Five Things I’ve learned this season

We learn a lot each season about skiing. As the 2014-2015 winter comes to a close, here are five of my key “take-away” that I want to share with you.

5.  Always Keep Hoping

Last December I was expecting countless days of bottomless powder that mother nature seemed to have a difficult time dispensing. All season long I kept looking forward to “face shots” in spite of an indifferent weather forecast, unexciting predictions from the Farmer’s Almanac and the fatalistic attitudes of many of my friends. To further protect me against the fear of drought, I pushed back any thoughts of perfect bluebird days (we got many of these) and tried instead to focus on that pesky jet stream. In hopes it would redirect its precipitation towards Utah. Obviously, none of my wishful thinking worked too well and I hope it didn’t upset Mother Nature. Since I’m an optimist, I don’t think I did. I was just doing a steady job hoping and in the end, it worked to a large degree because I skied plenty of good snow this winter.

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4. A bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush

My main season’s objective was to ski 100 days! I had never done it before in a non-professional capacity, so I was determined to achieve it. I must admit that when one lives in Park City it’s extremely hard not to become complacent in getting out to ski. For many of us, the sky is never perfectly blue and the snow never fluffy or deep enough. This year became the “no excuse” winter. No matter what the weather or the snow was said to be, I went out, did my skiing and without one single exception ended up pleasantly surprised. I was always glad I did it! Each of my ski outings always exceeded my expectations and I have surpassed my goal!

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3. Skiing is All About Terrain and Exploration

Too much snow can make us a bit lazy. Normally curvy, bumpy and otherwise varied terrain, looks like a flat surface on top of six feet of snow. Conversely, a thinner cover exposes more of the terrain. It shows every single little detail and nooks and crannies come in full view. This is what tempts me to explore and play in new terrain. In fact, a little bit less snow than usual reveals more of the terrain’s true texture. It also forces us to discover subtle passages into the trees, a stash of powder that no one even knew existed, an interesting short-cut, or a new path that even the most seasoned Deer Valley skier never suspected.

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2. Don’t Let Your First Run Define Your Ski Day

This winter I sometimes found it difficult to warm up as I began my ski day. My first few runs were more awkward, not as smooth and more tentative than my last run from the day before. I had noticed some of this in the past but it seems that it came out much more acutely this season. After a few more runs, my normal feelings returned and took over for the rest of the outing. It might be the simple reality that we all need to warm up or recover this animal instinct that makes us ski, as if we had been secretly endowed with that wonderful skill at birth.
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1. Easy Does It

Skiing is a wonderful way to have lots of fun outside. For some skiers the experience can be one of contemplation. For many it’s the thrill of gliding and the sensation of freedom that feels like almost flying. For many proficient skiers, it’s a combination of speed, strength and perfect execution. It’s fair to say that most skiers over exert and use up far too much energy when they are on the slopes. For life-long skiers like myself who no longer are as young and vivacious, skiing can still be enjoyable as a fusion of smooth and efficient execution. It behooves us to remain super-light and always fluid on the snow. This is a bit difficult to describe. It’s a blend of minimalism, lightness and very subtle gestures. In fact smooth skiing resembles piloting. Skiers drive their skis where they want them to go and let the forces of gravity do the heavy lifting. Granted, they need muscle strength but mostly to resist compression, accelerations and maintain an edge. Skiing effortlessly, just like a feather on the snow, has become my ultimate creed!

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Chicks on Sticks 2015

Okay, I’m just going to go ahead and say it—whoever came up with the phrase “No Friends on a Powder Day,” never met my friends. I don’t want to brag, but I have hands down, the best friends, because they all agree that the best way to enjoy powder is with each other. Last year, our annual Chicks on Sticks outing occurred on an epic powder day, and it’s safe to say that the powder would have been less enjoyable without each other’s company.

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As it turns out, you don’t need tons and tons of powder to have an epic day—as long as you have great company. I met up with Miriam, Stacey, Mir and Kellie in Snow Park Lodge at Deer Valley Resort. We lingered, just a bit over coffee, and then suited up. Stacey had been out most recently, and told us where the best skiing was. So, off we went to find it.

Let me say this, too. I had made sure to advertise the day as a mellow one—“Guys, remember, it’s all about lunch,” I wrote in one email. “So I don’t want to hear, ‘my knee hurts, so I can’t come,’ or ‘I can’t keep up with you!’”

Well, on the one hand, I meant every word of it. On the other hand—our definition of “mellow day,” may, in fact, contradict the term, “mellow.”

I could not wait to to try out my new boots. Mir was the first to notice: “Hey, you’re in the perfect position,” she said, as we skied down Star Gazer. “You’re skiing great.”

With my ego duly stoked, I set about ripping up the mountain.

In truth, our group skied quite companionably, and pressure-free, at our own paces. I think this is the secret to a good, social skiing day—coming down the mountain safely, comfortably, and at your own pace. The fact that I was trying to rip up the mountain, was, in fact, my own internal pressure meter pushed up to “high.” By the next day, this would prove to be a boneheaded strategy, but while I was skiing, I couldn’t have had more fun.

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The only thing better than the skiing that day was the chairlift rides. We mixed it up, and talked about everything from business to writing, kids and spouses, skiing and travel. And while some years we plan an elaborate sit-down lunch, this year, we decided that we felt like keeping it casual. We ate at the Snow Park Restaurant, where the awesome conversation continued.

Sadly, I had to cut out early to take care of a sick kiddo at home. I had planned to go home and then return to the mountain to pick up my healthy child at ski school, but my friends offered, generously, to ski until pickup time and bring him home for me. See? Told you, I have the best friends.

Lunch at Silver Lake

There are many ways to enjoy a great lunch at the Silver Lake Lodge. There are three Restaurants in this lodge; Bald Mountain Pizza, Royal Street Café and Silver Lake Restaurant. I wish I could tell you how wonderful every one of them was in great detail. For this article we’ll focus mostly on Silver Lake Restaurant.

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To make this food review more fun, I have asked five Deer Valley skiers about their lunch experience at Silver Lake Restaurant. As you read on, you’ll discover that each experience varies a lot depending on the circumstances, the company, the mood, the weather and what happened that day.

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Debbie from Florida:

The snow that began early this morning is still falling at noon and is likely to continue all day. No sitting on the deck today! The kids went straight to the Bald Mountain Pizza in search for some pizza and pasta. My husband and I picked a nice table just by the fireplace, we can use the rest. We’ve been playing all morning around Flagstaff Mountain, exploring the glades along Red Cloud chairlift and getting a few face shots! Now we just need to warm up a bit with a visit to the Soups and Stews station. I’ll go for the Turkey Chili and some fresh veggies while my husband is considering the roast sirloin, the sun-dried tomato soup, and may also pick the jumbo baked potato with fresh salsa and turkey chili toppings. Maybe dessert after if we can find room! 

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Greg from Texas:

Since today is our first day, we need to acclimate a bit and start progressively. We’re so fortunate to have such a postcard day with new snow and a deep blue sky. We decided to stop at 11:45 a.m. for an early lunch and get a table on the outdoor deck in full sun. My wife and I chose the Natural Salad Buffet. We both feel good and want to eat as much green as possible, spiced up with caper berries, olives and herbs. I know that I’ll go with some oriental veggies, while my wife is eyeing a piece of fresh bread and perhaps a small serving of penne pasta salad. I may also make a quick stop at the bakery and pick a jumbo cookie to cap off our first lunch on the mountain!

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Monika from New Jersey:

Another “bluebird” day, we’ve planned for lunch break at the Silver Lake Restaurant! We found a table right on the deck facing Bald Mountain. Five non-stop laps on Nabob and Keno ski runs have worked up my appetite. While my friends may be going for some soup and some chili, I’m headed towards the grill for a hamburger and a large serving of fries. Since I’ve been such a good trooper all morning, I feel that I deserve to take a longer lunch and may indulge in a local beer as well! My friends have pointed the bakery area out to me and I already know that it will be quasi-impossible not to stop by it. If I do, and deep inside I know I will, I’ll pick up a chocolate silk pie that I’ll share with Sarah. It may take some time before we step back into my skis again this afternoon, but we’ll make it up tomorrow!

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Frank from California:

It’s still snowing so my buddies and I have been exploring the Daly Chutes and skiing Ontario Bowl non-stop. I was a little hesitant when I dropped into Chute 10; but I guess peer pressure helped a lot! We’re all famished and the four of us decided to make a stop at The Carvery and really take care of our sudden hunger. Today’s roast is a marinated New York strip served with béarnaise that, with a slice of German chocolate cake, will go a long way in restoring my strength. Just add a draft beer each to that!

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Karrie from Missouri:

We can only ski until two and need to pack soon to catch our flight back home. Lunch will be from the Silver Lake Restaurant Deli. I enjoyed skiing Mayflower with Eddie, my instructor. I got a made-to-order deli sandwich with house roasted turkey breast, accompanied with some yummy condiments. A good cup of coffee along with a slice of fruit pie will keep my attention and give me the physical strength needed, not so much to end my ski day, but to leave this wonderful place!

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My Typical Deer Valley Day

There must be thousands ways to ski Deer Valley Resort, here is one local’s perspective. I am sharing with you my favorite way to navigate the mountain.

From my bed, I look out the window. I scrutinize the sky. If it’s not snowing I can see Bald Mountain in the distance and hear it calling me, “are you coming today?”

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This is the moment when I ask my wife if she feels like skiing. Depending on whether she will join me or not, my itinerary on the mountain may differ at bit, but we’ll get into this as the day unfolds.

Most of the time my day begins with a three and a half mile morning run around Park Meadows. I then eat a solid breakfast while still staring at Bald Mountain. I can now see the sun shinning off the top of the Sultan Express chairlift. Soon it’s time to gather all of my stuff, slip my pass around my neck, and get dressed. I drop my boots and helmet in the car. I load my skis on the rack, and am on my way to Deer Valley Resort.

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I make a quick stop at the unloading area to drop off my wife and our gear while I park my car. Since we always make a point of leaving home early, I usually find a convenient spot in parking Lot 2. I don’t even catch the skiers tram and instead jog back to the plaza to join my wife, pick up our skis and poles, and in no time we’re riding Carpenter Express chairlift.

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When my wife accompanies me, our morning always begins with Jordanelle ski run. We like to follow the sun around the resort. We ski down Little Stick ski run to Deer Hollow ski run where we catch Mountaineer Express chairlift. When we get there early in the morning we have the Jordanelle run to ourselves. We ski down this magical ribbon that sits above the reservoir below. There are not many ski runs like this one. If the crowds are light and the snow stays firm, we’ll repeat it, and sometimes we even do it three times.

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We then head to Bald Mountain and warm up on Nabob or Keno ski runs. Sometimes we stay there the entire morning. If I’m alone I go directly to the Ruins of Pompeii, Triangle Trees or Grizzly ski runs. I can stay there for hours on end.

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When I ski with my wife, we sometimes stay a little bit longer and include lunch in our ski day. Planning our skiing time with with a delectable goal in mind will inevitably bring us to the Empire Canyon Lodge. Perhaps it is because of its setting, cradled at the base of Daly and Empire Bowls. Most likely it is because we love the paninis that they serve. A valid set of reasons! While relaxing and enjoying our lunch break, I check the surroundings, ask questions, assess Daly Bowl and its surroundings, and depending on the conditions of the day, either ski there or check out Lady Morgan Express chairlift.

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When we’re done skiing on that side of the mountain, we eventually head back towards Silver Lake by way of Ontario Bowl. We love exploring new lines in the aspen glades all the way back to the Judge chairlift. I like this run best, it leads us effortlessly to the edge of the Nastar Race Course finish area and funnels us towards the Crown Point chairlift.

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I like riding this chair so I may turn around and observe the late afternoon skiers slaloming down the runs of Bald Mountain. I also like to stare at Empire Bowl, far in the distance, where moguls look like dimples on a golf ball and reflect the last sun of the day. Just a few days ago there was a moose eating bark off of a tree under that chairlift.

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From the top of Bald Eagle mountain, Kimberley ski run is always my favorite. I love to ski under the bridges on a trail that reminds me of a half pipe and transitions with downhill turns into Big Stick ski run. I appreciate Big Stick’s steep pitch and eventually slow down on my way to the resort’s base, I am thinking. “Another wonderful day at Deer Valley!”

#SkiTheDifference with Bari Nan Cohen

#SkiTheDifference is, quite possibly, my favorite hashtag because it represents everything I love about the Deer Valley Resort experience. To me, it means that it’s possible to feel, simultaneously, the satisfaction of a weary body, shredded by incredible terrain, and the unmitigated joy of having been pampered, throughout the day. As I wrote here recently, it can be a spiritual experience to #SkiTheDifference.

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For me, the “Difference” is in the details—many of which come into play before you’ve clicked into your bindings. I love the fact that ski valets meet me when I open my car door and offer to help with my family’s gear. I’m thrilled by the dedicated parking for the Children’s Center, because it’s one less hassle in the experiment of skiing with young children. And, trust me, each time is an experiment in patience, resilience and fun.

When you head for the parking lots there’s never any guesswork about where and how to park—friendly attendants wave you into open spaces and keep the lots from getting unruly. This year the additions of small structures over the staircases that lead from lots 2 and 3 to lot 1 ensure that the stairs don’t accumulate a lot of ice and snow. Another shift is the boarding area for the parking lot shuttles in the turnaround under the plaza. It’s was moved a few feet and benches that were up against the building are now arranged in a comfortable waiting area. When I discovered this change I thought, “I didn’t realize the waiting area was ‘broken,’ but someone saw a better way.”

The on-mountain experience has the same attention to detail. The Mountain Hosts who will tell you the skinny on the best terrain they skied that day and lift operators who brush off the seats of the chairs before you board. There is delicious food in every lodge, with friendly people there to make sure there’s a clean table at the ready. Thoughtful touches like hand lotion dispensers in the bathrooms, complimentary glove dryers in the lodges, and ski check corral near every lodge. Suddenly a ski day (itself, a treat) is elevated to a resort experience.

These are experiences available to every skier on the hill, from beginner to expert. For those of us lucky enough to live here, #SkitheDifference mean our kids know their way around the entire mountain. They know that they can ask, nicely, for help boarding a chairlift. #SkitheDifference means my family can ride a lift together and then divide and conquer: two of us can take an easy run and two of us can ski the bumps, and then we all meet up at the bottom to compare notes. It means that there is always something to please every palate in the restaurants (even if it drives me nuts that there are so many choices, and my kids default to pasta, almost every time).

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This is the mountain my family calls home.” The chefs at Snow Park kept me well-fed throughout the winter I was pregnant with my second child while my husband and our firstborn tore up Wide West ski run. When the boys were tiny it took an army of ski valets to help me schlep the stroller, the ski gear, the kids and the other “stuff” kids require into the lodge. I never asked for help, it was always handled before I realized that I needed it. When I ask my kids about their favorite restaurants, The Seafood Buffet tops the list. We’ve celebrated birthdays and anniversaries at Mariposa, entertained friends at Fireside Dining, toasted visitors at Royal Street Cafế , and destroyed chili fries at Silver Lake Restaurant. We’ve even shared breakfast with Olympic champions at Silver Lake Lodge, more than once, simply by happenstance. “When did they get so big?” is a familiar refrain in the shops and restaurants around the resort. #SkiTheDifference is a community. And that, for us, has made all the difference.


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Skiing is a state of…style

I’ve taken the idea that skiing is a state-of-mind to a new level this year. Some in my family would argue that this isn’t entirely a good thing. But I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to dress when you’re off the slopes, is in clothing that tells the world, “I am a skier. I love to ski. I even wear clothes with skiers on them!” Bear with me.

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Recently, my good friend Shari had sent me a photo of a cute sweater she found in the Talbot’s outlet. Neither of us are regular shoppers in that store, and yet, their sweater selections caught our attention. She popped into the store one afternoon and hit the jackpot: a sweater with a pattern that depicts a skier carving turns (stylishly, of course) down a tree-lined slope.

“That’s it!” I announced, I proudly showed the text message to my family. “I need the skier sweater.”

My style-minded spouse and oldest child looked at me, incredulously. But young Seth aligned himself with me and Shari. “You NEED that, Mom! It’s awesome. And you and Shari will MATCH.” He said with all the urgency only a seven-year-old can muster (which is to say, quite a bit). The other two looked on, quizzically, as we high-fived.

Fortunately, the doubting duo know to humor the person who makes sure that the ski bags are packed every night. [Which is how, on a recent afternoon, while Seth was at a play-date, they came to walk into Talbot’s with me, wearing their best game-faces.] To our delight, a dear friend’s mom was working in the store—and she produced not just the sweater, but also a turtleneck with a pattern of little skiers all over it. “Oh, and what about the skier scarf?” she asked, proffering one from a nearby rack. Sold, sold and sold. I grinned from ear-to-ear, as my middle-schooler shook his head in anticipation of the sheer embarrassment of being seen with me, dressed in theme clothes. (Silently, I reminded myself that if I’m not embarrassing my kid, I’m doing something very, very wrong.) My husband pointed out that I had owned a similar turtleneck, back when we first met, over 25 years ago. It occurred to me that he may not have meant this in a good way. Still, nothing could dampen my glee.

Once home I admired my loot and took a great deal of joy in photographing the apparel. I sent the photos to Shari, “I will take your skier sweater, and raise you a skier turtleneck and a skier scarf. I WIN!” She immediately wrote back that she’d be returning to the store to complete her own set. This emboldened me to send boastful text messages, photos included, to a few friends who have, like Jeffrey, known me since the last time I thought that these items were at the height of fashion. I would be lying if I told you that the responses were not filled to the brim with celebrations of my awesome style.

I will be modeling this look all over town. I have paired the scarf with basic black leggings and turtleneck, and the sweater with a pair of motorcycle-style jeans in a light blue that perfectly matches the shade of the sky on the sweater. Clearly, it’s not a “technical” piece, but what fashionistas (like, ahem, myself) would call “a statement piece.” So, I’m now on the hunt for retro-styled ski clothes—you know, Fair-Isle knits, and maybe a more technical version of the cute, printed ski-turtlenecks of my childhood. I draw the line at the neon-colored one-piece ski suit—for now.

What is your skiing state of style? Tweet me  or @Deer_Valley.

Meet Deer Valley’s Avalanche Dogs

If you have shopped at the Deer Valley Signatures stores, you may have noticed the Avalanche Rescue Dog Benefit Merchandise, also know as “Avy Dog.” If you are a frequent Deer Valley skier, you may also have encountered one or several dogs sporting the Ski Patrol logo on their back. To get their full story, I met with Chris Erkkila, Deer Valley’s Ski Patrol Assistant Manager, who told me everything I always wanted to know about these “mountain saviors.”

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The Deer Valley Avalanche Dog program dates back twenty years. From the time one of the resort’s patrollers worked tirelessly to get it off the ground to this very day, it has evolved to the point that Deer Valley’s Ski Patrol now has three avalanche dogs, with at least one on the mountain every day. These dogs are owned by their handlers and go home with them every night.

Let’s begin by meeting them. We have Ninja, a male Pointer/Lab mix, that is almost four years old; Piper a female Shepherd mix, an 11 year old veteran that also happens to be Chris Erkkila’s dog and Izzy, a female Lab/Boarder Collie that is nine years old. The Wasatch Backcountry Rescue (WBR), a local non-profit organization oversees the training and certifications. Nine ski areas are member of the WBR, and account for a total of 30 to 40 dogs.

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A lot of work and training is involved with avalanche dogs. “When we select a puppy,” explains Chris, “we have a series of puppy aptitude tests. In every litter of puppies there’s an Alpha pup, the most aggressive and strongest of the litter. We generally look for the next pup down from the Alpha, one that doesn’t seem to be scared of anything, has strong senses, is apt to attach and interact with humans. We also want a dog that is very curious, has high energy and a strong drive.”

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Of course, there are other considerations. Some breeds are better suited than others for the job. A thick coat is definitely an advantage compared to a thin one; with it, a dog can stay warm longer, while thin-haired dogs may have to wear an extra coat. There are also breeds that have a higher sense of smell than others. Labrador retrievers, German shepherds and boarder collies are better suited than most.

Size matters too; large dogs get tired faster because of the mass they must carry and may develop orthopedic problems faster. Then there’s the mere fact of getting around. Carrying the dog down the slope, loading it up on a chairlift, a snowmobile or a helicopter can be hard with larger dogs. Conversely, a small dog will have a harder time climbing on big chunks of snow or walking into deep powder. The happy medium seems to fall right between 40 and 60 pounds.

Once the puppy is selected, training begins at once with with socialization and obedience. Then training for search follows. It begins very progressively by using one of the dog toys and hiding it behind a tree, then burying it under the snow. This is followed by using articles of clothing like a scarf or a wool sweater scented by a human being, and slowly, the search training evolves to a real person. First, just by hiding behind a tree, before the person is actually buried under the snow. Some avalanche dogs can smell people that are buried under 15 feet of snow.

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A person’s scent permeates throughout the snow pack and eventually makes its way through to the surface. The surface scent may get to an area that is not necessarily the actual body location. The scent works its way trough a cone-shaped path that may follow a slanted trajectory depending on the snow structure. In addition, windy conditions or even just a slight breeze may affect how a dog will catch the scent coming out of the cone.

The dog must be led in relation to the wind. Upwind, it becomes impossible for a dog to catch the scent. Stormy and blizzard conditions may make locating very tricky and difficult. The same applies to terrain conditions that generally are always steep, rugged and involve snow density of varying degrees. Around an avalanche, the surface of snow can be rough and will tire a dog very fast. This is why dogs are often carried to the rescue site so as to save as much of their energy as possible.

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Dog certification is handled by the WBR. Three levels are offered: A, B, and C. Level C designates a candidate entering the program. Level B is for dogs capable of searching within the ski area boundaries. Level A is the full certification and applies to dogs capable of searching both within the ski area and the backcountry. Dogs cannot be tested for Level A until they’re at least 18 month old. For most dogs, it often takes two winter seasons of work and training to pass the the Level A test. Sometimes, it may take a dog three full years to reach Level A.

From that point on, dogs can expect to work on search and rescue until they are about 10. Piper, Deer Valley’s oldest dog, is 11 years old; she’s still going strong, but may be an exception amongst her peers.

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Training is a big endeavor that must be kept up. Deer Valley avalanche dogs stay active year-round. During the off-season, their handlers take them around the resort while mountain biking or working on trails. Their dogs must stay active and obedient while also receiving some agility training to mitigate an off-season sedentary time period. On occasions, outside agencies, like the Summit County Sheriff Department, may come up and expose the dogs to cadaver work, materials they don’t encounter on a daily basis. 

Having the dogs out in the summer help them familiarize themselves with the whole mountain environment; this way, they become closely acquainted with the terrain and their surroundings. Chris adds, “I can see the evidence of this in the winter as my dog recognizes the very details of the terrain she traveled back and forth during summer, she tends to follow her usual path in a winter environment.”

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I asked Chris if any of the three Deer Valley dogs have been involved in actual search and rescue operation: “Yes, we’ve been dispatched quite a few times to actual avalanche sites. One of the most interesting instances, happened late in May, near Sundance resort. We were flown up in a helicopter to Mt. Timpanogos where the search operations took place.”

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At Deer Valley, the “Avy Dogs” perform a very vital and necessary function. They can be seen as an extra insurance policy. Some might argue that these dogs are seen as “low-tech” assistants in a array of new high-tech devices that are being used to locate skiers or measure avalanche danger. “Sometimes dogs can pickup where high-tech left off,” Erkkila explains, “just a couple of years ago, we were all out doing avalanche beacon drills training, and low and behold the beacon batteries died. I had to bring my dog Piper, to find the beacon buried deep under the snow. She found it pretty quickly, so technology is as good as battery life, and with Piper we don’t have to worry about that!”

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With always one dog on the mountain on any given day, skiers have the opportunity to visit a Deer Valley Avy Dog at one of the patrol shacks. Just ask to find out where the dog or dogs are for the day. Chris Erkkila offers: “Come and say hi, collect one of our new trading cards that we created for each one of our dogs, and come take some photos!” 

JF’s Five Favorite Ski Runs at Deer Valley Resort

I love to ski Deer Valley and I am fond of many of its trails, some more than others. If I were asked to list my top five favorite trails I’d be forced to leave many of the ones I like on the table. For these top five, I’d probably break them into two categories: groomers and natural terrain.

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Among the groomed runs that stand out for me, Jordanelle ski run tops them all. This double blue ski run follows the Jordanelle Gondola from top to bottom. It’s perfectly groomed everyday and skis best in the morning, when the sun begins shining and heats it up ever so slightly to make its pristine corduroy feel “creamy” under the skis. I see the run as a white, undulating ribbon that unfurls towards the reservoir and freeway below.

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Ski this on a perfect bluebird, because it’s mostly about expansive views for as far as the eye can see. Again, early morning is best. I call it my “little downhill run!” I also enjoy the relaxing ride up the gondola, sitting quite comfortably, either enjoying the views of the reservoir and the distant Uinta Mountains, or just facing up Little Baldy Mountain and getting a close view of the wonderful ski-in, ski-out homes and their stunning designs.

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In the “groomer” category, my second favorite is Nabob, a blue ski run. I like it because it’s also always groomed and it offers a huge variety of terrain and grade. Starting at the top of Bald Mountain, it faces north, keeping the best snow on the mountain, and offers panoramic views of the entire town of Park City, reaching all the way to Kimball Junction, framed by distant mountain ranges. In the middle of Nabob, there are tree islands creating natural markers, adding fun and character to the run.

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The grade is gentle before plunging once more towards a flatter transition leading to the Nastar race course and the Silver Lake Lodge. Finally, Nabob ski run makes a sweeping turn to skiers’ right and plunges towards the Wasatch Express chairlift below. I like to use Nabob as a warm-up run and often repeat it before going elsewhere on the mountain. I find it easy, varied and fun. It is the perfect run to ski with family and friends, or people you’ve never skied before and want to assess their skills before picking an itinerary for the rest of the day.

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Of course, I only ski groomed runs a small percentage of my time and prefer powder, trees and crop. That’s my preference and that’s what make skiing interesting for me! In that category, I also have many favorite trails, but here are just three that complete my list of five favorite ski runs.

Mayflower Bowl overflows with scenery. Just like Jordanelle ski run, this bowl overlooks the reservoir and towers over the beautiful Heber Valley. This time, we’re no longer in the “blue” category, but in the single and double black diamond class. A snowy or very cold day is the best time to enjoy the Mayflower Bowl to take advantage of the best possible powder conditions. The bowl can be accessed on skiers’ right from the first third of Stein’s Way ski run. After crossing the entry gate, you find yourself standing on a mostly convex slope that conceals what lays beneath the horizon.

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Watch for some of the avalanche control craters and begin your descent. Soon what you thought was already pretty steep becomes even steeper. You have now committed to the Mayflower Bowl and the rest of the run comes in to full view: a seemingly never ending open space that gradually goes from extremely steep to gentle, before vanishing into the aspen groves below. The run is engaging, stimulating, seems endless and forever fun!

On a snowy day or right after a major snow fall, this is a “must-ski” trail for any powder hound worth their salt! You don’t generally run “laps” on Mayflower Bowl. Once is a good measure; twice perhaps if you decide to venture into the nearby chutes, to skiers’ right, another double black diamond. 

DThen, there is spring skiing, when powder turns to corn. It brings another totally different experience that is quintessentially “Deer Valley”. It is best consumed in the morning when the sun has just begun to bake the spring snow and when the ski edges can get a good grip into the buttery snow surface. Like skiing the bowl in powder, it’s a unique feeling too, but this time the sensations can be totally different!

Ruins of Pompeii is a black diamond ski run that begins at the top of Bald Mountain and drops you to the lower part of Tycoon ski run and ends up at the base of Sultan Express chairlift. Until this season, I wasn’t particularly infatuated by this ski run, but it has grown on me to the point that I have now become a fan of its varied terrain.

dvr-5run8aThe entrance to Ruins of Pompeii ski run is hidden from views behind a curtain of pine trees. As you poke your head through them, you soon appreciate the steepness below and begin studying a safe spot for your first turn! The initial pitch is super steep and there are even a few trees interspersed in the middle to make linking turns even more challenging!

DThis part is followed by a gentler slope where most skiers are allowed to regain their composure before it transitions toward trees to skiers’ right, or continues down the rest of the trail into a long gully, to the left. The latter is the complete run and is guaranteed to focus one’s energy and attention until the trail merges with Tycoon ski run, one-third of the total distance away from Sultan Express chairlift. An alternative is to take Peerless ski run, through the trees, and rejoin Perseverance Bowl. I choose this option half of the time, because I find it more varied and since I adore skiing in the forest, much more!

dvr-5run9For me, Centennial Trees is the holy grail of tree skiing at Deer Valley Resort. This double diamond begins skiers’ right, at the top of Lady Morgan Express chairlift. It’s only trees and it’s very challenging, always fun, and filled with surprises. The top is forested with large pine trees and can get quite bumpy as each turning spot is marked by a giant evergreen. After a major snowfall, though, the moguls disappear and this the best time to enjoy it!

The middle portion of the descent brings some gentler grade and transitions from the pine tree forest into aspen grove. Every tree is an open invitation to weave your way around it and an opportunity to search for the next possible turn. It never stops, it’s relentless and, in our mountain parlance, it’s a true “ski-turner!” The lower segment of the trail keeps on running through the aspens while plunging into a gully that demands a last-ditch effort and some extra nimbleness.

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Unlike most trails, this one isn’t over until it’s over, as total focus is necessary to keep control and remain standing on the skis. Each season, the Deer Valley “Glading Team” has been enlarging Centennial’s skiable acreage by opening more paths and increasing the number of options available to skiers. If you love double-diamond tree skiing, don’t miss it!