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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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Clinic Review: Women’s Discovery Program, Sugarbush, VT

UnknownVermont has 20 alpine ski resorts. And though each has its own particular charm, one of my favorites is Sugarbush. Located in the Mad River Valley, a beautiful region in an especially beautiful state, Sugarbush consists of two main peaks: Lincoln Peak (3,975 elevation, 2,400 vertical) and Mount Ellen (4,083 elevation, 2,600 vertical). Between the two is Slide Brook basin, a wilderness ski area made up of 1,000 acres.

IMG_0488

Sugarbush

So what makes it so special? First, it strikes a great balance between being a skier’s mountain and a family destination. There’s plenty of expert terrain — more than 40% of the mountain is rated black diamond — but there’s enough to keep intermediates and beginners happy. Instead of the broad groomers that make one mountain pretty interchangeable from the next, Sugarbush has terrain with character. There are lots of the traditional, winding New England trails that offer a surprise around every bend. There’s plenty of tree skiing and bumps. And there are spectacular views; look one way, and the Green Mountains stretch out before you; the other, Lake Champlain. What’s more, Sugarbush has what can only be defined as a Vermont vibe. It’s as if the place was weaned on maple syrup. And yes, it makes a difference in the atmosphere.

This past week I had the pleasure of spending a few days at the mountain’s Women’s Discovery Camp. Sugarbush ran two of these this season: one over a weekend in January, and one during the week in early March.  So let’s cut to the chase: Was it good? Would I recommend it? An emphatic yes to both.

I’ve always been a strong proponent of women’s clinics. I even wrote a blog post a while back called Why a Women’s Clinic, which explains why I think they’re so worthwhile. Meredith McFarland, Sugarbush’s Director of Adult Programs, agrees. “It’s a fun, comfortable, supportive environment. The women who come love the camaraderie. It’s just different from learning in a mixed group.”

I’ve attended a few women’s clinics over the years, and I liked what I saw at Sugarbush. Maybe it’s because it has a history. Meredith told me that the clinic at Sugarbush goes back at least 25 years. Although the focus was initially more social than instructional, it evolved over the years to the shape it’s in today.

So what did I like about it?

• Great student/instructor ratio: The clinic I attended had 13 women attendees, the one in January, 20. In general, there’s a 6:1 student/instructor ratio (though my group was 4:1). Which means you get a lot of individual attention and feedback.

• First rate female instructors: Make no mistake, these women are top notch. My instructor, Lisa Segal, is an L-3 PSIA Examiner. In case you don’t now, this is as high as you can go in the instructor hierarchy. It requires a massive amount of  training and expertise. And it showed.

So does it make a difference to have all-women instructors in an all-women’s clinic? I believe it does. As Meredith McFarland said, “I think it’s easier for a female instructor to understand what a woman is asking about some sort of movement. Sure, there are men who are great at teaching women. But I think women instructors generally have better insight into what works and doesn’t work for a woman skier.”

PSIA Examiner, and my instructor, Lisa Segal.

PSIA Examiner, and my instructor, Lisa Segal.

 

• The terrain: I described Sugarbush’s terrain at the beginning of this piece, and the variety makes it perfect for a learning situation. You get to try new skills in a lot of different situations.

• Off slope learning: The first morning of the clinic, we had an address by Terry Barbour, Sugarbush’s Ski School Director. Terry discussed the importance of proper stance along with the uses of edging and turn shape, and took us through a few off-slope drills. Later that day, there was a presentation about new skis. And the next day, a talk about ski boots. So a lot of good information about stuff skiers need to know.

Ski School Director Terry Barbour explains rotation.

Ski School Director Terry Barbour explains rotation.

• Sure it’s a learning experience. But if sure feels like fun! That’s because everyone associated with it — the instructors, the staff —  did their best to make this a low pressure, highly enjoyable environment. Let’s face it: we’re not trying out for the US Ski Team. The idea behind this is to not only make you a better, more confident skier but to amp up the fun factor. And they do.

Instructors and students of the March session

Instructors and students of the March session

• Ski demos: If you want to try new skis, you can. Demoing is a great way to figure out if a particular ski is right for you before you plunk down your hard-earned cash, and Sugarbush had a variety of skis available free to clinic attendees. Usually, you have to pay to demo. So this was an added plus.

• Running gates: OMG this was so much fun! I’m not a racer, so I’ve never had the opportunity to run gates before (full disclosure: these were stubbies). But it gave you a feel for what it was like. And it helped us with our turns.

Running the stubbies.

Running the stubbies.

 

• Videotape analysis: This is pretty standard in any good clinic. Nonetheless, it’d been a loooong time since I’d been taped. And yeah, it’s an eye opener to see how you really ski, particularly when it’s slowed down for frame-by-frame examination. A good way to find out what you’re doing wrong — and right! :smile:

An instructor takes an attendee through videotape analysis.

An instructor takes an attendee through videotape analysis.

• Yoga: We had the option of starting each day with a yoga workout, something I took advantage of.  And why not? Yoga gets your body ready and engaged for skiing. Plus it’s just good for your all around health.

Don’t just take my word for it.

Here are some comments from some of the other women attending the Camp:

• What I really like about the camp is how it not only helps engender a love of skiing, but also helps foster friendships that last. This is the third one of these I’ve attended at Sugarbush. And though the chemistry of each is different, they’ve all been fantastic.

• I love the low pressure environment. Sure, I’m here to learn, but I don’t feel the anxiety that I’ve found in a mixed group. The instructors really know what they’re doing. They’re so supportive. And they make it so much fun!

• I came to improve my skiing and I found a community, and every time I come back, I refind that community.

And then there’s the hotel…..

One of the great things about doing the clinic was staying in the fabulous Clay Brook Hotel, just steps away from the lodge at the base of the mountain (can you say pampered?). Opened in December, 2006, the hotel has accommodations ranging from studios to five bedroom suites. I stayed in a one bedroom unit, which consisted of a full-sized, completely outfitted kitchen, a living room/dining area with a  gas fireplace, a bedroom with a Queen-sized canopy bed, and a bathroom featuring a huge jetted tub. It even had a washer/dryer to take care of dirty ski clothes. If you want to soak out the kinks after your day, you can relax in the hotel’s heated pool or hot tub. Or if you don’t get enough of a work out on the slopes, there’s a fitness center, too.

All my interactions with the staff were extremely pleasant. For example, check in was a snap. They valet your car, unload your gear, and take your skis and boots to the respective ski and boot valets where they’re conveniently stored until you need them again. As for check out: I wanted to ski before I left, so they even put my bags in my car, where they were waiting when my vehicle was brought around at the end of my stay.

Here’s a file photo of the hotel. I love the Vermont barn-influenced design.

Clay Brook Hotel

Clay Brook Hotel

Here’s the living room/dining area of my unit, looking toward the kitchen (you can see the door to the hallway against the wall):

Clay Brook Living Room

Clay Brook Living Room

I also highly recommend the Timbers restaurant, which is attached to the hotel. I had dinner there one night. The food is terrific, and look at this place. It’s reminiscent of the round barns you can find in the area:

Timbers Restaurant

Timbers Restaurant

It was awfully nice to relax in this place at the end of a busy ski day. Truly, I felt like I was in the lap of luxury.

Was there anything you didn’t like?

Hmmmmm……um….no.

The bottom line:

Sugarbush has a great thing going. Granted, it’s probably not for those of you who are thinking about trying out for the US Ski Team. But for the recreational skier who wants to improve their skiing, increase their confidence and have a hell of a good time, it’s definitely worth doing.

 

 

 

 



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A Chat with Rachel Pohl, where Skiing and Art Intersect

Have you ever skied in Montana? I have, and it’s amazing. We’ve had two Diva West gatherings at Big Sky (go here and here), and I’ve been there myself another time or two. The beauty of the landscape, the quality of the snow, the caliber of the terrain, all combine to create a ski experience that’s second to none.

Lone Peak at Big Sky

Lone Peak at Big Sky

So when Montana Tourism contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in talking to Montana born-and-raised Rachel Pohl, a 24 year old skier and artist who resides in Bozeman, I said of course. Rachel is a ripping skier who finds inspiration in the Montana backcountry. Her paintings use bold colors and shapes to create exciting, fanciful representations of the landscape around her.  In short, she embodies the intersection of art and skiing. And the results are quite remarkable.

Rachel Pohl

Rachel Pohl

SD: So Rachel, tell me. Are you a skier who paints or a painter who skis?
RP: I’ve been fighting a cold and an ankle injury, so I haven’t been skiing that much this year. At the same time, this has probably been my most fulfilling season ever, because my work has been taking off and more people have been connecting with it. So I guess I’d say I’m trending toward a painter who skis. For me, right now it’s more meaningful to share my vision of the world with others, and inspire them to get outside and have their own adventures and experiences.

SD: Why do you think skiing and art go together so well?
RP: To me, they’re each a pure expression of my appreciation for being alive. When I ski, I’m immersed in my environment, at peace, and in love with the world, with every snowflake, tree, and swath of blue sky. I have that same feeling when I paint; of feeling so dang excited to be alive that I can hardly contain myself. Also, both involve an expression of creativity on a blank canvas. Painting the places I ski brings everything full circle, although anything I paint echoes the feelings I have when I’m outside.

SD: I understand that a lot of your artwork is about Montana. So what is it about Montana that you find so inspiring?
RP: The landscapes I appreciate most are cliffs and rocky, craggy spires; the sort that are almost fanciful and don’t feel quite real. There’s a lot of that in Montana. We also have really unique sunsets, sunrises and alpenglow; I’ve heard a lot of people say you don’t see anything like it anywhere else. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say that color bathes the landscape in a way it doesn’t anywhere else. Plus it’s home.

SD: How do you decide what to paint? And what are you trying to capture in your art?
RP: I’m drawn to jagged peaks, but I think that’s also changing. I just really appreciate form and filling it in with color. I’m also drawn to certain subject matters and colors. Inevitably, I’ve have experiences where I’ve had no idea I was going to paint that thing or a place existed, and I get inspired and have to paint that. I’m trying to be a bit looser about my style but then a bit tighter about being deliberate with my subject matter. It’s such a dynamic process that I never really know. There’s no formula, and that’s what I really love.

Red Moonlight Sun

Red Moonlight Sun

American Fork Twins

American Fork Twins

SD: I understand you live in Bozeman. I’ve been there, and it’s a very cool town.
RP: Yeah, it has a great art scene, too. There’s something special about it; there’s a great focus on art and appreciation for the nuances of culture. It may be because we’re surrounded by so much ranch land and empty space. There’s room to be quiet there. You don’t have the pretentious attitude you’ll find in other places, which I really appreciate.

Bozeman, Montana

Bozeman, Montana

SD: What about sking in Montana? Do you have a favorite place? What is it about skiing in Montana that makes it so special?
RP: I love skiing Big Sky. I spent three years working with a mentoring program, called Big Sky Youth Empowerment there, where we ski and snowboard with “at risk” teens in the community. I haven’t done the program for a few years now, but it was a very special time in my life, devoting every Sunday to these kids (it’s an all year program actually). The program is flourishing and I encourage people to check it out at byep.org because I have seen first hand how skiing can change the lives of these kids. The program is completely free, mentors volunteer, and Big Sky generously donates tickets to the 80+ participants and 30+ mentors for every weekend for the entire season, every year. That makes it a pretty special place to me!

I also love how unpretentious Montana is, that there are still plenty of ski areas with under $50 lift tickets where people still wear jeans and wool sweaters for outerwear. It is pretty refreshing to return to the essence of the sport, especially at little resorts in Montana.

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For more about Rachel and her art, take a look at the following video. 

 

 



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How To Get The Most Out of a Lesson.

Photo from Smuggler's Notch

Photo from Smuggler’s Notch

I remember once telling a non-skiing friend that I was going to take a lesson. “Why?” she said. “Don’t you already know how to ski?”

Well, yeah, I do. And yeah, I don’t, too. Skiing is one of those things that the more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know. Which sounds kind of funny, but trust me, it’s true. There’s always so much more to learn, so many ways to improve. It’s a never-ending process.

Which is the reason I’m writing this today.

Lessons can improve your confidence and expand your options on the hill. The better you ski, the more you’ll be able to do, and to me, that means more fun. But lessons are also an investment in both time and money. So what do you do to make sure you’re getting the most out of yours? To find out, I went to one of the best resources I know — the TheSkiDiva.com — and asked the members there for their input. Here’s what they had to say:

• I think one of the important thing in a group lesson environment is to speak up. You can’t be shy about making yourself heard. In my experience, in many group lessons there is one person who tends to monopolize the instructor’s time and attention. Very good instructors will be able to diffuse this, but I have seen instances where they do nothing. In order to get what you want out of the lesson sometimes you can’t just sit back and be quiet.

• Being nice, respectful, and attentive is going to get you a better lesson than being sullen or difficult. If you don’t like what’s happening in the lesson, communicate that to the instructor – respectfully. Don’t just bitch about it to the other people in the lesson as you’re going up the lift.

• For a parent, it may be useful to provide a quick introduction for a child to a new instructor and pass on any information that might be useful. This is especially important when there’s something that’s not particularly obvious and you know your kid isn’t going to mention it. For instance, when my daughter was 6 or 7, she was already skiing black runs in the southeast, which is not that common. Since she was petite and looked a year of two younger than she was, I would try to make sure a new instructor knew something about her age and ability before the lesson started.

• If you’re a student, be sure to ask what the purpose of the exercise is if you want clarification. “Why are we working on learning pivot slips in easy terrain when I want to learn to ski bumps?” And if you’re an instructor, it might be helpful to say up front, “We are working on precise, effective pivot slips because they are an important skill you will use to steer through the bumps – and you’ll soon see why.”

• For a trip out west from the flatlands, consider the timing of a lesson. While it’s good to have a lesson early in the trip, if you know that adjusting to the high altitude takes a day or two then perhaps plan for the lesson on the second ski day. If you are not a morning person, then look for a ski destination that offers afternoon group lessons if that’s what you prefer. At Alta, it’s possible to schedule a semi-private or private for 2 hours, with the option of extending to 3 hours. That’s handy when working with a new instructor or the weather is changing the day of a pre-scheduled lesson.

• For most beginners, a highly certified (or even just Level 1 certified) instructor is not necessary, but the more specific a student wants to get, the more they are going to get out of a lesson with a higher-level certified instructor. First of all, the time, effort, and money invested in getting to level 3 (PSIA) means that persons who achieve that are not just great skiers, but they have a real passion for teaching and communicating with students. In addition, they have been teaching and learning how to teach longer, and have more experience. They can often quickly and easily change communication style, demos or exercises to help student learn quicker. That being said, I know some excellent Level 2 instructors who have a lot of experience, are wonderful instructors, but for various reasons — time away from work or family, injury/illness/chronic disease — haven’t gone for their Level 3.

•You can always learn something from an instructor, even if you find that you don’t agree with or like what they’re teaching, or even their style or approach. If you’re a chronic lesson taker like I am, mix it up — take some classes that you think might be too easy for you and other times, ones that will push you. Also mix up instructors. One instructor pointed out something so obvious that made such a huge difference, than I can’t believe no one else pointed it out! Maybe the rest of them thought it was so obvious it didn’t need mentioning? Or maybe they didn’t see it… who knows?

• [From an instructor point of view] I think it’s important to come into any type of a lesson with an open mind. Many times what the student wants to work on or terrain they want to ski is NOT what they should be working on or skiing on. I want to know the following: skiing experience, why they are taking a lesson, what would make the lesson fabulous for them, and how they learn. If you know your learning preference, tell the instructor. I had a physical therapist student last year. She told me at the beginning of the lesson that she needed very descriptive, technical explanations and that she did not learn by watching. We had a 3 hour lesson and it was fantastic. I went in to much more detail than I would with some people and she was off to the races. It was phenomenal.

• [From another instructor] If you are in a group lesson and don’t understand something, please let the instructor know. Don’t be afraid to ask for another demo or another explanation. Chances are others in the group are in the same boat.

Ski at your pace. Do not feel obligated to ski faster than your comfort level because of the group speed. If the group is too fast, ask to move to a different group.

Skier levels are to help put groups of people together with similar abilities so that everyone can learn. Don’t be disappointed if you are put with the 6’s instead of the 7’s. The numbers are really meaningless.
Be willing to put yourself out of your comfort zone. If you always go last, try going first. Instructors in a group manage a lot of things and sometimes it is difficult to manage all of the personalities. Go first – be seen! (I often direct who goes first so that everyone gets a chance).

Please be present! Put the phone on silent, be on time and listen/watch not only the instructor but the others in the group. It is amazing what you can learn by watching and listening.

• [And from yet another instructor] If you’re a first timer, be sure to answer the following questions for your instructor:Why do you want to learn to ski? What do you do in real life? Work, sports, other. This gives them a good idea of your learning style without asking. Where are you from? Base elevation can play a big roll in the learning process!

For other skiers, it’d be helpful for your instructor to know the following:Why are you taking the lesson? What is your ski experience (hours, days, years)? What terrain do you feel most comfortable on? What do you want to get out of the lesson? And finally, what are your goals?

One of the best ways to learn is to take one of the many women’s clinics given at resorts around the country; you can find a list of this year’s here. Next week I’m going to attend the Women’s Discovery Clinic in Sugarbush, VT. I’ll report back and let you know how it goes.

The best advice I have for you? Relax , enjoy yourself, and don’t sweat it too much. Remember: skiing is supposed to be fun.



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Gear Review: Kulkea Tandem Ski Duffle

I’m often asked to do product reviews. Which is fine, except when there’s a product I really can’t use. Enter Kulkea Tandem Ski Boot Duffle, a bag especially designed to hold kids ski gear.

You see, I don’t have any little kids. So to do the job properly, I called upon Emily Bryk, a mother of two who has lots to carry to the ski hill. Emily agreed to put the bag to the test, and here’s what she had to say:

When you’re skiing with young children, a lot of the challenges have very little to do with what happens on the hill. There are the snacks. There are the bathroom breaks. Adjusting the boots. Adjusting the boots again. But for me, one of the hardest things is just managing all the gear. The most difficult part about a ski day is sometimes getting to the mountain in the first place.

My 5 year old son has been skiing for two years now. He’s excited about skiing and, in the manner of all kindergarteners, he’s very confident, but he’s still a little guy and he can’t yet be relied upon to pack or to haul his own equipment. My daughter is two and this winter was her first time trying out skis. She’s just going out on some little Lucky Bums toy skis, but she wants to keep up with her big brother. Between the two of them, I’m swamped before my husband and I even start to pack up our own things.

Enter Kulkea’s Tandem boot duffle bag. This bag makes everything easier. It’s a double duffle, large enough to hold two kids’ ski gear and with enough specialized storage to keep everyone organized all day long.

Kulkea (the company name comes from the Finnish verb “to go,” appropriately enough) has designed exactly the bag that every ski parent needs. When I started to open up the Tandem, I understood why: the cooler top means that the entire top of the bag opens, which allows access to every part of the bag. No more twisting and angling to fit boots or helmets and no more wondering exactly which wrinkle the chapstick fell into. With the entire bag opened up wide, it’s easy to load up fast and to check out your gear at a glance.

Kulkea Tandem Bag, all packed and ready to go.

Kulkea Tandem Bag, all packed and ready to go.

And there’s a lot you’ll want to keep track of inside the Tandem. This bag is B-I-G. It holds a startling 64 liters – that’s 13” tall, 32” long, and 12” wide. It could be easy to lose things in that amount of space, but it’s not. The bag has four large interior compartments. Two are designed to hold helmets and boots (they’re ventilated, thank goodness!), and two more designed to hold snowpants, extra layers, and other clothing. On top of that, the lid has two mesh pockets, perfect for smaller items like hats, gloves, or (if you’re me) snacks.

As I was loading the Tandem, I worried that all the gear packed inside would make it too difficult to carry. Honestly, though, this isn’t a problem. The adjustable shoulder strap is padded enough to distribute the load nicely, and the messenger-style structure kept it easy to carry.

In fact, this bag is so big that I used it for my gear as well as my kids’! The Tandem is so adaptable that it got all three of us to the mountain. While the bag promises to fit only boots up to 22.5, I actually fit my 24s in there without a hitch. Want to know how much I could carry?

  • 1 pair of women’s boots in a size 24
  • 1 pair of kids’ boots in a size 19
  • Three (three!) helmets: two kids’ and one adult
  • Three pairs of goggles
  • Three pairs of mittens
  • One pair of toddler snowpants
  • Sandwiches, oranges, and bananas for one and all
  • Gaiters

On the way home from the mountain, things got even better. Those boot compartments? They have grommets for drainage, so damp boots don’t stay damp for long.

So do you need a Tandem? If you have small kids, absolutely. This bag’s size and features make it easy to pack, easy to carry, and easy to organize. I’m not going skiing without it.

Emily with her Kulkea Tandem Bag.

Emily with her Kulkea Tandem Bag.



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Oui, Ski Mont Tremblant!

Mont Tremblant

Mont Tremblant

Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated. I mean, I only live a few hours from the Canadian border, and until this past week, I’d never, ever been to Mont Tremblant.

Sure, I’d heard about it for what seems like forever. I’d seen how time and time again, it gets rated #1 in SKI magazine’s annual round-up of Eastern ski resorts. But to get in my car and actually go? That was another matter.

Well, last week I finally made it. I’m a member of the Eastern chapter of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association, and this year our annual meeting was held in Tremblant. I’m so glad it was; now that I know what I’ve been missing, I’ll be sure to come back.

Mont Tremblant is the second-oldest ski resort in North America (Sun Valley, Idaho, is older). But the Mont Tremblant you see today is relatively new. The mountain was acquired by Intrawest in 1991, who has turned it into a world-class destination.

Yes, I said world class; Tremblant has so much to offer that I think it deserves that designation.

Why? Consider the following:

The mountain: For all of us Ski Divas, this is by far the biggest concern. Sure, good food and accommodations are nice, but if the mountain doesn’t delivery, frankly, we’re not interested. Never fear. Mont Tremblant has loads of great terrain for everyone. First, some stats:

Summit elevation: 2,871 ft (875 m)
Vertical drop: 2,116 ft (645 m)
Skiable area: 662 acres (268 ha)
Number of lifts: 13
Number of trails: 96
Longest run: 19,800 ft (6,035 m)
Ability levels: Easiest, 17%; More Difficult, 33%; Most Difficult, 40%; Experts Only, 10%

catr_trailmap

So what did I like? First, every part of the mountain is easily accessible. All the lifts go to the top. And once you’re there, you can ski the north, south, or soliel (sunny) side. So if it’s blowy or the snow’s not great on one part of the mountain, you can easily move to another and chances are it’s entirely different. Second, there’s literally something for everyone — lots of long, long trails with a good amount of pitch; super fun glades; great bump runs; terrific views; along with plenty of greens for those who’re just starting out. Some of the favorite trails: Jasey Jay Anderson, Duncan, Mcculloch, Taschereau, and lord knows what else; I just followed the guides around. It’s all good.

 

Le Cabriolet

Le Cabriolet

The village: Spread out across the base of the mountain is a pedestrian village, otherwise known as Quartier Tremblant. Constructed in the early 2000’s, it’s built in a style that’s reminiscent of Quebec’s Old City. And sure, it’s probably a bit Disney-esque. But it’s also very convenient and loaded with hotels, shops, and restaurants, all within easy walking distance of each other and the slopes. We stayed at the Ermitage du Lac, but others in my group stayed in the Holiday Inn Express and the Marriott Residence Inn. To get to the slopes, you can either walk or do what I did: take Le Cabriolet, the commuter lift that skims over the village’s rooftops to land you steps away from the gondola base (my husband said it made him feel ike Mary Poppins).

Quartier Tremblant

Quartier Tremblant

Old World Charm: Tremblant is French to the core; well, French-Canadian, anyway. So you get this Old World-I’m-in-another-country feeling without ever having to cross the Atlantic. It’s lovely, everyone speaks both French and English (which makes it easy for those of us who aren’t bi-lingual), and the food is terrific. Speaking of which….

Lots of dining options: The village has tons of restaurants. A few we had the chance to enjoy include Gypsy at the Westin (great tapas), Le Shack (try the burger), La Diable (wonderful beer options), and Windigo at the Fairmont (great atmosphere and menu). All were very, very good. But if you want to stop and warm-up while you’re skiing, I recommend The Refuge, an on-mountain on-trail cabin that’s positively charming. A great place to stop for hot chocolate by a wood stove.

The Refuge

The Refuge

And lots of non-skiing activities, too: Sure, I was too busy skiing to do anything else. But if you come to Tremblant and have people who want to do something besides ski, there are lots of great options: Ice skating in front of the picturesque St. Bernard Chapel; gambling at the Casino; dog sledding; snow shoeing; fat tire biking; cross country skiing, spa treatments….the list goes on and on.

One of the best parts of the trip was that I had the chance to ski with two other members of TheSkiDiva.com. (Ski Divas are everywhere!) They gave me a local’s tour, as well as their own thoughts on why they love to ski Tremblant:

Three Ski Divas

Three Ski Divas

Judy: There are many reasons I love Tremblant. It’s an easy hour-long drive from my house, and we can park very conveniently on the North Side (not the main side of the mountain), just steps from the lodge. Often the car is so close we use it as a locker. As for the skiing, there’s plenty of choice and you can ski all day never doing the same run twice. There’s also plenty of variety: lots of groomers but also fun ungroomed stuff and glades. And because of the various “versants” (sides) to the mountain, you can stay in the sun all day long. Snowmaking and grooming are excellent. Some people complain about flat runouts at the bottom but you can make use of these – this is where I learned to carve. As passholders who park on the North Side we tend to avoid the busy-ness of the South side, but should we want to enjoy a longer lunch or browse some shops, we can head down to the pedestrian village for a totally different experience. Oh yeah, did I mention the views are great?

Jill: Here’s what I love about Tremblant…
The vertical: There’s over 2,000 feet, compared to places near me in Ontario. Most of these have only have 300 to 400 feet. Even Calabogie only has 760 feet, and that’s the highest in Ontario.
Terrain: There are lots of choices for everyone.
The people:  I have so many friends who ski here.
Things to do beside skiing: Lots of stuff, spas, shopping, dog sledding, tubing, XC skiing, snowshoe….
Conditions: They do try to make it great. Mother Nature can play games, but management makes the best of it.

 

Are there any downsides?
Depends on your perspective. I’ve heard some people say they don’t want to ski in Quebec because it’s cold. Yes, that’s true, there can be cold days. But you know, it is winter. Skiing is a cold weather sport, and yes, it gets cold everywhere. If you dress warmly and take a break here and there, you’ll be fine.

I’ve also heard some people say that it’s hard to get to. If you’re not within driving distance, Mont Tremblant has an airport with direct flights to New York and Toronto. And there’s an airport in Montreal, too, an hour and change to the south.

All I can say is that it’d be too bad if you let any of this get in the way of a great ski trip. So go to Tremblant. You’ll have a blast.

IMG_5496

 

 

 



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Highlights for Women from the 2017 SIA Show.

Since they haven’t yet perfected human cloning, I wasn’t able to attend the annual SIA Show in Denver a couple weeks ago. In case you don’t know, this is the snow sports industries’ biggest trade show, showcasing the latest trends, innovations, product lines, and styles. But the winter season is short, and there’s just too much going on for me to be everywhere at once.

Fortunately for me, Bobby Monacella, who writes  DC Ski Mom  and the SIA blog Snow Source, came through with her take on the highlights for women at this year’s show. So take it away, Bobby!

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New Women’s-Specific Technology and Design are Among the Highlights From the 2017 SIA Snow Show

The SIA Snow Show takes place every January at Denver’s Colorado Convention Center. It’s where over 80% of all ski and snowboard manufacturers and apparel makers come together to display their lines for the upcoming season to retailers from across the country. I got a sneak peek of some of the best gear, apparel and accessories for women that will be available for the 17/18 season and I’m excited to share my favorites with you!

Ski companies are really starting to wake up to the fact that women make up 41% of the market, and that we do 95% of the decision making about where the money gets spent in our families. Each year, ski companies are realizing more and more that they need to keep women happy. This means admitting that women are not small men, and that we have specific needs and performance demands from our gear.

“The bottom line is that if mama’s not having fun, no one’s having fun,” says Kim Walker, owner of Outdoor Divas in Vail, CO – the only woman-owned, women’s-specific ski shop in the country. “And each year we have more opportunity to offer equipment for women that allows them to truly have a great experience on the hill. Finally, women’s boots are made for women’s feet, and women’s stances, and allow women to be comfortable and warm, which then helps them want to stay out all day and return again and again. This is what manufacturers are finally realizing – that if you keep mom on the hill and keep her happy, you gain a whole family of lifelong customers.”

For 17/18, lightweight is definitely the trend in women’s boots and skis. Along with women’s-specific fit, this allows more control over your equipment, and therefore better performance, which equals more fun!

In boots, comfort is key for 17/18 with moldable liners and walk-to-ride tech that makes getting around the lodge a lot easier. A few standouts include:

  • The K2 W-SP Spyre 100 Heat has an integrated Therm-ic heat system built into the liner which you charge with a USB cable. It also comes in a softer flexing version, the Spyre 90 Heat.
  • The Tecnica Mach 1 Pro WLV, which was developed by a panel of top bootfitters and female testers, features a pliable upper cuff heated to fit the calf and merino wool in the liner for extra warmth.
  • The Roxa R3 Series is one of the lightest high performance alpine boots available for 17/18. It’s available in a freeride hike/ski model, a freeski model for all mountain performance, and the R3 105 W TI, a high-performance 4-buckle model.
 L to R: Roxa R3 105 W TI, K2 W-SP Spyre 100 Heat, and Tecnica Mach 1 Pro WLV

L to R: Roxa R3 105 W TI, K2 W-SP Spyre 100 Heat, and Tecnica Mach 1 Pro WLV

 

For skis, the focus for 17/18 is on new shapes that offer front-side carving performance but also allow for all-mountain versatility. My favorites included:

  • The Blizzard Sheeva 10 is a lightweight, completely women-specific design that won the SKI Magazine Hot Gear Award for its innovative technology. Blizzard is heavily invested in developing women’s technology with its Women-to-Women Initiative, which involves women in the design process from start to finish. It really shows with the Sheeva 10, which is getting consistent accolades from women testers.
  • The Nordica Astral 84 has new materials and a race-inspired shape, with a rigid tail and wider tip, that allows for superior performance while keeping the ski lightweight and easy to turn.
  • The Elan Ripstick 86W has a women’s-specific tube-filled wood core for lightweight performance and a rocker/camber profile which allows for easy turning.

 

L to R: The Nordica Astral 84, Blizzard Sheeva 10, and Elan Ripstick 86W

L to R: The Nordica Astral 84, Blizzard Sheeva 10, and Elan Ripstick 86W

Base and Mid Layers

This is my favorite category because some of the best brands are women-owned or women-centric, and have great corporate ethics as well as super cute designs.

Krimson Klover, owned by the amazing business powerhouse Rhonda Swensen, makes fabulous traditional ski sweaters, merino dresses and capes, but the base layers are my favorites because the prints are amazing and they’re super soft. The Mikaela Top and matching Victoria Bottoms have a fun Scandinavian design and are 100% merino.

Kari Traa is another base layer favorite mainly because the prints and colors are so great. They have a fun, energetic feel that reflects the personality of Kari Traa herself, a Norwegian Olympic freestyle skier who started the company as an antidote to the “boring black base layers” her sponsors gave her. Many of her designs echo her Norwegian heritage with plays on traditional prints in super fun colors. The new Akle LS Top features Henley snaps and extra long cuffs for a cozy feel. Kari Traa is also introducing a great new midlayer jacket for 17/18, the Svala. It has dry release technology to keep you warm, dry and looking awesome.

Another fun midlayer/apres ski/athleisure – I’m not actually sure what to call it – layer is SmartWool’s Urban Upslope Cape. It looks like it’d be really comfy and easy to throw on after a day on the mountain and it’s a fun alternative to your traditional down vest. It has quilted wind-resistant poly-fill on the outside, and is reversible to a grey camo print merino on the inside. The cozy hood and wool lined pockets make it a great apres-ski option. Plus I love SmartWool because they have a staunch commitment to gender equality and women’s leadership in the company.

Clockwise from top left: Krimson Klover Mikaela Top, SmartWool Urban Upslope Poncho, Kari Traa Akle LS Top, and Kari Traa Svala Jacket

Clockwise from top left: Krimson Klover Mikaela Top, SmartWool Urban Upslope Poncho, Kari Traa Akle LS Top, and Kari Traa Svala Jacket

 

Outerwear

Kjus introduced a new knitted technology for 17/18, with the Freelite Jacket. It’s an incredible ultra-stretch jacket with fully knitted shell, insulation and lining layers. It feels like you’re wearing a sweater, but it’s a totally weatherproof coat that looks amazing.

L to R: The Obermeyer Double Dare 4-in-1 Jacket, Strafe Scarlett Bib, and Kjus Freelite Jacket

L to R: The Obermeyer Double Dare 4-in-1 Jacket, Strafe Scarlett Bib, and Kjus Freelite Jacket

The Obermeyer Double Dare 4-in-1 Jacket won SKI Magazine’s Hot Gear award for its good looks and zip-out primaloft liner that can be worn alone or with the shell layer. It’s a great year for the win, since Obermeyer is celebrating its 70th anniversary. 96-year-old Klaus Obermeyer was on hand at the Show as always, and delivered his traditional yodel at the closing bell.

Bibs are still on-trend for women’s bottoms, and the Strafe Scarlett Bib got a lot of attention for its innovative halter design. The design allows you to heed nature’s call without having to remove your jacket, so it’s a plus for backcountry pursuits or generally hassle-free potty stops. The eVent shell membrane keeps you warm and dry and the styling is feminine with a great range of colors.

Accessories

Okay, I admit it, I have a thing for hats. I have so many favorites – but I’ll try to pare it down to a bare minimum!

One of my all-time favorites is Skida, founded by the fabulous Corinne Prevot. As a Nordic skier in high school she began sewing the hats for friends and now the brand has exploded and is sold across the country. She employs women in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, where garment sewing was a tradition for generations until the mills and factories closed their doors. Now they put those skills to work on the super fun hats and neck gaiters that Corinne designs. She also launched a cashmere line a few years back, and employs women knitters in Nepal where she did a semester during her Middlebury College years. Her latest creations for 17/18 are just as colorful and energetic as always, and are a perennial favorite.

L to R: Sh*t I Knit fur pom pom hat, Skida’s 2017 Snow Show booth, Turtle Fur Reflective Beanie

L to R: Sh*t I Knit fur pom pom hat, Skida’s 2017 Snow Show booth, Turtle Fur Reflective Beanie

A newcomer at the Snow Show this year, Christina Fagan introduced her Boston-based headwear company, Sh*t That I Knit. The name was just a tongue in cheek title for the website she started to share her knitting creations with friends and family. Eventually the designs caught on, and she was selling more than she could knit on her own. She moved her production to Lima, Peru, where she sources her merino and employs moms and other women knitters who work from home to create her beautiful designs.

One more great new hat design that I have to mention is the Turtle Fur Reflective Beanie. It has a fully reflective design built into the flower print, so it’s an incredible addition to any runner’s, dog walker’s or night-time Nordic skier’s ensemble. During the day the flowers sparkle, and at night they’re reflective. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I thought it was too cool to pass up.

My hands are always cold, so of course my favorite glove offering for 17/18 is the new Seirus HeatTouch Hellfire Glove. Thanks to a lithium battery, it touts 12 hours of heat at the touch of the button, which sounds like a dream come true to me. Plus I love their company because CFO Wendy Carey is such a strong force for women’s leadership within the snow sports industry.

L to R: Giro Ella Women’s Goggles, Seirus HeatTouch Hellfire Gloves, Zeal Portal Goggle

L to R: Giro Ella Women’s Goggles, Seirus HeatTouch Hellfire Gloves, Zeal Portal Goggle

I’m a Giro gal when it comes to helmets, so I was excited to see the new Giro Ella Women’s Goggle. It’s a frameless design with quick-change magnetic lenses. It’s also co-branded with Zeiss Optics so they have superior optical clarity, and all for a really reasonable price.

Another cool new goggle option is from Zeal, with their newly launched Rail-Lock technology. The Portal Goggle has rails on the sides of the frame that allow you to slide, click and lock interchangeable lenses without ever touching the lens surface.

With so many new designs and so much innovative technology focused on women’s products at the Show, it’s hard to stop gushing about all the amazing new offerings for 17/18. These highlights are definitely the cream of the crop that caught my eye, and I’m sure they’ll be well worth the investment when they hit stores next fall.

Until then, here’s to a great end to the 16/17 season – cheers to all the ski divas hitting the slopes and loving life! As Klaus Obermeyer told me, “Life is great because of skiing; it should always be fun and make your life wonderful!”

 

Bobby Monacella is a freelance writer who focuses on the subject of raising outdoor kids. She also writes about the business of snow sports, with the occasional update on the perils of climate change and craft brewery reviews thrown in here and there. As a former ski patroller, instructor, and eventually marketer at Breckenridge, Sugarbush, and Stowe, Bobby brings over 25 years of industry perspective to her writing. You can find her at DC Ski Mom and at SIA’s Snow Source blog. View her profile at LinkedIn.



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Gear Review: Female Specific Baselayers from Andie’s Outdoor Undies

I know: what the heck are female-specific baselayers? I had the same reaction when I first heard about Andie’s Outdoor Undies. Bear with me for a moment, because I promise: I will fill you in.

But first, let me tell you about Andie’s Outdoor Undies. Andie’s is a small company in western Colorado that was started in 2012 by Andra Byrnes. When Andra could no longer find her favorite baselayers, she decided to make them herself — only better. She sat down with a technical designer and thought about all the things she liked, and didn’t like, about the baselayers she used to buy. And then she incorporated her thoughts into something new.

Which brings me to the female specific part. I’ll start with the bottoms. To put it simply, Andie’s baselayers are made so you can go to the bathroom without taking them off. Instead, there’s a panel between your legs that parts when you squat, then closes up when you stand. Here are a couple views:

From the back

From the back

Between the legs, opened

Between the legs, opened

Why is this such a terrific idea? Say you’re in the backcountry hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, whatever, and you have to pee. For guys, this is simple: you just unzip and go. For girls, not so easy. We have to unzip, pull our pants down, and bare our butts before we can take a whiz, even if it’s ten below. With Andie’s, you just pull down your pants, squat, and pee; no butt baring required. Or say you’re skiing and you duck into the lodge to use the facilities. With conventional baselayers, you need to 1) untuck your top; 2) pull down your ski pants; 3) pull down your base layer; 3) pull down your undies (if you’re wearing them), and then go through the ordeal of getting yourself back together, when you’re done. With Andie’s, this isn’t the case. All you need to do is pull down your ski pants, squat, and go. Easy, peasy (or pee-zy).

I tried Andies Undies in an indoor environment, and I’ll be honest, at first I was a little wary. What if the opening wasn’t quite large enough? What if I missed and ended up with a wet base layer for the rest of the day?  I will say that yes, it took a few tries for me to feel comfortable. But then it was easy. And for convenience, you can’t beat ’em.

What else makes these female specific? According to Andra, they’re designed to not pull down in the back when you bend over, or bunch around the knees or ankles. And equally important, they’re designed to look nice.

Female Specific Tops

What makes a top female specific? According to Andra, for too long manufacturers have been simply shrinking men’s tops to fit women: a sort of “shrink it and pink it”  for baselayers. Andra told me she set out to re-imagine the top completely, creating one that’s not binding or snug and is more proportional to a woman’s body. She also gave it a turtleneck collar that can be pulled up to act as a neck warmer or to cover the lower portion of your face, like a Buff, and thumbholes so you can pull the sleeves over your hands. And she designed her tops to be attractive enough to wear alone without looking like you just stepped out in your base layer. I tried the Beyond-Your-Basic Turtleneck, and yeah, I was impressed. One of the things I particularly loved is the fabric. It’s 86% Polyester/14% Spandex with 4 way stretch, and it wicks. But it’s also incredibly soft on the inside and really nice and smooth on the outside. Truly, this is by far the most comfortable, most luxurious-feeling base layer I’ve ever tried. I think it’s my new favorite baselayer top.

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BTW, all Andie’s Undies are made in Wray, Colorado through Rural Colorado Apparel Manufacturers, an organization whose mission is to create sustainable jobs for people in rural areas, which is a super great. The products are all sold direct from the company. You can visit her website here.

 



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Another Diva West is in the Books: Aspen Snowmass

Mention Aspen, and what comes to mind? Movie stars, millionaires, plenty of glitz and glamor.

But here’s something new to add to the list: The Ski Divas! Because this year, TheSkiDiva.com held Diva West, our annual Western gathering, at Aspen Snowmass. And like all the others that’ve come before, it was an absolute blast!

Diva West is the one time of the year we come together to meet one another in person; to connect a living, breathing person with a user name. And sure — while the skiing is important, even more important is enjoying the camaraderie of women with a shared passion. These annual meet-ups have helped forge bonds that have resulted in a genuine community, both on and off the slopes. It’s one of the things that makes TheSkiDiva such a great place to hang out.

Some of the Divas on the trip.

Some of the Divas on the trip.

This year’s Diva West at Aspen Snowmass was no different. Besides the fun of just getting together, there was a lot to love about the mountain, too. Here are some of the things we particularly enjoyed:

The size:

Aspen Snowmass from the window of my plane.

Aspen Snowmass from the window of my plane.

Snowmass is Snowmassive! The resort has a total of 3,332 skiable acres: a third more skiable terrain than the other three Aspen areas combined. Seriously, you will not get bored. We skied Snowmass four out of the six days we were in Aspen, and regrettably, there’s a lot of the mountain I missed. Guess I’ll just have to come back.

The views:
Incredibly beautiful. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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And that’s just a sample. Everywhere I turned, I wanted to take a picture. But somehow, skiing got in the way.

There are three other mountains to try:
Sure, Snowmass is amazing and has more than enough to keep you busy. But how could we resist the allure of Aspen Highlands and Aspen Mountain? You can ski Snowmass, Aspen, Highlands, and Buttermilk on the same ticket. Definitely worth exploring.

The shuttle system:
No matter where you want to go in the Aspen area, there’s a free bus to take you there. RFTA makes it easy to go from Snowmass to Buttermilk to Aspen to the Highlands, as well as to downtown Aspen and Snowmass Village. Honestly, you don’t need a car, so why go through the expense?

Forget about lugging your skis:
Skiing at one of the Aspen mountains one day and want to ski at another the next? No problem. Aspen makes it easy. For a modest fee ($12.), they’ll transfer your skis from one mountain to the other. We spent a day skiing at Highlands and knew we wanted to ski at Aspen the following day, so we just dropped off our skis at the Ski Concierge, and like magic, they appeared at Aspen the next morning. Sweet!

There’s terrain for everyone: 
Not everyone skis at the same level, and at Snowmass, this is easy to accommodate. Some in our group enjoyed the Hanging Valley, where you’ll find the steepest trees on the mountain, as well as the Cirque Headwall, accessible by a surface life and known as the former venue of extreme skiing competitions.  Others enjoyed the Powerline Glades, with its widely spaced, low angle trees, and Long Shot, Snowmass’s signature 3 mile trail that goes on and on and on and on. Then there’s the area off the Big Burn lift where you can find wide, open spaces, groomers, widely spaced trees, and a natural half-pipe gully. At Aspen Mountain, the Bells and Glades were a particular favorite. And at Highlands, some of  us tackled the famous Highland Bowl (Fact worth knowing: there’s a free cat that’ll take you part of the way up, so you can skip the hike).

In the Powerline Glades.

In the Powerline Glades.

The on-mountain food:
Aspen, Highlands, and Snowmass all have a good selection of on-mountain food. Yeah, it’s bit pricey, but the variety and quality are excellent. We checked out four of the on-mountain eateries at Snowmass — Elk Camp, the Ullrhof, Gwyn’s (they just completed a $5.9 million remodel), and Sam’s Smokehouse. At Highlands, we lunched at the Merry-Go-Round. And at Aspen, at Bonnie’s.

The town:
A trip to Aspen isn’t complete without a stroll downtown. And sure, you could easily blow a thou’ on a pair of ski pants (I fell in love with a pair that cost $950. No, I didn’t buy them), you don’t have to be a millionaire to browse. The people watching is pretty incredible, too. Let’s just say it was pretty clear I wasn’t in Vermont.

Just plain getting together:
This was the 10th Diva West, and I’ve never failed to be totally blown away by the strength, enthusiasm, and kindness of the women on the site. And though I was thrilled to be at Aspen Snowmass, the venue was truly secondary. The women are the heart and soul of the the site, and I’m truly honored that they took the time out of their busy schedules to get together. Let’s do it again next year!

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One more thing:
One of the things I truly love about the internet is how it allows us to make friends with people we might not otherwise have met. And one of the most outstanding people I’ve come to know is Kristen Lummis, creator of the most excellent ski blog, Brave Ski Mom. Kristen, who lives in Colorado, came to ski with me during Diva West. She’s a fine skier and terrific person. If you haven’t checked out her blog, make sure you do.

The Ski Diva and the Brave Ski Mom.

The Ski Diva and the Brave Ski Mom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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