After the excitement of Celebrity SkiFest was concluded, my family decided to extend the fun, and celebrate Opening Week.
On Sunday, we felt like we had the mountain to ourselves—the four of us were in ski school for the full day. Jeffrey and I had a private lesson with Letitia Lussier, the amazing instructor I met on my first Women’s Weekend, several years ago
Meanwhile, Seth spent the day in Reindeer Club, and Lance spent the day in Adventure Club. It was a treat to see Lance shredding Lost Boulder from our perch on Northside Express Chairlift—and the run was loosely –populated enough that we had the chance to spot him.
We bumped into friends, here and there, there was a Mahre Training Camp under way, so we said hello to Phil and Steve a couple of times on lift-lines. (I won’t name names, but one of those brothers may or may not have called me out for being too “matchy,” in my appearance—purple boots, purple-ish skis, white pants, jacket with a pattern that contained purple. I may or may not have retorted that I was owning it, so it was allowed.), and the overall atmosphere was both relaxed and festive, as staff and guests alike got our ski season on.
One of the best benefits was something that had not occurred to me when I booked the boys into their group lessons: it wasn’t at all busy in ski school. Hence, Seth was the only child in his group. As his instructor noted, “This week is the ‘value week,’ in ski school,” because you have a higher likelihood of one on one coaching. Lance had only two other children in his group (both of whom were picked up 90 minutes early), leaving him with, essentially, a ninety-minute private lesson at the end of the day.
Finally, the restaurants were not crowded in the least.
So, don’t tell your kids’ principal I told you to do this, but if you can sneak them out of school for a day or two and grab a long weekend at Deer Valley when everyone else is not on vacation, I highly recommend it.
What makes the holidays special to young and old alike? Well, I have a theory – it’s the delight of the surprise. When you open up an unexpected gift, your eyes open wide, a quick smile comes to your face and you lose your breath for a second. The really cool thing about it is the gift giver experiences the same physical reaction as the gift receiver!
One winter when I was a young girl, my brother and I spoiled our Christmas. You see we searched until we found my parent’s special hiding place and we saw our unwrapped gifts! At the time, it was a thrill to seek out and find something we weren’t supposed to see. We kept it our little secret. Then on Christmas morning when we opened the packages, the whole thing fell flat. Knowing what was inside took away the delight and it just wasn’t the same. My brother and I never spoke about it but we never tried to find presents again.
When I went to see the life sized gingerbread house adorning the lobby of the Montage Resort at Deer Valley, I expected it to be wonderful. A 12 foot high gingerbread house was sure to be impressive! I’d heard the resort’s award winning Executive Pastry Chef, Raymond Lammers and his team spent two months building it – so I knew it was going to be really special.
It is spectacular! The house is tiled with over 11,000 gingerbread cookies (2,000 roof tiles, 8,000 small tiles and 1,000 white gingerbread tiles) and completed with:
1 ½ pounds of nutmeg
135 pounds of butter
165 pounds of sugar
170 pounds of molasses
85 pounds of corn syrup
540 eggs AND 110 pounds of special sugar were used for the 26 sugar candies and the 6 window panes.
But there is more! The delight came when while I was looking up at the gingerbread house, a furry friend nudged me. Jonas, the Bernese Mountain Dog Ambassador at the Montage was visiting his very own gingerbread doghouse. Let me ask you this. Who has a gingerbread doghouse? Well, Jonas and his fellow ambassador, Monty both do. These 3 ft. wide and 4 ft. deep gingerbread doghouses sit on either side of the life sized gingerbread house.
When I saw them, I had the same physical reaction as if I was opening that unexpected gift. Everyone around me had it too. I watched teenagers elbowing each other and saying, “Look at the doghouses!” Jonas lapped it all up oblivious to the doghouse as he focused on making sure each one of the guests had a chance to pet him and give him a nice big hug.
Don’t spoil the surprise when you bring your family to visit the gingerbread house at Montage Resort – keep the gingerbread doghouses under wraps! That way you can watch their reactions as their eyes go from the tall roof line of the gingerbread house, to the six foot tall candy canes on either side of the front door, and finally to the doghouses with the names “Jonas” and “Monty” written in icing on the top.
Sunday before opening day was the second best day of the ski season. Because the BEST day of the ski season was this past Saturday—Opening Day at Deer Valley.
So, to celebrate, we headed off to the Deer Valley Grocery~Café for breakfast. Seth, our newly-minted reader, asked us what our table card meant, after he read the word. “What’s Daisy?”
I answered the way any self-respecting Deer Valley skier would: “It’s a ski run!”
Then, I added, for good measure: “It’s also the name of Grandma Joyce’s dog.”
Jeff jumped in with some basic, if slightly overlooked, information for Seth to add to his vocabulary quiver: “It’s also a flower.”
“Right,” I said, quickly, remembering my command of the English language. “I guess you know you’re a skier when your words are defined by ski runs, rather than their original meaning.”
Thus educated, we headed to Snow Park Lodge, where we found tons of man-made snow waiting to be groomed into skiable corduroy. We paused, briefly, to admire the piles of white stuff, then continued on our mission—up the stairs at the ticket office to pick up our Season Passes for Deer Valley’s 2013-2014 season.
I keep all of our old passes, as a tangible “growth chart,” where I can see my boys get bigger (and, of course, track the evolution of my hair style, or whatever).
This year will be the one we recall, years from now, as the day we took season pass photos while Seth was nursing a black eye, acquired in a crazy loft-bed accident on Thanksgiving Day. (He’s fine—and we have taught him to say, “You should see the other guy,” every time someone comments on it.)
We were all, of course, in excited moods, as we got our pass photos taken.
And then, when I thought it couldn’t get any better, this text came in:
Yes, I am that nerd, who registers for text updates on the weather. Just seeing it was enough to make me jump for joy. See you on the slopes!
Sons have a special bond with their mothers. Well, at least when they are little since when most kids enter high school they are embarrassed to be seen with their parents. I remember begging my mother to park down the street when she picked me up from school so I didn’t have to be seen getting in the car with….gasp…my mother. She refused, of course. I dreaded the time when my kids didn’t want to be seen with me.
It didn’t happen in high school with my youngest son, Rick (now 23). He seemed to actually like having me around. In fact, he would even dangle his arm over my shoulder at…gasp….the mall! I thought we had bypassed the “my mom is embarrassing” stage until he came home from college saying things like “You aren’t going to wear THAT, are you?” I guess certain things are unavoidable in life.
We came full circle recently when he came to visit. He is now a college graduate and a contributing member of society. He is also a snowboarder but wanted to switch it up and ski with me at Deer Valley. His last memory of me skiing was not a good one – it was well over a year ago when we first moved here and before all my lessons! He even took embarrassing photos of me traversing back and forth across the run and falling since my technique was so poor. He and his brothers ditched me after one run. Who could blame them?
This time was different. He was on skis instead of his board and I had been practicing, taking lessons and attending clinics. He started off on the Wide West run using the “magic carpet” people mover to get his “ski legs” since it had been 12 years since he had been on skis. Once he had the basics down, we headed up the Carpenter Express chairlift to Success.
I planned on taking the Rosebud cut off since it would be a bit easier for him for his first run. He didn’t see me and stayed on Success where the bottom is a tad steeper. I caught up with him and as anticipated, he had some initial challenges and stopped halfway down.
This was my opportunity – one that rarely comes and I wasn’t going to lose it. You see, Rick is a good athlete, and I knew he would quickly pass me up. I wanted to show off my hard work and newly found mad ski skills. So I did what any self respecting mom would do — I executed a controlled sideways slide then an abrupt hockey stop spraying him in the process.
With a straight face, I said, “Let’s face it, I am better than you.”
Then I took off.
We had a great laugh as he told the story to family and friends at Snow Park Lodge. Rick and I skied the rest of the afternoon with my friend Michelle and in no time, he was skiing beautiful turns, enjoying himself and waving at me as he passed me by. His wave, however, was one of respect.
It takes hard work and determination to learn to ski especially when you start after age 50. To be able to spend the day skiing with my son and have him dangle his arm over my shoulder again is a wonderful feeling and definitely worth the effort.
Thank you, Deer Valley.
In my December blog, I was trying to see into the future and guess what the new ski season might bring. If you read that piece, you might recall that I had no specific goal in mind. I was just going to “play it by ear” as I had done it for almost six decades. Now, peeking into the crystal ball is over. It’s time to look into the rear view mirror…
One truth I learned this season is that each ski day – just like our fingerprints or our irises – is totally unique. People often say, half-jokingly that there’s “no bad day skiing” and while I subscribe to this truth, I can also assert that each daily ski experience teaches us something remarkable, provides us with one-of-a-kind sensation and makes us constantly view the sport under a fresh angle.
When you live near a ski paradise like Deer Valley Resort, it’s very easy to become spoiled and only go out when all the ski planets and stars are in perfect alignment. It’s so easy to become very picky and, often times, far too demanding. If we don’t keep our attitude in check, we might surprise ourselves muttering “I only do perfect blue-bird days, and today there are just too many jet trails in the sky…” then dismiss another beautiful opportunity to make some great turns. Thank heavens, I have not yet reached that level of decadence!
This said, going out skiing when you live in a ski town truly requires a certain fortitude and discipline. Plus some extra tenacity that can make a whole world of difference between a fun-filled ski season, in which one can get up to speed and enjoy the sport to its fullest, and a succession of sporadic outings where the “ski legs” never seem to appear, even on closing day. Like many, I love powder and was rewarded earlier in April when we received some 18 inches of outstanding new snow. I was able to re-live the soft, forgiving and all-absorbing feelings that come with a generous cushion of genuine Utah dry powder.
Unlike the way I was used to (until last year) when I could get my fix of “pow” on a near daily basis, I made do this season with looking forward to the next snowfall and was quite appreciative when there were only six inches of fresh under my skis instead of the 24 I had come to expect. At this point, I would open a technical parenthesis and say that with the new, extra wide skis, “bottomless” powder has lost its seminal meaning. Moderns skis won’t sink, but for a few inches, no matter how far the hard bottom actually is from the surface!
Of course, I’m not a “dyed-in-the-wool” corduroy guy either, and I remain more attracted by the rough and tumble terrain, the one that is peppered with hidden obstacles like trees, “Volkswagen bumps” and small cliffs, the one that also requires tight turns and accepts the occasional “friction” between rocks, stumps and ski bases. I am talking about the kind of terrain that abounds on the west side of Lady Morgan, Daly Bowl and Chutes, and Son of Rattler, just to name a few famous Deer Valley spots!
All this to say that in a winter with less than average snow, skis used in that type of terrain generally take a beating and, to avoid it, I have overstayed the allotted time I normally use “rock skis,” and extended their short, transitional lives to almost a full season. Of course, in March as the snow turns to spring quality, I had plenty of opportunities to try my brand new skis on Deer Valley’s legendary corduroy, but for the most part, I spent a season taming some very unruly and hard to control “rock skis”.
I do believe that adversity makes us tougher as well as better and this is precisely what this season did to me. After skiing on my sub-par skis for months on end, I had an epiphany when I tried the new boards I had set aside, on some groomed runs or tested them on the April 9, miracle dump! This means I wasted no time: While agonizing on my old skis, I was just getting better and doing my utmost to push-back my own technical decrepitude!
Oh, yes, I almost forgot! There was another great lesson I learned this winter. Early January as I was filming Heidi Voelker, the new snow was beautiful but had blown into the open areas, which combined with a low visibility made skiing tricky, if not treacherous. Filming a fast skier like Heidi on bumpy terrain with a helmet cam isn’t easy either as the main objective is to keep the head – hence the camera – steady, constantly aimed at the skier and of course, try my best to stay in control. Suffice to say that I took at least two spills that cost me tons of energy. I discovered that, at my age, getting back on my feet is much harder than it used to be!
In conclusion, while I didn’t quite make it to the century mark in terms of days I skied this season, I still came quite close to that number with quality and fun-filled skiing, and this is perfectly fine with me. I had some wonderful moments, great memories, not one single bad fall and no collision either; my body is still whole. I am now ready to rest for a few months with the firm intent to do much, much better next season!
I say it a lot: Nobody has a better life than I do. I don’t say it boastfully—I’m just so thoroughly appreciative that I get to do work that I love while indulging in the Park City lifestyle 24/7. Entertainment journalists aren’t exactly a dime a dozen in the mountains, to be sure. (In fact, I had a conversation on this topic on the chairlift en route to Celebrity Skifest—with a fellow Vermont expat who lives in LA, and, it turns out, works at a PR agency with which I do a lot of business….the world is never smaller than on the chairlift at Deer Valley.)
Sure, once upon a time, I took a limo to the Emmys, but nothing beats taking a chairlift and a quick run down Silver Link to get myself to an event. Long live Celebrity Skifest.
Watching the race is always a blast, and I could hardly contain my glee as the snowfall intensified. Still, I had work to do. Again, in that once upon a time, I sat in the backstage press room asking actors about which designers they wore, and how surprised they were to win their award. But on this day, I was chatting up actors about our shared love for skiing at Deer Valley. I captured our shared “snow-eating grins” as well as some of their favorite Deer Valley ski memories:
“The people at Deer Valley are great,” Cheryl Hines told me. “Every guest gets treated like royalty—and I’m certainly not royalty!” Her trademark smile was in full evidence as she described the feeling she gets on a great powder day. “it’s a clear day and you stand on the top of the mountain and you can see everything,” the Suburgatory star explained. “There’s no feeling like it.”
The next thing I knew, I turned around and found myself face-to-face with Rosie Perez. I reminded her that we’d worked together when I’d been an editor at Glamour and Self Magazines, and we had a chance to catch up. “I’m not skiing,” she told me. “But I am so taken with what Bobby Kennedy is doing with the Waterkeeper Alliance, holding corporations accountable.” And, to be sure, she was a powerful one-woman cheering squad.
Julia Ormond was so taken with the action on the hill, I hated to interrupt her—but we wound up chatting about the beauty of pulling oneself out of the comfort zone. “Honestly, I hate the idea of putting myself out there as a skier—I’m not used to powder, and I’m not that confident, but for something as good and compelling as the Waterkeeper Alliance, I’ll do it,” she said. “For a good cause, you have to get over yourself. It’s important.”
Moments later, we were chatting about the beauty of the falling snow, and I fell into a conversation with Rob Morrow—someone I look forward to seeing every year, because, like me, he’s unabashed about his love for skiing at Deer Valley—and I’m always thrilled to note that he shares that with his wife and daughter.
Rob told me that he was temporarily converted to a “trees and powder skier” by his friend and fellow actor, Tim Daly, on one fine powder day last year. “He took me to some places I’d never been—and would never have gone on my own,” Rob told me. “Suddenly, I’m a snob for powder and trees.”
A moment later, Rob confessed to me that he’s so taken with the beauty and the people at Deer Valley that he and his wife have a long-held fantasy of “finding a year to just move here.” I didn’t hesitate to tell him that he’d have no regrets.
One week into Deer Valley’s 2012-13 season and we were blessed with a powder day! If we keep this pace (and the forecast for the upcoming week looks like we will) it will make for great skiing over the holiday.
I have to admit today’s skiing was a pleasant surprise. Last year, we weren’t able to ski the Empire area and especially the Chutes until mid-January! Yup, we are already a month ahead of ourselves. I met up with some of the locals and ripped a few runs.
This picture certainly isn’t the ” epic” powder shot technically but you can see from the look on my face how fun and excited I was. We took the next picture for fun because we really didn’t know how it was going to be making the first turns of the season in the Daly Chute but at least we could say we were warned.
I’m glad we explored. Come out and see for yourself! If the storms line up as I have been hearing, we are on our way to great skiing.
Heck, just today toppled all of last year!
See you on the slopes.
Once more and just like last year, Deer Valley Resort made it to its last day with flying colors! On closing weekend, the mountain was dressed up into an immaculate coat of white; in fact it had been snowing almost all week long, ending the winter season, just like the previous ones, on the highest possible note.
It’s quite fair to say that Mother Nature didn’t do much to help during the peak winter months, as if she were avariciously hording snow for some unknown purpose, but the Deer Valley’s snow-making crews came to the rescue and more than compensated for a lackluster snow-year and sparse precipitations.
(Photo by Daniel Diyanni)
All along, I never held great expectations about natural snowfalls and, as a result, was never disappointed. Instead, I skied more than my share and I could only rejoice when a number of providential blizzards transformed the mountain. These abundant precipitations first came in the later part of January, lasted for days around mid-February, and then in a more routine, spring-like fashion, during March and early April.
(Photo by Ryan Turner)
Of course, the credit for what ended up being another great season, rested more on the snow-maker shoulders and the groomers fine-combing expertise, than on the skies natural bounty, and for once, the snow-making insurance-policy protection came into full force and delivered the goods!
(Photo by Ryan Turner)
This said, the season was packed with wonderful days of skiing, powder snow, both untouched and meticulously manicured, and at times it was hard to believe that it was a dryer-than-usual winter. When January came around, tree skiing was again a possibility and the opportunities for powder “face-shots” were much more frequent than I would have imagined.
It’s too bad that these sensations are so hard to share, because if they could be telegraphed in more vivid terms, many folks who ended up staying on the sidelines might have made the effort to come out and experience these great ski days for themselves. I, for one, discovered new runs, new path in the trees and by the time the resort closed down this past Sunday , I still could not get enough good skiing!
Of course, I’ve always been a late bloomer as far as skiing goes. I never get really excited too early in the season. My passion for the sport needs to build up and as April comes along, I’m still eager and ready, but nature thinks otherwise… The morale of the story is that, whether we live next to Deer Valley Resort, in the Salt Lake Valley, Los Angeles or New York, we should never assume that “conditions are bad.” The ski reality that Deer Valley creates always exceeds our best imagination!
(Photo by Gus Steadman)
As our delayed winter may linger for a few more weeks, there still might be a few turns in store for me under the form of alpine ski touring, as soon the skies clear and the snow return to “corn” quality. Mountain biking is still a good distance away, and frankly, before thinking too much about the upcoming summer and its endless array of activities, I need to take a long mental vacation from this past winter!
I’ve been out of town for a week and I’ll let you in on where I was. I often hear, “I haven’t seen you all year” well even if I’m not at Deer Valley, I’m always skiing! I have had the fortune of partaking in the NASTAR finals in Winter Park, CO for the last four years. No, I didn’t qualify, I’m invited to be one of seven pace setters. This entails trying to set the pace against, AJ Kitt, Jake Fiala, Doug Lewis, Ted Ligety, Picabo Street and Steve Nyman. The adventures begin Friday where we are paired up. I was with Doug (Mr. Universal Sports) and he had me laughing the entire time (not hard to do). We start by setting our new handicap with two runs then we go to our designated race arena. Somehow Doug and I had the most courses. Friday & Saturday we took 14 runs. These aren’t free skiing, easy runs these are behind the wand race runs. Remember we are trying to beat each other, I must be getting old. We also have receptions, sponsor dinners and awards ceremonies that take hours. I’m not complaining just trying to shed some light on our busy days. Although the days are full it’s a blast to be around all these successful skiers.
(Heidi and Doug Lewis)
Some of the highlights of the weekend were seeing so many Park City families participating. Thankfully I see them at home because there is no time to catch up at the finals. I have seen one mother since being back and her comment was, “all of you are in your element, so fun to watch”. Another was my little buddy Colby Starr placing second in his age group. He was nervous on race day and I got to inspect the race course with him. I think it might have calmed his nerves. And the Sheppard family came through with bells and whistles to place two kids in their age group and top ten in the family events!
(Heidi with the Sheppard Family)
Being paired up with Doug kept me laughing and on our final run after we crossed the finish with both laid down. People asked if we were tired? No we answered” were icing our backs”! The first day the courses were soooo tight. I blew my line all weekend trying to keep up. One time was I was going so slow Doug caught up to me and asked in mid-racing “how’s that turn working for ya?” I love going to the event (as we all do) because it lets us see over 1,200 people who love the sport. We try our best to say hi to all of you. It also allows us to catch up with our fellow teammates and be silly again.
(Ted Ligety and Heidi just before pacesetting)
As I approach this next week at Deer Valley it will be the last of my season. For Spring Break were going to enjpy some sun and fun in Disneyworld! Should be interesting. I haven’t been there since I was the same age as my oldest son. I’ll understand what my mom went through. However, I will be home in time for closing weekend and closing day. I have a feeling the last day will be a snow storm. Should we make a bet? Maybe one of the best powder days will be April 15th. I look forward to a break in Florida but excited to always close the ski season at Deer Valley.
See you on the slopes.