Wendy is a Deer Valley Mountain Host, two-time cancer survivor, speaker and athlete for the Livestrong Foundation. She summited Kilimanjaro with the Livestrong Survivor Summit, this past February.
JF: What did you do before joining Deer Valley Resort?
Wendy: I was in television news; for twenty years. I was a newscaster in Orlando, Florida, and I decided this was no longer what I wanted to do, it wasn’t fulfilling my passion anymore. So I moved to Park City to work at my friend’s bicycle shop. I first did some coaching for indoor cycling, some triathlon training and then three years ago I was lucky enough to get the job of Mountain Host at Deer Valley Resort.
JF: What attracted you to that job and what were you expecting from it?
Wendy: Let me first say that Mountain Host is a very hard job to get. When I interviewed for it, I was told that it was the best job in Park City but also the most difficult to land because no one ever leaves it! I took it because it was putting two of my passions together; meeting and communicating with people as well as skiing.
JF: Were your expectations met?
Wendy: I expected to be able to meet a lot of really fun, really cool people, as guests and colleagues, and my expectations have been far surpassed! I work with some of the most creative, funny, smart people that I’ve ever met, and I’ve met really great guests on the mountain as well.
JF: What have you learned from that position?
Wendy: I’m a shotgun thinker; I think kind of all over the map at the same time, but in this job, you have to be logical and sequential in giving tours, in helping in emergencies or even in telling people how to get to the Trail’s End Lodge when you’re standing in front of a map. This experience has taught me to be much more efficient and streamlined in my thinking. Yes, it has added a lot to my life skills!
JF: Was the learning curve challenging?
Wendy: Even though I had skied Deer Valley for years, I didn’t know all the names of the runs and lifts. This, alone, is very intimidating; so the first thing I did was try to memorize where everything was. It was a crash course in directions and everybody who knows me, is aware that I have a very limited sense of directions, so this actually is another great take-away that I received from Deer Valley!
JF: Were there any staff members that helped you along the way to build your skills and knowledge as a Mountain Host?
Wendy: All my supervisors were incredibly helpful and accessible all the time, always answering my phone calls and texts whenever I needed help. The Ski Patrol folks were also incredibly wonderful, friendly and always happy to help. I have actually never ran into a single person that wasn’t happy and ready to help in Deer Valley!
JF: What would you say to someone looking for a position at Deer Valley; what would it take to be a happy employee?
Wendy: I think you have to passionate about the job; you must really love people and love skiing, you have to be energetic, outgoing, just love the outdoors and above all, be authentic. You cannot fake it and work here!
JF: In your own words, how would you describe the “Deer Valley Difference?”
Wendy: To me the Deer Valley Difference is being authentic; the people who work here make a huge difference for the guests because they love it and want them to love it too. Because I think the carrot cake at Deer Valley is the best one on the planet I want everybody to try it. So the Deer Valley Difference is being authentic and it’s so easy to communicate that passion when you love the resort as much as we all do.
If you believe you know Deer Valley Resort inside-out, you might be missing out on a whole lot of fun! To make sure that no stone is left unturned in the 2,026 skiable acres that Deer Valley has to offer, there is now a simple solution within your reach: enroll into Deer Valley Resort’s new ski school clinic “Steeps and Stashes,” and you’ll get a clear insider view into the myriad of secrets and untold ski runs Deer Valley has in store for its visiting guests.
Call this, skiing off the beaten path, taking the trails less traveled or exploring a new world of ski possibilities, but when you enroll in this eye-opening program you’ll discover, as I did, that almost half of Deer Valley acreage is tree skiing! I would never have guessed it! Tree skiing isn’t just about the fun of slaloming through aspen and evergreen trees, but it’s also penetrating into a micro-climate where the snow stays better and for much longer, as it generally remains sheltered from the sun, the wind, and also because most skiers who aren’t in the know will seldom venture there on their own.
For visitors and locals alike
“Knowledge is power” and the more you know about a ski resort, the more emotionally invested you become in its assets and the more valuable it becomes to you, your friends and your family. Knowing a resort well, is not just for the out-of-town visitor, but for locals too, who often believe they know Deer Valley like the back of their hand while, in reality, what they know only represents the tip of the iceberg. This was just as true for me when I signed up for the program. As an almost 30 year Park City resident, I didn’t suspect that I could learn so much about new, fun spots on that mountain. All it took was a couple of days to turn that paradigm on its head.
Great skiing starts with a good group
We first gathered on Saturday morning in the 2002 Room in the Snow Park Lodge, where we met other participants and our ski instructors. At 9 a.m. sharp, we found ourselves at the base of Carpenter Express chairlift. We rode the chairlift together and after taking us down “Big Stick,” the instructors broke us up into groups of similar levels and affinities.
We ended up with three groups. I don’t know exactly what the other groups did that morning, but Thor, our instructor took us up to the top of Bald Mountain and since there was a fresh serving of new powder from the day before, he led us down into Sunset Glade, an expansive aspen grove that I’ve never been too familiar with. To my delight, I discovered many lines and stashes that I didn’t even suspect existed.
We then proceeded to Quincy Express chairlift, we zoomed down Bandana ski run and set up shop around Empire Express chairlift. We first tested the powder around Anchor Trees. I liked it a lot and migrated for more tree skiing to the X-Files, where we took two great consecutive runs. All along, Thor gave us some valuable tips aimed at helping us stay nimble and weave smoothly around the giant evergreens.
After the trees, the steep!
Soon, it was time to move from these secret stashes to the steep component of the program. We peaked over the intimidating cornice that lines up Daly Bowl, wondering if we’d muster the audacity to let us drop down into the steep slope below. Thor led us by sheer example and then, the peer pressure pulled the trigger; one after the other, we all took the plunge and boy, were we proud we did it!
After a communal lunch at Silver Lake Lodge, we continued to explore the infinite forest that seem to line every single run Deer Valley has to offer. While I had already experienced many of our morning runs, most of the afternoon paths Thor took us to were either totally new to me or brought a brand new twist to some old spots that I had explored before. Deer Valley has so many “powder stashes” that I wouldn’t want to write a comprehensive guide about them; it would take almost forever to list them all!
The March afternoon sun combined with a relentless rhythm soon began to weigh on our legs and it was time to go back to Snow Park Lodge where we were shown some instruction videos that came in quite handy, as our experience of the day was still fresh in our minds and made us relate perfectly to the situations we all had encountered hours earlier.
Day Two: Moguls on the Menu
Sunday came a bit too early as we had little time to adapt from the spring time-change, losing one hour of sleep in the process, but this didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for this second day of “Steeps and Stashes.” I was invited to move to another group, led by John, another Deer Valley instructor. While the previous day had been centered on powder and steep terrain, it was now time to perfect our mogul technique on a variety of trails ranging from Empire Bowl, all the way over to Mayflower Bowl.
I used to like bumps when I was much younger and today, as my body has lost some of its flexibility, I carefully avoid confronting their destabilizing nature on almost any ski slope. This time, John found the right words and added some effective tips to reconcile me with that wavy and uneven terrain called moguls.
“Shopping for Turns” anyone?
That morning, John kept on discouraging us to endlessly “shop for turns,” an expression that means waiting forever for the perfect spot, the right conditions and the good moment to initiate a turn. This also means that when we do this, we eventually run out of real estate and end up on the edge of the run, still “looking.”
Instead, he showed us how to “ski the zipper,” the holy grail of mogul skiing. If this terminology sounds a little odd, just remember that the “zipper line” means that great bump skiers go straight down the mountain, allowing their knees to flex over the moguls instead of turning around them. That’s what is called the zipper line. It’s named that way because skiers remain within a narrow corridor that’s only as wide as their shoulders are broad.
Seeing is believing
What a bumpy day this Sunday ended up being! We did easy mogul trails in the morning and John gradually increased the gradient throughout the day. Eventually he took us just under the Red Cloud chairlift where we were filmed on video, doing our very best to “ski the zipper.” Just before noon, John stopped us at the Deer Valley video cabin theater, right off the edge of Success ski run, where we were given an opportunity to marvel at our own exploits along with those of our teammates.The whole session was commented in details by John, questions were asked and the whole video was seen at least three times before we were finally satisfied.
After lunch, the session continued, mostly under the mogul theme, sometime on easy terrain, sometimes on steeper runs and by 4 p.m. we were all a little tired but extremely happy that we had completed a wonderful two-day ski clinic. We learned a lot about Deer Valley Resort’s boundless powder and tree skiing. We tame our innate fears on Daly Bowl, reconciled ourselves with the secrets of mogul skiing and picked up so many new skills that we can’t wait to do it over again very soon!
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association has announced Deer Valley Resort as the site for the 2014 USANA U.S. Freestyle Championships held Friday, March 28, through Sunday, March 30, 2014. Deer Valley’s World Cup venue will host U.S. athletes coming together for the final event of the 2013-2014 season to battle it out for the title of U.S. Champion. The Championship event, originally scheduled to take place at Heavenly Valley, CA, will include moguls, dual moguls and aerials.
Leading the team for the championship event in moguls are Deer Valley sponsored athletes, 2010 bronze medalist Bryon Wilson and his brother, 2014 Olympian Brad Wilson (both of Butte, MT). Two-time Olympian Ashley Caldwell (Ashburn, VA) will lead the aerials team, along with Olympian Mac Bohonnon (Madison, CT), who finished fifth in Sochi. Deer Valley Resort is one of the world’s most renowned freestyle venues, having played host to the World Championships twice and is a perennial stop on the FIS Freestyle World Cup tour.“Deer Valley is the preeminent venue worldwide in freestyle skiing and will provide the platform for a great conclusion to the Olympic season,” said Calum Clark, vice president, events for USSA.
2014 USANA U.S. Freestyle Championships Schedule
- Men’s and women’s moguls qualifications and finals will take place Friday, March 28 from 9:55 a.m. to 3:50 p.m.
- Men’s and women’s aerials qualifications and finals will be held Saturday, March 29 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Men’s and women’s dual moguls finals will finish the event on Sunday, March 30 from 11:40 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. .
What do you pack for your girl’s ski weekend? Well, everything of course! You need bibs and ski jacket or two, under layers for warmth, choices of outfits for dinners out and your après ski boots. My girlfriends from California were so sweet to pack hostess gifts (yeah!), a bottle of my favorite Old Vine Zinfandel and a Barbera from the California wine country.
Let’s see what else? Girls have to have their hair care products, make up, and skin care goodies. Plenty of fashion accessories are necessary so we can all share when we are getting ready to go out for dinner. Do you think there was much room in their suitcases for ski boots? Not really. As I suspected, their suitcases were completely packed so they had to sit on them to close the zippers!
Knowing this might happen, ahead of time I set them up with ski rentals from Deer Valley’s Ski Rental shop. Who wants so schlep their stuff on the plane and check an extra bag for skis and poles? Besides, their equipment is quite a few years old, and this gave them a chance to try new technology. Bonuses: less stuff to carry, fewer baggage fees and opportunity to test new equipment.
Here is how it went:
Preparation: I made a call to the Deer Valley Rental shop with my friend’s names, ages, height, weight, and ski ability. Then I reserved rentals for them during their stay. Confirmations were emailed back and we were good to go.
Morning of Day 1: Since they were set up and I knew they’d be well taken care of, I dropped them off at Snow Park to get started. “See those guys dressed in green?” I said. “Have them point you to the rental shop and I’ll meet you down there.” Then I parked the car and grabbed the shuttle.
By the time I met up with them, they were already through registration with boots in hand, and were getting their skis and poles. Deer Valley Rental shop wants to get every customer through their rental experience in 5 – 10 minutes so they can get out and enjoy the snow. My girlfriends were floored it was so quick and easy. We headed to the boot warmers and hit Wide West ski run to warm up!
End of Day 1: We handed our skis and poles to the valet for free overnight storage at Snow Park Lodge. No schlepping boots either; we loved that we could leave the boots with the basket concierge for free overnight storage, too. Boots were placed in the baskets, and off we went.
Morning of Day 2: These girls were antsy to get back out there. They wanted to get in as many runs as possible so we arrived just after the resort opened. My friends quickly put on their matching rental boots, grabbed a basket to store our shoes and we were off. On the stairs, the girls were walking a little funny but I shrugged it off as being a little sore from the long day skiing the day before.
At the base of the Carpenter chairlift, my 5’2” friend Lynn was really having trouble getting her skis on. I said to her, “Lynn, set your skis sideways on the hill. They are sliding backwards.” She shot me a look that said, “I am not stupid! I know that.” She seemed a little agitated (which is not like her) so I popped out of my skis and went to investigate.
Her boots weren’t clicking into her bindings. It didn’t make any sense since she’d skied on them yesterday. The bindings looked too small. Then 5’7” Heidi couldn’t get her skis on either. Her bindings looked too big.
Einstein here (yeah, that was me) wasn’t connecting the dots either. I said, “Do you have the right skis?” Yep. Heidi’s skis had her name of them and so did Lynn’s. Ok. It’s not the skis. The three of us (normally fairly intelligent people) all deducted that it must be the bindings!
So we take the equipment back to the rental shop to investigate the bindings. We meet up with Deer Valley ski technician Howard Ritter who helps Lynn. He pulls up her information and grabs a boot the same size (then she won’t have to take off her boot – very thoughtful.) He checks the boot and binding. “This fits. Let’s take a look at your boot.” We both look down at the personalized sticker on her boot. It doesn’t match the ski.
Two stations down, Heidi’s technician is telling her that the boots she has on aren’t hers. Heidi says, “WHAT HAPPENED TO MY BOOTS?” (You might be wondering, “How many skiers does it take to change a light bulb?”)
Gary Wassmer, the rental shop supervisor happens to be standing there. He smiles as he and Howard state the obvious at the exact same time. You and your friend switched boots – you have each other’s boots on.
Lynn and Heidi lock eyes and simultaneously look down at the boots and burst our laughing.
Howard, the voice of reason, says with a huge smile on his face, “How did this girl (pointing to the long skis) fit into this girl’s (pointing to the shorter skis) boots?” Scratching our heads, we wondered how we could have possibly missed this when, (tiny feet) Lynn’s boots went on so easy and (tall) Heidi had a lot of trouble with hers and both could hardly walk up the stairs?
Now all the technicians and other renters are laughing with us. I get this party moving by directing my girlfriends to sit down and switch boots (while snapping photos to embarrass them). They are no longer hobbling and miraculously, their boots lock right into the bindings on their skis. We wave to our new best friends in the rental shop and hit the lift for an amazing day of run after run of Utah powder.
End of Day 2: I have asked my friends for the tenth time, “now who put their boots on first?” Someone tells me not to bother applying for Mensa anytime soon.
Despite our “user error,” we have a fantastic experience renting skis and skiing at Deer Valley.
Renting equipment is a great hassle-free way to enjoy a ski weekend out of town.
If the shoe fits, wear it. (Check your tag anyways to make sure it’s yours.)
If the shoe doesn’t fit, it’s probably not your shoe. (Check your tag to see whose it is.)
And laugh early and often with your girlfriends. Repeat.
For more information on ski rentals at Deer Valley resort, click here.
Check out more photos from our girls weekend ski trip.
Deer Valley Resort has partnered with CarteScape, Inc., a San Diego-based mobile development company, to launch a customized mobile ski app that provides guests with a range of resort navigation, resort services and social media features.
Available now on both iOS and Android platforms, the Deer Valley® app includes GPS navigation with augmented reality and an interactive map. Users can search runs, lodges, chairlifts and more from the app.
Users are able to record the statistics of their ski runs, tracking both vertical distance and speed measurements. The beautifully designed app has social media integration, allowing users to share photos and run statistics on Facebook and Twitter. Users can also find friends on the mountain.
An e-commerce component allows for easy purchase of lift tickets before arriving at the mountain and allows skiers to contact Ski Patrol with the touch of a button.
“Deer Valley Resort makes guest service its top priority, which is why we are constantly looking for the best ways to provide guests with convenient and up-to-date technological offerings,” said Bob Wheaton, president and general manager of Deer Valley Resort.
Features and enhancements will be released though upgrades throughout the season. For more information on the Deer Valley ski app, visit the resort’s website at deervalley.com/app
I have come out of my Olympic cloud and routine of staying up way too late and waking up early for two weeks. What else are you supposed to do during the Olympics? Although I even stick to this schedule during the summer Olympics, the alpine events are still my favorite to watch.
At the beginning of the games I was watching a women’s speed skating event when a German woman false-started. She got another try and did it again. Just like that she was out of the competition. I wanted to scream. I could feel the heartache she was going through. I wanted to reach through the TV and tell her it was okay. Millions of people are still proud of her, but at that moment no words can comfort you. I remember my Olympic moment where I was a favorite in my event and then in a second, it was gone. My mom came up to me and all she said was, “what a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” Thanks mom!
We didn’t get to see any of the women’s ski jumping events. It saddens me because no matter the result, Americans want to see Americans compete. Especially if it’s history making .(It was the debut of the event in the Olympics.)
I must admit, I am relieved that the games finished and seemed to go off without a hitch. Okay well, maybe the opening ceremony’s lighting of the rings didn’t go as planned. But, if that was the worst thing that happened, these games were a success. I’ve been asked about the snow conditions and weather for some of the events. Do I think the playing field was fair? Do I think it was a tough venue to hold the skiing? Did “unknowns” get lucky? First of all, you’re not an “unknown” if you’re in the Olympics. Next I would say, everyone had the same conditions. Also, it’s an outdoor sport; fog and sun can come in and out at any race at any time. This is why as an athlete, sometimes World Cup overall titles are a bit more meaningful. Olympics are great but it’s one day and ANYTHING can happen.
With that said, did Ted Ligety and Mikaela Shiffrin get lucky? No, they are simply the best. They can deal with any condition; it’s what skiers train for. Bode, Ted, and Mikaela are amazing. Julia Mancuso and Andrew Weibrecht had great performances. It’s an incredible feat to perform under pressure on a world stage and make it happen; congratulations to every athlete and their performances!
I always love the Olympic fever that comes with the games. I watch with anxious anticipation. The best part is watching them with my boys. You can start to see them thinking, “Can I do that some day?” or “I want to be like him/her.” I bet it is like this in most households. This is were the dreams begin.
As the Olympic anticipation was beginning with the personal stories and commercials, my most proud moment was a story about Mikaela Shiffrin. Even though I didn’t reach the highest goal that I started dreaming about as a kid, watching the Olympics and becoming an “Olympic medal winner”, I was flattered to see the acronym on Mikaela’s helmet A.B.F.T.T.B. (Always Be Faster Than The Boys). I still try to live by this and I’m happy I made a difference!
See you on the slopes!
I’ve been having a lot of conversations about boots, of late. It’s happened with enough frequency, that I’m taking to my soapbox for a Public Service Announcement. Get thee to the boot-fitter, stat.
I know, you and I may not know each other. But in my un-scientific sampling of friends, I’m noticing a trend. Nobody’s skiing comfortably in their boots. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I was one of those folks for a few weeks.
Remember, a couple of years ago when I found Boot Nirvana?
Well, I realized, a couple of weeks ago, that Nirvana had left the building. I found myself committing all manner of cardinal boot sins. Like clamping down my buckles, for instance. Bad skier. Baaaaad.
Then, there were signs that I should heed the warning my boots were sending me—in the form of achy joints after skiing (doesn’t happen when my boots are fitted properly) and knees that felt “tweaked,” for extra measure.
I heard instructors telling tales of students showing up in tears because their boots were ill-fitted and causing them extreme pain.
I skied with a friend who was skiing in boots that, to my non-professional eye, were at least two sizes too big. And her husband, who was skiing with 99 percent of his lower-body wardrobe tucked into the cuff of his boot. (“Repeat after me,” Jeff scolded, gently. “Nothing goes inside the boot except your sock.”) I’d dismiss this as a rookie error, but another friend, who’s a lifelong skier, was making the same mistake.
Then, a girlfriend injured her ankle, skiing at another resort. It was a really bad sprain—she’s off the hill for at least a few weeks. “I think my boots are kind of loose,” she admitted. She’s an expert skier. She should know better. But, she’s also a parent, and in the habit of deferring nuisance tasks like gear maintenance in favor of other tasks related to her kid’s skiing safety gear, etc. I get it.
Finally, after all that, I marched myself in to see “my” Boot Fitting Dude at Jans. No sooner had I put down my boot bag than he was extricating the boots from it, spiriting them off to the shop in the back and asking me questions as he went. “Mm hmm, mmhmm,” He nodded his assent to my “complaints,” and then disappeared. Moments later, he was back. We were trying the boots on. There were some minor tweaks. My awesome fit was restored. It took—wait for it—fifteen minutes.
Even if you think your boots are fine, do yourself a favor and spend fifteen minutes with a boot fitter. The good ones (and there are a lot of them in this town) are never going to try to sell you on a new boot if you don’t, honestly, need one. They’ll just fix you up and get you back on the hill. You’re welcome.
Doctor Peter Taillac and Ski Patrol’s Hylton Early have told us how to make the best of your Deer Valley ski vacation. Today, they will conclude their great tips series by discussing safety issues that are of concern to our most advanced skiers and learn how to stay safe under most weather and snow conditions!
JF: Can you tell us about avalanche control and snow safety in general?
Hylton Early: These are issues that we take extremely seriously at Deer Valley. We have a snow safety program that includes four rescue dogs that are specifically trained for avalanche rescue both at Deer Valley and out in the back country as well. We do conduct explosive control work to make sure that the runs are safe. That doesn’t mean it’s a guarantee that they will be absolutely safe as avalanches are an inherent risk of skiing, and it’s important to keep this fact in mind.
JF: Is Ski Patrol available for on-hill, last minute updates?
Hylton Early: Yes, you can always check-in with Ski Patrol at the top of Bald Mountain or the top of Empire before you head into areas that could be avalanche-prone. This way, you will also get the latest reports because the Ski Patrol staff would have been there early on and will able to tell you where the safe lines and the best places to ski are. If you’re not quite sure about what to take along, the Ski Patrol is available to remind you about the necessary equipment you might need to stay safe out there.
JF: What about ropes line and closed signs?
Hylton Early: You always want to respect these. They’re in place for a reason. Just like anybody else, we want to open runs as fast as we can but we want to make sure that they are safe before opening them to skiers!
JF: Any advice for the lone skier?
Hylton Early: It’s very important to let someone else know where you’re going and to have a plan of a place to meet up. In today’s cell phone culture, it’s easy to get complacent, but your battery can die or your phone can fall out of your pocket, so it’s always good to have a fail-safe meeting point, like meet for lunch at a certain lodge. If you are skiing some expert terrain, I would really recommend that you always ski with a partner, so if you were to get injured, this buddy can provide aid to you and let the Ski Patrol know where you are.
JF: How can skiers reach Ski Patrol?
Hylton Early: The Ski Patrol number 435-645-6804 is located on the back of all the trail map, or you can dial extension 6804 from any mountain phone. It’s a smart idea to program it into your cell phone. You can of course always report an injury to any lift employee as well. The Deer Valley Mobile App also has a button to immediately call Ski Patrol.
JF: Do you have tips for the great Deer Valley powder days?
Hylton Early: Everyone gets so excited and so filled with adrenaline on these wonderful powder days, that it’s always a good idea to remember to ski safely and to follow the Skier’s Responsibility Code. The most obvious incident is when you lose your ski in deep powder; if your ski came off, make sure to remember the last point when you saw it, which will help greatly if Ski Patrol comes to help you locate it. If you’re skiing the trees, always be on the watch out for stumps and obstacles and be also aware of tree wells; some people have the smart idea of carrying a whistle clipped to their jacket that can serve to alert others of you were to fall into a well and signal your location; this warning signal also comes very handy if you were injured in any location hidden from view.
JF: Doctor Taillac, is there anything you’d like to add to these details and advices aimed at keeping us safe on the mountain?
Doctor Peter Taillac: I just would like to compliment the Ski Patrol for the great job they do, here at Deer Valley Resort. They’re very knowledgeable and take a great deal of pride in what they’re doing for skiers. They are very diligent at keeping up with their medical training on regular basis so they stay very sharp. We feel that they have a great relationship with the Clinic. Our doctors and nurses know what they’re talking about when they bring in a patient. Guests are safe, here at Deer Valley, they have a great medical safety net available to them and if there is an incident, they’ll be in very good hands.
JF: Hylton, do you have any other comment on behalf of Deer Valley Ski Patrol?
Hylton Early: Unlike many ski resorts that have a mix between professionals augmented by part-time ski patrollers. Deer Valley Ski Patrol is 100% professional and this allows us to keep the highest level of training standard and care for the benefit of our guests.
Thank you for following this four part series on Deer Valley’s Invisible Safety Net. If you missed any of the posts follow the links below.
A wise friend once told me: “Nobody wants to watch your skiing videos.” She’s probably right. However, I’m here to make an argument for watching your own skiing videos.
One of the benefits of enrolling in a Specialty Ski Program at Deer Valley is that it usually includes video sessions. I’ll be the first to admit that video days make me a little edgy—I feel like it’s the “final exam” I couldn’t possibly study for, or the one moment I’m going to make the “wrong” kinds of turns. I feel this way about the ski off at the beginning of a clinic, too. But the truth is, you can get a lot out of watching yourself—and your classmates ski.
The Women on Wednesdays program includes two video days. I missed the first one, due to the plague hitting my house in the form of strep throat. But on the final Wednesday, there was another opportunity to ski for the camera. Our video point was on the section of Solid Muldoon ski run, just below the Little Bell ski run. The Murphy’s Law of Video Day is that, inevitably, other guests ski in front of your camera angle. Sometimes, they mistakenly think the camera is set up for them, in fact. But the video crew are pros at keeping their focus on the students.
We watched the playback in the video shack that is tucked in the trees between Solid Muldoon and Success ski runs. There, under the guidance of our awesome coach, Donna McAleer, we were able to critique and appreciate our skiing. I say “appreciate” because when you’re well-coached in one of these clinics, there turns out to be a lot to like in what you see on the screen.
I was shocked to see that my form had improved dramatically since the beginning of the season. My stance was strong, and balanced. My edges were engaged. My arms were reaching forward at the correct angle to keep me facing downhill. Unbelievably, neither my coach nor my classmates had a single note for me. The notes for the other women were minor tweaks to form, that were helpful to all of us. We even busted our coach for a couple of form slips. (She got us back by making us ski a “Cowboy Drill,” down the Success ski run, using an improbably wide stance. It was, of course, enormously helpful, but I’m sure we looked ridiculous to the other skiers.)
“Video is very powerful.” Donna reminded us. “Even if you can tape each other—everyone has a phone with a camera, now—it’s a good way to check your form.”
Later that day, one of our classmates took that to heart. We were on our second run of moguls off the Orion ski run. Donna told us she wanted to watch us from the bottom, so she skied ahead. We all agree that it’s a gift to watch Donna ski. She’s strong and graceful. “You looked like that,” said my new friend Kim. “Really.”
I did not believe her. Our first run had been good—I found a good line and just skied it. The snow was soft, the bumps were forgiving, and I had just cruised down them. But I had not considered that it had looked at all good, from a technical standpoint.
“Here, I’ll tape you,” she said. And then Kim revealed herself to be a true friend. It was absolutely frigid out there. Single digits. Wind chills. Cold. And she took off her glove and then held up her iPhone, and proceeded to film her classmates.
Off I went. I don’t think it was my most graceful run, ever, but I can see where my turns and form are consistent, and I know if felt good while I skied. See for yourself.
I got to the bottom, and Donna said, “What are you thinking about when you are coming down?”
“I’m not,” I told her. “Perhaps the trick for me is to get out of the habit of over thinking, and just ski.”
“Good point,” she said, as we turned to watch the other women descend.
After we closed down Empire Express chairlift, we cruised over to Hidden Treasure ski run, and found an entrance in the trees, skier’s left, that would take us to the lower section of Square Deal ski run, for more bumps practice. I had not seen the video, yet, but I knew my “don’t think just ski” approach was working, so, I worked it.
Our final run of the clinic was the Solid Muldoon ski run “Ski it to the bottom, and I’ll see you inside,” Donna said. Or I think she said that, because I took off. I locked the image of the morning’s video in my brain, set my edges in, leaned forward and zoomed down the run. I’ve always had a little love-hate relationship with the very bottom of Solid Muldoon ski run. The fact that it turns, goes steep and is often a little, shall we say crispy, can mess with my head. On this day, my skiing brain was having none of that. She was just riding that hill for all that it had to offer. My classmates and our coach were not far behind, but they all remarked on my speedy run.
“Before you ask, Donna, I’ll tell you,” I began. “I was thinking about that image of myself on this morning’s video. I skied it just like the woman on the screen.”