A Week’s Worth of Mountain Bike Trails at Deer Valley Resort

dvr-1wkBike1 Just as we proposed a selection of hiking trails to fill a week’s vacation at Deer Valley Resort, Ski Patrol/Mountain Bike Manager Steve Graff suggested we do the same for mountain biking. Steve wanted to contribute his intimate knowledge of and experience with the local terrain, in an effort to build a fun-filled, week-long, mountain biking itinerary. If you’re looking for some great rides next time you visit Deer Valley Resort, read on.Day 1Whatever the vacation, the first day is often best spent getting acquainted with the destination, its environment and everything it has to offer. If your mountain bike skills aren’t that great or if you never had any opportunities to ride single track on a mountain bike before, a wonderful idea is to come up to Deer Valley Resort and let one of the mountain bike guides familiarize you with the equipment and give you some useful pointers on how to make your whole week a fun and life-changing experience. If you are already very fit or have some serious riding skills and are comfortable negotiating single track trails, a good introductory ride might be “Lost Prospector” in Park City, one of Steve Graff’s little secrets:

“A great entry-level trail, with nice views, shaded tree sections and some exciting switch backs. The trail is moderate in terms of difficulty level and a wonderful way to refresh your riding skills. “

If you are renting a bike, make certain it fits you properly and will work with the kind of riding you plan to do; either cross-country, downhill or something in between. If you own your bike, make sure it has recently been serviced, is well adjusted, the gears and brakes are functioning perfectly and tires are in good condition and adequately inflated. Be sure to wear a good pair of gloves so you can get a good grip on your handlebars. Of course, you must wear a helmet and bring sunscreen, wrap-around sunglasses, food and water. If you forget any of these items, you can find them at the shops around Deer Valley Resort. Having some tools or replacement parts, like an extra inner tube and some basic bike tools is also a good idea, especially if you ride alone. Even if you are not a seasoned bike mechanic, make a point to pack some tools and some essential replacement parts as you may find a good samaritan on the trail who may stop to help you out. When riding Deer Valley’s lift-served trails, you can call Bike Patrol for assistance at 435-615-6208. dvr-1wkBike3 After reacquainting or familiarizing yourself with basic riding skills, your second day should be filled with lift-served mountain biking. Using chairlifts will provide you with a full day experience that would be near impossible to accomplish if you were to climb on your own, unless you are a fitness machine or an endurance athlete. Using the chairlifts enables you to fill your day with mountain biking activities and practice all the skills that have either been dormant or that you’ve learned the day before. A lift-served day should be on any weekly mountain biking itinerary. It’s best to stay on the Sterling Express chairlift and find a trail you like, such as Naildriver, the least difficult route down Bald Mountain, or Sunset, another easy trail, and ride those down as many times as you possibly can. Familiarity with a trail breeds confidence, develops quick responses and yields much more enjoyment since you’re not worried by what’s coming up next. Steve Graff is partial to Deer Camp Trail:

“This is another fun trail I like to recommend for its variety of terrain, its scenic views, its aspen groves and its frequent wildlife sightings.”

While Deer Valley’s weather is great most of the time, what should you do if the weather suddenly turns on you? “If you are on the trails and a thunderstorm happens and if you’re in the middle of a meadow, you don’t want to be the largest object around,” said Steve. “Likewise, in the trees you don’t want to be under the largest pine tree; seek shelter in places that aren’t too exposed.” To preserve the trail, do not ride when conditions are rainy or muddy. Rain storms are generally short-lived, so be patient. Any trail on the valley floor that is either asphalt or gravel is where you should be. If rain persists, take the rest of the day off, visit Park City’s historic Main Street, or do some shopping until everything dries up and the sun returns! dvr-1wkBike4 Now that you’ve spent time on these trails and practiced your skills, taken advantage of the energy-saving chairlifts and become comfortable riding single track on easy trails, you might want to increase the technical difficulty. On the third day, if “downhill” appeals to you, you can seek out more challenging trails. The Aspen Slalom trail which follows the Sterling Express chairlift down, is a good candidate to begin that process. Another one that Steve recommends is Twist and Shout, a steep, single track with tight curves and lots of trees. He also suggests that you hit Payroll trail in the Empire Canyon area, “This is a wonderful course that really flows well, with a number of rollers, drops and bermed-out turns.” dvr-1wkBike5 On the lower mountain, there’s Devo, another trail with steep sections and numerous turns that will test your technical abilities. Keep in mind that lift-served mountain biking runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week at Deer Valley Resort through Labor day. Also, know that the trails aren’t patrolled or swept at the end of the day like ski runs are in winter; there are 60 miles of trails on the resort, with multiple entry and exit points along a given trail, making any attempt to sweep them totally unpractical. This said, if you need any assistance during the hours the chairlifts are open, Deer Valley Patrol Staff are available to help patch an injury or solve mechanical problems. Just call 435-615-6208 or speak to a lift operator for assistance.Day 4To ramp our itinerary up, the fourth day is a great time to venture out to the Mid Mountain Trail. This stunning, single track trail traverses Deer Valley Resort, Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort at elevation of 8,000 feet, offering scenic vistas and lush pine forests interspersed with aspen groves. Before leaving, make sure to obtain Mountain Trails Foundation’s map at any Deer Valley Mountain Bike Office for the sections of the trails that are beyond Deer Valley Resort’s boundaries. The best plan is to leave from Silver Lake Village in the morning and head towards Park City Mountain and Canyons resorts. This itinerary can take two forms; either you ride between Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort or you continue on all the way to Canyons Resort. The decision time occurs 15 miles along the way, when you are in sight of the Spiro Trail sign; either you choose to descend via Spiro Trail into Park City and cover the remaining three and a half miles to the base of Park City Mountain Resort, or you carry on for another nine miles, all the way to Red Pine Lodge at Canyons Resort, where you can either download the gondola at no charge or drop down to the base of the resort via Holly’s Trail (expert) or Ambush Trail (Intermediate). In terms of time, count on two hours to ride Silver Lake to Park City and three to four hours to ride to Canyons Resort. From either base areas, there is always the possibility to catch the free city bus back to your place. dvr-1wkBike8Having proven your mettle on the fourth day, the end of the week deserves another great ride with one of two adventure-filled options. The first choice is mostly uphill and begins in Park City at the Spiro Trail. To access the trailhead, park in the Silver Star lot or use the nearby bus stop. From the trailhead, keep to the right and merge onto Armstrong Trail. Climb four miles to Mid Mountain Trail, turn left and continue until you see the new Pinecone Trail. This combination is not for the faint of heart as it grinds its way from Park City, at 6,900 feet all the way to the top of the Wasatch Ridge at 9,500 feet! An alternative is to begin at Silver Lake Village and ride the Mid Mountain Trail to the Pinecone Trail. dvr-1wkBike7 Another option is to ride the Wasatch Crest Trail that straddles the Park City valley and Big Cottonwood and Millcreek Canyons. The Wasatch Crest Trail can be taken from Guardsman Pass, using the Scott Bypass Trail or the Wasatch Connect trailhead, located just down the road on the Big Cottonwood side of the valley. It can also be accessed from the top of Pinecone trail. This trail eventually continues towards Millcreek Canyon which comes out in the Salt Lake Valley. This route is smooth and fast with awesome views of the Wasatch Back and Big Cottonwood Canyon, fields of wildflowers, meadows and trees. Upper Millcreek Trail opens July 1. Bikes are only allowed on this trail on even-numbered days and this classic ride leads you all the way down to the mouth of Millcreek Canyon. Of course, you will need to organize a shuttle to pick you up at the bottom, upon completing your ride for your return back to Deer Valley Resort. Pack your lunch, for those both make for big, long days filled with lots of adventure!

Once more, we have suggested a week’s worth of mountain biking filled with miles of excitement, memorable views, athletic ascents and thrilling downhills. I asked Steve Graff if he had anything to add to this impressive Itinerary. He just said; “Make sure to have fun every mile of the way. If you find some trails too hard, simply return to some easier ones. Again, the name of the game is to recreate and have fun!”

A Week’s Worth of Hiking Trails at Deer Valley Resort

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If you love to hike, would like to explore the mountains around Deer Valley Resort and are staying in town for more than just a couple of days, there are a multitude of ways to get fully acquainted with the area and get you so excited that you’ll want to come back for more. To help sort out some of the best Deer Valley hikes, I spent time with Steve Graff, Deer Valley’s Mountain Bike Manager, brain storming about what kind of graduated mountain hikes could fill an active vacation week. This is an overview of the options we picked for you.

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A wonderful way to begin is to spend the first day getting acquainted with the weather, the elevation and the terrain. Using the chairlifts on that first day is ideal for minimizing the impact of the altitude. For instance, start at Silver Lake Lodge and begin by riding up Sterling Express and then hike down the Silver Lake Trail. It is a hiking-only trail, so you’ll find only hikers on it. A little over two miles long and dropping 1,300 vertical feet, the trail begins at the top of Bald Mountain at 9,400 feet and meanders all the way down to Silver Lake Village. “Of course, if you are in excellent shape and neither the jet lag nor the altitude seem to bother you, you can do this in reverse by hiking up the Silver Lake Trail,” says Steve Graff. Most people can do it in about an hour depending on their condition. Morning is a great time for this hike. The views are incredible around the east side of Bald Mountain as one sees the Jordanelle Reservoir and, in the distance, the Uinta Mountains… In this high desert climate, mornings are generally very cool. In summer, Deer Valley’s morning temperatures range from the upper 40s to the lower 50s at sunrise, before reaching a daytime high somewhere between 70 and 80 degrees. Crisp, mountain air and beautiful, clear views reward the early morning hiker. So, if you choose to hike early to the top of Bald Mountain and get there any time after 10 a.m., you can ride the chairlift down at no charge. Just make sure to wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, a light jacket in the event of a sudden storm and always carry more water than you think you’ll need.

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For the next day, a great hike is to follow the Ontario Trail from Silver Lake Village. This trail wraps around the west side of Bald Mountain and offers totally different views. It passes some old silver mine remnants including historical, weathered equipment and winds its way to the top of the mountain at 9,400 feet. Once more, there’s always the option of riding Sterling Express down, or if your legs are still strong and willing, hike down the Silver Lake Trail and make a loop out of it. Just like Silver Lake, Ontario trail is a hiking-only trail. On average, it takes one to one-and-a-half hours to get to the top. When hiking, remember that shoes often cause problems and while you should always wear sturdy hiking shoes on your hikes, make sure they are well broken-in before you start hitting the tails. Always take the time to lace them up properly and make sure to wear good socks. If blisters appear on the first days, the best approach is often to take a day off and have a break. If this is not possible, purchase some moleskin at the local drugstore. Steve suggests “Another option would be to combine a hike up Silver Lake Trail with a descent down Ontario Trail and make it a five-mile round trip with a return by noon at Silver Lake, just in time for lunch at Royal Street Café.” 

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The third day could be a perfect opportunity to begin hiking from a lower elevation, starting at Snow Park Lodge, and hike up the Deer Crest Trail. This hike is a little over three-miles long, all the way to Silver Lake Village. It is also a multi-use trail, where both hikers and bikers are allowed. The rules of the trails are that bikers yield to hikers. This said, if you notice bikers coming your way and can afford to step off the trail, let them pass; this is a gesture that is always appreciated. A smile and a greeting also go a long way; in short, by just being respectful of each other, all trail users can co-exist very well. The Deer Crest Trail offers yet another set of great views all the way up. Instead of just stopping when reaching Silver Lake Village, continue on to the Mid Mountain Trail and catch Red Cloud Trail up to the top of Flagstaff Mountain at 9,100 feet. From there, ride the Ruby Express Chairlift down to the Empire Lodge. Once there, hike back to Silver Lake via the same Mid Mountain Trail. Upon reaching Silver Lake Village, give your legs another break and download the Silver Lake Express chairlift. Both chairlift rides are free, as there’s no charge for the downhill rides, only the uphill part. This hike is a half-day hike. Including the two chairlift rides, it takes an average person between three-and-a-half to four hours to complete the whole loop. This too can be a perfect morning hike but can also be done at any time during the day. “One of the advantages of hiking at Deer Valley Resort is that the lifts are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, and that there’s always a staff of professional patrollers available to help for any reason,” remarks Steve Graff.

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If the weather stays nice, as it does most of the time in the Wasatch Mountains, and no rain is on the forecast, a change of pace is always a wise idea around mid-week. Day four could be used for a guided hike. Deer Valley’s guided hikes are an excellent opportunity to learn what makes the area so unique, see more of nature and hike a little bit less. The resort has a number of guided hiking tours that can be customized to the needs and wants of all guests. They can be focused on local mining history, flora or wildlife. Some of the Deer Valley Guides have a vast knowledge of the local mountains and their surrounding areas. These tours should be booked in advance and can either accommodate small parties (up to five hikers) or larger groups (six to ten hikers), and are all reasonably priced. If you are looking for an even slower day, keep in mind that there is plenty of easy hiking waiting for you around Deer Valley and Park City without climbing a mountain. You can wander on the many trails that criss cross the valley floor, like the Poison Creek Trail, the Rail Trail, the Farm Trail or the more rugged Round Valley trail network, you can use the city-wide free bus system to combine them or when it’s time to return from your adventure.

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To crown a typical five-days hiking week, a special trip could take you from Silver Lake to Shadow Lake, a truly picturesque destination, right below Jupiter Peak in Park City Mountain Resort. Another adventurous option is a long-distance hike on the Mid Mountain Trail, another multi-use trail, from Silver Lake Villate to Park City. This hike is a 7 to 8-mile trek, with little change in elevation but it will cover the whole distance that spans the two resorts. If you intend to embark on these longer hikes on your own, make sure you take along copies of the Deer Valley Resort summer trail map and the Mountain Trails Map, should you decide to push all the way to Park City Mountain Resort or even Canyons Resort. Steve stresses “In case of an accident, make sure to have the mountain patrol number on your cell phone (435-615-6208) and remember that you can call between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. After these hours, dial 911 for any emergency.” With very few exceptions, cellular phone coverage is pretty good and is available from almost everywhere on the trails. You could either turn around on the Mid Mountain Trail, working it as an up and back, forge ahead to Canyons Resort if you feel unstoppable, or choose to go down the Spiro Trail to Park City. When you reach your destination, either take advantage of the Park City free bus system to get you back to your accommodations or have lunch or dinner in Park City. This option, that takes about two-and-a-half hours to complete and can be a great afternoon trek since most of the itinerary is well shaded.

This is it; we have just summarized a week’s worth of hikes packed with adventure, gorgeous views and discovery at every corner. You might wonder if there are dangers lurking at the edge of some of the trails. I asked Steve Graff about that and he said “The number one danger in hiking is the weather; always check the forecast before you go and watch for events like thunderstorms or a sudden cold snap.”I also asked him about wildlife and he assured me that most animals will move on and get out of the way, except for moose. Steve added “If you run into a moose, give it plenty of space, make sure you don’t get in between a cow and calf, be patient, try not to startle them, this is their home; remember, you’re just a visitor.”

Now, it’s time to enjoy a week of happy trails in and around Deer Valley Resort.

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!

 

Tips for Shoulder Season in Park City

The weeks when the chairlifts are closed between our two seasons are often called “shoulder season” at the resort.  Sometimes, on very snowy and wet years, they are more likely to be referred to as “mud season” by the locals.

This year we have been blessed with an early and fairly warm spring offering us plenty of opportunities to get outside while we wait for the lifts to start spinning again. (Deer Valley opens for our summer season on Friday, June 14, which includes lift-served biking, hiking and scenic rides, deck dining and Royal Street Café and concerts in the Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater.)

While we wait for the resort to open, there are plenty of ways Park City locals keep busy.  Here are a few of my favorite ways to spend my weekend.

Trails, Trails, TrailsThe town of Park City has over 400 miles of trails for hiking and biking!  Many of these trail systems are maintained by Mountain Trails Foundation and are already accessible.

My first hike the season was the The Lost Prospector Loop, a very popular, mild trail that has expansive views of the resorts, Historic Main Street and Old Town.

Old Town, Park City

Old Town, Park City

 

Last weekend, I did the Iron Mountain trail behind the iconic White Barn on Hwy 224.  This is a shorter hike with a steady, steep incline. This trail is a great option for anyone looking for a good workout.

Iron Mountain HIke

Printed copies of the Park City summer trail map are available at:

  • Visitor’s Center
  • Museum on Main Street
  • ZB Sports
  • White Pine Touring
  • JANS Mountain Outfitters
  • Cole Sport
  • Pearl Izumi
  • Silver Star & Ski
  • Sports Authority
  • Dolly’s Bookstore
  • Starbucks

*A suggested donation of $5 is requested

Yoga at The Shop:  This is the perfect place to practice yoga for visitors.  This Anusara inspired studio encourages drop-in students and every class is donation based (suggested $7 minimum).  The space is a huge and beautiful place to practice with high ceilings, barn doors and wall-to-wall windows.  Don’t worry about brining your own mat, they provide everything including blankets, blocks and straps.  A complete class schedule can be found at http://parkcityyoga.com/classes.html  (Hint: If you can’t decide which class to try, my favorite instructors are Tiffany Wood and Sherri Russell)

Stand Up Paddleboarding on the Deer Valley Ponds: This is a new activity offered in the Snow Park area at Deer Valley, so new in fact, that I have yet to try it!  Stand Up Paddle Boarding has been coming increasingly popular and I can’t wait to get out and try it. (Future blog post?)  Rentals and demos are currently offered on weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Starting in June, SUP yoga and paddle Pilates will also be offered seven days a week at 9 a.m. More info on SUP offerings and pricing can be found at http://pcsupcup.com/Home/About

SUP

City Park: On any sunny day, you will find half the town hanging out in Park City’s City Park.  With free access to grills, pavilions, basketball courts, sand volleyball courts, a softball field and expansive lawns, you will find an array of activities to participate in.  Many area hotels may have lawn games or volleyballs for you to check out during your stay. (Hint: There are local softball leagues that utilize the field every night from 6 to 10 p.m.)

Volleyball in City ParkFly Fishing on the Provo River:  I grew up fishing in Michigan and I can say I had one of my best catches on this river last August (the stretch in Provo Canyon).  I spent a half day with a guide and two girlfriends and caught 6 whitefish and this gorgeous Brown Trout.  We are so lucky to have such easy access to the Provo and Weber Rivers which offer Blue Ribbon Fly Fishing!  I highly suggest hiring a guide from Jans Outfitters as they can provide all the gear and knowledge to get you catching fish like this in no time. http://www.jans.com/park-city-fly-fishing-tours

fly fishing

Park City Municipal Golf Course:  An 18-hole course and driving range in the heart of Park City.  This is where I learned to golf thanks to their amazing Twilight Deal.  Tee off after 6 p.m. (no reservation needed) and it is just $9 per person!  The course is nestled alongside Park City Mountain Resort, providing for gorgeous views of the ski resorts. http://www.parkcity.org/index.aspx?page=171

Park City Golf Course

Main Street: A well-known “secret” is that many restaurants on Park City’s Historic Main Street offer Local’s Discounts during shoulder season.  Luckily, these local’s only deals are available to everyone.  Check the ads in the Park Record newspaper for tips on where to find these deals or just ask your fly fishing or SUP guide, a local in City Park or your favorite bartender for their favorites. We all have our recommendations on where to find the best deals.  I’m a huge sushi fan, so I will always direct you to Yuki Arashi or Oishi for 50% off rolls.  Wrap up your night on main by visiting the rooftop deck at the The No Name Saloon.

Enjoy your fun-filled visit to Park City this spring!

Trail Ride through Deer Valley with the Horse Whisperer

What I love most about living in Park City is that everyone wants to visit, especially our adult children.  I don’t even have to guilt trip them about visiting their mom! They come willingly because there is so much to do. When our son, Brian, age 24, came last week, we decided after days filled with hiking, fishing, target practice, and a new adventure called “rifle golf” ( that’s another story) we decided to go on horseback trail ride at Deer Valley.

I grabbed my “Cowgirl Up” ball cap, threw on my jeans and my cowgirl shirt before heading out. We found Boulder Mountain Ranch tucked away by Stein Eriksen Lodge in a bend on the mine road.  We chose a two hour ride and were fit with horses based on our ability.  A few instructions and we were off.

The experience of riding a 1000 lb. animal on a trail is very different than the boots on the ground experience of hiking.  Obviously you are higher up, with an added six feet or so and you cover more than twice as much ground, but it’s more than that. The horse itself brings with him a whole new perspective.

If you listened closely to our guide, Dennis, and got into the mind of the horse, you not only had an easier time on the trail but a much more interesting one as well. Our group headed past “the beach” at Silver Lake Lodge and ducked into an aspen grove as we took the Sultan Out and Back trail.  This was when I realized that Dennis wasn’t just a guide but kind of a “horse whisperer.”  When he gave us our trail ride tips, he came from a place of understanding, compassion and respect for the animals so you realized you were on a special creature and not just on a ride.

Here are a couple examples of his direction and the depth behind it:

Stay close and follow the horse in front of you.  I know this is an obvious tip if you are on a trail ride.  But Dennis explained the horse’s nature as a pack animal; it is natural for them to follow each other.  For animals that live in packs, there is safety in numbers.  When they are out in the lead or on their own, they have a heightened sense of danger resulting in skittishness.  But when they are following, they relax and then calm is the result. It’s easier for them and, of course, for you.

Don’t let them eat.  Dennis made a strong point in telling us well before we hit the meadow that the horses will see this as “the buffet” and will go into “all you can eat” mode.  We watched for them to take their first bite so we could nip it in the bud with a quick yank on the halter and kick with our heels.  When we showed them right away we wouldn’t let them get away with it, they stopped trying.  It worked!

He went on to say that for thousands of years horses lived a nomadic lifestyle and never knew when their next meal would be.  They are “programmed” to eat when possible even if they aren’t hungry since their next meal could be days away.  Understanding their nature made it easier for us to discipline them – we knew they were well fed, and they also weren’t trying anything out of the ordinary.  We all enjoyed our rides much more without them putting their heads down to eat all the time.  Instead, they were paying attention to the trail so we could also.

As we stopped for a view of the Jordanelle Reservoir and the Uinta Mountain range, I was also getting to know, Ben, my horse. His favorite place to ride was with his nose right next to the flank of the lead horse.  I think if he could have sat in that horse’s lap, he would have. Talk about a follower!  But when my husband’s horse, Uno, tried to do that to him, Ben would have none of it.  He stamped his feet and aggressively swished his tail in Uno’s face to let him know to stay back.  I guess this is a case of “do as I say and not as I do.”

When we got to the end, we got to make a steep decline to get to the stable and Ben wanted to continue his flank attachment style of following.  In other words, he wanted to go double in a single lane. So I decided to “cowgirl up” and use what I’d learned from our horse whisperer guide, and actually said out loud, “I don’t think so Ben.  Just hold up a sec and give us some room here, my friend.”  The words were superfluous but the quick yank back worked and he immediately backed off so I could enjoy the last few moments of my ride down the switchbacks into the stable.

Dennis warned us that our legs might be a bit wobbly when we dismounted.  Mine were.  Two hours was the perfect ride for us — not too short and not too long. Overall it was “mission accomplished” for a great outing with our son because he wants to come back and do it again.  That’s all a mom can ask.

Note – For information on Boulder Mountain Ranch trail rides or to make a reservation, see their website bouldermountainranch.com.  You can call (866) 783-5819 or email them at bouldermountainranch@allwest.net.

How We Burned 900 Calories During a History Lesson – Historical Hike at Deer Valley

Going on Deer Valley’s guided historical hike with mountain host Michael O’Malley was a great experience! In my last post, I shared a little of the history he taught us and a lot about the host himself.  There are a few more things you might want to know, however.  Here you go:

Photo By T.J. Lenahan

We gathered at Sterling Express Lift and then hiked on a narrow trail through two amazingly beautiful aspen groves.  Just when I started to notice my heart pounding and lungs burning, we stopped for a mining history lesson and a chance to catch our breath.   I  listened intently as  Michael explained there were literally a thousand mining tunnels beneath us. He passed around black and white photos of how Deer Valley looked during those mining days. Guess what? Silver Lake was actually a lake at one time! I did not know that. I always wondered…

Wildlife was everywhere.  We spotted two mule deer does on the hillside across from our trail.  Then a few minutes later we saw three elk cows in the same area.  They slowly came  into a clearing and then moved past. I had never seen an elk, much less three and so close. Magical.

We also met some interesting people – there was a mix of locals and out-of-towners which included some hard core hikers who you’d want to saddle up to in a windstorm or if you were hungry – they had all kinds of supplies in their packs. One guy had bear repellant spray which of course we didn’t need but would come in handy in a variety of circumstances.  We met a mountain bike instructor, a tourist from San Francisco, a family from Connecticut and Jennifer the helpful mountain host.

Photo By T.J. Lenahan

When we regrouped at the end, my friend informed me we hiked 5.5 miles in 3.5 hours to an elevation of 9100 ft. which was about a 1000 ft. climb.  She wore her heart rate monitor the whole time and told me that we had burned 900 calories and the guys had burned 1600.   What?  Are you kidding me? I was having such a good time, I never noticed that we were working out.  Do you know how hard it is to burn 900 calories? In case you don’t know, here are some examples:

Two hours on the rowing machine burns about 900 calories. I love the rowing machine but I am seriously bored to death after 20 minutes.

About two  hours on a treadmill burns 900 calories — utter torture.  Will never happen in my lifetime.

Five hours of yoga burns about 900 calories – I did a class once called Yin Yoga where you twist into a pretzel and then the instructor tells you to relax into the pose (really?) and you stay in that position for like 20 minutes or so to release the tension.  Push ups are easier than that. Seriously.

Photo By T.J. Lenahan

An hour and a half of cardio boxing burns 900 calories- I actually took a cardio boxing class at my gym a couple of months ago. Don’t ask me why I thought I was in good enough shape to take this class.  I made it through the class but when I got home, I couldn’t lift my arms even to feed myself and believe me I was starving.  Two days later the real pain hit. Every  muscle in my torso and upper body felt like it was being attacked by ice picks. A friend of mine who boxes told me to go back right away and work through it. Right.

So imagine my surprise that hiking in the most beautiful place in the world, learning all kinds of interesting history, meeting some really cool people, and seeing majestic animals burned up a boatload of calories …. with out feeling the burn.  Somehow it feels like everything is right with the universe. The historical hike is one experience I definitely plan on repeating.

Playdate on the Snow

There are things my friends who don’t live in Utah will never understand. Like how some parents willingly sign waivers for their children to learn to ski jump. Maybe you caught the viral video of a local fourth-grader who overcame her fears to conquer the K40 jump at Utah Olympic Park. She’s the daughter of a friend of mine, and I couldn’t have been more impressed with her courage. Fact is, she did it as part of a program that is designed for kids to try all the sports that the amazing facilities in Park City have to offer.

And, quite frankly, maybe the fact that these kids have resorts like Deer Valley to use as a playground is part of what puts them in the mindset to try the harder stuff.

To wit: my kids have skied since they were preschoolers. The equipment is as familiar to them as their street clothes. And, in fact, they often schedule playdates that occur on the slopes.

On a recent Wednesday, my friend Heather and I rallied our four year-olds (who required zero convincing) for a playdate at Deer Valley. We lucked into a great strategy, taking each other’s child as our ski partner. They each listened much better to the other parent when it came to pointers about technique.

And these three-foot wonders took on every obstacle Wide West had to offer, plus Success and then…the bottom of Little Kate.

If you read my Birthday post, you’ll recall that Seth was eager to tackle Little Kate that day. “Let’s do it!” He’d said to me.

I’d held back—not because he didn’t have the chops for a blue, but because I worried that another skier, crossing Rosebud from the top of Little Kate, might not see him making his turns.

Intellectually, I knew that he’d be even more excited to do it when I finally acquiesced. But emotionally, I felt badly for holding him back in that moment.

Of course, my fears were unbidden. We stuck to skier’s left, and the kids took the trail with aplomb. I’m not ready to sign off on the ski jumps, yet, but if he asks me in a few years, I may just have to say yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Note from Our President on President’s Day

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

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

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

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

Hope to see you out there!

Bob Wheaton shares one of his favorite powder stashes:

Ski School Updates with Chris Katzenberger

Chris Katzenberger, Recruiting and Adult Program Manager at the Deer Valley Ski School

JF: First and foremost, what makes Deer Valley Children Ski School different?

CK: From the beginning, Deer Valley Resort has taken a holistic approach to family skiing. In fact we’ve targeted adults and children together. For instance, we don’t have a separate adult and children ski school; every instructor is expected to teach both adults and children. Again, the main goal is to take care of the entire family, not just the adult that walks in the door. Instructors are trained to understand children mentally, physically and emotionally. We’re also always looking to new technologies as well, like the “SunKid” conveyor lifts that are a great way to gently introduce kids to the use of various lifts without creating unnecessary worry on the part of parents.

JF: I’ve heard about your Deer Valley mascots; what’s their purpose?

CK: The mascots play a very important role in our program with Quincy the Bear, Ruby the Raccoon, Silver the Eagle and Bucky the Deer. They are part of a story book for children and each has a different role. Once children learn the story through our coloring books and indoor activities they get to me meet the Mascots on the Mountain. Our instructor assistants that help smaller children with riding the lifts and other activities also dress-up as Mascots, so if we have a “snow cone” day, or an “avalanche-dog day,” the mascots are there to encourage children participation into  what goes on, and get their undivided attention! We’re expending more into creating a children’s friendly environment in which they get the fantasy they need within our great mountain scenery. To complement this year’s new trail map, we continue to offer a coloring book that tells the story of Silver the Eagle, Quincy the bear, Ruby the Raccoon, Bucky the Deer, and explains what each character does specifically in terms of safety, staying warm, etc. 

JF: What’s new for kids this season at the Deer Valley Ski School?

CK: The big thing are the four new conveyor lifts, called “SunKid,” with three of them on Wide West and one at Silver Lake. Even though children still learn how to side-step and herring-bone to climb, these conveyors make it easier for them as small children don’t have to get tired out by doing it over and over. To accommodate these new surface lifts, Snowflake has been moved up by two or three lift towers. The first “SunKid” will be fenced in green, the next one fenced in yellow and the top one will be fenced in blue. The blue one is the longest at 380 feet, and takes approximately 2 to 3 minute to move the children up the hill.

 

JF: How do children benefit from these special lifts?

CK: These conveyors keep children rotating quickly and learning fast on that special area. Before they move to a chairlift, they will have learned how to control their speed, stop, make different size turns and will be familiar with riding up the hill. They’ll be able to hone their skills like changing directions, experimenting with a variety of turns and gaining valuable mileage by practicing up and down a lot. The other “SunKid”, also available in Silver Lake, will cater to children taking private lessons and will be a convenient amenity for guests staying at the Montage or around the Empire area.

JF: What else is new?

CK: We’re also introducing, a new trail map for children and in the next years, our plan is to make it totally interactive with our Deer Valley website by adding more excitement and a sense of adventure. In addition, we’re offering special children-friendly trail signs, featuring a new snowflake icon and indicating specific children’s ski features. These trails signs will stand as extra markers to bring attention to these special areas… 

JF: How was your family program ranked by SKI magazine?

CK: We were happy that we received the #2 spot again on the family program. Other resorts have smaller facilities but ours is quite large. In our Center, parents can confidently drop their children in a friendly environment. Our Center is sectioned off into areas for each age groups; for instance the 5 to 6 year-old room can accommodate 200 kids, while the 4 year-old room is large enough to receive 80 to100 kids and the 3 year-only room will welcome 60 to. 80 kids. Of course there’s our Pre-School, the Deer Valley Academy Program, that operates through the school year with a highly qualified staff that can take care of everyone…

JF: How does a typical day go?

CK: The 3 and 4 year-old program is pretty much the same for both age groups, with indoor activities like reading, craft-time and puppet shows. Typically a 3 year-old skis one-on-one with the instructor; that’s right, one child per instructor, for about one hour and then transitions into our Childcare Center for indoor activities.

The 4 year-old skis quite a bit more; typically two and a half hours, with additional indoor activities for the rest of the day. We’re excited about our new permanent outdoor play area that will also be new this year and complete with snow…

The 5 to 6 years-old Reindeer group spends most of the day on snow from about 10 am to 3:45 pm . These children can be dropped off as early as 8:30 am and start to get ready  for class between 9:30 and 10 am, then head out on the snow till 11:30 when they stop for a warm lunch (turkey hot-dog, chicken Parmesan, etc.) From 2:15 pm to 2:30 pm there’s the hot chocolate break, then they return to their skis, have perhaps a special activity in the meadow like safety talk, snow fun games, scavenger hunt, etc. and after that they ski till 3:45 pm when the lesson ends.

Our 7 to 12 year-old, Adventure Club group follow a similar schedule with the same kinds of breaks, plus the use of special on-snow, off-trails areas like Quincy Cabin, Ruby’s Tail and Bucky’s Backyard…

JF: In conclusion, how do your children’s programs contributes to Deer Valley being #1?

CK: What makes our children’s program a leader in its class are the people in our ski school. The instructors we hire in the position have great empathy for their young students and a full understanding of what goes on in a parent’s mind. They understand their fears and apprehensions and are skilled at turning them into fun on the snow, not just for the children, but for the entire family. Our guests like what they experience and keep returning with us. We have students that were in our “Bambi Club” years ago, and today, are returning to work with us as ski instructors!