Summit Stories

Ever dream of chucking it all and living the mountain-town dream? Meet three who did just that.

By Kristen Gould Case Photography by Nicole Morgenthau and Dan Campbell January 1, 2014 Published in the Winter/Spring 2014 issue of Park City Magazine

The Coach: Dar Hendrickson

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As a child at heart, Dar Hendrickson has been an inspiration to Park City kids since he moved here in 1979. After completing three years of college, Hendrickson attended a summer ski camp at Oregon’s Mount Hood, but instead of going back to school in the fall, he decided to chase the snow to Park City. After a year here racing for the Park City Ski Team (PCST), Hendrickson returned to his native Michigan, completed his degree, and attempted to enlist in the marines. “I failed the eye exam by one letter, so I couldn’t be a pilot. I never even got the buzz cut,” he recalls. That’s when he returned west to Park City, went to work for Fred Marshall Painting (where he worked for 25 years until he started his own business), and started coaching PCST’s Development Team (9- and 10-year-olds known as Devos). Twenty-seven years later, he’s still at it. “Every winter I get to turn 10 again,” Hendrickson laughs.

In addition to coaching and painting houses, this Renaissance man is also a private chef. He learned his way around the kitchen at a handful of local restaurants, including Adolph’s, where he met his wife of 24 years, KPCW News Director Leslie Thatcher. “Every catering job is about logistics,” he explains. “My head works that way. I can’t work my iPhone, but I can throw a well-orchestrated dinner party.”

In fact, operations is probably what Hendrickson is most known for. For the past 17 years he’s hosted a neighborhood “spook alley” in his backyard (“with lots of hiding places for spookers”). He puts 100 hours into the spook alley project each year, runs it for Halloween night, and then tears it all down the next day. Now that his daughter Hannah is off to college, Hendrickson says the spook alley is “not going away—the neighbor kids would kill me—but I’m downscaling. I still decorate more than the average bear, though.”

The Go-Getter: Kerry Morgan

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Kerry Morgan first took her personal mantra, “If you don’t like how something’s run, step up and offer to help,” to the masses when one of her daughters began participating in the Park City School District’s beloved, 30-year-old Friday after-school ski program for elementary students. “When I got on the bus to chaperone the kids,” she recalls, “I thought, ‘This is crazy!’ It was a little chaotic.” Morgan became the parent coordinator for Jeremy Ranch Elementary, and over the next three years she worked closely with volunteers from the other three elementary schools to create a more organized program.

Then in 2008, the Youth Winter Sports Alliance (YWSA) requested that the program be expanded. “By the next year,” Morgan explains, “we offered Nordic jumping and skiing, free-ride, and freestyle skiing at the Utah Olympic Park and White Pine Touring.” In 2009, the YWSA appointed Morgan as a paid program director of the newly dubbed Get Out and Play program. “The other volunteers thought I was crazy to take it on,” Morgan laughs, “but I did. When I was in junior high, I was inspired by a similar program. I got to go skiing just 12 times, but it completely seeded my passion for becoming a lifelong skier.”

Under Morgan’s enthusiastic guidance, the Get Out and Play program now offers 20 weeks of programming, including ice skating, to 900 participating kids, 120 of whom receive scholarships through grants from the Park City Foundation, Vail Resorts’ Echo sustainability program, and private donors. “This program reaches out to so many kids,” she continues. “Many have working parents, parents who don’t ski or snowboard, or single parents who are struggling. Get Out and Play allows kids to gain confidence and gives them a feeling of accomplishment.”

For someone whose education was in architecture, Morgan couldn’t be happier with her serendipitous calling. “I’m so lucky to live in this town and to have this position,” says the Colorado native, both of whose daughters are now avid Nordic skiers, in large part thanks to the program. “I always make sure at some point in my day to be thankful for what I have in my life.”

The Red Coat: John Miner

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One of John Miner’s first real jobs was documenting software for a lab at NASA. “One day my boss dropped dead at lunch,” Miner recalls. “He was 50. I thought to myself, ‘This is not how I want to spend my life.’”

Miner had fallen in love with skiing at age 12 when his dad bought him used skis, plastic ski boots, and a lift ticket to Alta for Christmas. So following his boss’s unfortunate demise, he left the lab, became a liftie, and eventually landed as a ski patroller at California’s Mount Waterman. “I spent 120 days on the mountain that season—I think I missed only three days to do laundry,” Miner says. “Then I jumped in my truck and drove to Utah. Park City and Deer Valley both offered me patrolling jobs, but Deer Valley said they would buy me ski pants, too, so I spent four years there.

“At the time, I made $5.35 an hour. I camped out in the woods all summer near where the Montage is now. I had lean-tos all over the mountain. I’d load up my sleeping bag, a windup alarm clock, and a can of Dinty Moore stew and sleep under the aspens. I did that from 1988 to 1993 and saved up enough money to make a down payment on a house.”

After marrying a nurse he met at Deer Valley (“I thought she was just going to be a fling, but now we’ve been married 17 years”) and working at Solitude, Utah Olympic Park, and Basin Recreation, Miner ended up at Canyons in 1997, where he is now Ski Patrol hill captain. “I realized that the patroller peer group is so important to me,” he says. “They live life to the fullest. I enjoy them.”

As for identifying the best part of living the dream, Miner doesn’t hesitate. “Our visitors are on vacation; they’re happy. That’s nice to be around,” he says. “Giving a golden hour to the doctors instead of messing around on the hill can make a big difference in people’s lives as well.” His favorite moments on the mountain include witnessing the birth of a baby moose, being on the mountaintop when the sun is rising, and throwing avalanche bombs (“You have to be careful, but you need a little bit of danger in your life for things to be exciting”).

Miner also was a mountain bike guide in Moab for 17 summers, and he has biked 4,500 miles across the United States more than once. He says he plays “a lot of guitar, mostly at Patrol parties” and enjoys “spending hours trowling ice” for a sled track he builds for common use in his Timberline neighborhood each winter—“there’s usually only a little bit of blood and a few broken arms.”

“No one knows when their time is up,” Miner attests, “so it’s always nice to plant a seed of kindness to feed the future.” 

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