Should We Save This Year’s Snow for Next Season?

024 Mountain Scenic_Deer Valley ResortBecause I love skiing and winter so much, I always have mixed feelings when it’s time to put my ski gear away. In spite of what you might have heard, this past season ended up being another excellent outdoor experience filled with some unforgettable and unique moments for me. This is partly why I reluctantly transition from winter into spring.

Only a few days ago, I drove to Snow Park to observe the retreating Deer Valley “glacier” that still seemed to be thumbing its nose at the upcoming concert season. The World Cup mogul run (Champion) was still holding so well that I almost could have enjoyed a full, top-to-bottom, run. This, of course, is an incredibly strong testimony to Deer Valley Resort’s formidable and generous snow making enterprise. This is when I literally had to pinch myself that we were already smack into the middle of spring and that all that reminiscing wasn’t doing me any good.

snow parkIt’s true that I see things differently from most people. This, I assume, is because I was born and bred in the mountains and had learned, early on, to be a keen observer of nature, including snow behavior. From the moment it falls off the sky to the time it finally melts. As a kid I often surprised myself living in an imaginary world of “endless winter.” This is in part why, more than forty years ago, I sacrificed two of my summers to go ski during the length of a full snow season, down under, in Australia. More recently, almost three decades ago, I finally settled in Utah and returned to a genuine mountain environment, following a 10 year hiatus. I began making precise observations and taking notes about our fast vanishing spring and early summer snow.

Over time, I observed that our snow melted much faster in the late spring, and early summer. Today, I think I can explain it. It’s not so much because of rising global temperatures as most folks would think, but because we, humans, are soiling our snowfields from the Alps to the Himalayas and all the way to the Rocky Mountains. All the particulates and other pollutants that are emitted from Paris’ tiny Diesel cars to Beijing’s coal-fired power plants or our western forest fires, end up gathering high into the atmosphere and eventually drop upon our mountains in such quantities that just a few days after a fresh late-season snowfall, the tiny, dirty deposits take over, soiling the remaining snow that hangs on top of our peaks and glaciers.

On snow, these dirty particulates amount to a huge loss in reflectivity from a normally bright surface. In turn, it increases the penetration of solar heat and hastens the melting process. This new reality of snow melting faster in late season is perhaps what prompted the Winter Olympics organizers in Sochi, Russia, to conserve this year’s snow until these coming February’s events. I can understand why they don’t want to take any chances as the 2014 Winter Games are now closing-in.

As you may have heard, their mountain staff plans to stockpile 500,000 cubic feet of snow into some shady gullies and deep creek beds located above the venues. A Finnish company has been asked to oversee this herculean task. This season’s snow will be covered under insulated blankets. During summer it will melt some and the density or the remaining snow – just like on permanent snowfields before they turn into glaciers – will increase from 25 to 34 lbs/cubic feet. When it’s ready to be used for the 2013-2014 Winter, the snow will be spread over the hills by snow cats or piped down to the slopes that need it.

When I heard about this extreme idea, I wondered if we too, shouldn’t try to “save” our snow season after season? I thought about it long and deep and came to the conclusion that instead, we should be more confident and wait for Mother Nature’s ‘clean’ refills scheduled for November.

So, while I am reminiscing the face shots and other stimulating sensations collected over this past winter, I must also admit that it’s almost early summer and time to move on. Today, I’m getting ready to mentally bid a friendly farewell to the last snow patches, put my skis away for good and get my mountain bike ready so I can ride very soon into another fantastic summer!

*Today, Deer Valley Resort joins with 107 other ski areas as a part of the National Ski Areas Association to sign the Climate Declaration, which calls upon federal policymakers to seize the American economic opportunity of addressing climate change. Ski industry leaders are concerned not just with the threat climate change has to their own operations but also its impacts on rising sea levels, wildlife habitat, the health of our forests, and truly our way of life.  We recognize both the risks of inaction as well as the opportunity for U.S. leadership in combating climate change. 

The economic influence of our trade is enormous. Ski areas in the U.S. employ about 160,000 people and generate about $12.2 billion in annual revenue. The National Ski Areas Association calculates that visitors to U.S. ski areas spent $5.8 billion at those resorts over the course of the 2011/2012 season. Preliminary figures from the 2012/2013 season show an 11 percent increase in visits year-over-year, to an estimated 56.6 million visits this season.

To read more about Deer Valley Resort’s environmental initiatives please visit: http://www.deervalley.com/About/Information/Environment

To sign the Climate Declaration as an individual or company, visit: http://www.ceres.org/bicep/climate-declaration

 

Learning to Ski at 65 – Call in the Professionals

photo (31)While I certainly don’t agree with it, I can understand why many people wouldn’t venture to learn to ski after age 65. The older you get, the more you realize that life (and your body) is fragile.  It doesn’t help that everyone loves to tell skiing horror stories, either.  You might ski a hundred times and have an amazing day after day but do you share those stories? Of course not.

Everyone tells the story of their most dramatic day that either involved extreme fear, pain or a combination of both. For example, my brother told me the story of when he skied in college as a novice with his buddies in California, his friends took him in the trees instead of staying on groomed runs. He fell flat on his face with his skis sticking straight down and he couldn’t get back up! His toe nails turned black and eventually fell off since his boots were too tight.  Unfortunately, this happened to be my first introduction to skiing, and I was left with a less than favorable impression.

Another favorite storytelling subject is “falling” which involves ledges, trees and collisions with other skiers.  Then there is the story of a friendship ending day when someone is taken to a black diamond mogul run, chute or bowl that is way too advanced for them.  The friend ditches them and leaves them to somehow slide or trek down alone, scared and angry.

Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?  Doesn’t really make you want to grab your gear and head to the lift.   Why would you put yourself through this at 65? Well if you read this previous blog, you’d know why my husband is doing it. He wants to ski next season with our three year old granddaughter. He also wants to do it right so he can enjoy himself and minimize his chances of injury. At 65, he also certainly can’t afford to waste time learning things the wrong way and then having to relearn them.  He wants to do it right.

We called in the professionals.  We booked a couple one-on-one private lessons with one of Deer Valley’s professional ski instructors.  Since Mary Lou Mignot helped me bump up to a solid intermediate skier at the Women’s Ski Clinic Weekend, we asked for her to put together a Beginner Boot Camp for Jay.

It worked!

photo (30)Mary Lou got Jay from surface lifts on Wide West to the Carpenter Express chairlift in a matter of a few hours but more than that, he got a solid foundation in balance and control that will stick with him forever.  The lesson began with helping Jay get a feel for the skis and enjoying the slide. He then learned to take the wedge to more of a parallel turn and control his speed.

By the second lesson, he was very comfortable on the lifts and enjoying runs following Mary Lou’s ‘S’ shaped turns and having her follow him observing and providing tips to improve. He even kept his cool when some pint sized skiers went flying out of the trees within a couple feet of him. They didn’t faze him one bit and he passed his first test for skiing with grandchildren.

There were no dramatic stories of run-ins with trees, crashes, or cliffs.  He did catch the bug, however. You may know it well.  It’s the bug that changes your whole perspective on life;  the one that makes you excited when it snows on April 1st,  where you count the number of ski days left in the season and you no longer talk of events in years but in terms of “ski seasons”.  You know what I am talking about.

photo (32)It makes all the difference in the world to start your ski experience off well. Especially as you get older, you don’t take anything for granted … especially a ski season at Deer Valley.

The Sun Shines on the EBS Lounge

In the early days of winter it is easy to cope with the darkness and bitter temperatures through the wonders of powder skiing. After not skiing for so many months early bedtimes are no problem, the rest welcome and satisfying. We dine and sing our way through the holidays, all the while dreaming of February face shots and seamless groomers. Mid-winter finds us celebrating the milestones of our favorite future ski champions. Your child’s first true carve, and their exuberant laughter as they veer off trail for every powder patch they see mark the days of January. By the time of late February storm cycles our legs are strong, our spirits sated, and imaginations nearly refilled for another season.

Then the most magical experience in all of life begins; the tulip and Lily of the Valley bulbs stir just beneath the surface of the soil, the sun warms the breeze as trout begin to rise and swirl more often, and the familiar scents of spring flow through long shuttered windows.

Skiing in the sunshine of spring is not a continuation of the previous three months, not the same thread that wove our lives together in mittens and heavy coats. It is a new skin worn under sleeveless vests and sunglasses, embellished with cold beverages and decks filled with people randomly looking at the mountain, at the sun, and smiling.

Spring at Deer Valley is the time to stand atop the Champion bump course across from your lifelong buddy, like two teenagers in ’69 Camaros revving your engines at the same stoplight. Both of you looking all the way down the street to the deck of the EBS Lounge, knowing that somewhere down there a pretty girl is briefly looking up the hill, knowing you have only this one shot at glory.

And when the light turns green you both drop, accelerating through the same bumps that Brad Wilson burned down on his way to his first career World Cup podium in February. Your rhythm is just right, your pole plants just right, and in the back of your mind you already hear the sound of après applause from the EBS deck – just before leaning back ever so slightly.

036_Deer Valley ResortSpring at Deer Valley, on the deck of the EBS, is a time and a place to give cheers to your best friends, to rub your knees and look back up the mountain at the bump line you almost had. To smile in the sunshine and wistfully hope for a few more face shots before summer, before next year when those high fives from fellow skiers on the deck will be yours.

~ I think I was supposed to be writing a bit more specifically about the menu and atmosphere of the EBS, but an hour basking on its deck last week caused my overactive imagination to free float through the crowd, and imagine what their day and winter must have been like. With live music on the weekends and an outstanding drink menu, including a simple yet delectable martini created by founder Edgar B. Stern, be assured you can satisfy your après spirit in comfort and style this spring. Cheers! _MG_8553

Another ski contest…

In this blog, a few seasons ago, I shared an obsession of mine to rack up as much ski vertical as I possibly could. I’ve since gotten over it, and this season, I’ll be focusing instead on a new challenge a friend of mine suggested we try to accomplish: ski as many runs at Deer Valley Resort as we possibly could, in just one day. When I heard about the idea, I liked it a lot, thought it was a great way to further my knowledge of the resort. So, I immediately began researching the subject.

With 100 designated ski runs at Deer Valley and six open bowls, I would have my work cut out for me! At first, I was not quite sure how to go about defining the project. What originally was intended to be a team event ended up becoming my sole responsibility as my friend and his busy calendar couldn’t join me within the dates we had originally targeted.

So here I was, on my own and compelled to design the project from scratch. Being one’s own boss isn’t that terrible though; I would be able to make my own rules and fashion them so the contest would be as user-friendly and as convenient as I wanted it be. With that in mind and since there was no one to watch over my shoulder, I also committed to follow my rules to the letter.

I began by deciding that I would only focus on marked ski runs with perhaps one exception: I like some of the kid’s runs. I’m particularly fond of Bucky’s Backyard, a whimsical bumpy run off the Bandana ski run. I would also leave the resort’s six bowls out, as the infinite variations they offered might complicate things and be subject to endless interpretations. I would also allow myself to conveniently count one small run that would be close to a larger one so I could score an extra run without having to take the same lift one extra time for just completing a tiny trail. For example, Trump is a sub-set of Ontario, and I assumed that going through Trump, while skiing the remaining balance of Ontario should count for two runs.

dv-NrRuns1

With that in mind, I began by inventorying all the marked trails that I could see on the official Deer Valley Resort map and tried to organized my findings in a sequential order that I felt, would maximize the number of runs I could cover during the time most lifts were open, that is from 9 a.m. until just after 4 p.m.

For each trail, I estimated the time it would take me to ride up the lift, plus the necessary time to safely ski down to my next lift or run, and I added everything as I went through the Deer Valley trail map. I came up with a total number close to one hundred and figured it would take me more than twelve hours to navigate the whole itinerary. With the lifts being opened just seven hours, I would not be able to ski all the runs in the space of one day, but would do my best to ski as many trails as humanly possible.

dv-NrRuns3

They were, of course, a few unknowns like the possibility for some bad weather and, if that were the case, perhaps some wind-hold during which certain lifts could be temporarily stopped. In addition there was also the likelihood of fairly large crowds as I wanted to run my experiment during the Spring Break holidays. More skiers would demand more attention and reduced speed while skiing down the hills. Any significant delay would have a detrimental impact on the total number of runs.  At first, I had considered taking a break for lunch, but that possibility quickly appeared to be a luxury I could hardly afford if I wanted to rack up the highest possible number of runs.

dv-NrRuns2

I could also have tried to optimize my course so I would hit only those runs or lifts that provided me with the best return on my time and efforts, but I decided against it. I had in mind that I would begin with the Little Baldy Peak area then move to Bald Mountain, Empire, return to Flagstaff and conclude the day around Bald Eagle Mountain. Finally, I was asked by some why I wouldn’t use a smart phone app to account for my day, but I must say that I didn’t want to take any chance and suffer any breakdown due to failing technology, so I planned to keep the running tally by hand.

dv-NrRuns4

Shortly, I will let you know how the project went and how many runs I was able to cover in just one day of skiing. Of course you don’t have to wait for these results; you can try tomorrow if you feel like it and discover what a typical ski day at Deer Valley Resort can be worth in terms of total ski trails visited. Modify or change some of my rules if you have to and please, ski safely!

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.

NASTAR National Championships

I’ve been out of town for a week and I’ll let you in on where I was. I often hear, “I haven’t seen you all year” well even if I’m not at Deer Valley, I’m always skiing! I have had the fortune of partaking in the NASTAR finals in Winter Park, CO for the last four years. No, I didn’t qualify, I’m invited to be one of seven pace setters. This entails trying to set the pace against, AJ Kitt, Jake Fiala, Doug Lewis, Ted Ligety, Picabo Street and Steve Nyman. The adventures begin Friday where we are paired up.  I was with Doug (Mr. Universal Sports) and he had me laughing the entire time (not hard to do). We start by setting our new handicap with two runs then we go to our designated race arena. Somehow Doug and I had the most courses. Friday & Saturday we took 14 runs. These aren’t free skiing, easy runs these are behind the wand race runs. Remember we are trying to beat each other, I must be getting old. We also have receptions, sponsor dinners and awards ceremonies that take hours. I’m not complaining just trying to shed some light on our busy days. Although the days are full it’s a blast to be around all these successful skiers.

(Heidi and Doug Lewis)

Some of the highlights of the weekend were seeing so many Park City families participating. Thankfully I see them at home because there is no time to catch up at the finals. I have seen one mother since being back and her comment was, “all of you are in your element, so fun to watch”. Another was my little buddy Colby Starr placing second in his age group. He was nervous on race day and I got to inspect the race course with him. I think it might have calmed his nerves. And the Sheppard family came through with bells and whistles to place two kids in their age group and top ten in the family events!

(Heidi with the Sheppard Family)

Being paired up with Doug kept me laughing and on our final run after we crossed the finish with both laid down. People asked if we were tired? No we answered” were icing our backs”! The first day the courses were soooo tight. I blew my line all weekend trying to keep up. One time was I was going so slow Doug caught up to me and asked in mid-racing “how’s that turn working for ya?” I love going to the event (as we all do) because it lets us see over 1,200 people who love the sport. We try our best to say hi to all of you. It also allows us to catch up with our fellow teammates and be silly again.

(Ted Ligety and Heidi just before pacesetting)

As I approach this next week at Deer Valley it will be the last of my season. For Spring Break were going to enjpy some sun and fun in Disneyworld! Should be interesting. I haven’t been there since I was the same age as my oldest son. I’ll understand what my mom went through. However,  I will be home in time for closing weekend and closing day. I have a feeling the last day will be a snow storm. Should we make a bet? Maybe one of the best powder days will be April 15th. I look forward to a break in Florida but excited to always close the ski season at Deer Valley.

See you on the slopes.

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.

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:

Summer in the Mountains

With the long cold spring almost in the foreground, I think that summer is finally in the air.  The snow has almost melted, leaves are coming out and the wild flowers are blooming, you have to love summertime in the mountains.  Deer Valley is just a few days away from kicking off its summer activities on Friday, June 18.  

My favorite part about summer is literally all of the music in the air.  June 23, starts our free concerts on Wednesday nights which are great for the whole family.  My husband and I love to bring our daughter up to have a nice picnic and enjoy the music. Then every Friday and Saturday evening through the summer the Utah Symphony plays in our outdoor amphitheater.  Other concerts I know I won’t be missing this summer are Earth, Wind and Fire presented by Big Stars Bright Nights on August 20 or B.B. King Blues Festival on August 24.  But the list of performances goes on and on.

 I am also looking forward to Royal Street Café opening for lunch on the deck.  I love to take in the whole experience by riding up the Silver Lake Express chairlift for a leisurely lunch. Then once I am there just sitting back to enjoy a blueberry mojito, the tuna tartare with the arugula truffle oil lemon salad and finishing it off with a piece of the frozen lemon meringue pie on a beautiful summer day. 

One nice thing about Deer Valley and the Park City area is all of the hiking and biking trails.  I love to hike, not so much bike, so hiking is something that I do year round but only get to enjoy Deer Valley trails during the summer.  My favorite hike at Deer Valley is leaving from the Snow Park area and taking the Tour de Homes trail up to Silver Lake.  There is nothing better than being outside taking in that deep breath of mountain air!

I hate to see winter leave but I have to say I am really looking forward to the lazy days of summer!