Notes from the Southwest Corner: Good times; bad news

Published in The Lebanon Democrat Tuesday, March 3, 2015.

PARK CITY, UTAH – Weather is claiming more attention than usual across the country.

While most of the country has been inundated with snow, ice, and cold, the Southwest corner has been validating a reason for my living there.

Of more immediacy, lack of snow in the Sierras, the Rockies, and in particular, the Wasatch Range here in Utah, the normal abundance of the white stuff has been missing.

The Sierras have been especially hard hit. Skiing at Tahoe has been questionable all season. As for our favorite skiing area, Deer Valley, we have watched the “snow reports” with concern. A 48-inch base equals the lowest I can remember since we began skiing here in 1988.

But no longer.

Yesterday as our shuttle ascended to this old silver mining town from Salt Lake City’s airport, the driver continued to claim skiing was just fine. We remained sceptical. Then flurries began to spatter against the windshield wipers and fell until we went to bed.

deer valley-1By the time Alan Hicks, my Vanderbilt buddy of many adventures; his daughter Eleanor, a San Francisco attorney about to launch a new adventure as part of the Google team; Maureen; and I arrived at the Deer Valley resort on Sunday morning, recent snowfall totaled 11 inches and was predicted almost continuously for at least the next three days. Our concern turned from there not being enough snow to worrying about white-outs.

But our first ski day, at least the first half was rewarding…except for our equipment. Before we hit the slopes, Maureen’s skis and boots fell apart. When we stopped for lunch, I discovered the bottom of my boot heels had disintegrated. When you read this, we will be skiing on rented skis.

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Back in September, I wrote of the magic of our first non-winter visit to Park City. It was a discovery we hope to revisit as we played golf and admired the beauty of the yellow gold of the aspens and the autumn landscape of the Wasatch without any interference from crowds. The town was almost vacant.

Now in the high season, Main Street and all of the resorts are jumping. People are everywhere. Dining must be made in well in advance of arrival at the best restaurants and even the hamburger joints are full to the gills. It is a wonderful but expensive vacation. Yet in our opinion, well worth it.

We have been coming here for the majority of winters since 1988. We bought a timeshare condominium in 1987. While there is some financial advice attempting to dissuade timeshare purchases, our timeshare has been well worth it. We bought it before we knew we would like skiing because we felt it would require us to take at least one vacation annually for ourselves. That has worked out beautifully.

Alan and Eleanor agreed that Deer Valley is one of the nicest places to ski in the world. The resort has storage for skis and boots allowing us to avoid hauling the awkward loads back and forth. The food at the lodges well placed throughout the slopes is plentiful, unique, and delicious. the service is world class quality. The only real work involved is the skiing, and that is a pleasure on what the resort claims with some justification as the best groomed slopes in the world.

Try it. I think you will like it.

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My delight on this trip, however, includes some sadness with a tinge of hope. News of Bobby Gwynn’s fall on the recent icy conditions in Lebanon has not been good. Complications from the broken hip he suffered and the following surgery have left Bobby in UMC fighting for recovery.

Bobby is one of my enduring ties to Castle Heights. I visited with him in almost every  return to Lebanon. His first date was with my sister Martha, also her first date. They were in the first grade. Bobby took her to a movie at the Capitol Theater. I was the chaperone.

Bobby’s father Stroud was my head football coach and also my general science teacher at Heights. Stroud remains one of the more influential men in my upbringing. He was a major driver to keep Castle Heights alive, crossing the country to raise funds before the military academy closed its doors in 1987.

Some of my enjoyment of this ski trip has been held in check as I await more news on Bobby’s condition.

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A Pocket of Resistance: Snow and me

The snow fell and fell and fell…

Adapting to rented skis and new boots proved more of a challenge than predicted. Nearly everyone claimed such a transition would be smooth and skiing itself, because of technological advances, would be easier. i found this not to be true. In spades.

Parts of my body were barking at me after our first run. A boot change didn’t help. The next runs were physical tests. After lunch, i knew i was done for the day. The run back down to Snow Park Lodge proved it. About half-way through, my skis flew out from under me, and i slid to a stop. Getting up without losing my skis was more than difficult. Finally, my three ski mates decided to help, and Eleanor, the youngest literally gave me hand to get up. i arrived at the base chagrin and disappointed.

However, the breakfast at Deer Valley (Huevos Rancheros) had been incredible. Our lunch at Stag Lodge was unique (a bacon and cheese sandwich after a shared appetizer was just right. The evening capped it off with dining at Blind Dog, one of our favorite restaurants here since it opened in 1991. Since then, it has moved twice. Friends have knocked the latest move, and although the intimacy of the first small location is gone, the food (venison, beef, and pork meatloaf after artichoke and crab cake appetizers) remains splendid.

We finished the evening watching “Hidalgo,” a favorite movie of mine. In spite of my travails, the day, especially with the company i keep, was a major success.

Alan Hicks, goofy old guy, Maureen, and Eleanor Hicks at Blind Dog.

Alan Hicks, goofy old guy, Maureen, and Eleanor Hicks at Blind Dog.

Now we prepare for our last day of skiing before heading to the slopes again and:

Snow falling, falling, falling.

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A Pocket of Resistance: jewell ski curse and snow

Skiing was wonderful yesterday except for the curse of Jewell following us around. When i opened the double ski bag this morning before our shuttle to Deer Valley, a small rectangular piece of plastic with a metal screw fell out. We found it to be part of the bindings on Maureen’s skis. When we arrived at Deer Valley, we then found the plastic strap on one of her boots had broken. After consultation with the resort ski experts, we rented skis for her.

stein eriksen lodgeThe morning was beautiful skiing. A light snow fell most of the time. Alan Hicks, my Vandy adventure mate, and his daughter Eleanor, a delightful attorney who will begin her work with Google in a few weeks, enjoyed the resort’s runs. We were treated to lunch at Stein Ericson’s Lodge by Eleanor’s friends, who were coincidentally skiing when we were. It was a good geographic spread: San Francisco; San Diego; Maine; Mexico City; and, of course; Lebanon, Tennessee.

However as i removed my skis to enter the lodge, i noticed black particles of plastic falling off in the snow. After some investigation and consulting with the “ski mechanic” in the lodge, we determined the heel bottoms of my ski boots had disintegrated. Essentially, i was skiing on hobnail boots. The mechanic advised me to ski carefully to the lift a short distance downhill and head back to the Deer Valley base.

i did as advised (a change for me), rented skis and boots for the duration and ended my day of skiing.

Today promises more adventure as heavier snow is predicted on the slopes.

It is a lovely time.

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