The Good Side of Hard Snow

For those of us who’ve only known fluffy, powdery snow, this early season may bring a different experience, and while our snow-makers and groomers have worked wonders all over Deer Valley Resort, it may be difficult to fully experience these brand new “rocker skis” that some us got from Santa, until heaven dumps its next supply of bottomless powder. For one, I’m far from complaining. I’ve been more than twenty times on my skis this season and on each occasion; my actual experience has exceeded my expectations.

The added benefit of this year’s capricious weather is that the harder ski surface has forced me to pay greater attention to my technique and to the tuning of my equipment. It’s absolutely true that skiing in Utah makes all of us a little bit lazy and complacent. We lean or bank into a turn and that’s generally what it takes. Our minimalist technique often provokes sarcasm from Eastern skiers that sometimes don’t mince their words and will go as far as saying that Utahans can’t ski.  Granted, New England skiers are generally speaking better technicians, as most of them have learned to get a good grip on ice and make all of the right moves that a hard snow-pack requires. In the West and particularly in the Rockies where blue ice doesn’t even exist, our compacted powder is often called “ice,” and most of us have little idea about the hard-facts of hard-snow.

Perhaps this particular moment is another great opportunity to make sure our equipment is in tip-top shape, with skis tuned right for these more exacting conditions, boots fit snugly, custom insoles updated and buckles shut tight so there is nothing that can flop around or is left to chance.  Nothing that a qualified ski shop technician couldn’t do for us.   From a skier’s standpoint, we’re still building up our skiing legs in this early part of the season and are often the product of a those bad habits picked here and there, all these years on our legendary bottomless powder.

Now is the perfect opportunity to spend some time learning, or reviewing, the hard facts about super solid snow.  Learning what “keeping an edge” means, getting familiar with what “chattering skis” mean and what can be done about it, learning how to be brief, quick and finally getting the upper hand on that gentler cousin of “ice” that is Utah hard snow.  After all, a visit to the Deer Valley Ski School might be an excellent idea to review all these important basic elements…

That’s right, a good refresher course might be all what’s needed, because as we all know, great skiers don’t need to be told, they just have to be reminded, from time to time.  I for one, have decided to focus all of my skiing efforts to becoming a real ace on our gentler version of “ice.”   But don’t delay; do it now before the next snow fall spoils all these great plans!

January Learn To Ski & Snowboard Month

January Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month began in 2007 and has since grown to include 32 states and over 300 resorts. Deer Valley Resort is proud to participate in this great national program.

What is Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month?

“Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month in January encourages children and adults to learn by taking lessons from professional instructors. It also challenges current skiers and snowboarders to improve their skills through lessons.” (According to skiandsnowboardmonth.com)

What is Deer Valley offering in January for Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month?

Deer Valley is offering a Learn to Ski Lodging Package this year for out-of-town guests.

Whether you are new to skiing or perhaps have just taken some time away from the sport, what better time to visit Deer Valley Resort than during National Learn to Ski Month! Save 25% on lodging, adult ski rentals and two MAX 4 semi-private group lessons. Valid January 2 – 12, 2012, and January 17 – 31, 2012.

Deer Valley is also offering a Ski Utah Learn to Ski Program on January 28, 2012 for locals.  

Date: January 28, 2012
Program: Ski Utah Learn to Ski Program – Never-ever skiers and locals only (local is anyone with a current Utah driver’s license. Lesson Time:   9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Maximum: Limited to the first 55 registrants.
Participants: First-time skiers (never-ever skied before).
What is included: Ski lesson, lift ticket, ski rentals (helmet not included) and locker token.
Age: Participants must be 13 years or older. Cost: $39 for the package, per participant ($13 for a lift ticket, $13 for ski rental equipment and $13 for the lesson)
What to bring:  Appropriate ski attire (pants and a jacket), gloves, goggles/sunglasses and sunscreen.
Reservations: Must be made prior to January 26, 2012.  Reservations can be made by calling 888-754-8477 or 435-645-6648 and mention “Ski Utah Learn to Ski Program” One lesson per participant.

*Though January is known as Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month, Deer Valley is a ski only resort.

To celebrate Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month Deer Valley will be following a local, never-ever skier as she learns to ski this January.

Meet Katie Fredrickson

Katie is 21 years old and is studying History at the University of Utah. Born and raised in Utah, Katie is looking forward to finally learning how to ski.

“Living in Utah you are surrounded by people who ski, it’s easy to feel left out when all your friends leave you down in the valley on powder days.”

With the improvements Deer Valley has made to its Wide West beginner area the environment should be less intimidating for Katie.

“I’m stoked I don’t have to get on a chairlift right away. The conveyor lifts on the beginner hill seem a lot less scary. I think it will help me to focus on learning to ski and not freaking out about getting on and off the chair.”

We took Katie down to the rental shop to get fitted for skis and boots. It’s important to follow the steps when renting gear for your first time skier.

When you first enter the rental shop you want to make sure you fill out the proper form before anything.

The rental shop has several tools to help you determine your ability and type of skier.

There are lots of friendly customer service employees to help you out.

Boot fitting will be your first stop.

Followed by getting measured for the right ski…

Finally you will be fitted for the right length of pole

We asked Gary Wassmar, our rental shop manager for some tips on renting gear for first time skiers.

Tip #1: When trying on boots make sure you toes touch the end with straight legs. You know they fit properly when your foot slides back with your knees bent

Tip #2: For beginners, your ski length should come right below your chin

Tip #3: To choose the right size poles, your arm should be a 90-degree angle holding the pole under the basket

Katie has her first lesson Friday, January 6. Check back here to see how our first time skier does!

Opening Weekend

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.”

 

 

Ski School Updates with Chris Katzenberger

Chris Katzenberger, Recruiting and Adult Program Manager at the Deer Valley Ski School

JF: First and foremost, what makes Deer Valley Children Ski School different?

CK: From the beginning, Deer Valley Resort has taken a holistic approach to family skiing. In fact we’ve targeted adults and children together. For instance, we don’t have a separate adult and children ski school; every instructor is expected to teach both adults and children. Again, the main goal is to take care of the entire family, not just the adult that walks in the door. Instructors are trained to understand children mentally, physically and emotionally. We’re also always looking to new technologies as well, like the “SunKid” conveyor lifts that are a great way to gently introduce kids to the use of various lifts without creating unnecessary worry on the part of parents.

JF: I’ve heard about your Deer Valley mascots; what’s their purpose?

CK: The mascots play a very important role in our program with Quincy the Bear, Ruby the Raccoon, Silver the Eagle and Bucky the Deer. They are part of a story book for children and each has a different role. Once children learn the story through our coloring books and indoor activities they get to me meet the Mascots on the Mountain. Our instructor assistants that help smaller children with riding the lifts and other activities also dress-up as Mascots, so if we have a “snow cone” day, or an “avalanche-dog day,” the mascots are there to encourage children participation into  what goes on, and get their undivided attention! We’re expending more into creating a children’s friendly environment in which they get the fantasy they need within our great mountain scenery. To complement this year’s new trail map, we continue to offer a coloring book that tells the story of Silver the Eagle, Quincy the bear, Ruby the Raccoon, Bucky the Deer, and explains what each character does specifically in terms of safety, staying warm, etc. 

JF: What’s new for kids this season at the Deer Valley Ski School?

CK: The big thing are the four new conveyor lifts, called “SunKid,” with three of them on Wide West and one at Silver Lake. Even though children still learn how to side-step and herring-bone to climb, these conveyors make it easier for them as small children don’t have to get tired out by doing it over and over. To accommodate these new surface lifts, Snowflake has been moved up by two or three lift towers. The first “SunKid” will be fenced in green, the next one fenced in yellow and the top one will be fenced in blue. The blue one is the longest at 380 feet, and takes approximately 2 to 3 minute to move the children up the hill.

 

JF: How do children benefit from these special lifts?

CK: These conveyors keep children rotating quickly and learning fast on that special area. Before they move to a chairlift, they will have learned how to control their speed, stop, make different size turns and will be familiar with riding up the hill. They’ll be able to hone their skills like changing directions, experimenting with a variety of turns and gaining valuable mileage by practicing up and down a lot. The other “SunKid”, also available in Silver Lake, will cater to children taking private lessons and will be a convenient amenity for guests staying at the Montage or around the Empire area.

JF: What else is new?

CK: We’re also introducing, a new trail map for children and in the next years, our plan is to make it totally interactive with our Deer Valley website by adding more excitement and a sense of adventure. In addition, we’re offering special children-friendly trail signs, featuring a new snowflake icon and indicating specific children’s ski features. These trails signs will stand as extra markers to bring attention to these special areas… 

JF: How was your family program ranked by SKI magazine?

CK: We were happy that we received the #2 spot again on the family program. Other resorts have smaller facilities but ours is quite large. In our Center, parents can confidently drop their children in a friendly environment. Our Center is sectioned off into areas for each age groups; for instance the 5 to 6 year-old room can accommodate 200 kids, while the 4 year-old room is large enough to receive 80 to100 kids and the 3 year-only room will welcome 60 to. 80 kids. Of course there’s our Pre-School, the Deer Valley Academy Program, that operates through the school year with a highly qualified staff that can take care of everyone…

JF: How does a typical day go?

CK: The 3 and 4 year-old program is pretty much the same for both age groups, with indoor activities like reading, craft-time and puppet shows. Typically a 3 year-old skis one-on-one with the instructor; that’s right, one child per instructor, for about one hour and then transitions into our Childcare Center for indoor activities.

The 4 year-old skis quite a bit more; typically two and a half hours, with additional indoor activities for the rest of the day. We’re excited about our new permanent outdoor play area that will also be new this year and complete with snow…

The 5 to 6 years-old Reindeer group spends most of the day on snow from about 10 am to 3:45 pm . These children can be dropped off as early as 8:30 am and start to get ready  for class between 9:30 and 10 am, then head out on the snow till 11:30 when they stop for a warm lunch (turkey hot-dog, chicken Parmesan, etc.) From 2:15 pm to 2:30 pm there’s the hot chocolate break, then they return to their skis, have perhaps a special activity in the meadow like safety talk, snow fun games, scavenger hunt, etc. and after that they ski till 3:45 pm when the lesson ends.

Our 7 to 12 year-old, Adventure Club group follow a similar schedule with the same kinds of breaks, plus the use of special on-snow, off-trails areas like Quincy Cabin, Ruby’s Tail and Bucky’s Backyard…

JF: In conclusion, how do your children’s programs contributes to Deer Valley being #1?

CK: What makes our children’s program a leader in its class are the people in our ski school. The instructors we hire in the position have great empathy for their young students and a full understanding of what goes on in a parent’s mind. They understand their fears and apprehensions and are skilled at turning them into fun on the snow, not just for the children, but for the entire family. Our guests like what they experience and keep returning with us. We have students that were in our “Bambi Club” years ago, and today, are returning to work with us as ski instructors!

Secrets to Success

I’ve always taken a kids-first approach to finding my bliss on the hill with my family. I knew my firstborn wouldn’t be happy skiing between my legs as a toddler, for instance, after one outing on plastic skis. So I opted to wait until he was three and a half before getting him going in earnest.

My second born has always had a different agenda. Namely, he wants to do what the Big Guy does. He first saw his brother ski on videotape, following the cookie parade at the end of Ski School.  From that moment, he spent months lobbying us for the chance to ski—watching his brother from the porch at Snow Park Lodge was simply fuel for the fire. He couldn’t walk, yet, so it was just funny.

Then, a few moths after he’d taken off—at a sprint—we were sitting on the deck at Snow Park Lodge, watching his brother. The begging started in earnest. “Sethie Ski!!!!!” When I turned my back for a moment, he scampered out to the snow and began to try to click in to the bindings of a pair of skis someone had parked on the snow.

I sighed, and fetched the plastic skis from our garage. My 18 month-old wanted to ski. For that moment, he was satisfied to shuffle back and forth across the snow in front of the deck, declaring victory at the top of his lungs: “Sethie Skiiiiii!” “Sethie Skiiiiiiii!” Sethie Skiiiii like Lancey!!!!”

From that moment, Ski Dad and I learned how to cater to the needs of both kids’ different ski temperaments, different skill levels, and different personalities. It’s not so different from the way I parent off the mountain. And, in fact, keeping that consistency has proven a key to the success for our family’s skiing. It’s tempting, once you click into the bindings to urge your kids to soldier through—and sometimes that pays off. For me, the nuts and bolts of a successful season begins with the gear—it should be well-fitted, comfortable and easy to manage. Any gear compromises—from base layer to outerwear to ski boots—will come back to bite you, since they’ll distract you and your family from enjoying the day, and perhaps make the sport seem less than fun. True story: almost 20 years ago, Ski Dad (then just Ski Fiancee) and I took our dear friends Florida Keys Girl and Guy  to ski my home mountain, Pico, in Vermont. Florida Keys Girl borrowed gear from my mom and me. Florida Keys Guy insisted he’d be fine in jeans and a pea coat. Florida Keys Girl, in spite of her near-paralyzing fear of heights, had a blast. Florida Keys Guy, soaked and cold in his ill-conceived apparel, vowed he’d never see another ski hill, except from the lodge. Eventually, he realized that Florida Keys Girl wasn’t giving up the hobby, and we urged him to dress the part and try again. Now, he’s unstoppable.

The other tools in my skiing-success shed? Swedish fish in the cargo pockets of my ski pants (to avert temper tantrums from kids and adults), and lessons for everyone. Everyone’s enrolling in ski school again this year, For the kids’ Sunday Ski Experience lessons. As for me, I’m not only putting last year’s crew from the Women’s Clinic on notice (Game on, Ladies!), but I’m joining Ski Dad in a Mahre Camp. It looked like too much fun NOT to try.

And, yes, we’re going to eat well. After all, I ski for lunch.

Wide West

I’ve gabbed plenty here about my love for Wide West. It’s kind of strange, I know. Experienced skiers have no business getting such joy out of the bunny hill. We’re not supposed to want to mingle with the Never Evers, and our kids pine for the day that they can ski the big trails. However—as I mentioned at the end of last year, a day on Wide West spared me a likely injury, when I was unwittingly skiing with a broken binding. But that’s not the real reason I love the trail.

Some of my favorite memories, skiing with my kids, have been formed on that hill. The length and pitch provides just enough challenge for the newbies, and enough obstacles to keep them entertained while building their confidence. My secret weapon on Wide West, however, has always been the SunKid Conveyor Lift. The SunKid Conveyor is, for the littlest skiers, a wonderful tool—because it allows for multiple runs in a controlled setting. Kids can make about 6-10 turns, feel a sense of accomplishment and then get the chance to do it all over again. For both my boys, I found that multiple laps on the magic carpet proved one of their best learning tools, since a single run on the main, chairlift-served section of Wide West can wear them out for the day.

And, even as they continue to improve, laps on the conveyor lift can be a fun departure from the regular trails, as well as a safe place to build new skills, like “French fry” turns. So I was thrilled to learn that Deer Valley Resort management decided to add additional  SunKid conveyor lifts for the 2011-12 season— with the additional conveyor lifts, the base of Snowflake( the beginner chair lift was moved uphill 300 feet)  the aim is to eliminate the need to hike up to it while carrying a toddler, or pole-towing a preschooler. The three SunKid Conveyor lifts will start at the base at Snow Park Lodge amd carry beginners to as far as the base of Snowflake.

Which means…more runs. It also makes taking the all-important cookie breaks a little easier, since you don’t have to ski down carrying said toddler (and then hike back up again). I know, I sound impossibly lazy—but anyone who has ever executed this feat knows exactly why I’m whining. Moreover, a non-skiing fan of the little one can more readily visit the SunKid Conveyor Lift corral.

I’ll see you on the snow!

Winter Is In the Air with John Guay, Deer Valley’s Director of Skier Services

We caught up with John Guay, Deer Valley’s director of skier services Director, to see what the current winter like weather means for his ski season.                                                                                                                                                                 I love summer and my summer sports but I’m always ready for snow and am always excited to ski. I have a new pair of Rossignol Experience 88 skis with the Auto Turn Rocker technology ready to go. If you haven’t skied a rocker ski you are missing out. The Experience 88’s has early rise in the tip and tail which make them easy to steer and super friendly in the bumps and powder. What’s really cool is that they still have plenty of side cut so when you tip them up on groomers the whole ski engages for a great carving ski.

The weather is rapidly changing and we are busy getting ready for the winter season in Skier Services. We are always looking for ways to improve our services and this year is no exception. I thought I would share a few of our big projects.

First, we are very excited about our four new surface lifts for our first-time and beginner skiers. We have had a surface lift at Snow Park and one at Silver Lake for many years, but this season, we are replacing them with new SunKid conveyor lifts and are adding two additional conveyors at Snow Park.  The result will be an entirely new design to our beginner run, Wide West.  Skiers will now access the Snowflake chairlift side of Wide West by three of these new conveyors. The base of Snowflake lift is now midway up the run. The result is that our first-time and beginner skiers will have more terrain accessible by surface lifts and will spend more time developing their skills before they learn to ride chairlifts.  This is especially important for our young children in ski school

Another fun new project is our new Kid’s Trail Map.  We have eight on-mountain children’s features that are associated with our Ski School mascots – Bucky the deer, Quincy the bear, Ruby the raccoon and Silver the eagle.  The Kid’s Trail Map incorporates the story of our mascots and shows the locations of the features on our mountain.  The map also focuses on the Skiers Responsibility Code, as well some fun facts on our mining history and mascots.  It will be easy to read and a wonderful keepsake for kids to take home.

 

 

 

     


Last, but not least, the Children’s Center also has big news! We are pleased to announce a new year-round outdoor playground.  It is located on the northeast corner of Snow Park Lodge and is securely accessible directly from the Children’s Center.  We redesigned the Children’s Center parking lot and space along the front of the lodge to accommodate the playground.

 

Can’t wait to see you on the slopes!

Mahre Camp

The first week of February brought a palpable tension to my house. Ski Dad’s anxiety over his impending Three Day Mahre Ski Camp at Deer Valley was ever-present. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that a) Ski Dad’s work-day-to-ski-day ratio has been waaaay out of whack in the last few years. Whereas, I capitalize on any excuse to make turns, it seemed, increasingly, that Ski Dad found any excuse not to. And b) in our house, ski legends and twin brothers Phil and Steve Mahre have only one title that matters: Mel’s Uncles. Mel used to have a job title here—Babysitter Extraordinaire. And while that’s still an apt description of one of her many skill sets, she’s become our honorary daughter. We all take very good care of each other. So, in that spirit, Ski Dad pleaded with Mel (more than once) to reassure him that the uncles would not be too hard on him during the camp.

And where I bounced out the door in anticipation of beginning my three-day Women’s Ski Clinic the previous week, Ski Dad pushed himself out the door on that Friday morning. I had faith—not in the Mahres giving him any sort of special treatment, but in the system—both the Mahre Camp teaching system and that of the overall let’s-have-fun vibe in the Deer Valley Ski School. Still, I worried—just a little–that Ski Dad would not be able to let go and enjoy himself.

Turns out, even just a little bit of worry was, well, overkill. He called at lunchtime with a voice that packed 20 pounds of fun into a five-pound bag.  “Thank you for letting me do this! This is amazing! You can’t believe what I’m doing on the hill! These guys rock! Oh—I have to go! Thank you, Thank you, Thank You!”

Ok, I did not need the thanks—but that tone was all I needed to hear. Over the course of the weekend, he described the setup—50 skiers broken up into ability groups to ski with 16 of instructors trained in the specific discipline that is Mahre skiing. And either Phil or Steve spends half a day skiing with each group.

At the end of day one, Ski Dad said this: “I have been skiing for 30 years. I feel like today, I finally learned how to ski.”

At the end of day two, he said: “I am taking off next Friday to ski with you.” After he picked me up of the floor from a dead faint, he continued. “This camp is not for anyone who can’t check their ego at the door. Sheila (Ski Dad’s group coach) took apart my skiing, bit-by-bit, and put it back together. You have to be willing to do drills again and again, and trust that the outcome is going to be better skiing.”

On the morning of Day 3, Mel and her uncles and aunts joined us for breakfast at Snow Park—with Big Guy and Little Guy serving as the entertainment committee before we delivered them to their final day of ski school, and the adults split off into “Camp” mode. The mood was light, everyone was pumped for a great day—especially Ski Dad. 

At the end of the day, Ski Dad, settled into a corner of our living room couch with a well-earned beer, said this: “I may be sore from all the work I did, but skiing—for the first time in my life—was pain-free. Because, finally, I’m skiing with correct form and technique. Phil said it best—if you’re not skiing properly, in correct form, then you’re just taking your skis out for a ride—doing all the work while they have a fun day. The reality is, they want to take you out for a ride, so you can enjoy the day, and they can work.”

He went on to say that he finally realized why he’d skied less and less with each year we’ve lived in Park City. “When you are on vacation, skiing is just part of the fun you are having—so if it’s somehow painful, you grit your teeth and get through it, and then you go and do all the other fun stuff—eating, going shopping, walking on Main Street, whatever—and it’s worth the pain. But you can’t sustain that for more than five days a year.” And now, thanks to Mel’s Uncles, he doesn’t have to. 

P.S. Ski Dad is never without a camera. But the Mahre Camp was so intense, he found not one opportunity to take a photo of all the work they were doing on the hill. So I guess we’ll all have to take his word for it and sign up for one of the camps next year.  See you then!

Cookie Corral

I love a parade. I know, it’s a cliché, but it’s true.

But I especially love a parade that stars my kids (and their ski instructors) sporting some sort of dress-up.

So the last day of Sunday Ski Experience always ranks high on my fun-meter. This year was no exception. I hiked up to the ropeline that marked the parade venue, alongside some other parents who are clearly of greater intelligence levels than I am (read: they thought to bring beer from the lodge for the festivities)—the sound system installed on the deck of Black Diamond Lodge for the afternoon was already pumping pop tunes (hooray!) and the sun was beating down on the third unseasonably warm day in a row.

Quincy the Bear Kicks of the Ski School Parade

Before long, Little Guy and his fantastic (did I mention how awesome this Massachusetts-born guy is??) instructor were cruising down the alley, making perfect turns.

In a feat of timing I could never have engineered myself, Big Guy was riding up Burns lift just in time to watch his brother ski down the run. Greg skied backwards, coaching Seth and a buddy to make turns—while wearing the kid-sized cowboy hat (aka Woody’s Hat) that my Toy Story-obsessed tot had insisted on taking to the Children’s Center that morning. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that Greg also had Dine Dine, Little Guy’s omnipresent lovey, tucked into his own jacket. Little Guy’s helmet was resplendent in construction-paper wings, streamers and balloons.

 At the bottom, the littlest skiers were rewarded with Cookie Medals—Deer Valley’s signature sugar cookies wrapped in foil, and festooned with a ribbon to look like a medal.

eating the ski school prize

 After we gave Greg a hug goodbye, Little Guy and I returned to the sidelines to await Big Guy’s group. The Super Skiers made their way down the slope.

 (“Everyone else’s group had animal names, which we thought was a little too limited, so we decided to just describe ourselves ,” explains Big Guy, who is reading over my shoulder as I type.)

Christina, their very fun instructor, had organized the group to form a “Human Slalom,” wherein the students skied down the hill, stopping in a well-spaced formation to mimic slalom gates. Sweet! Christina rewarded her troops with Hershey’s Kisses, Deer Valley temporary tattoos, and badges with pictures of the Deer Valley Mascots.

After the ski school graduation celebration.

Women’s Ski Clinic

Day 1.

I’ll admit it, I was so excited about my first day of Deer Valley’s Women’s Ski Clinic that I leaped out of bed before 7, got myself and Little Guy ready to go, and shot out the door in record time. But I was so nervous that by the time I arrived at the welcome breakfast, I could barely make myself eat the delicious fruit and scrambled eggs that were served.

The Children’s Center hadn’t opened yet, so I brought him along to hang with me while I gulped some coffee and pretended to eat. He asked me lots of questions about my ski school, while snagging my half bagel off of my plate. As soon as it was time to drop him off at ski school, we walked over there, and the staffers there got a good laugh as I seemed to fly out of the room. “We love seeing how the parents seem to feel free as they leave, it’s hilarious!” Little did they know that nerves alone propelled me.

By the time I returned to the meeting room, the instructors were breaking us into our ability groups—it’s more or less self-selection, but they do a visual split on the hill to make sure that everyone is skiing in the right ability group. There were about eight advanced skiers, and half of us opted for the highest-level skiing, with up to 80 percent of the instruction devoted to off-piste skills, like trees and bumps. I opted into the lower half, and as Polly and Leticia, our two pro instructors said they may decide to switch some of us, I hoped against hope that they would identify me as someone who needs more time on the groomed trails.  Before we split off to organize our equipment, Polly and Leticia gave us a brief run-down of the days ahead. Then Leticia added, “The most important thing is that you plan to have fun.  Your job is to let us teach, and be ready to listen and enjoy it.”

After a delicious run on the freshly-groomed Little Kate, both instructors agreed we were likely in the correct slots, but that we should do several runs together before splitting off. After a few drills on Bald Mountain (wherein every one of us complained of our disdain for the top portion of that hill) we reshuffled a tiny bit, and wound up with four in each group. Leticia eased us into more drills, and got us working on our stance so that we’d carve stronger and more controlled turns.

Leticia demonstrates the force & power that comes with proper form

Interspersed with instruction were various crucial safety tips. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to be safe on the mountain,” she said. “Almost every injury is preventable, and almost every crash between two people is preventable. People forget that simply falling down is an option if you can’t stop from an upright position.” Her tip for falling? Make sure your feet are below you, so you don’t have to hike up to get your equipment if it falls off—and so you can, presumably, use your skis to stop you.

On the chairlifts, we got to know each other. One of our group had just retired from a career in business consulting, another sold her advertising agency a few years ago, and a third is a rock climbing, spin-class addicted thrill seeker who happened to be a 65 year-old practicing psychologist.

Once we split off into our final groups (landing with an exact four-and-four setup), Leticia asked our small group to introduce ourselves and to share our reasons for signing up in the first place. I explained that as my older son enters his fifth season, he’s poised to surpass my skill set. The other women laughed knowingly. Their kids are older, and they’d long ago been left behind. We agreed that this weekend was our vehicle to change all that.

The toughest moment of the first day happened on our first run after lunch, when the fearless psychologist had two successive yard sales on Sidewinder. Having seen her ski all morning, the falls seemed out of place. We noticed her boots were not fitting the bindings properly, and on the ride up Northside lift, found that she’d picked up the wrong skis after lunch. Let this be a lesson: Always, always, double check that the rental skis you are taking after lunch are the ones labeled with your own name. Our pal missed the remainder of the clinic, due to torn meniscus in her knee, which was a direct result of the fall. It was an honest mistake with regretful consequences. The rest of the group felt her absence the rest of the weekend—we all agreed she was the strongest skier in the group, and lots of fun on the chairlift, too.

But under Leticia’s excellent enthusiastic direction, we forged ahead. If you’ve ever heard the term, “No rest for the weary,” this would be the weekend that exemplified it. We were still laboring under an adrenaline rush from our morning accomplishments, carving turns with the kind of power and control we’d always admired in others but never been able to replicate. So when Leticia offered to take us on some “starter” bumps and trees near the Red Cloud lift, we agreed. “You can always bail out,” she said, wisely.

Collectively, my new friends and I shared the attitude that we’d signed up to learn and we wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to try terrain we’d always avoided. We three moms started making mental notes of trail signs and terrain lingo with which to dazzle our kids (2 in college, 2 in middle school and my two).  We also shared some laughs at our own expense, and made sure to egg each other on to push harder.

All of this came in handy when we arrived at an opening in the woods between Hidden Treasure and Square Deal, and Leticia led us on a traverse that was just a little humbling. “It’s not easy,” she said with empathy. “You’re on an angle, the terrain varies, and you have to just get a little momentum and go.” With a few wise cracks and some “you go firsts, no after you,” style comments; we were emerging from the trees above some lovely, soft bumps. That’s when Leticia pulled out the trump card. “You are going to get friendly with the wedge,” she said. We looked at her in disbelief, then relief, as she demonstrated the Christie Wedge method of approaching bumps—start at the top of the mogul (or behind it) in a wide wedge, as you ski down or around, bring the skis together and then “shop” for the next turn. It was with no small amount of pride that we finished the run, and signed up for another. By the end of the third run, where we’d traversed to the far side of Red Cloud lift to play in a mix of packed powder/crud and moguls, we had just one request for our instructor. “Can we please work on this stuff earlier in the day tomorrow?”

Day 2

As we regrouped Saturday morning, our crew of four, including Leticia, hopped on to Carpenter with a plan to ski over to Deer Crest. Swiftly, we compared notes on how much ibuprofen (dubbed “Vitamin I” by our clever instructor) we’d consumed the previous night, and how soundly we’d slept.

Still, we were rarin’ to go. All of us agreed our first run down Little Stick felt better than any first run we’d ever done. Whoops and hollers were heard. Then, it was down to business. Leticia offered us her thoughts on what areas she wanted each of us to focus on, and then approached the next couple of runs with a plan to watch our turns and then offer feedback. In another hour, we’d be heading over to the video shack to record out turns, and she said, “I want you to feel confidence going in.”

Chairlift chatter ranged from discussion of technique to work-life balance (recurring theme for skiing moms) to each of our desire to make the most of the weekend—from skiing skills to bonding new friendships.

The video analysis was amazing—we got to see how well we were skiing (really, truly, better than we had been the previous day) and what the next steps were to improve. Sweet.

The afternoon was spent with better carving, smarter moguls and lots and lots of laughing as we worked our way around Empire. Leticia has superpowers of perception, plus an uncanny ability to find the least populated slopes on the hill. We rarely had to contend with crowds.

I should add that the weather was beyond cooperative. For crying out loud, the bluebird was redefined, and someone missed the memo that it’s the end of January, not March, because we were downright hot under the sun every day.  (Day three also marked my birthday—and the end of my birthday weather curse. Every year for the past ten my birthday registered high temps in the below-zeroes, so cruising in the sunshine in the 30s was hard to believe).

Day 3 dawned pink and hazy, and it took a while for the sun to find its way to our slopes. In the meantime, I cracked wise that I’d watched the X-Games the night before, gotten inspired and wondered if Leticia was ready to teach me a 1080 flip. Right.

She got her revenge—announcing our first run of the day: Tycoon. No joke. “What? You warmed up on Silver Link and McHenry’s!” Okay, then. Surprisingly, we were up to the challenge. The bulk of the morning was spent lapping Stein’s Way and Perseverence bowl, experimenting in packed powder and practicing carving.

 Leticia so perfectly layered each day’s lessons so that she continued to build on our skills. Every run improved on the last, or built on concepts we’d been working on in stages all along.

We were also lucky because we found the magic of a well-gelled group. From the encounters we all had with the other women in the clinic, it was clear that we’d all approached it as an opportunity to improve our skills and find some fun companionship. I will say that I’m grateful my group are part-time residents of Park City, so that I now have two new ski buddies to call upon.

Favorite Moments from Women’s Ski Clinic 

1. Discovering Testosterone Ridge—and skiing on by.

Have you ever noticed the lineup of guys perched at the edge of the ridge above Solace/Conviction/Domingo runs on the face of Empire? Yes, there was the occasional female, scouting the perfect line, but as we did laps on Orion, our group noticed an overwhelming number of guys lined up and egging each other on. Thanks, but no thanks.

2. Writing new lyrics to Happy Birthday. “Happy Birthday To Me, I skied in the trees!!” My new pals (instructor included) sang along. Leticia got us warmed up to tree runs slowly, first by getting us over our fear of traverses and moguls (more on that in a second) beginning the first day, and building on that the following two days– and then by asking us if we wanted to check out the tree runs on the way to Empire on our last day. There was a very pregnant pause. “Did you notice, nobody wants to say ‘chicken’ and nobody wants to say ‘Yes?!” I observed. Wonderful, inspiring Leticia said, “You can do this, let’s go.” And we did. Before long we’d checked out every kids’ stash in the resort and then after lunch the big time: Anchor Trees. We liked it so much we did it twice. See also: Wedge, below.

3. Rediscovering the wedge. For reals, peeps. You know how you’ve been shamed out of the wedge—and how you hound your kids to lose theirs, fast? It turns out it’s a useful tool. And when executed as a “Christie Wedge” it looks graceful and powerful. That’s cause it is. Leticia cites it as the best tool for controlling speed in moguls. What can I say? It gave us bragging rights, galore—useful in the trees, too, where terrain is choppy, and there are lots of “Whoop-te-dos,” which look and feel exactly like they sound.

4. Getting safety and ski etiquette tips from a pro. Sometimes even having the right of way isn’t enough. When in doubt, cede it. If there’s a skier making wide traverse turns at the top of Stein’s Way, slow down and let him keep going. You’re in no rush, and it’s better to be safe than crashed. If nothing else, Leticia validated our already-ingrained common-sense moves.

5. Oh, yeah, celebrating my birthday with new friends (who went so far as to snag a piece of chocolate peanut butter layer cake, with candle, at lunch and got the whole room singing).