(Winthrop, MA, February 3, 2013) We will soon join everyone in the United States watching the Super Bowl, but first, here are some memories in photographs of our great week in Park City, Utah.
(Winthrop, MA, January 31, 2013) Lifelong learning isn’t always about the history of a place, or the culture of the people we visit. Sometimes it’s something so basic, and so much fun, as getting outside and playing in the snow – no matter what kind of skier you are. Our fellow participants were people of all abilities; some were here to conquer moguls; others were happy rookies learning the basics every day.
No matter. We all had a blast. And we all learned a lot. We learned how welcoming and wonderful a ski-in, ski-out program can be. Waking up in a trailside condo, heading downstairs to breakfast, and then putting on our boots and skis for a morning on the slopes, might be the only way to ski. And every day, this experience was available to all, from those who came for double-diamond thrills on a Winter Olympics mountain to others who were just starting out.
Ski University “graduate students” found twice-a-day, advanced work on their skills with demanding instructors. Other participants happily mixed three afternoon lessons with the many other pleasures of Park City. “Something for everyone” isn’t a phrase that gets much respect when it comes to business strategy, but it says here that it makes for a terrific winter vacation.
The Sundance Film Festival. Ski lessons for people of all abilities. A behind-the-scenes look at mountain rescue techniques. A walking ghost tour along Main Street in Park City. A farewell evening punctuated by a Cowboy Poet. And, through it all, the great pleasure of dining with fellow participants before and after exhilarating runs down one of the best ski resorts anywhere. Maybe best of all, the anticipation of doing it all again tomorrow.
We close this edition of the Mogul with two messages: one of sincere thanks to Gary and Sandy Nielsen for hosting one of the best weeks many of us have spent in a long time; and secondly, an invitation to anyone who has never been on this program to sign up for the next one.
We don’t always learn with our heads. Sometimes we learn with our ankles, shoulders, and even our “uphill little toe.” But learn we did, with the great gusto that makes everyone want to come back for more.
(Park City, Utah, January 24, 2013) We awoke to a snowy morning, which meant only one thing to avid skiers – fresh powder! Being the polite Road Scholars that we are, no one wolfed down breakfast or rushed to line up before the lifts opened, but you could sense the enthusiasm for getting outside.
But because this is Park City and Sundance Week, there was at least one compelling alternative, and several of us opted for some of the early offerings in the Egyptian Theater, the Library, or any of the other venues where movies started as early as 8 am. Needless to say, by 9 am, there wasn’t anyone left in the lodge.
Grace Voss and Craig Moyer were generous enough to ride the lifts with us. The snow added magic to the trailside scenery, including the green spruces and white aspens that line the slopes. But it also sparked the imagination as it fell on old mining structures the resort has left standing, softening them, and reminding us of the people who lived here a century ago.
What must it have been like to climb this mountain only to work underground? When did the miners start to ski? And which of them was first to think about building a ski resort when the mines began to fail?
Thinking about history at the top of a ski lift inevitably gives way to other questions – which trail to ride next, or how to take Park City’s intricate web of chair lifts to a new corner of its 3,300 acres of winter fun. Riding lifts whose tops were hidden in snow only added to the anticipation, and the fun, of this amazing program.
No wonder why so many people come back year after year.
(Park City, Utah, January 23, 2013) Like every day this week, we’re certainly getting our fill of the ski slopes at Park City. But today’s schedule also included two additional activities to add some learning beyond lifting your uphill ski, or keeping your hands in front of you.
This morning, we took four lifts to the Summit Patrol Station to meet Rangers David Weiss, Bert Pacal, and Stella the Avalanche Rescue Dog. They demonstrated mountain rescue technology, from the kind that has four paws and a wet nose to state-of-the-art beacons and sensors.
Stella showed her skills at retrieving buried sweaters, followed by the tug-of-war with Bert she enjoys as her reward. But it’s not all fun and games – Stella and Bert were involved in a rescue operation a few weeks ago.
After lunch, we adjourned to the mountain’s many chair lifts for another in our continuing small group lessons. But a few of us opted for a short ride into town for the Sundance Film Festival, to see movies or maybe movie stars during Park City’s best week of the year. It’s a tough choice to make; either is an excellent option.
We added to today’s fun when twenty-six of us rode into town for a Ghost Tour Gary and Sandy had arranged for us. Before our guide arrived, a local television news crew used us for one of their glamor shots to open their evening coverage of the film festival. The least the Mogul could do was return the favor.
And then it was off on the tour, visiting actual buildings where Park City’s legendary ghosts appear in a variety of their own starring roles, including floating torsos, icy cold disembodied lips, or reasons for tenants to abandon rented apartments in record time. It was a great way to see Park City, and to share stories with each other while we did.
One of tonight’s favorites was from Zlata Kovak, who grew up in Croatia. Her father was the Chief Engineer for the Orient Express for decades, including all of World War II, and its last years of steam. She remembers climbing into the great steam locomotive to bring him a piece of bread every day before he left for work.
All this, and we’re only three days into our program. With the forecast of fresh snow tomorrow morning, we’re all anticipating another great day.
(Park City, Utah, January 21, 2013) This morning, after breakfast, twenty-seven Road Scholars skied out the door and onto Park City Mountain Resort for the first day of skiing, and – in the case of those on the Ski University Program – the first day of lessons. We spent the morning with instructor Howard Gravel and the five most advanced skiers in our group, and the afternoon with Jim Wilson and his two students. While they are all great on four edges, as they like to say, they are also some of the funniest and most welcoming people you’ll ever meet.
A sample of our lifelong learning lessons of the day included how to “pedal” down the mountain, which shoulder to drop and when, skiing on the balls of your feet – and to always keep your belly button facing downhill. Howard summed it up this way, “If your body tells you to do something it absolutely believes you have to do to survive, do the opposite.”
Park City has several historic silver mine structures on the sides of its slopes, but today we saw them as different kinds of landmarks. This afternoon, Jim told us to practice turning without poles down the hill until we came to the old ore chute on the right. It was that kind of a day – one focused on learning and improving our skills on skis.
And it was a blast. Old friends teased each other about techniques that would make anyone proud. Rookies like yours truly were encouraged to have fun practicing movements that seemed “wrong” at first. Face plants were few, but they were celebrated with laughs and endless remembrances of similar moments from participants and instructors alike.
We ended the day with runs down slopes that seemed impossible just hours before, feeling more like the skiers we want to be, putting together at least half a dozen new tips into a new kind of downhill grace. The new combination of speed and control felt terrific. Or, as Howard put it, “Skiing is a thinking person’s game. That’s why I love teaching it to Road Scholars.”
(Park City, Utah, January 20, 2013) We arrived in Salt Lake City the night before our “Park City Mountain: Ski-In, Ski-Out” program began, just in time to enjoy a winter sunset as we pondered what would be most memorable for the next week: the skiing, learning about Park City and its history, or the people we will meet. By the middle of this afternoon, we know there’s much to anticipate in all three areas.
2013 is the 50th anniversary of Treasure Mountain Ski Resort, opened by miners to save the town after the silver industry collapsed in the 1950s. Now Park City Mountain Ski Resort, it’s one of the world’s premier ski and snowboard destinations. Those miners knew what they were doing.
This year is also the 101st anniversary of the discovery of silver in these mountains in 1862. Colonel Patrick Connor and his men were stationed here, and prospecting seemed like a good way to stay busy. Those soldiers knew what they were doing as well; the mines produced $400 million in silver and 23 millionaires in their day. And there are still 1,000 miles of tunnels beneath the slopes we’ll ski. We’ll even take a tour of the mountain’s mining history – on skis. Now that’s a learning adventure!
Our Road Scholar program leaders, Gary and Sandy Nielsen, have a full slate of activities ready for us, including ski lessons, tickets to some of this year’s Sundance Film Festival movies, and even a “ghost tour” of Park City highlighting, as Gary puts it, “some of the colorful characters who met untimely ends here.” In their introductions, they noted that so far, participants on their programs have produced many returning Road Scholars, dozens of new friendships, and even three marriages.
It all sounds like a great reason to get up early tomorrow for breakfast and a ride up the lifts. They say that some of the lifts were once aerial trams used for hauling ore. Here’s hoping the rust is history.