Montage Deer Valley Offers Exciting Summer Activities

For those of us who know the place, Montage Deer Valley often evokes a beautiful mountain retreat getaway, that offers the best in accommodations, superlative service and a suite of premier restaurants, but these marks of comfort should never make us forget that Montage is also all about outdoor activities, too. I wanted to find out for myself so I met with Andy Damman, Director of Resort Activities.

DVR-Montage (1)JF: Thanks for welcoming me. Tell me Andy, how long have you been with Montage Deer Valley?

Andy Damman: I have been here since September of 2010, about four months before the resort opened. As the director of resort activities I’m responsible for ski operations and tubing facilities in winter. The rest of the year, I’m running our Camp Compass program which includes hiking, biking and archery among other activities.

JF: Do these recreational activities address all age groups?

Andy Damman: Age-wise we want to able to accommodate everybody and we really mean it. We want our summer activities program to almost feel like “summer camp.” When guests come to the resort we want our activities to be readily accessible to all as they walk outside. Whether that’s life-size chess or checker by the pool, badminton, archery out on our Grand Lawn, volleyball, horse-shoe or, on a rainy day, a game of ping-pong. When guests walk out of these doors there’s always something fun they can participate in.

DVR-Montage (9)JF: How did you dream up all of these programs?

Andy Damman: We developed them from the ground up. We spent numerous meetings and countless hours designing them. We didn’t want to just pick five or ten activities, we wanted the sky to be the limit and, as of today, we keep coming up with more. We focused on creating outside activities that would be easy and fun to play with, not activities that keep people inside like Nintendo, Game Boys and other indoor entertainment. We wanted to give everyone the opportunity to get out and enjoy our beautiful mountain environment.

JF: How did you pick mountain biking as one of these focal points?

Andy Damman: Together, Deer Valley and Park City account for some 400 miles of dirt trails, many of them fully accessible from the backdoor of Compass Sports. We were able to work with Deer Valley Resort to create a program that would be fully integrated with their infrastructure and perfectly tailored to our guests.

DVR-Montage (8)JF: Excellent! Can you be more detailed about your mountain bike program and particularly, your special relationship with BMC?

Andy Damman: We went into this program with the mindset of picking the best partner possible; as you know, there are plenty of good bike companies out there that have a lot to offer, but as we began talking to BMC, a great relationship quickly developed and we’re about to become BMC’s test center for North America [BMC, which stands for Bicycle Manufacturing Company, is Swiss based]

JF: What makes BMC so special?

Andy Damman: I’d say high quality, excellent craftsmanship, exceptional ride and bikes ideally designed for this area. BMC the perfect fit for the Montage brand and its guests.

JF: How do you assist guests who rent your bikes and may not be familiar with mountain biking?

DVR-Montage (4)Andy Damman: We want to provide our guests all the assistance they need. New this year, we’re offering an introduction to mountain biking. It’s packed with instruction, lots of pointers, big smiles, fun and laughter. We actually take guests off property on a specific trail system that’s appropriate for all skill levels. Every morning at 9 a.m., we have a guide that’s available to our riding guests, and this coaching is included in the cost of the bike rental. These guides teach the foundation of the sport and give guests the skills and the confidence they need to enjoy riding a mountain bike.

JF: Do you do anything special in fitting your bikes to the rider?

DVR-Montage (5)Andy Damman: We carefully set everything up. Based on the rider’s weight and height, we set the tire pressure, we size the frame, we set the shock absorbers, we provide a guide who has no ego, is guest-oriented, and above all, wants every rider to discover the joy of mountain-biking. If guests rent a bike for more than one day, we will make sure that following their first ride the machine is thoroughly cleaned, lubed, works perfectly and looks immaculate for the next one.

JF: Do you have any promotional program associated with mountain biking?

Andy Damman: Yes, we’re participating in the great “Lift Package” program offered this summer in conjunction with Deer Valley Resort.  This offer runs from until September 2, 2013. The overnight package includes a $50 daily credit for breakfast, nightly valet parking and Deer Valley Resort chairlift passes.

JF: Is your bike program available to non-hotel guests?

Andy Damman: Our program is offered to our resort guests as a first priority. If there is space available, we will do whatever we can to accommodate other visiting guests as we are open to all people who come to see us.

JF: Can you share more technical details about your rental bike fleet?

DVR-Montage (7)Andy Damman: We’re very fortunate to have high-end products with BMC. These days, the name of the game seems to revolve around wheel sizes. We offer everything from 26 and 29 inch wheels, with the former being more nimble, more sporty, and the later having much better rolling capabilities once the bike is up to speed; larger wheels work perfectly on the smooth trails we have around Deer Valley Resort. Some of our bike frames are aluminum, others are carbon, but overall, our bikes climb very well, are very stiff for cornering and yet offer a very comfortable ride. The new thing in the industry this season is the full-suspension 29 inch wheel bike on ultra-light carbon frame!

JF: I see that you also offer road bikes…

Andy Damman: We have two models: The BMC TeamMachine bike, the one used by the Pros on the Tour de France; it climbs extremely well, descend extremely well; you don’t feel every bump along the way. That bike in my view is “a Ferrari with the comfort of a Cadillac!” Then we have the GranFondo Series, comfortable and designed for the long distance, a “century” rider (typically for longer rides 100 miles making a “century).

JF: What about mountain bikes for children?

Andy Damman: If kids can balance on two wheels, we’ve got a bike for them. We have 20 and 24 inch mountain bikes, both with full-suspension. My first year, here I remember we taught a child how to ride his first bike without training wheels and later that week we took him on his first mountain bike trail. Again, you don’t have to be between 18 and 25 to participate with us, we will accommodate anybody! Even if mountain biking seems outside of your comfort zone, we will give you the skills to get you into that comfort zone!

JF: Well this sounds inviting! Now, what else do you offer as part of your other Camp Compass activities?

Andy Damman: I’d like to start with what we call our “yard game programs;” we’re talking about basketball, volley ball, horse shoes, life-size checker and chess, shuffle board and the list goes on. At 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., we offer complimentary archery sessions for our guests. That’s on our Grand Lawn. We have sixty inch targets rounds to shoot at; every archery instructor that works for Compass Sports is certified. We make it fun by the fact that we start at 5 meters, 10 meters, 15 meters and keep working our way back, shooting at competition round targets. The range is extremely safe, everything is fun. And our guests shoot against the most beautiful backdrop, ever, right outside the doors, here at Montage…

JF: What about fly-fishing?

Andy Damman: That’s another great activity! We offer our very own fly-fishing program along with Joe Mitchell from Stonybrook Fly Fishing who – in my opinion – is the best guide in the Valley. This program like all the others we offer is all about our guests and their enjoyment. Fly-fishing with Joe is all about casting the rod, catching the fish with the most humble instructor there is. It’s just like oil on canvass to me!

JF: Is that a whole day trip?

Andy Damman: Most of our fly-fishing trips are either half-day or full day, our guests will be back just by dinner time at night, unless the fishing is so good that Joe decides to stay longer!

JF: …and dinner will be delayed! Well, this sounds like a treat. Anything else you would like to mention?

Andy Damman: Oh, yes! I almost forgot, we now have kites. We’ll be able to take our guest to the top of Guardsman Pass and fly kites, all kinds of them. So, please, stay tuned for that new exciting program!

JF: All these wonderful activities make me want to participate into all of them and I envy your guests for having to choose from such a wonderful array of outdoor sports that you’re serving spring, summer and fall.

Andy Damman: Every associate who works with us shares the same passion that we all have for these exciting activities. This is something our guests can discover, experience, and more importantly, can take away with them and remember fondly when they are home, long after their stay with us at Montage Deer Valley!

 

Mountain Biking Lessons: Zero to Intermediate in One Morning

nancyHave you ever had a song stuck in your head?  Over and over you hear something like, “Wake me up before you go-go… I’m not planning on going solo.”  The words keep coming back in a never-ending loop and finally when you think its over, there it is again.

Doug, our Deer Valley mountain bike instructor, got in my head during our lesson last weekend but fortunately in this case, it was in a good way. You see I have a bad habit.  I look down.  When I ski, instead of looking at where I am going, I look down right in front of me at all the obstacles I am about to hit.  Of course this means I have no time to react because I see them too late.

dougDuring our mountain biking lesson, my husband Jay and I learned a great many things including balance with the platform stance and transferring our weight way back on the bike so we are almost sitting on the back tire for steep declines.  We learned to trust the bikes; we employed controlled momentum and the 29” knobby tires took us over rocks, roots and gravel with no problems. The third important lesson we learned was vision.

Doug explained,  “When you look ahead to where you want to go instead of where you are, your brain registers everything in front of you even the fuzzy stuff in your peripheral vision.”  I took that to mean, looking down is a complete waste of time.  It’s also no fun.  When all you are looking at is obstacles, all you experience is fear.  When you look ahead to where you want to go, your brain is actively engaged in the strategy to get there, which is way more fun!

Somehow this concept I had been struggling with suddenly became very easy. The words, “Look up” were stuck in my head and I was automatically doing it.  Why now? I wondered.  Maybe it was because Doug, from a large Italian family, is a loud talker.  He told us growing up he couldn’t get a word in at the dinner table unless he spoke really loud and over top of his brothers. To the casual observer, his family dinner might sound like a heated argument but to them, it was a normal every day occurrence.  His loud clear instructions stuck with me – “Look up! Vision!  Choose your line.”

When you coupled the loud talking with his step-by-step instructions and attention to detail, we had a winning combination.  Since Deer Valley mountain biking trails start at the intermediate level, Doug started us in the parking lot where he built skill upon skill. He had us riding the bumpy stairs from one lot to the next.  He taught us how to take turns on specially prepared switchback trails beneath trees on the side of the lot. When we got the “Let’s do it!” from Doug, we headed to the lifts.

Nancy on Tour de Homes

Nancy on Tour de Homes

 

The lift operator handled each of our bikes hooking them onto the chairs behind us.  When we got to the top, we headed to “Tour des Homes” – the easiest mountain bike run but still an intermediate trail.  When we hit the first steep decent, I was prepared and looked up to where I wanted to end up – not at the ground in front of me.

The first turn – I looked ahead.

The first bump – I kept my eyes on where I was going.

When I encountered:

Rocks,

Gravel,

Grooves,

A narrow single trail,

And switchbacks with all of the above, I looked up the whole time!  I just kept hearing, “Look up!” both from Doug and also in my own head. I was cured!

Nancy's husband, Jay, on Tour de Homes

Nancy’s husband, Jay, on Tour de Homes

The most important part is we were also having fun. Jay and I hadn’t even dusted the cobwebs off our bikes this year. We’d never even ridden a single track in our lives and Deer Valley got us from zero to intermediate in one morning.  We were pretty amazed.  Our friends were amazed.  Our children were shocked.

after the lessonWe’re looking forward to taking our bikes up the lift and hitting the Tour des Homes many times this summer.  I love having that voice in my head saying, “Vision! Look up!” I hope it stays with me for the entire ski season, too.  Now, that would be wonderful.

The only problem I have now is I can’t get this tune out of my head, “Wake me up before you go-go … I’m not planning on going solo.”  Anyone have a cure for that?

To learn more about the mountain biking lessons and experience at Deer Valley Resort, click here.

An Interview with Mark Nepermann, DV Summer Lift Operations Supervisor

Earlier this week, as he was busy getting everything ready for this year’s mid-June re-opening, Mark Nepermann, Lift Operations Supervisor took a few moments out of his time to talk about summer lift operations at Deer Valley Resort.  

DVR-ops-2JF:  Mark, I can see on your face that you’re ready for summer; I mean you appear to enjoy that season a lot. How long have you been working at Deer Valley Resort?

Mark Nepermann:  I have worked here for four winters and this will be my third summer. And you’re right; summer is my favorite time of the year! I’m originally from northern Illinois, I came out here after college for one winter and I loved it so much that I never left.

JF:  Now that the weather has been gradually warming up, are you and your staff ready for your summer season opening?

Mark Nepermann: Absolutely!  We opened on June 14 and will be operating our lifts through Labor Day, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., every day.

JF: Which chairlifts are open to the public?

Mark Nepermann: We’ll continue to offer rides on Silver Lake Express, Sterling Express and for the third season, Ruby Express.

JF: Who are your typical passengers?

Mark Nepermann: In the summer, mountain bikers are still the majority of our riders, we mount a hook on the sides of all the chairs to carry their equipment, we also get scenic riders who come to enjoy the incredible views that can be seen from our mountain tops.

JF: Do scenic riders have to ride down the lift?

Mark Nepermann:   No, we give them many options. They can either ride up and ride back down, or ride up and hike down, particularly on some of our hiking-only trails. They can also hike up and reward themselves with our complimentary ride down!

JF:  I’ve noticed that the lifts seem to be running slowly, why is this?

Mark Nepermann:  We run about half the speed that we do in winter, this allows passengers to easily get off upon reaching the top since they have to walk away and this takes just a little more time than sliding off the ramp with skis on during the winter.

DVR-ops-4JF:  What are these poles inside the bin, by the chairlift?

Mark Nepermann:  These are ski poles made available to hikers who want to use them, both at the bottom and the top of each chairlift; we just ask the hikers to put them back into the bin when they’re done using them.

JF:  Besides mountain bikes, are you allowing other devices on your trails?

Mark Nepermann: Sure, we see everything from old mountain bikes from the 1980’s, to the latest 50 pound downhill bike, to unicycles, mountain scooters or mountain boards, you name it.

JF: And you let them in?

Mark Nepermann:  We let riders use them as long as these machines are equipped with at least two brakes, so if one of them were to fail, there’s still a spare one. We also require all riders to wear a helmet and stay on the bike trails, even on these non-conventional devices.

DVR-ops-5JF: Are hikers also required to stay on the trails?

Mark Nepermann:  We prefer all users to stay on the trails in order to prevent trampling vegetation and avoid erosion.

JF: What happens when the weather suddenly changes?

Mark Nepermann:  Although heavy rain never seems to be a problem at Deer Valley Resort, the sole reason we would close down our lifts is if it rains hard for very long, riding could cause damage to the trails.  Thunder isn’t a deal-breaker, but lightning is.  If we see lightning we call “last chair” until the storm is passed and that is for the safety of both our riders and staff.

JF: So, when you compare winter and summer, do you find differences in your ridership?

Mark Nepermann:  Our summer guests are definitely more low-key than in winter; perhaps during the warm season people aren’t as eager to clock as many runs as possible, but we also have a wider variety of riders. Some are hard-core mountain bikers, some are nature lovers, others are here to discover mountain vistas for the first time in summer. Our guests’ expectations and interests are far less homogeneous than they are in winter .

DVR-ops-7JF:  How should people dress when they ride your lifts?

Mark Nepermann:  Temperature differences between the base and the top of the chairlift always plays a significant role. Temperatures may also change very fast if the cloud cover suddenly moves in or the breeze sets in. Just because it’s sunny and warm at Snow Park doesn’t mean that it might not be 10 to 20 degrees less at the top of Bald Mountain. We encourage visitors to dress in layers and carry a light jacket with them in the event of a sudden drop in temperature.

JF:  Any other useful tips?

DVR-ops-6Mark Nepermann:  Always carry lots of water to stay well-hydrated, don’t forget the sunscreen, another good tip is to make sure to wear a hat. Of course, all bike riders must wear a helmet. Also, having a cell phone is always a good idea in case of emergency.

JF:  So, why do you like summer at Deer Valley Resort so much?

Mark Nepermann:  I like to tell the guests I meet during winter that summers in Deer Valley are even better in terms of the multitude of options offered to visitors. There is a myriad of concerts, mountain biking, hiking, fly-fishing, golfing, great food on Royal Street’s deck and green vistas as far as the eye can see, plus it’s always 10 to 15 degrees cooler up here than down in the Salt Lake Valley. We’re a refreshing alternative to the summer heat, so come up and play with us!

Interview with Steve Graff, Bike/Ski Patrol Manager

Last week I caught up with Deer Valley Resorts’ Bike and Ski Patrol Manager, Steve Graff, as he was returning from inspecting the impressive network of hiking and mountain bike trails the resort will soon re-open to the public. Here are some of the many interesting things I learned about his busy department and their myriad of responsibilities…


DVR-MtnPatrol1

JF: Steve, it’s good to be visiting with you and the patrollers again. Tell me, where’s all the snow? What has happened to you and your staff since the end of the skiing season and what are you up to now?

Steve Graff (SG): After we closed the mountain down in April, we spent another week taking down signs, ropes, pads and getting everything ready for snow melt. After taking a little bit of time off to transition between seasons, our staff is back to work. As you can imagine, our personnel shrinks a bit at this time of the year; most get back to their seasonal jobs. Many go to work as National Parks Rangers all over the country, while those who can never get enough winter continue ski patrolling in New Zealand and Australia. Some are wild land fire fighters or smoke-jumpers, and the rest of us are back at Deer Valley Resort getting the place ready for warm weather activities.

JF: How many employees return for Mountain Bike Patrol?

SG: Out of our 70 or so ski patrollers, about 15 stay on during the summer.

JF: How long is the season?

SG: It goes from mid-June through Labor Day (September 2, 2013).

JF: Are you the crew in charge of maintaining trails and cutting new ones?

SG: Our main priority is helping injured but the bulk of our work is actually trail construction and trail maintenance.

JF: Any new trail this year?

SG: The two newest trails were actually started last season. Both are in the Empire Canyon area, off the Ruby Express chairlift.

  • Drift: An intermediate trail
  • Payroll: More of a free riding, “flowy” trail, with some nice jumps and drops that should add some extra levels of excitement in that general area

JF: This sounds promising! By the way who comes up with these unique trail names?

SG: Payroll is actually a mine name and Drift comes from a drift road that is off Tour de Sud. Some others come directly from the public, “Devo” is a good example; we were just finishing constructing it when we ran into a lady that said “Yeah, that trail is ‘Devo.”

Mountain Biking_DVR

JF: Does your remaining staff receive summer-specific training?

SG: There’s a lot of cross-over between summer and winter duties like medical training and lift evacuation skills and those are regularly being refreshed.  We add motorcycle, ATV and six-wheeler riding that are unique to our summer season.

JF: You mean, training on vehicles that get you around the mountain?

SG: Right; instead of snowmobiles, toboggans or skis, we use bikes, motorcycles and ATVs!

JF: What types of interventions are typical to the warmer months?

SG: Overall, the few injuries we deal with are less severe than in winter because speed is less of a factor. We see a quite a few scrapes and bruises though, maybe a few dislocations, perhaps more blood than usual, but in general, far less severe injuries.

JF: It seems to me that you and your staff aren’t always on the mountain; over the years, I’ve noticed your presence at all the Deer Valley’s summer concerts. What’s your role there?

SG: To attend the concert!

JF: I should have expected this! So, all Patrollers are music aficionados?

SG: Well, this is another one of our Mountain Bike Patrol duties. We offer first aid response at the Deer Valley concerts, so we attend them all. Depending on the event, between two and four of us are present. We’re there for medical emergencies or other situations.

JF: Are they specific recommendations you’d like to share with mountain bikers and hikers intent to use the Deer Valley Resort trail system?

SG: There are a few good rules; first, we don’t charge for uphill travel outside of chairlift rides. If trail users bike, they must wear a helmet and dogs must be left at home whether their owners hike or bike. Always make sure to look at the map and come up with a route before heading out; remember that there are some trails that are specifically for downhill mountain biking, others specifically for hiking and then they’re others that are designated for both. So, it’s good to know what kind of trail you’re planning to take. If you want to hike and don’t want to see bikers, go on a hiking-only trail. If you want to pedal up, make sure you chose the multi-use trail, not the downhill-only one. That way, everyone can enjoy their experience to the fullest.

DVR-MtnPatrol2

JF: Are there lessons or orientations tours visitors can take?

SG: Yes; both are available and are highly recommended. We offer guided tours of the mountain that will also provide some mountain biking tips; those are for intermediate level and above, but they’re also “mountain bike 101” lessons that will take a rank beginner straight to the single-track trails. Many riders often say: “I know how to handle a bike, therefore I don’t need lessons” but as you know JF, mountain biking is a very different deal, it’s not like riding in the neighborhood; there’s weight transfer, forward-and-back and side-to-side involved, it’s a lot more dynamic experience than pedaling on asphalt around the block.

JF: What other recommendations would you give hikers or mountain bikers visiting Deer Valley Resort?

SG: I know some people who chose to ride their mountain bike by themselves, purely for exercise. If you’re one of them, just let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back. Always wear a helmet and sunglasses. Even if you’re going on a short trip, throw an extra power bar in your pack, a replacement tube, enough water, some basic tools if you ever break down.  Even if you aren’t quite sure how to fix it, some passer-by might be able to assist you and get you back on your way. Always wear gloves; if you ever fall, the first thing that’s going to hit the ground is your hand. Some extra protection goes a long way!

JF: Any tips about the weather?

SG: Always be prepared for anything! In the mountains, the weather can change rapidly. Look for thunderstorms. If you can hear thunder, lightning isn’t far, so get off the high ground, don’t huddle under the tallest tree, just wait for the storm to pass; it generally never lasts very long.

JF: What about encounters with wildlife?

SG: We do see quite a bit of wildlife. This is one of the great things about hiking and mountain biking around Deer Valley. I’ve had the pleasure to see all kinds of animals around this mountain. You just got to give them space. We’ve taken a lot of space away from them and we should always treat the mountain as their own domain. If I see a moose on the trail, I make my presence known, and hopefully he’ll amble on.

JF: So, how ready are you for Deer Valley Resort summer opening?

SG: Well, we’re opening on June 14, and based on my most recent trail inspections, we’re going to have a fantastic opening, with ninety percent of the trails perfectly passable, so please, come and join us!

 

Gearing Up

Just like skiing, mountain biking is a wonderful sport that can be fraught with frustration if not started the right way. The problem is that, if we can ride a bicycle, we generally assume that we already know everything about the technique and the equipment, and don’t need any lessons. While this seems logical, mountain-biking is a totally different universe, because there is highly specialized equipment just for it, plenty of gravity going up and down, uneven terrain, and most often than not a narrow, single-track involved!

These differences are the key reasons for considering professional help that can take a rank beginner into a smart mountain-bike rider. Things like learning the basics of using the brakes the proper way, understanding the “platform” concept, knowing about correct body placement and feeling comfortable with obstacles and single-track riding. These elements where probably not part of the curriculum used by your mom or dad when you learned how to ride your first bike!

This said there are countless reasons for getting into mountain biking; most folks get into the sport either by accident, special circumstances, like a visit to Deer Valley Resort, or just because they want to try something new. There are also many ways to get started. First, there’s the gentle one, which consists of beginning on asphalt bike-paths, staying on flat terrain and progressively tackling the more challenging trails. Then, there’s the “full-immersion” program that takes rank-beginners into the heart of the matter, with guts and gusto, straight up into the mountain. These forms of entry points often match certain age groups too. Middle-age people will gravitate towards the former, while teenagers and young adults may pedal more assertively into the sport and enjoy a faster learning curve.

Going at mountain biking progressively is probably a good idea for middle-age and older individuals. These riders can be a bit apprehensive and often don’t have as much time available for the sport. They can transition naturally from their regular biking experience into some slightly heavier equipment in which familiarity with the proper use of gears, brakes and terrain requires some time to be learned. After practicing these skills for a while on bike path or gravel road, they’ll be ready to explore more complex terrain and get familiar with uphill climbs, descents and single-track trails.

If the riders aren’t quite ready for taking that step, either because they are just afraid or don’t have the stamina the activity requires, they might be better off switching to a lighter, cross-country mountain bike design that can be used either on gentler terrain and on wider trails covered with asphalt, gravel or dirt. Before they do, however, it might still be an excellent idea to take a few more lessons. On the other hand, if riders get comfortable on single trails and their ups and downs, improvements will largely be a function of time, mileage and increased level of difficulty. It is at this stage that a good combination of lift-assisted biking and practicing on blue runs can provide this key ingredient that’s so important in mountain-biking: Experience!

If the riders are young, energetic and fearless, they can literally take the plunge either by mean of lift-assisted, downhill biking or ease into single-track cross-country riding. As mentioned earlier, the participant’s age plays a crucial role. Teenagers and young adults can learn with buddies and thanks to a combination of grit, good balance, athletic abilities, peer pressure and lots of practice; they will learn the rudiment of the sport and improve quite rapidly.

Again, for all of these groups, the best way to get started is by taking lessons as there is a technique to be learned and this can save a lot of grief to the newcomer. Without lessons, these skills must be acquired the hard way and this can translate into a much longer process. In fact, unless the rider can get out 20 or 30 times each season, like some of the locals do, the morale of a successful mountain biking experience is to take lessons from the start, stick to practicing and getting out as often as possible.

Now, don’t delay, take that first step into mountain biking before the season is over!

“Just Like Riding a Bike” Guest Blog by Amy Kersey

It’s such a common phrase referring to something easy to pick up or remember, but is clearly used only by those who have never dabbled in the world of downhill mountain biking. As a casual Midwest biker, I’m definitely at novice status out here in Utah where mountain biking is a way of life. In my first summer as a Park City local, I decided I needed to dive right into that outdoorsy lifestyle. However, instead of jumping on a bike, saying a prayer, and heading down the mountain, I thought it best to take a lesson from a professional to learn how it’s supposed to be done.

My three hour lesson at Deer Valley’s Mountain Biking School began from the earliest stages of getting to know my bike. I rented a full-suspension bike that allows for six inches of vertical movement while riding which was definitely a new feeling compared to the stiff hard-tail I’m used to.

We started in the parking lot to get familiar with the gears, brakes, and feel of the bike before taking on some basic dips and switchback techniques. It sounds easy enough, but after falling twice (in the parking lot, mind you) I’d say my pride was a little wounded. I wasn’t used to handling turns while standing up out of the saddle or actually needing to use my front brake (which would soon become my downfall). While the tips and techniques seemed like common sense, the mastery of them was going to take a lot more mental toughness than I imagined.

After completing a few turns without any falls, we took the Silver Lake Express and Sterling Express chairlifts to the top of Bald Mountain. I wasn’t sure how much actual terrain or elevation I’d be seeing as a beginner, but after my instructor said we were going to the top and my deer-in-the-headlights look finally wore off, I was ready.


My instructor, Jeff, went over the basics with me one more time before we headed down the mountain. Keep my feet parallel in platform position, keep my weight up and back, and look out ahead to where I want to go and not as much at the rocks in front of me that I want to avoid. He was also really great about preparing me for what to expect on the trail ahead. The first section had three switchback turns. The first two went well. The third did not. Instead of looking out ahead of me and continuously braking through the turn, I decided to panic, look down, and throw on my front brake harder than necessary. Over the handlebars I went in a Superman-like fashion. Another useful tip I thankfully took from Jeff? Wear gloves. When you fall, your hands are often the first point of contact with the ground.

We were pretty early into the trail so I knew I didn’t have time to worry about how dirty I was, where I was bleeding, or who was watching. “Alright, let’s go! We’ve gotta get down the mountain, right?” Jeff made sure I was okay and took caution before we started moving again which was really comforting for my first ride.

The next sections of the trail included more cross-country terrain where I could work on speed control and find a rhythm for handling the switchbacks. There were times I could sneak a peek at the unbelievable setting of sagebrush and aspen trees through which we were weaving, but I usually left sight appreciation time for when we were stopped, for my safety as well as everyone else’s on the trail.

As we approached the bottom of the hill, Jeff reminded me to stay focused on the last few turns since it’s easy to be distracted by the base instead of maintaining control through the end of the trail. I managed to finish the ride upright on my bike and still in one piece.

I can’t thank Jeff enough for his patience with me and, more importantly, for teaching me to have patience with myself. When I realized this was not “just like riding a bike,” I had to cut myself some slack. Downhill mountain biking is like nothing I’ve ever done before. Sure I acquired some scrapes and bruises, but I see it as a bit of a rite of passage into the mountain biking world. After learning the proper techniques, each ride feels a little more comfortable, the scenery a little more beautiful, and falling, which may be inevitable for me, is a little less scary.

 

Amy is the communications coordinator at the Park City Chamber and Visitors Bureau. Amy is originally from Lowell, Indiana and moved to Park City in the fall of 2010. When Amy is not mastering her mountain bike skills she can be found playing sand volleyball, practicing yoga, or browsing the shelves at Dolly’s Bookstore.

Trail Update!

As many of you know, early this spring we announced a significant expansion to our summer mountain biking, hiking and scenic chairlift operations for the summer 2011 season. Aside from running both the Silver Lake Express (from the Resort base) and Sterling Express chairlifts (from mid-mountain) we are also running the Ruby Express chairlift from the Empire Canyon Lodge area. This expansion includes a new trail,“The Road to Ruby,” a three- to four-mile connecting trail from Bald Mountain to the Flagstaff Mountain area and a new intermediate trail system in the Flagstaff Mountain area.

However, the abundent snowfall and wet May and June delayed our trail building process! Now, the trails are well underway and here is an update with Chris Erikkla, Bike Patrol Supervisor:

Has anyone been out on the new trail system yet? If not, see the video below for a guide to Tour des Suds with Chris Erikkla. This trail has been expanded across Flagstaff Mountain to now access Ruby Express Chairlift.