NASTAR National Championships

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.

Trip of a Lifetime Winner: Deer Valley

Scott Dwyer was the winner of SKI Magazine’s Trip of a Lifetime Contest to Deer Valley Resort. While flying home following the trip he was able to reflect and so kindly shared his experience with us. Enjoy!

I’m here to say that dreams really do come true and, when those dreams include Deer Valley, there is a very fine line between fantasy and reality. At times, the delineation between the two is only separated by the smile on my face and the joy in my soul.

I suppose I could qualify as the quintessential reader of SKI Magazine and fan of Deer Valley: I typically read the magazine cover-to-cover, and, prior to my first visit to Deer Valley last year, considered reading the trail map to study the terrain and amenities a mandatory night time activity. Further, I was well aware that Deer Valley was awarded the top spot in the reader rankings for the fifth year in a row and knew the exact dates the SKI Magazine Deer Valley Trip of a Lifetime entries were open.  Like many I’m sure, I submitted an entry and forgot about it.

In late December, though, my fantasy turned into reality as my email inbox glowed with the subject line “Trip of a Lifetime Winner: Deer Valley”! It took several glances to confirm it as fact and me not delusional.

It didn’t take long to fall in love with Deer Valley during our first visit, but I suddenly knew that our second visit would be infinitely more special. Sure, my wife and I looked forward to sitting in Cushing’s Cabin while gazing out over the majestic snow-covered peaks again, but imagine our delight when we discovered our award included elegant accommodations, a loaded welcoming gift basket, lift tickets, and all meals highlighted with dinners at the Seafood Buffet and Mariposa! Yes, our second visit would be special!

While all of the resort amenities were nothing short of remarkable, the highlight of our trip was meeting a bunch of really nice people. These are not just ordinary people; these are a cadre of very special people that elevated a very nice trip to a magical experience and helped us turn the resort into “Our Deer Valley.” It is impossible to mention everyone that had an impact on our trip, but some highlights include: breakfast with Communications Manager Emily Summers, meeting other members of the marketing team that had a hand in making our trip happen (thanks Terry, Ed, and Coleen!), our Mariposa waiter Jon Good, a litany of on-the-mountain hosts and guides, and ski equipment storage representatives that handled all of our gear with warmth and a smile.

How do you say thank you for something like that? I suppose a vote towards the sixth straight number one ranking is a good place to start. That is kind of a given, though, and I wanted to do something more. You see, leading up to our first visit, I became so enamored with the 30th anniversary Deer Valley logo that I decided to paint it.

(Scott’s fantastic painting for Deer Valley’s 30 Year Anniversary)

This year, though, required something more unique, so I used the view from Cushing’s Cabin as inspiration and painted a fall scene using the Deer Valley logo and a large number one. I’m proud to say that both are now in the possession of the resort and, I hope, serve as just one reminder of how special this place makes people feel.

(Scott’s latest painting)

So, on the plane ride back to North Carolina with my wife by my side, I started typing…and thinking. My thoughts were dominated by the reality that our stay at Deer Valley was really an Experience of a Lifetime, a remarkable series of events that we will never forget. And, while our vacation did many things, it certainly made me wonder how quickly we could get back, hopefully sooner than later. Until that time, I’ll be filtering through my memories of a special place and thinking of what to paint next year. For that, I’m certainly open to suggestions.

It’s My Deer Valley with Stephen Harty

We couldn’t wait to sneak down to the bakery and catch up with Silver Lake and Empire Pastry Chef, Stephen Harty. The man behind some of the wonderful desserts at the resort shares with us “His Deer Valley.”

When did you come to Deer Valley?

I started as a seasonal baker in the Snow Park Lodge in the 1995/1996 season (17 years and counting). I was a production baker working three 6 a.m. shifts, so I could get out skiing for two hours after my shift, and two 8am shifts. I had a young family so I had Tuesdays and Thursdays off to be Daddy daycare/preschool.

What does a perfect ski day mean to you?

Big POW and still snowing! I love those days when it just keeps on coming. I’ll admit I am a “crack of ten o’clock” skier so all day dumps suit me. The storms from the south that bring the biggest snow to the Sultan side of the resort are my favorite.

Where is your favorite place to eat at Deer Valley?

The Natural Buffet during lunch at all three lodges offer such a variety of unique salads, creative sides, as well as house made dressings and of course homemade breads, you can’t beat the great tastes. You do have to be creative in the way you stack your plate to get the value as well as the flavors.

What do you enjoy about baking?

The great thing about baking at Deer Valley Resort is that we do such a wide range; from artisan breads and baguettes, bulk production of cookie dough (huge amounts) and carrot cakes, small production of high end plated desserts (with all their sauces and garnishes), elaborate wedding cakes, and chocolate. I truly enjoy the variety. I enjoy the creativity and the science of baking, especially at the varying altitudes. I enjoy working with new flavors and products to keep Deer Valley baked goods at the fore front of trends. I enjoy mastering the classic recipes so we can put our own twist on them. And I really enjoy all the taste testing!

Your must have treat at Deer Valley?

17 years and 1000’s of batches of cookies and I still love the cookie dough! Plus all the chocolate that we serve.

What run is a must for every ski day?

Anything off-piste off the Sultan lift and Ontario bowl (I have some “secret stashes” in there that are good for days after a storm).

Who is your favorite person to ski with?

I have been riding chairlifts with my beautiful bride, Sandy, for 25 years. We celebrate together on our first ride up each year and I look forward to continuing for 25 more.

Can you share a recipe with us?

French Silk Pie
Yield: 1 Pies

5 oz Unsweetened Chocolate
8 oz Butter,Room Temperature
8 oz Brown Sugar
1 1/2 t  Vanilla
1 c  Pasteurized Eggs
1    10″ Brisee Shells,Pre-baked
-
Whipped cream,AS Needed
Chocolate Shavings,AS Needed
1.  Pre-bake 10″ brisee shells.  Let cool completely.
2.  Melt unsweetened chocolate over a double boiler.  Set aside.
3.  Cream butter until very soft.
4.  Add brown sugar and beat until very soft and fluffy.  Stopping to
occasionally scrape.
5.  Add vanilla extract.
6.  Add melted chocolate and mix until combined, scrapping occasionally.

7.  Add eggs VERY SLOWLY, about 1/4 cup at a time, incorporating well
after each addition.  Stopping to scrape occasionally.
8.  It will take awhile to add all of the eggs if you do it correctly.
**If you add the eggs too fast-the batter will be grainy and not light
and fluffy**
9.  When all the eggs are added divide into crusts.  Using an offset
spatula, spread to smooth out top.
10.Wrap and Chill.
11.  To Serve:  Finsh top with whipped cream pipped in a shell pattern
using medium star tip. and sprinkle with chocolate shavings.

Epic feast at the Seafood Buffet

One of the best reasons to do a specialty clinic at Deer Valley is not necessarily the top-flight ski instruction—although, that’s certainly a worthy selling point. It’s the chance that lightning will strike, and you’ll be placed in a group with interesting people you wouldn’t have otherwise met. And if you’re really, really lucky, they’ll become your friends. This certainly happened last year , when I met Stacey and Jackie and our talented, big-hearted instructor Letitia.

We’d all stayed in touch, and tried our best to plan a Women’s Weekend Redux—and we almost succeeded. Jackie had family commitments that kept her from the March weekend we’d chosen. Stacey and I, however, were in “game on” mode. Stacey’s pregame strategy consisted of quick witty emails to me that described her ski days (“found my mojo in Perseverance Bowl today!”) and accused me of leaving her in the dust after I completed the Mahre Training Center camp at Deer Valley in February.

My pregame strategy was entirely different: I invited Letitia, along with Stacey and her husband Steve, to join Jeffrey and me at Seafood Buffet on the Thursday evening before the Women’s Weekend began. I half-joked that I wanted to see to it that Letitia overate, so that she’d go easy on us in the morning. I had another thing coming.

Before we embarked on the epic feast, Letitia tried to prep us for the coming weekend. “You can’t expect the same magic we had last year in our group,” she said. “You can only hope for it. And you—” here, she turned to me—“you are probably going to land in a higher group than mine. I hear you’ve made more progress.” Stupid me, and my big mouth.

Stacey added, “I don’t want you to feel obligated to ski with me. I don’t want to hold you back.”

I tried to remind myself that I’d learned not to downplay my ability—but I really couldn’t imagine that the differences in my skiing would be that great. .

Instead of engaging in a debate, I suggested we embark on the team activity at hand—tackling the Seafood Buffet.

The great thing about this restaurant is the subtle sense of surprise.

First, whether you’re a rookie—and yes, we had what we termed a “Seafood Bufffet Virgin” at the table (Hi, Steve!)—or a veteran, you can’t help but be surprised by the abundance of choices and the quality of the food—both in taste and presentation.

Second, there are always some new items woven into the mix—on this evening, there was a runaway hit with an appetizer of a roasted tomato stuffed with warm goat cheese—and a hint of heat.

Third, no matter how hard you try to pace yourself, you will always, always surprise yourself with the quantity of food that you’re able to consume in an evening.

We chided each other over sushi—“Don’t fill up on the rice! You need to save valuable digestive real estate for the crab legs!”

Letitia uttered a maxim that is as true as the local’s rallying cry (“No friends on a powder day!”) when there’s a foot of fresh on the hill—“There’s no waiting,” she said. “When you’re ready for the next course, you go get it.”

Our Virgin was not disappointed. Neither were the rest of us.

Skiing the X-Files is just like Stand-Up Comedy

I’ve been fantasizing about skiing the X-Files since JF Lanvers posted a series of blogs (with video!) about this mysterious tree run in Empire Canyon. I knew it would be fun, if I could work up the nerve—I didn’t realize that skiing it would mark a major milestone in my life. Of course, it goes without saying the big-deal milestones of my life—marriage, motherhood—are beyond comparison. And I’m reasonably certain that I’ll be hard-pressed to compare even my best day on the slopes to those moments. (However, in the unlikely event that I am invited to compete in the Winter Olympic Games—Senior or otherwise—I reserve the right to revise that.). Still, it was something I’d long-fantasized about, and hoped I’d do someday.

In fact, skiing the X-Files was exactly—EXACTLY—as much fun as one of the most treasured moments in my professional career: The night I opened for Caroline Rhea at Caroline’s Comedy Club in New York City.

The back-story is that I was the assigning editor on a story that Caroline Rhea, one of the funniest people in America, did for a magazine where I worked. We spent a lot of hours together—and in that time, she decided I was funny, that the silly stories I told her about my life and my family were actual “bits,” and that the world needed to hear the comedy of Bari Nan Cohen. Oy vey. I balked for a half-second and then realized I had access to a unique opportunity.

So she helped me hone this material and, there I was—legs shaking with adrenaline and with a view from the stage of that freaky digital countdown clock that only the talent can see. 2:59, 2:58…breathe.

I was reminded of this experience on the last day of this year’s Women’s Weekend Specialty Clinic, which found me, by 10 a.m., hiking across the ridge above Daly Chutes, like I owned the place. (For the record, it’s wider than I thought, and has one of the most breathtaking 360 degree views I’ve ever seen—and not a clock in sight.) The hike made me grateful that I’d (mostly) kept up with my running habit this winter—I was only a little winded as we crested the highest point of the ridge. And, yes, I had a stellar mentor in my instructor Letitia, who’d sized up my skills and determined that X-Files needed ‘em.

Thus, we glided over to the entrance to X-Files. And as we found turn after turn, I was nearly overcome with emotion. (“Don’t cry—your goggles will fog,” I told myself.)  It’s beautiful and peaceful there. And eminently skiable—the trees aren’t nearly as tightly packed as they look from the “outside.”

As I completed turn after turn, I found myself drawing on all the preparation I’d unwittingly done for this moment, pulling a variety of tools from the skill sets Letitia and the other teachers had drilled into me over the course of three days. Side-slips turned into swooshes of snow pushed out of the way, wedge Christies became parallel turns. Just as the days leading up to my comedy debut were spent under Caroline Rhea’s careful tutelage on projection and timing, so that on performance night, I’d be good to go.

I can’t say with any certainty that either performance was “pretty” from a technical standpoint. I can, however, confirm, that both hold places of honor in the category I like to call, The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had Standing Up. And no, I’m not working blue right now.

But what I can tell you is this: In both instances, I didn’t really care how it looked. I was having so much fun, how it looked, well, it just didn’t matter. In both instances I had a great support system. In the club, I’d planted some key friends and colleagues in the audience. In the trees, I had Letitia, my pal Stacey and two other women who were just rockin’ ski companions. We cheered each other on, the same way my friends had laughed at my jokes louder than anyone else in the club.

The skills I brought into the X-Files—timing, correcting my form errors to prevent falling—even looking past the trees (for, if you look at the tree, you will most certainly ski into it) and reaching down the hill to make the turn—had their roots in those rehearsals with Caroline. You need to think fast when you’re onstage, you need to revise your bits to fit the audience, and you need to have good timing, you need all those things to be able to improvise. You need to look beyond the clock and read the audience. Caroline Rhea may not think of herself as a ski instructor, but I’m telling you, I would have had a lesser foundation for absorbing the lessons I’ve had on the hill, without the comedy coaching.

And, while the bragging rights to both things are cool, it’s not really (much) about that. There is a certain satisfaction that comes from knowing you have the tools to do something.

I’d like to say I didn’t continue past my one night in comedy because life got in the way. That could be true. But comedy requires singular focus, driving passion, and the ability to travel the country for low-paying gigs rife with hecklers in the hope you can eke out a living—and the very faint hope you’ll get famous doing it. As it happens, the night I did standup occurred during my last weeks in New York—my heart was already in Park City, we’d just closed on the house; Jeff was checking on things, scheduling the water softener installation; service on the furnace, making sure the lawn sprinklers were set properly, meeting the neighbors. And maybe if I hadn’t planned the move, I might have taken some improv and stand-up classes in the city, and given it a go on open mic night.

Instead, I followed my heart and my skis to Utah—and learned to ski the trees. Decently. I’m not stopping ‘til I’m awesome at it. And then, who knows?

So, if you were one of the hundred or so people in the world who got to witness my comedy debut, all I can say is: Come ski with me sometime. I’m a better skier than I am a comic. And if you weren’t—maybe I’ll dig up the video of my time on stage and show it to you.

Deer Valley Tops the “Bucket List”

Climb a volcano. Get the other guy elected. Perfect your chili recipe. Learn to play the oboe. Visit New Zealand. What do all these activities have in common?  They are written on someone’s “bucket list.” In case you don’t know, a bucket list is a list of things you’d like to experience before you die or “kick the bucket.” (Check out bucketlist.org) This list is much different than a list of New Year’s resolutions which are simply meant to be broken – a bucket list is put together with a fair amount of contemplation and meant to be both fun and meaningful.

Sometimes plans, even bucket list plans, are meant to be changed. Ron and El DeSimoni from Kinnelon, New Jersey wrote a bucket list a few years ago to ski a different resort “out west” each year.  They’d skied in Vermont their whole lives and once they got a taste of the snow out west, they wanted more. They skied in California, then Colorado and Montana – every year brought with it a new adventure.  Well that WAS their plan until they came to Deer Valley last year, then they ditched their plan and came back.

That is when I met them.  Though they were veteran skiers, they decided to take a refresher lesson to work on turn control and were paired up with me for a Max Four lesson.  From them I learned more about my home resort than I learned anywhere else – I discovered I had stumbled onto a gem. I wanted to know why they weren’t headed off to a different resort next year.  Why change the bucket list? Here is what I found out:

What is so special about Deer Valley to you?

“The mountain is beautiful and there is lots of terrain here.  We like to explore the whole mountain and not stay in one place.  At Deer Valley, the runs are well taken care of – all skiable.

The mountain hosts are helpful.  One of them suggested the Lady Morgan lift – “there is a wonderful green run there, Pearl, and the views are amazing.”  We headed out there and loved every minute of it.”

What was your favorite run?

“I’d have to say the blue runs on Flagstaff Mountain – Hawkeye and Little Boulder.  They are challenging enough for us as well as nice and wide.  All the runs on Flagstaff are great for us.”

Biggest surprise on the slopes?

“The parking lot was full but there were no lift lines.  You never even noticed it on the mountain either – we always felt comfortable (even though it was a busy weekend.)

We also never felt lost.  A mountain guide was always there to guide us.  They acted like they really wanted us back. It’s great having that service. The whole experience was wonderful.”

Biggest surprise off the slopes?

“They really bent over backwards where we stayed to make it wonderful. I can’t say enough about the Silver Baron Lodge.  They gave us a fabulous room – no problem.  Shuttle service – no problem. They did everything for us. We were well taken care of.”

Guess what?  They are booking at Deer Valley for a third straight year. Hope to see you on the mountain next year Ron and El!

Katie learns just how much fun spring skiing can be on Day #3

So truth be told, I love to complain. If it were a sport in the Olympics, I would hands down take the gold, silver and bronze. So although I’ve said that I hated skiing before and I’m starting to like it now, doesn’t mean that I didn’t have my fair share of complaints during this whole experience. I won’t lie and say it wasn’t cold, and that falling didn’t hurt, or even that it was an easy experience that I fell in love with instantly. But I will tell you that it was something that I have zero regrets doing and that I may not be a diehard skier now, but through this experience I have grown to be more patient, more confident, and willing to put effort into it even though I’m not that great. It’s easy to love something that you are good at, but much more difficult to find fun in something that you’ve sworn to loathe.

After my first and second lesson, I was pleased with my progress and thankful for the chance to learn a new skill, but I really had zero intentions of ever going again (this is where my excellent complaining skills came into play). And then I was informed that I got one more lesson! I was excited, but also really nervous because I was probably going to have to really ski, like actual runs, with actual potential to eat it hard core. So while heading up the canyon I told myself that it was fun and I loved it and I would live. Cue complaining, again.

And then I got my stuff and we were off, just to the beginners slope at first but Eddy assured me that we would hit the actual slopes today in his perky-I-love-skiing-more-then-life- sort of way that he does best. The first run down I was shaking and not loving it, and then all of the sudden it hit. I felt that I was OK and that I could survive the full lesson and then real skiing began.
We went to some of the runs where it was super sunny, and created a whole new type of snow that I was not used to. Snow that’s a little slushy is clearly my kind of snow. It makes turning a bit more difficult but helps keep your speed in check, no complaint with that. Not to mention the sun! It was so beautiful and made the resort look so much different in such a breathtaking way. We made it over to Deer Crest and Eddy could easily sense my change of mood and knew that this sort of skiing was Katie Fredrickson sort of skiing. We went down our first run which was an easy blue, and I felt good about it. Then we did the same run again, and again, and again. It got to the point where I could relax and enjoy the run, instead of focusing on what my feet were doing.

Then Eddy told me that I was ready for a harder run and that it was not much different at all. Looking at this run was very frightening. I looked at Eddy and said, “Alright crazy, what run are we really going to do?” After about five minutes of me standing there and Eddy reassuring me about a million times that I was more than capable to handle this run, we set off. Turns out, I could handle that run, and had fun all the way to the bottom. When we reached the bottom Eddy started laughing and I asked him what was so funny, assuming I looked like a spazz. His reply was, “Look at you, actually skiing and you are smiling. First time I’ve ever seen that smile!” No joke this was when I knew that I would come back and ski on my own sometime.

Eventually we met up with Deer Valley blogger JF Lanvers and he asked me how I was doing. My answer was, “fantastic, we are skiing and looking legit!” And his response is probably the greatest thing that I have ever heard. Imagine his French accent and his smiley face saying, “Well why else would we ski but to look cool?” LOVE IT! We got some good runs in, I did fall (which was so kindly edited out of JF’s video), but if you don’t fall, you’re not trying.

This experience was the only thing that would ever have made me enjoy skiing. I’ve even have plans to go within the next week. I never thought I would actually have plans to go skiing. Thanks to everyone at Deer Valley, especially Eddy, you all made me like skiing and build the skills so that I can learn to love it.

Heidi Heads to NASTAR Championships

I just realized how time flies and I haven’t posted an update for a while. Where does the season go? I guess it’s spent being busy on the mountain! I’m not complaining. I was able to demo Blizzard’s new Samba ski recently. First I had to go into Cole Sport and make sure my bindings were adjusted correctly. I tried tuning them myself, which anyone who knows me knows was a mistake. I can’t tune a ski, I’ve never had to tune my own skis. But I do know a well-tuned ski and a ski that performs. Let me say skiing the Samba is like doing the Samba dance! So much fun! I also had a peek at next year ladies Black Pearl. If they ski anything like their top sheet cosmetic, they will perform beautifully.

Heidi Head to Head with Doug Lewis this winter a .01 separation.

I was looking at my calendar and realized I’ve been skiing almost every day and we have just over 5 weeks left to the season. Only 34 days left to ski. Out of those 34 I’m on skis 25 days from the looks of my schedule. Out of the 25, 5 are days at the NASTAR Championships.  If you haven’t registered yet make sure you do, the deadline is March 14. If you haven’t attended the National Championships before, it’s a great time to be around people that love skiing; or simply a great opportunity to take some time off from your regular routine. It will be really fun this year because NASTAR has added two new events, Return of the Champion Family Challenge event and a Pro-Am with old and current U.S. Ski Team athletes. Come and watch the old and young battle it out on the mountain. I’m excited to catch up with Sarah Schelper who I haven’t seen since my last race 15 years ago! NASTAR Championships is a social event.  I’ve been involved for four years and look forward to it every year. It’s a great way to catch up with past teammates and fans! I think the new Pro –Am will be so much fun and a great addition. How cool will it be to have a current U.S. Ski Team member ski with you on a team for the day? Go to the NASTAR website and see who you can pick. By Tuesday you’ll be tired of the “pacesetters” and will be looking for fresh fast skiers. I’m also looking forward to The Family Challenge. Just think, you could earn the title of the fastest NASTAR family nationwide. I think that deserves some bragging rights. I hope this excites you to join the party go to nastar.com and sign up!

Make sure you come by Deer Valley’s NASTAR Race Course and get a few practice runs in. I usually go there to make sure I can still turn them. It’s a great way to get the rush of racing and prep for the finals. Even though the NASTAR Championships are all about fun, we all still want to be the lowest handicap. It just won’t happen for me when I’m racing against Ted Ligety, Sarah Schelper, Aj Kitt but Doug Lewis.

I hope to see you at NASTAR finals and the NASTAR Race Course at Deer Valley. I will let you know how the Championships end up. I have two weeks to practice!

See you on the Slopes.

A Learn-to-Ski Rookie Mistake to Avoid

When I was a little girl my father always told me, “If you are going to do something, do it right.”  I wished I had listened to him instead of making a classic rookie learn-to-ski mistake.  I got the wrong equipment for my ability level.  A ski swap seemed like a good idea at the time, but was a place I really had no business going.

My husband and I moved to Park City last fall and were very excited about learning to ski.  So we picked up some gently used skis, helmets, poles, gloves and a really nice jacket for my son (which I have since claimed as my own) at the National Ability Center ski swap.  We love donating to a great cause but when you think about it for a minute; I really didn’t have the slightest chance of finding the right skis.  As expected, I didn’t. I found this out when I tried them out on the Wide West run (the bunny hill) and took off like a rocket!

After a few practice runs, I decided to try a green run so I hopped on the Carpenter Express with my friends and headed for “Success.” I must have been a sight crossing back and forth across the run.  My friends were probably thinking, “Doesn’t she know she is supposed to go down the hill?”  But every time I pointed my tips down the hill, I flew. I muddled my way down with some coaching from my friends but spent most of the day back on the Wide West run because I just didn’t feel confident.

When I got home that night, I “googled” my skis and bindings.  I read the words, “slalom, racing, expert, and carving” and knew I was in trouble.  None of those words even remotely applied to me.  So the next day, I decided to get some help from the experts at the Deer Valley rental shop.  A smiling green jacketed technician set up me up with some skis, Rossignol Avenger 74s that actually fit my height, weight and ability.  They were shorter and much lighter with auto-turn technology– I saw words like “stable and forgiving” and I knew I was in the right place.  My technician also gave me some tips on some runs to take.  He said, “Take Ontario! It is wide and very beautiful – nice beginner run.”  He took the time to show me exactly how to get there and off I went.

Guess what?  I had a wonderful experience with controlled turns and I was actually skiing down the hill, not back and forth across the run (making life much easier for the skiers behind me also.)  The right equipment made all the difference in the world.

Do you know what I am doing next?  I am avoiding the second most common beginning skier mistake – not taking lessons.  I decided to take my father’s advice after all and enrolled in a couple sessions of lessons.  I haven’t met the smiling instructor in a green jacket who is going to take this rookie and turn her into a skier in three hours, but I am looking forward to doing so.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Letitia Lussier’s Deer Valley

To ski with Letitia Lussier is a singular experience—in that a day on the hill will reveal multiple facets of her personality, and of your own ski skills. Letitia was my group instructor during the Women’s Weekend last season .

As she guided us away from more populated runs, so that my newfound ski buddies, Stacey and Jackie, and I could drill down to better turns without distraction, she shared funny tales from her career, as well as from her life as an artist. And, quietly, with a lot of nurturing encouragement, she insisted we ski the trees. My mom and dad may shudder (a lot) when I talk about it, but if they’d been with us that day, they might even be convinced it was the safest place to ski anywhere.

Throughout the years, Letitia’s artist’s spirit has taken her many places in the summers, “ I live in Park City in the winter,” she says. “And I’ve lived in a variety of places in the summer- Wisconsin (x1),  Hawaii (x2), the red rock canyons of southern Utah (x2), Washington (x2) and Wyoming (x2) but I’ve also spent many summer here in PC.”

And, her work in the mountains feeds her muse when she steps into her home painting studio. Art lessons are life lessons, and vice-versa. “Every day I witness such incredible beauty,” she says. “I make it a point to take the time to notice, to really look at my surroundings as they change every day sometimes every hour. Inspiration is all around me which is reflected in my paintings of DV,” she says, “I’ve developed gratitude for the peak moments I experience in these mountains and in life. There is nothing more powerful.”

 

Hometown: Auburn, ME

Years in Park City: “I’ve been with Deer Valley since day one!” In other words, you do the math.

Year one as an instructor was…”Fun! We were a tight-knit group of 23, counting one supervisor and director. We worked hard and played hard. Now we are nearly 500 instructors.”

I’m a fan of teaching Adult Specialty Programs like Women’s Weekend because…With a well matched group you have the opportunity to learn from each other, to cheer and support one another. You have the chance to create friendships with shared interests and the added bonus of finding others at your ski ability. This cohesiveness can offer the right kind of learning atmosphere for these programs. The group dynamics can be so much fun when people want to learn and have a good time. We (instructors) love skiing and enjoying sharing that passion with others.

My ideal ski day at DV is…

A “bluebird” day of crisp blue skies and deep, fresh, sparkling champagne powder. As I ride up on the chair I look in awe at the evergreen trees which are laden with snow, even the tiniest of branches on the aspen trees are decked with snow giving them a lacy, intricate look. Reaching the summit I stand there transfixed as my breath is taken away by the expansive beauty. I can’t believe how lucky I am to witness such grandeur.  On my descent the quality of the snow as I ski through it is so light it blows up in my face refreshing me with every turn. There is a unique quality to the sound as I fly through it, it is effervescent like my favorite bubbly. The snow is so light and deep I have the sense that I am floating weightlessly down the mountain, it feels velvety soft beneath my feet.   Skiing down the slope I am enveloped in a rich alpine environment  that gives me a welcome feeling. Off in the distance, I hear the call note of the chickadee, it is a sound I recognize and enjoy. I spot some animal tracks in the snow, giving hint of the activities from the night before.   This place I call home has a life of it’s own, and I feel energized by it. Every run is through virgin powder, putting a grin on my face that stretches from ear to ear. I ski until my legs feel like noodles and I can no longer go on.

On days like this I ski with: Skiing with my beau, Tom. First chair. First run is where ever the snow looks the deepest.

My go-to areas on the mountain are…

Sultan and Empire

Favorite groomer? 

Tycoon

Favorite trees? 

Anchor Trees

Must-have lunch break plan:

Empire Canyon Lodge. Salad Bar. Arnold Palmer. Chocolate-chip Cookie

My most treasured apres ski ritual is…Enjoying a nice cold beer and reflecting on an exceptional day feeling totally spent.

Best lessons learned as a ski instructor:

How to deal with a variety of people. Developing patience is key— every person has their own pace and learning styles. Maintaining a sense of humor when things go awry. Sharing my passion is contagious—that never changes.