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Lessons We Learned This Season.

Divas at Snowmass

Divas at Snowmass

Skiing is a lot like life: You never stop learning. No matter how many years you’ve been at it, each day brings its own set of challenges, its own set of lessons. Recently the women on TheSkiDiva talked about some of the things they’ve learned this past season. So listen up, class, and take a lesson from the Divas:

  • Snow addiction is real. Powder fever is, too.
  • The more I try not to buy anything new, the more I inevitably end up buying.
  • I can’t say no to a good deal.
  • Trusty backcountry buddies are hard to find.
  • Telemarking is not as hard as I thought it would be.
  • Sit skiing is way harder than I thought it would be.
  • Confidence is the best friend for ski improvements.
  • Falling off a double black head first for 400 vertical meters destroys said confidence.
  • Always respect the mountain.
  • Marathon training and ski season do not mix.
  • Pilates and yoga are great supplements to skiing.
  • A ski resort is like a snow globe – a small bubble community. Once in a while, someone shakes the snow globe and there’s more powder.
  • Ski resorts are a mecca for flu, viruses, and food poisoning.
  • Bullying and sexual harassment still exist on and off the slopes.
  • All snow offers opportunities for learning, so boot up and make the most of it, even when it’s cornstarch-over-ice.
  • Stay relaxed when skiing on ice. I used to tense up and it made me more unsteady on ice patches. Now that I relax I handle them much better.
  • Proper pole length and usage are important and can have a major effect – both good or bad – on your skiing.  It’s impossible to get forward when your poles are too long.
  • Sometimes life gets in the way of skiing and that’s sad; accepting that takes some work. It made me appreciate the days that I got to ski even more.
  • A good instructor will push you just beyond your level of comfort to help you learn something new without making you terrified. When I achieved open parallel turns this season on some of the steeper green terrain at a new-to-me hill, it felt like a whole different world opened up.
  • A compassionate instructor can understand why a new skier may be fearful, and helps you get over that fear and keep anxiety at bay so you can continue to progress and experience the joys skiing.
  • Articulating what you want to get out of your lesson is essential for maximizing your skill development. I come prepared with an index card and a brief bullet list that I keep in my jacket pocket.
  • With control comes speed, and sometimes, with speed comes control.
  • Making more challenging terrain shallower and easier terrain steeper helps build confidence.
  • Even if you had what you think is a bad ski day, you’ve still learned something. If you walk to your car on two feet with all your body parts intact, whatever went wrong that day is fixable. The mountain will still be there to welcome you back.
  • Do apres. Whether it’s a beer for you or a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies with your sweetie, do apres.
  • Ski Divas are a great source of advice.


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Here’s to the Ski Moms!

IMG_3758Remembering our moms is important. They give us life, bring us up, and then bravely, inevitably, let us go. But this Mother’s Day, let’s give a special shout-out to the Ski Moms. After all, it’s the Ski Moms who make sure everyone has the hats, goggles, ski pants, boots, etc. they need on the slopes. Who dress and undress the kids. Assemble the lunches. Haul the equipment. Harbor a secret stash of tissues/sun block/chap stick/energy bars for that unavoidable emergency. Accomodate multiple bathroom breaks and all the dressing and undressing that goes with them. Provide encouraging words after a fall. Drive to and from the mountain. Attend ski races. Wipe noses. Wipe tears. Administer first aid. Put on and remove boots/jackets/gloves/helmets. Make sure nothing gets left behind. Arrange ski lessons. Make sure the kids wear helmets.

For all you do, ski moms, for all your unwavering love, devotion, and support — we salute you!

And to my own mom, who doesn’t ski and never did, here’s to you, too. Thanks for supporting my skiing when I was a kid, and for continuing to support it — without ever asking ‘why’ — now that I’m grown.

Here I am with my mom, and hey! I'm not in ski clothes!

Here I am with my mom, and hey! I’m not in ski clothes!

Happy Mother’s Day!

 



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Should Lindsey Vonn Race Against Men?

Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn

Really, it’s not up to us. This is something for the International Ski Federation (FIS) to decide. Still, it’s an interesting discussion that’s been going on for a while – at least since 2012, when Lindsey raised the idea of competing against the men at Lake Louise. At the time, the FIS rejected her request, saying “one gender is not entitled to participate in races of the other” and that “exceptions will not be made to the FIS Rule.”

But Lindsey Vonn is no ordinary racer. We’re talking about one of the best ski racers ever, and the winningest female ski racer in history. She’s racked up 77 World Cup wins, two world championship golds, two Olympic medals — including downhill gold at the 2010 Games in Vancouver — and four World Cup overall titles.

This month, US Alpine director Patrick Riml says he’s going to push for rules alterations at the FIS meetings to possibly give Vonn and other female skiers that opportunity down the road.

Is this something that’s going to break down gender barriers, or give women a benefit they didn’t have before?

Not really. The purpose here is not to change the face of World Cup racing in any way. Women would still race in women’s competitions, men in men’s. That’s how it should be. The physical differences between men and women don’t lend themselves to a level field of competition. What’s more, men’s courses are longer than women’s. And yes, there are differences in equipment, too.

According to Lindsey, racing against men is just a personal goal; something she’s always wanted to do. In an interview with the Denver Post (January 16, 2017), Vonn said, “I train with the men all the time and I really enjoy it. They push me to be a better skier. I always find myself skiing my best when I’m skiing against them. I talk to them, I pick their brain, I see what they’re doing and I, in turn, ski faster. So I would like the opportunity to race against them and see where I stand.”

She continued, “I know I’m not going to win, but I would like to at least have the opportunity to try. I think I’ve won enough World Cups where I should have enough respect within the industry to be able to have that opportunity.”

Nonetheless, if it happens, it’s going to generate a ton of interest. And that’s not  a bad thing.

Over the past few years, ski racing has seen a marked decline in TV viewership. This race could change that. After all, Lindsey Vonn isn’t just a star on the ski circuit. She’s someone who’s crossed over into the culture at large. You see her on red carpets, TV shows, and magazine covers. People — and by that I mean non-skiers — know who she is. Which means people who don’t ordinarily watch may find themselves tuning in

Then there’s the whole ‘battle of the sexes’ thing. Way back in the 1970’s, for example, tennis star Billie Jean King took on Bobby Riggs in a TV ratings bonanza that gave the sport a huge boost. Sure, it’s partly theater. But it’s theater that lends itself to ratings gold. And if that helps raise awareness for skiing — and respect for women’s skiing — then I’m all for it.

So should it happen?

Why not? It’d certainly be exciting to watch. And if Lindsey wins, I can’t say I won’t feel a measure of pride for women skiers everywhere. Sure, Lindsey is way above a mere mortal like me. But in a race like this, she’s a stand-in for all of us. So go, Lindsey, go!

If you want to think about women breaking gender barriers in skiing, think about these women, instead:

Jeanne Thoren:  The first person in the ski industry to realize that women were not just miniature men and maybe, just maybe, we needed gear engineered to suit us.

Suzy Chaffee: A three-time world freestyle skiing champion, and the first female member of the US Olympic team board of directors. But I think her most far-ranging achievement is her work as a champion of Title IX legislation. Suzy was instrumental in convincing federal lawmakers to enact the statute that guarantees equal opportunities for men and women in federally funded sports and education programs.

Lynsey Dyer: A phenomenal world-class skier who was named Powder Magazine’s Skier of the Year, Lynsey is also the founder of  SheJumps.org, an organization dedicated to encouraging  women to  participate in outdoor activities. But that’s not all: Fed up with the fact that only 14% of the athletes in major ski films are female when women make up around 40% of the skiing population, Lynsey took it upon herself to produce Pretty Faces, an all-female ski movie

Lindsey Van: In 2009, she became the first World Champion in women’s ski jumping after winning the first World Championships to allow women to compete. She also holds the North American women’s record with a jump of 171 meters. Before the Olympic Games in 2010, she held the hill record for both men and women in Vancouver. More importantly, her continued efforts not only helped put women’s ski jumping on the map, but helped put it into the 2014 Olympics.

Pam Murphy: There still aren’t a lot of women in the upper echelons of ski area management, but the first to break the snow ceiling was Pam Murphy. Starting in the ticket office at Mammoth Mountain in 1973, Pam rose through the ranks to vice president of marketing and sales and in 1998, became Mammoth’s general manager — the first female GM for a major ski resort in the country.

Angel Collinson: Angel is kind of the ‘it’ girl of skiing right now. But not without cause. Angel was the first woman to win the Best Line at the Powder Awards, creating what the Ski Journal called “the burliest—and most entertaining—female film segment of all time.”

Jen Gurecki: What do we do when we’re unhappy with the women’s skis out there? Here’s what Jen did: she stepped up and created Coalition Snow, the first ever woman-owned ski company — not an easy task in an industry that’s dominated by men.

There’s no doubt there are a lot of inspiring women in the ski world; these are only a few. And yes, Lindsey Vonn is definitely among them. But is her race a triumph for women in skiing? Not necessarily. Does she continue to inspire young women in skiing today? Yes. And that’s what really counts.

 

 

 



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Farewell to Wendy

Wendy Cram

Wendy Cram (photo ©Hubert Schreibl)

No, not me. Another Wendy. A Wendy who’s a ski legend and bona fide piece of US ski history.

Wendall Cram, otherwise known as Wendy, passed away this past weekend at the age of 97 at his home in Manchester, Vermont.

Maybe I feel a connection with Wendy because his name is the same as mine. And because he lived in Vermont. And because he loved to both ski and bike (so many similarities!). But truly, he was one of a kind.

Wendy was present at the creation of lift-served skiing in the United States. He was one of the first skiers to get hauled up Gilbert’s Hill in Woodstock, VT, where the first rope tow was installed in 1934. He went on to become a member of the 1940 US Olympic Team, although the Olympics were cancelled due to World War II (his Olympic sweater hangs in the Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum). Instead, he joined the 10th Mountain Division in Camp Hale, Colorado, and ended up as an instructor in this elite force. Because of a serious back injury, however, he was never deployed to fight in Europe. (For more about the 10th, see my blog post here.)

After the war, Wendy became an instructor at the glamorous Sun Valley Resort, where he taught his share of movie stars and struck up a friendship with Warren Miller, who was then living in an unheated trailer next door. He still raced, winning the Diamond Sun downhill at Sun Valley, a course with no control gates or padding on the lift towers or trees. He then moved back east and opened a ski shop in Manchester, VT, which he ran with his wife, Annie, until the late 70’s. And for more than fifty years, he worked as an instructor at Stratton.

I met Wendy a few years ago when he was tooling around Manchester on his specially built tricycle. He loved biking, and told me he’d take 60 or 70 mile rides during the week, 30 milers on the weekend. Here I am with Wendy and his bike:

Two Wendy's:  Me and Wendy Cram

Two Wendy’s: Me and Wendy Cram

Manchester even named a bike path after him:

Sign for Wendy's Way Bike Path, Manchester, VT

Sign for Wendy’s Way Bike Path, Manchester, VT

If there’s a ski paradise, you can be sure that Wendy is there right now, happily laying down tracks in some heavenly powder.  RIP, Wendy.



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Rest In Peace: EpicSki is Shutting Down.

UnknownPut on a black armband, light a candle, hang the black crepe: the internet ski world is in mourning.

EpicSki, the biggest ski community on the web, announced they’d be going offline on April 27*. And yes, it is indeed a tragic loss.

Since 1999, Epic has been the go-to source for ski information and fellowship. Whatever you wanted to know about skiing, you could pretty much find it on EpicSki. In fact, it helped inspire me to start TheSkiDiva.com more than ten years ago.

The loss to the internet ski world can not be overstated.

So why is it disappearing? Vail Resorts, which bought the site a few years ago, is pulling the plug. Word on the street is is that the site was using a software platform known as Huddler that could only run on Huddler’s own hosting platform, and Huddler is shutting down. The trouble, they say, is that there’s no easy way to migrate the forums to another more mainstream forum product.

To me, this makes no sense. Vail has very deep pockets, and I’m sure they’ve known this was coming for a while. I’ve long contended that Vail bought EpicSki for the url and name (Epic is the name for Vail’s pass products) as well as for its members list. Maybe it served its purpose, and they’re done with it now. Who knows.

But regardless of what’s really going on, a lot of amazing content will be permanently lost. It’s sort of like someone set fire to the biggest ski library on the planet, and then decided to block the roads so the fire department can’t get through. (I understand this on a deep level, since the oldest of the discussions at TheSkiDiva.com still get accessed regularly by visitors seeking info.)

EpicSki had a ton of members, and I’m sure many of them are a complete loss as to what to do now. Online communities share a lot of similarities with those in the real world. You meet people and develop relationships. You use it as place to gather, learn things, and exchange ideas.

But even though Epic is gone, take heart: There are many other ski communities on the web — maybe not as large as Epic, but certainly places to get your ski fix and connect with others who share your passion.

TheSkiDiva.com stands alone among them as a women’s only ski forum. We’re a fun, supportive community where women can come together to talk about everything and anything ski-related in a non-testosterone charged environment. I started the community ten years ago because I didn’t think the major ski communities gave women the respect and attention they deserved. We were marginalized, treated as an interesting side-line. Just an afterthought on the slopes.

That’s not the case at TheSkiDiva. Women’s skiing,  women’s gear, and women’s concerns are front and center. Today, the site has more than 5,000 members from all over the world, and is respected as the leading online community for women skiers. We develop relationships on and offline. We take trips together. We share one another’s joys and sorrows. In short, we’ve become a community in the real sense. And yes, that makes a difference.

So if you’re a casualty of the Epic blowup and are looking for a new online home, please, stop by and check us out.

And don’t worry. We’re not going anywhere.

 

*Editor’s Note [April 27]: The deadline has been extended til May 12.

 

 

 

 



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Is Consolidation Good or Bad for the Ski Industry?

Unknown-1In recent weeks, the ski world has been rocked by a number of acquisitions: Vail bought Stowe, and then Aspen and KSL Capital Partners formed a partnership that led to the purchase of Intrawest resorts, followed by Mammoth, June, Bear, and Snow Summit.

UnknownConsolidations are nothing new, though they seem to be getting more and more common. Let’s take a look at the biggest, so you understand who owns what (keep in mind, though, that things could change any moment):

Vail Resorts owns Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone in Colorado; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada; Park City and Canyons in Utah; Afton Alps in Minnesota; Mt. Brighton in Michigan; and Stowe in Vermont.

Aspen-KSL Capital Partners owns Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, Winter Park, and Steamboat in Colorado; Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley, and Mammoth in California; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Blue Mountain in Ontario; Mont Tremblant in Quebec; and Stratton in Vermont.

On the smaller side, there’s Peak Resorts, which owns Alpine Valley, Mad River Mountain, and Boston Mills/Brandywine in Ohio; Attitash, Wildcat, and Crotched in New Hampshire; Hunter Mountain in New York; Jack Frost and Big Boulder in Pennsylvania; Mount Snow in Vermont; Hidden Valley and Snow Creek in Missouri; and Paoli Peaks in  Indiana.

And let’s not forget Boyne Resorts, which owns Big Sky in Montana; Boyne Highlands and Boyne Mountain Resort in Michigan; and Crystal and Summit at Snoqualmie in Washington. Boyne also has long term operating agreements with —but does not own — Brighton in Utah, Cypress Mountain in British Columbia, Loon in New Hampshire, and Sugarloaf and Sunday River in Maine.

Skiing on Aspen Mountain, Aspen, Colorado

Skiing on Aspen Mountain, Aspen, Colorado

So is this good? Is it bad? And what does it mean for skiers?

Depends by what you mean by good and bad. After all, it’s a matter of perspective.

For skiers,  it may mean lower lift prices — at least for now. For example, let’s look at what’s been happening in Vermont. Days after Vail bought Stowe, Killington slashed the price on adult season passes by several hundred dollars, to $899. Sugarbush dropped the price of its early-bird adult season pass from $1,149 to $799, extended discounts to skiers up to age 40, and announced that it would join the Mountain Collective network for the first time. And Stowe became part of Vail’s multi-resort Epic Pass, which means skiers will pay less than half of the $1,860 Stowe charged for its adult pass rate this season.

There are other benefits, too. Ski areas are capital intensive, and the deep pockets of large corporations can mean greater investments in things like lifts, snowmaking, grooming, on-site amenities, and so on. It might even mean better salaries for resort employees, which can help attract top tier people to its resorts. And it can mean investments in more and better non-skiing activities, which are essential in turning the resorts into four-season destinations — which is critical for their survival in the face of climate change. What’s more, a growing roster of mountains under multi-resort passes, like the Epic pass  or the Mountain Collective Pass, gives skiers greater access to some of the best skiing in the world. Nothing wrong with that.

But still, I’m conflicted. I’m always a little nervous when one company gets too big in any particular industry, and I’m afraid this is what we’re seeing here. Sure, Aspen-KSL and Vail are doing well now. But a bad year could cause problems not just at the Mother Ship, but at all their resorts, across the board. What’s more — and this applies to Vail, a publicly traded company — there’s a responsibility to shareholders to continually improve its bottom line. And this doesn’t always engender practices that are to customers’ liking. For example, If Vail decides to increase its lift prices, a lot of people at a lot of mountains are screwed. The competitive incentive is gone. And that’s not good.

For the acquired resorts, there’s the issue of having a remote corporate overlord. Will decisions have to be approved by someone hundreds of miles away? Everything from expansion plans to the color of ski school jackets may now have to through a number of corporate layers. Will pay for employees go down, instead of up? Will issues that affect the community get the consideration they deserve? And will the acquired resorts become more and more homogenized, so they bear more resemblance to one another and lose the characteristics that once made them so unique? Finally, will the emphasis become less on skiing and more on real estate development, retail, and off-slope amenities?

I’m also worried about the tremendous influence these large companies have in the ski world. Whatever Vail or Aspen does — good or bad — can have a profound effect. If Vail offers a particular amenity, for example, a lot of other resorts are going to feel pressure to do the same, whether it makes sense or not.

Which leads me to the following: all this makes it increasingly difficult for smaller ski areas to survive. What’s the incentive for a skier to go to a smaller, independent resort, if they can purchase an Epic pass and have access to multiple resorts for the same amount they’d spend for one? And with Vail and Aspen having such deep pockets for investment, how can a smaller area compete? Before you shake your head and say, well, that’s the market at work, survival of the fittest and all, consider this: Since the 1980’s, roughly 33% of US ski areas have gone out of business and up to 150 more are considered threatened by industry experts. Sure, there are a lot of factors that have caused this to happen. Many of these places were smaller Mom and Pop hills. And though they had limited lifts and trails, they also nurtured beginner skiers and served as feeder hills for resorts like Vail. What’s more, they offered something larger resorts generally lack: a measure of character and community involvement that goes to the heart of what skiing is all about.

Are there ways for smaller areas to stay competitive with the consolidated resorts? Not many. In recent years, the ski industry has seen little to no growth, so skiers who go to one resort tend to take  business away from someplace else. In short, one resort tends to cannabilize another. For example, Vail sold about 50,000 season passes less than a decade ago. Now the number is closer to 550,000. These skiers are choosing Vail over some other resort. And while it’s great for Vail, it’s not so great for wherever it is they’re not going. One organization that’s trying to help smaller areas compete is Mountain Riders Alliance. MRA is involved in forging partnerships with community ski areas to help them become sustainable, community-oriented playgrounds that focus more on skiing than on real-estate development. I interviewed Jamie Schectman, one of MRA’s co-founders, here.  He has an interesting perspective that’s worth checking out.

So what does the future hold?

Don’t expect to see many changes for ’17/’18. The Intrawest resorts will honor current passes for next season, including the Rocky Mountain Super Pass and the MAX pass. And according to Mike Kaplan, Aspen Skiing’s president and CEO, there are no immediate plans to change lift ticket prices or amenities at any of the acquired resorts.

Longer term, things could get interesting. But it certainly makes you wonder who’s next in the acquisition line-up. Jackson Hole? Crested Butte? Telluride? Sun Valley? Will Aspen-KSL and Vail make further inroads into the East? And what about the smaller groups, like Powdr or Boyne? If Intrawest can be acquired, can one of these be purchased, too? Will we eventually be left with just two ski companies?

One thing’s a pretty safe bet: We haven’t seen the end of this trend. Stay tuned for more…….

 



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Announcing TheSkiDiva’s Best of the Year: Our 2017 Mountain Top Picks

It’s the season for awards. This past weekend the US Ski Hall of Fame inducted its Class of 2016, which included three women: Ellen Post Foster, Marion Post Caldwell, and Gretchen Rous Besser (for more about them and the other inductees, go here). Congratulations, one and all.

MTP-2017But that’s not the only award that’s being handed out right now. Because at TheSkiDiva, we’ve come up with our Mountain Top Picks — our selections of the best of the best in skiing for the past year. Sure, there’s no fancy-dancy ceremony, no gold statuette, and no certificate with ornate Latin script. And no, you won’t see any celebrities posing on a red carpet with paparazzi taking pics. Instead, our winners just get the satisfaction of knowing they’re a favorite of all of us at TheSkiDiva.com — which by itself, is pretty darn cool. And yes, they can even use the logo here, if they want. S’okay.

So now, for your reading pleasure, here are TheSkiDiva.com’s Mountain Top Picks for 2017:

[Drum roll here]

Ski Gear
Favorite ski for groomers: Volkl Kenja
Favorite ski for deep snow: Nordica Santa Ana
Favorite all mountain ski: Blizzard Black Pearl
Favorite ski boot brand: Lange
Favorite Ski Goggle: Smith IO/S*
Favorite Helmet Brand: Smith Vanage

H16-VAMBLGMIPS

Favorite Helmet Brand: Smith Vantage Helmet

Ski Apparel
Favorite Brand of Baselayers:  Smartwool
Favorite Brand of Socks: Smartwool*
Favorite Jacket Brand: The North Face
Favorite Brand of Ski Pants: Arc’teryx*

Favorite Base Layer: Smartwool

Smartwool Base Layer

Ski Resorts
Favorite Eastern Resort: Sugarbush
Favorite Western Resort: Mammoth
Favorite Resort, eastern Canada: Mont Tremblant*
Favorite Resort, western Canada: Whistler-Blackcomb*
Favorite European Resort: St. Anton
Favorite Women’s Clinic: Okemo Mountain Resort
Favorite Kids Program: Smugglers Notch

Favorite Eastern Resort: Sugarbush

Sugarbush

*Second win in a row! For a list of our 2015 Mountain Top Picks, go here.

Congratulations to all!



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How To Survive Spring Skiing.

I always welcome spring with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I love the warmer weather, the longer days, and the soft, carvable snow. On the other, spring signals the winding down of ski season. And to me, that’s a big deal. Skiing is more than just a sport to me. It’s a passion. And watching it disappear for 6-plus months is a pretty bitter pill to swallow.

Really, I have nothing to complain about. It’s been a great season. We’ve had a nice amount of snow here in New England, and as of today, I’ve had 75 ski days, with hopefully, more to come. I’ve skied at 14 different mountains (including a private ski area), attended a women’s clinic, and been to Diva West, Diva East, and our new this year Diva Mid-Atlantic. And even though my ski days are dwindling down, it’s important to remember that ski season will come again. Of that I have no doubt.

But in the meantime, let’s live in the moment and enjoy what we have left.

Me at Okemo, April 13, 2015

Skiing at Okemo, April 13, 2015

Spring skiing is a completely different animal from skiing in say, early season or mid-winter conditions. And though I’m not an expert,  there are a few things I’ve learned over time about skiing this time of year:

1) Wear sunscreen: The sun is higher in the sky than it’s been all winter. So even if you haven’t dipped into the tube of SPF 30 yet, now’s a good time. After all, researchers have discovered that even a little tan isn’t healthy. More than 2.5 million cancers in 3 million people are diagnosed  annually. If you want the look of a goggle tan, try some make-up, instead.

2) Wax your skis: You know that grabby snow that can bring your skis to a stop, while your body continues to travel? Not good. A coat of warm weather wax will fix that right up. Carry some rub-on in your pocket, too, for touch-ups on the mountain.

3) Dress accordingly: Layers are a good idea. It may start out pretty cold and warm up quite a bit, so you may want to peel as the day goes on. Also, no matter how warm it gets, do not wear short sleeves or shorts. Why? If you fall, you’re gonna pay big time. Falling on snow is like falling on sand. The ice crystals will scrape your skin raw, plus you’ll get very, very wet. So protect your skin, stay dry, and wear a shell.

4) Timing is everything: If the temps are still dropping below freezing at night, you might want to start your ski day a little bit later than usual. This is practically sacrilege coming from me; I’m always out when the lifts start running. But if you want to avoid rock hard ice, stay in and have another cup of coffee. Then follow the sun around the mountain. Ski the south and east-facing slopes in the morning and the north and west-facing slopes in the afternoon, so you can catch the snow as it softens up. Conversely, if you don’t get an overnight freeze, get out there as early as you can so you can ski before the snow turns  into a gloppy, sticky mess.

5) Softer and wider is better: Set aside your narrow waisted carving skis and go for something wider. Powder skis have a bigger surface area that lets them to surf over the heavy stuff  without getting bogged down.  They also have a softer flex, which allows them to bend more, so you don’t have to steer as much.

6) Ski it like you mean it: Keep a balanced, even weight on each foot. Also, steer lightly by tipping the skis on edge ever so slightly to turn. To put it simply, slow moves, long turns. Let the tails follow the tips, and don’t twist your feet too much. Commit to the fall line and don’t spend too much time shopping for good stuff.

7) Enjoy! A lot of people end their ski season when they no longer see snow in their own backyard. This is good for those of us who stick it out. The mountain is a lot less crowded. Quieter. Just the way I like it.

So what’s your spring skiing tip?



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Which Multi-Resort Season Pass Should You Choose?

Getting a season pass used to be fairly simple. You decided which mountain you’d ski the most, handed over your credit card, and that was that. Easy peasy.

Lately it’s become a lot more complicated. Ski resorts have teamed up to offer joint passes that are good at multiple locations. On the upside, these can save you a lot of money. With daily lift passes at many resorts well above $100., the pay-off comes pretty fast. The catch is figuring out which pass is best for you. You pretty much have to 1)  decide on next year’s ski plans a year in advance and 2) have a ph.d in Math, like my son-in-law, to figure out which one makes most financial sense.

So here’s a limited compilation about what’s out there.

In the West:

listingRocky Mountain Super Pass: Unlimited skiing at Winter Park, Copper Mountain and Eldora with six days at Steamboat and three days at Crested Butte Mountain Resort.  You also get 7 days at four resorts in Japan and two in New Zealand. The price is $529. for adults, through April 11. That’s up from $499 for 2016-17. And for a second year in a row the Rocky Mountain Super Pass provides a free kids pass (12 and younger) with the purchase of an adult pass.

epic-pass-logo2(1)Epic Pass: Click on the Epic Pass link, and you’ll find 13 varieties of this pass. Here are four of the more popular:

The Epic Pass: For $859., you get unlimited skiing at 11 major resorts, including Colorado’s Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin, as well as 30 European resorts across Austria, France, Italy, and Switzerland.  You also get six Buddy Tickets if you buy before April 9, and six Ski-With-A-Friend tickets at varying discounts, which are automatically loaded onto your pass.

The Epic Local Pass, offers unlimited, unrestricted skiing or riding at Breckenridge, Keystone, Wilmot, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton and Arapahoe Basin with limited restrictions at Park City, Heavenly, Northstar & Kirkwood. Also includes a total of 10 days at Vail, Beaver Creek and Whistler Blackcomb with holiday restrictions. $639. for adults, with lower prices for teens, college students, and children. In addition to six buddy tickets (if you buy before April 9) and six Ski-With-A-Friend tickets, you get:

• Half-price pass holder tickets available during restricted dates at Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood;
• Advanced lift ticket rate available during restricted dates at Vail and Beaver Creek and beyond 10 days;
• Unlimited access to Vail and Beaver Creek in April 2018 available to pass holders who purchased their 2017-2018 passes before 5/29/17;
• 2017 Summer Scenic Access.

The Summit Local Pass, Unlimited skiing or riding at Keystone and Arapahoe Basin with limited restrictions at Breckenridge. Same side benefits as above. $529. for adults.

The Tahoe Local Pass, Unlimited skiing or riding at Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood 7 days a week, with limited holiday restrictions. Saturdays included at all resorts. It also includes 5 total restricted days at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Park City or Arapahoe Basin.

PA-Logo-Stacked-v2-895x217Powder Alliance:  Buy an anytime season pass to any of 15 areas and receive three free days at all the rest. Powder Alliance Resorts include Angel Fire, Arizona Snow Bowl, Bridger Bowl, China Peak, Crested Butte, Kiroro, Mountain High, Mount Hood, Schweitzer, Silver Bowl, Sierra at Tahoe, Snowbasin, Stevens, Timberline, Whitewater, Wild West Powder Quest.

d5bbb8e18cf3c3cd310bb2d137955221Mountain Collective Pass:  The MCP gives you two days at a wide range of ski resorts (and for a limited time, three days at the mountain of your choice). New for ’17/’18,  Utah’s Snowbasin and Vermont’s Sugarbush, which replace the Vail-incorporated Whistler and Stowe. The collection of independent ski areas includes Aspen-Snowmass, Alta, Banff Sunshine, Jackson Hole, Snowbasin, Snowbird, Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows, Sugarbush, Sun Valley, Taos, Telluride; in Canada, Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise, Revelstoke;, and in the Southern Hemisphere, Thredbo and Coronet Peak-The Remarkables. This year the Mountain Collective splits Alta and Snowbird into two resorts, offering two days at each and offers the same deal at Canada’s Banff Sunshine and Lake Louise ski areas. The price: $399. For a limited time, you can get $1 passes for kids 12 and younger with the purchase of an adult pass.

Ski Utah Silver and Gold Passes: These are a bit costly, but if that’s what you want, who am I to judge? The Ski Utah Silver Pass allows the holder to ski for 30 days at each of 14 Utah ski resorts (30 days at Alta, 30 days at Deer Valley, 30 days at Sundance, etc.), except for Park City, where it’s valid for 60 days of skiing. The price? $3,150 The Ski Utah Gold Pass offers 50 days of skiing at each Utah resort, except for Park City, where it’s valid for 100 days; however, the pass is also fully transferable pass so your friends and family can enjoy your same privileges on the days you’re not using the pass. A cool $4,800.

The Gold Tahoe Super Pass: Worried about buying a season pass and not using it? Here’s one with a  worry-free guarantee. The Gold Tahoe Super Pass gives credits for unused days that can be put towards the following season. Skiers get unlimited access to Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, plus 2 free days at Zermatt, Switzerland, and unlimited 50% discounts on lift tickets at Mountain Collective resorts. But if you’re unable to ski at least five days during the upcoming season for any reason (not just poor conditions) on your 2017-18 Tahoe Super Pass, they’ll credit you up to 4 days towards your 2018-19 pass when you purchase a Gold or Silver pass. $869. til April 18.

california-cali4nia-ski-passCali4nia Pass: One pass covers Mammoth, Bear, June, and Snow Summit. There’s a host of benefits when you buy early, including 5 exclusive Early Up events at Mammoth, 5 Bring-A-Friend tickets, 10% off rentals, 10% off retail when you spend more than $100., and up to 20% off lodging at Mammoth Lodging Collection properties. $749. through April 3.

In the East:

 Ski Roundtop/Liberty Mountain/Whitetail Pass: Includes unlimited access to Ski Roundtop, Liberty Mountain, Whitetail Resorts. You also get 30 minutes early lift access Thursday through Sunday, preferred parking at Roundtop on weekends and holidays until 5PM,  50% off regular class lessons, two snow tubing tickets valid Monday through Thursday non-holiday, one free Learn to Ski or Board Package for a friend, special hotel rates at the Liberty Hotel, 15% discount in the sports shops, and 50% off midweek/non peak tickets at Mountains of Distinction resorts. $469. for adults.

superpassWhite Mountain Superpass: Valid every day of the 2017/18 winter season at Bretton Woods, Cannon, Cranmore and Waterville Valley. $979. before May 31.

 

 

NEPass_logo-bw-180New England Pass: Includes unlimited access to Sunday River, Loon, and Sugarloaf. $1,099. before April 30.

 

 

PeakPassPeak Explorer Pass: Unlimited days at Mount Snow, Attitash, Wildcat, Crotched, Hunter, Jack Frost and Big Boulder, along with discounts on retail, lodgings and activities. $599. until April 30.

 

UnknownFour.0 College Pass: This is for the full-time college student who wants unrestricted access to Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Killington and Pico at a price that fits a student’s budget. Includes resort-specific benefits. $369. through August 31.

logoVermont Travel Club Card: Get varying discounts at 11 Vermont ski resorts plus Sunday River. Individual cards are $54., Family cards (up to 5 members) are $179.

 

East & West, Combined

MAX_Pass_Logo_highresThe MAX Pass: The MAX pass advertises five days each at 44 mountains with zero blackout dates. You can find the full list here; this year their new offerings include Belleayre Mountain, Gore Mountain, Granite Peak, Lutsen Resort, Whiteface Mountain, and Windham Mountain. You can buy the pass outright for $629. through May 1. But if you have a season pass at one of the 44 mountains, you can buy a MAX pass add-on for just $329. The web site has a handy calculator that tells you the savings you’ll get by using the MAX Pass.

Mountain Playground Card: I don’t have a price on this one yet, but this year, the $29. card got you great deals at a variety of smaller, community-oriented ski hills. You also got deals with brand partners, and helped benefit SheJumps, a non-profit geared toward increasing the participation of women and girls in outdoor activities. More details on the ’17/’18 season to come in the Fall. To find out more, go here.



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Skiing at a Private Resort: The Hermitage Club, Wilmington, VT

Have you ever wished you had your own private ski hill?

Yep, me, too.

If you’re a member of the Hermitage Club in southern Vermont, this is very nearly a reality.

logo-hc2Located just down the road from Mount Snow, the Hermitage Club is like a private golf club, but for skiing. You pay an upfront amount — in this case, $85,000 — plus a recurring fee each year. Use of the facilities is limited strictly to members and their guests, and membership is now capped at 1,500 — so you’re virtually assured that even when they’re standing on long lift lines over at Mount Snow, you’ll never find the trace of a lift line here.

I recently spent a day at the Hermitage Club, and was blown away. It’s pretty much a New England skier’s fantasy: great skiing, impeccable facilities, and amazing service — all with no crowds, even during the busiest weekends and holidays.

Things weren’t always rosy at the Hermitage Club, at least before it was the Hermitage Club. Built on the site of the former Haystack Mountain Ski Area, the property once belonged to Mount Snow, and then to the now defunct American Ski Company. It then changed hands a few times, even sitting idle for a period, before being bought by its current owner, Jim Barnes, in 2011. It was that close to joining the roster of lost New England ski areas.

Today, the Hermitage Club is the only private ski club in the East. The 3,200′ mountain features 1,400 vertical feet, 46 trails, and 6 lifts. One of these lifts is a high speed bubble with heated seats, a godsend on the cold day I visited last week, when the wind chill was well below zero.

Here’s a view of the Clubhouse and bubble lift:

Lodge

Hermitage Club Lodge & Bubble Lift, photo by Peter Hines

And here’s the Clubhouse’s main entrance:

Main entrance, photo by Peter Hines

Main entrance, photo by Peter Hines

At 90,000 square feet, the Clubhouse is the largest post-and-beam structure east of the Mississippi. You can’t help but be impressed by the huge vaulted ceiling. And there’s enough room to hold a party in the massive stone fireplace.

The Fireplace

The Fireplace

Lodge Interior, photo by Peter Hines.

Lodge Interior, photo by Peter Hines.

But there’s more here than just a gorgeous clubhouse. Here are some of the amenities that Club members enjoy:

Sweeeeet skiing. True, this isn’t the gnarliest terrain around. But it’s impeccably groomed, has a snowmaking system that covers 90% of the mountain, and provides the feeling of having a whole ski resort just about to yourself. All this translates into a lot of fun.

trail-map2016final

Lots of food choices.  The Hermitage isn’t huge, but it has six restaurants. Which means you have a multiple options. During the Sunday that I visited, there was a buffet brunch in the Clubhouse featuring everything from omelets to sushi to shrimp, oysters, pork chops — you name it, it was there. And it was all really, really good. Here’s my lunch:

Not your ordinary ski lunch.

Not your ordinary ski lunch.

One of the restaurants is located in the Mid Mountain Cabin. You can eat lunch while looking out over the beautiful Deerfield Valley.

mmc-snow

Mid Mountain Cabin

Outstanding service. You know how the genie from Alladin’s lamp says, ‘Your wish is my command?‘ That’s pretty much what it’s like here. You get your skis valeted when you pull up to the Clubhouse, so you don’t have to exert yourself before skiing. They’ll store them for you all winter, and they’ll valet your car, too. There are lots of staff at work here, and they’re committed to making you happy. They’re all terribly polite, friendly, and service oriented.

The Clubhouse: Okay, I know I spent a lot of time talking about this already. But this is not your ordinary ski lodge. It has a bowling alley and a movie theater, private lockers for members and guest lockers for guests, a fitness center, an indoor sauna and lap pool, daycare, and a kids’ arcade.

Spa-ahhhhhh. The Clubhouse also features a spa with 14 treatment rooms where you can get everything from facials to skin treatments to massage. The spa also has private men’s and women’s locker rooms, steam rooms and showers, and a large relaxation room with daybeds and a waterfall. I couldn’t pass up a massage and a facial as my aprés ski, and I practically floated home.

The Serenity Room in the Hermitage Spa

The Serenity Room in the Hermitage Spa

Other activities. If you don’t like to ski, you have other options, too, such as cross country skiing, ice skating, sleigh rides, snow tubing, bonfires, and snowshoeing. And because this is a four-season resort, members have access to year-round recreational activities, as well. In the summer, you can tee up on an 18-hole, Desmond Muirhead-designed championship golf course. Or go fly fishing, swimming, hiking, or more.

Private Concerts: This is for real. They bring in acts like Hall and Oates, Jackson Browne, Huey Lewis, and Counting Crows to perform just for members. You get big names in a pretty small venue. Nice.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?
The Hermitage Club is a New England skier’s dream come true, but the price tag puts it out of reach for most people. If you have the bucks and the inclination, it’s a pretty nice way to go. If you can’t handle the fees and still want to ski there, you can — but only if you stay at one of the inns owned by the Club. It’s worth checking out.



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