NASTAR National Pacesetting

Its official, the 2012-13 winter season has started with a bang! First, the Celebrity Skifest events, which were followed by the big three-day snowstorm that dropped enough snow to ski the Daly Chutes in Empire.

Most recently, I participated in the NASTAR pacesetting trials at Snowmass.  I go to the national pacesetting trials in order to get a handicap for Deer Valley’s NASTAR racing course. By doing this I can give handicaps to the race crew and I set the pace time every Saturday so it’s as if you’re racing against AJ Kitt who is the NASTAR National Pacesetter.

The NASTAR national pacesetting trials consist of three days of ski races, seeing old athlete friends and ski racing fans.  Of course there is a lot of skiing involved while we are at Snowmass, but there is also time to catch up and recap old time stories.

Bobkie

Bobkie at NASTAR

This picture is me with AJ Kitt, Bobkie (Aka Bob Roll, the Tour de France color commentator and long-time professional bike racer!), my friend Ivan and his son Nicholas. If you think I look as if I never skied before but that’s because I’m having too much fun and not thinking about skiing, my form or even my crooked goggles!

NASTAR Pacestting crew

NASTAR Pacestting crew

But of course, the best part of the pacesetting trials are the ski races and trying to set your best time. Each year, I am reminded that NASTAR is a huge part of skiing culture. It was great to see Ivan’s 10-year-old son skiing so well and enjoying watching everyone else. I can only image he was hoping that someday maybe he’ll be the fastest.

If you’ve never experienced NASTAR, come to race Deer Valley’s race arena at Silver Lake or to any NASTAR course at participating ski areas.  A full list and more info can be found at NASTAR.com.

You’ll get hooked and want to come to the finals with us in the spring! Race fast and most importantly have fun. Ski racing and the NASTAR program has blessed me with the best friendships and memories!

See you on the slopes!

Looking at my Ski Crystal Ball

When I contemplate this brand new ski season, I often have a hard time seeing clearly into my “Ski Crystal Ball.” Skiing is for me something that happens, not an event or a succession of situations that can be planned, guessed or predicted like you would plan an outing, a family celebration or of course, a career. I guess there’s not much planning that goes into my skiing. That’s right, I’ve never looked at one single season thinking that I will be accomplishing this, that or achieve some other things (besides maybe a goal for skiing my age).

Even though I’m extremely goal-oriented for all the other areas of my life, this approach has never permeated into my skiing outlook. I probably am a fatalistic skier who wait for the snow crystals to randomly and gracefully align themselves and provide me with some heavenly snow experiences. It is true though that when I’m skiing, my competitive spirit – not my planning mind – eventually comes alive and takes hold of me.

For example if its already 2 pm and I am enjoying the runs that crisscross the Lady Morgan Chairlift, I will think, “…let’s do six more of them!” This mere thought pushes me and I end up having ridden Lady Morgan Express seven more times in that sixty minute time span! The performance wasn’t planned, it simply happened… I have never promised myself to ski 100 days per season, but I generally end up close to that round number, so while it’s hard to say that I’m not planning these kinds of minute details, they just seem to happen…

As a perennial late-bloomer, I must have reached my peak performance on skis in my early sixties (yes, dear reader, there is plenty of hope!) and one day, as I happened to boast a bit too much about some of my ski exploits, a slightly older and wiser friend of mine told me in no uncertain terms: “Silly you, at your age, what do you have to prove?” These words of wisdom were not lost on me, the skier, that always looked at performing better and faster, whenever possible.

This competitive approach of mine was colliding with certain issues that develop as one gets further into the years and as physical strength begins plateauing, if not declining, but is certainly no longer improving. Over the past couple of seasons, I have found that I was getting a bit less nimble, less powerful and considerably slower.

You might say that I was finally growing up as I had implicitly understood that speeding and risk-taking might finally prove to be harmful to me. This, in part, is the reason why, from that point forward, my goals on skis won’t be measured so much in speed, quickness or slaloming through a tight grove of aspen trees.

Instead, they will be qualitative in nature and are likely to consist of skiing much more often, but when I will do it, I will also concentrate on being that much smoother and my focus will be on saving all of my resources to enjoy a longer, fun-filled day on the slopes. Another new measuring stick for me would be the amount of time there’s a grin on my face and this should at least be in the 90% range, to make each day of winter another great moment on skis.

Sure, I’ll still go fast when I can and when it can make me more efficient, but never again at the expense of my own safety. I’ll think more about being lighter on my skis, on better using the terrain to check my speed and to my mechanical advantage, to make my turns effortlessly and remain “one” with the terrain. That’s about right, less brute force and more “caresses” on the snow, this is how my skiing will be looking like, this season and beyond!

With this in mind, when I review what’s inside my Snow Crystal Bowl, I see more slow fun, more perfect turns, more time to enjoy the whole experience, more seizing of the moment and with all that, always the surprise that comes with the never-ending adventure that skiing really is!

Celebrity Skifest and Deer Valley Memories

I say it a lot: Nobody has a better life than I do. I don’t say it boastfully—I’m just so thoroughly appreciative that I get to do work that I love while indulging in the Park City lifestyle 24/7. Entertainment journalists aren’t exactly a dime a dozen in the mountains, to be sure. (In fact, I had a conversation on this topic on the chairlift en route to Celebrity Skifest—with a fellow Vermont expat who lives in LA, and, it turns out, works at a PR agency with which I do a lot of business….the world is never smaller than on the chairlift at Deer Valley.)

Sure, once upon a time, I took a limo to the Emmys, but nothing beats taking a chairlift and a quick run down Silver Link to get myself to an event. Long live Celebrity Skifest.

Watching the race is always a blast, and I could hardly contain my glee as the snowfall intensified. Still, I had work to do. Again, in that once upon a time, I sat in the backstage press room asking actors about which designers they wore, and how surprised they were to win their award. But on this day, I was chatting up actors about our shared love for skiing at Deer Valley. I captured our shared “snow-eating grins” as well as some of their favorite Deer Valley ski memories:

“The people at Deer Valley are great,” Cheryl Hines told me. “Every guest gets treated like royalty—and I’m certainly not royalty!” Her trademark smile was in full evidence as she described the feeling she gets on a great powder day. “it’s a clear day and you stand on the top of the mountain and you can see everything,” the Suburgatory star explained. “There’s no feeling like it.”

The next thing I knew, I turned around and found myself face-to-face with Rosie Perez. I reminded her that we’d worked together when I’d been an editor at Glamour and Self Magazines, and we had a chance to catch up. “I’m not skiing,” she told me. “But I am so taken with what Bobby Kennedy is doing with the Waterkeeper Alliance, holding corporations accountable.” And, to be sure, she was a powerful one-woman cheering squad.

Julia Ormond was so taken with the action on the hill, I hated to interrupt her—but we wound up chatting about the beauty of pulling oneself out of the comfort zone. “Honestly, I hate the idea of putting myself out there as a skier—I’m not used to powder, and I’m not that confident, but for something as good and compelling as the Waterkeeper Alliance, I’ll do it,” she said.  “For a good cause, you have to get over yourself. It’s important.”

Moments later, we were chatting about the beauty of the falling snow, and I fell into a conversation with Rob Morrow—someone I look forward to seeing every year, because, like me, he’s unabashed about his love for skiing at Deer Valley—and I’m always thrilled to note that he shares that with his wife and daughter.

Rob told me that he was temporarily converted to a “trees and powder skier” by his friend and fellow actor, Tim Daly, on one fine powder day last year. “He took me to some places I’d never been—and would never have gone on my own,” Rob told me. “Suddenly, I’m a snob for powder and trees.”

A moment later, Rob confessed to me that he’s so taken with the beauty and the people at Deer Valley that he and his wife have a long-held fantasy of “finding a year to just move here.” I didn’t hesitate to tell him that he’d have no regrets.

Car Wash = Snowy Opening Day

Skiers are a superstitious lot. At least this skier is. To wit: On Friday, December 7, I heard a hint that the snow was coming. You know, the snow that we, the skier faithful knew would come, but, nonetheless was elusive enough to make us impatient.

But I’m just the right amount of superstitious and faithful to take action, just to be sure. So, I washed my car—at the fancy car wash, which sells a five-dollar upgrade that allows you to come back once a day for two days, in case of a storm. But I knew I’d be too busy skiing on fresh powder to return/knew that buying it would tempt the snow gods to withhold, so I didn’t upgrade. Just the $12 wash for me, thank you. And then, the snow came.

You’re welcome.

With all that fresh stuff flying out of the sky, I eschewed our usual Opening Day Breakfast at Snow Park Lodge—too time consuming. I grabbed a protein bar, and tapped my foot impatiently as my kids ate their toaster waffles and my husband ate his cereal. I realized, in that moment, that if I want to get on the hill early on opening day, I have to make a game of it: “I have an idea, guys: Who wants to try to make first chair with me next year on opening day?” I asked. Lance started to explain to me, in perfectly articulated 9 year-old logic, the sixteen ways that it would be logistically impossible, that ski patrol gets first chair, and what if someone is in the next lane in the lift-line corral at the same time as us? Seth, 5, saw the opportunity to please: “Mommy, I’m in!!” I began to fantasize about getting up at 6, being in the car by 7, and tucking into breakfast in Snow Park before the slopes opened. I’m certain it looks better in my mind’s eye than it will when we attempt it. Regardless, Jeff busted me out of the reverie: It was time to dress and load.  Annnd….we were off.

Even the drive to the mountain was exciting—the roads, which had been completely clear the night before, had switched, overnight, to snow-covered loveliness.  “See? I washed the car!!” I gloated to my husband. “I did it! It worked!”

Once we arrived, it felt like the first day of school, or summer camp. All the familiar faces, the giddy mood that permeated every corner of the resort. The ski valets, usually speedy to offer help, were giving their best impression of the ‘lightning round’. I hadn’t even gotten out of the car and someone was unloading the gear. 

We assembled ourselves and headed for our ritual first run on Wide West—the kids’ request. I was about to protest, and then I realized something. I turned to Jeff and said, “I’ll be so sad when they don’t want to make Wide West their first run of the season anymore,” I said. He nodded with a certain solemn understanding. And that, friends, was the only solemn moment of the day. We were, in a word, unstoppable. We did runs on the Racecourse. Runs on Candyland. And then, after I left them to go visit Celebrity Skifest, they did lap after lap. Jeff reported later that they literally inhaled their pasta, and that he had presided over several races at the mini-course on the hill—even providing the sound-effect countdown beeps. Meanwhile, I was at a race of my own, as a spectator, watching the Celebrity Skifest race. (Stay tuned for my Skifest report.)

I wrapped up my day by skiing from the Skifest tent to Homestake, where I arrived with a giant grin on my face. The grin was so large, a fellow skier asked me what I was so happy about. “What’s not to be happy about? Opening day in the snow…The SNOW!” I shared a chair with a Sharpshooter photographer named Tiger. He’s a local, so we bonded over the thrill of being rewarded for our patience with snow on opening day. (I told him about the car wash, and he thanked me. Locals get it.)

I headed down Success and wondered where the kids and Jeff were at that moment—and then, as I finished my run, I had my answer. I spotted them hauling their gear to ski-check, and called out: “Wooo hoooo!” I was rewarded with three happy grins. “We couldn’t have planned that,” Jeff said. “It’s perfect.”

He’s right. But just to be sure, I think I’ll go wash my car.

Slow lifts: Endangered Species?

Not so long ago, most ski lifts were slow. They provided us with a chance to catch up, regroup, think about our technique, rest our legs and even munch on a sandwich or a bar. They also gave us a chance to talk. Talk about anything: from views, to snow quality, to weather, good restaurants or cool equipment; the list could go on forever… In those days, even though chairlifts could be painfully slow, we got to the top without realizing we had spent fifteen solid minutes hanging up in the air.

We had to wait until 1981 to see the first ever, high speed detachable quad in the world, installed in the Rocky Mountains. Since then, that precious “chair-time” has been rapidly eroding; at the best American resorts, high-speed chairlift are becoming the norm. Next winter, what used to be the perfect illustration for today’s subject, the Deer Crest chairlift, will undergo a total metamorphosis and in the process, will shed its fixed grips, its slow, easy pace, for a brand new detachable design that will whisk skiers, in less than half the time taken previously, to the top of the Jordanelle Gondola. In the process, it will also get rechristened “Mountaineer Express.”

Back in February of 2010, I wrote a blog about chairlift stories, set back in a time where most chairlifts hanged to a fixed grip, moved up much more slowly and were the perfect place for telling, trading or making stories, as long as the company was receptive and the weather wasn’t extreme. Of course, things have changed a great deal with the spread of portable music players and the proliferation of smart phones. Now, a short life ride is all the time one needs for checking emails, tweeting or responding to a Facebook post. What I’m trying to say is that today, chairlifts have become more an opportunity to catch up on-line than striking a long and profound conversation. From that viewpoint, the demise of the slower lift might accompany the end of endless chat aloft. So much for long conversations or even for a quick lunch up in the air (Deer Valley restaurants are a much better culinary alternative anyway!)

And with the switch to faster ski-lifts what about our own, tired legs. I can think of many time when finally sitting down while riding up the mountain was a welcome relief! One might argue that nowadays skiers are much more fit and don’t generally look for the “rest” provided by a slow moving seat. I would add that with so many new spas available in and around Deer Valley, soothing options are today more easily available and have become so common-place that a tired pair of legs can soon be pampered and repaired into peak shape after a solid day of hard skiing.  On the flip side, one aspect no one will miss with detachable chairlifts is the “bump” in the back of our calves that could be common place if we didn’t pay attention or if the lift attendants weren’t so kind to be holding (or bumping) the chair for us.

This creature-of-comfort consideration also brings up my last argument: Today, with much faster ski-lifts, the same amount of skiing that used to take an entire day, can be compressed into half that time thanks to these express chairlifts and there’s now more time for enjoying all the extra resort activities that have sprouted in recent years. We all know that multitasking doesn’t work too well, so why not ski more intensely for fewer hours on these state-of-the-art lifts and use up the extra time for a longer and much more civilized lunch break, some early après-ski, a shopping spree, a spa session or for discovering snowmobiling or a hike in snowshoes?

So, well before the last slow chairlift is slated for demolition, Deer Valley Resort recognizes that some chairlifts should, for the time being, remain in the slow lane if you need to share very long stories or if you want to relax your legs for more than just six or eight minutes. I’m not talking about the few beginner lifts that are found on Wide West or the short connecting chairlifts that are spread all over the mountain, but bigger lifts like Mayflower or Red Cloud. They both run in parallel with a much faster chairlift and will also get you to the top, giving you much more time to catch your breath, enjoy the vistas and smell the snowflakes!

Of course, if that story has made you really nostalgic about slow chairlifts and you can’t wait until this winter to experience these slow, classic machines, now is the time to jump on any of Deer Valley’s express chairlifts when they’re running at low speed during the summer season to accommodate mountain bikers and pedestrians; that way you’ll be able to fully enjoy the ride, marvel at the scenery and trade some really good stories, but don’t delay, summer will soon be over!

Final Notes on Another Great Ski Season

Once more and just like last year, Deer Valley Resort made it to its last day with flying colors!  On closing weekend, the mountain was dressed up into an immaculate coat of white; in fact it had been snowing almost all week long, ending the winter season, just like the previous ones, on the highest possible note.

It’s quite fair to say that Mother Nature didn’t do much to help during the peak winter months, as if she were avariciously hording snow for some unknown purpose, but the Deer Valley’s snow-making crews came to the rescue and more than compensated for a lackluster snow-year and sparse precipitations.

(Photo by Daniel Diyanni)

All along, I never held great expectations about natural snowfalls and, as a result, was never disappointed. Instead, I skied more than my share and I could only rejoice when a number of providential blizzards transformed the mountain. These abundant precipitations first came in the later part of January, lasted for days around mid-February, and then in a more routine, spring-like fashion, during March and early April.

(Photo by Ryan Turner)

Of course, the credit for what ended up being another great season, rested more on the snow-maker shoulders and the groomers fine-combing expertise, than on the skies natural bounty, and for once, the snow-making insurance-policy protection came into full force and delivered the goods!

(Photo by Ryan Turner)

This said, the season was packed with wonderful days of skiing, powder snow, both untouched and meticulously manicured, and at times it was hard to believe that it was a dryer-than-usual winter. When January came around, tree skiing was again a possibility and the opportunities for powder “face-shots” were much more frequent than I would have imagined.

It’s too bad that these sensations are so hard to share, because if they could be telegraphed in more vivid terms, many folks who ended up staying on the sidelines might have made the effort to come out and experience these great ski days for themselves. I, for one, discovered new runs, new path in the trees and by the time the resort closed down this past Sunday , I still could not get enough good skiing!

Of course, I’ve always been a late bloomer as far as skiing goes. I never get really excited too early in the season. My passion for the sport needs to build up and as April comes along, I’m still eager and ready, but nature thinks otherwise… The morale of the story is that, whether we live next to Deer Valley Resort, in the Salt Lake Valley, Los Angeles or New York, we should never assume that “conditions are bad.” The ski reality that Deer Valley creates always exceeds our best imagination!

(Photo by Gus Steadman)

As our delayed winter may linger for a few more weeks, there still might be a few turns in store for me under the form of alpine ski touring, as soon the skies clear and the snow return to “corn” quality. Mountain biking is still a good distance away, and frankly, before thinking too much about the upcoming summer and its endless array of activities, I need to take a long mental vacation from this past winter!

No Regrets

As Spring Break approached last week, I started to wonder if we should have planned a trip–an exotic getaway or quick Moab weekend. Then, I remembered:

One great advantage of living in Park City is the Spring Break Staycation. The chance to hang around town with few obligations. The chance to try a couple of Spring Break Camps.

By mid-week, there was the promise of snow. Today, the ski report delivered. My kids lounged around the house until 9:30 this morning, until I cajoled them into ski boots. They were dubious: the rainy weather at our house didn’t look promising. The payoff for their minor “risk” was quick: just as we turned into Deer Valley Drive, the rain turned to snow…snow-globe-worthy flakes.

In minutes, we were making fresh tracks (really! At 10am!) and my guys volunteered  that they had two regrets:

Seth: “It’s too bad Dad had to work, he would have had fun!”

Lance: “I’m sorry I gave you a hard time about skiing, Mom. That wasn’t nice & this is really fun!”

As for me? No regrets!
How about you?

Check out Deer Valley’s webcams.

Fireside Dining at Empire Lodge: Not Your Typical Dining Experience

My image of fireside dining used to be a cozy table for two warmed by a gas lit fireplace, a tasty meal, and a glass of red wine – sounds wonderful but pretty typical.  Fireside dining at the Empire Lodge is definitely not typical.  When my husband and I walked in, we knew we were in store for something special.  A roaring wood burning fire in the huge stone fireplace greeted us.  The fireplace housed three pots of steaming chocolate and a pan of berry cobbler!  I immediately made a note to self – save room for dessert.

Fireside dining at Empire Lodge is distinct in that you are certainly warmed by the fire but the food is also. Inside the fireplaces, you’ll see wrought iron stands holding melting cheeses, steaming stews and potatoes, and racks of lamb.  The atmosphere of warmth with the aroma of the wood fires and the juices dripping relaxes everyone immediately.

We were seated by the fireplace with two huge blocks of cheese melting onto individual plates.  My husband had the view of the snow and mountain with the tall dark pine trees paired with aspen trees.  Every twenty minutes or so, a horse drawn sleigh slowly passed by and I’d turn to watch the sight.  I chose to sit so I could watch not just the fire and those mesmerizing blocks of cheese melting, but also the other guests and their reaction to this unusual sight.

To me, the guests seemed to fall into two distinct categories:  eager or curious.  The eager folks took the direct approach.  They stepped right up snapping photos and proceeded directly to the middle of the fireplace and didn’t even wait for the attendant to hand them a plate.  They grabbed one straight out and the host placed the hot melted cheese plate on top (using tongs!) They took the same approach with the accoutrement table.  They topped the melted cheese with potatoes, meats and mustards with wild abandon appearing that they wanted to try absolutely everything. (I fell into this camp.)

The curious guests seemed like they were almost thinking, “For me?” They approached from the side allowing the host to serve them.  They stood back and took in the accoutrement table first scanning the options and delicacies before making their choices.  I observed many pairing up different meats, mustards and chutneys selectively as if they were choosing wine pairings with courses.  This group was probably thinking to themselves, “I better pace myself so I am going to make the perfect combination.” (My husband fell into this camp.)

I don’t know which I enjoyed more – my meal or observing others enjoying the experience.  The duck, the veal and mushroom stew, roasted potatoes and the roast lamb with apple basil jelly were amazing but both my husband and I kept that dessert table in the back of our minds as we took our time and enjoyed the meal, wine and relaxation.

When we did make it to the dessert fireplace, I noticed the other diners had changed camps.  Well, it is probably better said that they joined camps – everyone was eager.  There was no apprehension or hesitation at this accoutrement table.  I heard someone say, “This is great. They have the largest plates for dessert.”

Everyone filled their plates with combinations of strawberries, bananas, pineapples, cookies, dried fruit, and nuts then chose their personal cup of steaming hot fondue.   Of course, my husband and I both chose all three—dark chocolate, caramel, and white chocolate with Grand Marnier!  Our favorites ended up being: dark chocolate for pineapple and bananas, caramel with the sugar cookies and white chocolate with the strawberries.  With the ski lodge, the horse drawn sleigh, the roaring wood fires, hearty flavorful stews and meats and the playful desserts – can’t think of a more extraordinary dinner no matter what camp you fall in.

It’s My Deer Valley with Stephen Harty

We couldn’t wait to sneak down to the bakery and catch up with Silver Lake and Empire Pastry Chef, Stephen Harty. The man behind some of the wonderful desserts at the resort shares with us “His Deer Valley.”

When did you come to Deer Valley?

I started as a seasonal baker in the Snow Park Lodge in the 1995/1996 season (17 years and counting). I was a production baker working three 6 a.m. shifts, so I could get out skiing for two hours after my shift, and two 8am shifts. I had a young family so I had Tuesdays and Thursdays off to be Daddy daycare/preschool.

What does a perfect ski day mean to you?

Big POW and still snowing! I love those days when it just keeps on coming. I’ll admit I am a “crack of ten o’clock” skier so all day dumps suit me. The storms from the south that bring the biggest snow to the Sultan side of the resort are my favorite.

Where is your favorite place to eat at Deer Valley?

The Natural Buffet during lunch at all three lodges offer such a variety of unique salads, creative sides, as well as house made dressings and of course homemade breads, you can’t beat the great tastes. You do have to be creative in the way you stack your plate to get the value as well as the flavors.

What do you enjoy about baking?

The great thing about baking at Deer Valley Resort is that we do such a wide range; from artisan breads and baguettes, bulk production of cookie dough (huge amounts) and carrot cakes, small production of high end plated desserts (with all their sauces and garnishes), elaborate wedding cakes, and chocolate. I truly enjoy the variety. I enjoy the creativity and the science of baking, especially at the varying altitudes. I enjoy working with new flavors and products to keep Deer Valley baked goods at the fore front of trends. I enjoy mastering the classic recipes so we can put our own twist on them. And I really enjoy all the taste testing!

Your must have treat at Deer Valley?

17 years and 1000’s of batches of cookies and I still love the cookie dough! Plus all the chocolate that we serve.

What run is a must for every ski day?

Anything off-piste off the Sultan lift and Ontario bowl (I have some “secret stashes” in there that are good for days after a storm).

Who is your favorite person to ski with?

I have been riding chairlifts with my beautiful bride, Sandy, for 25 years. We celebrate together on our first ride up each year and I look forward to continuing for 25 more.

Can you share a recipe with us?

French Silk Pie
Yield: 1 Pies

5 oz Unsweetened Chocolate
8 oz Butter,Room Temperature
8 oz Brown Sugar
1 1/2 t  Vanilla
1 c  Pasteurized Eggs
1    10″ Brisee Shells,Pre-baked
-
Whipped cream,AS Needed
Chocolate Shavings,AS Needed
1.  Pre-bake 10″ brisee shells.  Let cool completely.
2.  Melt unsweetened chocolate over a double boiler.  Set aside.
3.  Cream butter until very soft.
4.  Add brown sugar and beat until very soft and fluffy.  Stopping to
occasionally scrape.
5.  Add vanilla extract.
6.  Add melted chocolate and mix until combined, scrapping occasionally.

7.  Add eggs VERY SLOWLY, about 1/4 cup at a time, incorporating well
after each addition.  Stopping to scrape occasionally.
8.  It will take awhile to add all of the eggs if you do it correctly.
**If you add the eggs too fast-the batter will be grainy and not light
and fluffy**
9.  When all the eggs are added divide into crusts.  Using an offset
spatula, spread to smooth out top.
10.Wrap and Chill.
11.  To Serve:  Finsh top with whipped cream pipped in a shell pattern
using medium star tip. and sprinkle with chocolate shavings.

Skiing the X-Files is just like Stand-Up Comedy

I’ve been fantasizing about skiing the X-Files since JF Lanvers posted a series of blogs (with video!) about this mysterious tree run in Empire Canyon. I knew it would be fun, if I could work up the nerve—I didn’t realize that skiing it would mark a major milestone in my life. Of course, it goes without saying the big-deal milestones of my life—marriage, motherhood—are beyond comparison. And I’m reasonably certain that I’ll be hard-pressed to compare even my best day on the slopes to those moments. (However, in the unlikely event that I am invited to compete in the Winter Olympic Games—Senior or otherwise—I reserve the right to revise that.). Still, it was something I’d long-fantasized about, and hoped I’d do someday.

In fact, skiing the X-Files was exactly—EXACTLY—as much fun as one of the most treasured moments in my professional career: The night I opened for Caroline Rhea at Caroline’s Comedy Club in New York City.

The back-story is that I was the assigning editor on a story that Caroline Rhea, one of the funniest people in America, did for a magazine where I worked. We spent a lot of hours together—and in that time, she decided I was funny, that the silly stories I told her about my life and my family were actual “bits,” and that the world needed to hear the comedy of Bari Nan Cohen. Oy vey. I balked for a half-second and then realized I had access to a unique opportunity.

So she helped me hone this material and, there I was—legs shaking with adrenaline and with a view from the stage of that freaky digital countdown clock that only the talent can see. 2:59, 2:58…breathe.

I was reminded of this experience on the last day of this year’s Women’s Weekend Specialty Clinic, which found me, by 10 a.m., hiking across the ridge above Daly Chutes, like I owned the place. (For the record, it’s wider than I thought, and has one of the most breathtaking 360 degree views I’ve ever seen—and not a clock in sight.) The hike made me grateful that I’d (mostly) kept up with my running habit this winter—I was only a little winded as we crested the highest point of the ridge. And, yes, I had a stellar mentor in my instructor Letitia, who’d sized up my skills and determined that X-Files needed ‘em.

Thus, we glided over to the entrance to X-Files. And as we found turn after turn, I was nearly overcome with emotion. (“Don’t cry—your goggles will fog,” I told myself.)  It’s beautiful and peaceful there. And eminently skiable—the trees aren’t nearly as tightly packed as they look from the “outside.”

As I completed turn after turn, I found myself drawing on all the preparation I’d unwittingly done for this moment, pulling a variety of tools from the skill sets Letitia and the other teachers had drilled into me over the course of three days. Side-slips turned into swooshes of snow pushed out of the way, wedge Christies became parallel turns. Just as the days leading up to my comedy debut were spent under Caroline Rhea’s careful tutelage on projection and timing, so that on performance night, I’d be good to go.

I can’t say with any certainty that either performance was “pretty” from a technical standpoint. I can, however, confirm, that both hold places of honor in the category I like to call, The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had Standing Up. And no, I’m not working blue right now.

But what I can tell you is this: In both instances, I didn’t really care how it looked. I was having so much fun, how it looked, well, it just didn’t matter. In both instances I had a great support system. In the club, I’d planted some key friends and colleagues in the audience. In the trees, I had Letitia, my pal Stacey and two other women who were just rockin’ ski companions. We cheered each other on, the same way my friends had laughed at my jokes louder than anyone else in the club.

The skills I brought into the X-Files—timing, correcting my form errors to prevent falling—even looking past the trees (for, if you look at the tree, you will most certainly ski into it) and reaching down the hill to make the turn—had their roots in those rehearsals with Caroline. You need to think fast when you’re onstage, you need to revise your bits to fit the audience, and you need to have good timing, you need all those things to be able to improvise. You need to look beyond the clock and read the audience. Caroline Rhea may not think of herself as a ski instructor, but I’m telling you, I would have had a lesser foundation for absorbing the lessons I’ve had on the hill, without the comedy coaching.

And, while the bragging rights to both things are cool, it’s not really (much) about that. There is a certain satisfaction that comes from knowing you have the tools to do something.

I’d like to say I didn’t continue past my one night in comedy because life got in the way. That could be true. But comedy requires singular focus, driving passion, and the ability to travel the country for low-paying gigs rife with hecklers in the hope you can eke out a living—and the very faint hope you’ll get famous doing it. As it happens, the night I did standup occurred during my last weeks in New York—my heart was already in Park City, we’d just closed on the house; Jeff was checking on things, scheduling the water softener installation; service on the furnace, making sure the lawn sprinklers were set properly, meeting the neighbors. And maybe if I hadn’t planned the move, I might have taken some improv and stand-up classes in the city, and given it a go on open mic night.

Instead, I followed my heart and my skis to Utah—and learned to ski the trees. Decently. I’m not stopping ‘til I’m awesome at it. And then, who knows?

So, if you were one of the hundred or so people in the world who got to witness my comedy debut, all I can say is: Come ski with me sometime. I’m a better skier than I am a comic. And if you weren’t—maybe I’ll dig up the video of my time on stage and show it to you.