Deer Valley’s Steeps and Stashes

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Secrets Revealed

If you believe you know Deer Valley Resort inside-out, you might be missing out on a whole lot of fun! To make sure that no stone is left unturned in the 2,026 skiable acres that Deer Valley has to offer, there is now a simple solution within your reach: enroll into Deer Valley Resort’s new ski school clinic “Steeps and Stashes,” and you’ll get a clear insider view into the myriad of secrets and untold ski runs Deer Valley has in store for its visiting guests.

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Call this, skiing off the beaten path, taking the trails less traveled or exploring a new world of ski possibilities, but when you enroll in this eye-opening program you’ll discover, as I did, that almost half of Deer Valley acreage is tree skiing! I would never have guessed it! Tree skiing isn’t just about the fun of slaloming through aspen and evergreen trees, but it’s also penetrating into a micro-climate where the snow stays better and for much longer, as it generally remains sheltered from the sun, the wind, and also because most skiers who aren’t in the know will seldom venture there on their own.

For visitors and locals alike

“Knowledge is power” and the more you know about a ski resort, the more emotionally invested you become in its assets and the more valuable it becomes to you, your friends and your family. Knowing a resort well, is not just for the out-of-town visitor, but for locals too, who often believe they know Deer Valley like the back of their hand while, in reality, what they know only represents the tip of the iceberg. This was just as true for me when I signed up for the program. As an almost 30 year Park City resident, I didn’t suspect that I could learn so much about new, fun spots on that mountain. All it took was a couple of days to turn that paradigm on its head.

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Great skiing starts with a good group

We first gathered on Saturday morning in the 2002 Room in the Snow Park Lodge, where we met other participants and our ski instructors. At 9 a.m. sharp, we found ourselves at the base of Carpenter Express chairlift. We rode the chairlift together and after taking us down “Big Stick,” the instructors broke us up into groups of similar levels and affinities.

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We ended up with three groups. I don’t know exactly what the other groups did that morning, but Thor, our instructor took us up to the top of Bald Mountain and since there was a fresh serving of new powder from the day before, he led us down into Sunset Glade, an expansive aspen grove that I’ve never been too familiar with. To my delight, I discovered many lines and stashes that I didn’t even suspect existed.

We then proceeded to Quincy Express chairlift, we zoomed down Bandana ski run and set up shop around Empire Express chairlift. We first tested the powder around Anchor Trees. I liked it a lot and migrated for more tree skiing to the X-Files, where we took two great consecutive runs. All along, Thor gave us some valuable tips aimed at helping us stay nimble and weave smoothly around the giant evergreens.

After the trees, the steep!

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Soon, it was time to move from these secret stashes to the steep component of the program. We peaked over the intimidating cornice that lines up Daly Bowl, wondering if we’d muster the audacity to let us drop down into the steep slope below. Thor led us by sheer example and then, the peer pressure pulled the trigger; one after the other, we all took the plunge and boy, were we proud we did it! 

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After a communal lunch at Silver Lake Lodge, we continued to explore the infinite forest that seem to line every single run Deer Valley has to offer. While I had already experienced many of our morning runs, most of the afternoon paths Thor took us to were either totally new to me or brought a brand new twist to some old spots that I had explored before. Deer Valley has so many “powder stashes” that I wouldn’t want to write a comprehensive guide about them; it would take almost forever to list them all!

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The March afternoon sun combined with a relentless rhythm soon began to weigh on our legs and it was time to go back to Snow Park Lodge where we were shown some instruction videos that came in quite handy, as our experience of the day was still fresh in our minds and made us relate perfectly to the situations we all had encountered hours earlier.

Day Two: Moguls on the Menu

Sunday came a bit too early as we had little time to adapt from the spring time-change, losing one hour of sleep in the process, but this didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for this second day of “Steeps and Stashes.” I was invited to move to another group, led by John, another Deer Valley instructor. While the previous day had been centered on powder and steep terrain, it was now time to perfect our mogul technique on a variety of trails ranging from Empire Bowl, all the way over to Mayflower Bowl.

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I used to like bumps when I was much younger and today, as my body has lost some of its flexibility, I carefully avoid confronting their destabilizing nature on almost any ski slope. This time, John found the right words and added some effective tips to reconcile me with that wavy and uneven terrain called moguls.

“Shopping for Turns” anyone?

That morning, John kept on discouraging us to endlessly “shop for turns,” an expression that means waiting forever for the perfect spot, the right conditions and the good moment to initiate a turn. This also means that when we do this, we eventually run out of real estate and end up on the edge of the run, still “looking.”

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Instead, he showed us how to “ski the zipper,” the holy grail of mogul skiing. If this terminology sounds a little odd, just remember that the “zipper line” means that great bump skiers go straight down the mountain, allowing their knees to flex over the moguls instead of turning around them. That’s what is called the zipper line. It’s named that way because skiers remain within a narrow corridor that’s only as wide as their shoulders are broad.

Seeing is believing

What a bumpy day this Sunday ended up being! We did easy mogul trails in the morning and John gradually increased the gradient throughout the day. Eventually he took us just under the Red Cloud chairlift where we were filmed on video, doing our very best to “ski the zipper.” Just before noon, John stopped us at the Deer Valley video cabin theater, right off the edge of Success ski run, where we were given an opportunity to marvel at our own exploits along with those of our teammates.The whole session was commented in details by John, questions were asked and the whole video was seen at least three times before we were finally satisfied.

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After lunch, the session continued, mostly under the mogul theme, sometime on easy terrain, sometimes on steeper runs and by 4 p.m. we were all a little tired but extremely happy that we had completed a wonderful two-day ski clinic. We learned a lot about Deer Valley Resort’s boundless powder and tree skiing. We tame our innate fears on Daly Bowl, reconciled ourselves with the secrets of mogul skiing and picked up so many new skills that we can’t wait to do it over again very soon!

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It’s Official: My Kids are Better Skiers Than I am.

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Meet the newest contributor to the Deer Valley blog, Summer Sanders. In 1992 at the Olympic Games, a 19-year-old Summer Sanders won four Olympic medals, bringing home 2 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze. The moment she hung up her Speedo, she embarked on a television career, hosting shows for MTV (Sandblast), the NBA (Inside Stuff), Nickelodeon (Figure It Out), and Fox (The Sports List, Skating with Celebrities), and acting as a correspondent for shows such as Good Morning America, Rachael Ray, and The Today Show.  She has been a contestant on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” and the Food Network’s “Guy vs. Rachael Celebrity Cook-Off”. Sanders recently created and hosted “Find Your Fitness” on MSN, where she challenged herself to try new fitness trends for the education and amusement of the audience. A health and fitness realist, Sanders is a working mom who prides herself on living a hands-on active lifestyle and being a “life is perfectly imperfect” motivator. She has two children, Skye (7) and Spider (5), with her husband Olympic skier Erik Schlopy. Follow the Deer Valley blog and keep up with Summer as she blogs about her experiences at Deer Valley.

Group Picture

It is now official, my kids, who are 6 (Spider) and 7 (Skye), are way better skiers than I am. I’ve had a hunch for a few years but after this past weekend, I have proof.  Together, my kids and I took a family ski lesson at Deer Valley, something that I’d wanted to take for a few years but never got around to scheduling. My kids are solid skiers already, but I wanted us to feel good about it as a family and really know where we could go together to enjoy a day on the slopes. Our instructor took us through all the amazing kids runs at Deer Valley, most of which were in the trees, which my kids think are fabulous, and with names like “Oompa Loompa”, “Ruby’s Tail”, “Bucky’s Backyard” and “Quincys Cabin”, you knew it was going to be nothing short of heaven for the them, their mama was another story.

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Let me be very honest with you. Up to this point, I had never taken the kids skiing by myself. There was way too much room for error in the process for me to stomach it, the gear, the schlepping to and from, and keeping myself from getting lost. It was all a little too much for my swimmer brain to handle.

Our instructor’s name was Lance Swedish, and he was awesome. It took the kids about 25 seconds to warm up to Lance, and then it was game on. I worried for a second whether he could keep up, not only with the kids skiing (they aren’t first timers), but with all of Spider’s questions. He must have asked Lance 20 times how old he was. It’s still a mystery, although we do know he isn’t 100 or 22. We started by skiing down one run so he could assess our skiing abilities. Although I was worried to finally hear that I was at the bottom of the class, I’m happy to report that I did not feel judged in the slightest. After that run, Lance suggested that we all ski without poles just like Spider.  My son doesn’t like them. His reasoning is that you are a much more centered skier without your poles. So he stashed our poles and away we went. I think this is the point when I realized that this “lesson” was more for me than anyone else in our party. Lance even said to me at one point, “Your kids are great skiers, so let’s work on you.” I was both proud of them and cracking up inside because what he said was so true. I was kind of thrilled at the opportunity to get better. I know the longer I wait, the more I’ll fall behind my kids.

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The day started strong and fast, and we never slowed down. We cruised thru Bucky’s Backyard and his front yard. We skate-skied across a run to reach the super famous Oompa Loompa Land, where I unsuccessfully tried to convince the kids to sing the song from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” We skied Ruby’s Tail and a few other unnamed spots. I stayed with the kids for most of this adventure, and along the way I picked up some wonderful tips.

  1. Keeping your hands out in front is key for balance.
  2. Bending your knees into a bump actually slows you down.
  3. If you fall you must, without fail, scream “WIPE OUT!”
  4. When jamming out of the trees into the open run, always check to see if someone is coming or have a “look-out person”.
  5. Screaming for no reason is absolutely fine, you’re in the trees, you can say it was someone else.
  6. There is always a hard way and an easy way down.

Yes I did get scared a few times on along the way. I mean speed is my enemy, my nemesis even – although you’d never know it watching my kids zoom by. The bumps and I don’t always get along, I have yet to conquer my fear of tree skiing. A little fear is part of the fun. I did really get a little more than scared at the top of “Toilet Bowl” (It does have another name but once you hear toilet bowl that’s all you remember, that and the fact that the kids kept saying “Mom, you’re gonna get flushed!”)

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I stood at the top while listening to Lance give us instructions and decided I needed to put tip #6 to work. I’m happy to report that there was and easier way down, and after checking with the kids and they were both ready to do it, (Lance also assured me they were strong enough skiers to handle it) I met them at the bottom. I listened to their hootin’ and hollering and giggling until they shot out of the trees with the biggest smiles on their faces. What a fabulous day!

I have shared my day with so many of my local friends, and every time they look at me with this hilarious expression and say either “that is the coolest thing ever, I didn’t know that existed” or “Oh bless your heart.” It was such an awesome three hours full of fun, knowledge, and memories. I think I’m more than prepared to take on the mountain with my kids. I may not quite be able to keep up, but I’m definitely more prepared and confident that we’ll be fine and have a wonderful time. Next up is a powder skiing lessons.

Final Notes on Another Great Ski Season

Once more and just like last year, Deer Valley Resort made it to its last day with flying colors!  On closing weekend, the mountain was dressed up into an immaculate coat of white; in fact it had been snowing almost all week long, ending the winter season, just like the previous ones, on the highest possible note.

It’s quite fair to say that Mother Nature didn’t do much to help during the peak winter months, as if she were avariciously hording snow for some unknown purpose, but the Deer Valley’s snow-making crews came to the rescue and more than compensated for a lackluster snow-year and sparse precipitations.

(Photo by Daniel Diyanni)

All along, I never held great expectations about natural snowfalls and, as a result, was never disappointed. Instead, I skied more than my share and I could only rejoice when a number of providential blizzards transformed the mountain. These abundant precipitations first came in the later part of January, lasted for days around mid-February, and then in a more routine, spring-like fashion, during March and early April.

(Photo by Ryan Turner)

Of course, the credit for what ended up being another great season, rested more on the snow-maker shoulders and the groomers fine-combing expertise, than on the skies natural bounty, and for once, the snow-making insurance-policy protection came into full force and delivered the goods!

(Photo by Ryan Turner)

This said, the season was packed with wonderful days of skiing, powder snow, both untouched and meticulously manicured, and at times it was hard to believe that it was a dryer-than-usual winter. When January came around, tree skiing was again a possibility and the opportunities for powder “face-shots” were much more frequent than I would have imagined.

It’s too bad that these sensations are so hard to share, because if they could be telegraphed in more vivid terms, many folks who ended up staying on the sidelines might have made the effort to come out and experience these great ski days for themselves. I, for one, discovered new runs, new path in the trees and by the time the resort closed down this past Sunday , I still could not get enough good skiing!

Of course, I’ve always been a late bloomer as far as skiing goes. I never get really excited too early in the season. My passion for the sport needs to build up and as April comes along, I’m still eager and ready, but nature thinks otherwise… The morale of the story is that, whether we live next to Deer Valley Resort, in the Salt Lake Valley, Los Angeles or New York, we should never assume that “conditions are bad.” The ski reality that Deer Valley creates always exceeds our best imagination!

(Photo by Gus Steadman)

As our delayed winter may linger for a few more weeks, there still might be a few turns in store for me under the form of alpine ski touring, as soon the skies clear and the snow return to “corn” quality. Mountain biking is still a good distance away, and frankly, before thinking too much about the upcoming summer and its endless array of activities, I need to take a long mental vacation from this past winter!

My NEW Deer Valley

I’ve spent a lot of time this season interviewing DV employees about their Deer Valley—and I have to admit, a lot of their picks sounded exotic to me. They named gladded runs and bowls that I’d either seen only from a chairlift or only heard about. And then I went to Women’s Weekend—and I spent three days on terrain I’d always assumed was there for other people.

Turns out, it’s there for me. And a few hundred other people—but hardly any of them were in evidence on the trails we skied. It was kind of incredible to note that while there were plenty of people on the most popular groomed runs (admittedly, the same runs where I spend the majority of my ski days), the bumps and trees seemed to be ours alone. At one point, I said to my fellow students, “Isn’t it empowering to have the keys to this place?” It felt, for the most part, like we had the mountain to ourselves. I loved it. You might, too.

Herewith, my ode to the trees and bumps—of MY Deer Valley. Yep, I’m willing to share.

Little Bell these are my favorite warm-up bumps. It’s short, sweet and not too steep. So you can do some turns and then peel out into Solid Muldoon, cut over to Success and then keep an eye out for…

White Owl, which is home to World Cup Aerials events. Those scary-high jumps are off limits to the general public, but the bumps that run above them is a fun challenge. You can find a line (most likely: skier’s right) that isn’t too deeply rutted, and will allow you plenty of room to find your turns. Take a hard right out onto the bottom of Solid Muldoon, and you’re golden to hop on Carpenter to scoot down Silver Link, across the beach at Silver Lake Lodge to Sterling lift.

Emerald I must have skied past this run hundreds of times in the past eleven winters. Once in a blue moon, I’d spy someone possessed of more skills (or confidence) than myself making turns into this bowl that is found skier’s left at the top of Birdseye. Now, it’s got to be one of my favorite runs. The top is steep, but it mellows out fairly quickly. There’s plenty of room to “shop for turns,” among the bumps, and then you have your choice of widely-spaced Aspen glades where, yes, there is some powder (or yummy crud) to enjoy.

Tons of glades (with powder stashes) can be found on this run. Just look for your opening and go for it.

Three Ply, I like to access it from the trees on skier’s left, just below the first steep stretch at the top of Hidden Treasure, because you don’t have to do the very top, but it still allows plenty of length to get your groove on in the bumps.

Guardsman Glade is one area I had spied for years from my perch on Ruby Express, only to wonder who on earth would ski in there. Guess what? I do!

Anchor Trees this was love at first sight when Letitia introduced me to it last year. I never get tired of it. There are lots of ways to enter, and the glades are widely-cut enough that you have your choice of turns.

Finally, X-Files. Stay tuned for my ode to this run that makes hiking worth it.

View Deer Valley’s Trail Map here!

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.

Letitia Lussier’s Deer Valley

To ski with Letitia Lussier is a singular experience—in that a day on the hill will reveal multiple facets of her personality, and of your own ski skills. Letitia was my group instructor during the Women’s Weekend last season .

As she guided us away from more populated runs, so that my newfound ski buddies, Stacey and Jackie, and I could drill down to better turns without distraction, she shared funny tales from her career, as well as from her life as an artist. And, quietly, with a lot of nurturing encouragement, she insisted we ski the trees. My mom and dad may shudder (a lot) when I talk about it, but if they’d been with us that day, they might even be convinced it was the safest place to ski anywhere.

Throughout the years, Letitia’s artist’s spirit has taken her many places in the summers, “ I live in Park City in the winter,” she says. “And I’ve lived in a variety of places in the summer- Wisconsin (x1),  Hawaii (x2), the red rock canyons of southern Utah (x2), Washington (x2) and Wyoming (x2) but I’ve also spent many summer here in PC.”

And, her work in the mountains feeds her muse when she steps into her home painting studio. Art lessons are life lessons, and vice-versa. “Every day I witness such incredible beauty,” she says. “I make it a point to take the time to notice, to really look at my surroundings as they change every day sometimes every hour. Inspiration is all around me which is reflected in my paintings of DV,” she says, “I’ve developed gratitude for the peak moments I experience in these mountains and in life. There is nothing more powerful.”

 

Hometown: Auburn, ME

Years in Park City: “I’ve been with Deer Valley since day one!” In other words, you do the math.

Year one as an instructor was…”Fun! We were a tight-knit group of 23, counting one supervisor and director. We worked hard and played hard. Now we are nearly 500 instructors.”

I’m a fan of teaching Adult Specialty Programs like Women’s Weekend because…With a well matched group you have the opportunity to learn from each other, to cheer and support one another. You have the chance to create friendships with shared interests and the added bonus of finding others at your ski ability. This cohesiveness can offer the right kind of learning atmosphere for these programs. The group dynamics can be so much fun when people want to learn and have a good time. We (instructors) love skiing and enjoying sharing that passion with others.

My ideal ski day at DV is…

A “bluebird” day of crisp blue skies and deep, fresh, sparkling champagne powder. As I ride up on the chair I look in awe at the evergreen trees which are laden with snow, even the tiniest of branches on the aspen trees are decked with snow giving them a lacy, intricate look. Reaching the summit I stand there transfixed as my breath is taken away by the expansive beauty. I can’t believe how lucky I am to witness such grandeur.  On my descent the quality of the snow as I ski through it is so light it blows up in my face refreshing me with every turn. There is a unique quality to the sound as I fly through it, it is effervescent like my favorite bubbly. The snow is so light and deep I have the sense that I am floating weightlessly down the mountain, it feels velvety soft beneath my feet.   Skiing down the slope I am enveloped in a rich alpine environment  that gives me a welcome feeling. Off in the distance, I hear the call note of the chickadee, it is a sound I recognize and enjoy. I spot some animal tracks in the snow, giving hint of the activities from the night before.   This place I call home has a life of it’s own, and I feel energized by it. Every run is through virgin powder, putting a grin on my face that stretches from ear to ear. I ski until my legs feel like noodles and I can no longer go on.

On days like this I ski with: Skiing with my beau, Tom. First chair. First run is where ever the snow looks the deepest.

My go-to areas on the mountain are…

Sultan and Empire

Favorite groomer? 

Tycoon

Favorite trees? 

Anchor Trees

Must-have lunch break plan:

Empire Canyon Lodge. Salad Bar. Arnold Palmer. Chocolate-chip Cookie

My most treasured apres ski ritual is…Enjoying a nice cold beer and reflecting on an exceptional day feeling totally spent.

Best lessons learned as a ski instructor:

How to deal with a variety of people. Developing patience is key— every person has their own pace and learning styles. Maintaining a sense of humor when things go awry. Sharing my passion is contagious—that never changes.

 

Skiing doesn’t have to be difficult!

If you still believe that skiing is hard to learn, long to master and also expensive, there is a way to change this misconception. During the month of January, Ski Mountains around the country, including Deer Valley Resort, offer a learn-to-ski program specially targeted to those who never had a chance to pick up the sport during their early years or when they couldn’t quite afford it.

I wish I had been able to learn skiing by taking some easier way and didn’t have to struggle as much as I did when I first encountered the sport. At that time, even though I lived in the Alps, there was no convenient and affordable program available for school-age kids like me and my modest beginnings on snow were placed under the banner of “teach yourself to ski,” with a wooden pair of skis handcrafted by my own dad, including a set of basic bear trap bindings with non-releasable cable clasps.

As for the conveniently located “beginner slope” next to the family house, it offered no lift of any kind to carry us to the top of a hill that consisted of a short and fairly steep slope, cut into the forest that surrounded a fairly large meadow. That ski run, a trench into the trees, was crowned with a makeshift jump. That’s right, it was almost as if I was expected to jump before I could even learn how to ski, but that’s how it was in these days. Then, the line between modern alpine skiing and Nordic remained still a bit blurred and jumping continued to be considered as being part of the total ski experience.

I don’t even remember exactly what I did, but I must have somehow practiced sliding on the snow and perfected a semblance of “hockey stop” before I dared to launch off that crude jumping hill. That’s right; I could descent and stop by making one single right-hand turn at the bottom of the hill (I’m a lefty…) In addition to my forays into catching big air off that jump, I also had to participate in some cross-country races which I hated with a passion, as my crude wooden skis and their bare bases could not perform nearly as well as the real cross-country skis owned by my most fortunate school mates.

So that’s how things began for me. Later, I remember working as a lift attendant during the school holidays. This entitled me to a free ski pass and that’s how I seriously learned how to ski – never with formal lessons – but through simple observation, imitation and sheer mileage. I wish I could have had access to some formal type of instruction, but it never came until the time I decided to become a ski instructor. Only then, did my technique get “corrected” and my terrible skiing “habits” unbent by some high ranking and very dogmatic “ski professors.”

Just a few days ago, as I was shooting a video about Katie Fredrickson taking her very first steps on skis, I was amazed by the evolution of the ski equipment now made available to beginners and by the markedly improved teaching methods that can, in just a couple of hours, turn a non-skier into someone able to evolve independently on snow and enjoy the thrills of sliding down some pretty long runs…

January is almost over, but it’s not too late for seizing the opportunity of learning how to ski in the very best environment and under the guidance of the most conscientious and talented ski instructors in America. If you or someone you know has been putting off that first day on skis forever, now might be the time to make that life-changing move. Just learn more about that great program and register yourself or your friends to the Learn-to-ski program at the Deer Valley Ski School. You’ll be glad you did it and your friends will thank you for it!

Gear Mania

As I was wondering if I should get some new skis this season, I saw a full ski rack inside my garage and the first order of business would be to make some room for a new pair. Since I can’t decide which pair I should get rid of, this becomes an easy decision to make. For a while, I had considered embarking on the rocker-ski adventure, but as I have shared before on this blog, I’m still hesitating about that design and while I can appreciate these skis might help me greatly in bottomless powder, I still have a few unresolved issues with them.

First, and as I’ve also said before, the longer rocker design won’t fit my car ski-box! The other part of my dilemma is that I have fallen in love with Deer Valley’s tree skiing and not just its nicely gladed runs, but the more challenging, tight turning skiing like the one found in Centennial trees. Rocker skis are a bit longer than regular boards, and when the turning radius gets tighter, every extra inch that stick in the front or in the back might be just enough to grab the next spruce or aspen that happens to be in the way.

To top it off, I still can’t picture myself riding these curvaceous boards on corduroy, moguls and hard-pack as I get to, or return from my powder stashes. All these good reasons mean that I’ll continue to use my semi-fat skis (90 mm under the foot) for another season. Hopefully, I’ll be able to eventually get used to the feeling and move to a shorter length as I also get a bit older, but frankly, I’m not ready yet and may have to labor at tiny bit more while in deep powder!

I hope you’ll fully understand my position with regard to double-ski-camber designs: I’m intellectually and practically not ready for them yet! Since I am all set and very happy with my current poles, the only area that is left for me to worry about is that other, all-important piece of equipment, the ski boots. Mine are still okay and I can see another full season in their sort-term future. This year, I will just add to my closet a pair of specialized boots that I’ll use for accomplishing other tasks. That’s right, I want to seriously get into alpine touring this season…
I already own a pair of skis dedicated to that pursuit, complete with skins and special bindings, and the only missing component is the pair of touring boots that I just purchased today. Will I use that “AT gear” – as it’s called – in the middle of winter? Probably not very often, but as April rolls around and Deer Valley Resort closes for the season, I intend to be all over the back-country, exploring ridges, bowls and glades where snow will continue to linger during the following weeks and even months. This will keep me fit and prolong a season that never begins early enough and always ends far too soon!

Heidi Voelker’s Deer Valley

It’s that time of year again. The weather is beautiful but the feel of winter is fast approaching especially first thing in the morning when it’s in the 30’s. We’ll be on the slopes sooner than we know. I love this time of year because the air is so crisp, ski swap signs are all over, we’ve gotten an early snow fall meaning the season is just around the corner.

As I think about “It’s My Deer Valley” there are a few different scenarios. I can break down my skiing days in three ways:

  1. Family
  2. Clients
  3. Corporate & Press Tours

Each way skis differently. Here’s how:

1.  If it’s a family ski day, which I’m afraid will happen more rarely as I have lost my two young boys to ski race training (hmmm must be in their blood.) But when family ski days happen, they usually go something like this. The night before I mention we might have breakfast at Snow Park Lodge. This is a bribe in order to have them get to bed on time. Stefan automatically pipes up, “can I have my favorite baguette with jelly and jam”? In the morning I ‘m making sure Lucas is getting dressed and not procrastinating. Stefan meanwhile is outside boots on ready to go. We get to Deer Valley and the boys ask to be dropped off at the Skier drop off while I park the car. (Still not sure if this is just my kid’s not wanting to be seen with their mom or if they are just lazy and don’t want to walk from the car.)

After breakfast we load Carpenter Express chairlift. Without fail one of them asks “how many runs before we can have lunch?” Ugh! We drop into Silver Lake at mid mountain and ski down to the Wasatch Express chairlift. It’s usually about 10-10:30 a.m. Yes, I agree, it’s late but with two kids in tow I’m trying to keep harmony. After a few runs on Bald Mountain the brothers decide it’s time for Nastar racing. We stay here for a bit trying to improve each run time and also asking “mom, if I’m faster next run can we have lunch?” another ugh!!

I tell them they are skiing too fast because we’ve only been skiing for an hour. We then adventure over to Empire Canyon, heading there through unmarked area’s like Bucky’s Backyard, Toilet Bowl and X-Files. Remember skiing with kids you need to keep it fun. So after a few hikes across the Daly Chutes into X-files trees, then it’s lunch time!

Once we are in our lunch coma of Panini’s, pasta and fries we start to make our way back to Snow Park. But the rule is to ski as much off piste and jumps as possible. We make our way to the end of the ski area boundary even though; we are trying to make our way back to the base. We grab Lady Morgan chairlift and ski Centennial Trees, then it’s back up Lady Morgan and ski to Ruby chairlift. We race to Ruby’s glade and caution as we merge onto Hawkeye. Load onto Northside Express and ski around into Ontario Bowl. Sometimes this is worthy of 2 laps. It depends on the boy’s excitement and energy. Then onto Judge chairlift to ski towards to Crown Point chairlift.  At the top of Crown Point our chosen route is  Kimberly ski run where right past the bridge is the boys favorite jump. By now their legs are tired and we ski down Big Stick to the lodge. Our day is done.

2. Another way I show off “My Deer Valley” is with clients. I usually meet the client at their hotel or the Snow Park Lobby. I’m starting my 15th year at Deer Valley so many of my clients are returning guests and I already know what type of skiing they are looking for. (As always it depends and the weather and conditions.) They know already they have a full day of skiing ahead of them. I joke that we are going to ski hard and no lunch break. What would skiing be like if you didn’t have lunch at Deer Valley? Certainly not the true experience! The clients usually already have an idea where they would like to eat for lunch. We talk about goals they want to achieve for the day and map out our lines and away we go!

3. The third type of Deer Valley ski day for me is a press/corporate tour day. It starts out much like the client day but usually with a scheduled breakfast. These days I ski the mountain but usually circulate around to make sure I ski with each person (these groups tend to be bigger and provide the desired terrain they are looking for. In between all our turns we usually lunch it at Royal Street Café or wherever the company may plan to meet back together. My goal is to make sure a good time is had by all and when they say they are tired to ski the entire afternoon I break into a little smile. My job is done!