and then I decide my skiing route from there.

If it is a bluebird day and the new snow has been skied out (hard to find lately considering we have so much snow) Bald Mountain is the spot, hands down. I usually start out on Nabob and then ski all the groomers. These runs are the best for strong steep intermediates. After Nabob I usually go to Keno, then Legal Tender, Wizard, Tycoon and Reward (if it is groomed). When all these runs are groomed it is the closest thing to the feeling of being in a world cup race. I call this “Ego Snow”.

When I ski Bald Eagle Mountain, I love to ski Big Stick. This run is a classic GS trail. Starts off rolling, drops into a great steep section then at the bottom you better hold on because you’re going to have tired legs when you hit the compression. Another fun run is Solid Muldoon. This follows the Carpenter Express lift line so you must be ready to show off your best skiing. A must do is Success to Last Chance. This route will take you past some of the private homes of Bald Eagle.  Many of these homes are elaborately decorated and have earned nicknames such as “the bear house”, the “raccoon roost” and the “tree house”.  

On Deer Crest, I would say Jordanelle ski run is my favorite. It’s a mile long with a vista you must see to believe. Usually when I have friends visiting this was their favorite run to rip down. I think it helps bring back the memory of their downhill days!

When it’s snowing with flat light, I try to ski in the trees for some depth perception. Sometimes that can’t be done depending on the group I am with. If it’s snowing and flat light the best area to ski is off the Northside Express chairlift. This is our most popular area because there is something for any member of the family or ability level.

OK…now to the big stuff! After a storm or if it’s snowing and accumulating a lot during the day I usually ski off piste all day. I love it when people say there are only groomers at Deer Valley. I have had two groups mentioned this to me and that’s the easiest way to find out that I love a challenge. Usually, after I prove them wrong, they are asking me to stop by 2 p.m.!

So, when the snow has fallen (or still falling) here are the best powder lines:

I usually rush right over to Empire.  However, if the snow safety is not yet completed I start in Mayflower and work my way to Empire.

 Let’s start at Empire – My first hit is the Lady Morgan Bowl fall line. Most of the time this is so good it requires another run. For my third run, I head to the Daly Chutes! I lap Daily Chute a couple times and then to Chutes 7-10 before hitting the X-Files (Don’t know how to find the elusive X-Files? See the previous blog post from JF Lanvers).

Challenger Chute

Once I have thoroughly covered Empire I push on to Ontario Bowl. I either hike in from Ontario ski run or take the traverse from Hidden Treasure.  Ontario Bowl always has a funny way of pulling the “YEE HAWS!!” out of me. The same as Lady Morgan Bowl, Ontario also requires a few passes. Sometimes I have found myself Ontario Bowl all day and only forced to leave when my legs say quit.

I find that most skiers follow this same route and head to Empire first after a big storm.  So by the time you get back to Bald Mountain and hit Mayflower Bowl, Triangle Trees, Sultan Trees and Sunset Trees there are still many great lines!

Then there are my favorite spots for skiing with the kids. They usually take the lead and it’s directly to Bucky’s Backyard and jump and Ruby’s Roost. They would stay here all day if I let them. These runs are off of Bandana and are very bumpy and rolly and of course, that is why they like them. Another favorite for kids is Oompa Loompa Land, this is an opened glade and makes the children feel as if they are skiing some big terrain.

Stefan Skiing Powder

The above is just my opinion in how to ski Deer Valley. I don’t really have a favorite spot because the entire mountain makes me happy! But I hope you have fun exploring my suggestion ski patterns on any given day.

See you on the slopes. More snow to come on Sunday and Monday, says the weatherman — stay tuned!

NASTAR and Snow, Snow, Snow, Snow.

Two weeks into the season and it feels like an entire year. I have raced twice and skied powder almost daily. We are in the middle of a storm system that has brought us over 2 feet and there is still more to come! I skied Lady Morgan Bowl and the chutes with my 6 year old I can’t image what it must feel like for him in that much snow. Don’t worry, I didn’t force him, he actually demanded to follow the group and be part of every powder selection.

I went to Colorado to get my NASTAR handicap against A.J. Kitt last week. I’ve been trying to paceset the course here at Deer Valley but haven’t been able to yet because of too much snow, bummer! It was great fun to see how many people love NASTAR and be able to interact with them. I kept them entertained telling stories of the good old days.

Come by and race our NASTAR course. I’ll have it handicapped as soon as the snow stops!  Until then, see you in the powder!!!!

Fall Colors & Season Passes!

Now that fall is officially in the air it is time to start thinking about skiing.  I can not believe that snow has already hit the ground and we are just a few months from opening.  If are getting as excited about the season as I am I wanted to remind everyone that the early season deals end at the end of October!

Season Pass Options

Full Season Pass: A Full Season Pass permits unlimited skiing without restrictions even during holiday periods. The pass is non-transferable. Pass options include: Adult, Senior (65+), Teen (13-17), Child (4-12) and Tot (1-3). Pre-season discounts apply if purchased by October 31, 2010. A Tot Season pass is complimentary with the purchase of a Adult-1 Season Pass.

Midweek Season Pass: Permits unlimited weekday skiing excluding the holiday period of December 26, 2010 through January 1, 2011. The pass is non-transferable. Pre-season discounts apply if purchased by October 31, 2010.

Hospitality Pass: Provides all the convenience of a Full Season Pass with the additional bene fit of being transferable between family members, friends or business associates.

Locals Coupon Books: Anyone with a current Utah driver’s license is eligible to participate in this program. You must present current proof of Utah residency (Utah ID) each season.  Without a Utah driver’s license, a photo ID accompanied by a current Utah property tax form, Utah utility bill or Utah business paycheck stub in your name will be accepted. For those new to the program, books must be purchased by November 30, 2010. If you are already in the Locals Program, you may make your initial purchase of 2010/2011 Locals Coupon Books any time prior to, or during the season. Please note: During the December holiday period (12/26/10-1/1/11), Locals Coupon Books are only valid at face value with an upgrade to the holiday ticket rate of $94 for adults and teens and $60 for children. During the Presidents’ Weekend Holiday (2/19-21/11), this discount does not apply. An upgrade to the daily ticket rate of $90 for adults and teens and $56 for children will be required.

Great Lunches for Less: A discount Lunch Card is available exclusively to current Deer Valley Locals Coupon Book and Season Pass holders. Use it any time during the ski season at the Snow Park Restaurant between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and receive a 20% discount. Please note: The Lunch Card is valid only at the Snow Park Restaurant during the winter ski season. 

Think Snow!

Daly “Sushi” Chutes

I love skiing as much as I love sushi. When I’m eating sushi, I’m thinking about skiing, and when I’m skiing around Daly Bowl and Chutes, in Empire Canyon, I’m always reminded of the Japanese delicacy. It may be that unique experiences always come in small and precious packages, at any rate this area of Deer Valley evokes a beautiful and delectable sushi platter where all runs are rows of tantalizing pieces. I’m always torn between them, have a very hard time picking one in particular, and to add to the torture, I always try to keep the best one for last; Today, I’ll guide you into a wonderful world of chutes every bit as delectable as the best sushi I’ve ever tasted!

The Daly area is perhaps the most affordable introduction to those who dream to venture to Valdez and ski the Chugach Mountains. With ten chutes on the menu, there is enough challenge and diversity to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. As we should, we’ll begin with Chute #1, easily accessed from a traverse in the trees located midway down Orion. This chute as well as Chute #2 are part of the “Daly Bowl.” As the traverse ends, skiers literally roll into that open area just like “sushi rolls.” Easy to access, the chutes are impressive for newbies, but not that forbidding. I’d say that Chute #1 reminds me of a California roll, not just because it’s geographically the closest to California, but also because of its access and popularity.

A tad more challenging, Chute #2 reminds me of the traditional, thin tuna roll, also known as hosomaki. Chute #3 is more like what I’d call nigiri sushi, the oblong mound of rice topped with salmon in that case. The narrowness of the chute provides the sting of “wasabi.” The bottom of these three chutes is straightforward and easily transitions into the upper portion of Orion. While it belongs to the western part of the “Challenger” section, I’d call Chute #4 the standard sushi piece with tuna or maguro topping. It’s pure, impressive and gets you where you need to go, whether you really like it or not; once the steep portion is passed, the trail gingerly meanders through the trees back to the lower portion of Orion.

The eastern side of “Challenger” includes Chute #5 and Chute #6. Both require a bit of hiking from the flat section towering over the main bowl. They also requires plenty of skill, a generous snow cover (they’re not always open,) and lots of guts. Both definitely fall into the “don’t try this at home” category and if you have second thoughts, make sure to get a guide who knows them well and is willing to take you there. No need for wasabi, spice is built into these intimidating drops! Because of that, I liken both of them to the infamous glogfish or fugu that can cause severe poisoning if not prepared properly. The licensed fugu chef in that case is the certified instructor that will take you there and get you down standing on your two skis.

Whether you decide to jump into #5 and #6 or not, your next move will be over to the “Cataract” area; a scenic spot for taking a break before plunging (yes, there’s a big cornice for that purpose) into Chute #7. This one is impressive and snakes down the face of the mountain like an eel. It’s probably why it reminds me of a piece of unagi. It’s challenging, solid and straightforward (in all of my skiing life, I’ve never met a “chute” that wasn’t…) Next in line, Chute #8 is crowned with another impressive cornice, that reminds me of ikura or salmon eggs, because every time I reach its edge, chunks of snow tumble all the way down to its bottom like a cluster of grapes or eggs. The open bottom section however deliciously redeems the steep upper!

If you’ve made it in one piece down “Cataract,” it’s now time to fall into “Niagra” home of Chutes #9 and #10. Because it’s so long, narrow and treed, Chute #9 reminds me of tako (octopus) and of ika (squid), both snappy and crisp, yet I couldn’t help but reminisce about Yukiguni in Niagara Falls, Ontario, one the best sushi in the southern part of that province. Let’s say that it is the all-encompassing, experience-filled ski couloir! Finally, as my legs are crying for mercy, Chute #10 reminds me of temaki, that large cone-shaped piece of nori on the outside and the ingredients spilling out the wide end. That’s right, I found this funnel-shaped chute particularly enticing even though it’s also the farthest away. But it’s within the reach of most skier and frankly, if the Deer Valley chute numbering system was in increasing order of difficulty, this one ought to be #1!

Like sushi and its propensity to vanish from the platter, any skier can get to the bottom of these wonderful Daly Chutes and Bowl thanks to the wonders of gravity. Amazingly, my 183 cm, extra wide “chopsticks,” have help me stay upright during the entire experience, I feel full and totally satisfied, but still can’t tell which line is my favorite. The resulting adrenaline surge is wonderful and if you’re still hesitating about taking the plunge, remember that these descents are not for everyone; if you have the requisite skills, make sure to ski them in the company of someone who knows you well and is extremely at ease on this challenging terrain. Better yet, hire an instructor to feel comfortably safe and fully enjoy the adventure. I’m now ready for a shot of sake!