2014 US Freestlyle National Championships at Deer Valley Resort

Over the past 15 years, Freestlyle skiing has become a Deer Valley tradition. Not only did the resort host the 2002 Olympic Aerials, Alpine Slalom and Mogul events, but it has also held two World Championships and a dozen World Cups over this time span. The very first Freestyle World Championships were held in 1986. Two years later, mogul skiing was a demonstration sport in Calgary before becoming an official medal event at the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics. World class mogul skiers who come to Deer Valley Resort to compete appreciate its challenging run on Champion ski run, as well as its impeccable and fun filled organization.

Like an overwhelming number of mogul enthusiasts, I never miss the annual Freestyle World Cup at Deer Valley early in the year, and the dual moguls event in particular. Why the dual moguls? Because it’s a turbo-charged version of the regular event, as not just one, but two competitors, are jousting neck-to-neck, fighting the tremendous pressure of completing the run, in addition to managing the thought of having an opponent just ahead or right on their tail.

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For the spectators it doubles up the excitement and the potential for upsets. All these elements are why I didn’t want to miss the dual mogul event when I heard that the 2014 U.S. Freestyle National Championships would be held at Deer Valley Resort at the end of March. Since I couldn’t attend the regular mogul competition on Friday, I set my sights on the dual moguls held the last Sunday of March.

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I must admit that the usual Deer Valley spring sun wasn’t present that day. Instead, a fierce blizzard had taken over the mountain, with strong gusts of wind and a steady snowfall that would increase in ferocity as the competition came to its conclusion. There were about 60 men and 40 women engaged in that event and all would dual in a succession of heats, beginning at round 32.

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As an official Deer Valley blogger and videographer, I was given access to the start of the race, where competitors get a plunging view of the slope below. In reality, the slope on Champion ski run is so steep that from the start, competitors can just see one edge that transitions down into the finish area. That’s right, the grade is so forbidding that the whole field of moguls isn’t even discernible – it’s a straight line separating start and finish – and the two sets of jumps can barely be spotted as the eye scans down towards the area where the spectators are massed!

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That said, it takes a lot of courage, cool concentration, good preparation, and great physical shape to launch from the top of Champion! I watched the entire competition, making notes and taking pictures. While the fresh snow falling in abundance kept the course rather soft, it held remarkably well and the only challenge was visibility that, at times, made the contest even much more competitive than it would have been under normal, sunny circumstances.

In particular, it wasn’t easy on competitors who had to constantly switch goggles because of the heavy snow that dumped nonstop, and to make things even more stressful, skiers had to duel from a round of 32 participants, something unusual when compared to World Cup events where it only start at 16.

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As usual, the women completed their runs first and the contest was won by Eliza Outtrim, from Hamden, Connecticut, who had already won the single mogul event on Friday. These successive victories brought Outtrim a total of three U.S. Titles to her name! Second in that dual mogul contest was Sophia Schwartz from Steamboat Springs, Colorado while Elizabeth O’Connell from Winter Park, Colorado took third.

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In the mens category, Bradley Wilson, a Deer Valley Resort athlete, climbed on the highest step of the podium, while local Nick Hanscom from Park City took second, preceding Joe Discoe from Telluride, Colorado.

When the race was over and just after the award ceremony took place in the finish area, I ran into Bob Wheaton, President and General Manager of Deer Valley Resort who introduced me to Skip McKinley, one of the male competitors.

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Remarkably, Skip ran the rental ski department at Deer Valley some 33 years ago, but even more remarkable was the fact that the man was still competing at Deer Valley Resort that day, and managed to finish in the top 40 at more than 60 years of age.

What an incredible achievement and what an inspiration to all of us that would love to ski bumps but no longer have the skills, nor the “suspension” required to make it to the bottom of the course. Way to go Skip!

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The Little Things Make the Difference

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Deer Valley Resort is where I learned to ski, so I don’t know anything other than being spoiled. Until my friends came up for a girl’s ski weekend, I didn’t fully appreciate all the special things that make Deer Valley so wonderful.  Sometimes when you don’t know anything else, you don’t realize how good you have it.

Here are a few things that delighted my friends about skiing at Deer Valley:

Drop off is easy. The ski concierge helps you unload your skis and poles and hold them for you while you park.  It’s so nice to not have to lug your equipment up from the parking lot.

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Toasty warm boots and gloves. There are boot warmers in the locker room at Snow Park  (and at Silver Lake Lodge and even at Cushing’s Cabin) so you can slip your feet into toasty warm boots for the start of your day (or after a break.) Having warm boots makes them easier to slip on, too. Sometimes, I’ll pop my gloves on the warmers, too if it a little chilly outside.

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Fresh flowers. How nice is it to have fresh flower arrangements in the ladies room?  Also with our high desert climate in Utah, it sure is helpful to have hand lotion to keep hands soft after washing up.  Ladies, do you agree?

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Mountain Hosts. The informative Mountain Hosts are perched at strategic locations to help you figure out your next move.  Since my girlfriends hadn’t skied in a few years, we tapped the Mountain Hosts to help us decide which runs to take and in what order.

Choices for great eats. You can find just about anything you’d like to eat one of the Deer Valley Resort restaurants.  Do you want pizza or sushi? World famous turkey chili or a salad bar? Would you like to sit down for fine dining? You got it. Not only are there the lodges at Snow Park, Silver Lake and Empire, but you can also experience dining at the Royal St Café, Montage, Stein Eriksen Lodge and St. Regis.

Ski storage for lunch. When you take a lunch break, you can store your skis for no charge so you never have to worry that you forgot where you left them or that you’ll mistakenly pick up someone’s that look just like yours. You can also leave your ski’s overnight at no charge and even have them waxed and ready for you the next day for a small charge.

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Boot baskets. The daily basket rental allows in-and-out privileges from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.  This makes it easy to drop a layer when you start to warm up and store your car keys for the day. (Yeah, I don’t bring my keys with me on the chairlift or down any ski runs for obvious reasons.)

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If you are coming back the next day, you can also store your boots overnight for no charge. This way in the morning, all you need is you and your helmet! Your skis, poles and boots all can be stored overnight waiting for you the next day — gratis from Deer Valley.

A ride to your car. The Deer Valley tram comes by every few minutes and drops you right by your car. All you have to do is remember which lot you parked in. You can be like me and forget where you left your car since you are so excited to ski in the morning. I am often seen walking through the parking lot at the end of the day, clicking my door opener and listening for a sound.  Works like a charm.

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When I was a kid, my father worked in Washington D.C., so my family went to the Smithsonian all the time. Seeing the Star Spangled Banner, the Hope Diamond, and the Bill of Rights was a regular occurrence for me – I thought all kids were “Smithsonian museum rats.”  I really didn’t know how good I had it back then.

Now as an adult, having the opportunity to ski at Deer Valley, I am spoiled once again and so are you. Isn’t it wonderful?

Family Fun on the NASTAR Course at Deer Valley Resort

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I know a thing or two about competitive fire. Living with an Olympic ski racer in Park City, Utah my kids are growing up on the slopes. I definitely feel like a fish out of water at the start of the NASTAR course, but I love it anyway!

Just picture it: I’m standing at the top of the race course, eyes focused on the first gate and occasionally at the tough competition to my right. I know this girl well. She loves speed and she knows how to work her skis like she is straight off the World Cup circuit. It runs in her family; well at least half of her family. Let’s face it, my almost eight-year-old daughter is better than I am on skis. But I am addicted to the competition. It’s the speed, intensity, terrain, and of course, the final gate and the finish that keep me coming back. NASTAR is ski racing at its amateur best!

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Every time I squeeze my size 11 foot into my ski boot, I grimace, and then I smile thinking of making my way to the NASTAR course at Deer Valley Resort. It’s a family affair for us, which is one of the reasons I love it so much. The kids and I can’t wait to get out there and compete. We love being able to measure our improvement and of course just the adrenaline of the race. Of course, we are usually just competing against each other but there is still so much fun in that. Skye and I will joke saying, “You’re goin’ down, circus clown!” And while I try my hardest, she beats me every time. I probably ask my husband how I can get faster about 20 times every run. Mr. three-time Olympic skier just chuckles, knowing that speed is actually NOT my friend and replies, “We can get you there. You gotta get out of the gate faster.” And I’m fairly certain my face lights up at the prospect, and my brain in pure Jim Carey from Dumb and Dumber style says, ”So you’re sayin’ I have a chance!”

My kids LOVE the medals. And don’t get me wrong, I’m fond of my NASTAR silver too, but my true motivation is that desire to just shave a second, or even one-hundredths of a second off my time. It’s scary and exciting and it takes me back to my days in the pool, working on being my personal best. I have such appreciation for the best skiers and their abilities, and it’s fun to PRETEND to be one for 25 seconds. Plus, they announce your name!

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So if you’re wondering what I’m talking about, the NA-tional STA-ndard Race, or NASTAR was started in 1968 by Ski Magazine to allow your average recreational skier (like me) to compete against friends and family regardless of when and where they race. You can find a course at over 115 resorts across the country and measure yourself against the best, your little bother, or in my case my son and daughter. There is a pace setter that establishes the course time at each course, and the timing and medals are based off of that. Our course setter at Deer Valley Resort is Heidi Volker. I know her as an Olympian and mom. I asked her a few NASTAR questions that I would like to share.

Summer: Why NASTAR? Why do so many people like it and what does it let you compare?

Heidi: People love NASTAR courses because it allows you to compare yourself to the best in ski racing like, Ted Ligety and AJ Kitt. Ted is racing on the World Cup so AJ Kitt is the national pacesetter and travels around to handicap racecourses. Racing always get you hooked.

Summer: How can a family use NASTAR for fun and growth in their skiing?

Heidi: Families can use NASTAR to compete against each other for bragging rights. This creates healthy and fun competition for your family.

Summer: Does it teach kids the skills of racing and/or more?

Heidi: NASTAR does teach the basics of ski racing. The courses are about a fourth of the regular length of World Cup races.

Take Home Deer Valley Turkey Chili

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“Can I have the recipe?”

That’s what my friend said when I dropped off a container of my “take home and make at home” Deer Valley Turkey Chili for her.  The package was enough for 10 people so I wrapped up some for my friend and left it on her doorstep for her family to enjoy.

“We can go one step further than that!  The mix is available at Deer Valley Grocery~Café,” I responded.

Many visitors to Deer Valley Resort look forward to the turkey chili just as much as they enjoy the skiing!  Being new to skiing, I didn’t really know about this tradition until I overheard several different groups of people on the chairlifts talking about how much they were looking forward to it!  Once I tried the turkey chili at Silver Lake Lodge, I knew why.

Since my husband had shoulder surgery, he wasn’t able to get up to the resort so I decided to surprise him with a special treat. I brought the chili to him. Though I am not a very good cook, (I readily admit defeat in this area), even I was able to make the world famous turkey chili with the help of the special take home spice pack kit!

Here’s how it went:

Beans were soaked overnight and rinsed.

A few ingredients were purchased at the store and chopped up in (relatively) even pieces.

Browned the turkey, boiled some chicken broth on the stove, added the spices and the ingredients, simmered for a half hour or so and served.  Even Nancy Anderson was able to do it!

You can pick up your Take Home Turkey Chili packages at  Deer Valley Grocery~Café.

After you try it, let us know if yours was as tasty as ours!


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Wendy Chioji’s Deer Valley Difference

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Wendy is a Deer Valley Mountain Host, two-time cancer survivor, speaker and athlete for the Livestrong Foundation. She summited Kilimanjaro with the Livestrong Survivor Summit, this past February.

JF: What did you do before joining Deer Valley Resort?

Wendy: I was in television news; for twenty years. I was a newscaster in Orlando, Florida, and I decided this was no longer what I wanted to do, it wasn’t fulfilling my passion anymore. So I moved to Park City to work at my friend’s bicycle shop. I first did some coaching for indoor cycling, some triathlon training and then three years ago I was lucky enough to get the job of Mountain Host at Deer Valley Resort.

JF: What attracted you to that job and what were you expecting from it?

Wendy: Let me first say that Mountain Host is a very hard job to get. When I interviewed for it, I was told that it was the best job in Park City but also the most difficult to land because no one ever leaves it! I took it because it was putting two of my passions together; meeting and communicating with people as well as skiing.

JF: Were your expectations met?

Wendy: I expected to be able to meet a lot of really fun, really cool people, as guests and colleagues, and my expectations have been far surpassed! I work with some of the most creative, funny, smart people that I’ve ever met, and I’ve met really great guests on the mountain as well.

JF: What have you learned from that position?

Wendy: I’m a shotgun thinker; I think kind of all over the map at the same time, but in this job, you have to be logical and sequential in giving tours, in helping in emergencies or even in telling people how to get to the Trail’s End Lodge when you’re standing in front of a map. This experience has taught me to be much more efficient and streamlined in my thinking. Yes, it has added a lot to my life skills!

JF: Was the learning curve challenging?

Wendy: Even though I had skied Deer Valley for years, I didn’t know all the names of the runs and lifts. This, alone, is very intimidating; so the first thing I did was try to memorize where everything was. It was a crash course in directions and everybody who knows me, is aware that I have a very limited sense of directions, so this actually is another great take-away that I received from Deer Valley!

JF: Were there any staff members that helped you along the way to build your skills and knowledge as a Mountain Host?

Wendy: All my supervisors were incredibly helpful and accessible all the time, always answering my phone calls and texts whenever I needed help. The Ski Patrol folks were also incredibly wonderful, friendly and always happy to help. I have actually never ran into a single person that wasn’t happy and ready to help in Deer Valley!

JF: What would you say to someone looking for a position at Deer Valley; what would it take to be a happy employee?

Wendy: I think you have to passionate about the job; you must really love people and love skiing, you have to be energetic, outgoing, just love the outdoors and above all, be authentic. You cannot fake it and work here!

JF: In your own words, how would you describe the “Deer Valley Difference?”

Wendy: To me the Deer Valley Difference is being authentic; the people who work here make a huge difference for the guests because they love it and want them to love it too. Because I think the carrot cake at Deer Valley is the best one on the planet I want everybody to try it. So the Deer Valley Difference is being authentic and it’s so easy to communicate that passion when you love the resort as much as we all do.

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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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Deer Valley Resort to Host U.S. Freestyle Championships

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association has announced Deer Valley Resort as the site for the 2014 USANA U.S. Freestyle Championships held Friday, March 28, through Sunday, March 30, 2014. Deer Valley’s World Cup venue will host U.S. athletes coming together for the final event of the 2013-2014 season to battle it out for the title of U.S. Champion. The Championship event, originally scheduled to take place at Heavenly Valley, CA, will include moguls, dual moguls and aerials.

“Deer Valley® is pleased to be able to step in and host the U.S. Freestyle Championships for our partners at the U.S. Ski Team,” said Bob Wheaton, president and general manager for Deer Valley Resort. “We are excited to showcase the athletes right on the heels of the 2014 Winter Games and offer our guests a chance to see them compete live.”

Leading the team for the championship event in moguls are Deer Valley sponsored athletes, 2010 bronze medalist Bryon Wilson and his brother, 2014 Olympian Brad Wilson (both of Butte, MT). Two-time Olympian Ashley Caldwell (Ashburn, VA) will lead the aerials team, along with Olympian Mac Bohonnon (Madison, CT), who finished fifth in Sochi. Deer Valley Resort is one of the world’s most renowned freestyle venues, having played host to the World Championships twice and is a perennial stop on the FIS Freestyle World Cup tour.“Deer Valley is the preeminent venue worldwide in freestyle skiing and will provide the platform for a great conclusion to the Olympic season,” said Calum Clark, vice president, events for USSA.

 2014 USANA U.S. Freestyle Championships Schedule 

  • Men’s and women’s moguls qualifications and finals will take place Friday, March 28 from 9:55 a.m. to 3:50 p.m. 
  • Men’s and women’s aerials qualifications and finals will be held Saturday, March 29  from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Men’s and women’s dual moguls finals will finish the event on Sunday, March 30 from 11:40 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. .
 All events during the 2014 USANA U.S. Freestyle Championships are spectator-friendly and free to the public. A complete schedule of events can be found on Deer Valley’s website.

Nastar Magic

One fine Monday, I found myself out skiing with my kids. Or, dare I say, out-skied by my kids.  I’m pretty fast, when I want to be, but on this day, I felt like I was skiing in  molasses. This, friends, is not to say the snow conditions were not perfect. They were. Therein lay part of the problem. So lovely was the snow, so bluebird the day, my kids were zooming around the hill like Mario Andretti on a country road—or at least how I imagine a racecar driver would take a country road.

None of this, by the way, is said by way of complaint. It is a point of pride that my kids engage with this sport, and love it as much as their parents do. And, I’m telling you, this is the year our family ski days turned a corner (if I’m to drag that racecar metaphor out for another go-round). No longer are we enduring endless laps on Wide West. Gone are the days of one-run-and-done. Our family can take a trip down nearly any intermediate run without hesitation.

So, when we took some laps off of Flagstaff Mountain, and then Bald Mountain, I was in my glory. Except for the fact that they were moving so quickly (sometimes in a little tuck), that I was in constant “worried mother” mode. It wasn’t that I needed to ski fast to keep up, it was that it was nearly impossible to “hover and sweep” to protect them from other skiers who may not expect pint-sized Speed Racers, however well-skilled they may be.

As I chased them down Birdseye ski run, delighted by their enthusiasm for the run, I wondered, “What if I could channel this energy, this need for speed?”

Would it shock you to learn that my boys were, ahem, ahead of me?

“Mom! Look! It’s the Nastar Course! May we race, please?”

What if, indeed.

I raced NASTAR as a kid—it’s a grass-roots public recreational ski race program. The largest in the world, as a matter of fact. And I remember the thrill of coming down the course off the “Triple Chair” run at Pico, and hearing my name called. My kids have run the Deer Valley Nastar course before, along with courses at other resorts, but they wanted to show off for me.

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This, friends, was a boon. A boon, I tell you. Not only did they do laps on this course, but I got to do a couple of quick runs down Little Reb ski run, solo, to wait for them at the bottom. Fewer more lovely words were ever spoken, at least on that day, than “Wait for them at the bottom.” Here, they could ski fast, to their hearts’ content, and I could simply enjoy watching them. No other skiers on the course, except my cute boys. Even the announcer got in on the game, “Here’s Lance and Seth, and their Mom at the bottom taking pictures for future Facebook posts,” he called out on the first run.

The fun thing is, we got to ski together before and after each run. Because, of course, one boy earned a medal, and we had to go to the top of the course to collect it. Then, the other wanted to try for a medal, and then they both earned medals, and we had to go back up to the top of the course and collect them. So, we’d ski down McHenry ski run to the Wasatch chairlift, ride it up, ski Birdseye or Nabob ski runs down to the top of the course, and repeat the process. Finally, after three races, I called the Costanza Rule, and declared it time to find our way to the car. “You can race more for Daddy this weekend,” I said, explaining that we’d be back as a foursome in a few short days.

And then, we were off to Little Stick ski run, and I was back on Mommy Patrol. Hilariously, there were several skiers on the trail who identified my plight. “You just have to hope,” one woman said, helpfully, as she watched me attempt to keep my kids safe. “Wow! They are great!” said another couple, navigating the bottle neck at the bottom of the first section of Little Stick. “Thanks!” I shouted over my shoulder. “You should see them race!”