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Lee Benson
Deb Lovci was named the best skiing guide by Outside Magazine.

PARK CITY — Ever since Ski Utah began offering its Interconnect tours in 1989, Deb Lovci has been guiding skiers through the backcountry to the Wasatch Mountain resorts of Deer Valley, Park City, Brighton, Solitude, Alta and Snowbird.

Which means she’s been doing it now for 26 straight years.

Which means she’s guided at least 15,000 ski tourists, eight to 12 at a time, along the same 25-mile route from Park City to Big Cottonwood Canyon to Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Year after year after year.

Which puts her way past the burnout stage, right?

Right. She’s so burned out that Outside Magazine just named her Best Skiing Guide in the world.

You can look it up in the magazine’s “Best of” April issue that is already on the newsstands ­— or at Outsideonline.com.

Out of all the ski guides, in all the mountains, in all the world, they picked her.

Deb — your basic overnight sensation 26 years in the making — is both honored and surprised by the news.

“I’m not exactly sure why they picked me,” she said last week as she sat in the kitchen of the Old Town Guest House, the bed-and-breakfast she has owned and managed in Park City for as many years as she’s been guiding the Interconnect. “I do bring a lot of enthusiasm and energy to it. You can tell it’s my passion. I love being outside ….

She kept thinking.

“… and I bring a lot of chocolate.

“Maybe that’s it!”

What she takes the most pride in, she freely concedes, is the Interconnect’s 100 percent safety record over the more than quarter-century she’s been guiding.

“I guess if I was going to pat my back on anything, it would be that,” she says.

She disabuses the notion that repeating the same route so many times is conducive to boredom or anything even close to it.

“Every group’s different, every tour’s different,” she says with such energy that an exclamation point should go at the end of each statement. “I have the greatest job on Earth, in the greatest place. You could blindfold me, spin me around in the Wasatch, and ask me ‘where are you?’ and I could probably tell you.

“I love standing on top of a peak and saying, ‘Welcome to my office.’ ”

She can’t believe she’s spent almost half her life here. She moved to Utah when she was 27, fresh off several years working as a dive instructor on cruise ships in the Caribbean. Before that, she earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise sport science at the University of Colorado in her hometown of Boulder.

“I’ve just always loved being active in sports, especially in the outdoors,” she says. She comes from a family of four brothers and a sister — “my dad was an engineer, my mom was a mom” — and first learned to ski at Lake Eldora, the resort closest to Boulder, when she was 5.

She bolted from the cruise ships — and her major — when she handpicked Park City as the town she wanted to move to in the late 1980s so she could renew her relationship with the mountains.

“I don’t mean anything against Colorado,” she says. “But what appealed to me is I could see there were less skiers, less private property, less rules in general in the backcountry.”

She bought her bed-and-breakfast — her year-round, full-time job — when it was an abandoned shack about to fall over onto Empire Avenue. She acquired a historic grant and restored the building to beyond its former luster — it once belonged to the mayor of Park City — and started advertising for clients.

About the same time, she and Ski Utah recruited each other for the brand new Interconnect tours. They saw her as one of the knowledgeable backcountry skiers they needed to consult about the feasibility of such a thing. She saw them as a way to get paid to do what she loves.

Twenty-six years later, the marriage is as rock solid as ever.

“I hope I can do this for another 25-plus years,” says Deb.

Her Academy Award speech doesn’t end there.

“Ski Utah really deserves this honor,” she says. “They’ve always been so great at doing things outside the box. And none of it happens without the tremendous people at all six resorts that are involved. Ski patrol, ski safety, the resort operators, everybody. And I gotta really thank the guides I guide with. They’re the ones who make it happen. They’re the greatest.”

Bet she gives them chocolate too.

Lee Benson's About Utah column runs Mondays.

Email: benson@deseretnews.com