What’s new in Vermont for the ’14/’15 season.

Last week I talked about all the new things you’ll see in Colorado this coming season (if you’re interested, go here). Now for all you eastern skiers, here’s a round-up of the capital improvements you’ll find in the Green Mountain State in  ’14/’15:

skimapOkemo Mountain Resort
Okemo will be replacing its Northstar Express Quad with The Sunburst Six, a new high-speed six-person bubble chairlift with heated seats – the first of its kind in North America. Operation Snowburst returns for a second season of snowmaking improvements with the addition of 100 new, energy-efficient HKD tower guns. This follows a $1 million snowmaking investment that allowed Okemo to open early with top-to-bottom skiing and riding last winter.

Mount Snow Resort
Snowmaking enhancements continue at Mount Snow with the arrival of 645 brand new low-energy snow guns; the largest single snow gun upgrade in the resort’s history. The entire snow gun arsenal is now 100% low-energy. Also making its debut this winter is Smart Snow; a state-of-the-art snowmaking control system, the same one used for the snowmaking operation at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Thousands more feet of snowmaking pipe have been replaced and a number of trails have been electrified so high output fan guns can be operated on them.

Smugglers’ Notch Resort
The addition of 156 new high efficiency tower guns and one additional fan gun signals the completion of Smugglers’ conversion to a fleet comprised fully of high efficiency snowguns. This will be Smugglers’ third consecutive winter of snowmaking improvements. 250 new guns were incorporated into the fleet over the previous two winter seasons.

Stowe Mountain Resort
Stowe Mountain Resort’s state-of-the-art snowmaking operations have been supplemented by a three-year $9.8 million dollar snowmaking expansion. Totals for the 3-year project include over 100,000 feet of new snowmaking pipe — almost 20 miles worth, 615 HKD SV10 tower guns, 150 Ratnik Baby X2 land frames, 20 SMI Super PoleCat snow towers and 8 HKD Turbo snow towers. Stowe has also completely renovated its  summit Gondola on Mt. Mansfield and improved family lift service on lower Spruce Peak with a new Quad chairlift and two new carpet surface lifts.

Stratton Mountain Resort
Stratton has invested in  58 new gondola cabins, 350 more energy efficient HKD snowguns, two new snowcats, new glades, buses and bullwheels, rental gear and more in year two of a total $21 million investment in the overall resort experience. With a trip of just eight minutes, the Stratton gondola carries 2,400 people per hour and runs 7,590 feet from base to the summit of southern Vermont’s highest peak. The latest HKD purchase brings Stratton’s tower snowgun fleet to over 1,000 and completely eliminates the use of diesel. 

Sugarbush Resort
Sugarbush spent more than $1 million on both mechanical and electrical upgrades to the lifts. The resort also invested $1.8 million in snowmaking equipment, completing a five-year, $5 million capital project. Over the summer, crews installed 351 new Snowlogic, HKD, and Ratnik low energy snowguns, and made significant improvements to infrastructure, replacing a variety of snowmaking pipes, pumps and valves. The resort also replaced one of its winch cats with a new Pisten Bully 600. Parking for busy days has been expanded to create 450 new parking spaces. Permitting continues on a new Valley House lift. All told, the resort invested $4.5 million this year in infrastructure.

Killington Resort
Killington continues to invest in essential infrastructure projects ahead of the 2014-15 winter season, including over $1 million in lifts and lift improvements, $2 million worth of new energy efficient snow guns, and continual trail and glade maintenance.

Bromley Mountain
Bromley’s snowmaking system will be completely and efficiently up to date for the Winter 2014/15 season. Mountain Operations has taken full advantage of Efficiency Vermont’s Great Ground Gun Round Up, and traded in all the old air-hogs for new efficient tower guns. The snowmaking team is also working with HKD to develop portable ground guns on tri-pods to cover some of the tricky terrain that made those old inefficient ground guns necessary.

The Hermitage Club
After more than two years in construction, the Hermitage Club’s new 80,000 square foot, state of the art Club House is due to open for the 2014-15 season. The Club House will offer members gourmet fine dining, a fitness center with lap pool and hot tubs, full treatment spa, day care, retail, upscale locker rooms and more, all with a  360-degree view of Vermont’s Haystack Mountain.

Over $5 million in mountain infrastructure upgrades start with the new Stag’s Leap Lift which connects the lower mountain with the upper for the first time in over 12 years and offers a mid-station unload with access to more than 24 acres of learning terrain. Snowmaking expansion and energy efficiency initiatives continue with an additional 17 new Techno Alpin fan guns, an additional new 110 HKD Impulse Tower guns, 25 new Evo Rubis towers and additional 70 new Ratnik land guns.

Magic Mountain
This season Magic will have the capability of making snow on 75% of its terrain.  In addition, each year Magic expands the “off-piste” opportunities by clearing out new glades.


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What’s new in Colorado for the ’14/’15 season.


Whether you ski in Colorado regularly or only once in a while, you’ll find a lot of new things at the state’s ski resorts this season. Here are a few, courtesy of information provided by Colorado Ski Country USA:

Learning, Lessons & Little Ones

Arapahoe Basin will unveil a new 7,000 square foot Kids Center in the spring of 2015. To find out more, visit http://bit.ly/A-Basin-WhatsNew2015.

Aspen/Snowmass is opening The Hideout, a new multi-million dollar 7,500-square-foot children’s center at the base of Buttermilk. It’ll  offer improved access for drop off, direct access to the mountain and an interactive design. To learn more, visit http://www.aspensnowmass.com.

Loveland Ski Area is adding a second Magic Carpet surface lift. This will be open to the public and will provide access to gentle terrain perfect for first timers. For more information, visit http://www.skiloveland.com.

Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort’s new Burton Riglet Park will anchor the development of a multi-faceted ski and ride terrain-based learning facility perfect for the youngest of riders, ages 3-6 years. For more information, visit http://durangomountainresort.com/.

Guest Service & Experience

Copper Mountain has reengineered Sherpa, its resort smartphone app game. Not only will guests be able to create and share their own mountain tips and favorite trails, but Copper will reward the best contributors with swag, tickets, passes and even a prized treasured spot on 2015/2016 winter trail map. Learn more about Sherpa at www.CopperColorado.com/Sherpa.

Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort’s equipment rental operation will feature a new boot fitting station, snowboard demos and an upgraded rental fleet. The redesigned shop will allow guests to spend less time in lines so they can spend more time on the slopes. For more information, visit http://durangomountainresort.com/.

Silverton Mountain has purchased a new helicopter ski cargo basket to accommodate the deep snow landings. The old basket would get buried in legendary Silverton powder snow upon landing, forcing the guides to shovel snow just to get access to their skis. For more information, visit http://www.silvertonmountain.com.

Sunlight Mountain is investing in base lodge improvements that support the ski area’s commitment to sustainable business. Also new this season: newly remodeled restrooms in the base lodge. For more information, visit http://www.sunlightmtn.com.

Steamboat is expanding night operations to Thursday through Monday from 5:30-8:30 PM and from 6-9 PM during spring. A new Patrol/Maintenance Station at the top of Christie Peak Express is also being built to serve as home base for nighttime patrollers, as to provide repair and work space for lift maintenance operations. Steamboat is also moving all ticket office services  into its One Steamboat Place location. A new SnowSports Privates Lounge, in the former main ticket office space in the Gondola Building, will provide convenient sales and a comfortable meeting area for guests and instructors participating in private lessons.

Ski Cooper will complete improvements in its rental shop to enhance the flow of guests renting skis and snowboards, while adding more printer stations and re-configuring the area for guests to fit boots. For more information, visit http://www.skicooper.com.

Crested Butte plans to install a Magic Carpet® lift just for the tubing hill,. The mountain is also improving its free ski storage service with the installation of new slopeside rack systems. Guests who aren’t lodging at one of the resort’s properties or renting equipment from the Crested Butte Rental and Demo Center can take advantage of the service for a nominal fee.

Crested Butte is also adding ten snow bikes to its resorts rental fleet. For those new to the sport at CBMR, a two hour instruction and guided tour around the mountain is required to ensure safe use of the equipment and knowledge of where snow biking approved routes are located.  For more information, visit twww.skicb.com/snowbike.

At Loveland Ski Area, the new Ginny Lee Cabin, a day-use on-mountain structure located off Chair 8, will provide skiers and riders on the north side with a convenient place to meet friends and warm up without a trip to the base area. For more information, visit http://www.skiloveland.com.

Food & Beverage

Loveland Ski Area’s Loveland Basin is unveiling a newly remodeled cafeteria. There’ll be more food and beverage options, comfortable seating, and a cozy place for guests to take a break and take in the views.  For more information, visit http://www.skiloveland.com.

Ski Cooper is offering an on-mountain mobile food service with the new Cat Trax snow-cat. In a similar vein to a food truck, the Cat Trax will serve hot food at different locations on the mountain, offering the ski area’s first on-mountain dining service. For more information, visit http://www.skicooper.com.

Steamboat’s Thunderhead Lodge at the top of the gondola received a dramatic makeover this summer. Similar to the layout of the popular Four Points bar, Thunderhead Red’s will double in size and expand to include the eastern side of the building to take advantage of the east facing views of Mt. Werner and Storm Peak. In addition, equipment upgrades throughout a number of kitchens will improve the facility’s culinary offerings.

Steamboat is also launching OpenTable, a real-time online reservation service throughout its family of restaurants this winter. With OpenTable, resort restaurants will be able to manage reservations more efficiently, streamline operations, and enhance service levels. For more information, visit http://www.steamboat.com.

Winter Park Resort’s largest on-mountain building construction in over 25 years, Lunch Rock Restaurant will be a state-of-the-art facility utilized year-round, with 150-seat heated deck, 250-seat indoor restaurant, bar, and hydration station all focusing on Colorado themes. At 16,000 square-feet, the new restaurant will be over five times larger than the previous structure at Lunch Rock, which was built in 1985.  In addition to convenience and comfort, at 11,200 feet in elevation Lunch Rock Restaurant will boast amazing views of Parry Peak, James Peak, Parsenn Bowl, the Fraser Valley, and the Continental Divide.  For more information, visit http://lunchrock.co/.

Terrain & Snow Conditions

New at Aspen/Snowmass beginning Dec. 19, 2014, Snowmass will feature four lanes of lift-served snow tubing at Elk Camp. For more information, visit www.aspensnowmass.com.

Crested Butte has partnered with the local US Forest Service District to identify new areas for glading. Intermediate skiers looking for more gentle gladed terrain should get ready to weave through the trees in the East River area and off the Teocalli Lift. For more information, visit http://www.skicb.com.

Eldora Mountain Resort has added two new Kassbohrer grooming machines to the existing fleet of five groomers.  For more information, visit www.eldora.com.

Loveland Ski Area has invested in snowmaking upgrades at Loveland Basin and Loveland Valley to improve efficiencies and productivity. For more information, visit http://www.skiloveland.com.

Powderhorn’s mountain operations crew is widening the Equalizer trail for the 2014-15 season. For more information, visit www.powderhorn.com.

Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort is adding more snowmaking equipment to the front and backside of the mountain. The resort is adding 11 new energy-efficient snowmaking tower guns, and a state-of-the-art, high-output fan gun, making the mountain operations team more efficient during the early season to establish a solid base that lasts throughout the entire ski season. For more information, visit www.durangomountainresort.com.

Ski Granby Ranch is adding two new runs on West Mountain, improving access to Dean’s Glade on West Mountain, reopening the Poma Lift which gives access to Lone Pine Bowl, and adding a new gladed area off Bronc Rider on East Mountain. For more information, visit http://www.granbyranch.com.

Steamboat is adding a new Bison Sherpa, the first of its kind in Colorado, to its grooming fleet. It’ll be used to tackle some of Steamboat’s steepest terrain and portions of its terrain parks. In addition, Steamboat’s state-of-the-art snowmaking system is being upgraded this winter with more than two miles of pipe, more than 11,000 feet, across See Me, Upper See Ya, Sitz, top of Vogue to Jess’ Cut-Off and Sitz to Boulevard. In addition, two new 12 ft. by 16 ft. blockhouses at Jess’ Cut-Off and the Christie Peak Mid-Station will provide new valve stations for intersecting pipe lines in those critical areas. The new lines will significantly accelerate the resort’s ability to produce snow as tower guns can be spaced 75 feet apart to more efficiently cover the trails.or more information, visit www.steamboat.com.

Telluride has invested in new snowmaking equipment for 2014/15,  for greater snowmaking capacity in the high traffic areas off of Lifts 4 and 5, accessing the beginner and intermediate areas in the heart of Telluride’s trail system. Telluride’s new snowmaking system includes 38 new high efficiency Snowlogic snow guns. These snowmaking snow guns require 90 percent less energy to operate than other models. For more information, visit http://www.tellurideskiresort.com.

Wolf Creek Ski Area is adding a new refurbished Elma Lift, a fixed-grip triple chairlift. The Elma lift will provide skiers with a way to return to the base area from the bottom of the Alberta lift and eliminate the long traverse across the mountain from Park Avenue to the base area. It will also incorporate great beginner terrain along with some excellent intermediate terrain in an area that is currently underutilized. During times of avalanche hazard reduction when the Alberta Lift opens later than the other lifts, the Elma Lift will allow the public to return to the Treasure Stoke Quad and the lower Waterfall Area while waiting for the Alberta Lift to open.

Wolf Creek  is also replacing its old Race Hutch at the bottom of the Charisma trail. The new building will store all the timing equipment, fencing, poles and associated racing tools. For more information, visit http://www.wolfcreekski.com.

Anniversaries & Milestones

Several resorts in Colorado are recognizing significant anniversaries and milestones during the 2014/15 season. Winter Park will celebrate its 75th anniversary on January 28, 2015 with a weeklong series of events that kicks off with a celebration at Winter Park resort and finishes with Mary Jane’s 40th birthday party.

Wolf Creek is also celebrating 75 years this season. Along with a 75th anniversary logo, Wolf Creek will host a Retro Day to commemorate the occasion.

Additionally this winter, Howelsen Hill in Steamboat Springs will recognize the 100th anniversary of ski jumping at the nostalgic ski area.

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Eat well, ski well.

Ever have one of those ski days when your get up and go has got up and gone? Maybe it’s your diet. Now that pre-season is here, it’s a good time to think about ski nutrition. After all, it’s no surprise that the food you eat can have a profound effect on your skiing. Food is fuel. Put bad stuff in, and you’re likely to get bad results.

Recently I spoke to Diana Sugiuchi, a Registered Dietician and member of TheSkiDiva.com forum. Diana runs VerticalDropNutrition.com, a site that focuses on eating for skiing, to see what she has to say on the subject.

Diana Sugiuchi

Diana Sugiuchi

Q: How did you get involved in ski nutrition?
A: One day I was skiing by myself and feeling pretty horrible and crappy, so I went into the lodge and got a bagel. And as I was sitting there eating, I got really mad at myself – not just for stopping for thirty minutes and for paying $5 for the bagel, but for not eating properly. I thought, ‘this is ridiculous. You know what to eat; you’re a nutritionist!’ So it occurred to me: if I’m in this predicament, there must be a lot of other people who have this same problem; people who aren’t skiing as well as they could be because they’re not eating the right things.

Q: How is eating for skiing different from eating for any other sport?
A: There are a lot of similarities. It’s an endurance activity, because you’re out there for a while. But when you ski you have the ability to stop and have a snack. And unlike a marathon, you have bursts of activity for short periods of time. This makes your nutrition needs a bit different.

Q: Does the weather pose a challenge, as well?
A: Cold weather increases your metabolism a little bit, and that can play a part in the kinds of foods you may want to eat, as opposed to foods you may want to eat when you’re biking in the summer. I find what a lot of people don’t pay attention to is apres ski muscle recovery. If you’re on a multi-day ski trip and  wake up on day three and can’t even move, you know there’s a lot you can do to minimize that through what you eat.

Q: Can you give me examples of foods or nutritional guidelines you should follow for skiing?
A: The most important thing is to front-load before you go out. Eat as much as you can without being uncomfortably full because that’s going to give you the energy you need to carry on. A good breakfast would be lean protein. You don’t want to overdo it on  fats, and that’s what you’ll find at a lot of resort breakfast buffets. That’s pretty much the worst food you can eat because you’ll want to take a nap afterwards. Eggs are great and I absolutely love low-fat Greek yogurt. You want to make sure you eat a lot of complex carbohydrates because they’ll give you the energy you need. Protein will stick with you a bit longer, but eating things like oats and fruit and whole grains are really going to give you that good energy you need.

I also recommend shoving a few little snacks in your jacket, just because you don’t want to come in if you’re hungry.  Carbohydrates with a little bit of protein are great. One of my favorite things is PB & J on whole grains. Cut this into little pieces so you can have a bite or two when you need it – fantastic. Some of the energy bars are good, too, but try to stay away from the ones that are really high in protein because that’s not what you need when you’re in the middle of your activity. You really want to go where the carbs are. I love the Cliff Z bars. They’re made for kids, so they’re small – just 100 calories or so. They also have a good ratio of carbs to protein. Be careful, though, some of the bars that look really healthy have enriched flour — which is wheat flour — as one of their first ingredients. So if you eat them your blood sugar is going to drop pretty quickly.

Q: What about lunch? How do you navigate the ski cafeteria jungle? I mean, there’s a lot of crap out there.
A: There is a lot of crap. I always buy my lunch because I’m too lazy to make it in the morning. So my go-to is chili. All the mountains have chili, and chili has a lot of beans, which is a great complex carbohydrate that’ll stick with you all afternoon. If they have a white chili that’s made with chicken, that’s great, but beef chili is good, too. Go easy on toppings like cheese because you don’t want too much fat in the middle of your day. Sometimes I’ll have a turkey sandwich, if they have a sandwich station. You want something nutrient dense, where you’re going to get a lot of bang for your buck. I don’t think a salad at lunch is good enough. It’s a lot of filler and not enough protein and whole grains.

Q: And after skiing? What can you eat then to help your body recover?
A: Some great things to eat after skiing to help with recovery are hot chocolate made with lowfat milk. This is a variation on one of the best recovery snacks, which is a glass of lowfat chocolate milk. A banana with some peanut butter is good, too. Buy little individual packages of peanut butter for easy traveling. Or you could eat dried fruit and nuts or a turkey sandwich. Bring it with you and it will stay fresh in the car while you ski.

Q: So now we’re getting into pre-season, so we’re starting to think about things we can do to get ourselves ready. Is there anything we can do nutritionally?

Chocolate milk: the ideal recovery drink!

Chocolate milk: the ideal recovery drink!

A: Oh, yes. This is the time when you should be focusing on building strength; doing your conditioning exercises. And if you’re not eating the right things at the right time, you’re not going to improve your muscle capacity. It’s really important. You can’t eat your way to being in shape. You have to replenish yourself within an hour after your work-out. It doesn’t have to be a whole lot. One of the things I recommend is 8 ounces of low-fat chocolate milk. It has just the right ratio of carbohydrates to protein, and just on a physiological level, it’s the best recovery snack. It’s better after a work-out than regular low fat milk because you need the extra carbohydrates – and sugar is a simple carbohydrate — to drive the protein into your cells. Your body absorbs it better.  It doesn’t have to be chocolate milk, but you want something that’ll give you 10 grams of protein. Sometimes I’ll have half a cup of Greek yogurt with a little bit of fruit in it.

Q: One last question, especially for our eastern or midwestern skiers: Any advice on what we can do, nutritionally, to adjust to altitude?
A: There are a few things you can do. It’s super-important to stay hydrated, so make sure you’re drinking water often. Aim for at least 80 ounces per day. Don’t skimp on the carbs, either. These help get oxygen into your cells. Complex carbs like whole grain bread, brown rice, fruits and beans are best for sustained energy. And don’t overdo the sodium. It may be best to avoid salty restaurant meals while you’re adjusting to the altitude and choose less processed foods which have less sodium. Lastly, eat foods high in potassium such as potatoes, citrus, bananas, tomatoes, leafy greens and dried apricots.

Thanks, Diana! For more info on ski nutrition, visit her site at VerticalDropNutrition.com.


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It’s ski movie time!

And why not? It’s fall, otherwise known unofficially as pre-season. And if you’re like me, there’s nothing like a good dose of ski porn to get you stoked about what’s to come. So buy your tickets, grab some popcorn, and settle into your seat. It’s time to get your fill of breathtaking cliff jumps, incredible mountain scenery, and hilarious crashes (which sort of reassure us that yes, even the great ones fall).

Which movie am I most excited about? No surprise here: it’s Pretty Faces, the first ever all-female ski movie, produced by Unicorn Picnic. Some of you may recall the Kickstarter campaign Lynsey Dyer ran late last year to get it funded. (I wrote about it here). Yes, she succeeded raising money far beyond her initial goal, and yes, the movie will  be making its debut in Boulder on September 30.

Here’s the trailer:

And here’s the schedule, as it stands so far:

September 30: Boulder Theater, Boulder, CO
October 3: Roxy Theatre, Revelstoke, BC
October 4: Sturtevant’s, Sun Valley, ID
October 8: Tower Theatre in Salt Lake City, UT
October 15: Volcanic Theatre Pub, Bend OR
October 15: Roxy Theatre, Missoula, MT
October 16: The Mountaineers , Seattle, WA
October 17: Pink Garter Theatre, Jackson, WY
October 19: Don Thomas Sporthaus, Birmingham, MI
October 22: Portland, Oregon with EVO Gear
October 23: Outdoor Gear Exchange, Burlington, VT
October 25: Brava Theatre, San Francisco, CA
October 29: Egyptian Theatre, Boise, ID
October 30: Backcountry Essentials, Bellingham, WA
November 13th: Hadley Farms Meeting House, Hadley, MA
November 14: with WomensMovement.com, Durango, CO
November 15: Center for Contemporary Arts, Santa Fe, NM
November 16, Marriott Park City, Park City, UT
November 26: The Sitzmark at Alyeska, Girdwood, AK
December 12: South Lake Tahoe, NV
December 13: Taos Ski Valley, Taos, NM

Of course, there are loads of other ski movies coming out, too. Here are trailers to a few of the many:

Warren Miller Production’s No Turning Back:

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Almost Ablaze, by Teton Gravity Research:

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Days of My Youth, by Red Bull:

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Powderwhore Productions’ Some Thing Else:

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Deep Andes 2014:

Hoo Doo from GypsyFeelin:

Tribute, from Freeski-Crew.com:

Jamski Films’ The End:

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Salomon Freeski TV Season 8 – The Controller:

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Private resorts: yea or nay?

Bear Creek (now Plymouth Notch)

Bear Creek
(now Plymouth Notch)

I live down the road from a closed ski area. It makes me sad every time I drive by it. Originally opened as Round Top in 1964, the area closed in 1981, reopening as Bear Creek, a semi-private resort, in 1998 (semi because they sold tickets to the public on certain days), only to close again in 2010.

But change is in the wind: the mountain is getting a new lease on life, opening again later this year as Plymouth Notch, a private ski area. Get out your wallets, folks, because here’s what it’ll cost to join: $25,000 per family, plus $7,000 in annual dues, and a $1,000 minimum spent on food and beverage each year. Membership is currently set at  250 families.

Yeah, a little steep for my budget.

Private ski areas are nothing new. You can find them all over the place. Probably the most famous is the Yellowstone Club in Montana, a lavish resort by anyone’s standards. Members must pay a $250,000 deposit and $16,000 in annual dues, and are required to buy a house (starting at $3.5 million) or at least an empty lot (from $1.2 million). Here in Vermont, we have The Hermitage Club, located at the old Haystack ski area. This is pricier than Plymouth Notch, though not as high as Yellowstone: $65,000 buys you a Family Legacy membership, with an annual dues of $5,600. Real estate opportunities abound, as well.

Plymouth Notch is starting to look like a bargain.

The attractions of a private ski area are considerable. You don’t have to worry about crowds or lift lines. You get concierge type service. The staff treats you like royalty. Plus many of these places offer extras like spa services, gourmet restaurants, and off-season sports, like golf, tennis, or swimming.

Me, I hate crowds and will go to great lengths to avoid them. That’s why I limit my skiing to mid-week, and why I’m pretty careful about where I go and when. A private ski area actually sounds pretty sweet. But somehow, the exclusivity of these clubs makes me a bit uneasy. Are they any different than a private golf or yacht club? No. This is America. You can pretty much do what you want with your money. And if you want to use it to join a mountain so you don’t have to rub shoulders with the riffraff, it ain’t nobody’s business but your own. So why the uneasiness?

To be honest, I’m not sure. Skiing is already an exclusive sport. Lift tickets, the price of equipment, and even the cost of getting to the mountain already keep many people from taking it up. Private ski clubs, I think, add yet another layer of exclusivity to the mix. They’re not part of the community at large, and their main objective is to keep people (read anyone who isn’t ultra-rich) out. It’s the “more for me, less for you” mentality that turns me off; it just seems antithetical to the culture of skiing. Plus it seems just so, I don’t know, over-the-top and excessive. And that just rubs me the wrong way.

Then there’s the problem of viability. Both the Yellowstone Club and Bear Creek have a history of bankruptcy. And an earlier incarnation of Haystack as a private area closed because of low real estate sales and high capital costs. For private areas, the reliance on real estate funding plus huge overhead can lead to the inevitable use (or abuse) of debt-financing and leverage — the same problems that precipitated the mortgage crisis a few years back. So a difficult business model to  manage. And if the area goes bankrupt, what does that mean for the people who buy in? Or for the future of the area, itself? Questions to ponder.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy to see Bear Creek/Plymouth Notch reopen. And if this is a way to get marginal or defunct ski areas back into the mix, I’m all for it. Come to think of it, wouldn’t a Mount Diva for Ski Divas and their guests be ultra, ultra cool? It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess. And what you have in your bank account.

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The Mountains vs. The Beach

I’m at the beach this week, so I thought I’d recycle this one from June, 2012. It’s an oldie but a goodie, and sort of sums up where I am right now:

Which do you prefer in the summer?

Me, I’m torn. I love them both.

As someone who grew up on the Jersey Shore (which was not like the TV show of the same name. Heck, those creatures aren’t even from New Jersey. I wonder if they’re even from this planet), I have an almost visceral attachment to the beach. When I was a kid, I spent my entire summer there. My high school years were reminiscent of Beach Blanket Bingo. All my friends hung out on the beach, so I did, too. I even waitressed nights on the boardwalk so I could spend my days on the sand. The smell of sunscreen (we used to call it suntan lotion) still takes me back. And there’s no food I enjoy more than good seafood.

Not my high school, but close enough.

But the mountains… ah, the mountains. What can compare to the smell of pine trees, the view from a mountain top, the fun of kayaking a mountain lake or river? Even though I moved to the mountains later in life, I feel at peace here. It’s my home, and I love it deeply.

It’s true that every summer I feel the pull of the ocean. I yearn to sit on the beach, sun-sotted and salt soaked, dashing into the waves when I get too hot, stuffing myself with steamers and crab. All the same, I hate to leave my Green Mountain State. Summer in Vermont is glorious, and as much as I love it in the winter, it’s amazing here now, too.


The Green Mountain State

So truly, I’m conflicted. Does it have to be an either/or situation? Can’t we embrace them both?

This year, I’m solving my dilemma with a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. If you’ve never been, you should go. It’s the perfect combination of mountains and ocean, with lots of lobster on the side. And though the water is bone chilling cold, that’s okay. There’s enough other stuff to make up for it. I know I’ll have a great time.

So which do you prefer in the summer? The mountains? The beach? Or are you like me and love them both?

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Beyond the Ice Bucket Challenge

Sometimes things take off big time on the internet: people dancing to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” Grumpy Cat, flash mobs,  anything about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. So when something new starts popping up on your Facebook feed, it’s easy to dismiss it as just another flash in the pan.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is one of these things. Seems everywhere you look, someone is getting dumped on with a bucket of ice water. Justin Timberlake, Ethel Kennedy, Mark Zuckerburg, even me:

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I’m not condemning or poo-pooing the Challenge. It’s a terrific cause and it’s done a fantastic amount of good. As I write this, the ALS Association has raised more than $15 million in donations, way beyond what it’s ever raised before in a comparable period of time. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

But like anything else, the Challenge is bound to run its course. So what’s my point? It shouldn’t take a viral video or a celebrity death (I’m thinking Robin Williams) to draw attention to ALS or Parkinson’s or Depression or any other worthy cause. There are a lot of things that could benefit from an outpouring of contributions. All. The. Time.

So before you put your wallets away, here are some great ski-related charities that could benefit from your generosity. Please give, and give generously. No ice bucket or video required (though you could ski a run for them, later on).

High Fives Foundation: Dedicated to raising money and awareness for athletes that have suffered a life-altering injury while pursuing their dream in the winter action sports community.

Kelly Brush Foundation: Dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals living with spinal cord injuries (SCI)  by purchasing adaptive athletic equipment for those with financial limitations; advocates for improved ski racing safety;  supports research to treat and cure paralysis due to SCI.

Disabled Sports USA:  Provides adaptive sports opportunities for people with disabilities to help them develop independence, confidence, and fitness.

American Blind Skiing Foundation: Provides blind children and adults with opportunities to build confidence and independence through skiing.

Kevin Pearce Fund: Supports organizations that enrich and enhance the lives of individuals and families affected by brain injury, Down syndrome, and other challenges.

Protect Our Winters:  Dedicated to uniting and actively engaging the global snow sports community to lead the fight against climate change.

Clean Water Carbon Fund: Fights climate change and protects clean water by planting trees along streams and rivers.

Special Olympics: Provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

SkiDucks: Dedicated to enriching the lives of disadvantaged and financially underprivileged children by teaching and sharing the joys of skiing and snowboarding.

Challenged Athletes Foundation: Provides opportunities and support to people with physical disabilities so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics.

National Sports Center for the Disabled: Facilitates sporting events for the physically disabled.

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Biking through the summer [or whatever gets you through the off season].

Summer’s a rough time for skiers who really don’t have any non-skiing passions. I mean, I like to do other things besides ski, but I just don’t LOOOOOVE them in quite the same way. So finding an alternate activity is tough. I can’t run (I have seriously bad feet), and hiking, though enjoyable, isn’t something I do too often.

One of the things I do do is bike — road, not mountain. I have a Specialized Ruby Comp road bike that’s about seven years old. I’m not a bike gear head so I can’t give you all the specs, but if you’re interested in such things, you can read about it here.

Anyway, here it is. I’ve made a few modifications since I got it. Pink tape on the handlebars, changed out the compact crankset to a triple (yeah, I wanted the granny gears), and most recently, a really cool saddle.


Cool seat!

Cool seat!

This summer I got a bright safety green helmet, too. I think it makes me extra visible to the cars and trucks out there; I’m a little paranoid about getting hit. I like the visor, too.


But even with the cool bike, saddle, and helmet, biking in Vermont can be a challenge. I’m not the strongest cyclist out there, and the hilly terrain isn’t easy. But the rewards are great. You get to see lots of stunning scenery right up close. Here are a few pics I’ve taken cycling in the area:

Cornish-Windsor Bridge

Cornish-Windsor Bridge



Once in a while you encounter something a bit offbeat, too. Like this sign for “Wendy’s Way,” a bike path in the Manchester, VT, area dedicated to 10th Mountain Division veteran, Olympian, and long-time Stratton ski instructor, Wendall Cram. Needless to say, I got a real kick biking on it — and an even bigger kick when I happened upon him in the parking lot, when I was loading up my gear.


Then there’s this marker for Phineas Gage in Cavendish, VT. Phineas was a railroad worker who suffered a traumatic brain injury when an iron spike accidentally passed through his skull with such force that it landed almost 30 yards behind him. Remarkably, he regained consciousness within a few minutes, was able to speak, and survived a 45-minute ride back to his boarding house while sitting in a cart. Although Phineas managed to recover from the accident, his personality was radically altered. His case is among the first evidence suggesting that damage to the frontal lobes could changes aspects of personality and affect socially appropriate interaction. Kind of makes you appreciate helmets, doesn’t it?

Phineas Gage Marker

Phineas Gage Marker

Anyway, I’m counting down the days to ski season, as I’m sure many of you are, too. Let’s see — with a target day of November 15, that’s only 96 days from today, August 12. In the meantime, I’ll keep on pedaling.


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Getting to the top.

I live not too far from Suicide Six, a small mountain in Vermont that prides itself on being the first lift-served ski area in the US. The mountain installed a rope tow in 1934, a couple years before the country’s first chair lift went into service at Sun Valley, Idaho, in 1936.

Ski lifts have come a long way since then. Today you can ride a tram, gondola, high-speed quad, double, triple, rope tow, J-bar, T-bar, and Magic Carpet, to name a few. And oh, the places you’ll go. The Peak-To-Peak Tram at Whistler-Blackcomb, for example, spans 4.4 km in just 11 minutes. The Aerial Tram at Jackson Hole takes you 4,139 vertical feet in 15 minutes. And the Lone Peak Tram at Big Sky brings you up to 11,166 feet, climbing 1,450 ft over a distance of 2,828 ft. Lifts open up terrain that would otherwise be inaccessible to the majority of skiers, and substantially expand a resort’s skiable acreage. Skiing wouldn’t be the same without them.

Single Chair, Mad River Glen

Single Chair, Mad River Glen

People get incredibly attached to lifts. Here in Vermont, it’s not unusual to see a house with an old lift chair or gondola cabin in the yard. And then there’s the historic single chair at Mad River Glen, which has a mystique all its own. When the mountain refurbished its lift in 2007, the old chairs were auctioned off to raise funds, with a minimum starting bid of $1,000. They sold.

Every now and then you hear a crazy ski lift story in the news. In 2010, five chairs fell 25-30 feet from a lift at Sugarloaf, Maine, injuring six people. In 2009, a nearly 40-year-old lift at Devil’s Head, Wisconsin, ran backwards at an out-of-control rate of speed, overriding the safety brakes and injuring 14 people. Luckily, these are exceptions rather than the rule. Statistics compiled by the National Ski Areas Association show only 12 chairlift fatalities in North America between 1973, when data collection started, and 2011 (the date of the source I found), making chairlifts safer than cars, escalators, or elevators.

Ski resorts do a lot of lift maintenance, refurbishment, and installation during the summer. This year my local mountain, Okemo, is installing a six-person bubble chair, complete with heated seats, to replace a high-speed detachable quad. It’s the first one like it in North America, and it’s been interesting to read people’s reactions on the internet. Some see it as an absolute travesty, more evidence of the corporatization and sanitation of the ski experience — which I think  is pretty silly. Unless you’re hiking, you have to rely on some sort of automatic conveyance to get to the top, and I see little difference between the new lift and riding a tram or a gondola. All offer wind protection and a larger group of passengers than a typical chair — except with the bubble lift, you don’t have to remove your skis, which to me is a big plus. Yes, the heated seats may be a bit over the top. But ask me about this again on a day when the temps dip below zero, and I may give you a completely different answer. After all, no one gets a medal for being uncomfortable.

Bubble Lift to be installed at Okemo Mountain Resort

Artist rendition of Bubble Lift.

A lift being demolished or installed doesn’t happen every day, and I’m hoping to see some of this at Okemo this summer. It’s a massive undertaking that relies on incredible logistics and lots and lots of money; the lift at Okemo is clocking in at $6.9 million and is slated to start rolling in mid-December. I’ve been told they’ll be using helicopters to install the footings for the new towers in a few weeks, and I may go over to watch. If I do, I’ll take some pics so you can see, too.

In the meantime, enjoy this video of a chairlift installation at Vail in 2011:

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Why is working out so hard sometimes?

I just got back from a bike ride that nearly ate me alive. By the end I was toast. Exhausted. Ready to collapse into a sweat-soaked, road-dust encrusted puddle of flesh. I know, I know — ewwwww.

Yet the other day I did a similar ride and had a completely different experience. Same intensity, same type of terrain, no problem. It was a piece of cake. Easy-peasy. I felt wonderful, maintained a good pace, and at the end I leapt off my bike, smiling.

Go figure.

ExhaustionI know I’m not the only one who has exercise ups and downs, but why things should vary so much from one day to the next is a complete mystery to me.  And it’s not just limited to biking. I’ve had this problem in a variety of activities — including skiing –and if I could bottle the good days for the days when I felt like crap, I’d be a happy camper.

So why is working out so hard sometimes? Why can’t each day be the same?

There are a variety of theories on why this happens, so I thought I’d share some with you:

• It could be nutritional, hormonal, sleep-related, [insert something here]. The body is a complex machine, and there are stressors in our lives and bodies we may not even be aware of. Drink alcohol the night before, and you might not perform well. Get a poor night’s sleep, and it could make a difference. (Though as a chronic insomniac, I’ve had some pretty good days following nights when I’ve slept maybe 3-4 hours Maybe it all comes down to what you’re used to?)

• It could be the environment. Maybe it was too hot/cold/humid/dry/windy. Maybe it’s the air quality. Maybe it’s the altitude. In short, in addition to internal things, there are external things that can affect your performance. Working out when it’s really hot or humid can be much more exhausting than it is on a  moderate day. And biking when it’s extremely windy can be a real challenge. Know that and make allowances.

• Maybe you were over/under hydrated. If you don’t drink enough before or during your workout, you could feel weak, dizzy, confused, or sluggish. Overhydration has its own set of problems, too: cramping, nausea, and confusion, so it can easily be confused with dehydration. In fact, drinking too much fluid, especially from certain “rehydration” drinks, can ironically cause dehydration.  A drink that has a high level of sugar and additives may require too much of your body’s own fluid to dilute so it can be absorbed. Also, drinking too much water at once may cause you to pee too much, so you don’t absorb any fluid.

• It’s in your head. It’s no secret that energy can be related to attitude. A positive attitude can result in greater energy for a better workout. And depression can wreak havoc on the way you perform. So keep that in mind (pun intended).

• These days just happen. And when they do, either pack it in or just expect less from yourself. Your body is trying to tell you something, so listen to it and back off.  You may be doing too much. There’s actually something called “overtraining syndrome.” Too  much training can break you down and make you weaker. Physiologic improvement actually occurs during the rest period that follows hard training. During recovery, your cardiovascular and muscular systems build up to compensate for the stress you’ve applied. The result can be a higher level of performance.

In short, who knows what’s going on. Some days are just not as good as others, so I kind of like the last explanation best (though trust me, I am not overtraining). But if you think you have an idea of your own, post it here. I’d love to hear it.





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