Chris Katzenberger, Recruiting and Adult Program Manager at the Deer Valley Ski School
JF: First and foremost, what makes Deer Valley Children Ski School different?
CK: From the beginning, Deer Valley Resort has taken a holistic approach to family skiing. In fact we’ve targeted adults and children together. For instance, we don’t have a separate adult and children ski school; every instructor is expected to teach both adults and children. Again, the main goal is to take care of the entire family, not just the adult that walks in the door. Instructors are trained to understand children mentally, physically and emotionally. We’re also always looking to new technologies as well, like the “SunKid” conveyor lifts that are a great way to gently introduce kids to the use of various lifts without creating unnecessary worry on the part of parents.
JF: I’ve heard about your Deer Valley mascots; what’s their purpose?
CK: The mascots play a very important role in our program with Quincy the Bear, Ruby the Raccoon, Silver the Eagle and Bucky the Deer. They are part of a story book for children and each has a different role. Once children learn the story through our coloring books and indoor activities they get to me meet the Mascots on the Mountain. Our instructor assistants that help smaller children with riding the lifts and other activities also dress-up as Mascots, so if we have a “snow cone” day, or an “avalanche-dog day,” the mascots are there to encourage children participation into what goes on, and get their undivided attention! We’re expending more into creating a children’s friendly environment in which they get the fantasy they need within our great mountain scenery. To complement this year’s new trail map, we continue to offer a coloring book that tells the story of Silver the Eagle, Quincy the bear, Ruby the Raccoon, Bucky the Deer, and explains what each character does specifically in terms of safety, staying warm, etc.
JF: What’s new for kids this season at the Deer Valley Ski School?
CK: The big thing are the four new conveyor lifts, called “SunKid,” with three of them on Wide West and one at Silver Lake. Even though children still learn how to side-step and herring-bone to climb, these conveyors make it easier for them as small children don’t have to get tired out by doing it over and over. To accommodate these new surface lifts, Snowflake has been moved up by two or three lift towers. The first “SunKid” will be fenced in green, the next one fenced in yellow and the top one will be fenced in blue. The blue one is the longest at 380 feet, and takes approximately 2 to 3 minute to move the children up the hill.
JF: How do children benefit from these special lifts?
CK: These conveyors keep children rotating quickly and learning fast on that special area. Before they move to a chairlift, they will have learned how to control their speed, stop, make different size turns and will be familiar with riding up the hill. They’ll be able to hone their skills like changing directions, experimenting with a variety of turns and gaining valuable mileage by practicing up and down a lot. The other “SunKid”, also available in Silver Lake, will cater to children taking private lessons and will be a convenient amenity for guests staying at the Montage or around the Empire area.
JF: What else is new?
CK: We’re also introducing, a new trail map for children and in the next years, our plan is to make it totally interactive with our Deer Valley website by adding more excitement and a sense of adventure. In addition, we’re offering special children-friendly trail signs, featuring a new snowflake icon and indicating specific children’s ski features. These trails signs will stand as extra markers to bring attention to these special areas…
JF: How was your family program ranked by SKI magazine?
CK: We were happy that we received the #2 spot again on the family program. Other resorts have smaller facilities but ours is quite large. In our Center, parents can confidently drop their children in a friendly environment. Our Center is sectioned off into areas for each age groups; for instance the 5 to 6 year-old room can accommodate 200 kids, while the 4 year-old room is large enough to receive 80 to100 kids and the 3 year-only room will welcome 60 to. 80 kids. Of course there’s our Pre-School, the Deer Valley Academy Program, that operates through the school year with a highly qualified staff that can take care of everyone…
JF: How does a typical day go?
CK: The 3 and 4 year-old program is pretty much the same for both age groups, with indoor activities like reading, craft-time and puppet shows. Typically a 3 year-old skis one-on-one with the instructor; that’s right, one child per instructor, for about one hour and then transitions into our Childcare Center for indoor activities.
The 4 year-old skis quite a bit more; typically two and a half hours, with additional indoor activities for the rest of the day. We’re excited about our new permanent outdoor play area that will also be new this year and complete with snow…
The 5 to 6 years-old Reindeer group spends most of the day on snow from about 10 am to 3:45 pm . These children can be dropped off as early as 8:30 am and start to get ready for class between 9:30 and 10 am, then head out on the snow till 11:30 when they stop for a warm lunch (turkey hot-dog, chicken Parmesan, etc.) From 2:15 pm to 2:30 pm there’s the hot chocolate break, then they return to their skis, have perhaps a special activity in the meadow like safety talk, snow fun games, scavenger hunt, etc. and after that they ski till 3:45 pm when the lesson ends.
Our 7 to 12 year-old, Adventure Club group follow a similar schedule with the same kinds of breaks, plus the use of special on-snow, off-trails areas like Quincy Cabin, Ruby’s Tail and Bucky’s Backyard…
JF: In conclusion, how do your children’s programs contributes to Deer Valley being #1?
CK: What makes our children’s program a leader in its class are the people in our ski school. The instructors we hire in the position have great empathy for their young students and a full understanding of what goes on in a parent’s mind. They understand their fears and apprehensions and are skilled at turning them into fun on the snow, not just for the children, but for the entire family. Our guests like what they experience and keep returning with us. We have students that were in our “Bambi Club” years ago, and today, are returning to work with us as ski instructors!