Letitia Lussier’s Deer Valley

To ski with Letitia Lussier is a singular experience—in that a day on the hill will reveal multiple facets of her personality, and of your own ski skills. Letitia was my group instructor during the Women’s Weekend last season .

As she guided us away from more populated runs, so that my newfound ski buddies, Stacey and Jackie, and I could drill down to better turns without distraction, she shared funny tales from her career, as well as from her life as an artist. And, quietly, with a lot of nurturing encouragement, she insisted we ski the trees. My mom and dad may shudder (a lot) when I talk about it, but if they’d been with us that day, they might even be convinced it was the safest place to ski anywhere.

Throughout the years, Letitia’s artist’s spirit has taken her many places in the summers, “ I live in Park City in the winter,” she says. “And I’ve lived in a variety of places in the summer- Wisconsin (x1),  Hawaii (x2), the red rock canyons of southern Utah (x2), Washington (x2) and Wyoming (x2) but I’ve also spent many summer here in PC.”

And, her work in the mountains feeds her muse when she steps into her home painting studio. Art lessons are life lessons, and vice-versa. “Every day I witness such incredible beauty,” she says. “I make it a point to take the time to notice, to really look at my surroundings as they change every day sometimes every hour. Inspiration is all around me which is reflected in my paintings of DV,” she says, “I’ve developed gratitude for the peak moments I experience in these mountains and in life. There is nothing more powerful.”

 

Hometown: Auburn, ME

Years in Park City: “I’ve been with Deer Valley since day one!” In other words, you do the math.

Year one as an instructor was…”Fun! We were a tight-knit group of 23, counting one supervisor and director. We worked hard and played hard. Now we are nearly 500 instructors.”

I’m a fan of teaching Adult Specialty Programs like Women’s Weekend because…With a well matched group you have the opportunity to learn from each other, to cheer and support one another. You have the chance to create friendships with shared interests and the added bonus of finding others at your ski ability. This cohesiveness can offer the right kind of learning atmosphere for these programs. The group dynamics can be so much fun when people want to learn and have a good time. We (instructors) love skiing and enjoying sharing that passion with others.

My ideal ski day at DV is…

A “bluebird” day of crisp blue skies and deep, fresh, sparkling champagne powder. As I ride up on the chair I look in awe at the evergreen trees which are laden with snow, even the tiniest of branches on the aspen trees are decked with snow giving them a lacy, intricate look. Reaching the summit I stand there transfixed as my breath is taken away by the expansive beauty. I can’t believe how lucky I am to witness such grandeur.  On my descent the quality of the snow as I ski through it is so light it blows up in my face refreshing me with every turn. There is a unique quality to the sound as I fly through it, it is effervescent like my favorite bubbly. The snow is so light and deep I have the sense that I am floating weightlessly down the mountain, it feels velvety soft beneath my feet.   Skiing down the slope I am enveloped in a rich alpine environment  that gives me a welcome feeling. Off in the distance, I hear the call note of the chickadee, it is a sound I recognize and enjoy. I spot some animal tracks in the snow, giving hint of the activities from the night before.   This place I call home has a life of it’s own, and I feel energized by it. Every run is through virgin powder, putting a grin on my face that stretches from ear to ear. I ski until my legs feel like noodles and I can no longer go on.

On days like this I ski with: Skiing with my beau, Tom. First chair. First run is where ever the snow looks the deepest.

My go-to areas on the mountain are…

Sultan and Empire

Favorite groomer? 

Tycoon

Favorite trees? 

Anchor Trees

Must-have lunch break plan:

Empire Canyon Lodge. Salad Bar. Arnold Palmer. Chocolate-chip Cookie

My most treasured apres ski ritual is…Enjoying a nice cold beer and reflecting on an exceptional day feeling totally spent.

Best lessons learned as a ski instructor:

How to deal with a variety of people. Developing patience is key— every person has their own pace and learning styles. Maintaining a sense of humor when things go awry. Sharing my passion is contagious—that never changes.

 

Leap Year Birthday Boy

Leap Year is now my favorite holiday—because it means that we get an extra ski day every four years! In honor if Leap Year, I’m introducing you to Deer Valley’s own…Leap Baby. He has skied at Deer Valley for ten years—which is astounding, considering he’s only having his third birthday this year. He has two younger siblings, Natalie and Ethan, both of whom have had more birthdays than Jack. While you struggle with the mental math, get to know my favorite Leap Boy!

Name: Jack Rubenstein, parents: Robert and Katia Rubenstein

Hometown: Hollywood, FL; He and his family are part-time Parkites, and they’re planning to celebrate Jack’s Bar Mitzvah next year (birthday confusion notwithstanding) at Temple Har Shalom in Park City.

Age: 3 or 12, depending on how you count.

Years skiing: 10

Happy Third Birthday Jack! What’s the best part of being a Leap Baby?
Thanks! The best part, probably, is not getting very old so soon, and I get to celebrate my birthday all week for three other years because I don’t have an official birthdate.

What are your three favorite runs to ski at Deer Valley?
Chute 1/ Daly Bowl
Chute 2
X-Files

What is your favorite restaurant for lunch at Deer Valley? And what is your favorite thing to eat there?
Royal Street Cafe- Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich with Hot Fudge
Stein Eriksen’s Buffet- everything

What is your favorite dinner restaurant at Deer Valley?
Seafood Buffet- I love the prime rib and shrimp and king crab. (Don’t forget the homemade whip cream at dessert!)

How many cocoa breaks do you like to take during a ski day?
Are you kidding? I’m here to ski not drink cocoa!!!!!

Which runs do you ski better than your dad
All of them. (Mostly, moguls.)

What is your favorite part of skiing with your dad?
Waiting for him at the bottom!

What is your favorite part of skiing with your whole family?
Ummmmmm…..

Do you like bumps or groomers?
Bumps

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I have no clue, I am only three years old.

What are you looking forward to about having your Bar Mitzvah in Park City?
The party, skiing, and getting presents

What is your favorite memory about skiing at Deer Valley?
Going down Chute 10 for the first time.

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.

Heidi Voelker’s Deer Valley

It’s that time of year again. The weather is beautiful but the feel of winter is fast approaching especially first thing in the morning when it’s in the 30’s. We’ll be on the slopes sooner than we know. I love this time of year because the air is so crisp, ski swap signs are all over, we’ve gotten an early snow fall meaning the season is just around the corner.

As I think about “It’s My Deer Valley” there are a few different scenarios. I can break down my skiing days in three ways:

  1. Family
  2. Clients
  3. Corporate & Press Tours

Each way skis differently. Here’s how:

1.  If it’s a family ski day, which I’m afraid will happen more rarely as I have lost my two young boys to ski race training (hmmm must be in their blood.) But when family ski days happen, they usually go something like this. The night before I mention we might have breakfast at Snow Park Lodge. This is a bribe in order to have them get to bed on time. Stefan automatically pipes up, “can I have my favorite baguette with jelly and jam”? In the morning I ‘m making sure Lucas is getting dressed and not procrastinating. Stefan meanwhile is outside boots on ready to go. We get to Deer Valley and the boys ask to be dropped off at the Skier drop off while I park the car. (Still not sure if this is just my kid’s not wanting to be seen with their mom or if they are just lazy and don’t want to walk from the car.)

After breakfast we load Carpenter Express chairlift. Without fail one of them asks “how many runs before we can have lunch?” Ugh! We drop into Silver Lake at mid mountain and ski down to the Wasatch Express chairlift. It’s usually about 10-10:30 a.m. Yes, I agree, it’s late but with two kids in tow I’m trying to keep harmony. After a few runs on Bald Mountain the brothers decide it’s time for Nastar racing. We stay here for a bit trying to improve each run time and also asking “mom, if I’m faster next run can we have lunch?” another ugh!!

I tell them they are skiing too fast because we’ve only been skiing for an hour. We then adventure over to Empire Canyon, heading there through unmarked area’s like Bucky’s Backyard, Toilet Bowl and X-Files. Remember skiing with kids you need to keep it fun. So after a few hikes across the Daly Chutes into X-files trees, then it’s lunch time!

Once we are in our lunch coma of Panini’s, pasta and fries we start to make our way back to Snow Park. But the rule is to ski as much off piste and jumps as possible. We make our way to the end of the ski area boundary even though; we are trying to make our way back to the base. We grab Lady Morgan chairlift and ski Centennial Trees, then it’s back up Lady Morgan and ski to Ruby chairlift. We race to Ruby’s glade and caution as we merge onto Hawkeye. Load onto Northside Express and ski around into Ontario Bowl. Sometimes this is worthy of 2 laps. It depends on the boy’s excitement and energy. Then onto Judge chairlift to ski towards to Crown Point chairlift.  At the top of Crown Point our chosen route is  Kimberly ski run where right past the bridge is the boys favorite jump. By now their legs are tired and we ski down Big Stick to the lodge. Our day is done.

2. Another way I show off “My Deer Valley” is with clients. I usually meet the client at their hotel or the Snow Park Lobby. I’m starting my 15th year at Deer Valley so many of my clients are returning guests and I already know what type of skiing they are looking for. (As always it depends and the weather and conditions.) They know already they have a full day of skiing ahead of them. I joke that we are going to ski hard and no lunch break. What would skiing be like if you didn’t have lunch at Deer Valley? Certainly not the true experience! The clients usually already have an idea where they would like to eat for lunch. We talk about goals they want to achieve for the day and map out our lines and away we go!

3. The third type of Deer Valley ski day for me is a press/corporate tour day. It starts out much like the client day but usually with a scheduled breakfast. These days I ski the mountain but usually circulate around to make sure I ski with each person (these groups tend to be bigger and provide the desired terrain they are looking for. In between all our turns we usually lunch it at Royal Street Café or wherever the company may plan to meet back together. My goal is to make sure a good time is had by all and when they say they are tired to ski the entire afternoon I break into a little smile. My job is done!

Shh, Shh, Shh, three more Chutes!

As winter is drawing to a close with even more new snow in the forecast, I wanted to take you on a whirlwind tour of some of the Daly Chutes we didn’t explore this season. Today, we’ll ski Chutes #7, #8 and #10. The first two are located in the “Cataract” area of Daly Chutes, while the later is also the farthest of all, tucked in the corner of the section called “Niagra.”

We’ll begin our tour at Cataract, with Chute #7, the most challenging of the three. Most of its difficulty comes from an impressive cornice, followed by a rather steep initial section, so the question is always, “should I jump it?” and the alternative is to look for some more inviting and less intimidating entryway. If in doubt, I suggest you opt for the later, but no matter what your choice is, you’ll be guaranteed a smooth, consistent and almost always powdery descent, wide enough to allow creativity in your turns and long enough to bring a huge smile to your face. While sharing the same intimidating cornice, Chute #8 is not as steep and not as direct, but its snow is every bit as good as #7′s. Further, both share a nice, flat and treed bottom section that offers a much needed relief to the hard work and unflinching courage required at the top.

After sampling these two Cataract narrow lines, it’s now time for Niagra and Chute #10 with its half-moon shaped cornice that never fails to impress first time visitors; this one however, is in fact quite tame and forgiving. It stands just before the entrance to the “X-Files.” Simply make sure you stop before jumping off the cornice as it might hide skiers moving slowly or stopped inside its wide, top section. You’ll enjoy its funnel-shaped upper that evolves into a natural half pipe ending at the same spot where Chutes #7 and #8 meet! In spite of its peculiar shape, this chute is by far the easiest of all, and even less technical than the main Daly Bowl. A good reason perhaps for starting your exploration with Chute #10, especially if this is your first foray into that part of Empire Canyon.

So, if there are still some Daly Chutes in your near-term future, don’t delay; you only have until this weekend to sample them!

Field Trip to Daly Chute #2

Another day, another Chute!

In fact, this time, I wanted to check the Cataract side at Daly and particularly Chute #7, but its access was closed for avalanche control.  Instead, I set my sight on Chute #2.  It grabbed my attention with its impressive, overgrown cornice. As usual, we had our little chit-chat:

Chute #2: I saw you flying by, probably intent on skiing the “X-Files…”

JF: Not really; I wanted to descent Chute #7, but it’s closed!

Chute #2: Have you seen that big, new cornice of mine?

JF: I’m impressed, can I jump it; what do you think?

Chute #2: If I were you, I’d practice a bit, before making a fool of myself…

JF: Nay; I think I can do it, I’ll launch, we’ll see!

Chute #2: Good luck, big shot!

The video is here to tell the whole story like it is..

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!

X-Files Revealed

 For as long as Deer Valley’s Empire Express chairlift opened up, I’ve been intrigued by a mysterious area called the “X-Files.” While it’s not an official run, it’s a place locals and skiers that are “in-the-know” rave about.

I had always wanted to write about it, but – as you might have guessed – the place is shrouded in mystery, secrets and other eerie elements. It’s only after much arm-twisting, cajoling and other diplomatic maneuvers that it was determined that the X-Files could be featured in this blog, but only under the express condition that readers should keep that privileged information to themselves.

To get everyone who is anyone at Deer Valley on board with the disclosure, you need to first click on this link before reading on. I know nothing seems to happen when you click on this particular link because we’re entering the realm of the paranormal. So now that you’ve clicked and agreed to keep a secret, let’s begin revealing what’s inside the X-Files. Obviously, we first need to access that special place. Getting there is the same as if you were skiing the Daly Chutes; after turning left at the top of Empire Express and following the upper portion of Orion, you disappear into the trees and begin your undercover journey.

As you slide by the Daly Bowl and Chutes, it becomes important to remain focused and not let these enthralling runs lure you and take you down with them, or even forgo the short hiking that’s required of you. Instead, keep your eyes on the prize and forge ahead. You’ll successively and successfully pass the Daly Bowl, Challenger, Cataract and Niagra Chutes before reaching the start of your destination. By then, you and your party – it’s always a good idea to take an “initiated” friend along – will reach the edge of the inscrutable domain of the Deer Valley X-Files.

You’re on the edge of a forest that feels like a maze and is a fertile ground for all kinds of conspiracy theories. That’s when you begin to ask yourself: “Will I survive it?” or “Will I even find my way out?” The options seem infinite and this is pretty close to reality. The trees are spaced enough to let you wiggle your way around them with deceptive ease, which in many ways might feel disquieting and give some skiers the sense that they’ve become coerced into skiing deeper into the maze. The evergreens are tall, sheltering and intimidating. The snow is always magical as it remains powdery even after several days following a blizzard. The place is really enchanted and gets you where you want to go, even if you don’t have any idea about you final destination.

Almost miraculously, whichever itinerary you might have picked, you eventually get out from under the green tree canopy and emerge at the bottom of the Orion run or at least we hope you do. In fact, I have taken the time to check that each and every skier that began at the top of the X-Files would reappear a while later by the Empire Express Lift. To date, I cannot report any “disappearance.” When interviewed, these same skiers don’t say much, but they all display an enigmatic grin that suggests they’ve gone through an out-of-this-world experience worth living over and over…