If you still believe that skiing is hard to learn, long to master and also expensive, there is a way to change this misconception. During the month of January, Ski Mountains around the country, including Deer Valley Resort, offer a learn-to-ski program specially targeted to those who never had a chance to pick up the sport during their early years or when they couldn’t quite afford it.
I wish I had been able to learn skiing by taking some easier way and didn’t have to struggle as much as I did when I first encountered the sport. At that time, even though I lived in the Alps, there was no convenient and affordable program available for school-age kids like me and my modest beginnings on snow were placed under the banner of “teach yourself to ski,” with a wooden pair of skis handcrafted by my own dad, including a set of basic bear trap bindings with non-releasable cable clasps.
As for the conveniently located “beginner slope” next to the family house, it offered no lift of any kind to carry us to the top of a hill that consisted of a short and fairly steep slope, cut into the forest that surrounded a fairly large meadow. That ski run, a trench into the trees, was crowned with a makeshift jump. That’s right, it was almost as if I was expected to jump before I could even learn how to ski, but that’s how it was in these days. Then, the line between modern alpine skiing and Nordic remained still a bit blurred and jumping continued to be considered as being part of the total ski experience.
I don’t even remember exactly what I did, but I must have somehow practiced sliding on the snow and perfected a semblance of “hockey stop” before I dared to launch off that crude jumping hill. That’s right; I could descent and stop by making one single right-hand turn at the bottom of the hill (I’m a lefty…) In addition to my forays into catching big air off that jump, I also had to participate in some cross-country races which I hated with a passion, as my crude wooden skis and their bare bases could not perform nearly as well as the real cross-country skis owned by my most fortunate school mates.
So that’s how things began for me. Later, I remember working as a lift attendant during the school holidays. This entitled me to a free ski pass and that’s how I seriously learned how to ski – never with formal lessons – but through simple observation, imitation and sheer mileage. I wish I could have had access to some formal type of instruction, but it never came until the time I decided to become a ski instructor. Only then, did my technique get “corrected” and my terrible skiing “habits” unbent by some high ranking and very dogmatic “ski professors.”
Just a few days ago, as I was shooting a video about Katie Fredrickson taking her very first steps on skis, I was amazed by the evolution of the ski equipment now made available to beginners and by the markedly improved teaching methods that can, in just a couple of hours, turn a non-skier into someone able to evolve independently on snow and enjoy the thrills of sliding down some pretty long runs…
January is almost over, but it’s not too late for seizing the opportunity of learning how to ski in the very best environment and under the guidance of the most conscientious and talented ski instructors in America. If you or someone you know has been putting off that first day on skis forever, now might be the time to make that life-changing move. Just learn more about that great program and register yourself or your friends to the Learn-to-ski program at the Deer Valley Ski School. You’ll be glad you did it and your friends will thank you for it!
I woke up this time and felt so much more at ease for the upcoming ski adventure. I knew that I could at least wedge down the mountain if absolutely necessary, but that Eddy probably would be rather disappointed (and that is something that I couldn’t handle).
After I went through the process of getting all my equipment I met up with Eddy on the beginners slope and felt even more at ease with the situation. However, unlike my first day I was not ready for the cold. I realize that you can’t always have a beautiful sunny day, but from my personal experience, I can say without a doubt that if you don’t like being cold and you are trying to learn to ski, you won’t have a great experience. Eddy gave my some hand warmers to put in my gloves and we made our way to the lifts.
The first couple of runs we took just went very slow and reviewed all that we had learned at a slow pace. I cannot say enough how great Eddy is! He was trying to cheer me up because I was frustrated at how I wasn’t doing as well as before and not to mention that I had turned into the abominable snowman. As great as he is, cheering me up was not happening and I was losing my excitement quick. Eddy then suggested we take a break and warm up inside, which I was more than happy to do. We then met up with JF Lanvers in the lodge who was very excited and couldn’t wait to see how much more progress I had made. Eddy delicately explained it was too cold to get as good while showing me puppy pictures to bring my smile back. I think that the most important thing that Eddy taught me in this lesson was that you can’t be hard on yourself and you need to be patient (whether that is with your progress or with the sun).
We decided that it was time to give it another chance because the sun had come out and I was on a cute-puppy-picture high and now was as good of a time to try as any. We started with our run and the difference between that run and the previous runs was unbelievable! I was for sure not as good as I had been towards the end of the first lesson, but I was much, much, MUCH better than before. My mood instantly got better and I was ready to go. (Again mad props to Eddy for being able to read me and know how to best ensure I had a good day!)
After a few runs on the bunny hill Eddy decided that it was time for an actual run. My heart just about stopped and I was less than enthused to fall down a very large and much longer hill. Eddy promised me that he would never endanger me by putting me on a run that he didn’t know I could handle. Eddy is a very optimistic person clearly, because I for sure felt like that was something that I could not accomplish. But he had never steered me wrong so I needed to trust him and everything he had taught me…
Fast forward to the top of the run which was called Success, which Eddy promised was super easy and just a longer version of the bunny hill.
At the top of the run I snapped this pic to both A) show the world my mastery of the sport B) lie to the world and say I skied skillfully down the run.
We started down the run and I cannot believe what happened. I destroyed it (In a good way!). I did so well and I felt that excitement of skiing and accomplishing something. I did fall twice, on two flat parts because I was spazzing out and looking directly down which you should not do! Eddy told me half way through that he had a secret that he would tell me when we finished, which I knew was something I was either or that the run was maybe not the easiest of the beginner runs. I flew down the rest of the mountain (still a bit of a ski hazard so if you ever see a fully purple ski suit looking a little nervous and in the way, it’s me and I will apologize now if you run into me, I’m sure it’ll be great meeting you like that.)
At the end I felt so accomplished and was so happy to be able to say that I skied my first run and lived to tell the tail. I was so proud of myself and I know that Eddy was really proud of me as well. He then proceeded to tell me that I had just skied the hardest beginner’s hill and “killed” it. Eddy is very sneaky and totally tricked me into realize that I’m good enough for even the more difficult beginner runs.
Long story, very short; Had a really hard morning, decided I hated skiing, hung out with Eddy and listened to him and finally skied down an actual run. Decided that I like skiing and I have a lot of potential to be good at it.
As always, a special thank you to JF Lanvers for catching my lessons on video and showing everything I cannot describe in words.
Well today couldn’t have been a better day to ski, with some fresh snow a couple days ago and sunny skies. My teammate for many years is in town on a “girl’s weekend. “Lucky for her, she gets to come ski with friends and is free of family duties for a few days.
Today was one of those days you realize the kind of relationship you have after 10 years of competing with someone. We haven’t skied together since 1994 and as we discussed the word “skiing together” we realized the definition had changed since then. We were not at the same place skiing and working together, we weren’t trying to be on the training course first, trying to have the fastest training time or trying to make sure you get one of the spots for the next race.
It was relaxing and full of laughs reminiscing about times on the road. I think her girlfriends thought we were crazy (at least me, since I did crash their party). As I reflect what it means to ski with Diann for a day I couldn’t help but think this is a lifetime friendship where we have shared so much.
I remember when I scored my first World Cup points, she was there to reinforce that if I kept going I could have a successful career. I witnessed her winning her SG gold medal in Lillehammer; she made it look so easy (It didn’t work out the same way for me, ha!)We shared our disappointments of injury and battling back and our highs when good results came our way. She even asked me for parental advice for her three year old. Now that’s a bond!
You can share so much and never realize until you’re out of the elements. A highlight of the day was our last run skiing down Big Stick. She began skiing the face and I jumped in after her. Unfortunately she didn’t get to see this, but it was as if we were the only two on the hill. Her movement into the next turn was the same movement forward I made; her next turn was the same time I began and so on… her girlfriends came down and said how cool that was to watch. The funny thing was we didn’t plan it!
The best part of the day was when we met each other and saw we both had a yellow coat on and white warm-ups! My fault as she is traveling and I have a closet to choose from. I guess once a teammate in the same uniform, always a teammate!
Ah, that first time!
I rolled out of bed earlier than usual for a Saturday, had a hearty breakfast with my wife, loaded our gear into the car, almost forgot to grab a pair of “very cool” ski boots (mine, that had stayed by accident inside our rather cold mud room,) got the rest of our equipment and drove to Deer Valley Resort for the first skiing day of the season.
Time does fly! This will be the 58th time I’m back on skis in my lifetime, not counting two full winter seasons in the southern hemisphere. This certainly dates me, but few will pay attention! At my age, I’m less in a hurry to “click them on” than I used to. It’s not that I lack the youthful enthusiasm of kids and teenagers, but like most people my age; I tend to become naturally apprehensive as time goes by. We might have some legitimate reasons for being more tentative, but most often than not, this early-season hesitancy is totally unwarranted.
Today happens to be my first ski day of the season and my wife offered to accompany me, as a way to lend me some moral support. It’s not that I have been off my skis for a long time either. My last day on the snow was less than five month ago, on July 4th to be precise, as I skied Snowbird on its late, late closing day. The hardest thing to do, perhaps, is to get into my good old (and cold) ski boots; will they recognize my feet? The two have led separate lives for a few months now and might not be like “peas in a pod” anymore? The fear wasn’t worth it. In spite of their temporary “cold nature,” the boots still hug my feet closely and yes, if those don’t feel the freedom that comes with flip-flops, they are held tightly, but quite comfortably. Walking in boots seems to be the only awkward issue there is…
Now, I click back into my bindings, skate towards the chairlift and board without thinking twice. As I ride up the hill, I observe the other skiers; all seem reasonably assured and appear to ski if they had not missed a beat since last season. Perhaps, they just want to psych me out and make me realize I have some serious catching up to do! I finally get to the top, point my tips down, my skis carve slightly to the left, I continue gliding a bit before getting into the main ski run, I feel my edge, let go, it’s there! I haven’t forgotten, I ski slowly and as seconds pass, gently let the speed be my guide and the momentum my engine. Turns follow and link one another, I let go of my tension. It’s all coming back now!
Early December, the sun is not quite as strong as it can get later on into the season, but I feel quite comfortable. All has been just perfect, until my wife asked me to check the vents on her ski helmet while we were riding up the chairlift. Hers were shut closed as they should have been in December. I asked her to reciprocate and tell me what the status of my helmet venting was. Not surprisingly, it was wide-open, letting the cold winter air in, in spite of my recent minimalist haircut. I must be close to brain-dead or in heat, because I didn’t feel anything. Once this major failing was discovered, my spouse asked me to raise my arms enough for her to discover that both vents, under each arm, were fully unzipped. My climate control settings obviously demonstrated adjustments made back last spring when temperatures were vastly different than today. What would I do without my better half?
On that first ski day of the season, the weather was beautiful, albeit a bit cool and we managed to do an impressive number of laps on of the many chairlifts that were opened to the public. I still remembered how to “turn’ em,” even though my first descents were a bit tentative, but now I’ convinced that I can begin another ski season with reasonable confidenc
Most people took advantage of the bluebird (and frigid) day on Dec 3 to celebrate opening weekend at Deer Valley. My family waited for the storm.
My chat with a friend at Celebrity Ski Fest the day before, about skiing with kids on warm, sunny days is best, was ringing in my ears. So, too, was a chat with Ski Uncle, on the phone an hour earlier. “I like that you take them out in all kinds of weather—it makes them tough!”
Really, they’re both right. For the very littlest skiers, sunny, warm days are best. It takes the sting out of standing around/falling around on the snow if the sun is shining. However, on a colder day, you, the parent, don’t overheat as easily from all of the bending, lifting and overall schlepping activity that comes along for the ride. Also, if you’re sticking to the bunny hill, visibility isn’t an issue on a stormy day—and without fair-weather skiers on the hill, it’s simply less crowded. Which leads me to the best payoff of all…More fresh snow for those of us willing to “brave it.”
Sure, I wasn’t getting a lot of buy in from my Little Guy as we started layering up at home. But I made a strategically ostentatious stop in the pantry during gear-up. “What’s that??” My kids asked, as I extracted the Ziploc bag of leftover Halloween candy (really!) from the shelf. “Prizes! For the Rothchild Olympics! Who’s gonna win the race on Wide West?!” Suddenly, my too-jaded-for-the-bunny-hill Big Guy was clamoring, and my reluctant Little Guy (who, I suspected, couldn’t remember how much he loved flying down the hill the previous two years) was Ready To Ski.
Once we were booting up in Snow Park, we had a few other challenges to overcome. Ski Dad, for instance, had left his asthma inhaler at home—and miserably resigned himself to the role of Spectator in Chief. My heart broke a little—he looked crestfallen. Then, Little Guy recoiled (loudly, with dramatic screams) from the unfamiliar pain of putting on awkward, tight ski boots. Yes, I should have let him play with them at home. But I got lazy.
My friend Edo, one of Deer Valley’s experienced ski instructors, stopped by the table to offer some words of encouragement, and then whispered to me, “Usually we try four times and then we stop trying.” It turns out, the stopping is the key to success.
“Ok, you can just hang with Daddy, then,” I said, cheerfully. “More prizes for Lance!”
“No, I can put on my boots! I’m ready to ski.” Or eat candy. But who’s counting. It worked. And we were on the hill.
Not without incident. “I am terrible at skiing!!!” Wailed little guy, as he took off at the top of Wide West and promptly fell down. I definitely spend a minute or two cursing myself that we hadn’t taken the conveyor lifts for a warm-up spin. Everyone was just so excited about the chairlift ride, that I got carried away. “I am soooo bad at this!” He complained, as he fell again and again.
A few reminders about using “Superman” arms when skiing forward, and “Airplane” arms to make the turn, and he was off to conquer the race course. By run’s end, he was begging for more. He’d also made a friend in the lodge, and had a blast calling out to little Jack from the chairlift. “Go, Jack, Go!” shouted my boys.
Big Guy, of course, was a little bored on the bunny hill, but managed to be a good sport about the fact that we needed to keep it simple that day. Little Guy had skied so hard by lunch that a meltdown was nearly guaranteed if we left him with Dad in the lodge to go ski on the big hill. Not. Worth. It.
I followed my favorite “quit while I’m ahead” ski-parenting strategy , and home we went. On the way home, candy prizes were distributed, and compliments were passed out.
“I liked your focus and determination on the hill, Seth!”
“Mom,” he said. “Falling is good learning!”
“Lance, your first run this year was better than your last run last year—because you grew, you’re stonger,” I said.
“Plus, mom, I rode my bike a lot and I think karate is helping me, too,” said Big Guy. “I’ve got much better balance.”
Whoever wins the actual ski race during Celebrity Ski Fest is, of course, the title holder. And it’s pretty easy to argue that the real winner of the day is the Waterkeepers Alliance, which works to protect waterways across the country.
But I decided there were a few award-winners that may have been overlooked.
Cutest Hat Wearers:
These Los Angeles natives were enjoying lunch in the VIP tent in extremely cute (and warm looking) winter hats. Hannah’s Paul Frank Monkey, and Sophie’s Oscar the Grouch brought a smile to everyone who met the girls—including my friends Josh, Debbie and me.
But a cute hat is only as cute as the child wearing it—and these girls are title holders.
“Hannah’s not skiing,” said her mom, Maureen. “She hasn’t quite mastered walking.” Which, of course, struck my ear as a total non-sequitor. Don’t you teach your kids to walk by skiing? I’m kidding, Maureen! No one recommends rushing the process.
Favorite Long-Lost College Friend
Neal, whom I love to torture with the fact of how awesome my life in Utah is—we reconnected at SkiFest last year (he’s a TV executive in New York…his life ain’t too shabby, for the record).
Favorite fly-by skier.
Neal introduced me to a NY friend, Scott, who owns a second home in Deer Valley, and who uses business trips to LA as a vehicle for more skiing. He rattled off his typical one-nighter ski trip schedule thusly: “I land here after my meetings and I’m at No Name Saloon by 9pm, on the first chair at 9am, and back at the airport at 7pm to fly home.” Way to be dedicated to the Pow!
While at Ski Fest, I had the chance to chat with actor Scott Wolf (he and I have met a number of times, usually in the context of his work as a Hollywood actor, and my work as an entertainment journalist), but we never talk shop for long. Our bond is over the fact that we’re Park City locals—and parents.
On this day, though, Scott told me how lucky he felt to be able to participate in a fun event for a great cause in his backyard. “Everyone else here had to fly in from all over to be here,” he said. “But I didn’t drive more than 10 minutes.” Still, as he spoke to me about why he supports Waterkeepers, I got the distinct impression he would have traveled to be here, both for the fun of the competition and to support the work of Waterkeepers Alliance, which was founded by Robert Kennedy, Jr. to TK.
I ran into a bit of a buzz saw in Dylan [Bruno] on race day, but being out here to support Waterkeepers is something I’m always proud to be a part of,” he said. “And I have a son, so the importance of our water and our air and our food is completely heightened for me.”—I got the distinct impression that he certainly would have traveled to be here.
Quickly, the chatter turned to whether his young son will ski this season.
“He’s just now 2 ½, and he’s already so strong, that he’s already hucking front flips off our couch! I think he’ll love it ,,” said the proud papa. “His legs are super-strong, he’s got these stocky little legs like his dad, so yeah, he’ll get on this year, but I’ll just follow our friends’ advice and do warm days and short bouts.”
I shared the virtue of the SunKid conveyor lifts on Wide West, of course—and my secret weapon: Swedish fish. “My kid will, like, speak Portugese for a Swedish fish,” said Scott. “So skiing should be easy!”
We’ll check back with you, Scott!
Well our season started almost a week ago. It’s probably a good time to recap opening weekend and of course the skiing. It was a great time racing in the Celebrity Skifest and for a great foundation, The Waterkeeper Alliance. It started Friday night with opening reception at Empire Canyon Lodge where I loaded up on raclette cheese, at Fireside Dining, and caught up with the competitors.
Saturday morning came and it was time to race. I must say I had a great team and it was proven by us winning the 20th annual event. We won beautiful Bulova watches and great necklaces. It was definitely the year to win. One of the highlights was meeting and sharing the “captain” spot with Terrell Owens. He didn’t ski but coached and cheered us on from the finish. We tried to ski as fast as he runs!
I had to race against Tommy Moe the first round. The announcer introduced us as ambassadors of skiing at our designated resorts. At that moment I reflected what it means to be Ambassador of Skiing at Deer Valley. It is an honor to be part of the #1 ski area in North America for the fifth time in a row! I feel so lucky that I can work for a resort that has continued to strive to be the best. I’m proud to work with all the employees and staff and most importantly show our guests what we are all about and the great skiing we have.
Saturday evening, following the race, we celebrated at the Montage Deer Valley with dinner and a live auction. I think it was a great success! We wrapped up Sunday with a Pro-Am event. Similar style as Saturday races but a little more laid back and no title on the line.
My next fun adventure is next week when the NASTAR season begins. What this means is I travel to the western pacesetting trials to get a handicap for the year. I set the pace at Deer Valley on Saturdays and then handicap the PCMR staff for their race arena. It’s always fun because the pacesetter is AJ Kitt whom I grew up with. He is still fast but maybe this will be the year I can beat him. Just saying? I’ll let you know.
As I return from the pacesetting trials it will soon be Christmas. My sons are counting down the days till Santa arrives. Lucas wants a phone, Eskimo hat and a Go-Pro. Stefan wants a Star Wars Lego (big one), Star Wars movies and a Go-Pro. We’ll see what Santa can do. We have in the past years skied Deer Valley when Santa makes his visit on Christmas Eve (Santa visits Deer Valley each year on Christmas Eve. You can find more information on Deer Valley Events Calendar) . The boys make sure and tell him one last time their wish list. Then when we are done with Christmas morning we gear up to ski a few runs. Maybe this year the boys will make ski movie of their day skiing before we settle into dinner and say thanks.
The skiing is great. Come ski the slopes, we are opening more terrain each day. The cold temperatures are allowing the awesome snow makers to cover the slopes with our signature snow! See you on the mountain and wishing everyone a great holiday season.
Well its official, I have had my first day of skiing for the 2011-2012 season today, Nov. 19. I can’t tell you where it was… Ok I guess I can, our friendly neighbors next door PCMR. The conditions were perfect for early skiing so I know when we open the skiing will be great! However, I had a panic attack while on the chair. It registered with me that when PCMR opens it’s usually around Thanksgiving. I realized its only five days away, a week out from our opening which means Celebrity Ski classic and trying to beat the boys.
Excitement and anxiety came across me all at the same time. I’m excited to get the season rolling again but a bit scared because when it starts rolling it’s the end of the season before I know it. Am I organized enough at this point?
Hmmm time will tell.
So as I thought about Thanksgiving and trying to get organized what are my plans? This year we are celebrating with our good friends and children the Lacobelli’s. If you don’t know them take a look at deervalley.com. They are the poster family all over the site.
Their name, Lacobelli, should be a giveaway as to how our Thanksgiving will be mapped out. It should be a blast. I’ve been told to be prepared for an Italian Thanksgiving.
“There’s Italian and then there are those who want to be Italian!” I guess I qualify as “I want to be Italian for a day”. So I guess weight loss isn’t an option before I try and fit into my ski pants DV opening day Dec. 3.
So following my Italian Thanksgiving experience I can turn my thoughts to opening day.
I anticipate opening day will be much of the same as I take part in the Celebrity Ski Fest. Phil, Steve, Tommy and I will be trash talking each other trying to psyche each other out and trying to be the one with the fastest time. I need to make sure my starts are strong. There is nothing like coming out of the gates of competition opening day. The weekend as a whole is so much fun. The skiing, competition, teammates, friends, and the evening receptions equal a great time and celebration to the beginning of 2011/12 season.
I’m grateful for this time of season. The energy in the air for the upcoming season and holidays can be cut with an edge! That is a sharp ski edge! See you on the slopes.
First, and as I’ve also said before, the longer rocker design won’t fit my car ski-box! The other part of my dilemma is that I have fallen in love with Deer Valley’s tree skiing and not just its nicely gladed runs, but the more challenging, tight turning skiing like the one found in Centennial trees. Rocker skis are a bit longer than regular boards, and when the turning radius gets tighter, every extra inch that stick in the front or in the back might be just enough to grab the next spruce or aspen that happens to be in the way.
To top it off, I still can’t picture myself riding these curvaceous boards on corduroy, moguls and hard-pack as I get to, or return from my powder stashes. All these good reasons mean that I’ll continue to use my semi-fat skis (90 mm under the foot) for another season. Hopefully, I’ll be able to eventually get used to the feeling and move to a shorter length as I also get a bit older, but frankly, I’m not ready yet and may have to labor at tiny bit more while in deep powder!
I hope you’ll fully understand my position with regard to double-ski-camber designs: I’m intellectually and practically not ready for them yet! Since I am all set and very happy with my current poles, the only area that is left for me to worry about is that other, all-important piece of equipment, the ski boots. Mine are still okay and I can see another full season in their sort-term future. This year, I will just add to my closet a pair of specialized boots that I’ll use for accomplishing other tasks. That’s right, I want to seriously get into alpine touring this season…
I already own a pair of skis dedicated to that pursuit, complete with skins and special bindings, and the only missing component is the pair of touring boots that I just purchased today. Will I use that “AT gear” – as it’s called – in the middle of winter? Probably not very often, but as April rolls around and Deer Valley Resort closes for the season, I intend to be all over the back-country, exploring ridges, bowls and glades where snow will continue to linger during the following weeks and even months. This will keep me fit and prolong a season that never begins early enough and always ends far too soon!