Flying in winter? What you need to know.


Let me get this out of the way first: Mother Nature rules. She always gets her way. You just have to sit back, relax, and give her space to do her thing.

As skiers, we know this. As citizens of the 21st century who work pretty hard to bend Mother Nature to our collective will, it’s sometimes easy to forget.

Right now I’m holed up in a hotel room waiting for the the third Nor’easter in two weeks to haul out of New England so I can get on a plane for a Ski Diva gathering out west. I live three hours from Logan International, so we figured it’d be wiser to drive down last night and stay near the airport, rather than drive in today during the storm. The forecast is for 18″ of snow  (I’m almost sorry I’m not home in Vermont to enjoy the fresh pow), and our flight is scheduled for tomorrow. Mother Nature willing.

The chance of that happening? I’ll give it a strong……maybe. The storm is supposed to end tonight, so yes, there is a chance. It just depends on if the storm moves out to sea. And if they can clear the runways. And if our plane can get in. And if the flight crew can arrive. And a million other things that I can’t even name. But it’s still a possibility, so I’ll hang on to that.

So what do you do if you’re flying in winter?

Here are some things to do before you go:

Pre-pack. Make sure you have a carryon with  some essentials: toothpaste, clean underwear, medication, a phone charger, etc. That way, if some leg of your journey is cancelled, you’ll have a few important items with you.

And this may seem evident, but check your flight before you leave to make sure it’s still scheduled. This could save you a trip to the airport. Your best bet is your airline’s website. Or you might want to try This website bills itself as the world’s leading flight tracking data website and provides real time tracking maps for every single flight. Another option is The Federal Aviation Administration hosts a map that pinpoints which cities’ airports are generally showing significant delays or if an airport has closed.

But what if you get to the airport and your flight’s canceled?

If the customer service desk is crowded, call the airline on your cell. You might get through faster.

Know your rights. For domestic flights, US airlines are not obligated to compensate you for cancellations. If weather’s the problem, they must get on on the next available flight, but they’re not obligated to put you on another airline. If it’s non-weather related, they must put you on the next available flight.

Go online. If you used an online travel agency to book your reservation, try to reach them. And don’t forget about your  hotel or car reservations, either. Cancelled flights have a ripple effect, and your other travel providers may need to be notified, too. You can rebook, or they may give you a partial refund.

Find out if there’s a compensation package. You may be entitled to something: a hotel room, a refund. If you have a smart phone, an app called Hotel Tonight is a great way to find last minute hotel room.

More importantly, stay calm. You’ll think more clearly, and it’s a lot better for your general well being. Remember, there are things a lot worse that could happen. I know it’s hard to keep this in mind, but try.

Keep your fingers crossed for me. I’ll get there, eventually. The Ski Divas are calling, and I must go.


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Have you ever ski biked? I have — and it’s a blast!


I’m willing to bet that most of you haven’t heard of ski biking. Well, until recently, neither had I. But if you’re looking for some laugh-out-loud, just plain silly fun, this is the thing for you. I know, because I tried it last week at Killington Mountain Resort. And I laughed, whooped, hollered, and giggled all the way down the hill.

You clip into short little skis.

You clip into short little skis.

What’s a ski bike? As you can see in the photo above, it’s essentially a bike frame with a long, low seat and two skis: one in the front, and one in the back. There are no brakes, chains, or gears, either. You clip your feet into two short skis, straddle the seat, and you’re good to go.

Although ski biking is pretty new in the East, it’s been around for decades, primarily in Europe and more recently out West. The bikes used at Killington are made by Brenter, a family business in Austria that’s been making them since 1949.

Killington is the only resort in Vermont with ski biking, which it offers in partnership with Alpine Bike Works. The mountain has 12 available in three different sizes — kids, medium, and large — and it can adjust them to your physique.

Once you’re fitted, you’re given some instruction on how to stop, start, turn, and get on and off the lift. To be honest, getting on the lift was my biggest challenge. The bikes really aren’t heavy — they weigh less than 20 pounds — but they are a bit cumbersome. You hold them in front and keep them in place using your foot, knee, and the lift’s safety bar. And while I managed to get the hang of it after a couple times, I’ll admit that it made me a bit nervous at first.

Ski biking, on the whole, is a low impact, easy way to have fun. The learning curve is pretty fast, which probably makes it great for people who want to get out on the snow but don’t want to spend a lot of time taking lessons, or for people who have physical challenges, or for those of us just looking for something fun and different to do. Turning involves simply shifting your weight. To stop, you turn into the hill. And to have fun, you just point yourself down the hill and GO.

Here I am coming down the learning hill. As I’m sure you’ll note, conditions were sort of challenging. We’d been through a spring-like warm-up, and the snow was a mushy-gushy, piled up mess. But that didn’t stop me from having fun!

Right now Killington limits ski biking to two areas on the mountain: the Snowshed learning area and Ram’s Head, though this could change in the years ahead. My instructor said it’s great in all sorts of conditions, too, so I think I’ll have to come back and find out for myself.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

Two ski poles up! I can’t recommend this highly enough. Definitely give it a try.

And now, for Killington’s ’18-’19 season…..

After an afternoon of ski biking, I attended Killington’s annual Resort Update meeting. Everyone in the community is invited, and it’s a great way to learn about what the mountain is planning for the summer and next ski season. Killington deserves a lot of credit for being so forthright and transparent about what’s going on. The mountain’s General Manager, Mike Solimano, had a lot of great things to announce. Most noteworthy: $16 million of improvements, which include the following:

• RFID technology at lift access points for both Killington and Pico;
• Upgrades on the K-1 Gondola, including new gondola cabins;
• A 6-person bubble chairlift to replace the current Snowden lift;
• Installation of a quad chairlift on the mountain’s underserved South Ridge area;
• Trail intersection improvements;
• Creation of a dedicated race training venue.

For more details, go here.



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Mount Snow: Still going strong at 64.


When you look into Mount Snow’s history, one of the most interesting things you learn is that its founder, Walter Schoenknecht, petitioned the Atomic Regulatory Commission to detonate an A-bomb on the mountain’s backside to increase its vertical.

This was back during the Cold War, and fortunately for all of us, his request was denied. But that doesn’t minimize the role that Schoenknecht played in creating a lasting legacy in eastern skiing. This year, the mountain celebrates its 64th anniversary. And although it’s been through several owners — Schoenknecht sold it in the early 70’s — Mount Snow been part of the Peak Resorts family since 2007.

Mount Snow is the first major ski resort you hit when you enter Vermont from the south, so its easily accessible from major population centers in the Northeast. But the mountain has more going for it than just proximity. Peak has made significant investments designed to keep people coming back, year after year. Here are a few I learned about during a recent visit:


Snowmaking Photo courtesy of Mount Snow

Photo courtesy of Mount Snow

A new $30 million snowmaking system
Resorts in the east live and die because of snowmaking, and Mount Snow just gave itself an enormous boost with a $30 million upgrade that doubles its previous capacity. This has been years in the making. The mountain constructed an entirely new reservoir, installed a new pumping system complete with 3 pump houses and 18 miles of pipe, and added 220 new higher-efficiency snow guns. The result: a lot more snow, faster and more efficiently. Which means more snow on more trails earlier in the season, and faster recoveries from wild weather swings.



The Blue Bubble
I’m no wuss (well, maybe I am), but riding a lift while being hammered by the wind is not my idea of a good time. The Blue Bubble, otherwise known as the Bluebird Express, has a shield you can pull down for protection from the elements. And yeah, it makes a huge difference. Mount Snow installed its six-pack bubble chair in 2011, and it’s the go-to lift on a blustery day.


Carinthia Terrain Park, courtesy of Mount Snow

Carinthia Terrain Park, courtesy of Mount Snow

The best terrain park in the east.
I don’t play in the park, but if I did, this is where I’d come. named Mount Snow’s Carinthia Park #1 in the East in 2018, and it’s made top ten lists all over the place ever since it opened in the ’08-’09 season.  The park encompasses 100 total acres of terrain with nine different terrain parks ranging in size from small features to extra-large features, plus a 400+ foot superpipe with 18-foot walls. Mount Snow was cohost of the first Extreme Games in 1995 and host of the Winter X-Games in 2000 and 2001.



New Carinthia Lodge under construction Photo courtesy of Mount Snow

And coming soon, a huge new lodge
If there’s been a shortfall at Mount Snow, it’s in the base lodge department. The main lodge has been around for a long, long time, and truly, it wasn’t built to handle the amount of traffic it gets, particularly during weekends and holidays. Mount Snow is working big time to change this by building a $22 million dollar 42,000 square-foot lodge. Slated to open for the ’18-’19 season, the lodge will have seating for 500 people and house a full-service restaurant, a cafeteria, two bars(!)  and a coffee counter. It’ll also have a rental shop, a tune shop, lift ticket and ski school sales, a retail and convenience store, and bag storage. The area will also feature a new parking garage as well as 102  2-3 bedroom rental units measuring from 1,600 to 2,800 square feet.

Haven’t been to Mount Snow? Here are some stats:

Total acreage: 600
Base elevation: 1,900′
Summit elevation: 3,600′
Vertical drop: 1,700′
Ability level: 16% green, 66% blue, 18% black
Average annual snowfall: 156″
Trails: 86
Lifts: 20
Longest run: 3 miles



I had a great day skiing Mount Snow. The terrain is lots of fun, the mountain easy to navigate — the blues are in one section of the mountain, the blacks in another, and the terrain park entirely separate —  and the people who work there are friendly and engaged. If you’re looking for a place to ski in southern Vermont, this is it. Give it a try.

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Yes, I love skiing. But here are some things I’d change.


Let me start by wishing skiing a very Happy Valentine’s Day. Yes, skiing, I love just about everything about you: the activity, the culture, the weather, the scenery. To me, skiing has been a gift that has enriched my life in oh so many ways. Yet true love doesn’t mean unconditional acceptance. You can love something and still recognize its flaws. In fact, the more you love something, the more you want to make it better.

So this week, I thought maybe it was time I took off the rose-colored glasses and addressed some of the issues the ski industry needs to work on. No, I don’t have the answers. These are complicated problems that many people have been puzzling over for years. But as a (very) interested observer, here are some of the things I would change, if only I could:

• Greater affordability, particularly for families: There’s no denying that skiing is expensive. Sure, there are ways to cut costs: ski clubs, buying tickets in advance, ski swaps — all of these can do a lot to make it more affordable.That said, it’s a wonder that anyone can afford to be out on the slopes. At $189, Vail’s walk-up rate is firmly in nose-bleed territory. And while that may be an extreme example, it still demonstrates that the industry is pricing a lot of people out of the sport. When I see a family on the slopes and I think about what they’re paying for lodging, food, gear, lessons, and lift passes, I’m frankly at a loss to know how they do it.

• Better pay and benefits for instructors.* Anyone who takes a lesson knows you pay a pretty hefty price. But what most people don’t realize is that instructors only receive a very small portion of that amount. Typically, instructors are only paid about 10 to 20% of the revenue they generate for major US resorts. Sure, they get perks: the free pass is nice, and they may get discounts for food or gear. But the amount they receive is way out of whack when you look at what’s being charged. *Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s up the pay and benefits for patrollers, too.

• More affordable housing for ski resort employees. The problem with working in a ski town is living in a ski town. The market for high-end vacation homes has made affordable housing nearly impossible to find. So what’s the average liftie/instructor/food service worker to do? Typically, commute in from farther and farther away. You can read a good article about the problem here, but it’s a crisis situation that needs to be addressed.

• More diversity on the slopes:  From 1974 to 2016, the percentage of Americans skiing fell from 25 percent to 17 percent. And while the number of minorities in the country is continuing to rise — by 2060, the US will be a ‘minority majority’ nation — 73% of skiers are white.  What’s more, a key demographic — the Baby Boomers — are aging out. If skiing is going to survive, we need to bring younger, more diverse people into the sport.

• A viable model for smaller, family-friendly resorts. Since the 1980’s, roughly 33% of US ski areas have gone out of business, and up to 150 more are considered threatened by industry experts. It breaks my heart to see these places close. Small hills play an important part in skiing. These are where many of us get into the sport, and are an important, affordable place for families to play. Keeping these areas going is essential for the life blood of the sport. I’ve written about one solution, Mountain Rider’s Alliance, here. But there need to be others, too.

• And while we’re at it, a little less sexism. This covers a whole lot of ground: everything from relegating women to soft goods sales in ski shops, to only paying attention to women racers who look a certain way, to producing skis in girly colors with flowers and butterflies (thankfully, this is a trend that’s disappearing). It’s simple: Women want to be appreciated as the athletes we are. We don’t want to be talked down to like children or treated as sex objects. The industry has made a fair amount of progress in this, but it still has a long way to go.





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On sexist ads and skiing.

I’m writing this during the Super Bowl. No, I’m not watching. I never do, no matter who’s playing. Football just isn’t my thing. But I may have to break that rule if they continue to run commercials like the ones I’m going to mention below. Chalk it up to the Winter Games, chalk it up to the #metoo movement, but there are a number of ads that show women skiers as the powerful, exceptional athletes they are instead of just scantily clad sex objects with minimal athletic chops.

This is an outstanding development. For far too long, women have been depicted in ads like this:



Or this:


Unfortunately, Lange Boots has a long history of running these ads, and in all fairness, I think they’ve stopped. But it drove me nuts back in the day. I mean, I get it. People like to look at women’s bodies. They’re beautiful. But this isn’t about beauty. It’s about depicting women simply as sexual toys. And yes, I find that demeaning.

Sexist ads aren’t just from the dark ages. It wasn’t that long ago that Toyota ran this gem, implying that men are experts and women, well, they’re pretty much relegated to intermediate terrain:



And recently Unofficial Networks, a popular ski website, posted this on Facebook with the caption ‘Best Ad Campaign Ever?’ The backlash was intense, and they ended up removing it pretty quickly. But it’s a sore reminder that this sort of attitude is still very much part of our culture:



And if these ads weren’t bad enough, it’s even worse when they feature world class female athletes. Sorry, Julia Mancuso, I love you, but is this really necessary?


Some people argue that this is an athlete’s prerogative; that they’ve worked hard to develop fantastic bodies, and it’s their right to profit from their efforts. After all, their time in the spotlight is so brief  that they might as well make money any way they can. And if they find it acceptable to pose in skimpy outfits, well, it’s legal and they’re adults and free to make their own choices.

All this is true. Nonetheless, I find if profoundly sad that they even 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 butt hanging out of a thong and a suggestive 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 half undressed.

All this brings me back to the Super Bowl, because there were some really great, inspiring ads that highlighted the strength, perseverance, and excellence of women skiers instead of how they look in a provocative pose.

So it’s with great pleasure that I present these commercials below. Let’s hope there are a lot more to come.

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Skiing through adversity.

skisalone (1)

No one goes through life unscathed. And while we all associate skiing with fun times, we can’t escape bad ones just because we’re on the slopes. Real life is out there, and it can intrude on us, wherever we are.

Everyone handles adversity differently. Some of us stop skiing, either permanently or temporarily. Take me, for instance. My daughter had health issues when she was little, and I ended up not skiing for about 17 years. It was just too……complicated. Then again, I wasn’t as into it as I am now, so it wasn’t something I even thought about much.

There’s no right or wrong answer for what you should or shouldn’t do. But studies show that exercise — and that includes skiing — can have a key role in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. And spending a day outdoors as the snow drifts slowly down, standing on a mountaintop taking in the views — all can bring a feeling of peace that cannot be denied.

I asked a few Ski Divas about the role skiing played during difficult periods in their lives, and here’s what they had to say:

Ski Diva #1’s husband passed away at the same time she was battling breast cancer:
Skiing was a great help after my my husband, Michael, died by helping me clear my head. When you ski, you can’t focus on anything else. So I never stopped. I knew Michael wouldn’t have wanted me to. The first time I skied the women’s Olympic downhill run at Snowbasin was bittersweet. I told my coach that I wished Michael was there to see it. “He did,” he said. Since then, my coach and his wife have become dear and valued friends. They’ve walked me through the years after Michael’s death, helping me use skiing as a way to face my fears and accurately assess that I can do this.

I also battled breast cancer eight months before Michael died. We caught it very early on a routine mammogram. I had a lumpectomy and radiation, which wrapped up just before Christmas in 2011. That had no impact on my skiing. However, the follow-up medication, Tamoxifen, was a nightmare. When combined with my underlying polycystic ovary syndrome, it wreaked havoc on my health. Together they slowed my metabolism way down and initiated an accelerated menopause with its attendant issues. I also suffered nearly all the side effects of Tamoxifen, the worst being 24/7 joint pain. This made skiing much more difficult; between the joint pain and the weight gain, it’s been a real struggle. But this also kept my stubborn/determined streak going.

To me, skiing represents overcoming adversity, not only in my life, but in actually learning to ski. I’ve never been a particularly athletic person, so being able to ski, and do it well, is a constant reminder to me that I CAN. That reminder is essential to me.

Another thing: when I’m on the mountain — when I’m really in synch with its contours and the snow — there’s a feeling of being one with a force outside myself that is truly powerful. I get a sense of timelessness, that I’m one person on one day in the eternity of this mountain. And at least once each day I stop somewhere that reminds me of Michael, and I give thanks for his life and that he introduced me to this delightfully addictive sport.

Ski Diva #2 went through a divorce:
To be honest, after the divorce, all I wanted to do was ski. But I think anxiety and stress caused me to struggle. I had panic attacks like I’d never had before, on terrain I’d skied comfortably just the year prior. Skiing was helpful primarily because I also worked on the mountain so I met lots of new people, including the guy I’m dating now. So even though I was struggling, I was also rebuilding a network of friends who share my passion for skiing!

I think the overall picture of the past year or more was that I went from being on almost a manic high, to the lowest of lows, which I’m still struggling to come back from. It created a lot of fears that I didn’t have before –primarily financial — that affected my entire life, and still do. It’s been pure hell at times. Having been out of the job market for ten years, then trying to reestablish myself in a business can be daunting for anybody. I’ve also found a person who’s had the patience to bear with me while I muddle through and try to find security and happiness again. The fact that he’s a lifelong skier who loves to ski with me has definitely brought joy back to the sport for me!

Ski Diva #3 endured the death of a parent:
My Dad died during ski season. It was sudden and unexpected. He had a massive heart attack, and it blew a hole right through my world. He’d always been extremely healthy, and though I knew intellectually he wouldn’t last forever, it was still very unexpected. Dad was the one who started me skiing when I was a kid, and even though I suffered the typical teenage angst, we still managed to connect when we were on the slopes. I skied a few weeks after he passed, and I couldn’t help but picture him out there with me. Sure, it was difficult, particularly at first. Enjoying myself — being happy — almost seemed wrong. But I knew he’d want me to ski, and I had so many happy memories of skiing with him that it seemed to help. He was my biggest cheerleader, and even seven years later, when I have doubts about my abilities, I can hear him say ‘you can do it!’

Thank you, ladies, for sharing your stories.

Finding something that can get you through a bad time is a blessing, and if skiing can help, then I’m all for it.

I wish you all peace, strength, and hope.

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Winter Olympic Prep 101: What you may not know about South Korea & Skiing.

Alpensia Resort, South Korea.

Alpensia Resort, South Korea.

I’ll admit it — I know absolutely nothing about skiing in South Korea. Which isn’t good, particularly since the 2018 Winter Olympics are just around the corner. Since I figure I’m probably not alone, I thought I’d take this opportunity to give all of us a crash course on a few things that might be worth knowing so we’re ready when the Games begin.

• The Korean peninsula is bisected by the Taebaek Mountains, which stretch approximately 310 miles (500 km) from Wonsan in North Korea to Busan in southern South Korea. The highest peak is 5,603 ft (1708m) in Gangwon-do.

• The 2018 Winter Games will take place in Pyeongchang County, about 120 miles southeast of Seoul. Eighty-four percent of its territory is comprised of mountains with average elevations of 2,296 ft (700 m).

• Pyeongchang has a slogan, ‘Happy700 Pyeongchang,’ taken from the county’s average elevation (in meters).


• The Games are gathered around two main venues: the Pyeongchang Mountain Cluster, which includes Alpensia,  Jeongseon Alpine Centre, and Yongpyong Alpine Centre, for alpine and the coastal city of Gangneung for indoor sports (figure skating, hockey, curling, etc.). A free-standing venue, Bokwang Snow Park, will host freestyle skiing and snowboarding.

pyeongchang2016mascotSoohorang, the mascot of the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, took its motif from the white tiger. The white tiger has been long considered Korea’s guardian animal. Sooho, meaning protection in Korean, symbolizes the protection offered to the athletes, spectators, and other participants of the Games. Rang comes from the middle letter of Ho-rang-i, the Korean word for tiger, and is also the last letter of Jeong-seon A-ri-rang, a traditional folk song of Gangwon Province.

• South Korea opened its first resort, Yongpyong, in 1975, but the sport didn’t really take off until 1992, when Short Track Speed Skater Kim Ki-Hoon brought home the country’s first Winter Olympic Gold medal.

• Yongpyong is owned by the Unification Church, a religious movement founded by Sun Myung Moon. It has 15 different lift facilities. The lift-served summit is 4,783 ft (1,458 meters ), and the base area is at approximately 2,530 ft (770 meters).

• South Korea has 21 ski resorts. The largest are scattered throughout Gangwon-do province.

• The South Korean ski season runs from early December through March.

• None of the terrain within any of the ski areas is above the tree line, and every resort lines every ski slope with high chain-link fences. Tree skiing is absolutely not an option.

• Although South Korea is fairly close to Japan, the snow is completely different. Unlike Japan, which is known for powder generated when cold air from Siberia intersects with moisture from the Sea of Japan, Korea’s cold air comes from the dry plains of China and Manchuria, and does not go over any large bodies of water. The result is drier, less plentiful snow. South Korean ski resorts rely heavily on the artificial variety, and have extensive snow-making systems in place.

• Korean resorts logged about 5 million skier visits in 2016, less than one-tenth of the US’s 54 million skier visits.

• South Koreans love night skiing! Alpensia is open until 10 PM, while chair lifts at Yongpyong, also known as Dragon Valley, operate until 2:30 AM.

• North and South Korea recently agreed that their ski teams would train together in the Masikryong ski resort in North Korea.

• The women’s ice hockey squad will be the first combined Korean team for the Olympics, and the first unified team since their athletes played together for an international table-tennis championship and a youth soccer tournament in 1991.

• North and South Korea’s delegations will march at the opening ceremony behind a unified Korea flag that shows an undivided Korean Peninsula.

• And for a handy-dandy guide on how to pronounce all those unfamiliar South Korean place names, I found a great video on this from NBC Chicago. Go here.

Incidentally, it’s hard to think about South Korea without thinking about the North. If you’re interested in reading an excellent book about what life is like there, I strongly recommend “Nothing To Envy” by Barbara Demick.


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Gear Review: Renoun Z-90 Skis

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

The great Civil War general, Ulysses S. Grant, was famous for being unnaturally calm under pressure; the hotter the action, the cooler he became.

Today I’d like to introduce you to the Ulysses S. Grant of skis: Renoun’s Z-90.

A strange comparison, I know. So perhaps I better explain.

Renoun is the only company that makes its skis using a non-Newtonian polymer, incorporating it into a patented technology: HDT™, or Hyper Damping Technology™.  HDT doesn’t follow Sir Issac Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which states that for every action, there’s an equal or greater reaction. Instead, the HDT core minimizes chatter by constantly changing its density, adjusting in real time to the skier and snow conditions. So if you ski on hard snow, the ski actually becomes stiffer, more damp. And if you’re in soft conditions, it becomes softer, more flexible, and less damp. And it does all this in real time.

Hence the Ulysses S. Grant comparison: As the pressure amps up, the Z-90’s become steadier and more stable. Pretty cool, right?

Last year I tried Renoun’s Z-77’s, and I was sold. I believe the word I used was ‘exceptional.’ Here’s a recap of what I said in my review:

“These are skis that will make your ski day better than it’d be if you were skiing something else. Skis that will make you grin. Skis that will make you fall in love with skiing all over again. And really, you can’t beat that.”

Fast forward to this year. Renoun offered to send me the Z-90’s, and believe me, I was excited.

First, a bit about me:

Size: 5’1″, 112 lbs
Skier type: Advanced
Where I ski: Mostly in Vermont. Which means I see it all: a lot of ice (AKA hard pack), packed powder, sometimes powder on top of ice , and once in a while — but not too often — some actual powder.

And now, the Z-90’s:

157 mm, 136/90/124
Core: Canadian Maple and 8-layers of HDT™ inlays (15% core volume).
Reinforcement: Carbon fiber, metal and tri-axial fiberglass


So do these skis deliver?

You know what I said about the Z-77’s? I could do a cut and paste here. The Z-90’s provide the same smooth, stable, smile-inducing ride I enjoyed before, without being dull and damp. The condition of the snow doesn’t matter. They transition smoothly from hard snow to soft in a heartbeat, without either bucking you around or feeling dead. The company says HDT reduces vibration by 300%. I don’t know if that’s the exact number, but I will say this: these are skis that will make you fall in love with skiing all over again.

How are they different from the Z-77’s?

It’s a matter of dimensions. The Z-77’s are narrower, measuring 123/77/111. So their ride is a bit different. Let me put it this way: the 77 is a sports car, perfect for groomer zoomers when you want to carve, carve, carve. Sure, you can take it off piste or into the powder. But it’s still a 77-waist ski, and it behaves like one. The 90’s are dimensionally larger, so they’re more of an SUV.  You can take them anywhere, though they’re still easy to turn and get on edge. I had them on hard pack, in 6 inches of powder,  in pushed up piles, in powder with ice underneath — it didn’t matter. Wherever these skis go, whatever they do, they perform.

I’m actually smiling as I write this. They’re that good.

An unmatched guarantee.

No, you can’t get the Z-90’s in a store. Actually, you can’t get any Renoun ski in any store. They’re only available on line at the company’s website. And though Renoun used to hold demos at ski resorts from time to time, they’ve decided to concentrate their efforts on getting skis out the door instead of schlepping them from one ski resort to another.

So what’s a skier to do?

Order them. Because if you don’t like them for any reason — and you have 100 days to decide if that’s the case — you can send them back and Renoun will give you a full refund. I don’t know any other ski company that does this. You have absolutely nothing to lose.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

I hereby pronounce The Z-90’s the perfect East Coast ski. They can rip the corduroy, handle the ice, take you through chopped up stuff, powder, trees, you name it, like a champ. They’re agile yet stable, lively yet smooth. The Z-90 is a one-ski quiver any eastern Ski Diva would be happy to own — and I’ll bet a lot of western Ski Divas, too. Take a look at the picture below. My smile says it all.

Me and my new best friends, the Renoun Z-90's.

Me and my new best friends, the Renoun Z-90’s.


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A chat about fear with fear expert Mermer Blakeslee.


Mermer Blakeslee

For many of us, skiing is a head game. Get past the fear, and suddenly things become a lot easier. So who better to talk to about this than Mermer Blakeslee, the ski industry’s recognized fear expert and author of In the Yikes! Zone: A Conversation With Fear .

Mermer started skiing at the age of three and has taught skiing at Windham Mountain, NY, since 1979. In 1996, she won Skiing magazine’s Instructor of the Year Award. That spring, she successfully competed for a spot on the PSIA National Demonstration Team, an elite group that spearheads the development and direction of instructing in America and represents American skiing internationally (she was one of the few women and the only mother to do so). She has also lectured at PSIA’s National Academies and National Women’s Seminars, as well at as the National Ski Patrol’s annual conventions, and has traveled throughout the US training instructors and serving as an examiner for PSIA-Eastern. Mermer has been a coach for the Divisional Clinic Leaders, the Development Team, and the Eastern Demonstration team.

I had a chat with Mermer about her unique approach to fear and skiing.

SD: Mermer, I know you’re also the author of two novels [In Dark Water and Same Blood], yet you do all this work with skiing and fear. How do you reconcile the two?
MB: I know they seem diametrically opposed, but both of these disciplines come together in the core of my being. A lot of what I’ve done with fear and skiing is also what I’ll do with fear and writing. When you have a writing block, it’s because your expectations are high. You need an entrance ramp to get into either writing or skiing. You can’t just click in and be in the zone. It’s like when you come into music. You can’t just start dancing unselfconsciously. You may start out on the sidelines watching, then you may start moving a bit, then you slowly get drawn in. You have to find your process to actualize what you’re capable of doing.

One big difference between me and sports psychologists is that I treat the athlete as an artist.The psychologists deal with conditioned responses and overlook the creativity of the sport. I talk about skiing as a metaphor for any creative act. There’s always that moment where you have to give yourself up and let go. You know, I really love skiing just for itself. It doesn’t have to be a metaphor. But I find that because it’s such an emotional sport, the metaphor can easily transfer into people’s lives.

SD: So what do you do in your fear clinic?
MB: I gear the clinic toward getting women to respond to skiing in a new way, based on their own ability. We get them into a place where they’re free of what I call the “nag.” That’s the negative self-talk that tells you you can’t do something.

SD: How did you get started with your fear clinic?
MB: I started to teach skiing at Windham (NY), and no one liked teaching the fearful women who came in for lessons. I told the ski school to give them to me, and I started developing a reputation for dealing with them. It’s ironic because when I was ski racing at Burke Academy, I understood there was a mind-body connection; that it was my mind that was keeping me from getting better. So I felt that these fearful women were just like me. I also thought they had amazing emotional courage, to attempt to do something even though they were frightened. Eventually I was asked to do a special clinic about fear; I think that was back in ’85. Now I offer one clinic a year, and I train a lot of fear clinicians. I also train ski teachers and I help examiners become better examiners. I do staff training and women’s clinics at Snowbird. I’m trying to mainstream fear into the way people think about ski teaching.

SD: Do you think it’s healthy to feel fear?
MB: I distinguish between fear and respect. A lot of what we teach in the clinic is a healthy respect, because some people misjudge their own fear. They think it’s fear when it’s actually respect. What they need to do is develop more skills to expand their comfort zone. It has nothing to do with not fulfilling their potential. They have to put in the ground work and develop their skills.

SD: Do you find that men and women have different approaches to fear?
MB: A lot of women don’t understand the amount of repetition that’s needed to become good at something. There’s a dichotomy in the psyche of many women. On one hand, they feel unathletic. On the other, they’re not aware of how much work it takes to improve, so they think they should be better than they are.

There are two approaches to fear. One is avoidance. You avoid going down a particular trail. A lot of women are like that. I call them Janes. You have to give them a push. Then there’s the person who rushes through fear. I call them Roberts. These are mostly men, though they could be women, too. For those people, you have to modify the rush.

SD: So how do you handle this in your clinic?
MB: We start inside with a conversation about fear and how it affects us. Then we take it out on the hill and work on it concretely and literally, to determine what is happening to our bodies. We do a lot of strategies, though I wouldn’t say we “overcome” fear. You’re always going to be frightened of the next step. What we do is expand the ability to move in and out of fear so that someone’s comfort zone doesn’t have to shrink around them.

Editor’s Note: This first appeared in the blog in 2008, but I thought it was worth running again. Mermer is offering her women’s fear clinic at Windham Mountain from January 26-28, 2018. For more information, visit Windham Mountain or call 518-734-4300, ext.1120.


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TheSkiDiva named Best Ski Blog for 2nd year in a row!

They say that lightning doesn’t strike twice, but I beg to differ. Because for the second year in a row, TheSkiDiva blog has been granted the Harold S. Hirsch Award by NASJA, otherwise known as the North American Snowsports Journalists Association. Created by the founder of the White Stag clothing company to promote professionalism in winter sports coverage, the Award recognizes creativity and excellence in editorial and artistic content in both print and broadcast journalism.


Truly, this is a great honor. After all, I’ve been doing this for eleven years, and I won’t lie: it’s nice to get a little recognition.

Back in 2006, I started this blog because I had no one to talk to about skiing. None of my friends skied, and my other friends just about rolled their eyes when I started in about my favorite sport. So to save my social life  and my sanity — I thought I’d create a place on the web where I could go on…and on…and on (680 blog posts so far) about anything and everything ski related. Over the years, I’ve tried to cover topics that I thought would be of interest to women who share my passion.  I’ve done gear and resort reviews, interviewed all sorts of ski luminaries — from Suzy Chaffee  to Donna Weinbrecht and Lynsey Dyer to Elyse Saugsted and Crystal Wright, and written how-to’s on everything from surviving the White Ribbon of Death to buying used skis to taking care of your skiwear.  I’ve even kept things going during the off season with pieces on fitness, travel, outdoor activities, nutrition, weather, and more. Want to know what to do when you encounter wildlife on the trail? How to work out in the heat? It’s in the blog. And yeah, there’s been a measure of feminism thrown in too, because I think women skiers should be given the same opportunities and respect as men, and not treated as beginners, ignoramuses, or pretty little ladies who are there simply to decorate the lodge.

Here are some of the nice comments from the judging panel:

Wendy Clinch, a former Hirsch Award winner and braintrust behind The Ski Diva, knows three things: her audience; skiing; and the best ways to integrate the two  [I have to interrupt here. I love that he called me a ‘braintrust’]. A solid, prolific writer, Clinch clearly devotes significant time to the original researching and reporting of each weekly column, something that sets her apart in the genre. Whether she’s profiling the women who make it to the top of today’s skiing circles or introducing us to the latest in women’s basewear, Clinch does her homework. She doesn’t just tell us that Andie’s Outdoor Undies are great for women; she tries them out and explains the intricacies. Trust me, her women readers wanted to know. Clinch should be the premier go-to writer for women who ski – and for the men who know women who ski.

Truly, I’m flattered. But as in all things, there’s always room for improvement. I mean, even though the blog’s been named best of the year, no one’s perfect. And after so many entries, it’s not always easy to come up with a topic to write about each week.

So I thought I’d open this up to you: Is there something in particular you’d like to see covered? Do you have any suggestions about what I could do to take this blog to a higher plane? And is there anything you really like or dislike about the blog? I’d love to know.

In the meantime, I’ll keep on keeping on. So thanks, NASJA, for the award. And thanks to you, too, for joining me here each week. Stay tuned. There’s lots more to come.


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