We gathered as soon as I had dropped off my kids at day one of Children’s Sunday Ski Experience. There were seven of us, and we dove into the day’s powder with gusto. My friend Stacey, who I met four years ago during Women’s Weekend, was first to say, “I am a Powder Day Plus One Skier.” Meaning she likes a good powder dump as much as anyone, but prefers to ski on it after the groomers have had their way with it, the next day, thank you very much.
My friend Kellie and I were fresh off our first Women on Wednesdays lesson, so we were eager to see if we remembered all the mad skills we’d picked up on that day. Our group also contained two Miriams (one I’ll call Mir, to keep them straight), Catherine, who skis DV only occasionally, and Sue. We were all of compatible levels, but Mir and Sue are likely the most experienced and confident skiers, and Catherine is a good, gutsy skier. Mind you, in the days leading up to this outing, I got comments from several of my friends, saying they were a little nervous to ski with me—which made me laugh. “We are skiing for lunch, people,” I reminded them. “It’s social and fun.”
What followed was exactly that. A fun, social day, laughing as hard as we skied—which is to say, plenty. I couldn’t get away with copping out of much, since Kellie and I had just skied together on Wednesday, and she knew what I could do. Which is, of course, how I wound up taking Square Deal ski run from the top, rather than snaking around to the trees on skier’s left of Hidden Treasure and cutting in below the first long pitch. I was so pleased with myself that whenever I answered a question from my kids, that night, I simply said, “Square Deal. From the Top.” It wasn’t always the answer they were looking for—or, rather, it wasn’t ever the answer they were looking for—but, they got the message: Mama is hardcore, now.
Of course, I couldn’t resist finding a path to hike through the glade between Hidden Treasure and Square Deal, a few hours later. Kellie was kind enough to snap some photos of me, and of Stacey, as we stopped to admire the gorgeous surroundings.
We skied a little of everything that day—those who were tired, nursing injuries or wanting an easier run felt no pressure to do what the bumps-and-powder-chasers were doing. One of my favorite runs of the day was suggested by Stacey: Orion to Solace, off of Empire Express chairlift. It left me feeling like I could ski anything, even though I had passed on the opportunity to take Daly Chutes with Mir and Sue.
As I suspected, it mattered not which terrain each of us skied that day, but rather that we encouraged each other to eat it up, and take in as much powder and as many turns as we could, before the promised lunch. Ah, yes. Lunch,
Royal Street Café did not disappoint. Mulled Wine, and Blueberry Vodka Hot Chocolate—honestly, we could have stopped there. But with such a delicious menu, why would we? We split a few appetizers, and enjoyed our entrees. Mostly, though, we enjoyed each other’s company—no one in the group, aside from me, knew everyone in the group when we started the day. But after a day of riding chair lifts, together, the lunch conversation flowed easily. By day’s end, I was floating down to ski school pickup, on Stacey’s words: “Powder Plus Zero!”
The signs were everywhere.
11:30 p.m. April Fool’s Day: The snow is dumping into my back yard, sticking. I feel the familiar flutter in my stomach, the tickle in my throat: the first signs of Powder Flu.
6:30 a.m.: April 2. Jeff utters the only sentence that can seal my fate: “There are 14 inches of fresh powder on the resort.” My response: “And there’s only one cure for the Powder Flu–skiing!”
Like a madwoman, I begin texting our visiting friends at their hotel. I’m willing to ski (gasp) another resort, if it means that we can get out together. No response. I begin to worry about their well-being. Did body snatchers come for them in the night?
8:05 a.m.: I have no time to worry. That old skier’s saw, “No friends on a powder day,” is ringing in my ears. I’ve made breakfast for my family, revoked allowance, rewarded compliance, kissed two sons and one husband goodbye for the day, slurped down a protein shake, and called the gym to cancel my reservations for back-to-back spin and strength conditioning classes. I’m selecting late-season base layers (running tights and a long-sleeved running t-shirt), grabbing necessities, loading the car.
8:23 a.m.: I’m thinking it could be worth skiing that other resort. I call a friend who is as die hard about “her” mountain as I am about mine. She has to work. I am sitting in traffic. It’s possible that my little Powder Flu is an epidemic. I notice that the “other mountain” is socked in, but I see Deer Valley with blue sky above it. A sign. I leave messages for two DV pals, and then start to grin as I approach the parking lot.
9:05 a.m.: I glide my MomWagon into the space, and raise my arms over my head in victory. Then, a car pulls in next to mine. I hop out and scream the name of the driver: “Donna McAleer!!!!” Just when I had resigned myself to skiing solo (figuring I could post my arrival on Facebook and find a pal or two), Donna simply pulled into the space next to mine. “I heard your voice and thought, I just wrote your name down to call you later. I need to ask you about a few things.” Within moments, we’re on Carpenter Express chairlift.
“I believe in signs,” she confides. “Do you?” I tell her that I’ve never been a single adult, but I would have made a HIGHLY annoying singleton. I would have seen “signs” of destinies better left unwritten, everywhere. We laugh, and then dive in to our catch-up.
I have just about 90 skiable minutes in this day. Kindergarten pickup is at the unforgiving hour of 11:15 a.m. We determine to make the most of it. Instinctively, throughout the morning, we divide our discussion into chunks that can be expressed in the length of a chairlift ride and digested in the trees.
We have a quick conference about our trail plans. Donna is not only a veteran ski instructor at Deer Valley, but she’s a veteran of the US Armed Forces. I know better than to second guess her knowledge of the mountain, or her strategic advice. “We’ll go to Empire, it won’t be crowded,” she says.
Then, as we approach Quincy, I notice all the skiers coming down Hidden Treasure seem impossibly short. Wait…they are all of average height, but skiing in knee-deep powder. Wow. “Did you see that??!” I am shrieking. The line and lift attendants are laughing at me. “We have to ski that. NOW!” So much for deferring to Donna.
Hidden Treasure, as always, delivers. My quads are wishing I’d gone to the killer spin class, but I’m thrilled. As we board the chair again, our plan is to head over to Empire to ski in Anchor Trees. I have a fleeting thought that we should check out Guardsman’s Glade. Donna, it turns out is also a mind reader. “Bari Nan! What about Guardsman’s Glade?” Boom. We’re there. We make second tracks. It’s bliss.
Next up, Empire. We scoot down Orion. I lose sight of Donna, call her and tell her to take Anchor Trees without me—I’m having too much fun in the moguls. (Ok, I’ve skied that Orion-to-Anchor combo a zillion times, and somehow, the fog in that section of the resort conspires to make me doubt my line to the gladed entrance.) As it turns out, my mojo turns on in full force in the second stretch of bumps on Orion. I’d do laps on that run, if I had more time today. I reconnect with Donna as she comes out of the trees on the mid-trail run-out, and then we’re down another pitch of moguls like we were born to ski it. We ride one last lift together. “I’m going back for one more run,” she says, as we part.
10:30 a.m.: I hit Hidden Treasure once more. It’s decidedly choppier than an hour ago. I crush it. Then it’s up Judge, and on to the Silver Lake Express (my quads thank me), because I know the conditions on the lower mountain will not meet my powder snob standards, today. I enjoy the view. I look down at some favorite runs, longingly, feeling a pang of regret for my sensible decision. I click out at the bottom, hustle to my car, jump out of my gear and into the driver’s seat.
11:05 a.m.: I have hit three red lights, and I’m more than 10 minutes away from my kids’ school. I start speed dialing other kindergarten moms. Voicemails. My epidemic suspicions are confirmed. I reach Lisa, and she says she’s happy to wait with Seth for an extra few minutes.
11:18 a.m.: The phone rings as I’m pulling off the highway. It’s Michele, another mom in the class. “We are just coming out of the parking lot at the mountain…” I interrupt her, tell her that I’ll wait with her son, and pull in to find our boys. She and her husband arrive five minutes later, and we compare notes on our skiing, give ourselves a pat on the back for capitalizing on the Powder Flu. “I’m in need of some sunscreen for my gums,” I tell them. “I can’t stop smiling!”
Post Script: 1:45 p.m. I’m on Highway 224, driving toward Kimball Junction from town, when I look to my right and see Donna, still in ski gear, behind the wheel of her car. Of course I call her, and she says, by way of answering the phone, “I kept saying, just one more run.”
The sign of a well-skied powder day exists in my mud room: gear is laid out everywhere, drying.
Sunday was another ski day that wasn’t for the faint of heart—it seemed warmer than two weeks ago (and it was, in truth), but it was snowing, blowing and drifting so that it felt pretty cold when the gear got wet. It was the kind of deceptive day that had us running back into the lodge after the first run to grab neck gaiters and face masks, and switch out goggle lenses for flat light. All that accomplished, and with the boys in ski school, Jeff, Mel and I took off for a day of powder turns.
Everywhere I turned there were skiers giving up—too cold, too windy, too wet. In fact, a friend who will remain nameless, in town for a three day ski trip, sent a text that he was toughing out the weather in….a spa. REALLY????
Never mind Mel and I had already locked in our hardcore mettle for the season, and Jeff was too stoked to be out for his first kid-free runs of the season to even consider packing it in. The powder, too, was delicious.
We met up with our friends Ethan and Robert for a couple of runs—Ethan told us all about his first race with Rowmark Ski Academy, and I reminded him that just a few years ago I was scared to death of skiing with him. Back then, he was a fearless four year-old, bombing down any terrain with only speed on his mind, and not a turn in his quiver. “I’m so proud of your TURNS, E!” I exclaimed. “You’re rocking them!” Ski racing is a great way to give a speed-demon some discipline.
Mel and I couldn’t resist the siren call of the trees between Hidden Treasure and Three Ply, nor could we keep ourselves from gobbling up the bumps. Jeff was more than happy to carve down Hidden Treasure and watch us make our descent—or, really, because Mel takes a bumps run faster than regular skiers carve a groomer, they both watched me make my descent. Later, Jeff said to me, “I couldn’t believe how great you looked on the bumps, you should be proud.”
The compliments flowed both ways, as Mel and I watched with glee while Jeff made a graceful glide through some nice powder on Gemini. “That used to terrify me,” he said. “Now, it’s just fun!”
We finally broke for lunch after 1 p.m., and Jeff seemed utterly relieved to be able to send me back out for more turns with Mel, while he relaxed in the lodge. As we rode the lift we debated the relative merits of skiing cruisers on such a fabulous powder day—and, duh, opted for the runs with the best powder stashes. By that time, it was snowing so hard that Little Bell offered us fresh tracks for three consecutive runs. On one of those, Mel watched my turns and said, “It’s not just that you’re getting down it, it’s that it’s PRETTY. You’re doing all the right things, and it looks GREAT.”
I may bask in that praise for the rest of my days.
After each sweep down Little Bell, we cut over to Gemini, where, again, we were treated to fresh powder. And, on one run, we were treated to a Seth sighting—carefully carving turns with his group, behind their instructor. We tried to hide like spies behind some trees, but you can’t out-smart my Ninja boy, and he spotted us, treating us to a big, wide grin of recognition. I couldn’t wait to see how Lance fared—and a few minutes later, I was rewarded with a smile from big brother, too. Later, I would get their tales of hardcore skiing, but for now, all they wanted were cookies.
“If you see anything in yourself to make you proud, look a little farther and you will find enough to make you humble” this is a quote by Wellins Calcott, Thought Moral and Divine. Try skiing if you are looking for some humility. Last week I wrote about opening day and how “hardcore” I thought I was. Well pride cometh before the fall. Today I didn’t resemble a hardcore skier in any way shape or form. Thank goodness for the two good Samaritans who helped me out.
Day three of season two and I was enjoying my third beginner run, Ontario, and I noticed the sign for Hidden Treasure so I made a mental note to circle back. I had skied that run during my Max 4 lessons last year but had completely forgotten how steep the top was. From the lift, it is deceiving since the steepest part is hidden from view. From my vantage point, the run looked perfect so I decided Hidden Treasure would be my first intermediate run of the year.
The cross country style narrow connector trail should have been the first clue that I was in over my head but I had already committed to the run so I ignored that warning. When I finally got to the top of the run and looked down, I saw something that spelled double trouble for me – a steep and bumpy run — not a good combination.
I took stock of the situation. My options were to climb back up the hill and skate ski through the narrow uphill trail back to Ontario or traverse the steep part of this hill and take Hidden Treasure. Not normally one to retreat, I decided to go for it. It didn’t take long for me to get intimidated and lose all my confidence. I fell a couple times and did something unexpected. I totally forgot everything I had learned. In my lessons last year, I was taught to traverse back and forth across the run slowly or to simply position myself to slide sideways down the hill using my edges to stop me. Well, in the moment, I forgot all that.
Panic set in. In my lifeguard days many years ago, I had to memorize the definition of panic so I know it well — “a sudden unreasonable and overwhelming fear that destroys one’s capacity for self help.” Since I wasn’t thinking straight, I simply took off my skis, threw them on my shoulder and started hiking down one step at a time through the powder.
I had only seen two people pass me the whole time so there weren’t many people on the run but the ones that did come by, stopped to help. The two good Samaritans on skis reminded me of much easier ways to get down the steep part of the hill. With one below me and one above, I put my skis back on and then followed one traversing across while the other looked on until I got past the steeper part.
Once I got to the middle of the run, I could see why they called it Hidden Treasure (instead of Nancy’s Nightmare.) I felt like I was floating on this powdery wonderland. This my friends is snow. I thought I knew what snow was before but I really didn’t. Thanks to a couple of really nice Deer Valley patrons, I got to enjoy it. My story fortunately has a happy ending and as I shared it many people have laughed and told similar stories. But it didn’t have to be that way – I could have had the wonderful experience without the panic. Here is how:
- Read the map. Deer Valley puts out a daily groomed status trail map so you can determine ahead of time the state of the run. It is also on the website so you can check it from your smart phone. It is possible, I might have been able to do that run earlier in the day. Since it was on a “first shift groomer schedule,” it was pretty bumpy by the time I got there.
- Ask a mountain host. These helpful people are everywhere! I could easily have discussed my plans and gotten advice from the mountain host at Flagstaff Mountain (right at the big map). I am sure, he or she would have sent me down an easier run like Hawkeye instead.
- Go with a friend. When you are taking on a new challenge, go with a more experienced skier in case you need some coaching.
- Take a tour. If you are an intermediate level skier or higher, catch up with the FREE mountain host tour. The intermediate tour leaves daily from Snow Park Lodge at 10 a.m. and Silver Lake Lodge at 1:30 p.m. (Click here for a full schedule) Then go back and ski your favorite runs by yourself later.
- Take a private lesson. I know this sounds simple because having an instructor take you down new and more challenging runs just seems like common sense. You learn more, are safer, and enjoy the experience much more.
Hey good Samaritans out there, I want to give you a shout out of thanks for stopping to help. Maybe someday when I actually really am a hardcore skier, I will pay it forward.
One week into Deer Valley’s 2012-13 season and we were blessed with a powder day! If we keep this pace (and the forecast for the upcoming week looks like we will) it will make for great skiing over the holiday.
I have to admit today’s skiing was a pleasant surprise. Last year, we weren’t able to ski the Empire area and especially the Chutes until mid-January! Yup, we are already a month ahead of ourselves. I met up with some of the locals and ripped a few runs.
This picture certainly isn’t the ” epic” powder shot technically but you can see from the look on my face how fun and excited I was. We took the next picture for fun because we really didn’t know how it was going to be making the first turns of the season in the Daly Chute but at least we could say we were warned.
I’m glad we explored. Come out and see for yourself! If the storms line up as I have been hearing, we are on our way to great skiing.
Heck, just today toppled all of last year!
See you on the slopes.
Once more and just like last year, Deer Valley Resort made it to its last day with flying colors! On closing weekend, the mountain was dressed up into an immaculate coat of white; in fact it had been snowing almost all week long, ending the winter season, just like the previous ones, on the highest possible note.
It’s quite fair to say that Mother Nature didn’t do much to help during the peak winter months, as if she were avariciously hording snow for some unknown purpose, but the Deer Valley’s snow-making crews came to the rescue and more than compensated for a lackluster snow-year and sparse precipitations.
(Photo by Daniel Diyanni)
All along, I never held great expectations about natural snowfalls and, as a result, was never disappointed. Instead, I skied more than my share and I could only rejoice when a number of providential blizzards transformed the mountain. These abundant precipitations first came in the later part of January, lasted for days around mid-February, and then in a more routine, spring-like fashion, during March and early April.
(Photo by Ryan Turner)
Of course, the credit for what ended up being another great season, rested more on the snow-maker shoulders and the groomers fine-combing expertise, than on the skies natural bounty, and for once, the snow-making insurance-policy protection came into full force and delivered the goods!
(Photo by Ryan Turner)
This said, the season was packed with wonderful days of skiing, powder snow, both untouched and meticulously manicured, and at times it was hard to believe that it was a dryer-than-usual winter. When January came around, tree skiing was again a possibility and the opportunities for powder “face-shots” were much more frequent than I would have imagined.
It’s too bad that these sensations are so hard to share, because if they could be telegraphed in more vivid terms, many folks who ended up staying on the sidelines might have made the effort to come out and experience these great ski days for themselves. I, for one, discovered new runs, new path in the trees and by the time the resort closed down this past Sunday , I still could not get enough good skiing!
Of course, I’ve always been a late bloomer as far as skiing goes. I never get really excited too early in the season. My passion for the sport needs to build up and as April comes along, I’m still eager and ready, but nature thinks otherwise… The morale of the story is that, whether we live next to Deer Valley Resort, in the Salt Lake Valley, Los Angeles or New York, we should never assume that “conditions are bad.” The ski reality that Deer Valley creates always exceeds our best imagination!
(Photo by Gus Steadman)
As our delayed winter may linger for a few more weeks, there still might be a few turns in store for me under the form of alpine ski touring, as soon the skies clear and the snow return to “corn” quality. Mountain biking is still a good distance away, and frankly, before thinking too much about the upcoming summer and its endless array of activities, I need to take a long mental vacation from this past winter!
We couldn’t wait to sneak down to the bakery and catch up with Silver Lake and Empire Pastry Chef, Stephen Harty. The man behind some of the wonderful desserts at the resort shares with us “His Deer Valley.”
When did you come to Deer Valley?
I started as a seasonal baker in the Snow Park Lodge in the 1995/1996 season (17 years and counting). I was a production baker working three 6 a.m. shifts, so I could get out skiing for two hours after my shift, and two 8am shifts. I had a young family so I had Tuesdays and Thursdays off to be Daddy daycare/preschool.
What does a perfect ski day mean to you?
Big POW and still snowing! I love those days when it just keeps on coming. I’ll admit I am a “crack of ten o’clock” skier so all day dumps suit me. The storms from the south that bring the biggest snow to the Sultan side of the resort are my favorite.
Where is your favorite place to eat at Deer Valley?
The Natural Buffet during lunch at all three lodges offer such a variety of unique salads, creative sides, as well as house made dressings and of course homemade breads, you can’t beat the great tastes. You do have to be creative in the way you stack your plate to get the value as well as the flavors.
What do you enjoy about baking?
The great thing about baking at Deer Valley Resort is that we do such a wide range; from artisan breads and baguettes, bulk production of cookie dough (huge amounts) and carrot cakes, small production of high end plated desserts (with all their sauces and garnishes), elaborate wedding cakes, and chocolate. I truly enjoy the variety. I enjoy the creativity and the science of baking, especially at the varying altitudes. I enjoy working with new flavors and products to keep Deer Valley baked goods at the fore front of trends. I enjoy mastering the classic recipes so we can put our own twist on them. And I really enjoy all the taste testing!
Your must have treat at Deer Valley?
17 years and 1000’s of batches of cookies and I still love the cookie dough! Plus all the chocolate that we serve.
What run is a must for every ski day?
Anything off-piste off the Sultan lift and Ontario bowl (I have some “secret stashes” in there that are good for days after a storm).
Who is your favorite person to ski with?
I have been riding chairlifts with my beautiful bride, Sandy, for 25 years. We celebrate together on our first ride up each year and I look forward to continuing for 25 more.
Can you share a recipe with us?
French Silk Pie
Yield: 1 Pies
5 oz Unsweetened Chocolate
8 oz Butter,Room Temperature
8 oz Brown Sugar
1 1/2 t Vanilla
1 c Pasteurized Eggs
1 10″ Brisee Shells,Pre-baked
Whipped cream,AS Needed
Chocolate Shavings,AS Needed
1. Pre-bake 10″ brisee shells. Let cool completely.
2. Melt unsweetened chocolate over a double boiler. Set aside.
3. Cream butter until very soft.
4. Add brown sugar and beat until very soft and fluffy. Stopping to
5. Add vanilla extract.
6. Add melted chocolate and mix until combined, scrapping occasionally.
7. Add eggs VERY SLOWLY, about 1/4 cup at a time, incorporating well
after each addition. Stopping to scrape occasionally.
8. It will take awhile to add all of the eggs if you do it correctly.
**If you add the eggs too fast-the batter will be grainy and not light
9. When all the eggs are added divide into crusts. Using an offset
spatula, spread to smooth out top.
10.Wrap and Chill.
11. To Serve: Finsh top with whipped cream pipped in a shell pattern
using medium star tip. and sprinkle with chocolate shavings.
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.
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?
“Plant your pole, Nan.”
“Make a longer turn, Nan.”
“Be taller! Be TALLER!”
“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!”
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.”
“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.”