My Typical Deer Valley Day

There must be thousands ways to ski Deer Valley Resort, here is one local’s perspective. I am sharing with you my favorite way to navigate the mountain.

From my bed, I look out the window. I scrutinize the sky. If it’s not snowing I can see Bald Mountain in the distance and hear it calling me, “are you coming today?”

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This is the moment when I ask my wife if she feels like skiing. Depending on whether she will join me or not, my itinerary on the mountain may differ at bit, but we’ll get into this as the day unfolds.

Most of the time my day begins with a three and a half mile morning run around Park Meadows. I then eat a solid breakfast while still staring at Bald Mountain. I can now see the sun shinning off the top of the Sultan Express chairlift. Soon it’s time to gather all of my stuff, slip my pass around my neck, and get dressed. I drop my boots and helmet in the car. I load my skis on the rack, and am on my way to Deer Valley Resort.

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I make a quick stop at the unloading area to drop off my wife and our gear while I park my car. Since we always make a point of leaving home early, I usually find a convenient spot in parking Lot 2. I don’t even catch the skiers tram and instead jog back to the plaza to join my wife, pick up our skis and poles, and in no time we’re riding Carpenter Express chairlift.

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When my wife accompanies me, our morning always begins with Jordanelle ski run. We like to follow the sun around the resort. We ski down Little Stick ski run to Deer Hollow ski run where we catch Mountaineer Express chairlift. When we get there early in the morning we have the Jordanelle run to ourselves. We ski down this magical ribbon that sits above the reservoir below. There are not many ski runs like this one. If the crowds are light and the snow stays firm, we’ll repeat it, and sometimes we even do it three times.

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We then head to Bald Mountain and warm up on Nabob or Keno ski runs. Sometimes we stay there the entire morning. If I’m alone I go directly to the Ruins of Pompeii, Triangle Trees or Grizzly ski runs. I can stay there for hours on end.

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When I ski with my wife, we sometimes stay a little bit longer and include lunch in our ski day. Planning our skiing time with with a delectable goal in mind will inevitably bring us to the Empire Canyon Lodge. Perhaps it is because of its setting, cradled at the base of Daly and Empire Bowls. Most likely it is because we love the paninis that they serve. A valid set of reasons! While relaxing and enjoying our lunch break, I check the surroundings, ask questions, assess Daly Bowl and its surroundings, and depending on the conditions of the day, either ski there or check out Lady Morgan Express chairlift.

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When we’re done skiing on that side of the mountain, we eventually head back towards Silver Lake by way of Ontario Bowl. We love exploring new lines in the aspen glades all the way back to the Judge chairlift. I like this run best, it leads us effortlessly to the edge of the Nastar Race Course finish area and funnels us towards the Crown Point chairlift.

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I like riding this chair so I may turn around and observe the late afternoon skiers slaloming down the runs of Bald Mountain. I also like to stare at Empire Bowl, far in the distance, where moguls look like dimples on a golf ball and reflect the last sun of the day. Just a few days ago there was a moose eating bark off of a tree under that chairlift.

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From the top of Bald Eagle mountain, Kimberley ski run is always my favorite. I love to ski under the bridges on a trail that reminds me of a half pipe and transitions with downhill turns into Big Stick ski run. I appreciate Big Stick’s steep pitch and eventually slow down on my way to the resort’s base, I am thinking. “Another wonderful day at Deer Valley!”

#SkiTheDifference with Bari Nan Cohen

#SkiTheDifference is, quite possibly, my favorite hashtag because it represents everything I love about the Deer Valley Resort experience. To me, it means that it’s possible to feel, simultaneously, the satisfaction of a weary body, shredded by incredible terrain, and the unmitigated joy of having been pampered, throughout the day. As I wrote here recently, it can be a spiritual experience to #SkiTheDifference.

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For me, the “Difference” is in the details—many of which come into play before you’ve clicked into your bindings. I love the fact that ski valets meet me when I open my car door and offer to help with my family’s gear. I’m thrilled by the dedicated parking for the Children’s Center, because it’s one less hassle in the experiment of skiing with young children. And, trust me, each time is an experiment in patience, resilience and fun.

When you head for the parking lots there’s never any guesswork about where and how to park—friendly attendants wave you into open spaces and keep the lots from getting unruly. This year the additions of small structures over the staircases that lead from lots 2 and 3 to lot 1 ensure that the stairs don’t accumulate a lot of ice and snow. Another shift is the boarding area for the parking lot shuttles in the turnaround under the plaza. It’s was moved a few feet and benches that were up against the building are now arranged in a comfortable waiting area. When I discovered this change I thought, “I didn’t realize the waiting area was ‘broken,’ but someone saw a better way.”

The on-mountain experience has the same attention to detail. The Mountain Hosts who will tell you the skinny on the best terrain they skied that day and lift operators who brush off the seats of the chairs before you board. There is delicious food in every lodge, with friendly people there to make sure there’s a clean table at the ready. Thoughtful touches like hand lotion dispensers in the bathrooms, complimentary glove dryers in the lodges, and ski check corral near every lodge. Suddenly a ski day (itself, a treat) is elevated to a resort experience.

These are experiences available to every skier on the hill, from beginner to expert. For those of us lucky enough to live here, #SkitheDifference mean our kids know their way around the entire mountain. They know that they can ask, nicely, for help boarding a chairlift. #SkitheDifference means my family can ride a lift together and then divide and conquer: two of us can take an easy run and two of us can ski the bumps, and then we all meet up at the bottom to compare notes. It means that there is always something to please every palate in the restaurants (even if it drives me nuts that there are so many choices, and my kids default to pasta, almost every time).

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This is the mountain my family calls home.” The chefs at Snow Park kept me well-fed throughout the winter I was pregnant with my second child while my husband and our firstborn tore up Wide West ski run. When the boys were tiny it took an army of ski valets to help me schlep the stroller, the ski gear, the kids and the other “stuff” kids require into the lodge. I never asked for help, it was always handled before I realized that I needed it. When I ask my kids about their favorite restaurants, The Seafood Buffet tops the list. We’ve celebrated birthdays and anniversaries at Mariposa, entertained friends at Fireside Dining, toasted visitors at Royal Street Cafế , and destroyed chili fries at Silver Lake Restaurant. We’ve even shared breakfast with Olympic champions at Silver Lake Lodge, more than once, simply by happenstance. “When did they get so big?” is a familiar refrain in the shops and restaurants around the resort. #SkiTheDifference is a community. And that, for us, has made all the difference.


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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!” 

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at Deer Valley Resort

Celebrate all that is Irish with carefully crafted St. Patrick’s Day dining options throughout Deer Valley Resort. On Tuesday, March 17, 2015, six of Deer Valley’s fine dining establishments will pay homage to Irish heritage with modern twists on St. Patrick’s Day dining. The special menus feature fresh seasonal produce and a warming, robust taste to delight the wee bit o’ Irish in us all.

St. Patrick’s Day Menus

Snow Park Restaurant will feature its St. Patrick’s Day menu from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The Grill will offer Niman Ranch Corned Beef Brisket Sandwich ~ Warm Brussels Sprouts, Caramelized Onion and Bacon Slaw, Caraway Aioli, Gruyere Cheese, Spicy Grain Mustard, House Tomato Chutney and Stone Ground Bakery Caraway Bun for $13.50. The Carvery features Traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage ~ Lemon Rosemary Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Braised Cabbage, Trio of Baby Carrots and Tullamore Dew Mustard Sauce for $15.50.

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EBS Lounge will be serving two Irish concoctions from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. The first is an Irish Coffee ~ Tullamore Dew Whiskey, Raw Brown Sugar, Millcreek Coffee and Freshly Whipped Cream for $9.00. The second is an Irish Buck ~ Tullamore Dew Whiskey, Fresh Lime Juice, Ginger Ale and Freshly Whipped Cream for $9.00

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Empire Canyon Grill will offer its Irish inspired lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., featuring a Shaved Corned Beef Sandwich ~ Celery Root and Green Apple Slaw, Mustard Cheddar Cheese on an Onion Brioche Bun for $13.50.

Silver Lake Restaurant will share its St. Patrick’s Day offering from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., consisting of Niman Ranch Prime Grade Corned Beef ~ Potatoes, Braised Cabbage, Housemade Mustard and Irish Soda Bread for $18.00.

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Royal Street Café will serve its Irish-inspired menu for both lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. It also features Niman Ranch Prime Grade Corned Beef ~ Braised Cabbage and Apples, Russian Dressing, Housemade Caraway-Beer Whole Grain Mustard, Fresh Baked Rye Bun and RSC Shoestring Fries for $18.00.

Deer Valley Grocery~Café will provide St. Patrick’s Day dining from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with Niman Ranch Prime Grade Shaved Corned Beef ~ Wilted Cabbage and Bacon Salad, Fig Mustard Cheese, Honey mustard Aioli and Stone Ground Bakery Caraway Bun for $11.25.

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To learn more about Deer Valley Resort’s special St. Patrick’s Day dining options at deervalley.com. To follow resort happenings on social media, search #skithedifference.

World Cup Dual Moguls Competition 2015: Those Moguls Look High

From the bottom of the Dual Moguls World Cup course on Champion ski run, the moguls look big. In fact, they look really big even from far away. Imagine what they look like to the athletes facing them down the run.

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The skiers don’t go around them either, they slam right into the side of them one after the other. All the while, (I am assuming) contemplating their aerial moves and focusing on competing against another racer right next to them.

It’s crazy fun to watch.

I don’t know about you but I doubt I’ll ever ski this run or anything like it (other than carefully peering over the edge). So I decided to get some perspective on how high the moguls might look to the athletes by making some comparisons with items we see every day in Park City.

I read the moguls can run as high as 1.2 meters which translates to about 3 feet and 11 inches.  Pulling out the measuring tape, I figured that 3 feet hits me right at the belly button and if the course set them up at maximum height, the additional 11 inches brings them to about chest-high on me.

Whew. That is high!

How would that look staring down at it?  I won’t ever know but here are a few photos showing comparisons for about 3 feet high – my waist level.

Would moguls this high, (on a steep run) be a problem for you?

Would you like to ski the top of this bike rack?

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The box office at the Egyptian Theater?

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The Moose’s legs?

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A whisky barrel at Rock and Reilly’s Pub?

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Not tall enough for you?  How about moguls this high?

Would you be intimidated jumping the Banksy?

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How about the ski rack at Snow Park at Deer Valley Resort?

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Enjoying the World Cup Dual Moguls with the crowd at the base of Champion ski run is exciting enough for me. Congratulations to winners! 

Final results

Men’s Final

1st: Mikael Kingsbury (CAN)

2nd: Dylan Walczyk (USA)

3rd: Marco Tade (SUI)

Women’s Final

1st: Justine DuFour-LaPointe (CAN)

2nd: Hannah Kearney (USA)

3rd: Britteny Cox (AUS)

Check out footage of the women’s final here.

If you ski the Champion ski run off the Carpenter Express chairlift, let me know how it goes for you!

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JF’s Five Favorite Ski Runs at Deer Valley Resort

I love to ski Deer Valley and I am fond of many of its trails, some more than others. If I were asked to list my top five favorite trails I’d be forced to leave many of the ones I like on the table. For these top five, I’d probably break them into two categories: groomers and natural terrain.

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Among the groomed runs that stand out for me, Jordanelle ski run tops them all. This double blue ski run follows the Jordanelle Gondola from top to bottom. It’s perfectly groomed everyday and skis best in the morning, when the sun begins shining and heats it up ever so slightly to make its pristine corduroy feel “creamy” under the skis. I see the run as a white, undulating ribbon that unfurls towards the reservoir and freeway below.

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Ski this on a perfect bluebird, because it’s mostly about expansive views for as far as the eye can see. Again, early morning is best. I call it my “little downhill run!” I also enjoy the relaxing ride up the gondola, sitting quite comfortably, either enjoying the views of the reservoir and the distant Uinta Mountains, or just facing up Little Baldy Mountain and getting a close view of the wonderful ski-in, ski-out homes and their stunning designs.

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In the “groomer” category, my second favorite is Nabob, a blue ski run. I like it because it’s also always groomed and it offers a huge variety of terrain and grade. Starting at the top of Bald Mountain, it faces north, keeping the best snow on the mountain, and offers panoramic views of the entire town of Park City, reaching all the way to Kimball Junction, framed by distant mountain ranges. In the middle of Nabob, there are tree islands creating natural markers, adding fun and character to the run.

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The grade is gentle before plunging once more towards a flatter transition leading to the Nastar race course and the Silver Lake Lodge. Finally, Nabob ski run makes a sweeping turn to skiers’ right and plunges towards the Wasatch Express chairlift below. I like to use Nabob as a warm-up run and often repeat it before going elsewhere on the mountain. I find it easy, varied and fun. It is the perfect run to ski with family and friends, or people you’ve never skied before and want to assess their skills before picking an itinerary for the rest of the day.

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Of course, I only ski groomed runs a small percentage of my time and prefer powder, trees and crop. That’s my preference and that’s what make skiing interesting for me! In that category, I also have many favorite trails, but here are just three that complete my list of five favorite ski runs.

Mayflower Bowl overflows with scenery. Just like Jordanelle ski run, this bowl overlooks the reservoir and towers over the beautiful Heber Valley. This time, we’re no longer in the “blue” category, but in the single and double black diamond class. A snowy or very cold day is the best time to enjoy the Mayflower Bowl to take advantage of the best possible powder conditions. The bowl can be accessed on skiers’ right from the first third of Stein’s Way ski run. After crossing the entry gate, you find yourself standing on a mostly convex slope that conceals what lays beneath the horizon.

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Watch for some of the avalanche control craters and begin your descent. Soon what you thought was already pretty steep becomes even steeper. You have now committed to the Mayflower Bowl and the rest of the run comes in to full view: a seemingly never ending open space that gradually goes from extremely steep to gentle, before vanishing into the aspen groves below. The run is engaging, stimulating, seems endless and forever fun!

On a snowy day or right after a major snow fall, this is a “must-ski” trail for any powder hound worth their salt! You don’t generally run “laps” on Mayflower Bowl. Once is a good measure; twice perhaps if you decide to venture into the nearby chutes, to skiers’ right, another double black diamond. 

DThen, there is spring skiing, when powder turns to corn. It brings another totally different experience that is quintessentially “Deer Valley”. It is best consumed in the morning when the sun has just begun to bake the spring snow and when the ski edges can get a good grip into the buttery snow surface. Like skiing the bowl in powder, it’s a unique feeling too, but this time the sensations can be totally different!

Ruins of Pompeii is a black diamond ski run that begins at the top of Bald Mountain and drops you to the lower part of Tycoon ski run and ends up at the base of Sultan Express chairlift. Until this season, I wasn’t particularly infatuated by this ski run, but it has grown on me to the point that I have now become a fan of its varied terrain.

dvr-5run8aThe entrance to Ruins of Pompeii ski run is hidden from views behind a curtain of pine trees. As you poke your head through them, you soon appreciate the steepness below and begin studying a safe spot for your first turn! The initial pitch is super steep and there are even a few trees interspersed in the middle to make linking turns even more challenging!

DThis part is followed by a gentler slope where most skiers are allowed to regain their composure before it transitions toward trees to skiers’ right, or continues down the rest of the trail into a long gully, to the left. The latter is the complete run and is guaranteed to focus one’s energy and attention until the trail merges with Tycoon ski run, one-third of the total distance away from Sultan Express chairlift. An alternative is to take Peerless ski run, through the trees, and rejoin Perseverance Bowl. I choose this option half of the time, because I find it more varied and since I adore skiing in the forest, much more!

dvr-5run9For me, Centennial Trees is the holy grail of tree skiing at Deer Valley Resort. This double diamond begins skiers’ right, at the top of Lady Morgan Express chairlift. It’s only trees and it’s very challenging, always fun, and filled with surprises. The top is forested with large pine trees and can get quite bumpy as each turning spot is marked by a giant evergreen. After a major snowfall, though, the moguls disappear and this the best time to enjoy it!

The middle portion of the descent brings some gentler grade and transitions from the pine tree forest into aspen grove. Every tree is an open invitation to weave your way around it and an opportunity to search for the next possible turn. It never stops, it’s relentless and, in our mountain parlance, it’s a true “ski-turner!” The lower segment of the trail keeps on running through the aspens while plunging into a gully that demands a last-ditch effort and some extra nimbleness.

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Unlike most trails, this one isn’t over until it’s over, as total focus is necessary to keep control and remain standing on the skis. Each season, the Deer Valley “Glading Team” has been enlarging Centennial’s skiable acreage by opening more paths and increasing the number of options available to skiers. If you love double-diamond tree skiing, don’t miss it!

What else to do with your kids around Deer Valley

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Hard as it may be to believe, my family does not spend every spare minute of every day during winter skiing. Sometimes it’s too cold (yes, I admitted that double-digit below-zero weather is enough to send even the hardiest of die-hards indoors), sometimes your legs are literally skied out, and sometimes, well, you need to eat.

Herewith, some of our family’s favorite alternative activities.

Please, sir, I want Smore

St. Regis

This ski-in, ski-out hotels at Deer Valley offer s’mores, nightly, from 7-9 p.m. at their outdoor fire pits. The St. Regis offers an extra layer of fun—as in, funicular. If we didn’t know about the S’mores (or, you know, the decadent mussels available at J&G Grill (or at the bar), the ride alone would be reason enough to take a break from skiing. 

Fun Fine Dining

Seafood Buffet

This is the kind of fine dining that works really well for families. During ski season, the Snow Park Lodge restaurant is converted into the Seafood Buffet. Don’t let the “buffet” moniker fool you. This is an experience in indulgence. It’s also a great way to introduce kids to a variety of different foods, textures and seasonings. They can try a little bit of a lot of things, and then go back for more of their favorites. Plus, there’s always a crowd-pleasing Mac-n-Cheese on the menu, just in case. The fact that getting up from the table is encouraged is enough to make it kid-friendly, all on its own. Add to that the extensive dessert display, and you’ve got a winning evening.

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Its all about the Climb

The Mine, Bouldering Gym

A recent addition to the Park City sports scene, the Mine is an all-ages experience, with rock-climbing wall routes for all abilities. My kids are particularly fond of the “TreadClimbler,” a human-powered vertical treadmill with rock routes galore, on—yes—a never-ending loop. More than just a bouldering gym, the Mine offers yoga, as well. And, if you present your day pass from a local ski area, during the month of February, you can receive a 50% discount for a Mine Bouldering Gym day pass, so you can relax and recharge with some climbing and yoga.

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Skating Fun!

Park City Ice Arena

Even with it’s schedule full of practice sessions for local figure skating, speed skating, hockey and curling clubs, the Park City Ice Arena carves out at least one—if not two—public skate sessions daily. The rink offers skate rentals and loaner helmets, so all you have to do is arrive with layers to keep you cozy (word to the wise, dressing kids in ski pants means they will slide when they fall, making it less traumatic) and a pair of gloves, and you’re good to go.

Look out below!!

Sledding

You can tote a sled to the ice arena for a dual-activity afternoon. Recently, we did this with my cousins, and it was a huge hit. The hill outside the Park City Ice Arena slides steep and fast, so you’ll want to don a helmet before you bomb down the hill. Tiny shredders may enjoy the shorter and slightly gentler slope outside the Park City Library.

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Kick and Glide!

Nordic Skiing

Sometimes the best way to be hospitable is to get out of the way. In that spirit, my family opts, often, to make room for visiting skiers at the resorts during the busiest weeks, by hitting the nordic trails instead of the alpine hills. There are many, many miles of groomed trails, which you can use free of charge thanks to Basin Recreation and the Mountain Trails Foundation. But if you need rental gear and skiing in one handy location, nordic athletes have two options: White Pine Touring on Park Avenue (in the Hotel Park City), or The Jeremy Ranch Nordic Center on the Jeremy Ranch Golf and Country Club’s golf course. Both locations offer rentals, lessons and trails for every ability level—in both skate skiing and classic configurations.

These are just a few of the awesome options available in town. I’d love to hear about your favorites in the comments!