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).

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!”


 “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.


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.


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.