Granddaughter’s Ski Lesson

The best ski lesson for your child or grandchild is one where you give them a kiss on the cheek and leave them to the instructor. The problem is you are just as excited about the lesson as they are! You want to be up close and personal to observe and take photos to memorialize the event.

That’s how my friends TJ and Lin felt when they set up a ski lessons for their granddaughter (and my little friend) Stella, age 3. The grandparents felt like it was important for the little one to have a positive experience right from the start. They called in Deer Valley ski instructor, Mark Shepard to teach her on her first day. Mark has a keen ability to really hone in on what a skier needs to make marked improvements. He helped TJ (a lifelong skier) make drastic improvements on the bumps and Stella’s Mom and Dad take on the blues. So why not make it three generations.

Mark was open to splitting a private lesson. The first hour, a private lesson just for little Stella and the rest of the morning went to their daughter and son-in-law (both beginner skiers.)  He started little Stella’s lesson in the lodge practicing “pizza and french fry” on aluminum pie pans (no skis yet – just with boots) until she got the concept down cold. The grandparents were quickly forgotten as Mark got right down to Stella’s eye level. Though TJ and Lin wanted to stick around, they knew better.

Photo Credit: TJ Lenahan

Photo Credit: TJ Lenahan

They also had a secret weapon – a serious telephoto lens! TJ is a wildlife photographer — an expert at quietly watching from a long distance and snapping amazing photos. He put those skills to the test for Stella’s lesson.

Here is what he observed (while in stealth mode) from way over on the other side of the run:

Mark carrying little Stella to the hill.

Photo Credit: TJ Lenahan

Photo Credit: TJ Lenahan

Practicing now with skis on.

Photo Credit: TJ Lenahan

Photo Credit: TJ Lenahan

A typical three-year-old, Stella points out an airplane in the sky during the lesson. Mark simply lies on his back to enjoy the delight of the plane with her.

In about an hour, Stella is skiing!

Ski Lesson 3

Photo Credit: TJ Lenahan

The moral of the story is you can have the best of both worlds. Your child or grandchild can enjoy their lesson and you can have photos to remember the event. All you have to do is walk softly and carry a big telephoto lens.
For more information on ski lessons at Deer Valley Ski Resort, click here

The Snow Alchemists

When you tell friends about your Deer Valley ski vacation and before you start explaining the resort famed “corduroy”, nine times out of ten, they’ll ask you: “How was the snow?”  Today, I’m spending a few moments with Scott Enos, Deer Valley Resort Snowmaking Manager, one of these experts, with a quarter of a century experience in producing man-made snow that  guarantees a unique ski experience.

JF: Before we explore the key role you play at Deer Valley, tell me, why do we need man-made snow in the first place?

Scott Enos: Man-made snow is not necessarily the snow you want to ski on, look at it as a “primer.” It’s a base layer upon which we accumulate natural snow by starting from a safe base, covering rocks, twigs and terrain irregularities. Once this layer is in place, our ski season is secured.

JF: What does it take to make snow?

Scott Enos: It takes lots of water and obviously, huge amounts of electrical power, because our snow guns all run on electricity. So with all that water, compressed air and the right temperature and humidity, you can make snow.

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JF: But how do you actually turn water into snow?

Scott Enos: You need a snow gun and we have two types of them. The first type is called “fan gun” and is used on the lower part of the mountain. It has a barrel with a large, 25 HP fan inside; this creates a column of air into which we inject water. To “seed” that water, there’s also a 10 HP compressor that transforms the mixture of air and water into a plume that turns into snow as soon as it hits the frigid air.

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JF: What’s your second type of snow gun?

Scott Enos: It’s a compressed air system that directly mixes water and compressed air. We connect it to our slope-side hydrants and both elements are mixed inside a nozzle that blows snow on the ski run.

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JF: Are all ski runs receiving the same depth of snow?

Scott Enos: Years of observation and experience, slope grade and traffic patterns define how we lay the snow. Steeper pitches, sun exposure, high skier traffic and terminal areas generally require deeper coverage than average slopes.

JF: What is the warmest temperature at which you can make snow?

Scott Enos: Technically speaking it’s 28 degree Fahrenheit. When we’re talking about snowmaking we refer to “wet-bulb temperature” which indicates the factor of humidity in the air, as opposed to “dry-bulb temperature” which is more like the actual temperature we measure. For instance when the wet-bulb temperature is 28, the dry-bulb temperature could be as high as 36 degrees. This means that high humidity conditions makes snow making less efficient.

JF: Are you saying that the output is greater when the weather is dryer and colder?

Scott Enos: Certainly! Here at Deer Valley we can pump 7,000 gallons of water per minute; which equates to about 10 million gallons per day. As the temperature decreases and the air remains dry, our volume increases to the point that we can’t move the equipment fast enough and have to reduce our water use.

JF: How has technology evolved over the past 25 years?

Scott Enos: Tremendously! Monitoring system used to be non-existent; today, we have multiple weather stations on the mountain that we monitor in real time and integrate automatically with our pumping system. Some of our fan guns are now fully automated and equipped with telemetry that allows us to control them through my office computer. Our new machines are also much more efficient; the new air-water guns have nothing in common with the old ones. Over that quarter-century it’s fair to say that our capacity to make snow has increased one hundred fold!

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JF: Early in the season, I see those big mounds of snow that you call “whales”, piled up on some runs, I often wonder “How can the snowmakers tell when they have made enough snow?” How do you measure your output?

Scott Enos: Sorry to disappoint you, but we don’t take any sophisticated measurements; Experience simply tell us “we’ve got enough snow!”

JF: Why do you let these big “whales” sit for some time before spreading them on the trail?

Scott Enos: We always let them sit for a while before we break them; they “cure,” so the excess water contained in them can fully drain out. We want snow that is consistent, without frozen water inside. We let them sit at least a day before the snow cat breaks them up and we’ll let that snow sit for another day. We take the time to make it right!

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JF: Let’s talk now about water, your main raw material. Can you tell us where your main storage facilities are on the mountain?

Scott Enos: We have several storage ponds. Three large ones are at Snow Park between the Deer Valley Plaza and our parking lots. Then, on Deer Crest, as you’re skiing down Jordanelle and pass the last bridge, you’ll see into the side of the hill a concrete station that pumps 25 millions gallons of water that we purchase from the Jordanelle Special Service District. This water comes from the Keetley mine before it’s cooled through a treatment plant, as it comes fairly warm from the ground. Finally, for the upper mountain, we have a reservoir that sits at 8,813 feet, by the Homeward Bound run. We buy this water from Park City and it also replenishes itself through the year.

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JF: So when environmentalists question the wisdom of using so much water for just making snow, how do you respond?

Scott Enos: We take water that runs in late fall and early winter and that can’t be used for say, agriculture. So, we take that water and conserve it under the form of snow so it can melt later, just like the rest of our mountain snow pack.

JF: Let’s now talk about your people, the ones who make all that snow…

Scott Enos: The snowmakers are an eclectic group of people. There’s 36 guys and girls and me!

JF: Is it all night work?

Scott Enos: More than that, it’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The crews work in teams, with a swing shift and a graveyard shift. The shifts start at 1 a.m. and at 1 p.m. They sign up for five days a week, weather permitting, and at any given time, we always have 12 to 14 snowmakers on duty on the mountain from the end of October through the end of January. When we’re done making snow, many crew members will be doing something else. Some are snow groomers, ski instructors, bakers or snow plow drivers, as snow-removal is another task our department handles.

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JF: What does it takes to work as a snowmaker?

Scott Enos: This type of work is physically demanding. The hours are long, the work is hard. These people have to deal with all kinds of adverse conditions; in fact, the tougher the conditions, the harder the work. It’s just remarkable that a large core group of people come back to us season after season!

JF: What do you do in summer?

Scott Enos: We prepare for the following snow season. We start implementing our capital improvements that are a yearly occurrence. Deer Valley is a resort that really understands the value of snowmaking and what it means to its guests. We strive yo make our slopes more fun to ski on, more user friendly and there is no end to our commitment to improve our guests’ experience. Good snow year or bad snow year, we keep on upgrading our systems, investing in our infrastructure that grows incrementally year after year.

JF: Since you’ve worked here 25 years, you’ve seen many different winters. Is there any relationship between natural snow and the quality of skiing?

Scott Enos: If you want to come out and ski the kind of groomed runs Deer Valley is famous for, even if it’s not a snow record breaking year, you’ll end up having a wonderful time. For instance, just now, the mountain is as good as it ever gets. We may not have knee-deep powder today, but it’s going to come soon anyway. I have a very good feeling about that!

Don’t Worry About #FOMOS (Fear of Missing Out on Seafood) at the Deer Valley Seafood Buffet

There are two distinct strategies for having a fantastic evening at the Deer Valley Seafood Buffet. The first is to enjoy your absolute favorite seafood with no restrictions. I overheard another guest planning out his evening with this in mind.

He said, while gazing at the raw oyster and sushi bar, “Wow, I could make a whole night of this!” I observed him filling up two plates of oysters with horseradish and slices of lemons and then coming back for more. With this approach, you can be in seafood bliss enjoying the dishes you love most for an entire evening.

Wine and Fire

While I respect this approach, the “fear of missing out on seafood” held me back. I wanted to try everything since it was my first time dining at the Seafood Buffet. I anticipated this reaction so I came prepared. Trying everything took a little planning and a whole lot of self-control at first.

If you want to try the second approach – a little bit of everything – here are a few suggestions:

Empty the tank before you go. Burn some calories earlier in the day. Whether it’s downhill skiing for a few hours, trying out some cross-country skiing at White Pine or snowshoeing, come hungry.

Start with appetizers at the raw oyster bar.

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Then hit the Natural Buffet to fill out your appetizers and add some salads – Pile your plate high with crab, prawns and salmon. Try a few bites of each of the salads. I have to admit I neglected to try the salads because I was so excited about the Dungeness crab. (two helpings plus one of snow crab. I know. Heaven.)

Delicacies are next at the Hot Entrée Station – When our waitress went over all the seafood specials, my thought was simply, “Yes to all.”  I wasn’t worried about which ones.  Try a bite of each!  I sampled the Honey Soy Glazed Scallops with Fresh Ginger Sauce and Pecan Crusted Sailfish among other things.

The seafood buffet is not complete without the Carvery Station.  I had Double R Ranch prime rib and potatoes. OK, mine wasn’t “a little bite,” it was a whole plate with au jus and mushroom sauce on the side.  Remember how I recommended emptying the tank?

 Meat

Wait!  We forgot the sushi bar.  This is exactly what happened to me so I went ahead and tasted a few pieces of fresh sushi at this juncture in the evening and it was wonderful.  Sushi doesn’t need to be an appetizer!

Sushi

Dessert from the bakery – Everyone will tell you to save room for dessert. No need here. There are plenty of small bites to choose from: Truffles, chocolate, mini cupcakes, and fruit parfaits if you want just a bite of dessert or something light.  If your sweet tooth is calling for something more substantial, there are choices to your heart desires. I am too embarrassed to share with you all the desserts I tried!

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My best tip of all – relax and enjoy! Slow down and take your time, you never have to fear missing out on seafood at Deer Valley Resort.

For more information on the Seafood Buffet or to make reservations, click here.

Women on Wednesday Ski Clinic

I’m already digging Women on Wednesday. I signed up hoping to find some more confidence in my skiing, and I found myself surrounded by women with the same goal. One classmate happens to be a pal, Kellie, with whom I don’t ever get to spend enough time, so: Bonus!

WoW blog picture

Here, my “High Five” to the program, thus far:

1. Those Wednesdays are stretching out in front of me with “practice” time in-between.

2. I’ve scored Donna McAleer, my friend and sometime ski companion, as an instructor. “Can you be taught by Donna?” my husband wondered, aloud, after the first night. “She’s a good friend, you’ve known her so long.” The answer is, without a doubt, yes. “She graduated from West Point,” I reminded him. “I’ll do what she says.” Also, she loves her job, loves to ski, and is a professional, fun teacher. This, I told him, was the easiest choice in the world.

3. Including Donna and myself, there are four New Englanders in our group. I could not help myself, saying aloud to one of them, “I love listening to you speak. It sounds like home.” Wicked awesome.

4. The method to Donna’s madness is brilliant. Our first day out offered us some rather “crunchy” snow. A little firm, and some patches with thin cover. Donna would not allow us to be daunted. In fact, if we skied a particularly gnarly trail, there was no question we would ski it a second time. “You spend the first run figuring out the terrain,” she explained. “Then you spend the second run using what you learned to ski it better.” She’s so right. I am the first person to say, after a “scratchy” run, “Let’s go find some softer snow.” But it’s the wrong tactic. Skiing something twice gives you confidence. Abandoning it after one run leaves you defeated.

5, I found out how to overcome the anxiety I feel when visibility is poor: Make the next turn. This seems obvious. But if you’ve ever gotten to the top of the run and thought, “How am I going to ski if I can’t SEE?” This tip is for you: You don’t need to see the whole run. You just need to be able to see one or two, maybe three, turns ahead of where you are. One is sufficient. I found myself in low visibility, repeating a mantra: “Make the next turn,” all the way down Nabob. It’s one of those skills we all have, but don’t realize. Yes, you can ski, safely and enjoyably, in minimal visibility.

Deer Valley’s Invisible Safety Net: Part Two

In our previous blog, we were introduced to the amazing “Doctor Patrol” at Deer Valley. Today, both Doctor Peter Taillac and Ski Patrol’s Hylton Early will dispense some great advice about making your ski stay with us as fun and safe as possible.

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JF: What about some physical conditioning prior to going skiing?

Hylton Early: There are many things you can do to prepare yourself for your ski trip. Doing exercises, like some body weight squats, single leg squats, strengthen your leg muscles, and so on. There are many sources: On line tips and videos, books or magazine that list good physical conditioning exercise for skies. If you have a personal trainer, ask for a specific program prior to your ski vacation.

JF: What advice would you give to guests coming to Deer Valley Resort to ski?

Hylton Early: There are a lot of things you can do to prepare for a great day on the slopes. First, make sure to hydrate and make time for a good breakfast that will give you enough fuel for a fun day out. Also, give yourself the time to acclimate to our higher elevation. You don’t want to forget your sun protection that you will re-apply as the day progresses and don’t forget good eye protection. You also want to make sure you have warm clothing and well thought accessories like good gloves and neck gators or face-masks. People more sensitive to cold may also consider getting some hand and foot warming products or devices.

JF: What about helmets?

Doctor Peter Taillac: This by far is my favorite subject and perhaps the most important piece of equipment. For me, it’s a big issue, because in my emergency department, I take care of skiers who crash with helmets and skiers who crash without them. I can tell you that my patients with helmets are always far better off. Even if they hit their head hard and get knocked out, they aren’t as likely to be permanently brain-injured. Those who don’t have helmets, even if they just suffer a small hit to the head can sustain a severe concussion or some internal bleeding that can cause permanent damage. The helmet is the equivalent to wearing a seat-belt in a car; it makes all the difference in the world in your outcome should you be unlucky enough to be in a ski accident.
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JF: Sounds like we should never hit the slopes without wearing a helmet!

Doctor Peter Taillac: Absolutely! The only permanent injury that you can sustain while skiing is a head-injury. If you break your tibia, fracture your arm, dislocate your shoulder or get a severe chest or abdominal injury, even with some internal bleeding, these traumas, for the most part, can all be repaired. A head injury however is a totally different story; too often, we don’t have the technology available to make a severe brain injury get better.

JF: What about inserting some periods of rest into a ski vacation?

Hylton Early: It’s always a good idea to take a break and it’s even better to always listen to your body; if you do, it will tell you if your knees are aching or your back is sore. One good thing you can do is go out on the first chair, right around 9 a.m. and ski till 11 a.m. when the conditions are going to be best. That way, instead of putting in a full day, you can take the afternoon to relax. Listening to your body is paramount, especially if you are of a more advanced age or know you have difficulties acclimatizing to higher altitudes.

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JF: Doctor, is there anything you’d like to add on getting used to higher elevations?

Doctor Peter Taillac: Well, it’s important to realize that it always takes a couple of days to adapt from sea level to an altitude of 7,000 – 8,000 feet. I would recommend that if visitors want to ski on their first day, they take it very easy, stay on the lower, less challenging slopes, and just ease into skiing that very first day out. As they start feeling more comfortable, they can go a little bit higher on the mountain and try more difficult runs the next days. I personally found that, as Hylton mentioned, getting an early start and taking a nice, long lunch break, perhaps even a little snooze, and then come back out, is a really good way to make for long but not exactly exhausting day.

JF: Do you have any special recommendations for small kids?

Doctor Peter Taillac: Kids often won’t tell you when they’re cold until it hurts, but their small bodies can loose temperature much faster than adults, because they have disproportionately bigger heads and most of the heat is lost through the head. So for kids, having warm clothing, good cover over their head and ears, in addition to their helmet, is always important. Lastly, for everyone and for all kids in particular, it’s always a good idea to dress as if it’s very cold, make sure to layer your clothing so if there’s a need to shed a layer latter on, as the weather warms up, that’s fast and convenient. It’s a lot easier to take a layer off than putting one back on.

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In our next blog, we’ll talk about ski equipment and safety on the mountain. So please stay tuned for next installment of “Deer Valley’s invisible safety net!”

There Is No Place Like Home

Ever wanted to click your ruby red slippers together three times to get back home?  I sure did.  After months on the road traveling to far-away, beautiful places for training and racing all I could think about was being back home.  I made one of the most difficult decisions in my career a few weeks ago.  With a 700-point lead in the Overall World Cup standings I decided to follow my heart and stay home.

Our season began back in August with our opening World Cup events in Australia and New Zealand.  I favor the icy, hard conditions and won seven out of the seven World Cup races Down Under.  A continuous winning streak I had never experienced but knew deep in my heart simply could not continue because that is not the nature of ski racing.  From there things went “downhill” and try as I might to get back on top of the podium again, I made mistakes, crashed and did not finish as many races as I had consecutively won.  All the while my longing for home, family and friends was mounting until I made that difficult decision – go on the road for 22 World Cup races in five different countries over a two month period and race every race BEFORE departing to Sochi -OR- go home, train, rest and feed my soul giving up a chance at the Overall World Cup Globe, a trophy I had not won since 2007!

2007 World Cup Globes

2007 Overall World Cup Globe, Overall World Cup Giant Slalom and Slalom Globes

After hours of consultation with Marcel (my husband, coach and everything), my incredible sports psychologist Suzie and our Alpine Director Kevin Jardine, I determined that winning a gold medal in Sochi and winning the Overall World Cup simply could not be accomplished simultaneously for me this season due to the demands of the travel on the World Cup circuit and time away from training.  I would have to choose one or the other.  I chose to give my best performance in Sochi!

I grew up in a small town (sounds like I am about to start singing the John Cougar Mellencamp song – I’ll spare you), but everything that comes to mind about a small town when someone says, “I grew up in a small town” is true for me.  I did not know when I was growing up how wonderful small town life was. Instead I daydreamed about going to Hollywood and becoming an actress.  I wanted to star in moving dramas that would change people’s lives.  Not until my daydreams came true, and I moved to Los Angeles to attend film school at the University of Southern California did I begin to realize the beauty and safety of a simple life in a small community where people say, “hello how are you?” on the street and genuinely care.  I missed my family terribly.  If it weren’t for meeting my still best friend and soul sister Meredith Escabar at University of Southern California, I think I would have perished.  In our household my mother and father both owned their own small businesses.  They modeled hard work, commitment, dedication, honesty and love to my younger brother and me.  Their values became our values and my brother and I both in our own way wanted to grow up and be “good people.” Alone in a city of 12 million people not only did I miss sharing that daily interaction with my family, I realized it was the very core of who I am.

Age 4 - ready for Hollywood!

Age 4 – ready for Hollywood!

The Sundance Film Festival brought me to Park City.  I was promoting a small part in a film (not actually in the festival), which was my acting debut after loosing my legs.  I loved Park City from the moment I arrived (although I had been here before for a ski trip in college and when I spoke at Senator Hatch’s women’s conference two year’s before).  This trip was special because I met Marcel.  I had my first lesson in a mono-ski with him at the National Ability Center.

January 1999 first day I met Marcel and tried a mono-ski at the National Ability Center

January 1999 first day I met Marcel and tried a mono-ski at the National Ability Center

I was so taken by his passion, his love of life and skiing that I would do whatever it took to be on the mountain and ski with him.  The perspective of the world that he showed me from the mountaintop was unlike any other.  I had spent the last three years prior to meeting him in and out of the hospital, having 14 reconstructive surgeries.  From the top of the mountain that day on my very first lesson with Marcel I saw my entire life play out.  Small town girl raised in a loving family pursues acting dreams until one night simply going out to dinner, an out of control car crashed into me and in order to save my life the doctors had to amputate both my legs.  I would never walk or run or dance or stand in the shower as I once had.  My life had changed drastically, but as it holds true for all of us, I knew that my fate, my going forward was still in my hands.  I could create my destiny, my happiness, and my love of life if I so chose. On the mountaintop with Marcel I made the decision that I had no idea would fulfill my creating a new, beautiful life for myself.  I decided to move to Park City, train with Marcel and pursue Paralympic success in Salt Lake City in 2002.

2002 Salt Lake City Paralympic Bronze Medal in Downhill, Marcel cheering in the background

2002 Salt Lake City Paralympic Bronze Medal in Downhill, Marcel cheering in the background

As a result of that decision, on that one day on the mountaintop, I have married the man I love and adore more than anything in the world (in Deer Valley of course!) and I have an amazing career I share with him doing what we both love – ski racing.  Together we have won Gold in the Paralympic Games in Torino and in Vancouver.  We strive to win another this March!

Embracing Marcel in the finish area just after I won my first Paralympic Gold medal in the 2006 Torino Paralympic Games

Embracing Marcel in the finish area just after I won my first Paralympic Gold medal in the 2006 Torino Paralympic Games

I won the first ever, Paralympic Gold medal in Super Combined in the 2010 Vancouver Games

I won the first ever, Paralympic Gold medal in Super Combined in the 2010 Vancouver Games

For the last 15 years throughout my entire ski-racing career, I have been supported by our local community in Park City, a small town we call home.  Deer Valley has sponsored me and been our official home ski area for training.  Marcel and I have spent thousands of hours training in Deer Valley over the last 15 years and we know every square inch of the entire ski area, just like my backyard growing up in Sewickley, PA.  But more important than the safe and familiar, feeling of our home landscape is the connection we share with all the people who work at Deer Valley.  We deeply value the 15-year friendship with the same amazing people who supported me and provided for me in so many ways to make my Paralympic dreams a reality.  The deep bond of friendship we share has for many years felt like family.  I am so grateful to experience on a daily basis the warm welcome from guest services when we roll into Snow Park for training.  The personal inquire about “How I am doing?”, “How is training going?” from people who genuinely care.  Or the chefs who know my special training dietary needs and like my mom still want me to have a chocolate chip cookie reward so they offer me the gluten free one instead!  Deer Valley is my home and the people who work there are my family.  Compared to all the ski areas I have visited world wide, the atmosphere and the people of Deer Valley provide a comfort and charm I associate with the love of my small town upbringing.  I hope it will always stay that way.

We are so fortunate to train both at Deer Valley and at Park City Mountain Resort where we also have an incredible support system not just from our friends at PCMR but from all the teams we join for training at Park City.  My small town connection also includes a 15-year partnership with Rossignol, my ski company who doesn’t just provide me the fastest skis in the world, we share a bond of friendship and they have provided me incredible support.

As I prepare for my fourth Paralympic Games at age 44 in 2014, it only makes sense to return to where I started, to Park City with Marcel and focus on a Gold medal victory one last time.

Eat it Up

We gathered as soon as I had dropped off my kids at day one of Children’s Sunday Ski Experience. There were seven of us, and we dove into the day’s powder with gusto. My friend Stacey, who I met four years ago during Women’s Weekend, was first to say, “I am a Powder Day Plus One Skier.” Meaning she likes a good powder dump as much as anyone, but prefers to ski on it after the groomers have had their way with it, the next day, thank you very much.

My friend Kellie and I were fresh off our first Women on Wednesdays lesson, so we were eager to see if we remembered all the mad skills we’d picked up on that day. Our group also contained two Miriams (one I’ll call Mir, to keep them straight), Catherine, who skis DV only occasionally, and Sue. We were all of compatible levels, but Mir and Sue are likely the most experienced and confident skiers, and Catherine is a good, gutsy skier. Mind you, in the days leading up to this outing, I got comments from several of my friends, saying they were a little nervous to ski with me—which made me laugh. “We are skiing for lunch, people,” I reminded them. “It’s social and fun.”

What followed was exactly that. A fun, social day, laughing as hard as we skied—which is to say, plenty. I couldn’t get away with copping out of much, since Kellie and I had just skied together on Wednesday, and she knew what I could do. Which is, of course, how I wound up taking Square Deal ski run from the top, rather than snaking around to the trees on skier’s left of Hidden Treasure and cutting in below the first long pitch. I was so pleased with myself that whenever I answered a question from my kids, that night, I simply said, “Square Deal. From the Top.” It wasn’t always the answer they were looking for—or, rather, it wasn’t ever the answer they were looking for—but, they got the message: Mama is hardcore, now.

Fresh Tracks under Quincy Lift

Of course, I couldn’t resist finding a path to hike through the glade between Hidden Treasure and Square Deal, a few hours later. Kellie was kind enough to snap some photos of me, and of Stacey, as we stopped to admire the gorgeous surroundings.

We skied a little of everything that day—those who were tired, nursing injuries or wanting an easier run felt no pressure to do what the bumps-and-powder-chasers were doing. One of my favorite runs of the day was suggested by Stacey: Orion to Solace, off of Empire Express chairlift. It left me feeling like I could ski anything, even though I had passed on the opportunity to take Daly Chutes with Mir and Sue.

Powder from Stacey

As I suspected, it mattered not which terrain each of us skied that day, but rather that we encouraged each other to eat it up, and take in as much powder and as many turns as we could, before the promised lunch. Ah, yes. Lunch,

Royal Street Café did not disappoint. Mulled Wine, and Blueberry Vodka Hot Chocolate—honestly, we could have stopped there. But with such a delicious menu, why would we? We split a few appetizers, and enjoyed our entrees. Mostly, though, we enjoyed each other’s company—no one in the group, aside from me, knew everyone in the group when we started the day. But after a day of riding chair lifts, together, the lunch conversation flowed easily. By day’s end, I was floating down to ski school pickup, on Stacey’s words: “Powder Plus Zero!”

Food

It’s Official: My Kids are Better Skiers Than I am.

Family Picture

Meet the newest contributor to the Deer Valley blog, Summer Sanders. In 1992 at the Olympic Games, a 19-year-old Summer Sanders won four Olympic medals, bringing home 2 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze. The moment she hung up her Speedo, she embarked on a television career, hosting shows for MTV (Sandblast), the NBA (Inside Stuff), Nickelodeon (Figure It Out), and Fox (The Sports List, Skating with Celebrities), and acting as a correspondent for shows such as Good Morning America, Rachael Ray, and The Today Show.  She has been a contestant on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” and the Food Network’s “Guy vs. Rachael Celebrity Cook-Off”. Sanders recently created and hosted “Find Your Fitness” on MSN, where she challenged herself to try new fitness trends for the education and amusement of the audience. A health and fitness realist, Sanders is a working mom who prides herself on living a hands-on active lifestyle and being a “life is perfectly imperfect” motivator. She has two children, Skye (7) and Spider (5), with her husband Olympic skier Erik Schlopy. Follow the Deer Valley blog and keep up with Summer as she blogs about her experiences at Deer Valley.

Group Picture

It is now official, my kids, who are 6 (Spider) and 7 (Skye), are way better skiers than I am. I’ve had a hunch for a few years but after this past weekend, I have proof.  Together, my kids and I took a family ski lesson at Deer Valley, something that I’d wanted to take for a few years but never got around to scheduling. My kids are solid skiers already, but I wanted us to feel good about it as a family and really know where we could go together to enjoy a day on the slopes. Our instructor took us through all the amazing kids runs at Deer Valley, most of which were in the trees, which my kids think are fabulous, and with names like “Oompa Loompa”, “Ruby’s Tail”, “Bucky’s Backyard” and “Quincys Cabin”, you knew it was going to be nothing short of heaven for the them, their mama was another story.

Cabin

Let me be very honest with you. Up to this point, I had never taken the kids skiing by myself. There was way too much room for error in the process for me to stomach it, the gear, the schlepping to and from, and keeping myself from getting lost. It was all a little too much for my swimmer brain to handle.

Our instructor’s name was Lance Swedish, and he was awesome. It took the kids about 25 seconds to warm up to Lance, and then it was game on. I worried for a second whether he could keep up, not only with the kids skiing (they aren’t first timers), but with all of Spider’s questions. He must have asked Lance 20 times how old he was. It’s still a mystery, although we do know he isn’t 100 or 22. We started by skiing down one run so he could assess our skiing abilities. Although I was worried to finally hear that I was at the bottom of the class, I’m happy to report that I did not feel judged in the slightest. After that run, Lance suggested that we all ski without poles just like Spider.  My son doesn’t like them. His reasoning is that you are a much more centered skier without your poles. So he stashed our poles and away we went. I think this is the point when I realized that this “lesson” was more for me than anyone else in our party. Lance even said to me at one point, “Your kids are great skiers, so let’s work on you.” I was both proud of them and cracking up inside because what he said was so true. I was kind of thrilled at the opportunity to get better. I know the longer I wait, the more I’ll fall behind my kids.

Instructor

The day started strong and fast, and we never slowed down. We cruised thru Bucky’s Backyard and his front yard. We skate-skied across a run to reach the super famous Oompa Loompa Land, where I unsuccessfully tried to convince the kids to sing the song from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” We skied Ruby’s Tail and a few other unnamed spots. I stayed with the kids for most of this adventure, and along the way I picked up some wonderful tips.

  1. Keeping your hands out in front is key for balance.
  2. Bending your knees into a bump actually slows you down.
  3. If you fall you must, without fail, scream “WIPE OUT!”
  4. When jamming out of the trees into the open run, always check to see if someone is coming or have a “look-out person”.
  5. Screaming for no reason is absolutely fine, you’re in the trees, you can say it was someone else.
  6. There is always a hard way and an easy way down.

Yes I did get scared a few times on along the way. I mean speed is my enemy, my nemesis even – although you’d never know it watching my kids zoom by. The bumps and I don’t always get along, I have yet to conquer my fear of tree skiing. A little fear is part of the fun. I did really get a little more than scared at the top of “Toilet Bowl” (It does have another name but once you hear toilet bowl that’s all you remember, that and the fact that the kids kept saying “Mom, you’re gonna get flushed!”)

Fun Ski

I stood at the top while listening to Lance give us instructions and decided I needed to put tip #6 to work. I’m happy to report that there was and easier way down, and after checking with the kids and they were both ready to do it, (Lance also assured me they were strong enough skiers to handle it) I met them at the bottom. I listened to their hootin’ and hollering and giggling until they shot out of the trees with the biggest smiles on their faces. What a fabulous day!

I have shared my day with so many of my local friends, and every time they look at me with this hilarious expression and say either “that is the coolest thing ever, I didn’t know that existed” or “Oh bless your heart.” It was such an awesome three hours full of fun, knowledge, and memories. I think I’m more than prepared to take on the mountain with my kids. I may not quite be able to keep up, but I’m definitely more prepared and confident that we’ll be fine and have a wonderful time. Next up is a powder skiing lessons.

Skier’s Superstition on a Powder Day.

02082014 002So, I’ve told you before about my skier’s superstitions—that I believe in a freshly washed car being an invitation for two feet of snow to dump onto the resort, for instance. I’ve also come to believe that posting about early symptoms of powder flu is a bad idea. Here’s why: I had an amazing day skiing with my girlfriends on Sunday. I was already scheduled to be back on the mountain Wednesday, for my second session of Women on Wednesdays. That left me two days to get work done, manage some chores, and generally behave like a responsible adult. No, I wanted MORE. I texted a friend, I posted on Facebook. And…

I awoke to punishment—my kids were paying the price for my greed, in fact.

They woke up sick. Not the kind of “it’s just a sniffle” sick that would let me send them to school, either. Verifiable temperatures. These boys had coughs that could not be controlled by any amount of disgusting syrupy medicines. Call-the-doctor-at-8 a.m. because-your-six-year-old’s-fever-is-pushing-103 sick. And did I mention that my husband was out of town, day three of a six day business trip? And that I had been so blinded by powder, the previous day, that I missed every single clue that they were coming down with something?

Umm, no. I not only missed a great powder day, but I also missed the opportunity to ski with my Women on Wednesday group. Sure, there are worse fates. I got lots of extra snuggles from my kids. I made them chicken noodle soup and plied my own immune system with green juices, for good measure. I was informed that “Mommy School,” is way more boring than actual school, by my six year old. I’m calling it a win.

But, mark my words, I will never, ever, ever take to social media and attempt to wrangle a powder posse for the following morning. And, I most certainly will not take for granted the fact that I had a day of devouring delicious powder runs as if they were so many chocolate truffles, just the day before.

What are some of your ski superstitions?