Ski Swaps, ’17-’18

We all know that ski gear ain’t cheap. If you have to have the latest and greatest, then sure, there’s no denying that’s true. But there are definitely ways to save, and one of the best is buying second-hand at ski swaps. Swaps are a great way to enjoy new-to-you gear without doing too much damage to your wallet.

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You can find ski swaps just about everywhere: ski resorts, ski clubs, high schools, and colleges. Swap season usually starts in the fall, so keep your eyes open; chances are there’s one near you.

To make your search a bit easier, here’s a list of some of the swaps you’ll find in the months ahead. Know of any that aren’t listed? Post ’em in the comments section:

NORTHEAST

Sept 22-23: Potter Bros. Ski Swap, Fishkill, NY

Sept 29-30, Oct 1: Potter Bros. Ski Swap, Kingston, NY

Sept 29-Oct 1: Pico Ski Swap, Pico Mountain, VT

Oct 5-9: Wachusett Mountain Ski & Snowboard Swap, Wachusett, MA

Oct 7: Ski Butternut Ski Swap, Great Barrington, MA

Oct 7-8: BBTS Ski Swap, Waterville Valley, NH

Oct 6-7: Killington Ski Club Ski Swap, Killington, VT

Oct. 18-19: Bousquet Mountain, Bousquet Lodge, Pittsfield, MA

Oct 29: Greek Peak Hops & Swaps, Cortland, NY

Nov 3-5: Sundown Ski Patrol Ski Swap, New Hartford, CT

Nov 4: Gunstock Ski Club Swap, Gilford, NH

Nov 24-26: Pat’s Peak Ski Team Ski & Snowboard Sale, Henniker, NH

Nov 6: Brunswick Ski Swap, Brunswick, ME

Nov 15-19: Ski Haus Ski Swap, Brewster, NY

Nov 18-20: OMS Ski Swap & Sale, Okemo Mountain, Ludlow, VT

Nov 19-20: Cambridge Rotary Ski Swap & Sale, Jeffersonville, VT

Jan 7-8: Skirack ski swap, Burlington, VT

MID ATLANTIC

Oct 7-8: Mt. Pleasant Ski Swap, Cambridge Springs, PA

Oct 7-8, Nov 4-5: Alpine Ski Swap, Sterling, VA

Oct 11-14: Buckman’s Tent & Ski Swap, All stores, PA

Nov 4-5: Ski Roundtop Mega Sale, Lewisberry, PA

Nov 24: Wintergreen Ski Swap, Wintergreen, WV

MIDWEST

Sept 29-Oct 1: Buck Hills Ski Swap, Burnsville, MN

Oct 6-7: Welch Village Fall Ski Swap & Sale, Welch, MN

Sept 30-Oct 1: Granite Peak Ski Swap, Wausau, WI

Oct 7: Harbor Springs Ski Team Ski Swap, Nub’s Nob, MI

Oct 7: Skitoberfest, Boyne Mtn Resort, MI

Oct 7-8: Wild Mountain Open House & Swap, Wild Mountain, MN

Oct 6-8 & 13-15: Afton Alps Ski Swap, Hastings, MN

Oct 9-15: Boston Mills/Brandywine/Alpine Valley Ski Patrol Ski Swap, Peninsula, OH

Oct 13-14: Mt Kato Ski Patrol Ski Swap, Lake Crystal, MN

Oct 20-22: Giants Ridge Ski Swap, Biwabik, MN

Oct 27-28: Team Duluth Ski Swap, Duluth, MN

Oct 28: Ski Swap at Crystal Mountain, Thompsonville, MI

Oct. 28: Chestnut Mountain’s Open House and Ski Swap, Galena, IL

Nov 4: Snowstar Winter Park Ski Swap, Andalusia, IL

Nov 11: Central Wisconsin Ski & Sport Swap, Stevens Point, WI

Nov 11: Pioneer Ski Swap, Osseo, MN

WEST

Sept 22-24: Snowbird Sports Education Foundation Ski & Snowboard Swap, Snowbird, UT

Oct 7-8 & Nov 19-20: Larson’s Ski Swap, Wheat Ridge, CO

Oct 14-15: Winter Park Ski & Snowboard Swap, Winter Park, CO

Oct 22: Sac State Ski Swap, Sacramento, CA

Oct 20-21: Vail Ski Swap, Vail, CO

Oct 27-29: Sandia Ski Patrol Ski Swap,  Albuquerque, NM

Oct 21: Jackson Hole Ski Club Swap, Jackson, WY

Oct 28: San Ramon Valley High School Ski & Snowboard Swap, Danville, CA

Nov 3-4: City of Loveland Annual Ski & Sports Swap, Loveland CO

Nov 3-4, Red Lodge Ski Swap, Red Lodge, MT

Nov 4: Truckee Ski and Snowboard Swap, Truckee, CA

Nov 4-5: Bridger Foundation Ski Swap, Bozeman, MT

Nov 11-12 & 18-19: Helm of Sun Valley’s Ski Swap, San Mateo, CA

Nov 17-20: Ski Dazzle, Los Angeles, CA

TBD: University of Nevada Ski Swap, Reno, NV

PACIFIC NORTHWEST:

Oct 14: Skyliners Winter Sports Swap, Bend, OR

Oct 21: 49° North Ski Swap, Chewelah, WA

Oct 22: Leavenworth Gear & Ski Swap, Leavenworth, WA

Oct 19-22: Corvallis Ski Swap, Coravallis, OR

Oct 26-28: Eugene Ski Swap, Eugene, OR

Oct 28-29: Mt. Spokane Ski Swap, Spokane Valley, WA

Nov 3-5: Ski Fever & Snowboard Show’s Ski Swap, Portland, OR

Nov 3-5: Bogus Basin Ski Swap, Boise, ID

Nov 4: Lookout Pass Ski Patrol Swap, Coeur D’Alene, ID

Nov 10-11: Newport Ski Swap, Bellevue, WA

Nov 11: Schweizer Alpine Racing School Ski Swap, Sandpoint, ID

CANADA

Oct 6-29: Canada’s Largest Ski & Snowboard Swap, Toronto, ON

Oct 20-22: Calgary Ski Swap and Sale, Calgary, AB



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Hurricanes vs. Blizzards

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Blizzard © Boston Globe

Hurricane Irma ABC News

Hurricane Irma © ABC News

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The past few weeks have been quite a time for weather. First Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, then Irma wreaked havoc on the Caribbean and Florida, and as I write this, another storm, Jose, is churning up the Atlantic, ready to inflict catastrophic damage on who knows where.

My heart goes out to all those affected by these storms. My parents and sister live in southwest Florida, and I spent the past few days worried sick about them. They’re well and their property is safe, but it was a very scary time not only for them, but for millions of people throughout the state.

In spite of everything they’ve been through, however, they’ve often told me how glad they are not to live where there are blizzards. On the other hand, I am thrilled to not deal with hurricanes on a regular basis. I went through Irene here in Vermont, and that was enough. But all the hurricane talk lately has made me curious: how do blizzards and hurricanes compare, anyway? I mean, if you put a hurricane and a blizzard in a fair fight, who’d be tougher/meaner/stronger/more devastating?  Both can cause a great deal of damage. But really, how do the two stack up?

Let’s take a look at some facts about both.

Hurricanes:

• A hurricane is characterized by thunderstorms, strong winds and heavy rains.
• Hurricanes can impact areas of up to 600 square miles.
• A hurricane can cause wind speeds of 74mph to over 155mph.
• A typical hurricane can dump 6 inches to a foot of rain across a region.
• Every second, a large hurricane releases the energy of 10 atomic bombs.
• Hurricanes can also produce tornadoes. They are not as strong as regular tornadoes and last only a few minutes.
• Slow moving hurricanes produce more rainfall and can cause more damage from flooding than faster-moving, more powerful hurricanes.
• Hurricane Floyd was barely a category I hurricane, but it still managed to mow down 19 million trees and caused over a billion dollars in damage.
• Most people who die in hurricanes are killed by the towering walls of sea water that comes inland.
• The man who first gave names to hurricanes was an Australian weather forecaster named C. Wragge in the early 1900s.
• [editor’s note: figure for Harvey and Irma are not yet compiled] According to the Weather Channel, the worst hurricane in US history, Katrina, created a storm surge that penetrated six miles inland across most of South Mississippi, and up to 12 miles inland along bays and rivers. There was catastrophic flooding in 80 percent of New Orleans and a total of $108 billion in damages in all areas affected. The storm claimed 1,577 lives in Louisiana.

Blizzards:
• When a snow storm with winds in excess of 35 mph and visibility of less than a 1/4 mile for more than three hours occurs, it is considered a blizzard.
• Blizzards can also occur after a snowfall when high winds cause whiteouts and snowdrifts, which decrease visibility.
• Although most blizzards last from 4 hours to 10 hours, they’ve also been known to last 10 days.
• Blizzards are generally limited to a much smaller area of coverage than hurricanes.
• Blizzards that occur on the East Coast are commonly known as Nor’Easters. Because of the presence of the Atlantic Ocean, the storm blows over the ocean and can last for up to 24 hours and dumps huge amounts of snow over the area.
• The Great Blizzard of 1888 is considered the worst blizzard in US history. Affecting many states in the northeast, 400 people died, 200 ships sank, and snowdrifts were 10 or 15 feet high.

In a fair fight, I think the hurricane comes out on top. It’s more ferocious, affects more people, and the damage it produces is incredible. Plus when it’s over, you have lots of flooding and destruction. After a blizzard, you have terrific skiing. I’ll stick with that.



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And just like that, it’s pre-season.

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Have you ever felt like there’s an invisible line in the universal continuum? That as soon as we cross a date we’ve arbitrarily designated as Labor Day, we’re just biding our time until we start skiing again?

What is it, anyway, that causes  us to equate a specific date as the end of a season? On August 31, we stand firmly on the shores of summer. But on September 1, we wake up and suddenly, we’re in the Ber zone: September, October, November, December. We’re ready to hang up the water skis and start picking apples. Ski season is closer. We can feel it in the air.

Maybe it’s not as arbitrary as it sounds. Even though astronomers say summer doesn’t officially end until the fall equinox (around September 22), meteorologists have long contended that summer ends on August 31. This is because they divide the calendar into four equal parts to help with their weather forecasting.

BirthdayCakeCulturally, it’s easy to equate September 1 with fall. Kids are going back to school, new car models arrive, new TV series begin (traditionally, anyway), new ski gear appears in shops, and ski magazines come out with their gear and resort guides. September is also the anniversary of TheSkiDiva.com. I started the site eleven years ago right after Labor Day weekend, because yes, it was fall, and yes, people would start thinking about ski season. (Happy Birthday to us!)

Here in Vermont, I love fall. Vermont is Fall Central, and according to meteorologists, conditions are coming together to produce a stellar foliage season this year. If you’ve never been to New England in the fall, I highly recommend it. I doubt there’s anything like it anywhere else in the world.

All that aside, the conveyor belt of the year moves along. Soon the snow will fly, and those who haven’t visited TheSkiDiva.com for a while will drop by to get their pre-season ski fix. I hope you will, too. Because after all, it’s fall.

Vermont in the fall

Vermont in the fall

 

 



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Do you need new gear? Here’s how to tell.

Hard to believe it’s almost Labor Day. And what does that mean, Ski Divas?

SKI SALES!

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Yep, there are a lot of great deals on ski gear over the holiday weekend. So how can you tell if you need something new?

Note I said need instead of want. Want is something entirely different. Plenty of us want something even though our equipment is perfectly fine. Maybe we think it’ll improve our skiing under certain conditions. Maybe there’s a new technology that promises to turn our world upside down. Maybe we’re just plain bored and have enough disposable income to say what they hell, I’m going for it.

All that’s fine. After all, there’s nothing wrong with expanding your gear closet just because you want to.

But I’m talking need here. How do you know your ski equipment is safe? If it can still give you the same great performance that stole your heart at the very beginning?

Here are a few things you should look at:

Skis: Like everything else, ski performance diminishes over time. A ski with 80 days on it won’t feel the same as it did the first day out. The wood inside will lose its snap, the fiberglass break down and become less rigid, the edges lose their grip. Regular maintenance helps, of course, but time and use do take their toll. Give your skis a good inspection. Are the top layers delaminating? Are the edges pulling away from the top layers? Damage like this lets water seep into the core, which can cause it to rot and swell. Now check the bases: are there gouges and nicks? These can hurt your skis’ performance. What about the camber, the portion of the ski that arches into the air? Is it starting to flatten out? If that’s the case, your ski will lose its ‘pop’ and be less responsive than it was in the past.

Some pretty bad edge damage here.

Some pretty bad edge damage here.

If you’re skiing’s improved, you may need new skis, too. Did you buy beginner skis and now find they’re chattering? Do they feel noodley? Are they refusing to go faster? You may be in need of an upgrade.

Bindings: These are hard to separate from skis, but still, don’t forget to take them into consideration. Each year manufacturers release a list of  indemnified bindings, or bindings that they continue to support. If a binding doesn’t make the list, the manufacturer no longer backs it. This is important because most retailers won’t service a binding that’s not indemnified. How do you know if your binding is on the list? Bring your bindings to your ski shop for an inspection and a tune-up. They’ll let you know.

Boots: Depending on how much abuse they’ve had, most ski boots in the $399 – $599 range will last about 120 days of skiing. For maximum performance, your boot should fit like a snug handshake. But if your foot is moving around a lot, your boot may be packed out and ready to be replaced. Check your boots’ sole, too. A toe or heel that’s too worn will allow too much movement in the binding. This can cause you to release when you don’t want to. And that can be dangerous.

Helmets: I know, your helmet looks great. But manufacturers agree that a helmet must be replaced after a significant impact or collision. Even if you haven’t had a crash, they also recommend replacing it every 3 to 5 years. Why? The useful life of a ski helmet with an EPS liner varies based on use. The outdoor, dry environment in which helmets are used can cause the liner to deteriorate. Storing it in a humid environment like a basement can cause it to degrade, too. Bottom line: if there’s any question, get a new helmet. Your head is worth it.

 

 



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How to be Fearless.

 

Dara Howell (Canadian) Gold Medalist - Women's Slopestyle Freestyle Skiing

Dara Howell (Canadian) Gold Medalist – Women’s Slopestyle Freestyle Skiing

If you’re like me, you have mixed feelings about fear. On the one hand, fear is a kind of self-preservative. It can keep you from doing something stupid, like jumping off a cliff or driving way too fast or dropping into Corbet’s Couloir when you’re not that great of a skier.

On the other hand, fear can also be a prison. It can keep you from things that could be fun or even life altering. Like skiing that extra steep slope or leaving that spirit-crushing job or dumping that boyfriend who’s no good for you, anyway.

I’ve been thinking a lot about fear lately, and how it can hold you back. Not long ago I heard someone on the radio say, “Everyone is scared.  It’s doing it anyway that takes courage.” And it really hit home.

Believe me, I’ve had my share of fear. I’m as guilty as anyone of looking at a ski slope that I know I can ski and saying, “Ahhhh, I think I’ll go another way.” This is something I’m working on. The head can be a powerful deterrent to all sorts of things.

All the same, I think I’ve done a number of things that some might consider fearless. My husband and I left well established jobs and struck out on our own, starting our own ad agency that kept us going for 19 years. And when his first book, FINN, came out in 2007, we closed this same agency, sold our home in suburban Philly and moved to Vermont,  a place we truly loved, even though we had no jobs, family, or friends there.

Yes, these were scary. But you know, they turned out fine. And it taught me a lesson: Sometimes you just have to hold your nose and jump in.  Because if you don’t, you’ll never end up doing anything new. And that can make for a pretty boring life.

Most our fears are unfounded, based on patterns of thought we’ve created or false beliefs or scenarios. But that doesn’t make them any less real. And even though fear is completely normal, it can also be debilitating. The trick is learning how to leave your comfort zone behind so you can achieve things you never imagined possible.

So how can you move beyond fear to become truly fearless? Here are a few tips:

Explore your fears’ origins. Fearless people realize that fear is not so much about what scares you but why it scares you. For example, do you fear skiing a particular run because you’re afraid you’ll fall, or because you’re afraid how you’ll appear to others? Did you get hurt doing something once, and fear being hurt again? (The latter is something I’m dealing with myself, in the wake of a recent bike accident.) Recognizing where your fear comes from is an important first step in figuring out how to deal with it.

Ask yourself: what’s the worst that can happen? Chances are it’s not that terrible. I heard somewhere that 80% of fears never happen, and I’m willing to bet there’s a some truth in that. Is fear making a difference in your life? Is it preventing you from achieving something you’ve always wanted to do? Is it keeping you in the same old rut? Sometimes you just have to hold your nose, take a deep breath,  and jump into the deep end to move forward.

Don’t try to be perfect: After all, no one is. If part of what’s holding you back is fear that you won’t be perfect, forget it. You’ll never get there. Instead, take a realistic view of your abilities and what the outcome may be. Allow yourself to make mistakes — after all, that’s when learning and growth really occurs.

Build your confidence: Fearless people don’t spend time worrying about the worst-case scenario — they prepare for it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. In skiing, this could be as simple as taking a lesson or practicing, practicing, practicing something you’ve already learned.

Break your fear down into smaller chunks. Taking things in smaller steps can make overcoming your fear a lot more manageable.

Visualize yourself being fearless. Studies show that visualization can be particularly effective in reducing fear and anxiety. According to research, visualization helps create a new neural pathway that primes your body to act in a way that’s consistent with what you’ve imagined. Even though this occurs without your actually performing the physical act, it provides a similar result. So if you visualize yourself doing something without fear, it can help you perform without fear, in real life.

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On your knees.

Since my bike accident last month, I’ve been thinking a lot about knees. My right knee suffered quite a hit: a gaping laceration that measured 6 inches across and perhaps 3 inches from top to bottom. Luckily, only a small part of my patellar ligament was damaged. It’s still pretty stiff, and my range of motion is somewhat limited. The good news is that there’s quite a bit of time before ski season, and I should be fine by then.

All the same, it’s given me a new appreciation for knee injuries. Up until now, I’ve been pretty injury-free. But it seems that a number of women on TheSkiDiva.com haven’t been that lucky, particularly with regard to their ACL’s. The ACL, or Anterior Cruciate Ligament, is one of the four major ligaments in the knee. It controls how far forward the tibia moves under the femur. (The tibia is the larger bone beneath your knee; the femur is your thigh bone). And it’s the first ligament that tightens when the knee is straightened. If the knee is forced past this point, that’s when trouble begins.

Knee joint anatomy

Knee joint anatomy

According to my research, female athletes are nearly three times more likely to suffer an ACL injury than men — a huge difference.

Which leads to the following question:

Why?

Oddly enough, no one seems to know exactly, though there are a number of theories. I’m no doctor or medical authority, but they seem to boil down to the following:

• Reduced muscle strength: Women have less muscle strength than men, so they rely more on the ACL to hold the knee in place. This can make the ligament more prone to rupture.

• Knee alignment: The Q angle, or the angle in which the quadriceps meet the femur, is greater in women than it is in men. Because of this, any twisting action can exert greater force on the ACL than it does in men. This, again, can cause it to rupture.

• Hormones: Yes, yet another thing we can chalk up to these buggers. On the up side, hormones can give women’s ligaments and joints greater flexibility. On the down side, if the other ligaments and muscles around the knee are so loose that they can’t absorb stress, then even normal loads or forces may be transferred directly to the ACL. And this can make it, yes, prone to rupture. Some studies even show that the knee can become even looser than normal at specific points within the menstrual cycle, making ACL ruptures even more common.

• Delayed response: It’s also been determined that women’s muscles that stablize the knee may take a millisecond longer to respond than men’s, and that this small difference could lead to an injury.

So what’s to be done? Is there anything, apart from not skiing (heaven forbid), that you can do to keep your ACL injury-free?

The good news is yes. Studies show that improving muscular power and strength can help. These are two different things. Strength refers to the amount of force that can be applied to a muscle, and power to the combined factors of speed and strength. Weights and resistance training are good for the former, and plyometric exercises for the latter. Plyometrics are designed to produce fast, explosive movements in which the muscle is loaded and unloaded in rapid sequence.

My advice: if you want to begin any kind of program to help your ACL, consult a good physical trainer. Start your training well in advance, and your knees will thank you next season.

I hope I haven’t jinxed myself by posting this. I’m a little superstitious, and I wouldn’t want to attract the evil eye. All the same, and not being one to take chances, I hope you don’t mind if I include the following picture. Maybe it’ll help.

 



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What to do with your old skis.

Got some old skis you don’t know what to do with?

You have plenty of options:

• You could sell them on ebay or at a ski swap;
• You could pass them along to someone who needs them;
• You could do something that I think is super cool: repurpose them into amazing items you can use around the house.

I love the last idea. Parting with skis isn’t always easy, particularly if they took you through some really great times. I mean, why abandon an old friend, just because something new comes along? This way, you don’t have to. You can keep them around to remind you of the great times you had, yet enjoy them in an entirely different way.

The off season is a prime time for ski-related crafts. I found a number of terrific ideas on the web you might want to try your hand at. Take a look:

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Women Roaming Solo: Taking A Ski Trip Alone

Ever take a ski trip alone? I don’t mean just for the day; I mean traveling to a remote destination, staying alone in a condo or motel, skiing solo, dining without partners — you get the picture.

It may surprise you that it’s not particularly uncommon for women to travel by themselves. I did some research, and while statistics are limited, the Travel Industry Association says an estimated 32 million single American women traveled at least once in 2014, with about 3 in 10 making tracks five times or more. Travel agents also report that it’s much more common for woman to travel solo than men, with 73% of agents polled noting that more female travelers go on trips alone than their male counterparts. In fact, according to market researcher Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell, the average adventure traveler is not a 28-year old male, but a 47-year-old female.

And here’s some more interesting stats: In an article in Conde-Nast Traveler, Cynthia Dunbar, general manager of REI Adventures, reported that “since 2010, women traveling with us has grown by 60 percent, and we continue to see this figure grow steadily each year. Last year alone, 58 percent of all our guests were women.” In the same piece, VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations, known for its six-hour-long bike rides through the French countryside, said that 60 percent of its customers are women.

Women on TheSkiDiva certainly fall into the adventurous group, and many have no problem taking solo ski trips. A thread on the forum backs this up. I asked the woman who started the discussion, Christina Dolan, to write about her experiences during a recent trip to Mammoth:

My Solo Adventure: Mammoth Mountain

by Christina Dolan

Christina at the top of Chair 3, Mammoth

Christina at the top of Chair 3, Mammoth

“You came all the way out here by yourself!?” exclaimed the young boy as his friends looked at me with eyes as wide as pie plates. They were a group of four boys, aged about eleven to thirteen, and I’d stopped beside the trail to lend them my multi-tool as they struggled with a loose bike seat. They were lively, friendly kids who were a genuine pleasure to talk with, and in the course of discussing the merits of different types of mountain bikes, I mentioned that where I live, Pennsylvania, we have tons of rocks so I liked my light, nimble bike. That’s what prompted the astonishment that I would travel 3,000 miles alone to ski and ride bikes. The boys’ incredulity caused me to reflect on the more subtle reactions I’ve noticed when people find out that I’m travelling alone.

Is solo adventure travel, particularly for women, still surprising? I wondered if people would be as taken aback to find a man traveling alone, or whether it was my age (late forties) more than my gender that prompted the raised eyebrows.

When I heard that Mammoth Mountain would be open for skiing until at least July 4th this year [ed. note: the new closing date is August 6], I immediately began scheming to get out to California. I’d returned to skiing last year after a thirty-year hiatus and was eager to extend my season. It’s always difficult to steal time from work obligations in the winter, but a three-week swathe of June in the Sierras with no other responsibilities was too good to resist. Happily, the warm weather allowed for camping, which made the trip relatively affordable, and my teacher’s vacation schedule provided the time. I don’t know any other skiers who had the time for such a trip, so I booked and planned it solo without a second thought.

Throughout my trip, I met countless wonderful, friendly people. The parking lot adjacent to the Stump Alley chairlift turned out to be a vibrant social community of die-hard skiers, mostly local. The day I wore my Suicide Six t-shirt, I must have met every New Englander on the mountain, and I now have faces to put to the handles of people on two different ski forums. At some point in every conversation, nearly everyone asked if I were travelling alone, but the raised eyebrows seemed to me to express pleasant surprise rather than concern or disapproval. Everyone I met at Mammoth seemed absolutely delighted by what one man called my “awesome, epic adventure.”

The boys on the bike trail were the only ones dramatically surprised to find a woman traveling so far alone, and to be fair I don’t imagine most middle-schoolers do much traveling on their own, so I’m sure I was a novelty to them.

The Benefits of Traveling Alone

Skiing off Chair 3There are many real benefits to solo travel, which is an especially great format for introverts. Going solo allows you to socialize exactly as much as you care to and also have plenty of time to enjoy solitude. I’m not an extrovert by nature, but when skiing and doing other outdoor activities, I find it easy to talk with people who share a common interest. I’ll listen to music or podcasts on the lift if I have a chair to myself, but I always prefer to have someone to chat with. Something about a chairlift seems conducive to pleasant conversation; the introvert in me suspects it’s the finite nature of the ride. There’s no need for awkward extrication from a conversation when the off-ramp approaches; all that’s required is a cheery “Have a good one!”

Because I was alone in Mammoth, I met people that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have. Having travelled from the northeast, particularly solo, for such an extended trip made for an easy conversation starter. I think that when you’re clearly by yourself, people see you as perhaps more open to conversation than as part of a couple or a group, and a friendly “good morning” can turn into a substantive and interesting conversation.

Travelling alone also allows you complete flexibility to do what you want, when you want. Of course I enjoy skiing with friends, but it was fun to have the freedom to zip around from trail to trail without stopping to discuss options with a group. I rested and ate when I felt like it, and then happily hopped on a barstool at the end of the day for a post-ski beer and friendly banter with other skiers. If there was nobody to talk with, I busied myself on my phone, updating my social media site with pictures or texting with friends and family. In general, though, I tried to be open to conversation by keeping the phone tucked away and my ears free of headphones.

With solo adventure, the experience is heightened in many ways because all of the decisions are yours, as are all of the risks. I’m still learning and don’t yet ski off-piste or in situations where it would be imprudent for anyone to ski alone; I’m certainly not advocating careless risk-taking. But if you decide to challenge yourself on a steep inbounds trail that approaches the limits of your ability, you have to dig deep and find the mental confidence to do it without support or encouragement. It’s easy at those times to think: “I shouldn’t be here” or “this is too much for me.” But overcoming that fear and uncertainty on your own can have immeasurable rewards.

The low points during any sort of travel can fall hard when you’re alone, of course. Those difficult days when nothing seems to be going right, it’s easy to let the dark cloud of pessimism settle in, but I also think that presents an opportunity to emerge mentally stronger as a result.

I had an amazing time in Mammoth Lakes. The skiing was great, the views in every direction were spectacular, and I have nothing but fond memories of my interactions with the people I met. It wasn’t easy to board that flight bound for Newark, but I did so knowing that I’d almost certainly visit Mammoth again, most likely solo, and that was fine by me.

June 13. Amazing, huh?

June 13. Amazing, huh?

 



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Summer, interrupted.

Being a Ski Diva can be rough during the summer. Either you find something fun to do, or you end up with a long, dusty, wasteland of time to fill before the snow comes ’round again.

Me on my bike, in happier times.

Me on my bike, in happier times.

For me, it’s biking. Road biking. I like to get out on the roads of  Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. There are loads of beautiful routes to take, the scenery’s great, and frankly, it’s terrific exercise.

But this past week I did something that may very well have ended my biking for the rest of the summer: I had a nasty bike accident. I was riding downhill at a fairly high rate of speed when my front tire hit a rock and blew out, sending me over the handlebars into the guardrail at the side of the road. The guardrail sliced my lower thigh like a meat cleaver, leaving a gaping laceration that measured 6 inches across and perhaps 3 inches from top to bottom. Let’s just say I got a good look of the interior of my leg.

Of course, we were in an area with zero cell service (yay, Vermont!), so we couldn’t reach 911. My husband managed to flag down a car, and a very nice couple transported me 12 miles to my doctor’s office. After that, I was sent by ambulance to the nearest hospital, where I had surgery to irrigate the wound, remove the gravel, and close it with both internal and external stitches.

The capper to all this: it was our wedding anniversary.

So am I a happy camper? No. As I write this, I’m still in considerable pain. I went a bit too easy with the pain meds at the beginning and I’m paying the price. (Yes, the opioid epidemic has me spooked.) But am I grateful that it wasn’t worse? You bet. I’m damn lucky that, aside from some minor damage to my patella ligament, all the crucial knee ligaments are intact, so it shouldn’t have any impact on my skiing.  And miracle of miracles, I didn’t break any bones, lose any teeth, or suffer a head injury (of course I was wearing a helmet). Sure, my summer fun will be significantly curtailed. But more importantly, I’m here, sitting with my leg elevated, pretty scabby and road rashy, but here, nonetheless.

All in all, I’ve been very fortunate. This is the first major accident I’ve ever had, which given my activity level and age, is pretty amazing. Not that it takes risky behavior to get hurt. I have a friend who broke her leg in three places just by stepping off a curb. And my mom tripped and fell on the boardwalk in New Jersey, breaking her femur. It seems that the only way to avoid an accident is not to move, and for me, that’s not an option.

Sure, there are things you can do to try to stay safe. For biking, I wear a bright yellow helmet, have a flashing light on my rear wheel strut, and remain as vigilant as possible to road conditions and vehicles. But hey, sometimes things happen. There’s only so much you can do.

Was my accident inevitable? Well, cycling does send more people to the ER than any other outdoor sport or activity. According to the Consumer Products Safety Division, bicycling accidents resulted in more than 541,746 ER trips in 2010. Basketball was second, with 528,584. Coming in at number 3, football with 489,676. Four: baseball and softball, with 282,008. And five: ATV’s, with 230,666 ER trips.

Curious about which sport is the most deadly? Here’s a neat little infographic I found that breaks it out:

Your Chances of Dying
Source: Best Health Degrees

At least I’m not hang gliding.



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Close Encounters of the Wildlife Kind.

 

bearPart of what makes a ski diva a Ski Diva is our love of the outdoors. Now that the weather’s warm, you can often find us hiking, biking, camping, rock climbing – doing all sorts of things to stay active and have fun while we wait for the snow to fly.

It’s precisely this that brings us into close proximity with wildlife: Moose, bear, mountain lions, coyotes, snakes, and more. Face it, we’re in their territory. And though it’s cool to see animals up close, it’s important to remember that these are not the happy, friendly creatures you’ll find in a Disney animation. Animals have their own rules for behavior, and they don’t necessarily coincide with ours. That said, I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea: lethal attacks by wildlife are extremely rare. (To put it in perspective, see the infographic at the end of this piece. And keep in mind that according to the Center for Disease Control, motor vehicles account for 33,000 deaths per year.) However, animals are defensive of their homes, and are much more likely to attack if they feel threatened.

Nonetheless, every year you hear about people who are injured by animals thanks to their own stupid actions, such as trying to take photos with bison in Yellowstone. According to the CDC, bison injured five people in the park in 2015. Of those five, three were trying to take photos within 3-6 feet of the bison, two turned their backs on the bison while taking photos, and one just outright admitted he was taking a selfie.

I have a long-standing rule called the Don’t Be An Idiot Rule. It’s pretty simple: if there’s something for which you think someone you respect would say, ‘Don’t be an idiot,’ then just don’t do it. And taking a close-up photo of a bison – or any other wild animal, for that matter – certainly fills the bill.

But I digress. My purpose here is to provide some usable advice about what to do if you see a wild animal while you’re enjoying the Great Outdoors. The National Park Service has long recommended that people stay 75 feet away from wild animals that aren’t bears or wolves (300 feet for those). This is certainly valuable to know. But here are some other things you should keep in mind, in case you see one of our wild friends:

Moose:
I’ve only seen a few of these here in Vermont, but believe me, these guys are BIG. As in big-as-my-Subaru big. Moose are among the most dangerous, regularly encountered animals in the world. And though they prefer to leave humans alone, they’re known to be aggressive if they believe they’re being threatened. Cows with calves are particularly protective, especially in early summer when their young are most vulnerable. In the fall, bull moose often act more aggressively as they compete with other males for breeding opportunities. But no matter what the season, the best strategy is to avoid a confrontational situation in the first place.

So what are the signs of aggressive moose behavior?  Walking in your direction, stomping its feet, peeling its ears back, grunting, or throwing its head back and forth. If a moose does any of these things, the people at Glacier National Park recommend the following.

Back away with your palms facing the moose;
Speak softly and reassuringly, like you would to a little child;
If the moose charges, get behind a large tree or rock in order to separate your body from the moose. Most moose charges, like grizzly bear charges, are bluffs;
If the moose attacks you, feign death by curling up in a little ball. Protect your head and neck with your arms. If you are wearing a backpack, your pack can help protect your back.

Bear:
Most attacks by black bears are defensive reactions to a person who is very close, which is an easy situation to avoid. It helps to be on the lookout for active bear signs, such such as fresh tracks or fresh bear scat. If possible, avoid areas such as berry patches and stream banks where bears may be feeding or drinking. Hiking in midday will also reduce the chance of encountering a bear, as they are less active at that time. It also helps to make your presence known by making noise. This will allow them to walk away from the noise to avoid an encounter. And be careful with food, which can act as a bear-magnet. If you’re camping, don’t place your tent near hanging food or a car where food is stored.

If you happen to spot a bear in the distance, simply back away, at least a few hundred yards, and find another route. If another route isn’t available, wait 20 to 30 minutes before heading back down the trail. And while going back down the trail, be sure to make noise to announce your presence. If you see a bear on the trail, make yourself as big as possible and in a stern voice tell it to go away. If the bear continues to come at you, use bear spray when he’s about 20-30 feet away to deter it from coming any closer.

Mountain Lion:
Research has shown that mountain lions go out of their way to avoid other mountain lions and people. They mostly rely on wariness as their first defense and resort to fighting only when necessary to defend a territory or a litter of kittens. The best way to ensure that both you and the lion leave safely is for you to back away slowly while continuing to look as big and intimidating as possible, leaving the lion avenues of escape.

Coyotes:
Coyotes are naturally timid and will usually run away when they encounter a human. If they linger or approach, make yourself as big and as loud as possible to scare them away. Do not run or turn your back. Waving your arms, clapping your hands, or shouting in an authoritative voice are all good. It can also be helpful to carry a noisemaker, squirt gun or pepper spray.

Snakes:
Snakes only strike when they feel like they’re being threatened. As with the other animals, the best way to avoid trouble is to steer clear of them whenever possible. This includes not walking through heavy brush, and never reaching into a dark hole or other place you can’t see – if you must probe, use a tool (this is good advice to protect you from spiders, scorpions, and other burrowing animals too). And since almost all snake strikes are on lower extremities, it’s also a good idea to wear high boots and long pants.  Also, if you’re camping, avoid sleeping near a log or large branch, in tall grass, or next to rocky areas. And make sure to zip up your tent tight.

So which animals are most likely to kill humans in the US? The Washington Post published this handy-dandy graphic last year on human fatalities by wildlife between 2001 and 2013, with info provided by the CDC:

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The takeaway from this? Wear bug spray.

Be careful out there, friends. And remember, don’t be an idiot.

 



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