Dog-Day Afternoon at the Soldier Hollow Classic Sheepdog Trials

sheepAre you having a tough day? Long hours, changing expectations and no support?  If you want to feel better about how tough your job is, go watch the Soldier Hollow Classic Sheepdog Championship in early September.  What these sheepdogs (and their handlers) do makes your tough day look like a walk in the park.

Here’s what you have to do:

the gateRun up the hill in the hot sun and approach a group of eight sheep who think you are a wolf.  Do this in an easy smooth way (called “the lift”), so they don’t bolt.  Then when they want nothing to do with you and are scared you will do them bodily harm, take control of the group and herd them down the hill through a pair of gates.  Leave the group at the bottom of the hill … and…

Go back up and do it again!  Get another group of eight sheep and herd them through the same gates even though as soon as they see the other group, they want to make a beeline straight towards them.

Join the two groups and herd all 16 sheep around a pole in front of a stadium full of people. Then send them back up the hill through yet another set of gates, with no stragglers veering off course.  Since that was so much fun, you get to do it again!  Cross the hill and herd your 16 sheep so every single one does your bidding.  Bring them back to the stadium and into a ring.

the chaseYou aren’t done yet.  That was the easy part.  Now you want to shed off all but five sheep.  Not just any five, you have to keep the ones with red collars. The problem is they really, really, really want to stay together.  They will bolt the minute they can.  Picking out five and keeping them separated from the others is like picking a needle out of a haystack on a moving truck.

IF, AND ONLY IF, you are able to accomplish this, you have one more step – get them in a 12 x 12 pen so your handler can close the gate.  By the way, these sheep are now very irritated and tired of you pushing them around.  They will challenge you, stamp their feet, refuse to budge, or try to run off.  You have to get up close and personal (remember they think you are a predator) and herd them gently into this pen which is just about the last place in the world they want to go.  You have to be extremely patient and slowly urge them in. No problem, right?

the penSome of the dogs lost their cool and either rushed the sheep too quickly or nipped at their feet. That’s a no-no. They just couldn’t take it anymore!  Who could blame them? But the best dogs were able to do it!  At the sight of the gates shutting and the handler raising his hands, the dog jumped for joy and then jumped directly into a big horse trough full of water to cool off after a job well done.

Whether the dog gets the trophy or the doghouse, it’s been an extraordinarily difficult feat that very few dogs and handlers achieve!  Whatever my day has in store for me, I know it’s much easier than a dog-day afternoon at the Sheepdog Trials, but certainly not as entertaining.

Never Too Late To Go Mountain Biking!

I know how it feels; we’re now almost at the end of August and you haven’t ridden your mountain bike yet as you had promised yourself! Well, it’s never too late and in fact the next few weeks are likely to be the best in the entire summer for straddling a mountain bike and getting a taste of what a fun recreation it can be if you have never tried it before, or refreshing your memories as well as your skills if you have experienced it in the past. Deer Valley is the perfect place to do it, should you decide to take advantage of the resort’s lift-served mountain biking options by either riding the Silver Lake Express or the Sterling Express lifts, rent some great bikes and also receive some friendly advice.

Early fall is also the perfect season to do it; the weather is much cooler and the crowds are generally considerably thinner. In fact, the resort offers an impressive 55 miles of trails meandering through woods, canyons and meadows, offering a blend of the best vistas available and the most exciting terrain. In case you wondered, I’ve heard that Deer Valley Resort has been rated by some mountain biking publication in the top ten best destinations for mountain biking…

So now where do you begin? Check your mountain bike and make sure it’s still trail-worthy or doesn’t lack modern suspensions, decent tires and good brakes. If it has remained in your garage for more than ten years, you might be surprised to find out that technology has passed it by; if that’s the case, rent one at Deer Valley Resort, that will enable you to familiarize yourself with the new technology from modern gears to clipless pedals, and give you an opportunity to make up your mind should you decide to invest into a new machine. If your bike still looks the part, make sure to have it tuned up and have its tires and brakes checked before going out, and while we are on the subject of personal security, don’t leave home without your bike helmet!

Then, if you’re still a bit uneasy, there’s always the opportunity of taking a refresher course. Don’t think you need one? Well, this might in fact be a great opportunity to not having to relearn everything or re-discovering… the wheel. Deer Valley’s Mountain Bike School can give you that bit of extra-confidence that will make a huge difference. It’s open daily and someone’s available at either Snow Park Lodge or mid-mountain next to Silver Lake Lodge from 10 am to 5:30 pm to assist you if you really want to discover something new. There are in fact a host of things you can rediscover or learn, like sharpening your visual skills on single track courses, balancing and positioning your body according to the changing terrain, cornering like a pro, breaking smartly, descending and climbing more effectively and many more very valuable tips.

Lift-served mountain biking is also an excellent way to get you started without suffering too much and gaining some critical training before you can do the whole thing on your very own, if you decide to. The passes are quite affordable and your kids or grandchildren below five years of age will ride free. So enough procrastinating! You only have between now and Labor Day, plus the following weekend of September 11 and 12 to get back into, or get acquainted with this great sport while weather and temperatures are still ideal!