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!

 

I Love a Parade!

EOD_july_paradeI think there is something special about the Fourth of July that sends out a different vibe then all other holidays.

Maybe it’s due to celebrating our country and our freedom.

I love the seemingly all day fly-overs of military planes and fighter jets. In high school I used to dream about becoming a fighter pilot. I bet you would never have guessed that! I wonder how I got diverted from that dream…? Unfortunately there were no fly-overs this year, much to my disappointment.

As I was watching the parade (waiting to see the Deer Valley float) a friend of mine said, “I love this holiday more than any other.” That statement got me thinking. Why is the Fourth of July better than Christmas or Thanksgiving? Then I realized that this is the only holiday that an entire town (and then some) come to the same place and gather to celebrate one day together (all day in the case of Park City)!

There is always a parade that makes its way down Main Street and Park Ave and each year has a different theme. This year’s theme was “Once Upon A 4th.” In recent years, Deer Valley floats have taken home the winning honors and this year was no exception!

While the Deer Valley team was preparing for this year’s parade, I went up to see the construction of the float. I thought it was coming together nicely and took some time to joke with our maintenance guys that I was sure this was exactly what they wanted to be doing. Not only do they fix everything that makes the resort operate they also help fabricate those winning floats.

Maintenance guys
To bring the theme to life, the float incorporated fairy tales such as Cinderella with the large clock, fairies and an enchanted forest. You may not be able to read the signs on the float, but they read Fire Swamp and Thieves Forest. These are the names of some of our mountain bike trails. Can you name that movie reference? Did you also know we have an enchanted forest at Deer Valley? You’ll have to come and find it.

Building float
So here’s the final product. Of course we won “Best in Theme” this year. We take our participation level to heart. Of course the girls who played fairies made the float with their cute smiles.

Girls on Float
I hope you all had a great Fourth of July! Keep enjoying the summer and come up to Deer Valley Resort and enjoy a hike, mountain bike ride or scenic chairlift ride then finish at Royal Street Cafe with a delicious meal or cocktails.

Hops on the Hill at Stein Eriksen Lodge Makes our Favorites List

Nancy with beerOne of the best-kept secrets is how wonderful Park City is in the summer.  Many locals have shared with me how they came here to ski in the winter but once they spent a summer here, they became permanent residents.   This is only my second summer living here year-round and I’ve found there is so much to do, it’s difficult to decide how to spend a summer evening.

Last week my husband Jay and I attended, “Hops on the Hill” at Stein Eriksen Lodge and now have added the event to our list of  “favorites” for summer entertainment.

Here are five reasons why:

  1. The Hill.  The setting on patio of Stein Eriksen Lodge is hard to beat. As you walk onto the patio, no matter how many times you’ve been there, you just say, “wow.”  The views of the aspens and evergreens on the mountain and the green grass on the ski runs are so pretty.  You just simply feel relaxed being there.
    Apricot Hefeweizen
  2. The Hops.  With the event admission price, you get a wristband with 5 mini-tickets so you can try five micro-brews.  The night we went, Wasatch Brewery was highlighting their Apricot Hefeweizen, White Label Belgian Style White Ale, Ghostrider IPA, Summerbrau Lager, and the Devastator Double Bock Amber Lager. My husband tried them all.

White Ale Devastator

Since you could mix and match at your leisure, I loaded up on my favorite.  I immediately fell madly in love with White Label Belgian White Ale so I used up three tickets on one.  Then I had a tiny sip of my husband’s “Devastator” so I could taste it but held out the rest of my tickets for the Apricot Hefeweizen and the Summer Lager. Choices are nice.

Chef Zane3. The pairings.  I’d attended a wine and food pairing but never a micro-brew and food pairing with Chef Zane.  He put together a roast beef and horseradish sandwich with the Summertime Lager – perfect!  The Apricot Hefeweizen tasted great on its own but was really amazing with peach and apricot delicacies.  Veal meatballs and prosciutto wrapped shrimp skewers went well with the Ghostrider IPA.

Jay with beer4. The company.  Many of the attendees came with a group of friends and sat together at some of the round tables or around the fireplace.  The venue provided an opportunity to share an evening catching up with good friends. Jay and I moved from one of the tall standing tables to the next trying our new brews and meeting new people.  We got some tips on hiking trails from some locals and met people from as close as Draper, Utah to travelers from Palm Springs, Calif.

Mister Sisters5. The music.  In the middle of the event, we heard music and realized Tuesday nights at 7 p.m., there is a free concert at Stein Eriksen Lodge lawn just below the patio.  After our fill of food, we finished our last beer tasting on the patio looking down over the concert.  We had a chance to listen to local band “Mister Sister” with the amazing harmonies that only sisters can have.

I love watching people dance almost as much as I love dancing myself. It’s fun to see how each dancer interprets the music once they have shaken off their initial shyness.  Concertgoers got up to dance on the grass to Mister Sister’s covers of oldies such as “Cecilia” by Simon and Garfunkel and more recent tunes such as “Black Horse in the Cherry Tree” by KT Tunstall.  Little girls did twirls and cartwheels. Ladies got up and danced together in small groupings.  Couples walked up hand-in-hand to enjoy a tender moment on a summer evening.

With those five reasons, can you see why Hops on the Hill at Stein Eriksen Lodge made our favorite’s list?

For more information on Hops on the Hills, click here.

 

Savor Your Summer at the Royal Street Cafe with Deer Valley’s Signature Cocktails

 

three cocktailsWhat are your favorite memories of summer?   One of mine is a girl’s weekend (before I moved here permanently) in Park City – three California girls came in for a four-day weekend.  Dressed in short sleeved t-shirts and shorts, we rode the chairlifts from Snow Park to Silver Lake Lodge and to the top of Bald Mountain.  It was a beautiful warm summer day so we didn’t dream of bringing a light jacket!  It got chilly on the lift so the three of us huddled together for warmth.  We each pulled our arms out of the sleeves wrapping them around our waists underneath our shirts to slow the goose bumps.  When we arrived at Silver Lake, we ran into a shop and bought sweatshirts!  We enjoyed the second half of our lift ride to the summit much better and have laughed about it ever since.

On the way down, we stopped for lunch at Royal Street Café and enjoyed a lingering lunch on the deck in the full sun with our new sweatshirts draped across the backs of the chairs and Blueberry Mojitos in our hands. Now, I live here full time and always bring visitors on that very same scenic lift ride and to bask in the sun for alfresco dining on the deck.  As a local, I’ve learned to always bring a light jacket or sweatshirt as temperatures change frequently in the mountains, and I’ve also picked up a thing or two about cocktail options at the Royal Street Café.

My friends and I lucked into the Blueberry Mojito because we saw it come out on a tray to a patron sitting at a table next to us.  We said to the server, “We’ll each have one of those.”  What we didn’t know at the time was the Royal Street Café scours the farmers markets each week to choose local seasonal fruits such as raspberries and apricots and herbs such as rosemary and basil for their cocktails.  They make juices and mixes fresh each day. When we were enjoying our day in the mountains, we were sipping the freshest local fruit juices and tasting hints of freshly picked local herbs from right here in the Wasatch Mountain area.  To us, the experience was seamless but to the team at Royal Street Café, it was intentionally designed for us to really enjoy a sense of place – the mountains and the summer season.  It worked!

nancy and bonnieA lot of the inspiration for seasonal cocktails comes from lead bartender, Bonnie Ulmer, who has been a part of Deer Valley since the beginning. I had a chance to spend some time with Bonnie, observing her skills in action, chatting with her on the deck and having a taste test of the latest signature cocktail. In case you need some help deciding which drink to sip as you drape your arm over a chair sitting on the deck on a summer afternoon, here are some suggestions for making your summer cocktail decision:

sipping rosemary collinsTry this summer’s signature cocktail – Rosemary Tom Collins. If you like something a little on the tart side with the freshly made sweet and sour mix and you want to completely blow your mind with the addition of the hint of rosemary, this is the one for you.  When I tasted it, I couldn’t put it down because of the unique flavors.  You’ll notice when I snapped some photos of the drinks on the deck, the Rosemary Tom Collins had been sipped quite a bit.  I’ll admit it; it was me! You try taking just one sip and let me know how that works for you! The rosemary adds a unique sensory experience that encourages you to take sip after sip.

Experiment and go with this week’s special.  The restaurant and beverage team at the Royal Street Café all weigh in on the weekly special cocktail.  I got to try the RSC Berry Crush with Grey Goose vodka, splash of Chambord, fresh raspberries, and house made lemonade served over crushed ice.  The weekly special is one of the things Bonnie loves most about summer! She had a twinkle in her eye when she talked about plans for a cucumber and basil combination she was planning.  Whatever fruit is ripe and herbs are available, a new special cocktail is created to pair with the weekly food specials. If you want to be adventuresome and try something new, try the current creation.

mojitoGo with the winner – Deer Valley’s Blueberry Mojito.  This drink is the winner of the Park City’s Best Cocktail Award in 2007/2008 and for good reason. With the combination of mint, lime and blueberries, how can you go wrong?  People from all over the world come to Royal Street Café asking for this special drink and the recipe to take home.  Even the culinary challenged (such as me) have been able to make this drink at home with success!

Stick with the classics.  It’s fun to experiment with something new, but you certainly don’t have to!  You can order anything from a Manhattan, a High West Distillery Rendezvous Rye Whiskey, to a locally brewed lager from the Wasatch Brewery to enjoy on the deck at Silver Lake Lodge.

deck cocktailsThe diners who stop at the Royal Street Café are an eclectic group and the drink choices certainly fall right in line.  Whatever choice you decide, make it memorable. The important thing is to savor your summer and create lasting memories of your time in Park City, whether you live here year-round or you are here for a short stay.

For a peek at the menu and more information for Royal Street Café, click here.

 

 

Mountain Biking Lessons: Zero to Intermediate in One Morning

nancyHave you ever had a song stuck in your head?  Over and over you hear something like, “Wake me up before you go-go… I’m not planning on going solo.”  The words keep coming back in a never-ending loop and finally when you think its over, there it is again.

Doug, our Deer Valley mountain bike instructor, got in my head during our lesson last weekend but fortunately in this case, it was in a good way. You see I have a bad habit.  I look down.  When I ski, instead of looking at where I am going, I look down right in front of me at all the obstacles I am about to hit.  Of course this means I have no time to react because I see them too late.

dougDuring our mountain biking lesson, my husband Jay and I learned a great many things including balance with the platform stance and transferring our weight way back on the bike so we are almost sitting on the back tire for steep declines.  We learned to trust the bikes; we employed controlled momentum and the 29” knobby tires took us over rocks, roots and gravel with no problems. The third important lesson we learned was vision.

Doug explained,  “When you look ahead to where you want to go instead of where you are, your brain registers everything in front of you even the fuzzy stuff in your peripheral vision.”  I took that to mean, looking down is a complete waste of time.  It’s also no fun.  When all you are looking at is obstacles, all you experience is fear.  When you look ahead to where you want to go, your brain is actively engaged in the strategy to get there, which is way more fun!

Somehow this concept I had been struggling with suddenly became very easy. The words, “Look up” were stuck in my head and I was automatically doing it.  Why now? I wondered.  Maybe it was because Doug, from a large Italian family, is a loud talker.  He told us growing up he couldn’t get a word in at the dinner table unless he spoke really loud and over top of his brothers. To the casual observer, his family dinner might sound like a heated argument but to them, it was a normal every day occurrence.  His loud clear instructions stuck with me – “Look up! Vision!  Choose your line.”

When you coupled the loud talking with his step-by-step instructions and attention to detail, we had a winning combination.  Since Deer Valley mountain biking trails start at the intermediate level, Doug started us in the parking lot where he built skill upon skill. He had us riding the bumpy stairs from one lot to the next.  He taught us how to take turns on specially prepared switchback trails beneath trees on the side of the lot. When we got the “Let’s do it!” from Doug, we headed to the lifts.

Nancy on Tour de Homes

Nancy on Tour de Homes

 

The lift operator handled each of our bikes hooking them onto the chairs behind us.  When we got to the top, we headed to “Tour des Homes” – the easiest mountain bike run but still an intermediate trail.  When we hit the first steep decent, I was prepared and looked up to where I wanted to end up – not at the ground in front of me.

The first turn – I looked ahead.

The first bump – I kept my eyes on where I was going.

When I encountered:

Rocks,

Gravel,

Grooves,

A narrow single trail,

And switchbacks with all of the above, I looked up the whole time!  I just kept hearing, “Look up!” both from Doug and also in my own head. I was cured!

Nancy's husband, Jay, on Tour de Homes

Nancy’s husband, Jay, on Tour de Homes

The most important part is we were also having fun. Jay and I hadn’t even dusted the cobwebs off our bikes this year. We’d never even ridden a single track in our lives and Deer Valley got us from zero to intermediate in one morning.  We were pretty amazed.  Our friends were amazed.  Our children were shocked.

after the lessonWe’re looking forward to taking our bikes up the lift and hitting the Tour des Homes many times this summer.  I love having that voice in my head saying, “Vision! Look up!” I hope it stays with me for the entire ski season, too.  Now, that would be wonderful.

The only problem I have now is I can’t get this tune out of my head, “Wake me up before you go-go … I’m not planning on going solo.”  Anyone have a cure for that?

To learn more about the mountain biking lessons and experience at Deer Valley Resort, click here.

Two Shout Outs!

Despite not having any snow on the mountain right now, you would be wrong to think that I don’t have any connection with the resort until opening day in December.  This past weekend we had the Park City Ski Town Lacrosse tournament. This was the largest attended tournament in its nine year history with a whopping 93 teams! There were teams from all over the west, Idaho, Colorado, Arizona to as far as Texas. This event is great for local businesses as it brings a number of out of town visitors (somewhere between 4,000- 4,500 people).

photo (4)As my son’s lacrosse team, 212 Lacrosse, was in preparation for the tournament we got word that the head coach would be Brian Bilzi, none other than a Deer Valley ski instructor! I never knew we had a Division 1 defensive player on the ski slopes. Park City is home to top athletes in many sports. Mike Acee is the director of Park City’s 212 Lacrosse teams and a few of his accolades are All American, 4 time Atlantic Coastal Conference (ACC) Champion and NCAA national champion for the North Carolina Tar Heels (University of North Carolina) as their starting attack player. Park City’s 212 teams were very successful during the tournament, winning 23 games losing just four. Not a bad record, especially when that covers five different teams playing in different age groups! I have to take a minute to brag about the U11 boys’ team who won all of their games! Go Coach Brian and Mike!

Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in the country! If you live in the Park City area and have children, you may want to head over to the website, 212lacrosse.com. I’m not sure who enjoys the games more, me or my sons… How lucky are we to have this type of coaching locally? Very.

photo (3)

Another Deer Valley connection during the tournament was Mountain Host Mike O’Malley. I remember running into him at last year’s Ski Town tournament and asking him what his connection was to it. He is a referee. Who would have thought?! This is no easy job for Mike. I was witness to some sideline antics!

And yet another Deer Valley connection…during the opening ceremonies, Deer Valley Ski Patrol Supervisor, Sue Anderson, addressed the players along with her avalanche dog, Ninja. They wished the players well and set the stage for competition.  So yes, I felt at home connected to our Deer Valley family off the slopes and on the lacrosse field!

sueandersonlax
ninjalax

 My second shout-out is that after spending 16 years skiing in Marker clothing I am welcoming a new opportunity with a new clothing sponsor. While I am sad to end my partnership with Marker, I am filled with excitement to work with Mountain Force. Have you heard of the brand, Mountain Force? If not, check out their website.

The clothing is made in Switzerland so the fit and stitching are perfect! (Just a little joke). These coats are a few of what you’ll see me in this winter. One of my goals with Mountain Force is to bring in crazy colored and patterned pants since they have more of a conservative look than you may be used to seeing on me. But don’t you worry; I have some bright color jackets that are really fun!

photo (2)photo (1)

 

I see this relationship as a chance to be part of a new company for a long time. I hope to help in design and technical feedback. What a better way to improve something already top shelf but to have someone ski every day and put it to the test! I already believe it’s a product to trust and grow.  Check it out this fall at ColeSport.

See you on the slopes or at a lacrosse game!

 

Mountain Bike School: Q & A with Doug Gormley, Lead Mountain Bike Instructor

I’ve always been of the opinion that mountain biking is a far cry from regular bicycle riding and over the years, as I’ve fallen in love with this rugged sport, I’ve learned it the hard way and always wondered if some good tips or a few lessons wouldn’t have shortened my learning curve significantly. That curiosity of mine was finally satisfied when I got to spend a few moments with Doug Gormley, Lead Mountain Bike Instructor at Deer Valley Resort. I caught up with him as he returned from a ride with some fellow staff members…

DVR-DougGormley (5)JF: Hello Doug! Looks like you just had a wonderful ride?

Doug Gormley: Absolutely! Great ride, tons of fun!

JF: How long have you been a mountain bike instructor?

Doug Gormley: This will be my 20th summer teaching mountain biking at Deer Valley Resort.

JF: What about the rest of the year?

Doug Gormley: I also work for the resort. The last two years, I am one of the on-snow ski school supervisors and the 17 years prior, I was a ski instructor.

JF: So instruction is your calling; you know how to bring fun to the outdoors?

Doug Gormley: That’s the key to me; getting people out there and share the fun with them!

JF: Most folks think that because they know how to ride a bike they’ll breeze through mountain biking? What do you have to say about this commonly held belief?

Doug Gormley: I do think that’s a misconception. That’s not to say that people who are on bikes regularly can’t adapt to it quickly, but even the most experienced road bikers are often shocked at how much technique is involved with mountain biking and this is even more applicable to someone who only ride occasionally. Everyone will benefit from some good instruction.

JF: Could you define the fundamental difference between regular riding and mountain biking?

Doug Gormley: One of the biggest differences is how much time you spend standing up on the pedals during a downhill and remain seated going up, whereas a road biker will only stand up during a climb and will sit going down. There’s also a strong need for front brake use; this is hard to learn at first. The front brake has to be used all the time, in addition to the back brake. If the latter is the only one used, this will lead to skidding down the trails.

JF: If someone is a ranked beginner, how long will it take you to bring that person to some intermediate skills level and be able enjoy most of the trails at Deer Valley?

Doug Gormley: When beginners first show up for a lesson, we begin by spending a full hour doing drills, on our practice loop, near the lower parking lot; then, we take that person on the trails and practice the skills learned. Generally speaking, after a beginner gets here, it takes about two to three hours for that individual to get some basic technique and reach an intermediate level.

JF: As you’re instructing both skiing and mountain-biking, do you see some similarity between the two?

Doug Gormley: Oh yes. There are many similar techniques that apply to both, specifically vision, keeping pressure on the outside of the turn among others. In general, most skiers adapt very well; they can pull from some of their skiing techniques and adapt them to mountain bike riding.

DVR-DougGormley (4)JF: What’s the ideal age for starting youngsters on mountain bikes and how late can an adult begin?

Doug Gormley: The age issue is always difficult to answer. Our children’s clinic starts at the age of eight. Under that age, we require a private lesson. I have had a six year-old out mountain biking, but this might be a practical minimum while eight is definitely the perfect age to begin. At the other end of the spectrum, it’s pretty much like skiing, we can attract and entertain a very wide age range depending on the shape and motivation of the participants.

JF: What about gender differences?

Doug Gormley: As of yet, we don’t offer women-only clinics, but we have women instructors on staff and there’s always the possibility of private lessons to address some special needs. That said we have weaved teaching techniques and tips that take gender into consideration.

JF: This brings me to your Bike School program; what options are you offering this summer?

DVR-DougGormley (10)Doug Gormley: Every day, we offer a three-hour clinic for kids from age eight to 12, one begins at 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. and another from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. At the same time, we also offer an adult clinic geared towards the beginner/low intermediate skill level, from the age of 13 on up.  New this season is our “Guided Tour” for 13 and older; intermediate level or above, going at the same exact times (10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.). This new ride is meant to explore more of the mountain, with some use of the chairlifts, but it’s essentially a “get-out-and-pedal” opportunity, where uphill climbs and downhill segments are mixed we try to see all of Deer Valley, and in the end, give the opportunity to the participating two to five riders we take along to walk away a much stronger rider. Finally, we offer private lessons (two hours minimum required), these are totally adapted to the rider’s needs. Riders can come as downhill experts or total beginners we are staffed to cover all ability levels.

JF: So the “Guider Tour” sounds similar to your winter mountain tours?

Doug Gormley: Yes, but with the added benefit of providing participants with the expert advice of an instructor; so it’s not just a guided tour, it’s also a great opportunity for getting some serious coaching and useful tips.

DVR-DougGormley (8)JF: Let’s talk now about gear. Could you walk us through your new bike rental fleet?

Doug Gormley: We carry very high end bikes that work well on Deer Valley’s terrain. If you rent one our bikes, it can always be changed to a different size or if a bike has a problem of any kind it can be replaced on the fly. What’s nice about our rental fleet is not only do we provide bikes and helmets, but we include gloves, elbow pads and knee pads. Our downhill pads come with a full-face helmet.

JF: What about folks bringing their own bikes?

DVR-DougGormley (3)Doug Gormley: That fine as long as their bikes are equipped with front and rear brakes. A typical BMX bike wouldn’t qualify. A dual suspension bike works better on Deer Valley trails. So-called “Hybrid Bikes” can be more of a problem. Those type of bikes often don’t have the traction required and are not perfectly geared and setup to riding the true mountain bike trails we have.

JF: This is great information. Do you have any advice since Deer Valley Resort is now open for summer activities?

Doug Gormley: I’d say that it’s a shame that some people who have tried mountain biking in the past and have given up because they didn’t get the proper training or didn’t have the right equipment in the first place. The good news is that we can change that. With some solid foundation, good instruction and a sound technique, mountain-biking is a sport that a wide range of ages can enjoy and it will deliver an incredible amount of fun and satisfaction, especially if you are a skier. It’s a wonderful way to enjoy the mountain in the summer. So if you’re still standing on the fence, don’t hesitate. We have everything you need to attempt your very first steps or try an experience that you’ll want to repeat!

 

Q&A with Kurt Hammel, Deer Valley Summer Adventure Camp Assistant Manager

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Kurt (left) and summer campers balancing water bottles

Deer Valley Resort blog contributor Bari Nan Cohen caught up with Kurt just prior to the start of Summer Adventure Camp 2013, and got the inside scoop on Hammel’s own camp experiences and the adventures he and the other camp staffers have in store for lucky campers this summer.

Bari Nan: Where are you from?

Kurt Hammel: My hometown is Brockport, NY, which is just outside Rochester. I went to college in upstate New York, as well, and I worked at a variety of jobs–including a small ski resort–before getting the chance to teach at Deer Valley in March 2003. I never looked back!

BN: Growing up, what kind of summer camps did you attend?

KH: Mostly the weekly, sport-specific type, for basketball and baseball. The things I remember and cherish the most from those were the friendships that were made and the sense of camaraderie that was formed. Even if we were all only attending for a week we still bonded as teammates. I am still friends with some of those kids today 20+ years later.

120615_DV_Camp-132BN: Which activities are you most looking forward to sharing with campers at Summer Adventure Camp this year?

KH: I always look forward to keeping the kids connected to the classic summer activities. I can’t believe some kids have never played kickball, don’t get to ride a bike or jump rope often enough. Our goal at Deer Valley is to keep kids connected to the community and also to just have fun being outside. We make a lot of arts and crafts, have dress up days and go on field trips too. I am most excited for our water days, when we use hundreds of water balloons, pull out a giant slip and slide, fill up the squirt guns and have a blast!

BN: What features of Deer Valley Resort create unique opportunities for campers?

KH: Having a camp at Deer Valley is great. We have almost the entire resort at our disposal! All of the age groups can take advantage of ponds on Deer Valley Drive, whether it’s the younger kids walking down to feed the ducks or the older kids riding their bikes around the paved paths. The older kids go exploring on chairlift rides and use the hiking trails. The resort does a great job of maintaining the grassy outdoor areas and inside the lodges so we have the right venue for every activity. Because Snow Park Lodge is also on the Park City bus route, it is easy for all campers to take advantage of the great activities and parks in town.

120613_DV_Camp-242BN: Are there any changes to the camp experience this season that returning campers can look forward to enjoying?

KH: We are always working to keep camp fresh and exciting. This season we have changed some of the field trips for the kids ages 5 and up. For one, we will hike to and explore Timpanogas Cave! We are always working on new art projects for the kids and make sure they leave with a personal piece.

BN: What are your favorite ways to enjoy the summer when you’re not at camp?

KH: My wife is a local school teacher and we have one dog, Cannoli. We try to take advantage of the great Park City summer climate, with its warm sun and low humidity. It is a welcome change from the hot, muggy eastern summers. I am an avid golfer and try to be outside as much as possible. My wife and I enjoy hiking and camping with the dog and enjoy of all the natural beauty this area has to offer.

An Interview with Mark Nepermann, DV Summer Lift Operations Supervisor

Earlier this week, as he was busy getting everything ready for this year’s mid-June re-opening, Mark Nepermann, Lift Operations Supervisor took a few moments out of his time to talk about summer lift operations at Deer Valley Resort.  

DVR-ops-2JF:  Mark, I can see on your face that you’re ready for summer; I mean you appear to enjoy that season a lot. How long have you been working at Deer Valley Resort?

Mark Nepermann:  I have worked here for four winters and this will be my third summer. And you’re right; summer is my favorite time of the year! I’m originally from northern Illinois, I came out here after college for one winter and I loved it so much that I never left.

JF:  Now that the weather has been gradually warming up, are you and your staff ready for your summer season opening?

Mark Nepermann: Absolutely!  We opened on June 14 and will be operating our lifts through Labor Day, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., every day.

JF: Which chairlifts are open to the public?

Mark Nepermann: We’ll continue to offer rides on Silver Lake Express, Sterling Express and for the third season, Ruby Express.

JF: Who are your typical passengers?

Mark Nepermann: In the summer, mountain bikers are still the majority of our riders, we mount a hook on the sides of all the chairs to carry their equipment, we also get scenic riders who come to enjoy the incredible views that can be seen from our mountain tops.

JF: Do scenic riders have to ride down the lift?

Mark Nepermann:   No, we give them many options. They can either ride up and ride back down, or ride up and hike down, particularly on some of our hiking-only trails. They can also hike up and reward themselves with our complimentary ride down!

JF:  I’ve noticed that the lifts seem to be running slowly, why is this?

Mark Nepermann:  We run about half the speed that we do in winter, this allows passengers to easily get off upon reaching the top since they have to walk away and this takes just a little more time than sliding off the ramp with skis on during the winter.

DVR-ops-4JF:  What are these poles inside the bin, by the chairlift?

Mark Nepermann:  These are ski poles made available to hikers who want to use them, both at the bottom and the top of each chairlift; we just ask the hikers to put them back into the bin when they’re done using them.

JF:  Besides mountain bikes, are you allowing other devices on your trails?

Mark Nepermann: Sure, we see everything from old mountain bikes from the 1980’s, to the latest 50 pound downhill bike, to unicycles, mountain scooters or mountain boards, you name it.

JF: And you let them in?

Mark Nepermann:  We let riders use them as long as these machines are equipped with at least two brakes, so if one of them were to fail, there’s still a spare one. We also require all riders to wear a helmet and stay on the bike trails, even on these non-conventional devices.

DVR-ops-5JF: Are hikers also required to stay on the trails?

Mark Nepermann:  We prefer all users to stay on the trails in order to prevent trampling vegetation and avoid erosion.

JF: What happens when the weather suddenly changes?

Mark Nepermann:  Although heavy rain never seems to be a problem at Deer Valley Resort, the sole reason we would close down our lifts is if it rains hard for very long, riding could cause damage to the trails.  Thunder isn’t a deal-breaker, but lightning is.  If we see lightning we call “last chair” until the storm is passed and that is for the safety of both our riders and staff.

JF: So, when you compare winter and summer, do you find differences in your ridership?

Mark Nepermann:  Our summer guests are definitely more low-key than in winter; perhaps during the warm season people aren’t as eager to clock as many runs as possible, but we also have a wider variety of riders. Some are hard-core mountain bikers, some are nature lovers, others are here to discover mountain vistas for the first time in summer. Our guests’ expectations and interests are far less homogeneous than they are in winter .

DVR-ops-7JF:  How should people dress when they ride your lifts?

Mark Nepermann:  Temperature differences between the base and the top of the chairlift always plays a significant role. Temperatures may also change very fast if the cloud cover suddenly moves in or the breeze sets in. Just because it’s sunny and warm at Snow Park doesn’t mean that it might not be 10 to 20 degrees less at the top of Bald Mountain. We encourage visitors to dress in layers and carry a light jacket with them in the event of a sudden drop in temperature.

JF:  Any other useful tips?

DVR-ops-6Mark Nepermann:  Always carry lots of water to stay well-hydrated, don’t forget the sunscreen, another good tip is to make sure to wear a hat. Of course, all bike riders must wear a helmet. Also, having a cell phone is always a good idea in case of emergency.

JF:  So, why do you like summer at Deer Valley Resort so much?

Mark Nepermann:  I like to tell the guests I meet during winter that summers in Deer Valley are even better in terms of the multitude of options offered to visitors. There is a myriad of concerts, mountain biking, hiking, fly-fishing, golfing, great food on Royal Street’s deck and green vistas as far as the eye can see, plus it’s always 10 to 15 degrees cooler up here than down in the Salt Lake Valley. We’re a refreshing alternative to the summer heat, so come up and play with us!

Interview with Steve Graff, Bike/Ski Patrol Manager

Last week I caught up with Deer Valley Resorts’ Bike and Ski Patrol Manager, Steve Graff, as he was returning from inspecting the impressive network of hiking and mountain bike trails the resort will soon re-open to the public. Here are some of the many interesting things I learned about his busy department and their myriad of responsibilities…


DVR-MtnPatrol1

JF: Steve, it’s good to be visiting with you and the patrollers again. Tell me, where’s all the snow? What has happened to you and your staff since the end of the skiing season and what are you up to now?

Steve Graff (SG): After we closed the mountain down in April, we spent another week taking down signs, ropes, pads and getting everything ready for snow melt. After taking a little bit of time off to transition between seasons, our staff is back to work. As you can imagine, our personnel shrinks a bit at this time of the year; most get back to their seasonal jobs. Many go to work as National Parks Rangers all over the country, while those who can never get enough winter continue ski patrolling in New Zealand and Australia. Some are wild land fire fighters or smoke-jumpers, and the rest of us are back at Deer Valley Resort getting the place ready for warm weather activities.

JF: How many employees return for Mountain Bike Patrol?

SG: Out of our 70 or so ski patrollers, about 15 stay on during the summer.

JF: How long is the season?

SG: It goes from mid-June through Labor Day (September 2, 2013).

JF: Are you the crew in charge of maintaining trails and cutting new ones?

SG: Our main priority is helping injured but the bulk of our work is actually trail construction and trail maintenance.

JF: Any new trail this year?

SG: The two newest trails were actually started last season. Both are in the Empire Canyon area, off the Ruby Express chairlift.

  • Drift: An intermediate trail
  • Payroll: More of a free riding, “flowy” trail, with some nice jumps and drops that should add some extra levels of excitement in that general area

JF: This sounds promising! By the way who comes up with these unique trail names?

SG: Payroll is actually a mine name and Drift comes from a drift road that is off Tour de Sud. Some others come directly from the public, “Devo” is a good example; we were just finishing constructing it when we ran into a lady that said “Yeah, that trail is ‘Devo.”

Mountain Biking_DVR

JF: Does your remaining staff receive summer-specific training?

SG: There’s a lot of cross-over between summer and winter duties like medical training and lift evacuation skills and those are regularly being refreshed.  We add motorcycle, ATV and six-wheeler riding that are unique to our summer season.

JF: You mean, training on vehicles that get you around the mountain?

SG: Right; instead of snowmobiles, toboggans or skis, we use bikes, motorcycles and ATVs!

JF: What types of interventions are typical to the warmer months?

SG: Overall, the few injuries we deal with are less severe than in winter because speed is less of a factor. We see a quite a few scrapes and bruises though, maybe a few dislocations, perhaps more blood than usual, but in general, far less severe injuries.

JF: It seems to me that you and your staff aren’t always on the mountain; over the years, I’ve noticed your presence at all the Deer Valley’s summer concerts. What’s your role there?

SG: To attend the concert!

JF: I should have expected this! So, all Patrollers are music aficionados?

SG: Well, this is another one of our Mountain Bike Patrol duties. We offer first aid response at the Deer Valley concerts, so we attend them all. Depending on the event, between two and four of us are present. We’re there for medical emergencies or other situations.

JF: Are they specific recommendations you’d like to share with mountain bikers and hikers intent to use the Deer Valley Resort trail system?

SG: There are a few good rules; first, we don’t charge for uphill travel outside of chairlift rides. If trail users bike, they must wear a helmet and dogs must be left at home whether their owners hike or bike. Always make sure to look at the map and come up with a route before heading out; remember that there are some trails that are specifically for downhill mountain biking, others specifically for hiking and then they’re others that are designated for both. So, it’s good to know what kind of trail you’re planning to take. If you want to hike and don’t want to see bikers, go on a hiking-only trail. If you want to pedal up, make sure you chose the multi-use trail, not the downhill-only one. That way, everyone can enjoy their experience to the fullest.

DVR-MtnPatrol2

JF: Are there lessons or orientations tours visitors can take?

SG: Yes; both are available and are highly recommended. We offer guided tours of the mountain that will also provide some mountain biking tips; those are for intermediate level and above, but they’re also “mountain bike 101” lessons that will take a rank beginner straight to the single-track trails. Many riders often say: “I know how to handle a bike, therefore I don’t need lessons” but as you know JF, mountain biking is a very different deal, it’s not like riding in the neighborhood; there’s weight transfer, forward-and-back and side-to-side involved, it’s a lot more dynamic experience than pedaling on asphalt around the block.

JF: What other recommendations would you give hikers or mountain bikers visiting Deer Valley Resort?

SG: I know some people who chose to ride their mountain bike by themselves, purely for exercise. If you’re one of them, just let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back. Always wear a helmet and sunglasses. Even if you’re going on a short trip, throw an extra power bar in your pack, a replacement tube, enough water, some basic tools if you ever break down.  Even if you aren’t quite sure how to fix it, some passer-by might be able to assist you and get you back on your way. Always wear gloves; if you ever fall, the first thing that’s going to hit the ground is your hand. Some extra protection goes a long way!

JF: Any tips about the weather?

SG: Always be prepared for anything! In the mountains, the weather can change rapidly. Look for thunderstorms. If you can hear thunder, lightning isn’t far, so get off the high ground, don’t huddle under the tallest tree, just wait for the storm to pass; it generally never lasts very long.

JF: What about encounters with wildlife?

SG: We do see quite a bit of wildlife. This is one of the great things about hiking and mountain biking around Deer Valley. I’ve had the pleasure to see all kinds of animals around this mountain. You just got to give them space. We’ve taken a lot of space away from them and we should always treat the mountain as their own domain. If I see a moose on the trail, I make my presence known, and hopefully he’ll amble on.

JF: So, how ready are you for Deer Valley Resort summer opening?

SG: Well, we’re opening on June 14, and based on my most recent trail inspections, we’re going to have a fantastic opening, with ninety percent of the trails perfectly passable, so please, come and join us!