Families that Paddle Together…

family pondI expected hilarity to ensue. One of my dear friends, Christina Boyle Cush, a former colleague who runs Sea Glass Communications in Connecticut, brought her family to visit a few weeks ago. We used to work together at a teen magazine. She would drop by my office to read letters from readers about their most embarrassing moments. I would return the favor by dropping by her office to introduce her to actors I was interviewing for the magazine. (Hello, Jerry O’Connell. How ya doin’ Ashton Kutcher?)

Seth Sea glass CommSixteen years later, we found ourselves being taught stand up paddleboard skills by a much-decorated professional SUP athlete Trent Hickman, a celebrity in his own right, and gearing up for what I was sure would be many embarrassing moments. I didn’t flinch when Christina’s 12 year-old daughter took in my outfit (pink baseball hat, pink rash guard, pink-striped surf shorts) and dubbed me “Pinky Pants.” Instead, I owned it, and determined that our two families would be “Team Pinky Pants.”

family learningThis came in handy when Trent asked me to gather everyone around for a quick safety discussion and shore-side lesson. “Team PinkyPants, circle up,” I shouted. Christina’s two girls beamed, while her son and my boys shook their heads in dismay. Then, we all got quiet as Trent explained how to hold the paddles, steer the boards and generally keep ourselves safe (when in doubt, kneel). I fully expected to remain on my knees for the entire lesson. Trent heard Seth express concern that he might not be ready to steer a board of his own, and offered him a ride on the front of his own board. Nothing makes that kid feel more proud than hanging out with professional athletes, so he could not accept the invitation quickly enough.

trent familyBefore long, we were all kneeling on boards, and paddling away from the shore. And in what seemed like a blink, we were all standing. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to maintain my balance while handling the board and paddle. Chrissy and her husband seemed to have the same sense of ease on their boards, and most of the kids had no problem figuring it out. What was remarkable to me was the sense of calm that seemed to pervade the outing. It’s one of the rare sports where I have no unreasonable expectations of myself (I’m not a naturally gifted athlete, but I am hyper-competitive with myself in almost every athletic pursuit. The fact that this is ridiculous, counterintuitive, useless thinking has no bearing on my behavior—but, that’s how I roll.)

kids familyHere, I could see the calming effect of standing on a board in a placid body of water and just…gliding. I noticed that Lance, who often gets frustrated when he can’t get something right on the first try (yes, I know where he gets that from) discovered a heretofore untapped reserve of patience for himself and the learning curve.

Thrillingly, I had found a sport that involves standing on a board that my entire family can enjoy together. [See also: my kids love to skateboard, and their parents do not.]

Bari Nan familyMeanwhile, I gained so much confidence in a short amount of time that when Trent had to help other guests, and Seth still wasn’t ready to go it alone, I offered him a seat on my board. I should add that Trent had observed Seth paddling on the front of his own board and felt confident that he could handle himself–and told him as much before going ashore. Seth, however, felt differently, and when Trent returned, he made a point of telling him, plainly and respectfully, that he didn’t agree, and that he didn’t like that he was left alone. Trent is naturally gifted with kids–he didn’t belittle the feelings of a six year-old, but rather thanked Seth for telling him how he felt, and explaining that he knew, even if Seth didn’t, that the kid was capable of handling a board, solo. I loved how he both showed Seth respect and instilled confidence in him at the same time.

We paddled a while longer, with most of the kid members of Team Pinky Pants finding excuses to “fall” into the water (read: jump gleefully off their boards) only to climb aboard again and find another excuse a minute later. When our hour was up, we dried off, thanked Trent and relented to the deck of the Deer Valley Grocery Cafe for cookies.

family funAs we sat there, the kids feeling the bond of having shared a cool experience together, I felt pretty confident that no one on Team Pinky Pants would feel compelled to write a letter to a teen magazine about their experiences.

Tour of Utah Final Stage on Main Street in Park City

race startMain Street is the place to be when the cyclists take off and return for the final stage of the Tour of Utah. Even though many of us have never cycled in a race, we all can relate to the difficult sport.  I can’t even imagine five days of leg burning capped off with a sprint up Guardsman’s Pass in the last 5 kilometers of the race then racing at 50 miles an hour down the steep Empire Pass.  That’s brutal!

cyclistsI love the buzz on Main Street in Park City on race day. I attended last year and was shocked at how we were able to get such a great view of the finish line at this world-class race.  This year my focus was on the start.  My husband and I came early and set up on lower Park Ave so we could watch the riders from the beginning before all the breakaways.

support carsI found myself cheering for the support car from my favorite sponsors as they followed the riders on the course ready with a spare bike and tire.  It seemed a little odd to be cheering for a car in a bike race.  Then again, NASCAR fans across the nation cheer for their favorite cars (sans the drivers) as the support team drives across the country to the next race.  So I figure I am in good company.

subaru boothMain Street was packed with bike enthusiasts discussing the latest equipment and technology with vendors.  The BackCountry and Subaru booths were jammed with fans watching the race on the big screen TVs inside.

We picked up our swag from the vendors including our cowbell that we plan to send to our 3-year-old granddaughter (which she’ll love but just might drive her parents a bit crazy.)  We stocked up on Chapstick, hats, and sunscreen offered by the vendors.  We put our names in to win multiple bike jerseys – we’ll let you know if our names are drawn!  You never know.

backcountry stickMostly we walked away with an appreciation of the teamwork involved in cycling. At first glance it appears cycling is an individual sport. It’s not.  I really had no idea how the Lead-out man, the Peloton, and Domestiques on the team work together to produce a win.  Living in Park City, we have so many opportunities to learn about world-class sports up close and personal that we might not have the chance to see elsewhere.

backcountry tvThis may sound silly but I am looking forward to riding my bike on the trails in Park City using my “Competitive Cyclist” water bottle.  It will be a reminder for me to push myself, take one more hill and pick up my speed due to some inspiration I got on Main Street at the final stage of the Tour of Utah in 2013.

Interview with Chef Chris Gibson, Royal Street Cafe

Chef Chris Gibson has been part of Deer Valley Resort’s culinary team since 2003; first working part-time, seasonally, and now as the sous chef at Royal Street Café. His philosophy of finding fresh, local ingredients to craft into house-made specialties has translated into a dining experience that is as inspiring (and ever-changing) as the spectacular views off the deck at the Silver Lake Lodge Restaurant. Deer Valley Blogger, Bari Nan Cohen, caught up with Chef Gibson just as the summer season picked up, to get the latest on the menu, and the inside track on why the Asian Chicken Salad is different now.

The Asian Chicken Salad was a Royal Street Cafe signature item. Why change it?

It’s funny–people have asked us that a lot, but we’re noticing that they are ordering it just as much as before. (Check) We used to serve it with teriyaki orange glazed chicken strips and fried wontons–and it was kind of hard to manage with chopsticks. So we made it more of a chopped salad, changed out the wonton chips for puffed rice, and then looked at how we could make the favors different. We brought in more of the umami flavor–there is fermented black bean, broccoli stems, mushrooms and fermented fish sauce in the dressing. We are getting a lot of feedback–and since the salad was made the other way for 20 years, that’s not surprising.

What are some of the other special touches we might see?

We don’t make many drastic changes, but we do like to evolve the way we make things. For instance, our BLT used to be made with deli-turkey that we bought from a supplier. Now we buy turkey, smoke it ourselves, and then slice it, so you’re biting into a sandwich that has that home-roasted turkey feel.

We also buy a case of habanero peppers and smoke it for three days so that we can send it to our cheese maker (Gold Creek Farms in Kamas, Utah) and he can mix it right in with the curd to make our smoked habanero cheddar that we use on the bison burger.

178 Royal Street Cafe_Deer Valley ResortWhat are some of the other items that are created in-house?

The ketchup for the frites (fries) is house-made. The bison burger is ground in-house from whole chucks, we make our own bacon, our own smoked habanero aioli, we carmelize the onions and we make the barbecue sauce, too.

I’m intrigued by the charcuterie–there seem to be a lot of house-made meats. How did you get into that?

It started because we couldn’t find an andouille sausage that we liked well enough to put in our gumbo. So I buy pork from Niman Ranch, and I use a lot of green onions with it, because the green onion has naturally occurring bacteria that ferments the pork into a cured sausage.

IMG_9783What is your favorite item on the menu–what do you tend to order for lunch?

I usually taste every menu item in the kitchen each day, which means, that’s lunch. But when I do order, I go for the tuna tacos–it’s fresh, relatively healthy, and I enjoy the richness of the flavors in that dish.

What is your favorite way to spend a day off?

I just bought a new downhill mountain bike–it doesn’t hurt that I work at the base of a chairlift and world-class trails, so I tend to get out on my bike a lot. If you are looking for a good “run-slash-hike,” go to the Silver Lake Trail–you will get a workout.

232 Biking_Deer Valley ResortHow do you like to spend your weekends?

My wife and I have two young daughters, ages seven and five, so we go camping, hiking and biking with them. I’m an avid runner, and I competed in the Ragnar relay, earlier this summer.

What are your go-to family meals at home?

Well, if we let our girls choose, they would eat a whole bunch of stuff dipped in ranch dressing at every meal, but we’ve found that curries are always a hit. I’m also a big gardener, so I will make up batches of chili verde and freeze them in meal-sized bags, so we have those on hand all winter. I can hundreds of tomatoes and make lots of fresh sauce to freeze so we have that all year for pasta. But in the summer, we grill a lot. There’s something about kebabs–some veggies, well-seasoned meat, Greek yogurt, it’s delicious and kid-friendly without being kid food.

Closer to Fine: Five Lessons from Girls’ Night out with the Indigo Girls and the Utah Symphony

IMG_0388There is so much good music to choose from at Deer Valley Resort in the summer that I managed to bookend a week with concerts by performers who had provided the soundtrack to my college years.  With Bruce Hornsby on a Monday, then, The Indigo Girls with the Utah Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, I was set up for a great week of music. Add that to the fact that I hadn’t yet been to a Deer Valley Music Festival performance of the Utah Symphony this summer, and that I consider having a world-class symphony to be one of the great perks of living near Salt Lake City (we take in several performances each season at Abravanel Hall), and it seemed impossible that the week could be any better.

After all, I’d already scored a parenting lesson from Bruce Hornsby, so things were off to a good start. I knew the Indigo Girls’ soaring harmonies would sound fantastic live—and would only be enhanced by the awesome sounds of the Utah Symphony. Little did I know that the Indigo Girls with the Utah Symphony would present me with a whole bunch of fun facts and lessons.  Of course, there are the practical lessons (which I’m not counting in the tally) that I take with me to every Deer Valley Concert. For instance:

Make sure your chairs meet the published seat-height requirement (9- inches). When you arrive, use the ski valet area to drop off one or more members of your party, plus the gear, while one member of the party parks the car. Wear a hat (yes, I know, not everyone can have a hat as cool as my gold cowboy hat, but that should not deter you from having sun protection), pack extra blankets to wrap around you if you get chilled, and even if it’s 90 degrees in the shade all day, dress in jeans and a short-sleeved top, because the minute the sun goes down, you’ll regret wearing shorts. Pack a sweatshirt. Unless you have a rolling-cart style bag (like I do), don’t stuff your extra layers and blankets and picnic all in one bag—it’s easier to distribute the load among your group if you have several smaller bags. Plus, those bags can hold down the corners of your blanket, quite nicely.

But the first real lesson of the evening happened before the evening began. Jeff had to leave town for a conference that morning, so I had booked a sitter and rallied a group of girlfriends for an evening out. Over breakfast that morning, the kids had asked if Jeff would have attended the concert with me had he been in town, since concerts—and, in particular, symphony performances, generally account for better than 50 percent of our date nights.

“You know, I probably would have—I know it’s one of Mommy’s favorite groups, so it would have been fun to see the Indigo Girls with her,” he said. “But now that it worked out like this, I think it’s better that Mom is going with her friends. She doesn’t get to do that as often, and I think this is the way it should have been whether I was here or not.”

IMG_0387(Lesson 1: It should not fall to my husband to remind me to get together with my girlfriends, but it’s pretty awesome that he does.)

Unlike the Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers concert, for which we had reserved seats, my friends and I planned to enjoy the music of the Indigo Girls with the Utah Symphony from the lawn, with a potluck picnic of appetizers and cocktails.

In the days leading up to our big night out, at least one friend (and, yes, I’m looking at you, Kathy) admonished me not to pack a six-course meal—“I know you, and you tend to go overboard. We don’t need a million choices of pie,” she chided. (Yes, she’s been at my house for Thanksgiving, and yes, I tend to over-order pie from the Deer Valley Bakery, and No, I don’t see a thing wrong with that practice. But I digress.)

As if to continue the friendtervention trend, yet another pal sought to save me from myself. I had in mind that we’d get there the moment the gates opened, so as to procure primo real estate on the lawn. If you are getting the sense that I can be a bit of an over-planner, your powers of inference are astute. If you are also getting the sense that my friends know me better than I know myself, well, then, you get bonus “astute points.” Ana, whose laid-back spirit I admire yet fail to emulate, suggested that three hours of baking in the pre-show sun was probably in no one’s best interest.

(Lesson 2: Friendterventions are a good thing.)

Of course, when we arrived, Ana began to fret that I’d be upset that we had to hike to the top of the lawn section to spread our blanket and set up our picnic and chairs. The fact that Ana had the foresight to bring chairs would have absolved her of any guilt, had there been any guilt to assign. (Here’s the thing about me: once I make a decision to go with the flow, I do exactly that. What’s that: Lesson 3: I can be laid-back?) And, once Kathy arrived, she brought (count them) three varieties of hummus with her, to share. I will point out that not one of us was disappointed by this turn of events—they were delicious. But I found it ironic and funny nevertheless. I had to smile as I unveiled three varieties of crackers.

Mel produced some grilled salmon filets (thank you Whole Foods deli counter) and Ana unveiled bacon-wrapped figs, plus a fun, new way to hydrate. “It’s like a non-sweet non-alcoholic mojito,” she explained. “I know, it doesn’t sound like fun.” Oh, but it is fun. See, she’s right (Lesson 4), hydrating with plain water gets boring. So, her mocktail of fresh lime juice and fresh mint cut with sparkling water was just the ticket. (That, and the fact that we were pouring it alongside Prosecco…). Our friend Lisa and her sister Aimee, who was visiting from Ohio, joined us a short while later, happily plunking down among us and sharing in our bounty.

Also, my golden cowboy hat (for which I received some flak via Facebook on Monday) came in handy as I needed something to wave from the top of the hill so that each friend could find us as they arrived.

During the concert, I remembered the wise words of Claire, a young friend of mine who is one of the kids’ favorite babysitters. “Sitting on the lawn is the best—you can just get up and dance whenever you want.” Claire, as usual, was absolutely right. Lisa and I spent a lot of time on our feet (dancing off the snacks, presumably), singing at the top of our lungs and swapping stories about where we’d been when we listened to these songs 20 years earlier. (Lesson 5: Deer Valley concerts rock, no matter where you sit, so don’t start freaking out about getting there at noon to be first in line when the gates open.).

We ate, we drank, we sang, we danced, and, perhaps most importantly, we laughed. And as we re-loaded our gear into the car, we vowed to do it again, soon.

Making Noise with Bruce Hornsby

sky1Clouds gathered, lightning flashed, and a cool drizzle settled over the crowd as Teri Orr, exclaimed, “We live in the mountains! What’s a little rain?” Orr, who is the executive director of the Park City Arts Foundation has overseen a few damp concerts in her many years at the helm of the non-profit organization that rallies sponsors to bring headliners to Park City for the St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights concert series. On this mid-July Monday, Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers would perform—rain or shine.

As far as Jeff and I were concerned, the evening was perfect—first, we had a babysitter for the kids. Second, since we’d seen Bruce Hornsby and his band a decade ago, we knew we were in for a treat—if the previous experience was any indication, there may or may not be a set list, and there would be tons of improvisation, riffing and otherwise killer jamming onstage. And, third, the droplets of rain were a refreshing change from the heat of the previous few weeks.

bruce on stageWe planned the evening so that we’d be there with enough time to enjoy the views, soak up the atmosphere, and dine alfresco, so by the time the show started we were well-fed, relaxed and ready to enjoy the music. Upon arrival at Deer Valley, we’d found our seats in the ninth row of the reserved section, and then collected our delicious Deer Valley Gourmet Picnic Basket. We took a leisurely approach to our concert dining—starting with the antipasto, then meandering our way to the main course (perfectly-cooked beef tenderloin), nibbling on other delicacies in the basket, followed by some lemon pound cake and then the cheese course (brie, baguettes, grapes). We sipped wine, we chatted with the couple in the seats next to ours and we visited with friends seated nearby. It felt, not surprisingly, like a vacation.

We weren’t familiar with Railroad Earth, the evening’s opening act, but plenty of concertgoers seemed to have come with the express purpose of hearing them play—and they may or may not have realized that they’d get to hear the band’s musicians throughout the headlining set. Bruce Hornsby invited them to join in on song after song. As if his band, the Noisemakers weren’t already stacked to the rafters with skilled musicians, the guys from Railroad Earth wowed the crowd with their own brand of excellence. Over the course of the evening, as Hornsby introduced various members of his band, he’d mention their tenure playing together. One had been in Hornsby’s band for 22 years, another for 18. I marveled at how much time they must spend together—probably more hours than most married couples spend together—and what a bond they must have.

bari nan and husbandThroughout the evening, I marveled at the unique experience of sitting in (surprisingly comfortable) lawn chairs on a ski run, watching a summer storm pass through, (and yes, there was a heavier rain during the opening act, but umbrellas came out, jackets were donned, and the evening marched on, unhampered), chatting with old friends and new alike, dining on a gourmet picnic all in the framework of seeing world class entertainment. It’s tempting to take it for granted, but I try not to do that. Interestingly, my Facebook friends keep me honest in that regard. As soon as I posted this photo of Jeff and myself in pre-concert mode, my far-flung pals began commenting on the setting, the exciting location, and the thrill of seeing Hornsby. (There were also a few comments about how relaxed we looked, which only added to the vacation-feel. And, for some reason, a couple of pals found it necessary to call us out for wearing hats. Um, hello? Sun protection anyone? It stays sunny until nearly 9 p.m. in July!)

By intermission, my smart, thoughtful husband had the good sense to pop over to the concession stand and surprise me with a hot pretzel, accompanied by fig mustard. (You should eat this. It’s very, very good.) I was chatting with some friends when he came back, holding his-and-her pretzels. Our friends began to tease us about not sharing—one couple, midlife newlyweds, explained how they’d had to sort out their food sharing policy early in their courtship—and I felt compelled to explain our modus operandi regarding Deer Valley concert snacks.

“When I am here with my kids, I can’t so much as look at a cookie without the boys laying claim on it,” I said. “So when we are here without them, Jeff knows that I—who possess otherwise stellar sharing skills—Will. Not. Share. So, if any of you would like some of my pretzel, I will happily buy you one of your own.”

Laughing, we returned to our seats for the second half of the show. Bruce and the guys spent time sharing new songs and old favorites, including “Mandolin Rain,” which he says most people tell them is their “make-out song.” All in all, the show had the feel of being asked to sit in on an all-night jam session. Even the old favorites had new arrangements.

bruceAs the show drew to a close the audience was begging for an encore. Bruce Hornsby came to the front of the stage and explained, almost plaintively, “We have a hard curfew at this venue, and we played right up to the last minute of it. Thank you for coming out to hear us.”

Who knew that Bruce Hornsby is an imparter of parental wisdom—I vowed to use that very same tone when discussing bedtime with my children the following night. After all, if it could placate a huge crowd at a concert, surely it could achieve a similar effect with a couple of grade-schoolers.

Thanks, Bruce.

piano

 

Swapping the Supermarket for the Deer Valley~Grocery Cafe

girls night outSummer may be a vacation for my kids, but I’m still on duty. For instance, the people must be fed, and I find myself at the supermarket with alarming frequency. So, it was a double treat to let my family dine without me, and head out to a “grocery” of a different kind, for a Girls’ Night Out.

I rallied some friends to try the small plates menu offered each evening by the Deer Valley Grocery Cafe. We hit it at the perfect time–just as the soft light of early evening was dappling the pond. (Purple prose notwithstanding, that’s EXACTLY how it looked). A couple of families were enjoying dinner after stand up paddle boarding. We, on the other hand, were enjoying a bottle of Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon.

We ordered liberally–after all, it was our first visit, so it was incumbent upon us to sample as many of the menu offerings as possible. Nothing disappointed. Among our favorites: the charcuterie platter, the cedar planked salmon with strawberry rhubarb compote and the beef tenderloin.

My personal favorite (I couldn’t stop myself from making joyful exclamations after each bite) is an item that will be on the menu at various points this summer: Fried Heber Valley Halloumi, a Greek style cheese served with honey, Marcona almonds, a sherry reduction, arugula and baguette. The dish hits all the right tart/sweet/savory notes, and feels completely indulgent.

photo (7)Sitting on the patio, we noticed that the evening only got prettier as it wore on. There is a joke in there somewhere about people in bars, but I promise I had only one glass of wine, and the changing light and achievement of the perfect temperature by 7:30 p.m. did all the work for us. That, and the fact that the staff made us feel as though we were honored guests.

By the time we had worked our way through all of the delicious dishes, it was clear that there was no room for dessert. This fact, however, was lost on Meg, the service team leader at the cafe. “You have to have the ice cream sandwiches,” she insisted. “There are three in the order…and three of you.” My dining partners attempted to demur. I know Meg to be a wise woman, so I overruled them:

ice cream sandwich“They don’t know what they are talking about,” I said. “Ignore them–they only THINK they don’t have room.” And what do you know? I was right.

Revitalize Mind, Body and Spirit at the Remède Spa at the St Regis

StRegisLobbyI have a theory as to why you feel so revitalized after a massage.  A massage can be much more than simply relaxing and having a trained massage therapist knead away the tension in your muscles.  Certainly, the body feels great after a massage but the mind and spirit can be rejuvenated, too.

My theory has to do with “what’s behind the knot”; something caused you to tense up and create a knot in the first place.  Granted, sometimes you may have tension in your lower back because of the way you sit at your desk or you may have tightness in your calves because you are a runner.  Most knots, I believe, are due to some tense event that caused you to tighten up, possibly without even realizing it.  There is a reason people call someone or something a “pain in the neck.” The problem you had may be long solved or the person long removed from your life but the knot is still there.

As your massage therapist works on the knot, you often think about that tense event.  When you let it go in your mind as you let it go in your body, the whole thing revives your spirit.  When I booked a couple’s massage for my husband Jay and me at the Remède Spa at the St. Regis, I’d forgotten all about my theory.  We’d never had side-by-side massages before and the anticipation of the experience was all I was thinking about.

RemedeCouplesSpaSuiteOnce the massage started, I remembered.  You see, I told my massage therapist, that I really didn’t have any knots in my back so she didn’t need to spend much time there.  But when she started working between my shoulder blades, she found a couple of knots hiding there.  These knots gently reminded me of some unfinished business, some residual tension that I still needed to let go.  With her help, I did.

Jay OutsideAfter the massage, Jay and I relaxed together on our serene private patio listening to the sounds of the waterfall from the massive rock sculpture in front of us. As we took in the breathtaking views of the mountains, he mentioned a few things he was thinking about during the massage.  Turns out, he’d had the same experience with some knots he didn’t even realize he had and some unfinished business he had a chance to let go of too.

I have another theory.  The reason it was so easy to let go of the tension and revitalize the mind, body and spirit was the sanctuary at the Remède Spa.  The treatment room was more like a retreat than a room so we felt peaceful.  We had our own private space to relax before the massage with a Jacuzzi tub, private shower and our own outdoor patio so we felt at home.

StRegisFireGarden_SummerThe therapists spoiled us.  We were treated to a warm oil foot massage and paraffin wax treatment for starters.  During the massage, there were no distractions by feeling too warm or too cold or the pressure being too strong or too soft. The state- of-the-art massage tables bent gently at our knees and raised our heads slightly adding to our comfort. Our needs were met before we had to ask so we were able to relax.

Since our massages were side-by-side and we happened to choose the same type, we had a shared experience like none other.  Some people might come to the Remède Spa to let their mind and body escape reality, but in our case, I think the peacefulness of the experience helped us each to let go of an old reality and embrace a new one together.

 

 

Montage Deer Valley Offers Exciting Summer Activities

For those of us who know the place, Montage Deer Valley often evokes a beautiful mountain retreat getaway, that offers the best in accommodations, superlative service and a suite of premier restaurants, but these marks of comfort should never make us forget that Montage is also all about outdoor activities, too. I wanted to find out for myself so I met with Andy Damman, Director of Resort Activities.

DVR-Montage (1)JF: Thanks for welcoming me. Tell me Andy, how long have you been with Montage Deer Valley?

Andy Damman: I have been here since September of 2010, about four months before the resort opened. As the director of resort activities I’m responsible for ski operations and tubing facilities in winter. The rest of the year, I’m running our Camp Compass program which includes hiking, biking and archery among other activities.

JF: Do these recreational activities address all age groups?

Andy Damman: Age-wise we want to able to accommodate everybody and we really mean it. We want our summer activities program to almost feel like “summer camp.” When guests come to the resort we want our activities to be readily accessible to all as they walk outside. Whether that’s life-size chess or checker by the pool, badminton, archery out on our Grand Lawn, volleyball, horse-shoe or, on a rainy day, a game of ping-pong. When guests walk out of these doors there’s always something fun they can participate in.

DVR-Montage (9)JF: How did you dream up all of these programs?

Andy Damman: We developed them from the ground up. We spent numerous meetings and countless hours designing them. We didn’t want to just pick five or ten activities, we wanted the sky to be the limit and, as of today, we keep coming up with more. We focused on creating outside activities that would be easy and fun to play with, not activities that keep people inside like Nintendo, Game Boys and other indoor entertainment. We wanted to give everyone the opportunity to get out and enjoy our beautiful mountain environment.

JF: How did you pick mountain biking as one of these focal points?

Andy Damman: Together, Deer Valley and Park City account for some 400 miles of dirt trails, many of them fully accessible from the backdoor of Compass Sports. We were able to work with Deer Valley Resort to create a program that would be fully integrated with their infrastructure and perfectly tailored to our guests.

DVR-Montage (8)JF: Excellent! Can you be more detailed about your mountain bike program and particularly, your special relationship with BMC?

Andy Damman: We went into this program with the mindset of picking the best partner possible; as you know, there are plenty of good bike companies out there that have a lot to offer, but as we began talking to BMC, a great relationship quickly developed and we’re about to become BMC’s test center for North America [BMC, which stands for Bicycle Manufacturing Company, is Swiss based]

JF: What makes BMC so special?

Andy Damman: I’d say high quality, excellent craftsmanship, exceptional ride and bikes ideally designed for this area. BMC the perfect fit for the Montage brand and its guests.

JF: How do you assist guests who rent your bikes and may not be familiar with mountain biking?

DVR-Montage (4)Andy Damman: We want to provide our guests all the assistance they need. New this year, we’re offering an introduction to mountain biking. It’s packed with instruction, lots of pointers, big smiles, fun and laughter. We actually take guests off property on a specific trail system that’s appropriate for all skill levels. Every morning at 9 a.m., we have a guide that’s available to our riding guests, and this coaching is included in the cost of the bike rental. These guides teach the foundation of the sport and give guests the skills and the confidence they need to enjoy riding a mountain bike.

JF: Do you do anything special in fitting your bikes to the rider?

DVR-Montage (5)Andy Damman: We carefully set everything up. Based on the rider’s weight and height, we set the tire pressure, we size the frame, we set the shock absorbers, we provide a guide who has no ego, is guest-oriented, and above all, wants every rider to discover the joy of mountain-biking. If guests rent a bike for more than one day, we will make sure that following their first ride the machine is thoroughly cleaned, lubed, works perfectly and looks immaculate for the next one.

JF: Do you have any promotional program associated with mountain biking?

Andy Damman: Yes, we’re participating in the great “Lift Package” program offered this summer in conjunction with Deer Valley Resort.  This offer runs from until September 2, 2013. The overnight package includes a $50 daily credit for breakfast, nightly valet parking and Deer Valley Resort chairlift passes.

JF: Is your bike program available to non-hotel guests?

Andy Damman: Our program is offered to our resort guests as a first priority. If there is space available, we will do whatever we can to accommodate other visiting guests as we are open to all people who come to see us.

JF: Can you share more technical details about your rental bike fleet?

DVR-Montage (7)Andy Damman: We’re very fortunate to have high-end products with BMC. These days, the name of the game seems to revolve around wheel sizes. We offer everything from 26 and 29 inch wheels, with the former being more nimble, more sporty, and the later having much better rolling capabilities once the bike is up to speed; larger wheels work perfectly on the smooth trails we have around Deer Valley Resort. Some of our bike frames are aluminum, others are carbon, but overall, our bikes climb very well, are very stiff for cornering and yet offer a very comfortable ride. The new thing in the industry this season is the full-suspension 29 inch wheel bike on ultra-light carbon frame!

JF: I see that you also offer road bikes…

Andy Damman: We have two models: The BMC TeamMachine bike, the one used by the Pros on the Tour de France; it climbs extremely well, descend extremely well; you don’t feel every bump along the way. That bike in my view is “a Ferrari with the comfort of a Cadillac!” Then we have the GranFondo Series, comfortable and designed for the long distance, a “century” rider (typically for longer rides 100 miles making a “century).

JF: What about mountain bikes for children?

Andy Damman: If kids can balance on two wheels, we’ve got a bike for them. We have 20 and 24 inch mountain bikes, both with full-suspension. My first year, here I remember we taught a child how to ride his first bike without training wheels and later that week we took him on his first mountain bike trail. Again, you don’t have to be between 18 and 25 to participate with us, we will accommodate anybody! Even if mountain biking seems outside of your comfort zone, we will give you the skills to get you into that comfort zone!

JF: Well this sounds inviting! Now, what else do you offer as part of your other Camp Compass activities?

Andy Damman: I’d like to start with what we call our “yard game programs;” we’re talking about basketball, volley ball, horse shoes, life-size checker and chess, shuffle board and the list goes on. At 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., we offer complimentary archery sessions for our guests. That’s on our Grand Lawn. We have sixty inch targets rounds to shoot at; every archery instructor that works for Compass Sports is certified. We make it fun by the fact that we start at 5 meters, 10 meters, 15 meters and keep working our way back, shooting at competition round targets. The range is extremely safe, everything is fun. And our guests shoot against the most beautiful backdrop, ever, right outside the doors, here at Montage…

JF: What about fly-fishing?

Andy Damman: That’s another great activity! We offer our very own fly-fishing program along with Joe Mitchell from Stonybrook Fly Fishing who – in my opinion – is the best guide in the Valley. This program like all the others we offer is all about our guests and their enjoyment. Fly-fishing with Joe is all about casting the rod, catching the fish with the most humble instructor there is. It’s just like oil on canvass to me!

JF: Is that a whole day trip?

Andy Damman: Most of our fly-fishing trips are either half-day or full day, our guests will be back just by dinner time at night, unless the fishing is so good that Joe decides to stay longer!

JF: …and dinner will be delayed! Well, this sounds like a treat. Anything else you would like to mention?

Andy Damman: Oh, yes! I almost forgot, we now have kites. We’ll be able to take our guest to the top of Guardsman Pass and fly kites, all kinds of them. So, please, stay tuned for that new exciting program!

JF: All these wonderful activities make me want to participate into all of them and I envy your guests for having to choose from such a wonderful array of outdoor sports that you’re serving spring, summer and fall.

Andy Damman: Every associate who works with us shares the same passion that we all have for these exciting activities. This is something our guests can discover, experience, and more importantly, can take away with them and remember fondly when they are home, long after their stay with us at Montage Deer Valley!

 

Deer Valley, Beautiful Music, Wonderful Food…

dv-basket6Summer brings longer and warmer days to the mountains and offers countless occasions to congregate at the Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater for a long season of outdoor concerts. If you happen to be around Park City at this time of the year, Deer Valley is the perfect venue to spend a late afternoon and early evening. You may want to make up for a long day at work, escape the valley heat, or just slow down a bit after hours of hiking, miles of mountain biking, a round of golf or following a fly-fishing outing

dv-basket1The gradual slope that serves beginner skiers so well in winter provides the perfect, natural amphitheater, framed by Deer Valley’s trademark ski runs and its verdant slopes with meadows, aspens and fir trees. Last Friday was no exception with the return of the Utah Symphony’s Deer Valley Music Festival and a sold-out concert. This wasn’t the first outdoor performance of the summer, as the musical season began in earnest late June, with the local Grand Valley Bank community concert series, a large number of performances by the Utah Symphony and a few concerts from the St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights series.

Of course there is still a long way to go until Labor Day and the end of the summer season, with plenty of wonderful opportunities to enjoy many cool, musical nights facing the Snow Park Lodge and its summer stage, while enjoying an al fresco dinner!

Fine food tradition and Deer Valley’s passion for excellence are so intertwined that is it’s almost impossible to think about one without the other. The synergy created by refined dining and superb skiing carries on the rest of the year and becomes the link that unites summer outdoor concerts and Deer Valley’s peerless hospitality. No matter the season, the scenery or the view points, these two elements cannot be dissociated.

Even though I can hardly call myself a “foodie,” summer concerts are much more than just music and company of all the friendly people that gather outdoors to hear it. Quite as importantly, it’s also about the food that accompanies this relaxed and festive atmosphere. Almost everyone eats dinner at these concerts and what a great opportunity to harmonize what’s on the plate with the surrounding sounds and sights.

One option is to bring a picnic, as many spectators do, but that always entails a lot of work, not just to prepare it but to carry it to the mountain, and then once there, somehow, there’s almost always something missing! Sure, it’s possible to run for the Deer Valley concession stand and find whatever was forgotten or plan on burgers, hot dogs and other great Deer Valley’s classic fares that are available for purchase.

dv-basket4Another option and by far my favorite – is to order a Deer Valley’s Gourmet Picnic Basket accompanied by a bottle of wine that will be waiting for me at the concert. All I have to do is place my order by 5 p.m. the day before and then pick it up when I get to the concert at Snow Park.

These wonderful baskets are filled with delectable goodies, but also come with plenty of options, like a choice of salmon or beef entree and new this year, an offering of vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan entrees.

dv-basket7I personally go for the smoked salmon with cucumber and aioli sauce preceded by a generous platter of antipasto of artisan salami, arugula, tomatoes and olives. These fine little delicacies never fail to bring back memories of my Deer Valley ski lunches that will soon return in a few months!

I usually am a fast eater and don’t spend enough time at the dinner table; however, at the concert the tantalizing choices contained in that richly garnished basket slow me down, make me savor and appreciate every single bite.

dv-basket5Also included in the basket is a fresh baked baguette that goes hand-in-hand with a melting, French brie that is a rarity on this side of the Atlantic. Finally, at the very moment the sun sets over Success ski run, there is still some room left for a few grapes, perhaps a slice of lemon pound cake, but definitely enough for the truffle tartlets!

Now, time to get on my feet, the concert is almost over!

To order your own gourmet picnic basket, head over to signatures.deervalley.com/gpb. For more information about upcoming concerts, please visit deervalley.com for our schedule of events. 

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Maintaining Deer Valley Trails is a Full-Time Job

DVR-ops-trails (7)As a skier, I’ve always wondered what goes into maintaining Deer Valley Resort’s ski runs once the snow has melted. I know they don’t just stay great season after season on their own, but improve as a new winter ushers in. I’ve been told that Laura Sexton, Trail Crew Leader, and her peers from the resort’s Trail Crew hold the key to the on-going care and improvements that take place on Deer Valley ski runs, during the off-season. I stopped her as she was on her way to work and she shared a few of her secrets with me…

JF: Laura, someone told me that you are the reason why Deer Valley’s ski runs are so well maintained and so fun to ski on; how long have you been doing this?

Laura Sexton: I’ve been working with Deer Valley Resort for 23 years, year round.

JF: Year round? What do you do in winter?

Laura Sexton: I’m a lead groomer

JF: So you pilot one of these powerful machines that leave the famous “corduroy” behind?

Laura Sexton: I sure do and I love it!

JF: I’m impressed! How did you become lead groomer and trail crew leader?

Laura Sexton: I grew up in Iowa, and it’s also where I learned to ski. One day, Deer Valley stopped in Dubuque on one of their recruiting tours and afterwards advertised their need for employees. I saw the ad, we met, I talk to them for four hours and the following week I had a contract in the mail!

JF: Another wonderful Deer Valley career story, but enough said about winter. What are your responsibilities once you’ve parked your groomer for the off-season?

Laura Sexton: During the summer we take care of our six mountains; we handle erosion-control, seed, follow-up on noxious weed abatement, take care of what demands attention all-around, run heavy equipment, clip the “whippers” out on the skis runs. The list goes on and on…

JF: What kind of heavy equipment do you use?

Laura Sexton: Deer Valley has loaders, backhoes and a track-hoe, so we use that equipment to move rocks, dig water bars or do whatever needs to be done.

JF: How are you keeping the mountain so clean? Do you have a systematic clean-up process for debris and trash at the end of the ski season?

Laura Sexton: It’s part of our system. Wherever we go in our travels across the mountain, we always pick up garbage where we see it. Late June, however, we also have special weed-abatement and trash pick-up day. On that occasion, all Deer Valley employees from all departments come out and spread out on the mountain to clean it. Everyone pitches in!

JF: How long do your summer assignments last?

Laura Sexton: We generally wrap up around mid-October, just before the first snowfalls.

JF: How do you handle run maintenance? Do you rotate runs season after season so no one is left behind?

Laura Sexton: There are some runs that take a little more effort than others, but yes, we rotate run maintenance whenever possible. If we do weeds, we try to rotate the areas we’re working on according to their growth cycle so they won’t grow too fast and take too much effort to eradicate. Usually, when we clip the “whippers” out on the ski runs, we try to hit all the black and blue runs in priority.

JF: Clipping the whippers is of very high interest to me because I often get intimidated by these early-season creatures. I heard that you have a special mower for cutting them?

whippermowerLaura Sexton: Last year we purchased several mowers. There are some oversized lawn mowers that attach on the front of a Bobcat, these are chain-driven implements that can cut through the wood. That being said, the trail crew still has to cut most by hand, especially on steep and hard-to-reach terrain.

JF: So, for the most part, what are these plants that are considered “whippers”?

Laura Sexton: Mostly aspen shoots, elderberry or anything that sticks up over one-foot tall, including small pine trees that are less than 2-inches around. Whipper management is a big deal. We probably spend a good four to five weeks cutting them…

JF: Which runs get most of your attention?

Laura Sexton: We try to go everywhere. We always do the Empire Bowl area although we haven’t done the Daly Chutes for two years now, as we don’t get to some of that steeper terrain every single year…

JF: How do you cut those twigs?

Laura Sexton: We do it by hand, with loppers; we do all the Mayflower runs every year, Nabob, Birdseye, then other areas like Perseverance Bowl every other year…

JF: How do you handle re-seeding grass on ski runs?

Laura Sexton: We re-seed in the fall, before the snow comes. We work in areas that were either dug up or disturbed, or are simply not taking grass well; in that case, we’ll bring in some top soil to seed over and start to regrow. We use a mountain mix with nine different grasses in it, like fescue, wheat, rye, timothy… There’s also a little bit of annuals grasses in the mix that shade and protect the growth of perennial species.

JF: I know that Deer Valley Resort is known for its generous blanket of natural or man-made snow and rocks never seem to be visible and are never an issue, but how do you remove them from the runs?

Laura Sexton: We have a rule of thumb: When we’re on the hill for any reason, if we see a rock that is bigger than a fist, we throw it off the run!

JF: Are you sometimes re-grading certain runs?

Laura Sexton: All of our ski runs have been engineered and on many of them, their shape and profile are not random at all. It’s only occasionally that we bring some modifications on certain runs to make it easier for guests to access them or when they need to modified for some special purposes, like for drills by the ski-school.

JF: Besides trimming “whippers”, do you do any special work on rough terrain and double-diamond runs?

Laura Sexton: We have a special, five person saw-crew that spends a lot of time glading certain areas, like Centennial Trees for instance. They’re also taking down fallen trees stuck in trees tops so they don’t create a hazard for skiers…

JF: How do you minimize erosion?

Laura Sexton: All of our ski runs have water bars on them to route the water around the sidelines, slowing the path of running water and avoiding wash-out in the middle of the runs…

JF: Is wildlife ever a problem on trails?

Laura Sexton: Not at all, we see a lot of wildlife around here; we see moose, elk, deer and lots of smaller rodents as well. They don’t create any problems at all. We even have a black bear in the area that makes an appearance every-once-in-awhile. One year he even came right through our maintenance shop!

JF: Does Deer Valley’s extensive summer trail network bring some extra challenges for you?

Laura Sexton: We have to work harder at times to create water bars when we need them, particularly when trails cross ski runs. Mountain bike and pedestrian traffic also promote weed travel around the mountain as tires and shoes tend to disperse them around.

JF: Now that you are bringing up the subject of weeds, I remember that you mentioned a specialty of yours is the eradication of noxious weeds from the Deer Valley Resort. Can you tell us more about it?

dyerswoadLaura Sexton: In Utah and in Summit County a number of imported noxious weeds have been taking over the natural species for quite some time. Not only that, but there are some of these weeds that are actually poisonous to cattle and humans as well. There’s a list of 22 state and 31 county noxious weeds. Since 2010, property owners are obligated to eradicate them from their land; if they don’t, they will be cited for it and the weeds will be removed at their expense.

dalmatian toadflaxJF: How is it humanly possible to accomplish this on more than 2,000 acres that covers Deer Valley Resort?

Laura Sexton: It’s a huge job. I have maps of all of our properties; we record all the different types of weeds we find in different areas. We keep a log of what we spray, of what we pull out, etc. We can’t control everything at the same time, but we manage it in the best possible manner. To avoid the use of herbicides, we try to use bio-control as much as possible; this procedure uses certain specialized bugs that will eventually kill the noxious weeds.

JF: So what are your “most wanted” of these weeds?

garlic mustardLaura Sexton: I’d say Garlic Mustard is the top offender. We also have a large variety of thistle around the area that we must take care to remove. There’s also Dyer’s Woad that is particularly challenging. As soon as this plant flowers, it must be pulled out immediately. It is filled with “smart seeds” that will wait a year or more before germinating. We also have Dalmatian Toadflax, but the list goes on and on and if you’re interested, you can see them at summitcounty.org/weed/

JF: I’ll keep an eye out for these, and I’ll bet that Deer Valley guests will too. Thank you Laura for working so hard on behalf of all of us!