Deer Valley Resort’s President and General Manager Bob Wheaton, reviews the 2014 – 2015 ski season

Deer Valley Resort’s President and General Manager Bob Wheaton, gives a review of the 2014 – 2015 ski season and invites you to come #SkiTheDifference in the 2015 – 2016 season. Presented by The Ski Channel.

Skiing is a state of…style

I’ve taken the idea that skiing is a state-of-mind to a new level this year. Some in my family would argue that this isn’t entirely a good thing. But I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to dress when you’re off the slopes, is in clothing that tells the world, “I am a skier. I love to ski. I even wear clothes with skiers on them!” Bear with me.

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Recently, my good friend Shari had sent me a photo of a cute sweater she found in the Talbot’s outlet. Neither of us are regular shoppers in that store, and yet, their sweater selections caught our attention. She popped into the store one afternoon and hit the jackpot: a sweater with a pattern that depicts a skier carving turns (stylishly, of course) down a tree-lined slope.

“That’s it!” I announced, I proudly showed the text message to my family. “I need the skier sweater.”

My style-minded spouse and oldest child looked at me, incredulously. But young Seth aligned himself with me and Shari. “You NEED that, Mom! It’s awesome. And you and Shari will MATCH.” He said with all the urgency only a seven-year-old can muster (which is to say, quite a bit). The other two looked on, quizzically, as we high-fived.

Fortunately, the doubting duo know to humor the person who makes sure that the ski bags are packed every night. [Which is how, on a recent afternoon, while Seth was at a play-date, they came to walk into Talbot’s with me, wearing their best game-faces.] To our delight, a dear friend’s mom was working in the store—and she produced not just the sweater, but also a turtleneck with a pattern of little skiers all over it. “Oh, and what about the skier scarf?” she asked, proffering one from a nearby rack. Sold, sold and sold. I grinned from ear-to-ear, as my middle-schooler shook his head in anticipation of the sheer embarrassment of being seen with me, dressed in theme clothes. (Silently, I reminded myself that if I’m not embarrassing my kid, I’m doing something very, very wrong.) My husband pointed out that I had owned a similar turtleneck, back when we first met, over 25 years ago. It occurred to me that he may not have meant this in a good way. Still, nothing could dampen my glee.

Once home I admired my loot and took a great deal of joy in photographing the apparel. I sent the photos to Shari, “I will take your skier sweater, and raise you a skier turtleneck and a skier scarf. I WIN!” She immediately wrote back that she’d be returning to the store to complete her own set. This emboldened me to send boastful text messages, photos included, to a few friends who have, like Jeffrey, known me since the last time I thought that these items were at the height of fashion. I would be lying if I told you that the responses were not filled to the brim with celebrations of my awesome style.

I will be modeling this look all over town. I have paired the scarf with basic black leggings and turtleneck, and the sweater with a pair of motorcycle-style jeans in a light blue that perfectly matches the shade of the sky on the sweater. Clearly, it’s not a “technical” piece, but what fashionistas (like, ahem, myself) would call “a statement piece.” So, I’m now on the hunt for retro-styled ski clothes—you know, Fair-Isle knits, and maybe a more technical version of the cute, printed ski-turtlenecks of my childhood. I draw the line at the neon-colored one-piece ski suit—for now.

What is your skiing state of style? Tweet me  or @Deer_Valley.

Meet Deer Valley’s Avalanche Dogs

If you have shopped at the Deer Valley Signatures stores, you may have noticed the Avalanche Rescue Dog Benefit Merchandise, also know as “Avy Dog.” If you are a frequent Deer Valley skier, you may also have encountered one or several dogs sporting the Ski Patrol logo on their back. To get their full story, I met with Chris Erkkila, Deer Valley’s Ski Patrol Assistant Manager, who told me everything I always wanted to know about these “mountain saviors.”

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The Deer Valley Avalanche Dog program dates back twenty years. From the time one of the resort’s patrollers worked tirelessly to get it off the ground to this very day, it has evolved to the point that Deer Valley’s Ski Patrol now has three avalanche dogs, with at least one on the mountain every day. These dogs are owned by their handlers and go home with them every night.

Let’s begin by meeting them. We have Ninja, a male Pointer/Lab mix, that is almost four years old; Piper a female Shepherd mix, an 11 year old veteran that also happens to be Chris Erkkila’s dog and Izzy, a female Lab/Boarder Collie that is nine years old. The Wasatch Backcountry Rescue (WBR), a local non-profit organization oversees the training and certifications. Nine ski areas are member of the WBR, and account for a total of 30 to 40 dogs.

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A lot of work and training is involved with avalanche dogs. “When we select a puppy,” explains Chris, “we have a series of puppy aptitude tests. In every litter of puppies there’s an Alpha pup, the most aggressive and strongest of the litter. We generally look for the next pup down from the Alpha, one that doesn’t seem to be scared of anything, has strong senses, is apt to attach and interact with humans. We also want a dog that is very curious, has high energy and a strong drive.”

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Of course, there are other considerations. Some breeds are better suited than others for the job. A thick coat is definitely an advantage compared to a thin one; with it, a dog can stay warm longer, while thin-haired dogs may have to wear an extra coat. There are also breeds that have a higher sense of smell than others. Labrador retrievers, German shepherds and boarder collies are better suited than most.

Size matters too; large dogs get tired faster because of the mass they must carry and may develop orthopedic problems faster. Then there’s the mere fact of getting around. Carrying the dog down the slope, loading it up on a chairlift, a snowmobile or a helicopter can be hard with larger dogs. Conversely, a small dog will have a harder time climbing on big chunks of snow or walking into deep powder. The happy medium seems to fall right between 40 and 60 pounds.

Once the puppy is selected, training begins at once with with socialization and obedience. Then training for search follows. It begins very progressively by using one of the dog toys and hiding it behind a tree, then burying it under the snow. This is followed by using articles of clothing like a scarf or a wool sweater scented by a human being, and slowly, the search training evolves to a real person. First, just by hiding behind a tree, before the person is actually buried under the snow. Some avalanche dogs can smell people that are buried under 15 feet of snow.

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A person’s scent permeates throughout the snow pack and eventually makes its way through to the surface. The surface scent may get to an area that is not necessarily the actual body location. The scent works its way trough a cone-shaped path that may follow a slanted trajectory depending on the snow structure. In addition, windy conditions or even just a slight breeze may affect how a dog will catch the scent coming out of the cone.

The dog must be led in relation to the wind. Upwind, it becomes impossible for a dog to catch the scent. Stormy and blizzard conditions may make locating very tricky and difficult. The same applies to terrain conditions that generally are always steep, rugged and involve snow density of varying degrees. Around an avalanche, the surface of snow can be rough and will tire a dog very fast. This is why dogs are often carried to the rescue site so as to save as much of their energy as possible.

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Dog certification is handled by the WBR. Three levels are offered: A, B, and C. Level C designates a candidate entering the program. Level B is for dogs capable of searching within the ski area boundaries. Level A is the full certification and applies to dogs capable of searching both within the ski area and the backcountry. Dogs cannot be tested for Level A until they’re at least 18 month old. For most dogs, it often takes two winter seasons of work and training to pass the the Level A test. Sometimes, it may take a dog three full years to reach Level A.

From that point on, dogs can expect to work on search and rescue until they are about 10. Piper, Deer Valley’s oldest dog, is 11 years old; she’s still going strong, but may be an exception amongst her peers.

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Training is a big endeavor that must be kept up. Deer Valley avalanche dogs stay active year-round. During the off-season, their handlers take them around the resort while mountain biking or working on trails. Their dogs must stay active and obedient while also receiving some agility training to mitigate an off-season sedentary time period. On occasions, outside agencies, like the Summit County Sheriff Department, may come up and expose the dogs to cadaver work, materials they don’t encounter on a daily basis. 

Having the dogs out in the summer help them familiarize themselves with the whole mountain environment; this way, they become closely acquainted with the terrain and their surroundings. Chris adds, “I can see the evidence of this in the winter as my dog recognizes the very details of the terrain she traveled back and forth during summer, she tends to follow her usual path in a winter environment.”

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I asked Chris if any of the three Deer Valley dogs have been involved in actual search and rescue operation: “Yes, we’ve been dispatched quite a few times to actual avalanche sites. One of the most interesting instances, happened late in May, near Sundance resort. We were flown up in a helicopter to Mt. Timpanogos where the search operations took place.”

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At Deer Valley, the “Avy Dogs” perform a very vital and necessary function. They can be seen as an extra insurance policy. Some might argue that these dogs are seen as “low-tech” assistants in a array of new high-tech devices that are being used to locate skiers or measure avalanche danger. “Sometimes dogs can pickup where high-tech left off,” Erkkila explains, “just a couple of years ago, we were all out doing avalanche beacon drills training, and low and behold the beacon batteries died. I had to bring my dog Piper, to find the beacon buried deep under the snow. She found it pretty quickly, so technology is as good as battery life, and with Piper we don’t have to worry about that!”

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With always one dog on the mountain on any given day, skiers have the opportunity to visit a Deer Valley Avy Dog at one of the patrol shacks. Just ask to find out where the dog or dogs are for the day. Chris Erkkila offers: “Come and say hi, collect one of our new trading cards that we created for each one of our dogs, and come take some photos!” 

James “Jamo” O’Reilly’s Deer Valley Difference

A wonderful home away from home is central to a perfect Deer Valley Resort vacation. To make sure guests have long-lasting memories of their ski getaway, James “Jamo” O’Reilly, General Manager of Black Diamond Lodge, ensures that his staff love what they’re doing and leave no stone unturned to exceed their guests’ expectations. I recently had a chance to visit this stunning property and asked Jamo the secret behind a perfect stay.

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JF: What a beautiful lodge, Jamo!

Jamo: Thank you.

JF: What services do you provide for Deer Valley Resort guests?

Jamo: In the winter, we operate Black Diamond Lodge like a hotel. We have a fully staffed front desk from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., we offer concierge service five days a week and our guests have access to our shuttle service throughout the Park City area. They also have two ski valets at their disposal to help them from their lockers to the mountain; we also have a full housekeeping department that offers daily housekeeping.

JF: How large are your units?

Jamo: Our units range from 3,000 to 4,800 square feet and feature one to four bedrooms. In addition, the larger units offer lots of extra common areas and many of them have an additional living room, entertainment or play area. All of the Black Diamond Lodge residences have outdoor decks with mountain views. Easy access to the slopes, the ski school and many other Deer Valley Resort services make Black Diamond Lodge a perfect choice for families.

JF: What did you do before becoming Black Diamond Lodge’s general manager?

Jamo: I spent 20 years working at Rustler Lodge at Alta Ski Area. My career path is a classic “Utah ski bum story.” As a teenager, I moved to Alta from Rhode Island and worked several years in maintenance. I then went back to school to get my degree to become a school teacher, but it didn’t work out, so I returned to Alta and spent another eight years as the Assistant General Manager at the Alta Rustler Lodge. Since my wife and I always had the dream of moving to Park City, that goal materialized four year’s ago. I first worked at a few different properties, one of them being The Deer Valley Club two years ago. I began working  at Black Diamond Lodge in April of 2014.

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JF: What did you do when you started at The Deer Valley Club?

Jamo: I was a night supervisor; I stayed in that position for a little over a year and was promoted to Assistant General Manager of the Deer Valley Club prior to my becoming General Manager of Black Diamond Lodge.

JF: With so many hospitality companies around Park City, why choose a position with Deer Valley Resort?

Jamo: Deer Valley Resort has an incredible reputation as a fantastic employer. This was the ideal choice for me.

JF: Did your expectations come to fruition?

Jamo: Absolutely! I took a pretty big career risk when I accepted the night supervisor position at The Deer Valley Club; it was a step down from the position I held before. It was the leap of faith needed to get my foot in the door at Deer Valley Resort and today I could not have asked for anything better. Within two years, I find myself the General Manager of this beautiful property, I’m thrilled!

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JF: The cream always rises to the top!

Jamo: I don’t know if I fully deserve this promotion but I did my very best to get it. To complement my professional experience, I once again returned to school, went through the Executive MBA program at the University of Utah and graduated in 2010. This has also helped me along in my career with Deer Valley Resort.

JF: Even though you’ve been in the hospitality industry for quite a long time, are there elements that you’ve learned through your association with Deer Valley Resort?

Jamo: Most of my past experience was with a privately owned hotel, working for one individual owner in a small business environment. Working here is quite different. First of all, the properties are owned by individual owners. Then, I must also work with a homeowners association. All of of this has taught me to earn the trust, not only of the guests, but that of all the homeowners as well.

JF: How have you been doing in managing the varying interests between homeowners and guests?

Jamo: I drew from the fact that integrity is part of the Deer Valley core values. If you follow your heart, do what’s right, strive for full transparency and disclosure between homeowners, guests and the resort, everyone gets their fair share.

JF: As your Deer Valley career has evolved, what kind of support did you receive from the company?

Jamo: Jeff Bennett, the General Manager of the Deer Valley Club, has been a fantastic mentor. I wouldn’t be in my position if it were not for the help and support Jeff gave me along the way. I’ve also spent a lot of time with Kim McClelland, the Director of Lodging, who has been another wonderful mentor. Another benefit of working for a very well established organization like Deer Valley Resort is having access to their Human Resources department, another priceless resource; this too, helped me succeed in my position.

JF: On the subject of human resources and potential employee positions, what would you say to individuals considering employment with Deer Valley Resort?

Jamo: I would say that it’s a wonderful place to work, packed with great opportunities. The working environment is extremely rewarding and always positive. Of course, the skiing is fantastic and the employee benefits are incredible.

JF: Are there specific qualities that can accelerate the career path of an employee?

Jamo O’Reilly: You just have to be honest, hard-working, responsible and reliable. The hospitality work is not that difficult. You just need to show up, have a good attitude, be smart, make good decisions and feel happy with what you’re doing. It’s rewarding to be able to provide a positive experience to the guests and be part of making their vacation a success.

JF: From your perspective, what constitutes the Deer Valley Difference?

Jamo: It’s the fact that our employees are empowered and encouraged to offer a personal touch and have a personal connection with our guests. This is what translates into the seamless, perfect experience our guests enjoy. It begins when they check into our properties, reserve their activities, instantly access the chairlift, enjoy great food and it ends a with a fun evening with family and friends. When all is said and done, the Deer Valley Difference boils down to the fact that every employee has the possibility of having a great impact on someone’s experience at Deer Valley. They just need to keep it in mind and run with it!

Gearing up!

“Do the boots fit? Have they outgrown their skis? Will their goggles cover their foreheads, or have they outgrown those too? What about mittens? We never seem to have enough mittens.”

These are the conversations that preoccupy my family’s fall weekends. We dig through ski bags. We try on helmets. And as being the beneficiaries of some pretty sweet hand-me-down jackets and pants, we have the kids try on the pieces that seem closest to their sizes.

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This year Lance is 11 which means that on his next birthday he will officially complete the annual rental contract at Utah Ski and Golf, he started at age three. Since enrolling he has upgraded to the front-entry boots. He has gone up to a ski length that is closer-than-ever to my own ski length. (Just as his bike is but one size smaller than mine.) We’ll be taking Seth to Surefoot and Jans to see where he falls on the trade-in scale—certainly he’s up at least a size in boots at least a size in skis. I thought recently, “there is nothing quite so humbling as marking the passage of time in outgrown ski gear.”

I am also humbled by the leaps in maturity, too. Lance turned the “boot corner” this year. The minute he slipped his feet into his new boots, he announced, “These feel great!” No drama, no discussion about how they “should feel.” He’s a skier. They felt right. He knew.

Lance turned another corner. When the tech asked about his ski level, we didn’t hedge. Our instincts and experience told us that he is, officially, a great skier. He attacked terrain with a different confidence last season, and he had the look—the one that says, “I can’t wait to attack it again.”

Share with me how you are gearing up your family for this season on Twitter   or @Deer_Valley. See you on the slopes!

Deer Valley Announces Solitude Mountain Resort General Manager

Deer Valley Resort has appointed Kim Mayhew as Solitude Mountain Resort’s new general manager effective May 1, 2015. In the interim, Kim will act as the Solitude transition manager, providing leadership and guidance as Deer Valley moves forward in planning the shift to ownership. Kim brings extensive knowledge of the ski industry to the position and is currently in her 33rd year of employment at Deer Valley Resort as the Director of Human Resources.

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As Director of Human Resources, Kim oversees the recruiting, hiring, payroll, benefits and employee relationships for 2,800 Deer Valley employees annually. Prior to becoming director of human resources in 2001, Kim also worked as a ski school instructor, children’s program supervisor, training supervisor and children’s program manager. She was also instrumental in the development of the Deer Valley Summer Adventure Camp.

“We are thrilled to have Kim lead the charge at Solitude Resort,” said Bob Wheaton, president and general manager for Deer Valley Resort. “Kim will bring exceptional leadership and guidance as she transitions to our newest resort.”

Since the age of three, Kim has been involved in skiing. As a teen she raced in the alpine giant slalom discipline and began teaching skiing in 1978. A New Hampshire native, she made her way to Utah with her husband in 1980 and continued her passion for the ski industry as a ski instructor at Sundance Mountain Resort. In the summer of 1982, Kim interviewed for a ski instructor position at Deer Valley Resort and never looked back.

Kim and her husband Jack have a grown son, Peter, and a new daughter-in-law, Victoria, who live in the Park City area. When Mayhew isn’t on the slopes she enjoys running, biking, hiking, music and reading.

Deer Valley Resort’s Summit Meadows Adventures 2014-2015 Winter Season

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Deer Valley owned and operated Summit Meadows Adventures guided snowmobile tours take place on the Garff Ranch, located a short five-mile, 10-minute drive from Park City’s Main Street, on Brown’s Canyon Road (off Highway 248). Summit Meadows Adventures has access to 7,000 acres of pristine open lands on which to snowmobile. Beautiful scenic views of the Wasatch Mountains make this an adventure you won’t want to miss. Complimentary transportation from Park City is available. For more information or reservations please call 888-896-7669 or 435-645-7669. Guided tours use single or double capacity machines.

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One or two hour guided tours are available daily between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., conditions permitting. Private tours are also available with a two-hour minimum.

A one-hour guided tour costs $109 per person, with a passenger rate of $20. A two-hour guided tour costs $149 per person, with a passenger rate of $30. Private tours are $125 per person/per hour with a two hour and two-person minimum.

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For more information, please visit http://www.deervalley.com/WhatToDo/Winter/Snowmobiling

2015 Ski Season Goal Setting

Athletes set goals. Not just high-level generic goals but specific, measurable, relevant goals with a quantifiable deadline. They may implement the “Kaizen” practice of continuous improvement; significant results can come from many small changes accumulated over time.

However, the problem is that my goals didn’t seem to fit in the traditional goal setting model and certainly not using the term “athlete.”  You see, this season I don’t particularly want to shave off any time. I am perfectly content to enjoy my nice easy turns on the beautifully groomed runs at Deer Valley Resort.

I simply love skiing at Deer Valley. Don’t get me wrong, I have set goals the past three seasons of my serious skiing career (I was a beginner in 2012.) Now if a run has a blue square next to it, I am on it!

This year, enjoyment is the only goal I can think of.  Well unless you count “skiing as often as I can.”  Anything wrong with that? I don’t think so.

Athletes set goals and I completely respect that, but I am wondering if this year I should simply set enjoyment and happiness as my ski goals?

Seems perfectly reasonable to me.  If I did set some happiness targets, these would be on my list:

  • Eat more Turkey Chili – not all at one sitting. “Eat Turkey Chili more often” would be how I should word it180 Deer Valley Turkey Chili
  • Sit on “The Beach” at Silver Lake Lodge while basking in the sun with a beverage in my hand more often
  • Enjoy each one of Deer Valley’s restaurants (not all in one day of course)3
  • Ski with a beginner
  • Ski with an 80+ year old
  • Try out new Rossignol skis at the Yurt at Empire Lodge
  • Enjoy S’mores at the Montage and pet Monty the Bernese Mountain dog
  • Invite more friends to ski with me
  • Wear my ski pants to Mass on Sunday mornings and then go directly to Snow Park Lodge
  • Put on my Ibex or Smartwool layers and ski when its 5 degrees outside so I can experience the frozen air sparkling like diamonds from the lift
  • Take more selfies and post them with #SkiTheDifference on social media2
  • Sign up for the Women’s Weekend with a friend who has similar ability
  • Ski backwards
  • Listen to more music during Aprés Ski on the upper deck at Snow Park Lodge
  • Stand on top of (and ski down) Little Baldy, Bald Eagle, Bald Mountain, Flagstaff, Lady Morgan, and Empire mountains all in one day
  • Ask a mountain host to map out a “suggested ski day” for me based on my ability4
  • Take the hosted ski tour with other intermediate skiers
  • And so on…

What do you think of my goals for the season?  Any additional happiness suggestions? What are your goals for the 2015 winter ski season? Let me know on Twitter @Nancy_MoneyDiva or @Deer_Valley.

If you are more serious about setting goals than I am, here is a resource for goal setting from the U.S. Olympic Training Center; Setting Smart Goals – resource  U.S. Olympic Training Tips for Athletes and Kankyo Kaizen Starter Kit – Simpleology

Scott Sports Announces the start of a multi-year partnership with Deer Valley Resort

Scott Sports and Deer Valley announced today an Official year-round Partnership in which Deer Valley is now the home resort for the multi-season brand.  Starting this 2014/2015 season Scott Sports will be the official goggle, pole, helmet and bike sponsor of Deer Valley Resort.

Photo courtesy of Scott Sports

Photo courtesy of Scott Sports

“We couldn’t be happier about this newly formed partnership. Since our recent relocation we have been eager to grow its presence within the local Utah community. Deer Valley has an outstanding reputation for delivering a world-class experience to its year round visitor’s, making it a seamless fit to our message as a multi-season brand,” said Scott Sports Executive Vice President John Quinn.

Under this agreement, Scott Sports will be the equipment supplier for Deer Valley employees for winter products and Scott bikes will make up Deer Valley’s entire rental fleet for their summer lift access trails.

Photo courtesy of Scott Sports

Photo courtesy of Scott Sports

“Scott is the perfect company to be represented here at Deer Valley. Their history in the skiing industry as well as the bike industry makes them well known across many adventure sports. The expertise, technology and design that they put into each of their products will be well represented here at Deer Valley,” said Bob

Since 1958 Scott Sports has pushed the limits of innovation, technology and design. From the first aluminum ski pole, to the introduction of aero bars and the original plastic motocross boot, we have led the way in the sports industry. Combining endless determination to improve with the methodical intricacy put into each product, Scott prepares athletes to reach their highest potential. Learn more at www.scott-sports.com