It’s all about the baselayer.

I hate the cold.

I know —  for a skier, that’s practically blasphemous. But it’s true. Well, let me put it another way: I don’t like being cold. So there is a difference.

That’s where baselayers come in. True to their name, baselayers are the foundation for staying warm. And the warmer I am, the longer I can ski. So to me, baselayers are very, very important.

long-johnsYears ago, baselayers were pretty simple. We called them long johns, they were typically cotton, and you really didn’t give them that much thought. But things are different now. There are lots of options available, and it can all get pretty confusing. So let me try to help.

Material Facts

Baselayers come in a lot of different materials, but no matter which one you choose, your objective should be the same: you want something that’s comfortable, easy to move around in, and able to keep you dry by wicking, or transporting, moisture away from your body.

Some of the major players are:

Cotton: You know those long johns I mentioned before? Cotton. With all the other options available, this is something you should be sure to avoid. Never, ever wear cotton as a baselayer. Never. The reason is simple: When cotton gets wet, it stays wet. And when you’re wet, you’re colder. So resist the urge to wear that T-shirt next to your skin. Choose one of the materials below.

Silk: Another oldie but a goodie, silk is a longtime baselayer staple valued for its smooth feel, light weight, and ability to be worn without adding bulk. Some of today’s silk baselayers have been treated to enhance wicking, something conventional silk layers don’t do. On the downside: silk baselayers require hand washing, which can be a bit of a PITA.

Merino wool: Wool used to be big, then it wasn’t, now it is again. Part of the problem was its bad rep. Wool just sounds itchy. That may be because you’re thinking of plain old sheep’s wool. This is baaaaaaaa-d (pardon the pun). Merino wool isn’t like that at all. Its final finish is much smoother than standard sheep’s wool. It’s also soft and has a high warmth-to-weight ratio. And it’s naturally antibacterial, usually for the life of the garment, so it can be worn on consecutive days with minimal odor buildup. Some of the great choices for merino wool include Smartwool, Icebreaker, and Ibex, though other companies offer wool layers, as well.

Synthetics: These are typically less expensive than wool, dry more quickly, and retain their shape better. And while synthetics have a nasty reputation for retaining odors, many companies have come up with technologies that minimize the stink factor. There are loads of companies offering synthetic baselayers, each with its little twist. Columbia Sportswear, for example,  makes baselayers that incorporate its Omni-Tech technology. These are little silver dots on the inside of a garment that they claim reflects and retain the warmth your body generates. [Full disclosure: I'm a member of the Columbia #omniten team, and they send me a lot of cool stuff].

IMG_2048

See the silver dots? That’s Omni-Tech technology.

Patagonia has its popular Capilene series, available in a variety of weights. And Hot Chillys, who recently sent me some of their Micro-Elite layers, combines micro polyester yarns with spandex for a close body fit and full range of motion, then gives it a treatment to prevent odors. Some companies, such as CW-X and Opedix, offer compression-type baselayers, which promise to provide extra support to reduce muscle fatigue. But these are only some of the players out there: UnderArmour, Mountain Hardwear, Arc’tyrex, Obermeyer, MarmotTheNorthFace – really, just about every ski apparel company has a baselayer line. Yes, it can be dizzying.

A Word on Weights

You can get baselayers in a variety of weights: Lightweight, midweight, and heavy. As a rule, the thinner the fabric, the better it wicks and the faster it dries. If it’s not very cold, or if you’re  going to be very active, you’ll want to stick with a lighter weight. Colder, or less active, go heavier. And if it’s really cold, don’t hesitate to wear two or even three layers at once. You can always take one off if you get too warm. It may take some experimentation to nail down the best combination for your activity, and once you do, trust me, you’ll forget by next season.

Also, in order for a baselayer to wick properly, the fabric needs to lay against the skin so it can pick up moisture. So make sure the fit is relatively snug.

Color is the New Black

Open up my baselayer drawer, and you’ll see a whole lot of black. Black has its benefits. It goes with everything, and you can get it from just about any company.  Hot Chillys recently sent me one of their Micro-Elite tops, and yes, it’s black, but it’s really nice. Soft and fleecy on the inside, nice and smooth on the outside, with enough stretch to allow full range of motion. A nice weight, too. Honestly, I figure since baselayers go under things, it doesn’t much matter if it’s black or not.

Nonetheless, black can be boring. So some companies are offering  baselayers in a variety of colors and patterns. Here are a few of the many that are out there.

From Hot Chillys:

HotChillysFiesta

On the wool side, take a look at this from Smartwool:

Smartwool

Or this, from Ibex:

Ibex

 

Or from Helly Hansen:

Helly

A lot to think about, yes?

Bottom line: The baselayer you choose is a matter of personal preference. Select one that keeps you warm, dry, and comfortable, fits within your budget, and works with your activity, and you’re set.

 

 



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Ten great gifts for Ski Divas

Sometimes it’s tough to know what to get a Ski Diva for the holidays. Ski gear can be très cher, so if you don’t want to break the bank but still leave her smiling, here are ten gift ideas for the Ski Diva in your life (If you’re a Diva, send Santa a link. He may need some help.):

 

Ski Diva necklace or earrings: What better way for a Diva to let the world know of her love for skiing than with Ski Diva jewelry. Handcrafted of sterling silver by Wenda in Vermont (not me; I’m Wendy) and available in a variety of stones, either one — or both! — makes a great gift choice. (A caveat: each of these is made to order, so if you want one for Christmas,  better order now!)

necklace

 

Earrings

 

Pretty Faces DVD: Lynsey Vonn got a bit tired of always seeing guys featured in ski movies, so she went ahead and made one with just women.  I’ve seen it, and it’s a blast. The skiing’s fantastic, the scenery’s breathtaking, and even better, it demonstrates that skiing isn’t just a man’s game. I featured a review of it here, so check it out.

WME_Poster

Double Black, a Ski Diva Mystery: “When Stacey Curtis found a dead man on the bed, she knew it was time to get her own apartment.” How can you stop reading after a first sentence like that? Double Black features a young woman who leaves her cheating finance and moves to a Vermont ski town only to find that all’s not right in Green Mountain State. Okay, I’ll admit it — I’m the author. Available in hardback, paperback, and as a downloadable ebook.

 

Double Black

 

You can also get a variety of SkiDiva wear at our Ski Diva store:

Spirits

 

SkiLikeAGirl

 

Black Diamonds

 

Don’t know her size? No problem. Choose a hat or a mug:

Ski Diva Hat

 

Mug

 

Or there’s TheSkiDiva Cooks, a collection of recipes from members of the TheSkiDiva.com. If you like to eat (and who doesn’t), pick up one of these. There’s some seriously yummy stuff in here.

 

SkiDivaCooksFrontSmall

 

 

Happy shopping, and a very happy holiday!

 

 

 



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A Review: GetOutfitted.com, Ski Apparel Rental Made Easy

GObadgePicture this: you’re a family of five living in Florida who wants to go on a ski trip, and you don’t have any ski clothes or equipment. Or your kids have outgrown their jackets and you don’t what to shell out a fortune for your annual trip to Summit County. Or your friend wants to try skiing for the first time, but doesn’t have appropriate ski wear.

Until fairly recently, there were two choices: you could either forget the whole deal and stay home, or you could open your wallet and let the bloodletting begin.

Not good.

That’s where a new company called GetOutfitted comes in. GetOutfitted will rent you whatever you need for a ski trip for a short time and have it delivered to you free via FedEx to wherever you’re going.

That’s the key: have it delivered free to wherever you’re going. I know there are local ski shops that’ll rent out apparel or gear – sometimes one, sometimes the other. GetOutfitted does both online, so there’s no packing, no schlepping, no running around pulling things together. A true one-stop shopping experience.

When GetOutfitted contacted me and told me about their service, I thought, ‘Genius! This is something I’d like to find out more about.’

So I did. Here’s the story: GetOutfitted was started by Julian Flores, a former school administrator, in 2013. “I came up with the idea after my wife rented a designer dress online from Rent the Runway,” he said. “Outside of fashion and film, the web rental economy is strangely underdeveloped. I’ve lived in Colorado for a long time and never took full advantage of the all outdoors has to offer in this state. GetOutfitted lowers the barriers of entry to the outdoors so people like me can enjoy the outdoors and try new things.”

GetOutfitted offered me the opportunity to try their service free of charge. Here’s what I learned:

The online experience

If you’re like me, you want this to be simple. It is. Directions on the GetOutfitted site are clear and the graphics are good. It’s easy to navigate and figure out what you have to do to make your selection and pay your way.  There are loads of pictures of the items they rent. For clothing, you can dial in your selections by color, brand, size, or even by choosing “warm, warmer, and warmest.”  Or you can choose a pre-selected package.  Whatever works.

After that, you just choose how long you want to keep your items – 3 days, 5 days, or 10 days — enter your shipping and billing information, and bingo! Your shipment is on its way.

Shipping and receiving

GetOutfitted apparel arrives beautifully packaged.

GetOutfitted apparel arrives
beautifully packaged.

This is really nice. The company will ship your order free via FedEx to wherever you want it to go. If you’re renting a condo in Vail, no problem. Which means you don’t have to cram a lot of stuff in your suitcase. After you place your order online, you get a confirmation email that tells you that your shipment is on its way and when you can expect it to arrive. When you want to send it back, no problem. They provide you with a package that you just drop in the mail, pre-paid. Easy, peasy.

Product

You can rent anything you need for a ski vacation: jackets, pants, midlayers, base layers, goggles, socks, even a camera. And yes, you can rent skis or snowboards, too. Product selection is good, and even better, it’s not junk. There are a lot of high-end brands. In clothing, there’s Patagonia, Obermeyer, Marmut, Dakine, Helly Hanson, Burton, and more. I ordered the Regatta jacket and the Malta pants, both from Obermeyer, and was very impressed. The cost: $36. for three days for the jacket, and $30. for the pants. Customers also have the option to purchase gear insurance for their items in case damage occurs, but the company says they’re pretty understanding about accidents. That said, thoroughly damaged items will be charged to the customer for their remaining value, so keep that in mind.

I loved the jacket & pants sent to me by GetOutfitted.

I loved the jacket & pants
sent to me by GetOutfitted.

For skis and snowboards, GetOutfitted partners with local ski shops to fulfill either a performance or premium package that includes boots, poles, and skis — helmets, too, if needed. The local shop will deliver the items to your door and fit you, as needed.  Right now this service is only limited to locations serviced by Black Tie rentals, so it’s only available in western locations. This may change in the future.

So here’s what we all want to know: is it gross to wear something that’s already been worn by someone else? No. According to the company, every item is professionally cleaned so that it looks, feels, and performs like a brand new item each time it’s used.  Be careful, though — you may fall in love with the items you rent. That’s okay, too. GetOutfitted offers its customers a buy option, in case you do. Pretty sweet.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

Pros:

This is a smooth, stress-free way to get ski apparel and gear for an occasional ski vacation. I was impressed with the entire experience. The clothing was top quality, it arrived quickly and beautifully packaged, and yes, I fell in love with the items I received. If I were in a situation where I needed either clothing or equipment for a limited period of time, this would definitely be the way to go. It’s one-stop shopping with minimal hassle. My cup of tea.

Cons:

I’m stumped. Truly. The only thing I could think of, and this is because I’m pretty short, is that they could offer women’s ski pants in shorter lengths. A wider variety of colors might be nice, too, to go with some of the jackets. But really, that’s pretty minor stuff. For just a few days of wear, really, what’s the difference?

Would I recommend this service? Absolutely.

So two ski poles up to GetOutfitted. Good job, guys!



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A Conversation with Beth Howard, New GM of Northstar California

Beth Howard,  GM, Northstar-at-Tahoe

Beth Howard,
GM, Northstar California

I’m not sure why, but the upper levels of  ski industry management is primarily a man’s world. According to statistics from the National Ski Areas Association, there are only about 20 to 30 female general managers nationwide. So when I received a press release from Vail Resorts announcing that they’d named Beth Howard as General Manager of Northstar California, it got my attention. What does it take for a woman to rise to the top of the ski industry heap? How’d she get there? I spoke to Beth last week, the day before Northstar opened for the season.

Q: Hi, Beth. Congratulations on your new position. So have you started as General Manger yet?
A:  I’m in my third week.

Q: And opening day is tomorrow?
A: It is and it’s so exciting! Everyone is out putting together the final touches for our opening weekend. We have some storms coming tonight and over the next few days, so it’s looking like it’s going to be a great opening.

Q: So tell me, how’d you get started in the ski industry?
A: I started as a college intern 30 years ago. I was in food nutrition and business at the University of Northern Iowa when I applied to Vail. I didn’t know about the ski industry, but I immediately fell in love with the company, the majesty of the mountains, and  the environment I had to work in. I just started to grow with the company; I never imagined I’d be with it for 30 years.

Q: What was your internship in?
A: I was chopping vegetables in Beaver Creek, CO, because it was in the field experience that I needed to graduate in my degree program. That’s how I got hooked. Over the years I  expanded beyond that and learned more about mountain operations, best practices, and guest service initiatives across the resort. Most recently, I was VP of Mountain Dining for the entire company. That allowed me to frequent all the resorts and get a better perspective of all our operations.

Q: How did working in that area prepare you for being the GM? What qualities are required?
A: I look back and I’ve been in a leadership position across my entire career. Even though I was in a very entry level leadership position after my internship, I’ve always been responsible for leading others, leading initiatives and achieving results. Along the way I learned where I needed to hone my skills and strove to push into areas where I didn’t have expertise and become comfortable with that stretch so I could improve those skills.

Q: There aren’t too many women in senior positions in the ski industry. Does being a woman present any special challenges for you?
A: I’ve never focused on the fact that I’m a woman. I’ve always paid more attention to my skills and the qualifications I need to do the job; I’d say that’s been the thread throughout my entire career. I haven’t seen being a woman as a  special challenge. I  also realize that I may be used as role model for other women within and without the company and and I take that very seriously. But I never thought being a woman was a hurdle at all.

Q: Any advice for women who want to enter the ski industry?
A: If you want to be in the ski industry – if that’s your passion — then absolutely enter into that path. I think the most important thing is realizing what your passion is, as well as your aspirations, and then  committing to developing all the skills around that so you can lead a resort one day, if that’s what you choose to do.

Q: What do you like best about being in resort management?
A: I’m very energized to be leading a team of people and dealing with the many complexities of a resort to execute a wonderful guest experience. It’s not an easy path. I think seeing all that come together, as well as the wonderful talent around me and the smiles of our guests —  that’s what’s energized me and kept me so passionate for so long.

Q: What challenges do you think you’ll face as GM?
A: The challenges are similar to what energizes me. There are so many moving parts and complexities involved in running a resort. My focus is making sure we’re all working together as a team and communicating well. We have to stay laser focused on that every single day. We’re already known for our great guest service, but we want to take it to the next level.

Q: How do you think Northstar compares to the other Tahoe resorts?
A: I think it’s our guest service that really makes us stand out. We’re committed to delivering on every touch point,  from the time spent getting on the bus all the way to the rentals to interaction with our lift operators, the snow surface, our warm S’mores in the afternoon at the skating rink — it all makes us special and differentiates us.

Q: Do you have anything new and exciting going on this coming season?
A: We do! I mentioned the S’mores.  We call it S’more Time. At 3:30 everyday in the Village, warm S’mores come out on trays and are served to all of our guests. I think that’s a tradition we’re going to continue. We also have two new things up on the mountain. Starting December 19 at 2PM every day we’re going to have a pop-up champagne bar, where our guests can ski in and have a commemorative toast and relax on Adirondack chairs around a fire pit. Then we’ll take it down so everything can be groomed, then put it back up the next day.  We’re also introducing something called Mountain Table, where we’ve paired with some of our local wineries. Our executive chef will prepare a five course meal with them on select Fridays throughout the winter. For us, it’s another way for our guests to get up on the mountain and have an evening on-mountain dining experience with great wines and cuisine.

Q: I read that Vail is launching an initiative to get women more involved in skiing and boarding. Will Northstar be participating in that?
A: Absolutely! We’re very excited about it. We have a couple new learning options available for women skiers and riders. We have a Women’s Ultimate Four Program, which runs from 10:30 in the morning til 3; that’ll allow them the flexibility to manage all the other things they’re trying to do with the kids, their families, and so on. There’ll be a maximum of four per group, all levels welcome, and they’ll be working with a female instructor. We’re trying to customize programs that would to allow flexibility in the schedule and also give them that wonderful experience up on the mountain. We also have an afternoon beginner program called Ladies First. This goes from 12:30 to 3, and it’ll be offered throughout the season. Again, it allows them greater flexibility with the schedule. We’re hoping this resonates with that group.

Q: Do you have a favorite run at Northstar?
A: I love this mountain. I’m not sure I have a favorite one. I  really enjoy the backside because of the long, wonderful runs.  For a groomed beautiful blue run, Loggers Loop is pretty fun. I think a lot of guests would enjoy that as well. I think after I get this first season under my belt I’ll have a lot more favorites.

Q: Do you get a chance to ski very much?
A: Yes. A wonderful part of this job is being out on the mountain a lot.

Q: What do you ski on?
A: I ski on K2s. That’s been my ski of choice. I have a couple pairs, and I love them. I’m on all-terrain superstitions right now.

Q: Does your family ski?
A: Yes! I have an 11 year old son and a husband of 15 years and they both ski, so we’re a skiing family and it fits right in.

Q: And you’re originally from Iowa?
A: Yes. I grew up on a small family farm.

Q: Not a lot of skiing there.
A: No. Not a lot of skiing. But I’m making up for it now.



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And so it begins: My two first days.

At long last.

Like all of you, I’ve been waiting, waiting, and waiting some more for ski season to begin. After all, my last ski day was April 17. It’s been far, far too long.

This week I finally got my turn with not one, but two first days at my two local mountains, here in Vermont: Okemo and Killington. Okemo opened November 15, Killington, Nov 5. And this week, I was ready. This week, I was there.

Getting Ready For The Big Day

You’d think this would be a snap. After all, I’ve been skiing for — let’s just say lots and lots of years. Nonetheless, I think anyone’s first day skiing should be called “National You’re Going To Forget To Bring Something Critical Day.” Because invariably, no matter how much I plan, no matter how many times I fill up and empty my ski bag to make sure everything’s there — I manage to leave something behind. This year was no exception. Yes, I had my boots, goggles, gloves, socks, and helmet. But somehow I managed to leave out my gaiter. Not too big a deal, but still, will I ever learn?

First Day #1: Okemo

The ideal first day is sunny, cold, with great snow and blue, blue skies.

Mine was not like that at all.

Although we had a bit of snow Sunday night, Monday — the day I chose to ski — started out with an icy, sleety mix. No matter, I thought. Maybe it’s snowing on the mountain.

If only. Instead, it was sleeting there, too. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I mean, what’s bad weather? We’re skiers, aren’t we? We laugh at the stuff Mother Nature dishes out. We can take it.

Sort of. To be honest, visibility sucked. I took five runs, then quit. It was just too unpleasant; I looked like a popsicle and felt this side of pneumonia. But on the upside: the snow was soft and there was no one out there (big surprise). Okemo’s been blowing snow like crazy, and it shows. There’s top to bottom coverage, and it looks more like February than November. The mountain says it has 14 runs open, and I guess there probably are. In reality, however, there were essentially three ways down. But they were fun ways, so who’s counting?

It was cool to ski by the construction for the Sunburst Six, the new lift that Okemo’s putting in to replace the old Northstar Quad. It’s a bubble lift! With heated seats! The only one like it in North America, too. Things seem to be progressing nicely — the lift may be ready to spin in early December. I can hardly wait.

Construction continues on  The Sunburst Six, Okemo's new bubble lift.

Construction continues on The Sunburst Six,
Okemo’snew bubble lift.

 

In the meantime, however, if you want top to bottom skiing, you have to rely on two fairly slow lifts to get to the summit. But this isn’t unusual for early season skiing at Okemo, and really, early-December — if they make their goal — is only a couple weeks away (incredible, huh?). So I can suck it up.

Besides the lift, Okemo has a few new things in store this season. The mountain put in 100 new, energy-efficient HKD tower guns and snowmaking pipeline upgrades. This follows a $1 million snowmaking investment they made last winter, so they’ve made great strides in this department. They’re also re-doing their terrain park, in partnership with Snow Park Technologies. So for those of you who are into that, you’re in for a treat.

First Day #2: Killington

Weather-wise, a much better first day than my day at Okemo. Yes, it was colder than one would expect for November (in the teens without the wind, when I started), but it was snowing. And it kept snowing pretty much all morning. Now that’s a ski day.

Lookin' good at Killington

Lookin’ good at Killington

Killington’s been open since November 5, but I’m glad I waited. Until recently, skiers had to download when they wanted to return to the base lodge. That’s all over now. There’s top to bottom skiing, with more set to open by Thanksgiving (they’re making snow pretty aggressively).

How were conditions? Really, quite good. Lots of snow on the trails, no visible rocks, and very good coverage. It was actually a very fine day.

Killington has a number of  things this season you’ll probably appreciate. They’ve added 400 new, energy efficient snow guns this year and are working to improve snow coverage on high traffic intersections. And this is pretty cool: Killington is instituting Terrain Based Instruction in their ski school. In TBI, students are coached on a series of sculpted terrain features before moving on to the larger slopes or up the chairlift. The features help skiers learn to control speed and  promote balance. Killington says their system will be the largest in the country, and second in North America only to Whistler. I plan to check it out for a later blog post. They also tell me they’re improving their signage, which is a big plus. I’ve always had difficulty with Killington’s trail signs, so I like this a lot.

SO — my season is off to a great start. Last season I made 84 days. Will I equal or beat that record? Stay tuned.

 

 



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Considering a Women’s Clinic? Here’s the ’14/’15 List.

 

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 offering 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 TheSkiDiva.com 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 too 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  iwas 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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A review on ski reviews.

Two of the many sources for gear reviews.

Two of the many sources
for gear reviews.

This is the time of year when a lot of ski and outdoor magazines and websites come out with their reviews on the new season’s equipment. I don’t know about you, but I love reading them. It’s a great way to get psyched for the coming year. And besides, it never hurts to look. :)

All the same, there are oh-so-many skis. And oh-so-many reviews. It can  get pretty confusing. So before you rush off and buy the ski that a review says is best, here’s something important to keep in mind:

Gear reviews are subjective. So much depends on the reviewers’ ski level, the way they ski, their own personal likes and dislikes, snow conditions, biomechanics, ski length, even mood.

So please — keep in mind that reviews are strictly the opinions of a specific skier (or a very small group of select skiers). They’re a great place to start. But the best way to tell if a ski is right for you is to:

1) Learn as much as you can about the ski you’re interested in – which includes getting opinions from a variety of sources. You might want to check out the Gear Review section of TheSkiDiva.com, where members of the site evaluate skis they’ve tried. The best thing about it is that it’s interactive, so you can actually ask questions of someone who’s tried the ski. Try doing that with a magazine.

2) Assess your abilities honestly and fairly. You don’t do yourself any favors getting a ski that’s above or below your level, so give yourself a fair assessment.

3) Keep in mind the conditions under which you want the ski to handle.  If you ordinarily ski under boilerplate conditions in the east, it may not do you any good to only look at powder skis. Or if you want something for powder skiing, well, then a groomer probably won’t cut it.

4) Get out there and demo! You may find that a ski that gets awful reviews is one that suits you perfectly. Hey, they make tons of different skis for a reason. What’s great for one person may be awful for you, and vice versa. The best way to find out is to give them a try.

Bottom line: Keep in mind that reviews are only a small part of ski selection process. The rest is up to you!



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Sex sells. But should it in skiing?

Julia Mancuso for Lange

Julia Mancuso for Lange

Good question. It’s one that’s been generating a fascinating discussion over at TheSkiDiva.com — right now the thread is 12 pages and growing. After all, we’ve all seen the pictures of scantily clad high-profile women skiers posing in nothing but lingerie and ski boots. Does this do them a disservice? Can’t women skiers stand on just their abilities and achievements? Or do they need to be sexually provocative in order to get attention?

As you’d imagine, there are as many opinions on this as there are women on the forum, so my voice is only one of the many. That said, I’ll be upfront: I’m an unabashed feminist. I mean, I get it. People like to look at women’s bodies. They’re beautiful. Even I recognize that. And I realize the window for these women to cash in on their fame is fairly small. They’re big for a year or two, and then, poof! Someone else is in the spotlight. If they find it agreeable to make money posing in skimpy outfits, well, it’s legal and they’re adults. They can do as they like. No argument there.

Nonetheless, I find if profoundly sad that they find it necessary to do this at all. It’s demoralizing when a woman who’s an Olympic-level skier poses suggestively in an ad for ski gear. These are world class athletes who should be celebrated simply for their abilities — not because they’re posing with their tush hanging out of a thong and a come-hither look in their eyes. I think it objectifies them and diminishes their accomplishments. What’s more, I don’t think it does anything to sell to the women’s market — if that’s the intent — and only sexualizes them to men. I mean, I’d buy ski boots a lot quicker if I saw a woman using them to rip down the mountain, instead of posing with them half undressed.

Okay. Deep breath. Enough of a rant.

As I said before, the thread on the forum is long and there are loads of opinions. But here are a few:

• It’s mostly disturbing to me that there are women who feel like they have to do this. Certainly not in a “gun to the head” sort of way, but I don’t think most of us have ever been in the position where we could do the sport we love full time and perhaps improve significantly if we could make the extra money from semi-nude advertisements, or we could try to train while doing another job to make ends meet. THAT is honestly the main concept that disturbs me. And while I like to be optimistic and think that I’d hold my ground and not let that sway my decisions if I were in that position… it might feel different if I were. I also agree that perhaps the MORE annoying thing is that advertisements such as that feel like the company is only concerned with advertising to men. Hah, now if they had a similar photo of a guy on the next page…. ;)

• As I see it, athletes are celebrities. And further, they are celebrities that happen to have pretty brilliant physical attributes due to the fact that they are athletes. So people are going to want to make them into sex symbols. I do see that this happens more with women than with men, sure. Some of it boils down to the fact that men tend to be more visually stimulated and women less so (it’s the same reason why men are more into sex-driven porn while women may tend to find plot-driven porn or literary porn more of a turn-on). Some of it may be patriarchy, etc.  The difference I see now is that woman now can CHOOSE whether they want themselves to be viewed this way. They can choose to be ‘just’ an athlete or they can choose to be a sex symbol. And they can be both.

• First of all, I truly believe that a woman should be free to direct her own future in whatever manner she decides. It is irrelevant whether or not I approve of her choices. Secondly, I do believe that top athletes would be hired as spokespeople regardless of their appearance. Corporations like to hire winners. If the female athletes were not beautiful and sexy, the company would create a different style of advertisement. They want to sell their product. The sad truth is that, in the ski industry, male consumers outnumber female consumers 2 to 1. Those Lange boot ads are not selling to women; they are selling to men. It’s about name brand recognition. If Julia weren’t beautiful, Lange would have created a different style of ad for her. I’m not saying that Lange wouldn’t have done the sexy female athlete ads as well … they would have, but they wanted Julia because she is a winner, a top athlete, and would have created an ad that worked. I am not offended by her choice to pose in sexy ads. She is earning a living while she is still successful.

• Yes, women are entitled to do with their bodies what they want. But when they are told that the only way they can be a role model/public figure/spokesperson is to strip down, it’s not a fair choice anymore. Those Lange posters, like so many others, really market to men. If they marketed to me, they’d give me a woman/skier that I wanted to be. Not an underwear model.

• I think it’s sad that so many Divas (hey, me included) add the caveat of ‘IF I had her athletic body, I’d strip down. too.’ Why if? Who got to decide that my body is less valuable than someone else’s? A whole separate conversation, I know. But that does bring it back to can a women’s sport survive without sexualization of the athletes? In this day and age, right now? Sadly, I don’t think so. Not that I don’t want it that way or think it can never happen. But women equals sex in the public eye. The fact that we say we won’t bare our bodies unless they look a certain way punctuates that for me. It’s something we all need to keep fighting, and continue to change for the next generation. Geez, it’s something I need to keep working on for me! Value my athleticism and drive and passion, not criticize my thighs, love handles and flappy bird arms.

• I think that because the number of pro male athletes is so much greater than the number of pro female athletes that it’s more noticeable when a female athlete does a somewhat provocative ad. Moreover, members of this forum are particularly attuned to female athletes, particularly skiing, to the point where if a male basketball player did a provocative cover or ad, few of us would even know about it. But, we all know when “one of our own” is getting publicity. I’m sure there are dozens of deodorant, soap, razor, aftershave, etc. ads featuring pro MLB, NFL, NBA players either in the shower or locker room wearing only a towel. And sure, they’re not using pouty lips, but you can’t deny that part of the reason they are in the shower or locker room is to somehow attract women watching sports with boyfriends or husbands.

• OK, this is one of my major pet peeves – sexualizing women who should be able to sell magazines, TV ads, etc on their own merits. I fear for our young girls because there are not many strong female role models who do not compromise themselves by selling sex-driven photos. I understand that to make the big money endorsements such as Sports Illustrated covers, female athletes get sexualized. It is just sad that their isn’t a publication that can promote female athletes with more dignity and less sensationalism.

• Athletes compete because this is what they are good at. Pretty women may enjoy posing for the same reason – they are good at it and look good doing this. So is it too difficult to imagine one person being both – a pretty woman and an athlete – and do things they are good at and like doing? I tend to agree that it’s neither good nor bad to their sport, more like neutral. But if there are people who will think less of an athlete and the sport she represents because she chose to pose nude or in some tight clothes, it’s not the athlete who has to change. I would say that the choice they make is a logical one – neither athletic ability nor looks last forever, so it would be reasonable to capitalize on both. And no one is ever “respected” for looks. “Looks” is a visual characteristic that do not command respect. People respect efforts, talents and achievements but not someone’s height or weight or hair colour. But yeah, sure some will be remembered mostly for looks but this is usually because their achievements in their sport are fairly obscure… And to complicated matters worse, you can have someone with remarkable athletic talent and good looks but when this person opens their mouth…. Important lesson here: beware of creating role models.

• It  goes back to expecting too much from sporting figures as role models. If a female entertainer puts on something too sexy for good taste, we just shake our head and change channels. Why can’t we do the same with women skiers/cyclists?

You can read the thread in its entirety here. So what do you think?



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How to survive the White Ribbon of Death.

A-Basin on opening day (Jesse Paul, The Denver Post)

A-Basin on opening day (Jesse Paul, The Denver Post)

Whether your season’s already started (I’m looking at you, A-Basiners) or if you plan 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.

Oooooooooooooooh.

Don’t run screaming from your computer. 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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No Turning Back: A Review

WME_PosterI have to admit, I haven’t been a Warren Miller fan for a long time. After all, it hasn’t been the same since Warren stopped making his own movies. For me, the newer ones tend to run together — a lot of people jumping off cliffs; oh look, more back flips; and the obligatory urban stuff, sliding down stair rails and jumping over small buildings and parked cars. Granted, some segments are much better than others. But on the whole, I’ve kind of lost interest.

Sacrilege, I know.

Still, the Warren Miller movies are a tradition. An indicator that ski season is coming! So when Warren Miller Entertainment asked if I’d like a review copy of their new movie, No Turning Back, I said sure, why not.

I won’t keep you in suspense. Almost to my surprise, I liked it.

The construct is the same as it’s been in the past. Like other WME movies, it’s divided into segments, each one featuring different skiers in different locales. The first segment (which I think is the best) showcases Ingrid Backstrom, Jess McMillam, and Chris Anthony skiing in the Chugach of Alaska. The ability of Jess and Ingrid to tackle the steep stuff is exhilarating to watch, and the passion and excitement they bring to big mountain skiing is an absolute  joy. WME has featured women skiers before, but I love that this time they’re in the lead spot. Maybe it’s a reaction to the new all-female Pretty Faces movie? Who knows. But as a female skier, and one who gets pretty tired of having the focus on guys, guys, and more guys, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the women rip it up.

The second segment spoke to me, too. As an older skier, I loved seeing a group with an average age of 46 absolutely killing it in Chamonix. Seth Morrision, Mike Hattrup, Tim Petrick, and Heather Paul tackle some awesome terrain off the Aiguille du Midi, accessing lines that can only be reached by rappelling down ropes and descending ladders. Some of the quotes I wrote down as I watched this portion: “With the revolution of ski gear, [skiing is] the fountain of youth for anyone who’s older,” “When skiers are saying 50 is the new 40, what they’re really saying is thank you fat skis,” and “If you’re not smiling, you better change sports.” Anyone who disses older skiers or thinks that they, themselves, are too old to ski, watch these guys. You’ll change your opinion pretty quick.

And I also enjoyed segment #3, which focused on the laid back, off-the-beaten path ski towns and areas of Montana. Maybe it’s because I’ve been to Montana twice in the past two years and plan to go again this winter. The scenery is gorgeous, the skiing by Julian Carr and Sierra Quitiquit is lovely, and the whole vibe of the piece really spoke to me, since I love places that are a bit outside the mainstream.

There are five other segments, too: Snowboarding in Niseko, Japan, which features boarding in an insane amount of snow in the country’s north island; skiing Mount Olympus in Greece (loved the history and the ruins); searching for the site of the world’s oldest ski in Lofoten, Norway (the beauty of the mountains and sea is amazing), racing in Vail and Beaver Creek (enjoyed seeing the racing legends); and speed-riding, which involves skis and parachutes in Switzerland (in a word, heart-stopping).

On the whole, I found this movie more accessible than some of the ones I’ve viewed in the past. Yes, it still has the obligatory exotic locales. Which really, I enjoy. But I think it seemed more focused on actual skiing rather than jumping off cliffs and doing crazy stunts. And not only did the first segment feature women, but women were also featured prominently in two of the other segments, as well. For me, this is a big improvement.

Did it do its job and get me stoked for the season? Yes.  Then again, I’m always stoked. My rating: Two ski poles up.

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