Meet some of Park City’s finest: a trails advocate, a cheerleader for breast cancer patients, and the Frog Lady.
Photographs: Dan Campbell
Frog Lady - Paula Trater
Depending on whom you ask, Kamas resident Paula Trater goes by many names. Second-grade students know her as Jump Rope Lady. High school students remember her as Frog Lady. Her two children, ages 7 and 12, address her as Mom—a title that also now describes her role as the caretaker of two orphaned dairy goats. To everyone else, she’s the Paula who doesn’t need a last name.
Growing up, the native Coloradan spent plenty of time in the Rocky Mountains, but she was lured to Park City in her 20s to try something new. “A friend who lived here told me, ‘If you don’t get a job, come out and work at Deer Valley and live as a ski bum for a season,’” she recalls.
Now, 25 years later, Trater is celebrating her quarter-century tenure as a server at Deer Valley Resort’s Seafood Buffet, surrounded by longtime coworkers who are more like family than friends. “We’re all so happy to see each other every year. Sometimes, I feel like I have it too easy.”
When her telemark skis are stashed away for the season, Trater sloshes through the banks of the Provo River, where she counts frog eggs for the Department of Wildlife Resources’ ongoing Columbia Spotted Frog restoration project. She recruits local high school students to help her with the task, offering them a hands-on biology class in the Wasatch Mountains’ delicate ecosystem.
Trater’s enthusiasm for sharing and absorbing knowledge is unmistakable. As a volunteer guide at Swaner Nature Preserve, she helps visitors identify animal species on nature walks. At South Summit Elementary School, students learn how to count the number of their jumps in Spanish or German as they skip rope with the Jump Rope Lady. “You might as well make it educational at the same time,” she says.
And when it comes to mastering something herself, Trater doesn’t hesitate to tap into her own creativity and hone in on a new skill. “We get a ton of goat milk at home, and I hate to waste it,” she says. “So I picked up a book and learned how to make cheese.” —Stephanie Nitsch
Queen of Recovery - Donna Creighton
Donna Creighton, the unassuming 65-year-old executive director of Image Reborn, is an inspiring example of selfless volunteerism. This dedicated individual has made it her life’s mission to better the lives of others.
She speaks softly of her own bout with breast cancer. Diagnosed first in 1990 and suffering a recurrence 10 years later after moving to Park City for a job with the Olympic Committee, the pixie-like mother of two grown girls decided that part of her healing process involved sharing her experience with other breast cancer survivors. Eventually, she was nominated to the national board of directors for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, and then asked to join the Image Reborn (IR) Foundation, a Park City nonprofit that provides free retreats to women in various stages of breast cancer. “I don’t have a life outside of Image Reborn,” Creighton admits. “I travel some, ski, hike—stuff like that—but Image Reborn is my life. What we do makes a difference. And it gives me an opportunity personally to give back.”
Creighton would rather get back to work than talk about herself. While some heads of nonprofits might exude an air of entitlement, you’d often mistake this humble lady for one of the guests at IR. “They are my inspiration,” she says of the hundreds of women who have walked through the doors of donated Deer Valley retreat homes over the past 13 years. “Image Reborn gives women the opportunity to get away from their stressful lives, if only for a weekend. They’re not juggling responsibilities like they would be at home. Here, they’re totally taken care of. The only rule is not to lift a finger.”
That’s because Creighton is doing all the work. When she’s not writing grants and coordinating flight arrangements, she’s shuttling organic chefs and massage therapists or orchestrating fundraising powwows. But she says she wouldn’t have it any other way. “Really,” she explains, “this is my life. It’s so much a part of me, it’s hard to separate ‘me’ from ‘it.’” —Jill Adler
The Big Wheel - Jay Burke
When Jay Burke moved to Park City from Jackson, Wyoming, in 2000, he wasn’t so convinced that it was the place for him. “I was reluctant to come to Utah,” he recalls. “Jackson seemed like the pinnacle of mountain living. It was hard to pull me out of it.”
Luckily for his then-future wife, Hilary, a lifelong Parkite, Burke’s perception quickly changed. “I’ve fallen in love with being here,” he says. “There’s so much to offer. It’s turned out to be one of the best places I could imagine raising a family. From personal development to education, there’s so much to do.”
This mountain maven is, of course, speaking about outdoor recreation. Whether it’s skiing, biking, or fishing, Burke has been rooted in high-altitude adventure since growing up near Sun Valley, Idaho. “Mountain-town living is part of my DNA,” he says. “I love it. Always have.”
After leaving his role as marketing director at Solitude Resort and forming his own company, Snow Chicken Brand Communications, in 2009, Burke has focused his attention locally, spreading the word about Park City’s year-round trail system. As the board chairman for Basin Recreation and a member of the advisory committee at the Mountain Trails Foundation, he has played a big role in developing and connecting accessible trails for all ability levels.
He is also the brain power behind events such as the Mid-Week MTB Race Series and the Park City Point 2 Point, an 80-mile mountain bike endurance race that never crosses the same trail twice. “Nowhere else can you do that,” he boasts.
But his contributions, he acknowledges, are only a small part of the collective undertaking that has literally put Park City’s biking and hiking trails on the map. “There’s no sense in claiming that these are our trails,” Burke asserts. “The community has helped build the trails for all of us.”
For such an elaborate trail system, though, Burke says his mission is quite simple: “We have a vision to create a killer system. I want to help develop more trails in any way I can. Being a part of that really excites me right now.” —Stephanie Nitsch