Life as a Patroller During World Cup

Thousands of ski fans flocked to Deer Valley Resort at the start of this month for the 2012 FIS World Cup. From Thursday, Feb. 2, through Saturday, Feb. 4, top skiers from around the world –including stars Hannah Kearney, Heather McPhie, Mikael Kingsbury and Dylan Ferguson – competed in freestyle moguls and aerials events. They launched themselves off bumps and jumps in a display of speed, agility, athleticism and daring that left virtually every viewer – from patrollers standing course-side to fans watching on TV at home – slack-jawed in amazement.

The World Cup represents a showcase for the resort’s Race Department, which along with the Snow Grooming, Snow Making, and Lift Operations departments, spent the week before the event constructing the courses and spectator areas. The crew was assisted by a legion of local volunteers who shaped each mogul and jump by hand. The result was stunning. In a few short days, they transformed the Champion and White Owl trails into challenging elite runs.

Champion, site of the 2002 Olympic freestyle mogul’s event and White Owl, home of the 2002 Olympic freestyle aerials proved a great venue once again. Both are located on Bald Eagle Mountain.

(Patrol manager Steve Graff, right, reviews the plan for World Cup before the start of the first session Thursday evening, as patroller Mark Chytka looks on.)

Patrol assisted with setup, hanging rope lines and baffle-fences along the sides of the course. Then, when warm-ups started Wednesday, and competition commenced Thursday, a team of patrollers took to the race hill to provide first aid for the athletes, coaches, and spectators, if needed.

Seventeen patrollers worked the event: 10 on-course, five in the spectator area, and two supervisors – one in the Bald Eagle patrol shack, the other roaming where needed.

“It’s a nice change of pace,” patroller Kate Atha said. “You’re not doing openers or 10-50s [radio-code for a skier wreck]. It’s a midseason refresher.”

Still, the World Cup days are long and cold. Patrollers working course-side typically stand outside for more than three hours at a time before rotating back to the patrol shack to warm up, eat, and rest. Once it was all over Saturday night, patrollers stayed past midnight, helping the race department, snow groomers, volunteers and others dismantle the course.

“It’s a good lesson in how to dress warm,” Atha said. “You’re not always moving, it’s not always sunny on Champion – or you’re working at night. So you’re wearing eight layers and mittens and heat packs, and you’re constantly eating.” Night events ran from about 7 or 8 p.m., depending on the day, to about 9:15 p.m., and temperatures dipped to 3 degrees Fahrenheit.

(Maitland Wiren and Kate Atha relax at the end of a long day Friday.)

The reward? The best seat in the house.

(The aerials course, lit-up for the finals Friday night.)

“You get to be right in the thick of the action,” patroller Hylton Early said. “When you’re right there working course-side and you see the athletes warming up and talking to their coaches, you get a much better understanding of the commitment and time the athletes put into it. You also get a much better sense of the size of the moguls, the speed the guys are going, how high they go off the jumps.”

The 10 patrollers who worked course-side were divided into pairs, which rotated roughly every 45 minutes through various stations on the courses. On Champion, the stations were located at the start gate, the first kicker, the second kicker, the finish, and the Bald Eagle patrol shack. On White Owl, patrollers stood watch at the jumps and below the landing area.

In addition to dealing with the cold, the work presented different challenges from a regular ski day, particularly on Champion: the runs proved especially slick, the moguls were enormous, and thousands of spectators were watching – not to mention the TV cameras.

“You got to be 100-percent solid with running sleds in bumps,” Atha said. “The course is hard enough for athletes to ski it. We’re responding to wrecks and skiing with sleds in those same bumps.”

(Patroller TJ Somers and Mark Chytka stand at the bottom of Champion during warmups on Wednesday.)

The three days of World Cup – four, if you include Wednesday’s practice session – provided an additional bonding experience for the patrollers working the event.

“You’re all putting in the sacrifice of the long hours and cold temperatures,” Early said. “It’s almost like pledging.”

Asked whether they plan to sign-up for World Cup next year, Early and Atha were unequivocal. “100 percent,” they said.

(The moguls and aerials courses Saturday night, as seen from overhead.)

The moguls and aerials events were broadcast on NBC on Saturday, Feb. 11. The dual moguls portion of the event were broadcast Saturday, Feb. 18, at 2:30 p.m. EST on NBC. For the results, as published on the official FIS website, click here.

 

Mahre Training Clinic Part 2

Warning: I’m about to deploy every possible cliché about powder skiing.

Before I do, I’ll defend myself: Clichés are clichés because they are the truth.

And so, gentle reader, I Must. Speak. The. Truth.

Sunday was EPIC.

There were face shots.

It was POW-erful good skiing.

And Ep-ic.

I shredded that POW.

I shredded, hard, man.

I whooped and hollered my way all over the mountain. I skied. Oh, man, did I ski.

(Photo by Ryan Voight)

It was extra-fun because I was able to translate a whole arsenal of newly-acquired mad skillz…into the best powder turns I’ve ever made in my life. Did it help that I had Steve Mahre skiing behind me, turn for turn, calling directions into my ear?

Um, yes.

“Plant your pole, Nan.”

“Make a longer turn, Nan.”

“Be taller! Be TALLER!”

“Stay loose!”

“Good! Like THAT!!”

(Wait, really, did he just tell me I’m doing it right? Did STEVE MAHRE just PRAISE my skiing?! Um, yes. Well, that felt good.)

Yes, the powder day dawned on morning three of my long-awaited 3-day stint at the Mahre Training Center at Deer Valley Resort.

Last year, when Ski Dad completed the Mahre Training Center clinic, he told me that for the first time in over 20 years of skiing, he finally felt like he’d learned how to do it. Well, I can say, safely, that after more than 35 years on the hill, I, too, finally locked it in.  You’ll read more about what makes the camp special—and what it meant to my skiing—in the coming days, and likely in the coming months. It was that impactful for me.

For now, I’ll just let us all revel in the joy, the pure bliss that is an epic powder day. And I’ll maybe gloat a little about how good it felt to finally be one of “those” skiers, gliding through the soft stuff feeling (mostly) balanced and smooth. And the praise from Steve Mahre. Which didn’t hurt a bit.

Also, I have to tell you that at the end of the day, I found myself making matched powder turns next to my Mahre team’s coach, Craig.

“Oh my gosh, Craig! We’re those skiers!”

He shouted back to me: “Yeah, we are!”

A Note from Our President on President’s Day

To celebrate President’s Day and the height of the winter, we met up with Deer Valley Resort President, Bob Wheaton to get an update on this ski season.

What a year it has been! We’ve continued to invest each season in the resort’s snowmaking system, and this season the system was certainly put to the test! The team we have at the resort in every aspect of our operations is second to none and this becomes increasingly evident when Mother Nature sends us a curve ball. Prior to the welcomed storm cycle, I have certainly been enjoying the Deer Valley corduroy this year, while curving lines on Stein’s Way and Magnet.

I hope many were able to get out and experience our VISA Freestyle International World Cup event the first week of February. We added another evening event with moguls on Thursday. It is always a thrill to see the events under the lights. The event means a lot of extra work for staff but we are thrilled to host such an amazing group of athletes from around the world. Our partnerships with FIS (International Ski Federation) and with the US Ski Team are great for the resort.

The President’s Day holiday means March and spring skiing are right around the corner. In the Wasatch spring also brings its share of powder days. Whether its spring corn or fluff  I am looking forward to being on the mountain and enjoying the amazing efforts of the Deer Valley Team.

Hope to see you out there!

Bob Wheaton shares one of his favorite powder stashes:

Mahre Training Clinic Part 1

My Intermediate Days Are Behind Me.

As it turns out, this isn’t something new. They’ve been a thing of the past for longer than I realized.

The ski school gods know me a little, and decided to assign me to an “advanced” group when I signed up for the Mahre Training Center’s camp at Deer Valley. I balked, sort of. Then, they brought us all to Success for a ski-off. Mahre Camp veterans (and there are folks who go back 1, 3, 5 times…and more!) lined up on one side of the run, newbies on the other.

“Make your regular turns down to that sign that says “Ski Loose or Wild,” instructed Steve.

“All I see is a sign that says SLOW,” said one guest.

“Oh! That’s why I always get in trouble,” he replied. “I thought it was an acronym.”

The joke relaxed us a little. We skied down and the self-described Julie McCoy of the MTC, Chris Katzenberger (an impressive skier in her own right), waved us into place alongside our designated coaches.

“This is an advanced group,” noted Craig, our coach. “We’re going to have fun.”

The truth is, skiers of all levels and abilities have fun—there were a couple of Never-Evers in the camp, in fact. Skiers are divided into teams led by a coach who has been trained and certified in the Mahre method of instruction. The best way I can describe this method is that it takes apart your skiing, cleans out the bad habits and puts it back together so that you’re poised to think less and ski more.

By Saturday night, after two full days of skills-and-drills with my team’s coach, Craig a/k/a “Cruiser” I was on the verge of a breakthrough.

The first day was pretty cool—Craig kept mixing up hard-core drill work with free skiing, letting us try on for size the nuanced tweaks he was introducing to our skiing.

Craig told our crew of five, “I’m careful with what I tell you. I want you to know, I don’t want to overload you with information. So, I’ll watch you today and when I arrive at the one thing I want to ask you to work on, the one thing I think is holding you back, I’ll tell you.”

During lunch, Craig said he was about to start telling us what he’d observed. I listened intently each time he addressed another member of our group. I waited patiently for him to unlock my personal skiing secret. And then, as we skied into the afternoon, I waited some more. Finally, Craig took me aside.

I expected my ego to take a beating. It didn’t. In fact, it blew up a bit: “Bari Nan, I’m having a hard time—you’re tough,” he said.

I looked at him with a puzzled expression.

“You ski beautifully. I’m having a hard time coming up with what’s holding you back. There’s something in reserve—and I’m almost there, so be patient.”

Um, what?

“Wow,” I said. “I’m blown away. But maybe you should call Letitia and tell her—she made me confident, she gave me the tools to advance.” (Letita Lussier is another one of Deer Valley’s crown-jewel instructors. On the team since day one, in fact. And I was lucky enough to ski with her in Women’s Weekend last year. And, yes, I owe her a lot!)

Still, I heard myself say that, and I knew there was more to the story.

“I have to tell you, Craig, I am always and forever, in my mind, an intermediate skier,” I confessed. “And I think I need to work on that.

He nodded. He left it alone.

A few runs later, he addressed the group (and may I say, our group included a 71 year-old retired Rear Admiral in the Navy with as much grace and humor as anyone I’ve met, a 60-something triathlete who was determined to crack the code, an Australian math teacher with a sly, charming wit, and a Wisconsin woman possessed of quiet, disarming charm—and killer ski skills)—“Will you please repeat after me,” Craig began. “I am a smooth, strong and graceful skier.” We did.

“I want you to repeat it again—and tell yourself that as you make your turns,” he said. “Because that’s what you all are—you just have to acknowledge it, admit it and own it.”

Later still, he issued his diagnosis of my skiing. “You need to be taller in your stance,” he said. “And you need to work on flexing down into the turn and coming back up to full height to start the next turn.”

I went to bed that night thinking about how to inhabit my 5’1″ frame in a taller stance. And I thought about how that change was going to be mental as much as physical. I needed to finally own my skiing.

The second day, I worked at it. We were videotaped. Craig pointed out the ways in which I needed to rise up from my calves and straighten my upper body just-so. But as he described the technical stuff, I realized that I was holding myself back in those moments, that the reason I couldn’t pop up and commit to the turn was because, somehow, I didn’t feel like I could. Still, the video didn’t lie—I spotted the exact moment I wasn’t committing, and I connected it with the noise in my head that told me to hang back a little. The shift, it turned out, wasn’t about physical skill. The breakthrough would be entirely mental.

The next morning was “Epic Sunday”—the unexpected powder dump that threw a wrench into the groomer-based training that comprises the Mahre method.

“I am going to have to shake the idea, forever, that I am a low-intermediate level skier,” I confessed over breakfast to Phil and Steve.

“Yes, you should,” Steve said.

“But don’t worry—that’s very common,” Phil assured me. “It’s especially common among women. You’re better than you think you are.”

Moments later, Steve was addressing our team. He seemed to be apologizing to the group as he explained that today’s lesson plan—short turns, a sprint through the slalom gates and more videotaping—and learn a new way of skiing. He couldn’t hide his grin or the gleam in his eye as he explained it all.

We cruised the pow. The three guys took turns taking diggers as they tinkered with staying centered on the skis so the tips could float. We hooted. We hollered. I exclaimed, incessantly, over the luck of a powder day. Seriously, some might have called my enthusiasm tiresome. I could give a hoot. And a holler.

Craig and Steve kept reminding me I needed to be taller in my stance to stay centered. “And don’t forget to let your skis work as a unit,” Steve said. “They should push the snow out of the way, rather than carve in it.”

Which is how I came to be found barking orders at myself clear down the face of Bald Mountain. “Push! Push! Be tall! Be taller! Tallllllll.”

Um, yes, that was me. The crazy girl talking to herself as she skied.

And yet…there was payoff. First, the personal satisfaction I felt when I hit that sweet spot of powder skiing: smooth, controlled and balanced. Perfect pole plants, created with the flick of a wrist. And, finally, more praise from Steve.

“Bari Nan,” he said. “You’re six foot one.”

Good to Great with 15 inches of New Snow!

This weekend saw our second “major” snow storm of the year, so after clearing my driveway and dressing for the weather, I went out to Deer Valley to assess the results.

The snow kept on pounding the mountain all afternoon and as the hills were shrouded in a mystical cloud cover, I chose to stay in the forested areas of the resort and skied an unprecedented ten “Centennial Trees” runs, non-stop and during each and every one of them, I literally let myself go, bouncing from turn to turn as if I were a ball bouncing down some stairways, in that fluffy, out-of-this-world and so forgiving soft matter…

It felt as if I had received some magic powers and as if gravity as we know it had suddenly lost its sting. There was no stump too high, no drop too steep for me not to embrace in total confidence. I suddenly felt as if I had become invincible and had received a license to “cheat…”  Yet, after the first couple of runs, I started to feel hot; that’s right, with all the powder I had to work much harder than usual.

At each turn, the abundant snow on all sides of my skis, my boots and my legs had to be moved around and was pushing back. At the same time, I had too be twice as concentrated as I watched like a hawk for hidden obstacles, sudden drops and of course, huge trees!   That day, 15 inches of new snow were measured and I rediscovered that unmistakable and special sensation of feeling deep powder hugging my lower legs.

What were imposing moguls 24 hours prior had been neutralized and didn’t amount to much anymore, the few twigs still emerging were now dwarfed and far less intimidating, the forbidding stumps were now totally covered and turned into fat snowmen and the rare rocks had magically sunk to the bottom.

All around me, there was a brand new ski world, and more than ever before, I took the time to appreciate every second of my descents!

Date Night—Park City Style.

Saturday night, with my little one well into his second dose of antibiotics, and the big one eager to hang with Claire-the-cool-babysitter, Ski Dad and I headed out for a double date with our friends Miriam and Josh.

(Seth filling out his own prescription)

As I laced up my Sorels, zipped my fleece, and made sure my pockets were stuffed with packets of hand-warmers, I started to giggle—partly with anticipation for a grown-up night out, and partly in appreciation of the difference between dressing for date night in New York City—skirt, heels, cute-but-not-necessarily-warm top—and date night in Park City. I shared this with our friends when we picked them up a few minutes later, and Miriam said, “I know—I’m not even wearing makeup! I didn’t see the point.”

The mood in the crowd was festive, excited and very social. We ran into tons of friends—and even made a few new ones. Here I am with my new pal Mike Hale—locals know him as the star of commercials for the Acura and Chevy dealerships he owns in Park City and in Salt Lake City. We know him as a newfound friend. He immediately struck up a conversation with us, introduced us to his son (also Mike) and, yep, talked skiing. (Ok, we talked a little bit about business—he was quick to tell me I don’t have to drive all the way to Salt Lake to get my car serviced, since his shop can work on any type of car. And that his team will also wash and vacuum the car after they work on it. Which, any mom will tell you, is enticement enough!)

 

Most impressively, Mike told us how much he’s enjoying his first season skiing—on his new knee. This, my friends, was a lot different than date night chatter in New York City. And, to boot, I got my breath taken away—multiple times—by the excitement of the dual moguls competitions.

Here’s why: People crash. They cross in and out of each other’s lines. Their bumps skiing goes awry—massively awry. And then, poof! They regain their line, their balance, their mojo, just in time for the second jump near the bottom of the course, and POW! They land these killer, killer tricks. Perfectly. And it happens again and again. My favorite moment in competition was watching two US Women—Heather McPhee and Hanna Kearney—go head-to-head in the finals. Astounding, inspiring. And I can’t wait until next year.

 

 

Valentine’s Day Crush

My friend Josh likes the action verb “crush.”

But his version is more rockstar than cupid.

Let me explain:

When I bump into him and his son, Jack, at Deer Valley, he looks at me with a hint of irony and says, “We’re going to CRUSH Success!” And Jack, on cue, pipes up with a manly growl. Or, the best impersonation of a manly growl that an adorable seven year-old orange belt in karate can muster. Which is beyond cute.

And, yes, the kid can CRUSH a ski run.

And, so, in the spirit of Josh, Jack and Deer Valley skiers everywhere—and with apologies to David Letterman—I bring you:

Bari Nan’s “Top Ten Deer Valley Runs I Love to Crush….”

•Mountaineer

It’s longish and uncrowded; it’s got a couple of killer, empowering steep pitches. It carves like a champ.

 •Stein’s Way on a powder day

Yes, this is the run that inspires bragging rights. And while it’s a killer groomed run, nothing—and I mean nothing beats it on a powder day. When I have the top section to myself and I can bounce around in the powder, I sing while I ski. (Apologies to anyone in earshot…I can’t really carry a tune. But I can’t stop myself. I’m having too much fun). The pitches and dips on that run ride the way I would imagine a series of perfect rip-curl waves might ride…if I were a surfer. Which, for the record, I’m not.

•Tycoon

Steep, fast, and …steep. And long enough that if my form starts to tank, I have time to recover it and save face before I get to the bottom.

 •Supreme

Yes, I bust out the occasional Diana Ross tune while I make my turns here. There’s usually a little powder to be found on far skier’s left. Just enough to make it playful. There’s a neat little jug handle around the left side of the first mini-glade, and then three steeps that alternate with stretches I like to call “recovery flats.” Ski Dad and I did laps on Supreme a couple of weeks ago—and I’m still daydreaming about it.

 •Lucky Jack

Gladed rolling terrain unfurls after an initial quick, gentle drop. I’ll follow my kids through the trees on Ruby’s Tail or pick different lines to weave around the trees on Jack-proper. And, as with Supreme, the reward lies at the bottom…Empire Canyon Grill, home of the perfectly-crisp handmade potato chip. (You knew there would be food, right?)

 •Lucky Star

An excuse to sing Madonna while I cruise? Nuff said.

 •Blue Bell to Silver Buck to Star Gazer to Gemini

This run never fails to make me smile. The terrain starts out pretty mild, and ramps up as you turn down Star Gazer. And Star Gazer and Gemini are seldom crowded, so it can be fun to do laps here. And if I like the six or so turns on Star Gazer that link Silver Buck to Gemini, I’ll make sure that I finish the next lap by skiing Star Gazer all the way to the bottom. Then, I’ll scoot right onto Red Cloud Lift, eyeball the bumps below and see how brave I’m feeling (and whether there’s much life left in my legs).

If I’ve got the urge, I put a pin in it for a minute. Why?

•Star Gazer, top to bottom. That’s why. It’s usually good for two laps—three if it’s not crowded. After which, I slide into the line for Quincy Express, and make my way around the top of Ontario, and cut across the field, through the trees to my favorite run on the mountain.

•Hidden Treasure

I’m never bored here—powder or groomed, it’s a favorite run. Sometimes I’ll ski the top, then cut through the trees on skier left into Square Deal, making some gladed turns before opening up on the bumps. Other days, I’ll wait to cut into the bumps until they pop up after the trees toward the bottom of the run. It’s about 10 bump-turns to the bottom—just enough to say I crushed ‘em.

Finally, I’m ready to head home…

Solid Muldoon-to-Dew Drop-to-Little-Kate

It is, perhaps, my favorite way to (attempt) to end the day. It usually takes three tries. Because the first time, I am riding the high that comes from carving the top of Solid Muldoon, sliding across Success through the safety gates at the top of Dew Drop to the pitch that I know I should do with no turns, except that I can’t NOT turn. Weaving through the trees, finding little pow stashes at skier’s right and then zooming back across Success to Little Kate feels, strangely, like “home.” Or, rather, like I’ve just stolen home. By then, it’s 50/50 whether I’ll crush it or bottom out on my form from sheer fatigue. Which means there’s 100 percent chance I’ll do two more runs. One in which I’ll make a last-minute executive decision to do Solid Muldoon top-to-bottom, at speed. And the second, in which I’ll attempt to either redeem myself on Kate or relive the CRUSH.

Now…tell me what’s your Deer Valley crush run?

 

VISA Freestyle International including “behind the scenes…”

Since the beginning of the millennium, Deer Valley Resort has embraced freestyle skiing by hosting Freestyle World Cups, Olympics and World Championship events. This year was no exception and while the Utah resort bested itself once again, the top international freestyle athletes met at what is, without much debate, their favorite venue in the word.

With its mogul and aerial events, freestyle is one of the very few ski competitions that can be seen and enjoyed by the public from top to bottom, without solely relying upon a giant TV screen. Deer Valley’s venue is quite unique in the way it is shaped and configured and is designed to accommodate close to 7,000 cheering spectators. A number in that vicinity could have been counted on both the Friday and Saturday evenings that, by far, attracted the largest crowds.

I’m a bit partial to the mogul competition which is a true test in edge-to-edge quickness, rolling bumps that come at the competitors like a monster conveyor belt eager to swallow them, where there’s a need for electric knee-action interspersed with a couple of high powered jumps where athleticism, balance, sporting creativity and a lot of good luck combine to offering a breathtaking show. As a single event, moguls is plenty entertaining but in its dual format, the whole spectacle truly comes to life, builds up additional pressure, intensifies the excitement and let the athletes’ raw talent explode in full view of a cheering public.

The aerial competition on the other hand is like a high-speed elevator lift that boosts a skier high into the air, which materializes into seemingly unending airtime that can be used to execute all kinds of twisting and rotating maneuvers while the flight lasts and until it becomes time to land the skis securely and stylishly on a steep and short reception area. Each jump is another opportunity for the athlete to deeply concentrate; balance apprehension versus desire to excel and almost go for broke, hoping to better the last best jump!

Oh yes, while the world’s elite was delivering their perfect show, and the adults were riveted on their awesome performance, another “unofficial world cup” was being held just below the tent and the television house, right on the edge of the immense spectators platform, where the slope is steep. The 5 to 10 years old who are between 3 and 5 feet tall and might have been a bit too small to see everything World Cup, decided to hold their own snow-ball throwing contest and testing the low friction of their ski suits on Deer Valley’s famous great snow, and thinking they were champions in their own right!

Each evening has been marked with big crowds, loud cheers, and pressurized atmosphere with spectators and athletes in communion for pushing the envelope and chasing excellence. A wonderful way for our entire community of visitors, residents and visiting athletes from the world over to bond over a sport we all love!

If you missed the live action these three nights, these World Cup events hosted by Deer Valley Resort will be televised on NBC on February 11, 2012 at 1 pm. EST and on Versus February 11 and 18, 2012.

Here’s the Versus broadcasting Schedule (all times EST):

Freestyle Moguls 2/11/2012 2 pm.

Freestyle Aerials 2/11/2012 3 pm.

Freestyle Dual Moguls 2/18/2012 2:30 pm.

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.

Skiing doesn’t have to be difficult!

If you still believe that skiing is hard to learn, long to master and also expensive, there is a way to change this misconception. During the month of January, Ski Mountains around the country, including Deer Valley Resort, offer a learn-to-ski program specially targeted to those who never had a chance to pick up the sport during their early years or when they couldn’t quite afford it.

I wish I had been able to learn skiing by taking some easier way and didn’t have to struggle as much as I did when I first encountered the sport. At that time, even though I lived in the Alps, there was no convenient and affordable program available for school-age kids like me and my modest beginnings on snow were placed under the banner of “teach yourself to ski,” with a wooden pair of skis handcrafted by my own dad, including a set of basic bear trap bindings with non-releasable cable clasps.

As for the conveniently located “beginner slope” next to the family house, it offered no lift of any kind to carry us to the top of a hill that consisted of a short and fairly steep slope, cut into the forest that surrounded a fairly large meadow. That ski run, a trench into the trees, was crowned with a makeshift jump. That’s right, it was almost as if I was expected to jump before I could even learn how to ski, but that’s how it was in these days. Then, the line between modern alpine skiing and Nordic remained still a bit blurred and jumping continued to be considered as being part of the total ski experience.

I don’t even remember exactly what I did, but I must have somehow practiced sliding on the snow and perfected a semblance of “hockey stop” before I dared to launch off that crude jumping hill. That’s right; I could descent and stop by making one single right-hand turn at the bottom of the hill (I’m a lefty…) In addition to my forays into catching big air off that jump, I also had to participate in some cross-country races which I hated with a passion, as my crude wooden skis and their bare bases could not perform nearly as well as the real cross-country skis owned by my most fortunate school mates.

So that’s how things began for me. Later, I remember working as a lift attendant during the school holidays. This entitled me to a free ski pass and that’s how I seriously learned how to ski – never with formal lessons – but through simple observation, imitation and sheer mileage. I wish I could have had access to some formal type of instruction, but it never came until the time I decided to become a ski instructor. Only then, did my technique get “corrected” and my terrible skiing “habits” unbent by some high ranking and very dogmatic “ski professors.”

Just a few days ago, as I was shooting a video about Katie Fredrickson taking her very first steps on skis, I was amazed by the evolution of the ski equipment now made available to beginners and by the markedly improved teaching methods that can, in just a couple of hours, turn a non-skier into someone able to evolve independently on snow and enjoy the thrills of sliding down some pretty long runs…

January is almost over, but it’s not too late for seizing the opportunity of learning how to ski in the very best environment and under the guidance of the most conscientious and talented ski instructors in America. If you or someone you know has been putting off that first day on skis forever, now might be the time to make that life-changing move. Just learn more about that great program and register yourself or your friends to the Learn-to-ski program at the Deer Valley Ski School. You’ll be glad you did it and your friends will thank you for it!