Deer Valley Tops the “Bucket List”

Climb a volcano. Get the other guy elected. Perfect your chili recipe. Learn to play the oboe. Visit New Zealand. What do all these activities have in common?  They are written on someone’s “bucket list.” In case you don’t know, a bucket list is a list of things you’d like to experience before you die or “kick the bucket.” (Check out bucketlist.org) This list is much different than a list of New Year’s resolutions which are simply meant to be broken – a bucket list is put together with a fair amount of contemplation and meant to be both fun and meaningful.

Sometimes plans, even bucket list plans, are meant to be changed. Ron and El DeSimoni from Kinnelon, New Jersey wrote a bucket list a few years ago to ski a different resort “out west” each year.  They’d skied in Vermont their whole lives and once they got a taste of the snow out west, they wanted more. They skied in California, then Colorado and Montana – every year brought with it a new adventure.  Well that WAS their plan until they came to Deer Valley last year, then they ditched their plan and came back.

That is when I met them.  Though they were veteran skiers, they decided to take a refresher lesson to work on turn control and were paired up with me for a Max Four lesson.  From them I learned more about my home resort than I learned anywhere else – I discovered I had stumbled onto a gem. I wanted to know why they weren’t headed off to a different resort next year.  Why change the bucket list? Here is what I found out:

What is so special about Deer Valley to you?

“The mountain is beautiful and there is lots of terrain here.  We like to explore the whole mountain and not stay in one place.  At Deer Valley, the runs are well taken care of – all skiable.

The mountain hosts are helpful.  One of them suggested the Lady Morgan lift – “there is a wonderful green run there, Pearl, and the views are amazing.”  We headed out there and loved every minute of it.”

What was your favorite run?

“I’d have to say the blue runs on Flagstaff Mountain – Hawkeye and Little Boulder.  They are challenging enough for us as well as nice and wide.  All the runs on Flagstaff are great for us.”

Biggest surprise on the slopes?

“The parking lot was full but there were no lift lines.  You never even noticed it on the mountain either – we always felt comfortable (even though it was a busy weekend.)

We also never felt lost.  A mountain guide was always there to guide us.  They acted like they really wanted us back. It’s great having that service. The whole experience was wonderful.”

Biggest surprise off the slopes?

“They really bent over backwards where we stayed to make it wonderful. I can’t say enough about the Silver Baron Lodge.  They gave us a fabulous room – no problem.  Shuttle service – no problem. They did everything for us. We were well taken care of.”

Guess what?  They are booking at Deer Valley for a third straight year. Hope to see you on the mountain next year Ron and El!

Katie learns just how much fun spring skiing can be on Day #3

So truth be told, I love to complain. If it were a sport in the Olympics, I would hands down take the gold, silver and bronze. So although I’ve said that I hated skiing before and I’m starting to like it now, doesn’t mean that I didn’t have my fair share of complaints during this whole experience. I won’t lie and say it wasn’t cold, and that falling didn’t hurt, or even that it was an easy experience that I fell in love with instantly. But I will tell you that it was something that I have zero regrets doing and that I may not be a diehard skier now, but through this experience I have grown to be more patient, more confident, and willing to put effort into it even though I’m not that great. It’s easy to love something that you are good at, but much more difficult to find fun in something that you’ve sworn to loathe.

After my first and second lesson, I was pleased with my progress and thankful for the chance to learn a new skill, but I really had zero intentions of ever going again (this is where my excellent complaining skills came into play). And then I was informed that I got one more lesson! I was excited, but also really nervous because I was probably going to have to really ski, like actual runs, with actual potential to eat it hard core. So while heading up the canyon I told myself that it was fun and I loved it and I would live. Cue complaining, again.

And then I got my stuff and we were off, just to the beginners slope at first but Eddy assured me that we would hit the actual slopes today in his perky-I-love-skiing-more-then-life- sort of way that he does best. The first run down I was shaking and not loving it, and then all of the sudden it hit. I felt that I was OK and that I could survive the full lesson and then real skiing began.
We went to some of the runs where it was super sunny, and created a whole new type of snow that I was not used to. Snow that’s a little slushy is clearly my kind of snow. It makes turning a bit more difficult but helps keep your speed in check, no complaint with that. Not to mention the sun! It was so beautiful and made the resort look so much different in such a breathtaking way. We made it over to Deer Crest and Eddy could easily sense my change of mood and knew that this sort of skiing was Katie Fredrickson sort of skiing. We went down our first run which was an easy blue, and I felt good about it. Then we did the same run again, and again, and again. It got to the point where I could relax and enjoy the run, instead of focusing on what my feet were doing.

Then Eddy told me that I was ready for a harder run and that it was not much different at all. Looking at this run was very frightening. I looked at Eddy and said, “Alright crazy, what run are we really going to do?” After about five minutes of me standing there and Eddy reassuring me about a million times that I was more than capable to handle this run, we set off. Turns out, I could handle that run, and had fun all the way to the bottom. When we reached the bottom Eddy started laughing and I asked him what was so funny, assuming I looked like a spazz. His reply was, “Look at you, actually skiing and you are smiling. First time I’ve ever seen that smile!” No joke this was when I knew that I would come back and ski on my own sometime.

Eventually we met up with Deer Valley blogger JF Lanvers and he asked me how I was doing. My answer was, “fantastic, we are skiing and looking legit!” And his response is probably the greatest thing that I have ever heard. Imagine his French accent and his smiley face saying, “Well why else would we ski but to look cool?” LOVE IT! We got some good runs in, I did fall (which was so kindly edited out of JF’s video), but if you don’t fall, you’re not trying.

This experience was the only thing that would ever have made me enjoy skiing. I’ve even have plans to go within the next week. I never thought I would actually have plans to go skiing. Thanks to everyone at Deer Valley, especially Eddy, you all made me like skiing and build the skills so that I can learn to love it.

Ski lesson = Opposite Day

In my Max 4 ski lesson, I felt like George Costanza in the Seinfeld Episode, Opposite Day.  In the episode, George decides that every decision he has ever made in his life has been wrong.  Since his life is the complete opposite of everything he wanted it to be, with a little prompting from Jerry he decides to do the opposite of whatever his normal choice would have been.  Today I learned that in skiing, if my body naturally reacts one way, I should do the opposite.

The lesson started with all the adult students skiing a run under the watchful eye of our green jacketed instructors.  We were then grouped by our ability and the specific skills we needed to work on.  Two guys and I were picked by Dan and we were off to explore Flagstaff Mountain.  I jokingly asked Dan if he was going to teach us to ski backwards by the end of the day (as the instructors were demonstrating earlier as they watched us earlier) and much to my surprise, that is exactly what he did at the very beginning of the lesson.  I was starting to realize this was indeed “opposite day” as we learned about balance skiing backwards.

My ski lesson buddies and I were to hear the word “counter intuitive” all morning.  When we moved our body position the way were avoiding, we had more control. Doing this we learned to turn and control our speed making it easier to ski on the steep slopes. What amazed me was Dan seemed like he was always there giving me individualized attention even with three students.  He’d work with me, then ski ahead to catch up with one of the guys and then the other. Then he’d watch me ski down and give me some pointers.  Every lift ride was a lesson and then when we were ready, he led us to the blue runs.  By the end of the three hours, we were cruising down the blues like no tomorrow. I couldn’t believe it!

We even tackled Star Gazer which was a challenge for me.  I took a couple of tumbles on the steeper terrain because I reverted to the old habits (which I understand is typical for beginners).  Was that bad?  Of course not.  In fact, it was quite the opposite. Dan was there to pin point the cause of the fall so I was able to learn and make corrections. His guidance anchored that lesson in my mind and improved my confidence.  I also conquered some fears about falling and not being able to get up.  Who knew that it is actually easier to get up on steeper hills than on the flat?  Another counter intuitive aspect of skiing was etched in my memory.  Because of Dan’s coaching, now instead of being intimidated by the hill, I think to myself, “Oh good, it’s steep! Easier to get up if I fall.”

When I got home, I looked at the Deer Valley Trail map on my wall and traced all the runs we did with a blue marker. I was shocked to see how many blue runs we did.  I had not realized that we had done five as I stood there and took it in. As a beginner who’d stuck to green runs, it was quite surprising to see all the blue ink on my map. My first lesson was an outstanding success. Doing the opposite worked for George Costanza and today thanks to the skill of my instructor, Dan, it worked for me, too.

Leap Year Birthday Boy

Leap Year is now my favorite holiday—because it means that we get an extra ski day every four years! In honor if Leap Year, I’m introducing you to Deer Valley’s own…Leap Baby. He has skied at Deer Valley for ten years—which is astounding, considering he’s only having his third birthday this year. He has two younger siblings, Natalie and Ethan, both of whom have had more birthdays than Jack. While you struggle with the mental math, get to know my favorite Leap Boy!

Name: Jack Rubenstein, parents: Robert and Katia Rubenstein

Hometown: Hollywood, FL; He and his family are part-time Parkites, and they’re planning to celebrate Jack’s Bar Mitzvah next year (birthday confusion notwithstanding) at Temple Har Shalom in Park City.

Age: 3 or 12, depending on how you count.

Years skiing: 10

Happy Third Birthday Jack! What’s the best part of being a Leap Baby?
Thanks! The best part, probably, is not getting very old so soon, and I get to celebrate my birthday all week for three other years because I don’t have an official birthdate.

What are your three favorite runs to ski at Deer Valley?
Chute 1/ Daly Bowl
Chute 2
X-Files

What is your favorite restaurant for lunch at Deer Valley? And what is your favorite thing to eat there?
Royal Street Cafe- Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich with Hot Fudge
Stein Eriksen’s Buffet- everything

What is your favorite dinner restaurant at Deer Valley?
Seafood Buffet- I love the prime rib and shrimp and king crab. (Don’t forget the homemade whip cream at dessert!)

How many cocoa breaks do you like to take during a ski day?
Are you kidding? I’m here to ski not drink cocoa!!!!!

Which runs do you ski better than your dad
All of them. (Mostly, moguls.)

What is your favorite part of skiing with your dad?
Waiting for him at the bottom!

What is your favorite part of skiing with your whole family?
Ummmmmm…..

Do you like bumps or groomers?
Bumps

What do you want to be when you grow up?
I have no clue, I am only three years old.

What are you looking forward to about having your Bar Mitzvah in Park City?
The party, skiing, and getting presents

What is your favorite memory about skiing at Deer Valley?
Going down Chute 10 for the first time.

Mahre Training Clinic Part 2

Warning: I’m about to deploy every possible cliché about powder skiing.

Before I do, I’ll defend myself: Clichés are clichés because they are the truth.

And so, gentle reader, I Must. Speak. The. Truth.

Sunday was EPIC.

There were face shots.

It was POW-erful good skiing.

And Ep-ic.

I shredded that POW.

I shredded, hard, man.

I whooped and hollered my way all over the mountain. I skied. Oh, man, did I ski.

(Photo by Ryan Voight)

It was extra-fun because I was able to translate a whole arsenal of newly-acquired mad skillz…into the best powder turns I’ve ever made in my life. Did it help that I had Steve Mahre skiing behind me, turn for turn, calling directions into my ear?

Um, yes.

“Plant your pole, Nan.”

“Make a longer turn, Nan.”

“Be taller! Be TALLER!”

“Stay loose!”

“Good! Like THAT!!”

(Wait, really, did he just tell me I’m doing it right? Did STEVE MAHRE just PRAISE my skiing?! Um, yes. Well, that felt good.)

Yes, the powder day dawned on morning three of my long-awaited 3-day stint at the Mahre Training Center at Deer Valley Resort.

Last year, when Ski Dad completed the Mahre Training Center clinic, he told me that for the first time in over 20 years of skiing, he finally felt like he’d learned how to do it. Well, I can say, safely, that after more than 35 years on the hill, I, too, finally locked it in.  You’ll read more about what makes the camp special—and what it meant to my skiing—in the coming days, and likely in the coming months. It was that impactful for me.

For now, I’ll just let us all revel in the joy, the pure bliss that is an epic powder day. And I’ll maybe gloat a little about how good it felt to finally be one of “those” skiers, gliding through the soft stuff feeling (mostly) balanced and smooth. And the praise from Steve Mahre. Which didn’t hurt a bit.

Also, I have to tell you that at the end of the day, I found myself making matched powder turns next to my Mahre team’s coach, Craig.

“Oh my gosh, Craig! We’re those skiers!”

He shouted back to me: “Yeah, we are!”

A Note from Our President on President’s Day

To celebrate President’s Day and the height of the winter, we met up with Deer Valley Resort President, Bob Wheaton to get an update on this ski season.

What a year it has been! We’ve continued to invest each season in the resort’s snowmaking system, and this season the system was certainly put to the test! The team we have at the resort in every aspect of our operations is second to none and this becomes increasingly evident when Mother Nature sends us a curve ball. Prior to the welcomed storm cycle, I have certainly been enjoying the Deer Valley corduroy this year, while curving lines on Stein’s Way and Magnet.

I hope many were able to get out and experience our VISA Freestyle International World Cup event the first week of February. We added another evening event with moguls on Thursday. It is always a thrill to see the events under the lights. The event means a lot of extra work for staff but we are thrilled to host such an amazing group of athletes from around the world. Our partnerships with FIS (International Ski Federation) and with the US Ski Team are great for the resort.

The President’s Day holiday means March and spring skiing are right around the corner. In the Wasatch spring also brings its share of powder days. Whether its spring corn or fluff  I am looking forward to being on the mountain and enjoying the amazing efforts of the Deer Valley Team.

Hope to see you out there!

Bob Wheaton shares one of his favorite powder stashes:

Empire Canyon Grill with Andrew Fletcher

Deer Valley is lucky to see visits from both loyal locals and returning out-of-towners. Many guests return each season with specific traditions that they must incorporate into their Deer Valley experience. A best kept secret for many skiing at Deer Valley is Empire Canyon Grill, located in the Empire Canyon Lodge, tucked away at the base of Empire Canyon Express Chairlift.

We caught up with Andrew Fletcher, Empire Day Sous Chef to share his favorite things about Empire Canyon Grill and Deer Valley.

When did you come to Deer Valley?

I arrived at Deer Valley in November of 1998 for one ski season, and have been here ever since.

What does a perfect ski day mean to you?

Any day on the slopes!  If you are cold you can come inside and warm up by the fire.  If it is sunny you can sit out on the deck.  You can always find the perfect run at DV no matter what day it is.

What is your favorite thing on the menu at Empire Grill?

The Steak Baguette at the specialty grill.

Who is your favorite person to ski with?

My wife and daughter.

What is your must have treat at Deer Valley?

A beer on the Empire or Sliver Lake deck after a day of skiing.

What run is a must for every ski day?

Magnet on Lady Morgan.

What is your most memorable chairlift ride?

I was once on a chair with two men who had just retired and were going to ski every resort in the U.S. that season.

Empire Canyon Grill is open during the ski season for continental-style breakfast from 9:15 – 11 a.m. daily, featuring fresh pastries, homemade granola and beverages including espresso, latte and cappuccino. Open for lunch from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., offering a traditional and gourmet grill, Natural Salad Buffet, soup, chilies, paninis and fresh baked goods.  Afternoon snacks are available until 3:30 p.m.

Mahre Training Clinic Part 1

My Intermediate Days Are Behind Me.

As it turns out, this isn’t something new. They’ve been a thing of the past for longer than I realized.

The ski school gods know me a little, and decided to assign me to an “advanced” group when I signed up for the Mahre Training Center’s camp at Deer Valley. I balked, sort of. Then, they brought us all to Success for a ski-off. Mahre Camp veterans (and there are folks who go back 1, 3, 5 times…and more!) lined up on one side of the run, newbies on the other.

“Make your regular turns down to that sign that says “Ski Loose or Wild,” instructed Steve.

“All I see is a sign that says SLOW,” said one guest.

“Oh! That’s why I always get in trouble,” he replied. “I thought it was an acronym.”

The joke relaxed us a little. We skied down and the self-described Julie McCoy of the MTC, Chris Katzenberger (an impressive skier in her own right), waved us into place alongside our designated coaches.

“This is an advanced group,” noted Craig, our coach. “We’re going to have fun.”

The truth is, skiers of all levels and abilities have fun—there were a couple of Never-Evers in the camp, in fact. Skiers are divided into teams led by a coach who has been trained and certified in the Mahre method of instruction. The best way I can describe this method is that it takes apart your skiing, cleans out the bad habits and puts it back together so that you’re poised to think less and ski more.

By Saturday night, after two full days of skills-and-drills with my team’s coach, Craig a/k/a “Cruiser” I was on the verge of a breakthrough.

The first day was pretty cool—Craig kept mixing up hard-core drill work with free skiing, letting us try on for size the nuanced tweaks he was introducing to our skiing.

Craig told our crew of five, “I’m careful with what I tell you. I want you to know, I don’t want to overload you with information. So, I’ll watch you today and when I arrive at the one thing I want to ask you to work on, the one thing I think is holding you back, I’ll tell you.”

During lunch, Craig said he was about to start telling us what he’d observed. I listened intently each time he addressed another member of our group. I waited patiently for him to unlock my personal skiing secret. And then, as we skied into the afternoon, I waited some more. Finally, Craig took me aside.

I expected my ego to take a beating. It didn’t. In fact, it blew up a bit: “Bari Nan, I’m having a hard time—you’re tough,” he said.

I looked at him with a puzzled expression.

“You ski beautifully. I’m having a hard time coming up with what’s holding you back. There’s something in reserve—and I’m almost there, so be patient.”

Um, what?

“Wow,” I said. “I’m blown away. But maybe you should call Letitia and tell her—she made me confident, she gave me the tools to advance.” (Letita Lussier is another one of Deer Valley’s crown-jewel instructors. On the team since day one, in fact. And I was lucky enough to ski with her in Women’s Weekend last year. And, yes, I owe her a lot!)

Still, I heard myself say that, and I knew there was more to the story.

“I have to tell you, Craig, I am always and forever, in my mind, an intermediate skier,” I confessed. “And I think I need to work on that.

He nodded. He left it alone.

A few runs later, he addressed the group (and may I say, our group included a 71 year-old retired Rear Admiral in the Navy with as much grace and humor as anyone I’ve met, a 60-something triathlete who was determined to crack the code, an Australian math teacher with a sly, charming wit, and a Wisconsin woman possessed of quiet, disarming charm—and killer ski skills)—“Will you please repeat after me,” Craig began. “I am a smooth, strong and graceful skier.” We did.

“I want you to repeat it again—and tell yourself that as you make your turns,” he said. “Because that’s what you all are—you just have to acknowledge it, admit it and own it.”

Later still, he issued his diagnosis of my skiing. “You need to be taller in your stance,” he said. “And you need to work on flexing down into the turn and coming back up to full height to start the next turn.”

I went to bed that night thinking about how to inhabit my 5’1″ frame in a taller stance. And I thought about how that change was going to be mental as much as physical. I needed to finally own my skiing.

The second day, I worked at it. We were videotaped. Craig pointed out the ways in which I needed to rise up from my calves and straighten my upper body just-so. But as he described the technical stuff, I realized that I was holding myself back in those moments, that the reason I couldn’t pop up and commit to the turn was because, somehow, I didn’t feel like I could. Still, the video didn’t lie—I spotted the exact moment I wasn’t committing, and I connected it with the noise in my head that told me to hang back a little. The shift, it turned out, wasn’t about physical skill. The breakthrough would be entirely mental.

The next morning was “Epic Sunday”—the unexpected powder dump that threw a wrench into the groomer-based training that comprises the Mahre method.

“I am going to have to shake the idea, forever, that I am a low-intermediate level skier,” I confessed over breakfast to Phil and Steve.

“Yes, you should,” Steve said.

“But don’t worry—that’s very common,” Phil assured me. “It’s especially common among women. You’re better than you think you are.”

Moments later, Steve was addressing our team. He seemed to be apologizing to the group as he explained that today’s lesson plan—short turns, a sprint through the slalom gates and more videotaping—and learn a new way of skiing. He couldn’t hide his grin or the gleam in his eye as he explained it all.

We cruised the pow. The three guys took turns taking diggers as they tinkered with staying centered on the skis so the tips could float. We hooted. We hollered. I exclaimed, incessantly, over the luck of a powder day. Seriously, some might have called my enthusiasm tiresome. I could give a hoot. And a holler.

Craig and Steve kept reminding me I needed to be taller in my stance to stay centered. “And don’t forget to let your skis work as a unit,” Steve said. “They should push the snow out of the way, rather than carve in it.”

Which is how I came to be found barking orders at myself clear down the face of Bald Mountain. “Push! Push! Be tall! Be taller! Tallllllll.”

Um, yes, that was me. The crazy girl talking to herself as she skied.

And yet…there was payoff. First, the personal satisfaction I felt when I hit that sweet spot of powder skiing: smooth, controlled and balanced. Perfect pole plants, created with the flick of a wrist. And, finally, more praise from Steve.

“Bari Nan,” he said. “You’re six foot one.”

Good to Great with 15 inches of New Snow!

This weekend saw our second “major” snow storm of the year, so after clearing my driveway and dressing for the weather, I went out to Deer Valley to assess the results.

The snow kept on pounding the mountain all afternoon and as the hills were shrouded in a mystical cloud cover, I chose to stay in the forested areas of the resort and skied an unprecedented ten “Centennial Trees” runs, non-stop and during each and every one of them, I literally let myself go, bouncing from turn to turn as if I were a ball bouncing down some stairways, in that fluffy, out-of-this-world and so forgiving soft matter…

It felt as if I had received some magic powers and as if gravity as we know it had suddenly lost its sting. There was no stump too high, no drop too steep for me not to embrace in total confidence. I suddenly felt as if I had become invincible and had received a license to “cheat…”  Yet, after the first couple of runs, I started to feel hot; that’s right, with all the powder I had to work much harder than usual.

At each turn, the abundant snow on all sides of my skis, my boots and my legs had to be moved around and was pushing back. At the same time, I had too be twice as concentrated as I watched like a hawk for hidden obstacles, sudden drops and of course, huge trees!   That day, 15 inches of new snow were measured and I rediscovered that unmistakable and special sensation of feeling deep powder hugging my lower legs.

What were imposing moguls 24 hours prior had been neutralized and didn’t amount to much anymore, the few twigs still emerging were now dwarfed and far less intimidating, the forbidding stumps were now totally covered and turned into fat snowmen and the rare rocks had magically sunk to the bottom.

All around me, there was a brand new ski world, and more than ever before, I took the time to appreciate every second of my descents!