The best ski lesson for your child or grandchild is one where you give them a kiss on the cheek and leave them to the instructor. The problem is you are just as excited about the lesson as they are! You want to be up close and personal to observe and take photos to memorialize the event.
That’s how my friends TJ and Lin felt when they set up a ski lessons for their granddaughter (and my little friend) Stella, age 3. The grandparents felt like it was important for the little one to have a positive experience right from the start. They called in Deer Valley ski instructor, Mark Shepard to teach her on her first day. Mark has a keen ability to really hone in on what a skier needs to make marked improvements. He helped TJ (a lifelong skier) make drastic improvements on the bumps and Stella’s Mom and Dad take on the blues. So why not make it three generations.
Mark was open to splitting a private lesson. The first hour, a private lesson just for little Stella and the rest of the morning went to their daughter and son-in-law (both beginner skiers.) He started little Stella’s lesson in the lodge practicing “pizza and french fry” on aluminum pie pans (no skis yet – just with boots) until she got the concept down cold. The grandparents were quickly forgotten as Mark got right down to Stella’s eye level. Though TJ and Lin wanted to stick around, they knew better.
They also had a secret weapon – a serious telephoto lens! TJ is a wildlife photographer — an expert at quietly watching from a long distance and snapping amazing photos. He put those skills to the test for Stella’s lesson.
Here is what he observed (while in stealth mode) from way over on the other side of the run:
Mark carrying little Stella to the hill.
Practicing now with skis on.
A typical three-year-old, Stella points out an airplane in the sky during the lesson. Mark simply lies on his back to enjoy the delight of the plane with her.
In about an hour, Stella is skiing!
The moral of the story is you can have the best of both worlds. Your child or grandchild can enjoy their lesson and you can have photos to remember the event. All you have to do is walk softly and carry a big telephoto lens.
For more information on ski lessons at Deer Valley Ski Resort, click here.
Meet the newest contributor to the Deer Valley blog, Summer Sanders. In 1992 at the Olympic Games, a 19-year-old Summer Sanders won four Olympic medals, bringing home 2 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze. The moment she hung up her Speedo, she embarked on a television career, hosting shows for MTV (Sandblast), the NBA (Inside Stuff), Nickelodeon (Figure It Out), and Fox (The Sports List, Skating with Celebrities), and acting as a correspondent for shows such as Good Morning America, Rachael Ray, and The Today Show. She has been a contestant on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” and the Food Network’s “Guy vs. Rachael Celebrity Cook-Off”. Sanders recently created and hosted “Find Your Fitness” on MSN, where she challenged herself to try new fitness trends for the education and amusement of the audience. A health and fitness realist, Sanders is a working mom who prides herself on living a hands-on active lifestyle and being a “life is perfectly imperfect” motivator. She has two children, Skye (7) and Spider (5), with her husband Olympic skier Erik Schlopy. Follow the Deer Valley blog and keep up with Summer as she blogs about her experiences at Deer Valley.
It is now official, my kids, who are 6 (Spider) and 7 (Skye), are way better skiers than I am. I’ve had a hunch for a few years but after this past weekend, I have proof. Together, my kids and I took a family ski lesson at Deer Valley, something that I’d wanted to take for a few years but never got around to scheduling. My kids are solid skiers already, but I wanted us to feel good about it as a family and really know where we could go together to enjoy a day on the slopes. Our instructor took us through all the amazing kids runs at Deer Valley, most of which were in the trees, which my kids think are fabulous, and with names like “Oompa Loompa”, “Ruby’s Tail”, “Bucky’s Backyard” and “Quincys Cabin”, you knew it was going to be nothing short of heaven for the them, their mama was another story.
Let me be very honest with you. Up to this point, I had never taken the kids skiing by myself. There was way too much room for error in the process for me to stomach it, the gear, the schlepping to and from, and keeping myself from getting lost. It was all a little too much for my swimmer brain to handle.
Our instructor’s name was Lance Swedish, and he was awesome. It took the kids about 25 seconds to warm up to Lance, and then it was game on. I worried for a second whether he could keep up, not only with the kids skiing (they aren’t first timers), but with all of Spider’s questions. He must have asked Lance 20 times how old he was. It’s still a mystery, although we do know he isn’t 100 or 22. We started by skiing down one run so he could assess our skiing abilities. Although I was worried to finally hear that I was at the bottom of the class, I’m happy to report that I did not feel judged in the slightest. After that run, Lance suggested that we all ski without poles just like Spider. My son doesn’t like them. His reasoning is that you are a much more centered skier without your poles. So he stashed our poles and away we went. I think this is the point when I realized that this “lesson” was more for me than anyone else in our party. Lance even said to me at one point, “Your kids are great skiers, so let’s work on you.” I was both proud of them and cracking up inside because what he said was so true. I was kind of thrilled at the opportunity to get better. I know the longer I wait, the more I’ll fall behind my kids.
The day started strong and fast, and we never slowed down. We cruised thru Bucky’s Backyard and his front yard. We skate-skied across a run to reach the super famous Oompa Loompa Land, where I unsuccessfully tried to convince the kids to sing the song from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” We skied Ruby’s Tail and a few other unnamed spots. I stayed with the kids for most of this adventure, and along the way I picked up some wonderful tips.
- Keeping your hands out in front is key for balance.
- Bending your knees into a bump actually slows you down.
- If you fall you must, without fail, scream “WIPE OUT!”
- When jamming out of the trees into the open run, always check to see if someone is coming or have a “look-out person”.
- Screaming for no reason is absolutely fine, you’re in the trees, you can say it was someone else.
- There is always a hard way and an easy way down.
Yes I did get scared a few times on along the way. I mean speed is my enemy, my nemesis even – although you’d never know it watching my kids zoom by. The bumps and I don’t always get along, I have yet to conquer my fear of tree skiing. A little fear is part of the fun. I did really get a little more than scared at the top of “Toilet Bowl” (It does have another name but once you hear toilet bowl that’s all you remember, that and the fact that the kids kept saying “Mom, you’re gonna get flushed!”)
I stood at the top while listening to Lance give us instructions and decided I needed to put tip #6 to work. I’m happy to report that there was and easier way down, and after checking with the kids and they were both ready to do it, (Lance also assured me they were strong enough skiers to handle it) I met them at the bottom. I listened to their hootin’ and hollering and giggling until they shot out of the trees with the biggest smiles on their faces. What a fabulous day!
I have shared my day with so many of my local friends, and every time they look at me with this hilarious expression and say either “that is the coolest thing ever, I didn’t know that existed” or “Oh bless your heart.” It was such an awesome three hours full of fun, knowledge, and memories. I think I’m more than prepared to take on the mountain with my kids. I may not quite be able to keep up, but I’m definitely more prepared and confident that we’ll be fine and have a wonderful time. Next up is a powder skiing lessons.
Learning to ski can be very intimidating. I was nervous leading up to my first ever ski lesson. This wasn’t my first time on skis however, it was my first time since I was a small child. I have been a snowboarder my entire life. After finishing college I planned to learn to ski. I have a lot of friends that ski and instead of take the time to learn, I continued snowboarding.
In the fall of 2013 I started a job at Deer Valley Resort. The job called for an intermediate skier. I figured that I would pick up right where I left off when I was 4 years old (It’s just like snowboarding, right!). Boy was I wrong. My first day on skis I did everything wrong. I couldn’t turn, crossed my skis, and dropped my pole off the chairlift. It was safe to say that I was a little rusty. I knew then I needed the help from an experienced ski instructor. After recovering from a few rough falls, I scheduled my lesson for the middle of January.
I felt like I had to start at the bottom and work my way up. The Deer Valley rental shop had a sign on the wall explaining the six different skiing levels. I thought I was a “Beginner.” So I signed up for this level.
Deer Valley made it really easy to find my ski instructor. Signs outside of the ski school pointed me in the right direction and signs marked where each skill level gathered. I soon met a very nice young man named Brandon. He took my lesson receipt and put me in a group of three other skiers with the same skill level.
We took the chairlift up to the top of the Wide West ski run, after introducing ourselves to the group. After making sure we all knew how to stop, our instructor gave us some pretty basic instruction. Like, get in an athletic stance, hands in front of you, and keep your weight balanced. Brandon explained that he needed to watch us ski a little bit before he could instruct us. We made our way down Wide West making slow parallel turns as our instructor watched.
When we reached bottom of Wide West Brandon informed us that we were all actually “Advanced Beginners” and were done with the training hill.
One person in our group said she felt more comfortable staying with the beginners on Wide West. So my “max 4″ group lesson became a lesson of three and one instructor, we were about to get upgraded to “Advanced Beginner.”
I would have to say my favorite part of the lesson was getting to know the other two skiers and the instructor. Adriana was around my same age and from Washington D.C. She moved to Park City to ski for the winter with her boyfriend. Greg was an older gentlemen who had retired and lived all over the world. He told us interesting stories all afternoon about the places he had lived. Our instructor Brandon explained that he was the youngest instructor at his level of expertise at Deer Valley. This gave him the nickname “Pampers.” He was from Oregon and moved here to teach skiing and be a part of, in his words “The best ski resort in America.” I’m a huge people person and these memories are the ones really took away from my ski lesson.
Brandon told us that he liked teaching skiing by what is called the mileage method. He explained that the only way you will get better at skiing is to ski. This was really cool because we got in a lot of runs during the lesson.
Our first run was a green run called Ontario. We got there by taking Silver Lake Express to Silver Lake Lodge, then skiing down to Quincy Express. The best part of this run was that there were a lot of designated Ski School areas. We would ski down to the signs out of everyone’s way, and get instruction from Brandon. This worked really well for me.
We skied from 1 p.m. until 4:15 p.m. Skiing from one Ski School area to the next. Brandon would ski in front of us a little bit and then watch as we came down. We would work on new stuff on the easier parts and things he had already taught us in areas where it was more difficult.
At the end of the day Brandon told us that we were done with the green runs and we needed to tackle our first blue run. The group was a little nervous to say the least. We made our way up Carpenter Express and took Little Stick ski run down. This run was a little narrow in some spots. The best part of Little Stick was being able to see the resort from a different view, which was very beautiful. After reaching the bottom Brandon explained that we were now intermediate skiers!
Have you had a lesson at Deer Valley or another ski resort? Tell me about it in the comments below. Also, check back I will be updating my progress throughout my first season as a skier!
… But I love the Torchlight Parade at Deer Valley, most of all.
It’s a known fact: It is flat-out impossible to be in a bad mood at Deer Valley Resort’s annual Torchlight Parade. This pre-New Year tradition involves a veritable river of complimentary cocoa, Deer Valley’s signature cookies, and an overwhelmingly fun sense of community. Mascots! Seafood Buffet staff taking in the view from the dining room windows! Chefs slipping out of the heat of the kitchen in their short-sleeves! And, of course, guests enjoying the company of family, friends and strangers. (As always, there are no strangers at Deer Valley, just fellow skiers, and lovers of all things DV.) The Deer Valley Synchonized Ski Team is, for lack of a better word, electrifying.
Lesser-known fact: If your children are, on ordinary days, embarrassed by your public singing and dancing (And, really, in my case, who can blame them?), such tom-foolery is expected, if not encouraged, at the parade. So, cloaked in the magic of the festivities, I sang and danced with impunity. Then, the magic began—the Synchronized Ski Team, draped in LED lights, skied in formation down Big Stick to Wide West ski run. At one point, their giant S-turns created the illusion of skiing in circles.
I loved watching my kids enjoy the show in their own ways—Lance simply sitting and watching (I could tell he was excited to be there because he couldn’t actually sit on the patio chair. I started to scold him for having his feet on the seat, and then stopped myself. He kept sort of popping up to get a better view, then squatting back down.) Seth’s not-so-hidden talent (which comes out a lot at Bar Mitzvahs and weddings, actually), is an innate gift for hip hop dancing. (He does not get it from me; but he has two grandmothers who are terrific dancers, so it’s something of a recessive gene, perhaps.) He demonstrated this skill on the patio wall while singing along with the music, keeping his eyes glued on the parade.
As the synchro team created its magic, I got swept up in the beauty of it all. Honestly, with all the hype and excitement around me, I didn’t expect to find myself feeling contemplative—but I did. There was something about this night that felt like a gift. I saw before me all the magic of skiing in a new light—appreciating the beauty, the grace, the fun, and the hope that skiing brings along for the ride. Hope that the next run will be better than the last, that more snow will fall overnight, that we can continue to share this sport with the people we love. I’m not much of a resolution-maker, but I sure enjoyed pinning my hopes for a wonderful season on the performance we enjoyed at the parade. I’d love to see your “Skiing New Year Hopes” in the comments. Until then, Happy New Year!
There is a reason the words “older” and “wiser” often go together. Not all of us gain wisdom as we age but I have to say my husband, Jay did. He is very wise when it comes to learning to ski. This is his second ski season after turning 65 and the first day of the season, he did something very smart and signed up for a ski lesson.
Last season was essentially, his first time on skis and he ended up really enjoying skiing green runs with confidence. With eight months off between seasons, he decided to start this year with a lesson from a Deer Valley ski instructor. What he didn’t want to do was make the classic skier mistake, have a family member (like me) or a friend convince him to go down a run he has no business on. Who needs to be frustrated?
It’s not like friends and family don’t mean well. It’s just that we forget what it’s like to be a beginner. I block it from my conscious memory! Seriously, when you look at a relatively narrow run with a few steep spots, it seems fine to you since you know how to do a parallel turn. That same run looks very different to someone without the skills to do it. It’s like taking me to a chute. As an intermediate, I don’t have the skills of an advanced skier so runs looks impossible to me while may look fun to you.
Friends and family aren’t good teachers either. There is a big difference between doing and teaching. Ski instructors, just like classroom teachers, are people who are passionate about helping other people learn. It’s not for everyone. I remember teaching my oldest son to read when he was five years old. It was excruciating for me read the phonetic spelling. I spent many a night sounding out every word like:
ka — ah– ttt – Cat
It took an hour to read a paragraph. Thank goodness his younger brother was listening and I never had to do those remedial phonics lessons with him. I’d never have made it as a first grade teacher.
Most of us would never make it as ski instructors either, but instructors like Mark Schindler have a passion for teaching. With a refresher course on the basics: turning, how to control your speed, shifting your weight and getting on and off the lift, they practiced all morning. Jay felt completely comfortable.
Go at your own pace.
Don’t let anyone pressure you into doing something you don’t feel comfortable doing.
Have a good experience.
Most of all have fun.
Fun, he had. The next day, Jay went all over the mountain with his friend, Harry. They started with five runs on Ontario, and then ventured to a green run Jay had never tried – Bandana. They did a couple of runs and ended with Success — taking the whole run and not the easier Rosebud cut off at the end. Jay had a fantastic start to his season since he made a very wise decision to take a Max-4 lesson at Deer Valley his first morning out.
For more information on ski lessons at Deer Valley, click here.
While I certainly don’t agree with it, I can understand why many people wouldn’t venture to learn to ski after age 65. The older you get, the more you realize that life (and your body) is fragile. It doesn’t help that everyone loves to tell skiing horror stories, either. You might ski a hundred times and have an amazing day after day but do you share those stories? Of course not.
Everyone tells the story of their most dramatic day that either involved extreme fear, pain or a combination of both. For example, my brother told me the story of when he skied in college as a novice with his buddies in California, his friends took him in the trees instead of staying on groomed runs. He fell flat on his face with his skis sticking straight down and he couldn’t get back up! His toe nails turned black and eventually fell off since his boots were too tight. Unfortunately, this happened to be my first introduction to skiing, and I was left with a less than favorable impression.
Another favorite storytelling subject is “falling” which involves ledges, trees and collisions with other skiers. Then there is the story of a friendship ending day when someone is taken to a black diamond mogul run, chute or bowl that is way too advanced for them. The friend ditches them and leaves them to somehow slide or trek down alone, scared and angry.
Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? Doesn’t really make you want to grab your gear and head to the lift. Why would you put yourself through this at 65? Well if you read this previous blog, you’d know why my husband is doing it. He wants to ski next season with our three year old granddaughter. He also wants to do it right so he can enjoy himself and minimize his chances of injury. At 65, he also certainly can’t afford to waste time learning things the wrong way and then having to relearn them. He wants to do it right.
We called in the professionals. We booked a couple one-on-one private lessons with one of Deer Valley’s professional ski instructors. Since Mary Lou Mignot helped me bump up to a solid intermediate skier at the Women’s Ski Clinic Weekend, we asked for her to put together a Beginner Boot Camp for Jay.
Mary Lou got Jay from surface lifts on Wide West to the Carpenter Express chairlift in a matter of a few hours but more than that, he got a solid foundation in balance and control that will stick with him forever. The lesson began with helping Jay get a feel for the skis and enjoying the slide. He then learned to take the wedge to more of a parallel turn and control his speed.
By the second lesson, he was very comfortable on the lifts and enjoying runs following Mary Lou’s ‘S’ shaped turns and having her follow him observing and providing tips to improve. He even kept his cool when some pint sized skiers went flying out of the trees within a couple feet of him. They didn’t faze him one bit and he passed his first test for skiing with grandchildren.
There were no dramatic stories of run-ins with trees, crashes, or cliffs. He did catch the bug, however. You may know it well. It’s the bug that changes your whole perspective on life; the one that makes you excited when it snows on April 1st, where you count the number of ski days left in the season and you no longer talk of events in years but in terms of “ski seasons”. You know what I am talking about.
Last spring, I was out for a run in the Swaner Nature Preserve—and I ran past my friend Donna McAleer with surprising ease. In fact, I was so shocked that I had passed her up on the trail that I stopped, turned around, and greeted her with: “What’s wrong?” You see, at best, I’m a mediocre runner, and at her worst, Donna—well, in truth, I’ve never seen her at her worst. Until that day. “I’m recovering from stomach flu,” she confessed. “But my mind was racing and I had to get out for a run.”
Donna, you see, was midway through her campaign for a seat in the United States Congress, representing Utah’s District one. She’s a West Point Alumna, retired United States Army officer, and is the award-winning author of Porcelain On Steel: Women of West Point’s Long Gray Line. Oh, and she once served as a bobsled driver in a bid to compete in the sport in the 2002 Olympics. Which is, in case you are wondering, how she came to live in Park City, and eventually lead the People’s Health Clinic, a local non-profit dedicated to giving free and low-cost health care to underserved populations.
If that’s not evidence that she’s hard to catch, I’m not sure what is. Donna’s daughter Carly attends the same school as my sons—and we met about five years ago, when her daughter and my son were attending a local music program together. As two preternaturally busy moms, we bonded and recognized both kindred spirits and the opportunity to help each other out, and a friendship—with a side-order of carpool—was born.
Amidst all of this, the 40-year veteran of ski slopes has spent the last nine years as an instructor in the Ski School at Deer Valley—and eight years as a member of the Deer Valley Synchronized Ski Team.
It will surprise you not at all that the only time we could connect our schedules for a chat was at 6:15 a.m. on a recent morning.
1. Have you always skied on the powdery slopes of Deer Valley? No, I grew up in the east, and I learned to ski on the blue ice and in the frigid temperatures of Okemo Mountain in Ludlow, VT.
2. What interested you in teaching in the first place, and what is your favorite part about teaching at Deer Valley? I love being outside and sharing my love of the sport with others. And I love helping guests improve their confidence and ability. Plus, Deer Valley has the best office view, anywhere. Any day on the mountain is better than a day in an office!
3. How often does the Deer Valley Synchronized Ski Team practice?
We do about eight sessions prior to the performance on December 30 – we train at 4:15 p.m., riding last chair to the the top of Carpenter Express and we get one run. By the time we get to the bottom it’s kind of dark. It’s a hard-core dedicated group of 12-15 of us, that have been skiing together for six-eight years.
4. Has the team ever participated in competitions? Here’s a little bit of quick history: in the mid-80s Deer Valley had a nationally-ranked synchro team, and the Deer Valley team were the world champions in 1995. After a while, the team disbanded and Andy Lane started it up again about five years after that.
5. You put on a great show for the guests—what makes it pleasurable for you? I love that we are all working to help each other get better—that is the great thing about synchro, even as an instructor, you are constantly working to improve your skills and it’s about the discipline, about skiing in line and on time and turning to someone else’s cadence. vidually beautiful, we have gone through PSIA certification together, and synchro became a part of our training, part of our commitment to each other and the resort
6. What’s the mood like during the event? It’s very festive—at Deer Valley, the night before New Year’s Eve is all about the retro ski clothes—probably because you don’t want to ruin good ski clothes, since you are carrying torches that throw off embers. But you see these great, “sexy” 80’s one-piece ski outfits—which are the original synchro team uniforms. Visually, it’s very pretty, we are in headlamps, carrying torches coming down Big Stick and Wide West. . The the night before new year’s – suynchro demo component to it along with the torchlight. It’s not a competitive team anymore.
7. When and how will we get the best view?
It starts at 6 p.m. and we encourage guests to come at 5:45 p.m. People typically line the plaza at Snow Park and the staging area for ski school. There is hot chocolate, hot cider and the mascots are there. It’s very festive. The perfect way to do it is to plan to dine at Seafood Buffet, so that you can check out the show at the same time.
8. What is the secret to good synchronized skiing?
You have to be able to do the simple really well—and when it happens it looks really good. What you look for is everybody in synchronicity: are they in line, do they have the same shape of turn, how closely they are skiing? We want to provide a team performance, it might be opposite synch, in two parallel lines, skiing in opposite directions, everyone is in cadence. We do different size turns, different shapes, and it all gets back to just the fundamentals of skiing, all the things we teach people, the foundations of good skiing—good turn shapes, moving down the hill, using turn shape to control our speed.
9. You’re an author, an executive and a former candidate for the US House of Representatives, a mother, a wife (in no particular order!)—did skiing play a role in your ability to balance all of those roles at various times? Can you see any lessons you learned during and after your campaign that have parallels on the ski hill?
Being a writer—bringing a book to publication, writing is a solitary act. In terms of my book, thousands of hours of interviews and editing, and 19 manuscript drafts, and it takes a team to publish it. Similarly, while there is only one name on the ballot, it takes a team to make a campaign viable. Skiing is like that—it’s an individual sport, but you’re moving in relation to others. And the act of skiing—moving our bodies, maintaining dynamic balance, you need to be in balance over varying terrain, how we balance and how we stand on our skis, we want to always be moving forward and in the direction of our turn, down the hill, forward and across the skis. My campaign slogan was, “Not left. Not right. Forward.” It applies to a lot of sports, especially skiing, and for me it was a key point in how we think about our political system and we are so quick to make an assumption on how someone votes or legislates—no one is really moving forward and that’s a big issue in our political movement.
Also, another parallel between politics, writing and skiing: sometimes less is more. Really good writing is simple. Thomas Jefferson said, “Never use two words when one will do.” And sometimes we get so bogged down, so focused on technique, that we don’t just ski, we have to let it go.
10. Did Deer Valley play a role in your campaign at all?
My campaign manager is a ski patroller at Deer Valley—and , despite having met and had lunch together in the cafeteria, it was politics that brought us together. He had run campaigns on the east coast, but we bonded over the fact that we share the love of the mountain. There were a number of colleagues from all departments at Deer Valley that were part of the campaign as volunteers, making phone calls.
11. How did your experience as a teacher at Deer Valley Ski School prep you for life as a candidate? During the campaign I found myself relating moments on that trail to moments on the ski trail—There are always obstacles. In skiing we call them moguls, and you need to be able to be flexible to adapt to the terrain. No two ski lessons are ever the same, even with the same client. That’s the cool thing about teaching skiing,—to help someone, to understand how different people learn— you have to be adaptable and flexible in all these situations. In the campaign you want to stay on your message and how you are trying to interact with voters and you may take a different line, you need coaching, good peripheral vision….and you need to be an active listener in both environments, you need to understand what those people’s goals are—you have to be a good observer.
Look for Donna and the rest of the DV Synchronized Ski Team at Snow Park Lodge, starting at 6 p.m. on December 30, 2012.
“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 of the best reasons to do a specialty clinic at Deer Valley is not necessarily the top-flight ski instruction—although, that’s certainly a worthy selling point. It’s the chance that lightning will strike, and you’ll be placed in a group with interesting people you wouldn’t have otherwise met. And if you’re really, really lucky, they’ll become your friends. This certainly happened last year , when I met Stacey and Jackie and our talented, big-hearted instructor Letitia.
We’d all stayed in touch, and tried our best to plan a Women’s Weekend Redux—and we almost succeeded. Jackie had family commitments that kept her from the March weekend we’d chosen. Stacey and I, however, were in “game on” mode. Stacey’s pregame strategy consisted of quick witty emails to me that described her ski days (“found my mojo in Perseverance Bowl today!”) and accused me of leaving her in the dust after I completed the Mahre Training Center camp at Deer Valley in February.
My pregame strategy was entirely different: I invited Letitia, along with Stacey and her husband Steve, to join Jeffrey and me at Seafood Buffet on the Thursday evening before the Women’s Weekend began. I half-joked that I wanted to see to it that Letitia overate, so that she’d go easy on us in the morning. I had another thing coming.
Before we embarked on the epic feast, Letitia tried to prep us for the coming weekend. “You can’t expect the same magic we had last year in our group,” she said. “You can only hope for it. And you—” here, she turned to me—“you are probably going to land in a higher group than mine. I hear you’ve made more progress.” Stupid me, and my big mouth.
Stacey added, “I don’t want you to feel obligated to ski with me. I don’t want to hold you back.”
I tried to remind myself that I’d learned not to downplay my ability—but I really couldn’t imagine that the differences in my skiing would be that great. .
Instead of engaging in a debate, I suggested we embark on the team activity at hand—tackling the Seafood Buffet.
The great thing about this restaurant is the subtle sense of surprise.
First, whether you’re a rookie—and yes, we had what we termed a “Seafood Bufffet Virgin” at the table (Hi, Steve!)—or a veteran, you can’t help but be surprised by the abundance of choices and the quality of the food—both in taste and presentation.
Second, there are always some new items woven into the mix—on this evening, there was a runaway hit with an appetizer of a roasted tomato stuffed with warm goat cheese—and a hint of heat.
Third, no matter how hard you try to pace yourself, you will always, always surprise yourself with the quantity of food that you’re able to consume in an evening.
We chided each other over sushi—“Don’t fill up on the rice! You need to save valuable digestive real estate for the crab legs!”
Letitia uttered a maxim that is as true as the local’s rallying cry (“No friends on a powder day!”) when there’s a foot of fresh on the hill—“There’s no waiting,” she said. “When you’re ready for the next course, you go get it.”
Our Virgin was not disappointed. Neither were the rest of us.