Father Knows Best? Nah.

A few months ago, my dad called to tell me he’d hatched a plan for his next visit.

Considering one previous visit found me helping the kids select the most absurd Halloween mask they could find for their beloved grandfather to wear for Trick-or-Treating on Main Street, and another found me videotaping my father, a 68 year-old attorney, trying out the bungee trampoline at an amusement park, my interest was, shall we say, piqued.

 “What if I came out in January, took a week’s worth of ski lessons and then skied with the boys on the weekend?”

 I was thrilled by this idea–but also slightly suspicious. After all, he’d dived into ski school when I was in middle school, because I’d threatened to (wait for it) quit the sport.  Perish the thought. My dad, wise man that he is, felt like I might regret such a choice (which begs the question, Why, oh why, was I allowed to quit the violin??) – so he offered a deal—he would sign up for lessons simultaneously with my pre-race program at our local resort, and we’d meet up in the afternoons for some Dad-and-Daughter skiing.

 This is Parenting 101. Lead by example. Support your kids in their activities. Show up. Play along. My Dad, of course, got an A in this course.  And as a grandparent, he seems to go after extra credit, too (see: bungee jumping, above).

This plan, by the way, worked out really well—I improved rapidly, my dad, perhaps a little less rapidly. We found ourselves on a favorite blue—one with just enough steep to make it interesting, and about a third of the way down, my dad launched a yard sale. I skied up to him, a little worried. “Dad, are you ok?” Gamely, he began to collect his gear, and shake the snow out of his ski hat (pre-helmet culture, indeed). “Yep, I’ll be ok!” So, loving daughter that I am, I said, “OK, see ya!” And shot off toward the bottom. I know, very, very ungrateful. Bad, bad kid. I’m not entirely sure why his skiing tapered off, but given this history, it’s a wonder the man would volunteer his vacation time to relearn the sport and risk being exposed to such compassion again.

 And yet, he did.

 And he loved it.

I lined up two Max 4 lessons and a full-day private for “Parka.”(For reasons none of us can remember, Big Guy started calling him that around age 1, and it stuck). I wanted him to feel comfortable skiing wherever Big Guy wanted to take him on Saturday.  We had many, many discussions about gear. He reported to me mid-morning the first day that he’d struggled mightily with his boots, tried in vain to find the right positioning for his hat/gaiter/goggles arrangement. In a moment of mock exaggeration, this man who bikes hundreds of miles every summer, said drily, “You know, you just get on the bike….” I got a call from him from the chairlift that afternoon. “I’m skiing Success, and loving it. I will be here all night. Don’t wait for me for dinner.” I informed him the groomers may take issue with his presence after 4pm, so he decided to come home after all. But first, he stopped in the ski school office to change his lesson the next morning to the afternoon. It was my request—I couldn’t stand the thought of him having so much fun and not bearing witness to it.

Our ski morning together was a blast. He kept thanking me for helping him arrange it all. “I’m really having FUN!” And he was. He was also exercising caution. His stance was slightly hesitant, and his pace was deliberate rather than relaxed. Which was fine. I didn’t want to push. We parted ways after lunch—he headed off to his lesson with a sarcastic “see ya!” and I met up with my friends Lisa and Dave for a few runs on Flagstaff.

 The next morning, I decided to tag along for the first half of his lesson. I met Parka’s instructor, JR, and explained, “I’m just along for the ride—it’s his lesson.” As we descended our first turns, I shouted that I would ski ahead to watch—and to take some pictures and video. I was blown away by his improvement since the previous morning. We soon found our way over to Flagstaff, and did one of my favorite loops. Blue Bell to Silver Buck to Stargazer to Gemini. When we got to the Stargazer portion, my dad said, “Well, this is going to scare me a bit.” He then executed ten perfect, balanced turns to the top of Gemini. “Wait! I was just getting that! I want to do it again!” No lack of enthusiasm here.

 Soon enough, we were heading toward lunch at Snow Park when my father made a confession. “I made a mistake,” he said, with more than a hint of woe in his voice. He looked at me a little sheepishly before he continued. “I thought a full day lesson would be too much. So I cut it to a half day when I made the other switch. But now, I feel so great I want to keep going!”

 Sigh.

 “I can fix it. With my favorite tool,” I said, taking my cell phone out of it’s designated pocket in my jacket. Quickly, I was connected with a friendly member of the staff. “My dad thought he knew better,”I explained. This may not have been the first time someone decided to extend their day, because the very helpful gentleman on the other end of the call offered a knowing chuckle as he restored the reservation . Mission accomplished. JR and my dad and I sat down to a quick Snow Park Lunch (hello, Natural Buffet) before I scooted to town to pick up Little Guy and they headed off to ski more. We agreed to meet up an hour later on Wide West. Little Guy was keen to show his skills to his grandfather. He demonstrated three of his top skills (Candyland, Racecourse and Exhaustion Meltdown).

little guy skiing

 Unfortunately, by the next morning, Parka was sidelined with a minor but ski-boot-prohibitive foot injury, and he couldn’t complete the mission.

We all solved the problem at once. “When can we schedule a return visit?” Fab.

YOU DESERVE A BREAK!

Calling all moms! Wives! Grandmas! Overworked singles! And any woman who’s ever booted up for a ski vacation only to find herself shying away from the harder terrain her spouse prefers to tackle. It’s time to step up your game.

I’m in for the Jan 28-30 Women’s Ski Weekend Clinic. You should be too.

Here’s why:

  1. The emphasis is on fun. Heck, the weekend kicks off with a get-to-know-you social. Ostensibly, it’s a chance for us to get to know the other students in the group. But I’m guessing it gives our instructors a chance to get to know us a bit—and we them—so that they know best how to communicate with us on the hill, and we have a sense of familiarity, too.
  2. You can’t knock it ‘til you try it.  No matter what your skill level, there’s bound to be terrain you feel leery of trying. I’m not one to suggest people improve by skiing terrain that’s notches above their ability zone, but I will say this: We tend to not push ourselves toward that which we find even slightly intimidating. Now, if you become proficient on any terrain, but decide, Hey, I am not a huge fan of bumps/steeps/powder skiing, I really prefer blue cruisers, no harm no foul. But who’s to say you won’t develop a passion for powpow, or get bitten by the bug of the Bowl? In heavy snow years like this one, I have seen more than one friend declare, “I can’t ski powder” and bench herself for entire days of her ski vacation. As a wise man once said: That ain’t right!
  3. You deserve a weekend to focus on you…not your work, not your family, not anything but you and the condition of your quadriceps, the relative merits of your skills on groomed and ungroomed runs, etc.
  4. You get the kind of detailed instructional attention usually reserved for the pros—from test-ski gear to video analysis, to body position checks, no stone is left unturned in the quest to improve our skiing. You’ll pick up fancy jargon to take home with your bragging rights to improved skiing.

Celebrate My Birthday with Me at the Women’s Ski Clinic!

In my house, January 1 marks not only the New Year, but the commencement of Birthday Month. My birthday month. I’m not one a woman who thinks birthdays are better ignored. Instead, I generally spend the entire month (the big day is on the 30th) planning my Birthday Ski Day. And, of course, Birthday Dinner at a Fabulous Restaurant.

This year, I’m planning—wait for it—Birthday Ski Weekend. That’s because the geniuses at the Deer Valley Ski School were kind enough to plan the first Women’s Weekend clinic for, yep, my 38th birthday celebration weekend. Turns out, it’s just all about me!

It’s also the closing weekend of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, which is, hands down, the busiest 10-day stretch of my other life as an entertainment journalist. Work-wise, closing weekend holds the quietest couple of days of the ten, so I will cap off a week of seeing my colleagues from both coasts, screening the year’s coolest indie films, interviewing directors and actors, and visiting VIP lounges… with skiing, skiing and more skiing. I can’t think of a better setup.

I’m going to have lots to say about Women’s Ski Weekend over the next few weeks…but, all narcissism aside, I have compelling reasons to attend the clinic.

Here are a few:

  1. I have a seven year-old skier. He’s in his fifth season. He likes to go into the trees. I know there are more challenges ahead, and I want to be ready….because the leaps and bounds of improvement he made week-to-week in last year’s Sunday Ski Experience were just a taste of what’s to come this year. And I do not want to be the mom who cramps his style.
  2. My skiing ability has hit a bit of a plateau in the last few years. Part of that is my local’s attitude toward skiing—improvement is often a function of hours on the hill. Experience breeds confidence, and confidence breeds improvement. And I could use an infusion of both.
  3. I loved summer camp as a kid. Just ask my many friends whom I originally met at summer camp. Spouse included. Making new friends thrilled me then as it does now. So bonding with other women over a shared love of sport seems like the ultimate way to make the most of a learning experience.
  4. For once, I want to focus on my game, and only my game. Family ski days, as you know, are equal parts exhaustion, exasperation and exhilaration. And the days I head out with my kids do not find me focusing on my own form—or even tackling terrain that’s a notch outside my comfort zone. In a few years, that’s likely to be the case, since I’m planting the seeds for it now. But that doesn’t change the “now.” So carving out a couple of days to really push myself will be a nice break from the routine.

What? You say you worry you’re not good enough to take a Women’s Clinic? That, my friends, is patently untrue. The weekend is set up to cater to all abilities. All you have to bring is your desire to learn. That’s it.

Sunday Ski Experience

This is Big Guy’s fifth season in the Children’s Specialty Program called Sunday Ski Experience. He has graduated from a day that’s partly spent in the Children’s Center to a full day on the hill. When I dropped him off, he followed the directions of the helpful ski instructor to “ski over to the blue sign” in the “Parent Free Zone” that is the big kids’ drop-off corral.

 

While there, I was gratified to (over)hear a parent introduce herself, quite cheerfully and somewhat apologetically, as a “problem child.” Not because I like problems, but because it gave me a chance to see the ski school in full-on troubleshooter mode. Other resorts may greet such an introduction with disdain. At Deer Valley, they appreciate candor and greet it with an honest attempt to help smooth things out. The problem this mom brought to the fore was clearly no fault of the resort, but a good-natured explanation of a circumstance in her family’s ski school plans. It would have been poor form for me to eavesdrop any longer, but I skied away feeling confident that the issue would be somehow resolved.

I skied to the bottom of the run, and rejoined Ski Dad and Little Guy as they polished off the last of the Snow Park French Toast with which we’d bribed the kids out of the house for an early departure this morning. We were rewarded not only with the aforementioned eggy delight, but with third-row parking in front of Snow Park Lodge. SCORE!

The three of us repaired to the Children’s Center, where a super-cheerful employee greeted our hero with no less than, yes, a hero’s welcome. Staffers who remembered him from his opening-day visit greeted him warmly. Others chided our greeter for out-cheering them. “I used to work for Disney! What do you expect??” she offered without a hint of apology and no small amount of pride.

She assured us the day would be a great one, and Little Guy disappeared onto the curly slide.

Collecting Little Guy at the end of the day found another employee seeking me out as I cajoled my son into his snowsuit and boots for the quick walk to the car. “Oh, good!  I need to talk to you about his boots.” This fellow, who was not the instructor who skied with Little Guy, but rather heard his cries as the ski boots came off after the lesson, came to tell me that he thought for sure the boots had become too small. “I would hate to see him get turned off to skiing because he grew,” he said earnestly. “So you may want to have his boots refit.”

This is a hallmark of the Children’s Center at Deer Valley. They want kids to love the sport. And they’ll do everything they can to make sure that happens. Thanks, guys!

We are off to the boot fitter this week, and cannot wait to see you next Sunday.

Kicking Off the Season Right!

Opening day found Ski Dad and me racing about the house, getting the kids into base layers, organizing the ski bags, and getting ourselves dressed. We threw a hearty meal of whole grain English muffins with Nutella spread and a banana at the kids, and started pounding water to get a jump on staying hydrated for the day. “I don’t think we will have time for our own breakfast,” said Ski Dad with a hint of mockery in his voice. “We’ll HAVE TO eat there.” “There” is Snow Park Lodge, home to the best breakfast in Park City. Yeah, I reasoned, I could take one for the team.

As we ordered our French Toast from smiling chefs,

Ski Dad announced: “I have been waiting all summer for this French Toast.”

Trust me, it was worth the wait. … 

As promised, opening day held the joy of ski school for both our boys. After an effortless and cheerful check in with Francis and Nicole at the Children’s Center,

 Little Guy pulled his extra-special no-holds-barred just-for-mommy separation anxiety fit. I escaped with my last shred of sanity riding the coattails of a wave of guilt. Luckily, I have a second career as a ski slope spy, and I was able to take a peek at a blissfully happy Little Guy on The Magic Carpet, the Snowflake Chairlift, and the Wide West run from my perch on Burns Chair, while delivering Big Guy to his Adventure Club class.

I managed to shoot some video with my spy cam (smart phone), though if the are any developers rereading this blog, an app that enhances a shot with telephoto power would be much appreciated.

Spycam Footage

Both boys had a blast in ski school. Little Guy’s erstwhile “buddy” Dine Dine, enjoyed the ride from his perch inside Little Guy’s snow suit, head sticking out at the collar.

Little Guy’s report card was filled with check marks on boxes next to sentences including “I had fun.” “I balanced on my skis” “I made wedge turns on my own…” A confidence booster that sent us back to the hill on day 2, thinking he’d show off for Mom and Dad. See the Day 2 report to learn how that worked out.

While the kids are away…Ski Mom and Ski Dad do play.

We have some new pals in Park City, whom we’ve kind of known for years.

Lisa and Dave are new to the area, but I have interviewed Lisa and her brother Josh for stories in which I needed quotes from experts in their respective fields. Several years ago, Josh, who I met first, sent Lisa my way, so I could offer my perspective on relocating to Park City…something she and Dave were strongly considering. Guess what I said? Yup. Do it.  They made their move this summer, but it took us until ski season to get together in real time.

But there we were on chairlifts, touring Dave and Lisa around our favorite runs, and catching up with each other on the chairlift rides.

We imposed on the mountain host atop Flagstaff for a snapshot of what turned out to be a fab day of companionable skiing and great conversation.

SKI SCHOOL!

Last night, after we lit the Hanukkah candles, I told my kids what their first night’s gift was.
Yep, ski school for opening day at Deer Valley.
Here’s some video that will show how such an announcement ranks in our house.

little guy ski school

big guy ski school

Can I just say, it’s a gift for Ski Dad and me, too? Seriously…I cannot remember the last time we took a run as a couple–never mind a whole DAY on the hill sans kids.
Family ski day ensues on Sunday, for those of you concerned about that. Video to follow!

Helmet Covers

Last year, the Big Guy decided he didn’t want to wear his puffer fish helmet cover anymore. The attention it garnered from every passerby was starting to embarrass him—and he also worried that it might get caught in the trees when he skied through them. Ski Uncle had started to offer US Ski Team stickers as prizes for particularly adventurous runs, which Big Guy proudly affixed to the helmet, and I think, above all, this is what convinced him he needed to say goodbye to the Puffer fish. I, for one, was not ready.

First of all, I can’t stand how cute he looks in it. But more importantly, it made him easy to recognize–to the point that I used it as a tool for my career as a Mommy Spy. After ski-school drop-off, I could ride Carpenter lift and catch sight of him underneath me, returning from a run on Little Baldy. More importantly, when we skied together, it made him easy to find on the hill—whether I was following his lead, or waiting a few feet below him as he carved his turns.

 Plus, there were no strangers in the lodge. People stopped to compliment him on his “hat,” and inevitably asked me his age, and, upon learning that we are locals, asked me for tips on skiing with their kids and grandchildren, or how to entertain them après ski in town. Often, people would ask to take his picture. On one such occasion he said “No,” a little bit forcefully. I made a wry comment that his agent had advised him against camera-phone shots, the visitors and I shared a laugh, and we moved on.

Months later, I found myself at a Hollywood party. If it sounds fancy, let me promise you—it was. I was among a large group of journalists mingling with talent (and the agents and publicists that represent them) from Fox TV shows. Yes, I met the cast of Glee (love them!.) But I also caught up with a talent manager I hadn’t seen since we’d worked together on his client’s photo shoot for the magazine where I’d worked 15 years earlier. “Wow! You live in Utah! That’s amazing!” (I get that a lot.) “Yep, and I have two kids,” I mentioned, reaching for my phone to produce pictures. “Look, here’s my older one, on skis!” Tom, my pal, did a double take. “Wow, that WAS you!” I gave him a confused look. “I was with a friend at Deer Valley last winter, and we saw the two of you on the patio at Snow Park—I remember we wanted to take his picture and he said no!” He went on to say, he’d recognized me, but didn’t know I lived in Utah, and so he’d assumed it was someone who looked like me. Then, “Later, we saw him skiing—that kid is good! I can’t believe that’s your son!!”

Believe me, my momma-pride was on, well, eleven (Spinal Tap fans, can I get a Woot Woot?). Still, with both kids on the mountain this winter, I’m hoping I can offer them new funky fresh helmet covers for Hanukkah this year, so I can keep them in my line of sight.

 What’s the coolest helmet cover you’ve ever seen?

Do your kids wear ‘em?

Do you love ‘em or hate ‘em?

Let me hear from you.

“Get it in Gear”

Opening day may be more than a month a way, but in our household, ski season is ON. How did I know? For one thing, Big Guy, age 7, appeared in our bedroom last Friday morning at the crack of early to exclaim, “It’s going to snow on Monday!!!” He’d been checking Doppler Radar on the computer, apparently.

 The weather defied his prediction, however, offering a dusting that very evening on the top of Bald Mountain. Thus, our preparations kicked into high gear.

First, we adjusted the fit of the helmets. Little Guy, age 3, now fills out his helmet just a bit past the smallest setting; Big Guy’s fits on the largest setting of his. Little Guy is otherwise well-equipped with hand-me-down ski clothes from big bro, and the too-cute-for-words 16cm boots, which were a gift last year from his “ski Aunt and ski Uncle” and Elan Spyder skis purchased for him last year by his parents and the grandfather known affectionately as Parka. You can see him modeling the boots, along with his erstwhile companions, Dine Dine and Ding Dong, below. You’ll notice that he’s sporting them indoors—and while their intrinsic value as an any-outfit accessory is unimpeachable, I must put in a plug here for the age-old tradition of letting your kids play in their gear inside the house. Find a carpeted area and have them practice putting on, walking around in, and taking off the boots, then help them click in and out of the bindings and help them shuffle their feet along the carpet a bit. The more playtime they have with the gear indoors, the easier it will be to get their buy-in to put the stuff on when it counts. And believe me…no ski day was ever enhanced by a gear-related meltdown.

 

But, the gear has to fit in order to play this game. In this spirit, we piled into the car with Big Guy’s ski gear and headed to the local shop to whose Grow-With-Me program we are subscribers. He’d burst through three shoe sizes in the past 7 months, so it was no surprise the boots were too tight. Even less surprising, it was time to jump up 10cm in ski size—and the tech told us as we departed that he’ll count on seeing us mid-season for a longer ski yet.

Next stop, the outlet mall, where we replaced the ski jacket that had been lost—yet again!—at the end of last season. (Am I the only parent who has considered having jackets surgically attached to her kids?) Also purchased, some après ski mocs for Big Guy.

Next on the list: new goggles and some new gloves for the Big Guy, too. I can’t stand the shoddy make of most kids’ ski gloves, so if you’ve had luck with a particular brand, leave it in the comments section.

Spring Break!!

Spring break skiing has arrived!  I have been looking back over the winter and can not believe it is March is already coming to an end.  The skiing has continued to be great with the snow from the small storms we have recently received really adding up.  And more storms are in the forecast this week!

 Here are some great spring skiing tips:
Did you know that the sun’s intensity increases with altitude?  Use a strong sun block and hat  to protect your skin.  And, don’t forget your ears and neck!

 Having a bit of trouble getting back in form due to spring skiing conditions?  Try getting out on the hill early and follow the sun around the mountain.  Later, in the afternoon you can practice your lounging technique on McHenry’s Beach at Silver Lake.

 Did you learn to ski powder this season? Take advantage of our wonderful spring conditions.  Soft and variable snow calls for some skiing techniques similar to those used while powder skiing.  Concentrate on a more powerful leg rotation.

Noodle & Boo Promotion:
Deer Valley is partnering with Noodle & Boo and our Fawn ski lessons; which are for children three years old. Since sun care is so important in protecting your tot’s skin against the winter elements, Noodle & Boo is offering a complimentary sample of their Play-Day Sunscreen SPF 30 for children participating in a Fawn Lesson!  Available March 1st through April 11th, lessons can be scheduled by calling 888-754-8477 or 435-645-6648.

Play Day Sunscreen SPF 30 gently moisturizes skin while providing maximum broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection.  Lightweight, non-oily and water resistant, this quick drying formula is fortified with aloe and Vitamin E. Dermatologist and pediatrician tested; hypoallergenic.   

About Noodle & Boo:  
“When only the best will do,” Noodle & Boo offers luxurious bath and body products for children with sensitive skin.  Every formula is developed with safe ingredients from natural sources to nourish and protect delicate skin.  Uncompromising quality is a standard for every clinically-tested, hypoallergenic product.  Noodle & Boo’s focus is to help children in need. All children deserve an opportunity to live, hope and fulfill their dreams. A significant portion of Noodle & Boo’s profit is set aside for children’s charities every month. “Together we can make a difference.”  For more information please visit noodleandboo.com.

Mahre Training Center Ski Camp Wrap-up

Deer Valley Resort has been hosting the popular Mahre Training Center Ski Camps for six seasons beginning with 2004-2005 winter. These three- and five-day sessions provide skiing fundamentals and are conducted in part by their creators, Olympic medal winners Phil and Steve Mahre. The Camps were held in Keystone, Colorado, for 19 years before the Mahres approached Deer Valley with a proposal to hold them here.  The venture has proven very successful for both parties.

 We traditionally hold three 3-day weekend Camps (Friday-Sunday) and two 5-day Camps (Monday-Friday) from December to early February; and, this year, we tried a 5-day Camp in December running from Saturday to Wednesday that met with mixed reviews.  Our last session for this season was a 3-day Camp that ended February 10 and had 48 participants.  Our return rate has continuously increased from year to year; and the current economy hasn’t put a damper on our bookings.

 The Camps include six hours of daily instruction by Deer Valley’s top ski instructors, as well as indoor sessions, unique Mahre Training Center progression, a video and other amenities, including skiing with the Mahre brothers, breakfasts and lunches and a closing awards dinner.  The Camps are open to all skiing ability levels, and participants must be 12 years or older.  (Advanced reservations are required; call 435-645-6648.  Lift tickets are included in the price of the Camp.)

 Perhaps our most prominent attendee is a gentleman from Australia who has been coming to our Camps for three years now.  This year he attended three Camps–two 5-day and one 3-day! And his wife attended two Camps. They plan their summer vacation around the Mahre Ski Camps.

 Phil Mahre, who resides in Washington state, recently carried the 2010 Olympic torch in its only visit to the United States for a ceremony at the Peace Arch border crossing in Blaine, WA.  Phil, who won medals at the 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid and the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, was cheered by a crowd of several thousand people waving U.S. and Canadian flags and signs with the Olympic rings.

 The success of these Camps takes the dedication, cooperation and hard work of multiple departments here at the Resort.  Thanks to everyone who has a hand in these events, and special thanks go out to:

 ‡  Carolyn Allen and her Silver Lake Lodge staff for room set-ups during the Camps
‡  Jim Bragg and his Race Hill crew for the excellent training courses and fun races
‡  Kris Anderson and her Snow Park Lodge staff for breakfasts and après ski lectures/seminars
‡  The Mountain Operations staff for their superb on-snow operations and assistance
‡  Annie, Vince, Tuck and Suzi at Sharpshooters Imaging for videos and photos