TheSkiDiva’s 2015 Holiday Gift Guide

Start your engines and whip out your credit cards! The traditional Christmas shopping period starts this Friday. And though retailers have been hawking holiday specials practically since Halloween, we’ll set that aside and go with the tried and true.

Today I’d like to talk about gifts for Ski Divas everywhere (whether you choose to self-gift or give to someone else, that’s totally up to you). These are things I think are pretty cool, so take a look:

The Skier’s Alphabet Poster

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 9.46.15 AM

I love this. It’s made by Seth Neilson, a graphics designer in Bozeman, Montana. Each letter represents something that’s meaningful to skiers. I have one on my wall, and I never tire of looking at it. It’s available in two sizes: 12″ x 18″ and 18″ x 24″. You can order it here. (BTW,  he offers alphabet charts for cyclists, backpackers, and alpinists. And they’re all really cool.)

SkiDiva Necklace. And earrings.

necklacesmaller copy

EarringsSmall copy

Handcrafted in Vermont, the Ski Diva necklace and earrings are perfect for the Ski Diva in your life. Both are made of sterling silver; you choose the stone you want. The skier is 1″ tall, and the necklace comes with your choice of a 16″ or 18″ matching silver chain. Go here to order.

Neve Tigne Sweater


Neve has been making vintage-inspired sweaters for years, and I think they’re way cool. There are a variety of available, but this one especially captured by fancy. The artwork is exclusive to Neve. You can find it here.

Skhoop Fur Lined Skirt


Skhoop Fur Trim Skirt

Skhoop Fur Trim Skirt

I’ve been a fan of Skhoop Skirts for a long time. In fact, I own one of their down skirts and absolutely love it. This one, new this year, is a bit different from any of the others I’ve seen. It features detachable fake fur trim at the hem. The outer fabric has a 10,000 mm waterproof rating and a 10,000 mm breathability rating. Cozy, warm, and stylish! Find Skhoop skirts here.

Kulkea Boot Bag

Kuklea Boot Bag

Kuklea Boot Bag

Kulkea (Cool-Kee-Ah) is the Finnish word meaning “to go.” So take them up on it and use this boot bag when you’re ready to go skiing. It’s intuitively designed to make getting and storing gear easy and hassle free. There are pockets for everything. You store your helmet on the outside, saving room on the inside for all your big items.  It’s a wonderful product that I strongly recommend. Kulkea

Liftopia Gift Card


I honestly can’t think of a better gift for a skier than lift tickets.  That’s what makes the Liftopia Gift Card so great (plus you don’t need to know size, color preferences, or anything like that). The receiver can choose from more than 250-plus mountains and decide when they want to go — there are no black outs. Liftopia

Ski Tumblers and Pillows


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Cat Studio makes these terrific frosted tumblers, dishtowels, and embroidered pillows that feature skiing in a variety of states and locales: Colorado, Vermont, Tahoe, Jackson Hole, and so on. A great gift to enjoy off the hill.  Cat Studio




I think it’s safe to say that I can not live without these things. Hotronics boot warmers have made it possible for me to be out in temperatures I never would have dreamed possible. I’m sure you know someone else with the same issue. Trust me, these work. Hotronics.

Chaval Heated Gloves


So now that we’ve talked about cold feet, let’s move on to hands. I reviewed Chaval’s Response XRT heated gloves a while ago (go here), and yes, I think they’d make a great gift. For Divas who have cold hands and don’t want to resort to bulky lobster claw mittens, glove liners, and chemical packs, these gloves are a godsend. They keep your hands warm, hold a charge nicely, and don’t interfere with hand movement or comfort. Chaval.

FaceSaver Face Mask

Facesaver Face Mask

Facesaver Face Mask

Okay, this isn’t the best picture. And it’s really not a big present. But nonetheless, the FaceSaver is something I’ve come to know and totally love. You know how conventional face masks cover your mouth and get all wet? And the warm air backs up into your goggles so they fog? That doesn’t happen with the FaceSaver. The Facesaver is a neoprene mask that only covers your cheeks, protecting them from frostbite without all the other problems. Add a gaiter, and I’m set for the coldest day. I think it’s available in some ski shops out west, but not in the east, so you’d have to order it from the website (


Darn Tough Ski Socks

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Comfortable feet are happy feet. So you gotta love socks from Vermont-based Darn Tough.  Their ultra-light, all-ski socks have seamless construction that provides a smooth fit. Plus their made of  ultra-light merino wool that’s warm and repels bacteria and odor. Guaranteed for life, and very groovy, too.

TheSkiDiva Mystery Books

DBPBCover   FTW Cover copy

Okay, I’ll admit it, these are both by me. First published by Minotaur Books in 2010 and 2011 respectively, Double Black and Fade to White are fun reads for skiers and non-skiers alike.

Here’s a description of Double Black:

In DOUBLE BLACK, Boston’s twenty-something Stacey Curtis ditches her cheating fiance and heads for a Vermont ski town. She’s looking for the life she’s always dreamed about, but she stumbles instead into financial intrigue, bitter family warfare, and murder. Populated with quirky characters, loaded with New England atmosphere, and starring a young woman with nerve, spunk, and a sense of humor about it all, DOUBLE BLACK is an exciting run down some treacherous mountain trails.

And here’s Fade to White:

Hollywood has-been Harper Stone arrives in Stacey’s little Vermont town to shoot a mouthwash commercial, and he’s anything but happy about the downward spiral his career has taken. When the ornery actor turns up dead a few days later—and the last person to see him alive turns out to be Brian Russell, Stacey’s jealous ex-fiancé—things start getting complicated. 

You can get the softcovers and e-book at Amazon.comB&N.comKobo.comiBooks, and of course, at

If you’d prefer a personally signed hardcover, you can get that at, too.


Happy a happy holiday season, and happy shopping!


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Oui, Ski Quebec (an encore presentation)

I originally posted this last February. But with the start of the new ski season, it’s definitely worth a re-run. If you’ve ever considered attending Winter Carnivale in Quebec, I encourage you to make plans. The 2016 dates are January 29 to February 14. Don’t miss out; it’s that good.

And now, encore!


Bonjour, mes amis.

Pardonnez-moi if I practice my French, but I can tell that it’s something I’m going to need in the years to come. You see, I just came back from Quebec, and I am positively smitten.

What was I doing there? Oh, just attending Winter Carnaval, staying in the gorgeous Chateau Frontenac, eating great food, and skiing at both Le Massif and Mont Sainte-Anne. I was in Quebec as part of the annual meeting of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association, and Quebec City Tourism rolled out the red carpet for us lowly ski writers. The result was a trip I’ll never forget, and a destination I’ll be sure to visit again.

Why stay in Quebec City if you want to go skiing? 
Sure, it’s not a ski-in-ski-out location. But if you only rely on that, you miss a lot. I can’t recommend staying in Quebec City highly enough. My husband came up with what I think is the perfect tag line for the city — Closer than the rest of Europe — because more than any other city I’ve visited in North America, Quebec has a distinctly European flavor. And it’s not just because the people speak French (though yes, that’s part of it). The architecture, the winding streets, the culture is loaded with Old World charm. It’s a totally different vibe than you get anywhere else in North America. What’s more, Quebec is beautiful. Perched high on a bluff above the St. Lawrence, you get sweeping views of the river, made even more dramatic in the winter thanks to piles of heaved-up ice. The restaurants are great, the accommodations lovely (like the iconic Chateau Frontenac), and really, hearing French spoken everywhere is just oh-so-much-more romantic. Trust me — it adds a completely new layer to the ski trip experience. Besides, the drive from the city to the ski areas isn’t really that bad.

Chateau Frontenac

Chateau Frontenac

Old City, Quebec

Old City, Quebec

Les femmes sont belle en Quebec.

Les femmes sont belle en Quebec.

Winter Carnaval
Another great benefit from staying in Quebec: you get to experience cultural events that you won’t find anywhere else. Winter Carnaval is a great example. The city turns itself into a celebration of the Quebec winter. There are a pair of night parades with amazing floats, incredible snow sculptures, tobogganing, ice bumper cars (yes, really. I definitely have to try this next time), and a canoe race on the ice-laden St. Lawrence that you’ve got to see to believe. People line the shore to watch competing teams push canoes across ice that’s been heaved up in great huge piles to (more or less) open water, then leap aboard and paddle like mad down the river, dodging ice floes and chunks along the way. It’s an incredible spectacle, and you can only see it in Quebec.

Canoe racing on the Saint Lawrence.

Canoe racing on the Saint Lawrence.


At the Carnaval night parade.

One of the many snow sculptures.

One of the many snow sculptures.

Le Massif de Charlevoix
And of course, we went skiing. We spent one day at Le Massif, about an hour northeast of the city. Le Massif is located on a mountain overlooking the St. Lawrence, and the slopes run right down to the river’s banks. Look at the views you get when you ski down the trails. It feels like you’re skiing directly into the water. It’s almost a safety hazard because it’s so hard to keep your eyes on where you’re going. Absolutely breathtaking!

Le Massif

Le Massif

In addition to astounding views, Le Massif has a terrific trail system. There’s something for everyone: long bump runs, fun glades, nice long groomers, and on the west side of the resort, more challenging terrain. Le Massif has the highest vertical in eastern Canada, and you can ski….and ski….and ski. Fun fact: Le Massif was developed in part by one of the co-founders of Cirque du Soliel.

Here are some stats for the mountain:

Trails: 52 trails and glades, on 307.6 acres
Ability levels: 15% easy, 30% intermediate, 20% difficult, 35% very difficult
Longest trail: 5.1 km / 3.17 milles
Vertical: 770 m / 2,526 feet
Base Elevation: 36 m / 118 feet
Top Elevation: 806 m / 2,645 feet
Skiable Terrain: 164.5 hectares / 406.3 acres

One cool thing that we did not get the chance to do: Le Massif has a 7.5 km sled run that looks absolutely fantastic. Unfortunately, it wasn’t operating when we were there. Next time, for sure.

From Le Massif, we took a 12 mile journey on the lightrail train along the St. Lawrence to the tres chic and very contemporary Hotel La Ferme. Although we didn’t spend the night, this is a great option for someone who for some reason doesn’t want to stay in Quebec. It’s fun and easy to take the train to the mountain and back, and the scenery along the river is stupendous. There are lots of great restaurants in the lovely town of  Baie-Saint-Paul, too.


Mont Sainte-Anne
Another day, another fabulous  mountain. We spent our second ski day at Mont Sainte-Anne. Sainte-Anne is closer to the city and larger than Le Massif. And like Le Massif, it has spectacular views:

Mont Sainte-Anne

Mont Sainte-Anne

I absolutely adored it. There’s a terrific variety of runs, and the mountain is laid out for very easy access; you can get to just about everything from the top of the gondola. Mont Sainte-Anne features both north and south facing trails, so if you’re not loving the conditions on the south side, the runs on the north side can be completely different. A tip for families skiing with little kids — or just people who love all things maple — be sure not to miss the Sugar Shack off La Pichard, one of the green trails. On weekends and holiday periods, you can stop at the shack for some traditional hot maple taffy, served on a bed of fresh snow and scooped up with wooden sticks.

Here’s some stats on Mont Sainte-Anne:

Altitude at the summit: 800 meters [2625 feet]
Vertical drop: 625 meters [2050 feet]
Skiable terrain: 222 ha [547 acres]
Gross acreage: 868 ha [2145 acres]
Natural snowfall: 480 cm [190 po]
Number of trails: 71 trails covering 73 km [45 miles] on 3 different sides
Night skiing: 20 trails, covering 15.5 Km [9 miles]
Trail breakdown: easy: 23%, more difficult: 18%, difficult: 45%, extreme: 14%
Longest trail: Le Chemin du Roy – 5.7 Km [3.6 miles]
Average length of season: 148 days

Hotel de Glace (The Ice Hotel)
Located about five miles north of Quebec, this is something you really shouldn’t miss if you’re in the area. The first and only ice hotel in North America, Hotel de Glace is re-built each year and is open the first week of January until the last week of March. The hotel boasts 44 rooms and suites, a bar, an indoor ice slide, and a chapel, all made entirely out of snow and ice. Yes, you can stay here if you wish, but be prepared: The ambient temperature varies only by a few degrees between 23°F and 26°F, no matter what the outside temperature.

Ice Hotel Entrance

Ice Hotel Entrance

A Hallway Entrance

A hallway entrance

A room in the Ice Hotel

A room in the Ice Hotel

I think it’s pretty clear that I loved the entire Quebec experience; honestly, it’s hard not to be swept up in its Old World charm. For a ski vacation with a European flavor, there’s no place like it in North America. Go see for yourself.

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Chasing Shadows: A Review of the ’15/’16 Warren Miller Movie


Back in 1949, the world of skiing was very different from the way it is today. There were no helmets, step-in bindings, or snow tires; Vail Resorts didn’t even exist; and no one even imagined a powder ski, RFID technology, or launching themselves down Corbet’s Couloir.

Change is inevitable. Change is good. But for 66 years, one thing has remained constant: there has always been a new Warren Miller movie. Oh, sure, there are a lot of other companies making ski movies and videos now: TGR, Meathead Films, Sweetgrass Productions, even equipment manufacturers like TheNorthFace, Smith and Salomon. But way back when, the only game in town was Warren Miller. If you wanted to see a film about skiing, that was it.

Today, Warren Miller isn’t even Warren Miller anymore. Warren Miller sold the company to his son in 1988, who sold it to Time Warner, who sold it in 2007 to its current owner, the Bonnier Group, a Swedish-based media conglomerate that also owns a raft of snow-sports magazines. No matter. WME is a firmly entrenched part of the skiing landscape.  They’re a skiing institution. And for many people, going to a Warren Miller movie is a cherished annual tradition to kick off the ski year.

Which brings me to the current movie, Chasing Shadows. Warren Miller Entertainment recently sent me a copy to review, and I spent a delightful afternoon watching and getting very, very stoked for the coming season. I mean, isn’t that what ski films are for?

Chasing Shadows is a lot like other Warren Miller movies. There’s loads of great skiing in amazing places: Nepal, Chile, Chamonix, Alaska, Utah, Jackson Hole, Japan, and more. There are plenty of flips, hucks off cliffs, and slo-mos of people skiing in chest-deep powder. And the skiing itself is fantastic. Be forewarned: you’ll want to wear a bib to sop up the drool.

I love watching this stuff. But to be frank, many of the segments are pretty interchangeable with past Warren Miller flicks. Sure, the skiers have changed, and the locales differ from one year to the next (well, sometimes). But do we really mind? No. Not much. It’s fun, all the same.

Nonetheless, I do have some comments about Chasing Shadows:

• There was an utterly charming piece about Monopolooza, an annual gathering of mono-skiers in Jackson Hole. I’ve never mono-skied and really never gave it much thought, but these guys totally ripped and had so much fun that it was an absolute pleasure to watch.

• I loved the feature on the US Ski Team killing the moguls in Deer Valley. It’s amazing how easy they make it look for something that’s so incredibly hard. Plus, hey, there’s Hannah Kearny, a fellow Vermonter and Olympic freestyle gold medalist! [waves]

• There’s a segment featuring Lexi DuPont, Amie Engerbretson, and McKenna Peterson skiing the heck out of Valdez, Alaska. This was the only all-female portion, and I thought it was pretty great. There’s too little of this in most ski movies (the exception being Lynsey Dyer’s all-female Pretty Faces). For some reason, film makers seem to focus on men more than women. Yes, there are more male skiers than female. And yes, there are women in other segments of the film (Rachael Burke, Kaylin Richardson, Ingrid Backstrom, Caroline Gleich, and the aforementioned Hannah Kearny). For the most part, however, the movie belongs to the guys. So does that really matter? There’s something about seeing amazing women skiers that’s inspiring, not just to me, but to thousands of other women and girls, too. So in the interest of growing the sport, I’d have to say yeah, it does matter.

But back to this particular segment:  I liked how one of the women (can’t remember which) said how some of the runs made her nervous and how the women looked to one another for support — it made them seem more human, more relatable. That said, none of the guys said anything about being nervous. Really, do they all have nerves of steel? Is it because the women were more open? Or is it because that’s what the film makers chose to show, because it’s “expected” female behavior? I have no idea, but it made me wonder…..

• Powder Surfing. Ever heard of it? This isn’t snowboarding; instead, it’s a bindingless board that’s a hybrid of surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding technology. There was a nice segment focusing on industry entrepreneur Jeremy Jensen. I wish they’d spent a little more time exploring this. Maybe it’s the next big thing.

• The Cowboy Downhill in Steamboat is a riot! For the past 41 years, Steamboat has been hosting an event that gets rodeo cowboys out on the slopes. There’s a lot of crazy skiing and falling, and it’s a hoot.

• I had mixed feelings about a segment on speed riding in Chamonix. In case you don’t know, speed riding is an extreme sport that combines skiing and paragliding. Yes, it’s exciting to watch. But given the recent deaths in the wingsuit and base jumping community, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it being featured so prominently in the movie (it’s in the first segment). Could be my age (I might feel differently if I was a 13-year old boy), could be my mom radar. I don’t know. But it did make me wince a bit.

• I’m probably in the minority here, but I always find the titles of ski movies somewhat perplexing, and Chasing Shadows is no exception. On the one hand, it could refer to all the great skiers from the past, and how each skier stands on the shoulders of those who’ve come before. But it could be this: in the segment that takes place in Japan, a female voiceover comments about winter and the guys who’re out there skiing, “I see the dark and cold; they see shadows filled with endless possibilities.” So maybe that’s it. You’ll have to watch and decide for yourself.

You can catch Chasing Shadows in one of its stops on its nationwide tour. Go here for locales and showing dates.

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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 — 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 pretty comprehensive list of them here.

More than anything, though, remember that skiing is supposed to be fun. So relax , enjoy yourself, and have a good time.

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Counting the Days.


Last year I skied 88 days. I know, because I kept track using my favorite app (more on that later). It was a banner year for me, beating out my previous record of 85 days in ’13/’14.

I’ve counted my skis days for probably 20 years. A lot of people I know do. It’s something we share on the lift: oh, I’m at 50 days; I’m at 25; I don’t think I’ll make 30 this year. It’s actually kind of cool to see the days pile up, and beating last year’s number is a fun goal for me — albeit one that gets increasingly difficult as the numbers get higher. Limiting my skiing to weekdays and non-holiday periods, along with the shorter season we have here in the east, does pose a bit of a challenge. Nonetheless, counting days has a dark side, too. I’m kind of ashamed to admit that it’s become a personal point of pride. Yeah, I’ll boast to a stranger on the lift, it’s my [insert number here] day of the season, knowing the poor guy only gets out a few times a year. Truly, I’m a terrible human being.

I’ve been thinking about counting days a lot lately, as the new season begins. On the one hand, I’m fairly goal oriented. For example, this past summer I set my sights on biking a thousand miles (I actually came in at 1,413), and it got me out on days that I might otherwise have blown off. Which is a good thing, because sometimes the best days come when you least expect them. But on the other hand, is quantity more important than quality? I mean, some days are so good they could honestly count as two. And yes, there are some days you almost wish you’d stayed in the lodge and drunk hot chocolate (I know: a bad ski day beats a good day at the office. But really, that’s not always true).  At what point does it become like punching a clock (can you imagine) instead of going out just for the love of it?

I know some people who track not only their days, but their number of runs and vertical feet, too. There are plenty of apps for that now: Ski Tracks or EpicMix, for example. No, I haven’t gone down that road — I kind of think it’s a little obsessive. And while the one I use — SlopeSquad, the favorite app I referred to at the top of this post — does track vertical feet, I use it simply to keep track of my days.  (For a more in-depth look at SlopeSquad, go here for my interview with the developer).

So will I continue to keep count? Probably. I still think it’s fun. But maybe I won’t be as obnoxious about it as I’ve been in the past. Maybe when someone says to me (in March), “This is the first time I’ve been out all year,” I’ll just smile and say, “You picked a great day for it, too.”


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How to Survive the White Ribbon of Death

Photo: Chandler Burgess

Photo: Chandler Burgess

Whether your season’s already started (I’m looking at you, Killington and Sunday River) or you’re planning to ski as soon as your mountain opens, there’s a good chance you’re going to encounter something scarier than a zombie apocalypse (hey, Halloween’s coming. Go with it).

Yes, I mean the dreaded White Ribbon of Death.


Don’t run away screaming. I know it’s frightening, but there are ways to ski it and live to tell the tale. It just takes courage, fortitude, and a little bit of knowledge.

In case you don’t know, the White Ribbon of Death (aka WROD) is the narrow strip of artificial snow ski areas put down early in the season so they can open before Mother Nature cooperates. Generally, it’s populated by about a zillion people, all hopped up because they haven’t skied in a loooong, looooong time. Add in not-so-great conditions, and you’ve got a scary situation. You pretty much take your life in your hands when you ski it — not that that keeps anyone (including me) away.

So what should you do?

• Keep it in perspective. Sure, you’re loaded with excitement. After all, it’s been a long, long summer. But you’re not the only one who feels this way. SO — don’t expect to be all alone out there. It’s going to be really, really crowded. And don’t think it’s going to be knee deep powder, either.  Face facts: The conditions are usually pretty marginal. Just know what you’re in for before you show up.

• Make the necessary adjustments. Whatever you’re skiing on, make sure to check your bindings to be sure they release properly. It’d be pretty awful to take a fall and be out for the rest of the season.

• Use ’em if you’ve got ’em. Old skis, that is. There isn’t that much of a base and you’ll probably encounter a rock or two. So if you want to preserve your good skis, keep them for when conditions improve.

• Don’t dress for the polar vortex. It’s very early season. There’s plenty of cold weather to come. You can leave your heavy stuff at home. Layers help, so you can shed or add as needed.

• It might not be a long day.  You may only get a few runs in before the crowds or conditions get to you. That’s okay. The whole purpose of skiing the WROD is just to get out there. In fact, you may want to bag the whole first tracks thing and start a bit later, when everyone else is fed up with the crowds and long lines and has quit for the day.

• Relax and have fun. Remember, it’s not the only time you’re going to ski this season. There’s plenty more to come. So if you only get a few runs, think about the whole long season stretching out before you. And smile.

• If you do ski the WROD, report back. Share your story. Let us know how if you skied it — and lived.

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Women’s ski clinics, ’15/’16


Divas in Liberty Bowl.

If you’re thinking about taking a women’s clinic, you’re in luck; there are plenty to choose from. Over the past few years, more and more resorts have added them to their ski school line up. Why? Well, a lot of women prefer learning in a testosterone-free environment. Women’s clinics focus on building skills and confidence while providing the camaraderie that comes from skiing in a group of women and working with skilled female instructors. Research actually shows that women are more supportive and men more competitive in a learning situation. And this can carry over to the ski hill, too.

Here’s a sample of what some women on have to say about them:

• I go every year to at least one of the women’s clinics they have at my local resort. They are fun and it’s great to learn some new tips and have a blast skiing with other women. I like them because they are just a supportive group of skiers and each one of us encourages everyone throughout the lesson – something I certainly don’t get in other types of lessons.

• I have taken both co-ed and women only clinics. I prefer the women only because I feel that with other women the atmosphere is supportive and not so competitive. Every time I have been in a co-ed class, there has been one guy who thinks he knows more than the instructor. Then the whole goal of the class changes to be a competition between the two and I get lost. In co-ed classes I have been subjected to feedback from a guy in the class when I prefer to get my feedback from the instructor. The pace in a women only clinic meets my needs too. We stop for bathroom breaks as needed and to get warm if it’s really cold. Other women share what they think I am doing well not what I am doing poorly. They encourage me to take steps outside my comfort zone but do not slam me if I should choose not to take that step. And, I laugh more on the lifts.

• I opted for the women-only because it was the only clinic offered in my area. It turned out to be really fantastic. One of my instructors was very focused on the difference in the center of gravity between men and women, so the main reason I went to the clinic the first time was to hear more on that subject. The best thing about them — I’ve done two — was meeting new ski buddies. I met two wonderful ladies that I’ve stayed in touch with though we haven’t been able to coordinate skiing again yet. There really wasn’t anything I disliked, other than I wished more folks were signed up. I agree with the other posters – there is a relaxed vibe, we have a great time, we can kvetch about skiing at “that time of the month”, etc. Plus the clinic organizer makes the most awesome goodie bags EVER. She sent me one while I was recovering from breast cancer surgery (she is also a survivor) that blew me away. Again, that made-a-new-friend thing…love it.

That said, women’s clinics aren’t a one-size-fits-all answer. Everyone’s learning style is different, and a co-ed clinic might be fine for you. But if you’ve been looking for a women’s clinic, here are some to consider:

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How to pick out used skis.

This first appeared in October, 2012, but now that ski swap season is here, I thought I’d post it again:

Ski Swap BFW SML

I’ve often wondered how people can afford to ski. Between lift passes, apparel, skis, boots, travel, and food, it’s pretty easy to drop a ton of money. And as expensive as it is for one person, it can get really pricey when an entire family’s involved.

Luckily, there are lots of ways to save money. And one of the best is to buy used gear at ski swaps. You may not end up with the newest stuff out there, but if you know what to look for, you could end up with some great gear.

That’s the key: knowing what to look for.  Throwing good money into bad equipment won’t save you anything at all. So here are a few things you can do to help navigate the ski swap jungle:

Know where it came from: It helps if you know the person who owned the equipment, or at least how much it was used. Some people buy stuff, use it only a few times, and decide it’s not for them. Others may beat the daylights out of a ski before they decide to let it go. So if you can, find out how many ski days it had before it ended up at the swap.

Give it the old eyeball test. This is pretty simple. If it looks bad, it probably is. A few cosmetic scratches on the topsheet are no big deal. But if the ski is bent, if there are gouges out of the base, walk away.

How’s the camber?  Camber is the bend of the ski that puts spring in your turn. In conventional skis, it’s the upward arch formed from tip to tail when the ski is on the ground. Some skis made from 2009 on  have little or no camber, so it’s important to know if the skis had it to start with. In a conventional ski, you can check for camber by placing it horizontally on a flat surface. The ski should stand up on its tip and tail, with a slight lift or arch under the binding. A matched pair of skis should show an equal amount.

Check the edges: Do this as if you were sighting a rifle. The edges should be straight. You don’t want to see bulges, dents, gaps, or looseness where the steel edges attach, or rust that goes through the edges into the wall or base of the ski. You’ll also want to hold the ski bases together and press the camber out, making sure contact remains all the way up the skis to the shovel. Slide the skis past each other sideways, base to base. They should  slide smoothly. If there’s a brief slide, with “click-click” noises, the steel edges may be “railed,” or projecting below the base. A base re-grind by a ski shop can cure this.

Is there any delamination (layer separation) between the ski cap and steel edge, or top plate and sidewall? This can allow moisture to infiltrate the core. You don’t want it.

Are there any gouges? If there are any on the top sheet that go into the core, walk away. Gouges on the base  that don’t go through the ptex can probably be repaired.

How dry is the base?  If the base has a gray or whitish dry look, it’s most likely oxidized. This means that the base is prematurely old and won’t take new wax very well.  This will compromise the glide, as well as your own safety.  It can also mean that the previous owner didn’t care for the skis very well. You can also determine dryness by bending or flexing the ski, and then placing your ear near the bottom of the ski.  If you hear crackling, it means that the bottom is dry and brittle due to lack of care and poor storage. Walk away.

Bindings: Each year binding manufacturers provide ski shops with a list of “indemnified” bindings, which are bindings that are still considered safe. Generally, bindings with shiny metal or leashes are obsolete. Streamlined, colorful, composite bindings are modern. Even bindings considered “safe” should be inspected. You want to be sure that there are no cracks, loose parts, or loose mounting screws. Make sure the DIN settings are the same in the front and back. If not, the spring may be tired. A general rule is do not ski on bindings more than five years old, or that look like they have seen better times. Never ski on used bindings without having a proper release check performed at a ski shop.

By the way, for a list of 2015 ski swaps, go here.

Happy hunting, and happy saving!

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Pop the popcorn. The ski movie trailers are here!

If you want to get stoked for the upcoming ski season, there’s no better way than to watch this year’s batch of ski movies. So grab some Sno-Caps, slurp down a Snow Cone, and take a gander at these:

Conquering the Useless: This one features Elyse Saugstad and her husband, Cody Townsend. I recently interviewed Elyse for my blog. You can find it here.
Warren Miller Media’s Chasing Shadows: (This is the 66th annual Warren Miller movie!)
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TGR’s Paradise Waits
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TGR’s For Lack of Better:

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Revision Skis Advance:
Super Proof Masquerade:
Legs of Steel’s Passenger:
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Sweetgrass Production’s Jumbo Wild: Not exactly a ski movie, but a documentary about the decades-long battle over the future of British Columbia’s iconic Jumbo Valley, highlighting the tension between the protection of wilderness and the backcountry experience and ever-increasing development interests in wild places.
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What’s new in Vermont for ’15/’16

Okay, I admit it: this one’s for me. Since I live and ski (mostly) in Vermont, I’m more than a little skimapinterested in what we’ll be seeing this coming season at resorts throughout the Green Mountain State. So if you’re interested, too, here’s a list:



  • The new South of Solitude restaurant at Timberline will feature a south of the border menu including burritos and tacos made to order from fresh ingredients.
  • The Poolside Lounge in the Sports Center will serve up wraps, sandwiches, paninis, beer and wine.
  • The resort has also added a significant amount of new ski and snowboard stock to its rental inventory.


  • The Learning Zone is being updated, with regraded terrain to both improve the experience for beginners and also reduce the amount of snowmaking necessary to build Terrain Based Learning features.
  • The grooming fleet is being updated. They’re also re-nozzling their snow guns to make them more energy efficient.
  • The popular Super Duper 6-Pack now includes a snowboard option. The $649 package includes 6 all day Kidsrule (ages 5-14) lessons, free Rossignol skis or Burton snowboard, an earned season pass, plus exclusive discounts at the ski shop.
  • The full service Rental & Repair shop will be adding new high end Rossignol Experience skis, plus men/women-specific boots to the fleet.


  • Thirty-six  more mountain cottages will open this winter.
  • Site work has begun on the new movie theater, slated to open by spring.
  • Forty tons of food scraps will be diverted by the resort and turned into compost for the numerous gardens found around Jay Peak.


  • Snowmaking and lift operations are being improved. This includes replacing primary water lines, rebuilding pumps and hydrants to boost efficiency, and upgrading lift drives including the K-1 Express and Skyeship Express gondolas, making them more reliable.
  • Also new at Killington is the $3.5 million Snowshed Adventure Center, boasting a nearly mile-long Beast Mountain Coaster, a soaring Skyeride over 100 feet above Snowshed Pond, a four-story Skye Ropes Course and much more.


  • Nearly 2000’ of snowmaking pipe is being replaced, and 10 HKD tower guns are being added.
  • A designated uphill route will be open for skinning during operating hours.


  • New snowmaking pipe that will allow them to maximize the use of the 645 new guns installed last season. Ten miles of new, larger pipe has replaced older, inefficient pipe.
  • Significant progress has also been made on West Lake, Mount Snow’s future 120 million gallon snowmaking water reservoir, which is expected to be completed before the 2016/2017 winter season.
  • The seasonal locker room got a major facelift, including new ceiling, floor, walls, security, and the lockers themselves.


  • A second new, high-speed bubble chairlift named Quantum Four is being installed, this time at Jackson Gore.
  • Also at Jackson Gore, Snowmaking is being expanded to include White Lightning and Rolling Thunder.
  • At SouthFace Village, the Sunshine Quad will connect the Village Center to the South Face Express Quad and provide access to the new Suncatcher trail.
  • RFID ticketing is being introduced this season.


  • A brand new 116 room Hotel and Conference Center is slated to open. This offers countless outdoor venues, has over 4,800 square feet of conference, reception and meeting space, a day lodge, restaurant, pub, and café.
  • Snowmaking is being expanded to include  the installation of 20 state-of-the-art energy efficient fan guns as well as the construction of a new summit booster pump station. This is the first phase of a three-phase snowmaking expansion and upgrade which will allow Q Burke to open earlier with more terrain.


  • Take advantage of Bring a Friend Friday. This includes two full day lift tickets and a ten dollar lunch voucher for only $30.00.
  • Learn-To Lift Tickets include up to two beginner lessons for only $40.00 per lesson.


  • New snow gun placement this winter will serve a favorite learning trail where novices enjoy their first experience with natural features by sliding through Billy Bob’s Bear Den and Yellow Cat Woods.
  • A newly completed snowmaking pipeline ensures optimal water availability while adhering to the resort’s own goals for environmental responsibility as well as state benchmarks for environmental management.
  • Fans of Smugglers’ one-day women’s clinic will appreciate the option of a three night getaway incorporating massage and yoga with ski and ride instruction for all abilities.


  • Several new facilities are being built around a new ice rink that will double as a community plaza and green in the summer. These include a new state-of-the-art children’s Adventure Center with ski/ride school, year-round daycare facilities, and a children’s activities center.
  • A new Stowe Mountain Club Alpine Clubhouse will also be delivered as a part of the expansion. Retail shops, restaurants, food markets and a parking garage for Club members, will additionally be constructed to enhance the Spruce Peak Plaza.


  • A 4,000 square foot addition is being added to the original lodge, built in 1961. This will result in approximately 350 more seats.
  • A webcam is being installed on the summit.


  • The Valley House Double is being replaced with the Valley House Quad, a fixed-grip, high-speed quad that will take skiers and riders to the top of The Mall. Sugarbush also restructured the area at the top of The Mall and Stein’s for a more fluid interaction, as well as brought the bottom terminal of the lift down next to Super Bravo Express.
  • The resort is also constructing the next phase of real estate development in Gadd Brook, sixteen ski-in/ski-out condominiums at the base of Lincoln Peak.


  • Suicide Six will be celebrating its 80th anniversary with a new snowmaking upgrade and a state of the art compressor, new main lift controls and wiring, and added terrain features.
  • The Woodstock Inn & Resort has also partnered with Tubbs Snowshoes & Fischer Skis, creating an Adventure Center that pairs world-class vacations with world class gear. Extensive improvements have also been made to the trail network on Mount Peg and the Nordic Center will be located at the Woodstock Country Club with trails right out the door.



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