First Turns

Ah, that first time!

I rolled out of bed earlier than usual for a Saturday, had a hearty breakfast with my wife, loaded our gear into the car, almost forgot to grab a pair of “very cool” ski boots (mine, that had stayed by accident inside our rather cold mud room,) got the rest of our equipment and drove to Deer Valley Resort for the first skiing day of the season.

Time does fly! This will be the 58th time I’m back on skis in my lifetime, not counting two full winter seasons in the southern hemisphere. This certainly dates me, but few will pay attention! At my age, I’m less in a hurry to “click them on” than I used to. It’s not that I lack the youthful enthusiasm of kids and teenagers, but like most people my age; I tend to become naturally apprehensive as time goes by. We might have some legitimate reasons for being more tentative, but most often than not, this early-season hesitancy is totally unwarranted.

Today happens to be my first ski day of the season and my wife offered to accompany me, as a way to lend me some moral support. It’s not that I have been off my skis for a long time either. My last day on the snow was less than five month ago, on July 4th to be precise, as I skied Snowbird on its late, late closing day. The hardest thing to do, perhaps, is to get into my good old (and cold) ski boots; will they recognize my feet? The two have led separate lives for a few months now and might not be like “peas in a pod” anymore? The fear wasn’t worth it. In spite of their temporary “cold nature,” the boots still hug my feet closely and yes, if those don’t feel the freedom that comes with flip-flops, they are held tightly, but quite comfortably. Walking in boots seems to be the only awkward issue there is…

Now, I click back into my bindings, skate towards the chairlift and board without thinking twice. As I ride up the hill, I observe the other skiers; all seem reasonably assured and appear to ski if they had not missed a beat since last season. Perhaps, they just want to psych me out and make me realize I have some serious catching up to do! I finally get to the top, point my tips down, my skis carve slightly to the left, I continue gliding a bit before getting into the main ski run, I feel my edge, let go, it’s there! I haven’t forgotten, I ski slowly and as seconds pass, gently let the speed be my guide and the momentum my engine. Turns follow and link one another, I let go of my tension. It’s all coming back now!

Early December, the sun is not quite as strong as it can get later on into the season, but I feel quite comfortable. All has been just perfect, until my wife asked me to check the vents on her ski helmet while we were riding up the chairlift. Hers were shut closed as they should have been in December. I asked her to reciprocate and tell me what the status of my helmet venting was. Not surprisingly, it was wide-open, letting the cold winter air in, in spite of my recent minimalist haircut. I must be close to brain-dead or in heat, because I didn’t feel anything. Once this major failing was discovered, my spouse asked me to raise my arms enough for her to discover that both vents, under each arm, were fully unzipped. My climate control settings obviously demonstrated adjustments made back last spring when temperatures were vastly different than today. What would I do without my better half?

On that first ski day of the season, the weather was beautiful, albeit a bit cool and we managed to do an impressive number of laps on of the many chairlifts that were opened to the public. I still remembered how to “turn’ em,” even though my first descents were a bit tentative, but now I’ convinced that I can begin another ski season with reasonable confidenc

Ski School Updates with Chris Katzenberger

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!

Thanksgiving Means Skiing

Well its official, I have had my first day of skiing for the 2011-2012 season today, Nov. 19. I can’t tell you where it was… Ok I guess I can, our friendly neighbors next door PCMR.  The conditions were perfect for early skiing so I know when we open the skiing will be great! However, I had a panic attack while on the chair. It registered with me that when PCMR opens it’s usually around Thanksgiving. I realized its only five days away, a week out from our opening which means Celebrity Ski classic and trying to beat the boys.

Excitement and anxiety came across me all at the same time. I’m excited to get the season rolling again but a bit scared because when it starts rolling it’s the end of the season before I know it. Am I organized enough at this point?

Hmmm time will tell.

So as I thought about Thanksgiving and trying to get organized what are my plans? This year we are celebrating with our good friends and children the Lacobelli’s. If you don’t know them take a look at deervalley.com. They are the poster family all over the site.

Their name, Lacobelli, should be a giveaway as to how our Thanksgiving will be mapped out. It should be a blast. I’ve been told to be prepared for an Italian Thanksgiving.

“There’s Italian and then there are those who want to be Italian!” I guess I qualify as “I want to be Italian for a day”. So I guess weight loss isn’t an option before I try and fit into my ski pants DV opening day Dec. 3.

So following my Italian Thanksgiving experience I can turn my thoughts to opening day.

I anticipate opening day will be much of the same as I take part in the Celebrity Ski Fest. Phil, Steve, Tommy and I will be trash talking each other trying to psyche each other out and trying to be the one with the fastest time. I need to make sure my starts are strong. There is nothing like coming out of the gates of competition opening day. The weekend as a whole is so much fun. The skiing, competition, teammates, friends, and the evening receptions equal a great time and celebration to the beginning of 2011/12 season.

I’m grateful for this time of season. The energy in the air for the upcoming season and holidays can be cut with an edge! That is a sharp ski edge! See you on the slopes.

 

Cheers,

Winter Predictors

Aside from following religiously the long-term weather forecast, understanding the intricacies of El Niño and La Niña, looking up in the sky at all time or observing the flights of Canadian geese headed towards Mexico, it’s extremely hard to get a good indication as to when winter will arrive for good.

In fact, my prediction tools are much more rudimentary. When I must rake leaves and clean up the garden all weekend long, this constitutes a serious indicator that the season is about to change and that it’s time to hurry a bit. Another related sign of winter’s imminent arrival is when our living room bay window begins to let some mountain features in, as the leaves that hug the panes start to turn yellow and thin out.

These keen observations fail to tell me with any certainty about the date at which the first serious snow of the season will make it to Park City. This fixation of mine on a certain snow date is tied to a family ritual we used to have and that perked up passions, when our children were younger and still at home with us.

 

Each Fall season, we’d have a contest that would reward the family member able to predict, or get the closest to the date when winter snow would finally arrive and stay on the ground. As far as I can remember, no one ever landed the exact day, no one tied for the big prize and the winner always got sufficiently close to the date without any need for argument or further contest.

 

This will be our twenty-seventh winter in Park City and, so far, snow has never let us down. Therefore it’s not a matter of if, but just when it will fall. Besides, there’s always Deer Valley Resort’s prodigious snow making capacity as a back-up plan, but again, I absolutely don’t worry about lacking snow…

 

So this year, with only two participants, we decided to keep the friendly betting process alive. My wife said snow would come “early” November (vague enough for comfort, right? Her own definition of “early” runs from the first to the tenth of the month) while I set my prediction right on November 22nd. We’ll see when the flakes land and who will have to shovel first!

Heidi Voelker’s Deer Valley

It’s that time of year again. The weather is beautiful but the feel of winter is fast approaching especially first thing in the morning when it’s in the 30’s. We’ll be on the slopes sooner than we know. I love this time of year because the air is so crisp, ski swap signs are all over, we’ve gotten an early snow fall meaning the season is just around the corner.

As I think about “It’s My Deer Valley” there are a few different scenarios. I can break down my skiing days in three ways:

  1. Family
  2. Clients
  3. Corporate & Press Tours

Each way skis differently. Here’s how:

1.  If it’s a family ski day, which I’m afraid will happen more rarely as I have lost my two young boys to ski race training (hmmm must be in their blood.) But when family ski days happen, they usually go something like this. The night before I mention we might have breakfast at Snow Park Lodge. This is a bribe in order to have them get to bed on time. Stefan automatically pipes up, “can I have my favorite baguette with jelly and jam”? In the morning I ‘m making sure Lucas is getting dressed and not procrastinating. Stefan meanwhile is outside boots on ready to go. We get to Deer Valley and the boys ask to be dropped off at the Skier drop off while I park the car. (Still not sure if this is just my kid’s not wanting to be seen with their mom or if they are just lazy and don’t want to walk from the car.)

After breakfast we load Carpenter Express chairlift. Without fail one of them asks “how many runs before we can have lunch?” Ugh! We drop into Silver Lake at mid mountain and ski down to the Wasatch Express chairlift. It’s usually about 10-10:30 a.m. Yes, I agree, it’s late but with two kids in tow I’m trying to keep harmony. After a few runs on Bald Mountain the brothers decide it’s time for Nastar racing. We stay here for a bit trying to improve each run time and also asking “mom, if I’m faster next run can we have lunch?” another ugh!!

I tell them they are skiing too fast because we’ve only been skiing for an hour. We then adventure over to Empire Canyon, heading there through unmarked area’s like Bucky’s Backyard, Toilet Bowl and X-Files. Remember skiing with kids you need to keep it fun. So after a few hikes across the Daly Chutes into X-files trees, then it’s lunch time!

Once we are in our lunch coma of Panini’s, pasta and fries we start to make our way back to Snow Park. But the rule is to ski as much off piste and jumps as possible. We make our way to the end of the ski area boundary even though; we are trying to make our way back to the base. We grab Lady Morgan chairlift and ski Centennial Trees, then it’s back up Lady Morgan and ski to Ruby chairlift. We race to Ruby’s glade and caution as we merge onto Hawkeye. Load onto Northside Express and ski around into Ontario Bowl. Sometimes this is worthy of 2 laps. It depends on the boy’s excitement and energy. Then onto Judge chairlift to ski towards to Crown Point chairlift.  At the top of Crown Point our chosen route is  Kimberly ski run where right past the bridge is the boys favorite jump. By now their legs are tired and we ski down Big Stick to the lodge. Our day is done.

2. Another way I show off “My Deer Valley” is with clients. I usually meet the client at their hotel or the Snow Park Lobby. I’m starting my 15th year at Deer Valley so many of my clients are returning guests and I already know what type of skiing they are looking for. (As always it depends and the weather and conditions.) They know already they have a full day of skiing ahead of them. I joke that we are going to ski hard and no lunch break. What would skiing be like if you didn’t have lunch at Deer Valley? Certainly not the true experience! The clients usually already have an idea where they would like to eat for lunch. We talk about goals they want to achieve for the day and map out our lines and away we go!

3. The third type of Deer Valley ski day for me is a press/corporate tour day. It starts out much like the client day but usually with a scheduled breakfast. These days I ski the mountain but usually circulate around to make sure I ski with each person (these groups tend to be bigger and provide the desired terrain they are looking for. In between all our turns we usually lunch it at Royal Street Café or wherever the company may plan to meet back together. My goal is to make sure a good time is had by all and when they say they are tired to ski the entire afternoon I break into a little smile. My job is done!

Deer Valley Closes on a Super-High Note!

This past Sunday was a ski day to be remembered. After picking up and extra 4” early in the morning to bring the 72 hours total to 16” and the snow cover on top to 134”, the skies cleared just when it was time for the resort to open and we skied all day in mid winter conditions, but under April floodlights! We did the Triangle Trees three times, moved on to Mayflower, did the Bowl and Orient Express, at times in 16 inches of new snow, and by the moment we got to Centennial Trees, on Lady Morgan’s side, we had to stay on skier’s right to find some fresh “pow” ignored by the “army” that roamed through the sector. A delectable lunch, with a charming young couple, that made room for us at their empire Empire Lodge table, was yet a great moment, and to top it all, when we were done, we ran into a friend who wanted to keep on skiing for the rest of the afternoon, and could not escape following us into Ontario Bowl that, by that time, had been ran over as if it were an autobahn! We still managed to get some great packed powder under the Wasatch Lift and all the way down on “Big Stick” and when we took off our skis, we could still not believe it was April 10!

Transition

My Deer Valley ski season is officially over. I did sneak over to Snowbird on Monday for a ski day with the kids and we will probably close PCMR this weekend. Then the season is really done for me and the family.

Even though I had a great season, I am looking forward to getting into some new activities. Especially, to get back in shape for the next season if you can believe it. I need to make up for all the entertaining! I am not complaining, but between fondue, turkey chili, raclette and desserts - skiing just isn’t enough exercise.

So as we move into spring, I’ll get my road bike out. The biking is great in this area. My favorite ride is what I call mini- Alp Deux, which is Royal Street up to Silver Lake Village. Then if I’m really feeling good I’ll continue towards the Montage to the top of Empire pass. This is a kicker! Of course this won’t be my first ride of the season.  I’ll ride the flats for a while to get my base.  Deer Valley also has great mountain bike trails. I enjoy biking through Deer Valley then stopping for lunch on the deck at Royal Street. However, I don’t mountain bike as much anymore because I did so much of it when I was on the ski team. Time for new sports.

My second favorite summer activity is to play golf. I said I would never play the “boring” game.  If I don’t get at least 9 holes in I begin to shake. Maybe it’s the competitive side or just simply something I’m not good at and need to focus and think about what I’m doing. I never realized what is involved in the game of golf.  I also enjoy it because I don’t need to be good. I hit a bad shot it’s a bad shot, Oh well. Although… if I make a bad turn in skiing then I’m very critical of myself. I guess I have to be!

Some other activities are going to the pool, playing golf with my boys, BBQ with friends and traveling back East to visit family. I have started a tradition for the boys that we begin our summer trip to Waitsfield, VT. My sister lives there and the kids start out the trip by going to Elite Camp with Doug Lewis. This is an overnight camp on the Green Mountain Valley School Campus. Doug has the kids for three days and puts them through a training camp similar to what we did on the USST. Of course it’s on a much smaller scale and full of fun. We then head to the Cape to visit our close friends,  play on the beach and enjoy the eastern humidity. After about a week we then meet up with my husband and go to his family summer place in the Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River.  Boating, jumping off the boat house, fishing, island living and grandparent time wraps-up the summer.

As you can tell the summer races by too for us. I’ll be blogging in the fall before I know it saying “I can’t believe the winter is upon us!” Until then enjoy the outdoors and the mountains we live in.

Cheers!

Thanks for Another Great Season!

It is hard to believe that our 30th winter season has just come to a close.  Thank you to everyone who visited this year!

Deer Valley Ski Patrol on Closing Day (photo: Matt DeWaard)

If you made it up here over closing weekend, you know that the snow conditions actutally felt like mid- January.  The season ended with back-to-back powder days!

Our summer season of lift-served hiking, biking and scenic rides is scheduled to begin on June 17 (conditions permitting). We will keep you updated on summer operations as there is still A LOT of snow that needs to melt. The resort closed on Sunday, April 10 with an impressive snow base depth of 132 inches!

In the meantime, you can still enjoy some of your favorite Deer Valley foods.  Deer Valley Grocery~Cafe is staying open year-round and will continue to offer a changing daily selection of freshly-made on-site and to-go items throughout the spring and summer.  Hours will be expanded to 8:30 p.m. to include dinner service during Deer Valley’s summer season.  Deer Valley Grocery~Cafe has a beautiful deck overlooking the Deer Valley duck ponds and will continue deck service throughout the spring and summer as weather allows.

Deer Valley Grocery~Cafe

 

Thanks again for a wonderful ski season!

Heidi Voelker’s 2010/2011 Season in Review

As we are approaching closing day this Sunday, April 10 I thought I should write about some of the highlights from this season. Always at this time of year I say, “I can’t believe how fast the season has flown by! It goes by faster and faster even after 14 years!”  Maybe it has to do with age? As my mom said, “as you get older each year seems to fly by faster, so you better keep up!”  Ah this is where my “pacesetting” comes from. Kudos Mom!

Well I’ll start in the beginning of the season but not necessarily going to stay in order of favorite highlights. I’m finishing my 14thseason at Deer Valley and since I can remember opening weekend we always have the Celebrity SkiFest. Most recently a made-for-TV race that benefits the WaterKeeper Alliance. This brings together TV personalities and former racers (i.e. the Phil & Steve Mahre, Tommy Moe, AJ Kitt and luckily  myself) for a weekend of ski racing and entertainment.  It’s a fun-filled weekend that raises money for a great cause and I get to visit with old (I use this term loosely) teammates. The “boys” can still ski and sometimes I can ski too. It’s always fun to reminisce and talk about the good old days on tour.  Still when I ski with all of them I’m in awe that I get to share the days with them but most importantly have them as friends. I must confess by being able to spend time with the great skiers listed above I still learn and try to bring it into my skiing.

We then moved into the Christmas season and my family starts to arrive for the holidays. Being the sibling that lives in the mountains I’m expected to have snow whenever they come to visit. Well Mother Nature certainly did answer their requests this year! Skiing with my family in the snow storms of Christmas and after was great. The snow was so deep at times for my youngest, I would tell him I had to stay behind him to make sure I didn’t loose him.

But one of my biggest memories this year will be getting first tracks down Daily Bowl after one of our February snow storms. I have had plenty of fresh powder shots but nothing will beat this. Maybe Heli skiing? I was with clients who were ready to seek out the best lines. We were riding up Empire Express chairlift looking over to Daily Bowl, no tracks? We were not first chair. I poked my head into the ski patrol house and asked if Daily Bowl was open? They said yes and I asked, “Why aren’t there any tracks?” They said nobody has cut the traverse. I guess we’ll do it. I must say the true meaning of  “no friends on a powder day” came out. As we enter the traverse to start plowing through the snow about half through there were three guys making the path. We stayed behind them until the opening then we all raced to the top of the cornice my group still with me. As we all peered over the edge to observe this untracked snow it was so pristine nobody was making the move even the skiers that cut the track. (By the way if you’re reading this… “Thank you”) I surveyed the situation and realized I was the only girl. I took full advantage of the situation and jumped into the bowl saying the “playground is open.”  To be the only one in such a big bowl was as good as it gets. It was so quiet. I came to the second pitch where I usually stop and regroup but nope, not on that day! There was so much snow it didn’t matter where you pointed them. As everyone else finished their epic run in the bowl, I announced at the bottom “That was so good I could be done for the season!”  (Or not…)

I also enjoyed bringing most my groups into X-files. If you don’t know where this is I can’t tell you. You’ll have to come ski with me or search back to a blog post by JF Lanvers earlier this season.  The best part of X-files is when there is a storm there’s still great skiing a few days after. As you see throughout the Deer Valley blog people talk about X-files. It’s intimidating to get to because you’re on top of all the Daly Chutes. But the best part is your nowhere near the cornice, but as close as you’ll get without actually skiing them. You traverse all the way over to our boundary and enter a beautiful gladded area. This area is intermediate. Why I like bringing my clients there? Because it makes them feel like they have accomplished a huge goal. They have! The approach and visual makes your heart beat a bit faster.

Another highlight this season was to watch my boy’s race. I didn’t get to watch them all season. I’m not complaining, just the way things worked out. I did plan to watch their last races. As they had some great year end races, people ask will they be ski racers. I just hope I can provide them with good tools to be gracious competitors and just want to ski with me especially when they come home from college.

The best highlight of the season was this was my busiest season yet!  This is a little like making a speech in front of a crowd. You’ll forget someone or something. So I’m taking this moment to say “Thank You to everyone, Deer Valley, my clients, my sponsors, every corporate group, press group, Powder Girls & Boys and Nastar that have come to ski Deer Valley”. We’ll see you next year and maybe more!

Cheers!

NASTAR and Snow, Snow, Snow, Snow.

Two weeks into the season and it feels like an entire year. I have raced twice and skied powder almost daily. We are in the middle of a storm system that has brought us over 2 feet and there is still more to come! I skied Lady Morgan Bowl and the chutes with my 6 year old I can’t image what it must feel like for him in that much snow. Don’t worry, I didn’t force him, he actually demanded to follow the group and be part of every powder selection.

I went to Colorado to get my NASTAR handicap against A.J. Kitt last week. I’ve been trying to paceset the course here at Deer Valley but haven’t been able to yet because of too much snow, bummer! It was great fun to see how many people love NASTAR and be able to interact with them. I kept them entertained telling stories of the good old days.

Come by and race our NASTAR course. I’ll have it handicapped as soon as the snow stops!  Until then, see you in the powder!!!!