Commit to your turns…Pedal…Smooth and round…Remember, we’re the boss of our skis -- they’re not the boss of us!
The drills became my mantra as I skied follow-the-leader style behind Britta Nesbit, one of Deer Valley Resort’s top-flight instructors in its popular Women’s Ski Clinic who has been teaching skiing at Deer Valley in Park City, Utah, over 20 years. Soon, I was negotiating smoother turns with less hesitation and a lot more confidence.
Conditions on the mountain can change at any time, explained Nesbit. “But if you have confidence in your turns, you can handle most anything.”
Since 1993, female instructors in the three-day Women’s Ski Clinic -- conducted twice each winter -- have helped women improve their downhill techniques in a friendly and supportive environment. Whether you’re keen on skiing the trees or the moguls, if your turns need fine tuning, or if you just want to ski with similarly skilled sisters, you’ll finish the long weekend a better skier than when you arrived.
I had missed both clinics last season, so I booked a private three-hour lesson to get a sneak peek into how such a course could boost my intermediate skills.
I was hooked. If I improved this much in three hours, imagine what three days could do.
Participants in the clinics – or “guests” as visitors to Deer Valley are called -- should be at least high-beginner or intermediate level, said Nesbit. Groups of four to six ensure personal attention and while classes are intense, it’s all about having fun while learning.
And fun I had working on my turns.
“Lean forward,” Nesbit called out. “…Don’t sit in the back seat of the car!”
With knees slightly bent and my belly button hovering above the tips of my boots, I pedaled like riding a bicycle, not herky-jerky.
Keeping both skis on the ground I put pressure on the outer ski to start my turn around the “top of the sun.” Then I put pressure on the opposite ski to round the sun again aiming for a rhythmic traverse down the mountain.
“How are your legs feeling?” Nesbit asked me before we dived down another run. Never gave them thought, I had realized. Usually on the first day of skiing, my thigh muscles “burn.”
The pedaling technique was working, she commended.
“You’re staying centered, leaning forward, and not putting undue pressure on your upper muscles.”
I practically jumped for joy.
I got kudos, too, for maintaining a straight forward-facing posture and keeping my poles positioned in front of me.
We hockey-stopped in front of a tiny hut -- the Video Shack. Here, groups analyze videos that instructors take of each charge as she skies.
“Guests learn so much more,” said Nesbit, “… when they can see their ski form.”
With the mountain her classroom (Deer Valley has 2,026 skiable acres), Nesbit rotates guests so that each can ski directly behind her to hear instruction and to follow good technique.
Three hours passed too quickly, but the breakthroughs I’d made are imbedded in my ski legs forever. But had I been in the full clinic, I’d be celebrating, with the group, our well-earned stripes at the wrap-up finale.
Learning about not only the Women’s Ski Clinic, but also the extraordinary story of this mountain, sealed the deal for me.
Who knew Deer Valley was the brainchild of New Orleans-raised hotelier-television pioneer-real estate developer-and renaissance man Edgar Stern Jr. back in 1981?
Stern had the out-of-the-box idea to design a mountain resort that would offer skiers the amenities of a first-class hotel with luxury lodging and fine dining. Outstanding customer service would be its hallmark -- Visitors are “guests.” Personnel are attentive and friendly. Ski valet, day and overnight ski storage, and shuttle service are complimentary.
And like the grand hotels of yore, such hospitality (many employees have worked here more than 20 years) brings generations of families back to Deer Valley year after year.
Crowded lift lines and runs are non-existent at Deer Valley, one of the last three remaining ski-only mountains in the United States. That’s because lift tickets sales are limited to only 7,500 a day. Indeed, an ideal “classroom.”
Skiers have big appetites and hearty gastronomy at the end of the day is a necessity – and the other half of ski season’s highlights.
Synonymous with Deer Valley is Seafood Buffet – an institution here that has operated almost as long as the resort has existed. Open only in winter and much sexier than it sounds, Seafood Buffet is the extraordinary transformation of the main lodge’s day-time cafeteria into a fine dining experience by night.
My husband and I entered the rustic dining room where uniformed staff graciously welcomed us for the glorious feast ahead. Like a changing movie set, the lighting had dimmed, candle-lit tables were set, fireplaces crackled, and the morning coffee station became a fully-stocked cocktail bar with award-winning bartender Bonnie Ulmer at the helm.
The room’s centerpiece was the four-sided station showcasing succulent Opilio and King crab legs, White Shrimp, housesmoked Verlasso salmon, pickled herring, artisanal cheeses, and more.
My taste buds went wild as I roamed the other stations -- a cornucopia of the highest quality sustainably-sourced offerings, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free fare – from Niman Ranch St. Louis pork ribs and Sterling Silver roast prime rib to Littleneck clams, PEI mussels and the Poke Bar’s Big Eye Hawaiian Tuna flown in daily from Honolulu.
“Shellfish, salmon, prime rib, pork ribs and poke are guest favorites – and the standards at Seafood Buffet,” said Chef Ryan Estel, the menu’s passionate, out-of-the-box creator. The rest of the exciting dishes is a nightly surprise because Chef Ryan never makes the same dish twice.
On my next visit to Deer Valley, I will hit the slopes by way of the Women’s Ski Clinic where I will challenge myself to be the best intermediate skier I can be.
And when the chairlifts close, I’ll be famished. But I won’t wander far from the main lodge. I’ll store my skis downstairs, powder my nose -- and switch my tight ski pants for my favorite spandex jeans.
WHEN YOU GO:
For more information about Deer Valley’s Women’s Ski Clinic, Seafood Buffet, lodging and other activities, visit www.deervalley.com
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