Six. That is the most layers my friend Brian Kahn has worn to work in his role as Mountain Host at Deer Valley. But, he says, it’s worth the extra effort to share his love for the resort with guests. “I don’t take for granted living in wonderful Park City,” he told me. “Helping a guest to have a great ski and vacation experience is fulfilling; I am proud to live here and love to show off Park City’s wonderful attributes.”
Mountain Host fits Brian in another way—it’s a job title that comes with many hats: tour guide, concierge, first-chair aficionado. Off the hill he wears even more hats: Husband to Jessica, father to Shane, age three. Portfolio Manager for Responsible Asset Management; principal at Jupiter Peak Financial, his business consulting firm. But whether he’s standing by a trail map offering advice, or leading a First Tracks tour, Brian says the three and a half days per week that he spends on the hill are something he “craves.”
What drew you to the mountain host position?
Deer Valley Resort. I have degrees in Tourism Management and Marketing from the University of Colorado, Boulder and studied resorts and hotels that were/are at the top of their game. Working for Deer Valley—which has always been at the top of the game—isn’t a dream anymore, it is a reality!
What is your secret to staying warm as you stand in the cold for hours at a time?
Paying attention to temperature and wind speeds, mentally preparing and wearing a lot of layers.
What is First Tracks?
First Tracks is a small part of our overall role, but it is very, very enjoyable. Guests pay for a private tour experience just before the lifts open to the public. Riding the lift with a small group of guests as the sun is rising over the Uintas is magical. We are ‘pace setters’ and also on the lookout for our guests’ safety as First Tracks takes place while we are still prepping the mountain.
What other tours are available to guests?
We lead four complimentary mountain tours per day, meeting at Snow Park and Silver Lake Lodges. In the morning and afternoon, we have one expert tour and one intermediate tour leaving from both locations. We quickly assess the guests ability and take them to terrain they are going to enjoy and act as concierges on skis – answering questions, telling the history of the mountain, the mining history of Park City. And once our guests take tours, they get hooked. (For more information about Deer Valley’s complimentary Mountain Host tours, including times, please visit our website.)
Some guests want to ski with others that are at their same ability. Some are looking for dates that they can ski with! Some are out alone on business or their spouse is in a lesson, and they feel more comfortable skiing with a host and others of their same ability than skiing alone. They end up coming back to skiing again with us because we know their ability, the terrain, where to avoid lines (if any) and we keep them moving. We can cater to their questions, too – where to go for a family meal, where to go for upscale dining and what other activities are in town such as the Utah Olympic Park, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and more.
What makes Deer Valley family-friendly for your family?
The fact that there are so many choices for ski school is a big deal. Because Shane is so little—he’s three—we set him up for success with lessons on Friday afternoons—because it’s generally warmer on the hill in the afternoon. We are looking forward to sharing quality time together in a sport his mother and father love—and to teaching him to be a safe and responsible skier.
Describe your perfect DV ski day:
This year, I’m having a lot of fun skiing with my wife, Jessica. Now that Shane, is starting ski school, she’s getting back into skiing more frequently—I just bought her some great powder skis and she’s rocking them!
Honestly, my perfect ski day starts the night before— I start to get antsy, especially before a powder day. It annoys my wife, because I make sure her clothes are out and there’s no wasted time so we’re out the door with plenty of time to make first chair. I like to head out to Lady Morgan because it’s the most bang for your buck—you take 6 runs, and you are thrashed. Then, I move over to Empire, I always go high up in elevation where the snow is lightest. I’m not eating until I’m pretty much exhausted, and then I take a break in the restaurant and relax and get a bowl of chili wherever we are on the mountain.
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.
With 34 days left in the season there is still a chance to experience some of Deer Valley’s unique dining options. To help make the most of your Deer Valley experience we caught up with another employee for their expert opinion:
Meet Shane Symes, Sous Chef at Fireside Dining.
When did you come to Deer Valley?
Shane: I came to Deer Valley the winter of 1984-85. This is my 27th year.
What does a perfect ski day mean to you?
Shane: A perfect day skiing is a deep powder day off of Lady Morgan Express chairlift. I love that mountain and rarely come off it on a powder day. But on a REALLY good powder day I would actually prefer to snowboard at one of the other awesome resorts in Park City!
What is your favorite thing on the menu at Fireside?
Shane: This is one of our new dishes this year. We do a seared beef or venison medallion on top of a bacon pancake served with a homemade huckleberry jelly. We also serve this dish with a little fried quail egg and a little lemon butter.
Try the bacon pancake out for yourself!
2 Cups AP Flour
2 1/2 Cups Buttermilk
1 T. + 1 t. Olive Oil
1T. + 1 t. Sugar
2 t. Baking Powder
1 t. Vanilla
1 t. Salt
1/8 cup Water
3-4 Bacon Slices
Slice the bacon up into small pieces and fry it over medium/high heat until it is the crispiness that you desire. When finished drain on a paper towel.
While the bacon is cooking mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
In a separate bowl mix the dairy, egg, oil and vanilla.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just until incorporated.
Over medium heat, pour the pancake batter onto the pan.
Immediately after you pour the batter, sprinkle a hand full of bacon bits onto the pancake. You could mix the bacon directly into the batter, but I have found that you get better distribution if you sprinkle it on this way.
Once you see bubbles forming and bursting on the top of the pancake it is time to flip. Only flip pancakes once.
Another minute or two later the pancake is cooked. Remove onto a plate and either eat, or place the plate in the oven on warm to keep the pancakes hot until you are finished cooking all of them.
Who is your favorite person to ski with?
Shane: My favorite person to ski with is by myself, I really enjoy the solitude. I also enjoy skiing with my staff as we have fun together and ski everywhere.
Your must have treat at Deer Valley?
Shane: The must have treat at Deer Valley is anything that Debbie Swenerton (Snow Park Bakery Chef) makes. Mostly the peanut butter truffles and white chocolate rice krispy treats.
What run is a must for every ski day?
Shane: There are two “must” runs, Magnet and Hidden Treasure.
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.”
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!
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.