How to pick out used skis.

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

Ski Swap BFW SML

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy hunting, and happy saving!

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Pop the popcorn. The ski movie trailers are here!

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

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

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

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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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What’s new in Colorado for ’15/’16


While most of us have been taking the summer off from skiing, the ski resort elves in Colorado have been busily making all sorts of improvements for the coming year. So all you good little ski boys and girls, take a look at some of the new things you can enjoy when the snow starts to fly:


  • A new, high-speed, 6-passenger chair is replacing Chair 2 (The Avanti Express). This will reduce wait times and improve reliability. A loading conveyor and gates will improve efficiency and increase capacity by up to 30 percent, according to the resort.
  • They’re offering a new app: EpicMix Time. This provides guests with crowd-sourced, real-time liftline wait times across 55 lifts and gondolas.


  • Red Tail and Centennial trails, two of the most popular intermediate runs on the mountain, are being equipped with 23 fully-automated fan guns.


  • New snowmaking pipe is going in on the Lost Horizon and Barton Breezeway trails (Peak 6). This will help the resort open for the early season.


  • The ticket office is being remodeled into a complete guest services center. The season pass office is being expanded to accommodate a higher volume of guests, and the ski area is establishing a call center to handle snowsports reservations and guest inquiries over the phone.


  • The High Alpine lift at Snowmass Ski Resort is being replaced and realigned.
  • Snowmaking equipment is being installed on two existing trails, and there are additional trail and glade construction projects.
  • Guests to Aspen Highlands will enjoy a remodel of the mid-mountain Cloud Nine restaurant. The $1.1 million restoration will also include kitchen enhancements.


  • Katie O’Rourke’s, an Irish-themed pub with a full wait-served menu and plenty of microbrews, is being expanded. This will nearly double the current size of the pub, adding about 450 square feet of seating area.


  • Sherpa, Copper’s award-winning geo-targeted mobile application, is being updated. Sherpa tracks a user’s runs, speed and vertical feet covered during their day on the mountain. New for the 2015-16 season, Sherpa offers trail recommendations. The app looks at data from a user’s previous skiing or riding patterns and recommends new terrain based on that user’s habits.
  • There are several new food and beverage options, including Starbucks Coffee, Mahi Fish Tacos and the relocated Belgian Bean.


  • A culinary outlet is being built at the Ten Peaks area. The new restaurant and bar will have a 2,400-square-foot deck and a 700-square-foot bar area, providing views, drinks and food. In addition, the WoodStone Grille will have a new look and new menu.


  • Chair 2, the main chairlift at the base of Loveland Basin, is being re-aligned. The original chairlift will be shortened to drop skiers and snowboarders off at the base of Chair 6. The newer upper section will serve the Bennett’s Bowl and Ptarmigan Roost areas.


  • A new yurt in the base area will house the mountain’s cat skiing operations. The area in the lodge used by large ski groups is also being expanded.


  • The Flat Top Flyer will be unveiled. This is a Poma high-speed quad chairlift that replacies the Take Four lift. The new lift, whose initial capacity is 1,800 riders, will cut ride time in half to approximately six minutes while offering comfortable seats and footrests for lift riders as they ascend 1,600 vertical feet.


  • A new high-speed detachable quad chairlift will replace the original Legends Lift 8 located on the backside of the ski resort. This will take skiers and riders to the summit of Purgatory in just five minutes.
  • Additional terrain is being added in conjunction with the lift project, including two advanced trails to the west of the new high-speed quad.
  • Snowmaking equipment will be installed at the bottom of Lift 8, providing more consistency and better coverage at the bottom terminal.


  • The resort’s demo fleet of K2 ultra-fat Powabunga powder skis is being upgraded and expanded.


  • Restaurant interiors are being remodeled, and the kitchen upgraded.
  • The retail shop is being expanded.


  • Gondola Joe’s is being expanded to offer more space for eating in, and the Four Points Lodge is receiving upgrades to the back of the house. The Rendezvous Lodge is receivinge a facelift with a new exterior design and interior upgrades.
  • RFID technology is being incorporated into its lift tickets, multi-day passes and season pass products using the QuickTrax card.


  • New tower mounts are being added to Hoot Brown Park, the resort’s largest terrain park. These will allow the resort to easily relocate snow guns from other areas of the mountain for improved snowmaking within the park. The park is also getting a few new custom made features.


  • RFID technology is being introduced into its lift tickets, multi-day passes and season pass products using the QuickTrax card, which will be reusable over multiple seasons and can be reloaded online or over the phone, allowing guests to bypass the ticket office.


  • The Race Hutch building is being completed. This is integral to the operation of the Wolf Creek Fun Race Series.
  • Improvements are being made to the ski and snowboard rental department with the introduction of a fleet of premium demo skis, snowboards, boots and an online reservation system.


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Ski Swaps, 2015.

We’ve done it: we’ve crossed the magic bridge into September. And though it’s not officially fall, everyone knows that with Labor Day in the rear view mirror, summer is over. Which means we’re one step closer to ski season.

It means something else, too: the start of that great annual tradition, the Ski and Snowboard Swap. These are a great way to enjoy new-to-you gear without getting sticker shock.


Ski swaps are everywhere: ski resorts, ski clubs, high schools, and colleges often have them. 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:


Sept 18-20: Upstate NY Ski and Snowboard Swap, Syracuse, NY

Oct 2-4: Pico Ski Swap, Pico Mountain, VT

Oct 8-12: Wachusett Mountain Ski & Snowboard Swap, Wachusett, MA

Oct 9-11: Killington Ski Club Ski Swap, Killington, VT

Oct 10: Plattepalooza Ski Swap, Plattekill, NY

Oct 10-11: BBTS Ski Swap, Waterville Valley, NH

Oct. 10-12: Ski Butternut Ski Swap, Great Barrington, MA

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

Oct 23-25: Greek Peak Ski Club Ski Swap, Cortland, NY

Nov 1: Pat’s Peak Ski Team Ski & Snowboard Sale, Henniker, NH

Nov 7: Gunstock Ski Club Swap, Gilford, NH

Nov 8: Brunswick Ski Swap, Brunswick, ME

Nov 21: Cambridge Rotary Ski Swap & Sale, Jeffersonville, VT

Nov 21-23: OMS Ski Swap & Sale, Okemo Mountain, Ludlow, VT

Nov 27-29: Ski Haus Ski Swap, Brewster, NY

Nov 27-28: Stratton Mountain School Ski & Snowboard Sale, Stratton, VT

Nov 28: Down East Ski Club Swap, Portland, ME


Oct 25: SkiCenter Ski Swap, Washington, DC

Nov 7-8: Ski Roundtop Mega Sale, Lewisberry, PA


Oct 2-3: Welch Village Fall Ski Swap & Sale, Welch, MN

Oct 2-11: Afton Alps Ski Swap, Hastings, MN

Oct 3: Skitoberfest, Boyne Mtn Resort, MI

Oct. 3-4: Wild Mountain Open House & Swap, Wild Mountain, MN

Oct 12-15: Boston Mills/Brandywine/Alpine Valley Ski Patrol Ski Swap, Peninsula, OH

Oct 18: Snow Snake Ski Swap,  Midland, MI

Oct 23-25: Team Duluth Ski Swap, Duluth, MN

Oct 24: Ski Swap at Crystal Mountain, Thompsonville, MI

Oct 25-27: Buck Hills Ski Swap, Burnsville, MN

Oct. 31-Nov 1: Chestnut Mountain’s Open House and Ski Swap, Galena, IL


Sept 11-13: Team Summit Ski & Snowboard Swap, Breckenridge, CO

Sept 25-27: Snowbird Sports Education Foundation Ski & Snowboard Swap, Snowbird, UT

Oct 9-10: Winter Park Ski & Snowboard Swap, Winter Park, CO

Oct 9: Weber State Outdoor Gear Swap, Ogden, UT

Oct 23: Ski Swap @ 2nd Tracks, Ogden, UT

Oct 23-25: Vail Ski Swap, Vail, CO

Oct 23-25: Sandia Ski Patrol Ski Swap,  Albuquerque, NM

Nov 6-8: Bridger Foundation Ski Swap, Bozeman, MT

Nov 7: Hesperus Ski Patrol Ski Swap, Durango, CO

Nov 8: Truckee Ski Swap, Truckee, CA

Nov 12-14: Beaver Mountain Ski Swap, Garden City, UT

Nov 20-22: UNR Ski & Snowboard Swap, Reno, NV

Dec 4-5: Alta Ski Swap, Alta, UT


Oct 15-18: Corvallis Ski Swap, Coravallis, OR

Oct 23-25: Eugene Ski Swap, Eugene, OR

Oct 24-25: Mountain to Sound Ski Swap, West Seattle, WA

Oct 24: Mission Ridge Ski Team Ski Swap, Wenatchee WA

Oct 31-Nov 1: Yakima Ski Swap, Yakima, WA

Oct 31-Nov 1: Mt. Spokane Ski Swap, Spokane Valley, WA

Nov 1-2: Tacoma Ski Swap, Tacoma, WA

Nov 6-8: Bogus Basin Ski Swap, Boise, ID

Nov. 6-8: Lookout Pass & Silver Mountain Ski Patrols, Coeur d’Alene, ID

Nov. 6-8: Portland SkiFever & Snowboard Show, Portland, OR

October 15-18: Canada’s Largest Ski & Snowboard Swap, Toronto, Ontario

Oct 23-25: Calgary Ski Swap and Sale, Calgary, BC



Read full story · Comments { 1 } is nine!

happy-ninthHard to believe, but it’s the ninth anniversary of

Heck, in internet years, that’s more like 90. Maybe even 900. After all, the shelf life of web sites is shorter than fresh fish. A few days, just about, and many are abandoned or forgotten. So it’s pretty amazing that we’ve not only stuck around, but that we’ve continued to grow and thrive.

For me, it’s been a great nine years. I can still remember when I came up with the idea for the site.  I was on line for the gondola at Steamboat when I looked behind me………. and all I could see was men.  ‘This is ridiculous,’ I thought.  ‘I can’t be the only woman around who likes to ski.’ But at the time it seemed that way. None of my friends skied. And none of the online ski communities or ski magazines really paid that much attention to women, either. We were marginalized, treated as an interesting side-line. Just an afterthought on the slopes. If you were a female skier, you couldn’t be very serious or very good. You were probably just out looking for a guy. Or maybe you just wanted to wear the latest ski fashions, take two runs, and sit in the lodge.

So I created for a couple reasons. Selfishly, I just wanted to find some ski friends. But I also wanted to give women a place where they could connect and talk about everything and anything ski related. And though the site’s been through some changes, I’ve held firm in keeping it for women only.  Yeah,  I’ve taken some flak for this, but I’ve never regretted my decision. It’s nice to have a little corner of the ski world that’s testoserone-free. When you want to know about women’s gear, someone knowledgeable actually answers. And no one puts you down or makes a snide remark when you proudly proclaim, “Yes, I AM a jacket slut.” (If you think this sounds weird, go here and you’ll find 94 pages worth of Diva jacket love.)

So to all 4,430 registered members of, and to all those who just like to lurk or visit from time to time, I say thanks. Thanks for being supportive, for being patient with our glitches and growing pains, and for making the site an absolute joy.

Happy Nine!

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Why you need a vacation.


Incredible as it sounds, I’m already planning my ski trips for the coming season; specifically, for next March. I know, there are months between now and then, but I’m still excited. I have a lot of cool stuff coming up, and it’s looking like a great winter.

Seems like I may be unusual. New research suggests that 56 percent of Americans haven’t taken a vacation in the past 12 months. That’s 10 million more people than the year before. In fact, the US is the only advanced nation that doesn’t mandate time off. By law, European countries get at least 20 days of paid vacation per year; some receive as many as 30. Australia and New Zealand each require employers to give at least 20 vacation days per year, and Canada and Japan mandate at least 10 paid days off. What’s more, Americans are taking the least amount of vacation in nearly four decades. And some 25 percent of Americans and 31 percent of low-wage earners get no vacation at all, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Pretty crazy, don’t you think?

People don’t take vacations for all sorts of reasons. Some are afraid of falling behind at work. Some fear losing their jobs. And some risk losing income when they’re not working.

This is really a shame. Vacations are necessary for all sorts of reasons. All of us need a chance to recharge the batteries; to blast out the cobwebs; to remind ourselves of what it means to be human again. And apart from the shower or bed in the middle of the night, some of my best ideas come to me on the ski slope, which is no where near my desk.

There are plenty of health reasons to take vacations, as well: In a study of 13,000 middle-aged men at risk for heart disease, those who skipped vacations for five consecutive years were found to be 30 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who took at least one week off each year. Vacation deprivation may be equally hazardous for women. In the Framingham Heart Study, the largest and longest-running study of cardiovascular disease, researchers found that women who took a vacation once every six years or less were nearly eight times as likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took at least two vacations a year.

Other upsides to downtime, according to, include the following:

  • Decreased depression – A study conducted by Marshfield Clinic of 1,500 women in rural Wisconsin determined that those who vacationed less often than once every two years were more likely to suffer from depression and increased stress than women who took vacations at least twice a year. Similarly, the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind Body Center surveyed some 1,400 individuals and found that leisure activities – including taking vacations – contributed to higher positive emotional levels and less depression. The benefits of vacationing also extended to lower blood pressure and smaller waistlines.
  • Less stress – A study released last year by the American Psychological Association concluded that vacations work to reduce stress by removing people from activities and environments that tend to be sources of stress. Similarly, a Canadian study of nearly 900 lawyers found that taking vacations helped alleviate job stress.
  • Improved productivity – The professional services firm Ernst & Young conducted an internal study of its employees and found that, for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved 8 percent, and frequent vacationers also were significantly less likely to leave the firm. Additionally, research by the Boston Consulting Group found that high-level professionals who were required to take time off were significantly more productive overall than those who spent more time working.

So what does all this mean? Maybe you should put vacation right up there with eating healthy, exercise, and getting enough sleep. After all, it’s good for you.



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A Chat with Freeskiing Champion Elyse Saugstad

Elyse Saugstad.

Elyse Saugstad (Photo by Anthony Solis)

In the world of skiing, Elyse Saugstad stands on one of the highest peaks. Winner of the Freeride World Tour in 2008 and recipient of the Best Female Performance Award at the Powder Awards in 2013, she was also named one of the Top 50 Women in Action Sports by ESPN in 2014.

Not too shabby. (There’s more, too. Go here for the full run-down.)

But Elyse has another title that some of you may not know about: Survivor. In 2012, she was in a group caught in an avalanche at Tunnel Creek in Stevens Pass, Washington. Three people died; Elyse survived by deploying an avalanche airbag. Since the group included some of the nation’s top professional skiers, as well as writers and a photographer from POWDER magazine, the avalanche received a lot of media attention. There’s a terrific interactive article about the whole thing in the New York Times (you can find it here), which I highly recommend.

I spoke with Elyse recently from her home in Tahoe.

Q: So Elyse, how’d you get started in freeskiing, anyway?
A: I started skiing before I could walk. As I grew up I got into racing, and I did well, but I burned out in high school. Then when I went to college I had a lot of friends who were really into freeskiing. I wasn’t racing anymore and I really missed skiing, so I went in that direction. And it was so much fun! I grew up in the big mountains of Alaska, and I think that helped, too. After I graduated I eventually moved to Squaw and became a pro skier. That was about ten years ago.

Q: You’ve made a number of ski movies. Are you working on anything right now?
A. Funny you should ask. My husband, Cody Townsend, who’s another professional skier, worked with Matchstick Productions; he had this incredible performance in Days of My Youth – you really should see it — but he wanted to do something a little bit different. So we decided to work together on a movie. It’s called Conquering the Useless. The title refers to a quote from one of Cody’s favorite alpinists, Reinhold Messner, who is one of the greatest alpinists of modern time, and the quote relates to his philosophy of climbing and mountains and how it’s an act of Conquering the Useless.. We brought in Team 13, a production company based in Salt Lake City, as the cinematographer and editor. But since Cody is the producer it’s sort of like an independent ski film. Cody and I are in it, along with Chris Rubens and Dave Treadway. It’ll be out the end of September. I’m working on the website for it now.

Q: I understand you’ll be heading down to South America soon. 
A: Yes, I’ll be heading down at the end of the month to host a camp.

Q: I know you offer avalanche clinics. Is this going to be one of those?
A: No, that happens in early winter. I have to say that I’m really proud of my SAFE AS clinics. I started them with Michelle Parker, Jackie Paaso, Ingrid Backstrom, Lel Tone and Sherry McConkey and Ingrid Backstrom. One day we were sitting around drinking coffee and talking about avalanches, and we decided it’d be really great to offer a women’s specific avalanche course. Most avalanche classes are made up of men. We thought if we created an environment that was for women only, then they’d feel more comfortable and be more likely to come get educated. Plus they could meet other women to become back country partners. We do it in December because for most of the winter we’re pursuing professional our ski careers, so we’re not all available. In the past we’ve held the clinics in Colorado, Squaw, Utah, and Washington.

Q: Has avalanche training changed as a result of what happened to you? Do you think you have a different perspective or a different way of teaching?
A: Most definitely. I think it’d be disastrous if I walked away from that event unchanged or unable to reflect on it. I do a lot of public speaking, and it helps me come to terms with what happened that day. And that’s hard to do, going over everything and taking apart all the things that went into it — this or that could have led to our demise. So I think humility is a very important thing in being a skier – not only a professional skier, but anyone who skis, either in the backcountry or in bounds. We can’t always think that resorts are the safest places, either. The mountains are alive. But that’s part of what makes skiing so fun. It’s really good to have the knowledge of what’s going on out there and to bring that to the forefront, to remind skiers that we need to be educated and make the right decisions.

Elyse Saugstad, Girdwood Alaska (Photo:Adam Clark)

Elyse Saugstad, Girdwood Alaska
(Photo:Adam Clark)

Q: I see you’re a big proponent of avalanche airbags and that you attribute your survival in the avalanche to that piece of equipment. Is that something you advocate in your clinics?
A: I do believe it saved my life. And I think it should be a part of everyone’s safety protocol along with your transceiver, your probe, your shovel, and above all, your brain. I’m hoping that as time goes by and as people become more and more familiar with these backpacks, they’ll become as standard a piece of equipment as those other items are.

Q: I saw in the Times article that after you activated the airbag you thought, ‘gee, I wonder if I’m overreacting,’ which I thought was interesting because I think that’s such a natural response. And as it turned out it was the right move.
A: Yes. When I do my talks about the avalanche, that’s one of the things I like to put out there, because there are several reasons why someone would hesitate to pull the lever on their airbag backpack, like, ‘oh, man, this may cost a lot, I shouldn’t pull it, I’ll have to replace the canister.’ But that’s what it’s there for in the first place. For other people – and this is more in my category – it’s about ego. You think, ‘Everyone is going to make fun of me. I’m going to look like a wimp for worrying that something is going wrong when actually nothing is happening.’ It’s understandable, but if that action could save your life then why wouldn’t you do it. Now I’m glad I did.

Q: What advice do you have for someone just starting out in backcountry?
A: Find an avalanche or snow safety course. A lot of resorts offer some kind of talks, and there are web sites that can help you find classes. Then build your gear as you go along. There are so many people out there who are knowledgable. Take advantage of it.

Q: Since you went through the avalanche, has your relationship with skiing changed?
A: Probably not in the way people might think; that I’d be scared to go out there. The kind of skiing I do can be very, very frightening. But the one thing the avalanche did was make me more methodical than I was in the past. I really think through where I’m going and what I do and who I’m skiing with; I don’t naively put my trust in others, which I used to do a lot more readily. I still love skiing more than anything and I think that in life in general there’s risk, so I do what I can to minimize that as much as possible.  I’ve learned how to say no, and I think I’ve become more confident in being able to speak up and say that I’m not comfortable with something. I’ve done pretty well so far. I’m always aware that there’s always an unknown.

Q: Was it difficult for you to get back out there?
A: You know, it really wasn’t. I started skiing about a week after the avalanche. For me, it was cathartic to be out there with friends. There was so much media attention around that incident. But my friends understood our lifestyle, what we go through. They were very supportive and it felt comfortable. And I wanted to jump back on the horse. I didn’t want skiing to become something I was scared of.

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[editor’s note: Take the time to watch Elyse’s TED talk on fear. It’s well worth seeing.]


Q: I read your interview in Powder, and it said you’d been having difficulty getting sponsors, which pretty much blows my mind.
A: Yeah, you know, it’s difficult in being a female in action sports or in sports in general.

Q: Why do you think that is, and what does that say about women in the ski industry? It reminds me of Lynsey Dyer* and ‘Pretty Faces.’ She had a lot of trouble getting sponsors for her movie, and ended up running a Kickstarter campaign with tremendous response. She ended up doing very well.
A: It has a lot to with the ski companies. I’m sorry to say that some of the people who are in charge just don’t see women as a valuable asset to their companies. They don’t see that the women’s market is as important as it is. The Pretty Faces movie should have been a very good example for them. I mean, look, you may not want be fund ski movies that feature women, but the public will. They want to see them; they want to be inspired. I don’t think the industry noticed. It’s still the token female syndrome, where you have one female per company. It’s really unfortunate.

I feel like there’s been a lot of women in action sports who’ve put themselves out there on social media to get attention. They may be amazing athletes, but they put themselves out there in bikinis. It doesn’t make sense. It’s an interesting situation.

Q: You’ve had some amazing accomplishments. What are your goals now?
A: I’d like to do more public speaking, things along those lines. I want to promote skiing in positive ways to inspire females, from young girls to older women. As long as I’m doing that and making a difference, that’s good.


For more information about Elyse Saugstad and her SAFE AS avalanche clinics, visit her website here.

* To see my interview with Lynsey Dyer, go here.

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Eight fitness myths you should ignore.

I wish I had a nickel for all the pieces of bogus advice I’ve heard. Wait an hour after eating before going into the water. Never wear white past Labor Day. Feed a cold, starve a fever. 

I’d be a millionaire.

Fitness is like that, too. There’s no shortage of things we’re told that are supposed to be true, but are way off in La-La Land. The hard part is trying to separate what’s real from what’s absolute bunk.

So helpful soul that I am, I’m about to save you a whole lotta trouble. Here are eight common fitness myths, busted. Think about them while you’re getting getting in shape for next ski season:

RunningDon’t eat before a workout.

Think about it this way: Would you drive a car without gas? No. Your body needs fuel to power through a workout. Contrary to what some people believe, forgoing food before exercise will not force your body into burning more fat; instead, you’ll end up burning protein (muscle mass), and that won’t do you any good. I’m not saying you should eat a big meal and then immediately run a marathon, but have a snack about 45 minutes to an hour before you start. Best thing to eat: something with carbohydrates and protein.

Stretching is a great warm up.

Experts say this can actually be harmful. Why? Stretching a cold muscle is like stretching a rubber band to its limit. When you stretch to the maximum, your body may think it’s at risk of being overstretched, so it compensates by contracting and becoming more tense. That means you’re not able to move as fast or as freely, so you’re more likely to get hurt. Instead of stretching, many experts recommend warming up with a light jog or sport-specific exercise, like a few serves for tennis. That type of light movement increases your heart rate and blood flow to the muscles, warming up your body temperature.

Walking isn’t as effective as running.

Simply not true. Walking and running target the same muscle groups and offer similar health benefits: a reduced risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes, and better cardiovascular health.  Sure, you’ll have to walk twice as long to use up the same amount of energy as you would running. But a runner and a walker will burn about the same number of calories over the same distance. So don’t worry about taking the slow lane. Just get out there and move!

Weight training makes women bulk up.

This is only true if the woman is on steroids. To be truly bulky, you need a lot of testosterone. That’s why it’s so easy for men to bulk up — the average man produces 10 times the amount of testosterone as the average woman. Weight training, though, has a lot of great benefits: it burns fat, improves your athletic performance, and reduces your risk of diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease. So don’t stay away from weights because you’re afraid you’ll look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. You won’t.

The only reason to wear a sports bra is to keep the girls from bouncing.

There’s more to it than that. Sports bras also help prevent breast sag. High-impact activities, like jogging or aerobics, can stress the connective tissue that keeps breasts firm, causing them to sag more quickly. According to the American Council on Exercise, compression bras work best for smaller-busted women; the more well-endowed (typically a C cup or larger) should opt for an “encapsulation” bra that supports each breast separately. Replace workout bras every six months to a year.

The more time you spend in the gym, the better.

Did you know that lifting weights creates tiny muscle tears? You need to rest to help them repair (this is when they get stronger). Overtraining can also mess with your menstrual cycle. And thanks to your body’s built-in protective mechanisms, it can also cause a plateau in your weight loss. So take some time off to recover. I’m on a three-day on, one day off workout schedule.

Crunches can give you six-pack abs.

Losing weight in a targeted area won’t work. The body just isn’t built that way. Oh, exercise may strengthen the muscular groups in a specific area, but no matter how many crunches you do, you ain’t going to have six-pack abs. Why? Fat can only be lost from the body as a whole in an order that is predetermined by your genetics. So if you have a high percentage of body fat, your abs will be covered with — you guessed it — fat. In order to get visibly toned abs, you have to first reduce your overall body fat, which means plenty of cardio, coupled with strength training for faster results.

No pain, no gain.

This is just plain silly. If it hurts while you’re doing it, STOP. Your body is trying to tell you something. Pain is an indicator that you either have an injury or you’re doing something wrong.  (Of course, this doesn’t include the mild muscle soreness you may feel for a day or two after a workout.) If something really hurts, stop, rest, and see if it goes away. If it doesn’t, or if it starts again or increases after you begin to work out, see a doctor.


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So you want to own a ski area?

Who doesn’t? I can already envision mine: Mount Ski Diva, a mecca for women skiers that’d focus on women’s skiing and learning. There’d be regular women’s clinics taught by the very best women’s instructors; free child care, along with a great children’s ski school; a killer ski shop featuring women’s gear and staffed by helpful, expert sales associates; excellently prepared, healthy food;  and clean, easily accessible bathrooms like the ones at Snowbasin.


Bathroom in Lodge at Snowbasin, UT

There’s no doubt that owning a ski area can be a pretty risky business. Not only is it captive to the whims of Mother Nature, but it requires hefty investments in lifts, snow making equipment, forest service permits, and lots of personnel to take care of the equipment and facility, and most importantly, the guests.

But let’s say that you have a few bucks to spare and want to jump in, anyway. If that’s the case, there are a number of areas on the market right now. CNL Lifestyle Properties, for example, which owns 16 ski areas across the country, is considering getting out of the resort business. As a result, all the ski areas below could be up for sale (the resort name is followed by the name of the company that actually manages the resort):

Sunday River in Maine (operated by Boyne Resorts)for-sale-sign2
Sugarloaf in Maine (operated by Boyne Resorts)
Bretton Woods in New Hampshire (operated by National Resort Management Group)
Loon Mountain in New Hampshire (operated by Boyne Resorts)
Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire (operated by Triple Peaks)
Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts (operated by Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort)
Okemo Mountain in Vermont (operated by Triple Peaks)
Crested Butte in Colorado (operated by Triple Peaks)
Brighton in Utah (operated by Boyne Resorts)
Northstar-at-Tahoe in California (operated by Vail Resorts)
Sierra-at-Tahoe in California (operated by Booth Creek Resorts)
Mountain High in California (operated by Mountain High Associates)
Cypress Mountain in BC, Canada (operated by Boyne Resorts)
Stevens Pass in Washington (operated by Stevens Pass Mountain Resort)
Summit-at-Snoqualmie in Washington (operated by Boyne Resorts)

If these are a bit too steep for your bank account, there are a few smaller areas that might be a bit more affordable:

Bolton Valley: Burlington, Vermont
Cockaigne: Cherry Creek, New York
Maple Valley Ski Area, Dummerstown, VT
Marshall Mountain : Missoula, MT. Only 3 mil!
Maverick Mountain: Dillon, Montana
Mount Waterman: near Los Angeles, California
Snow King: Jackson, Wyoming
Spout Springs: Athena, OR. Cheap! Only $1.5 million!

Interested? Then get your phone, call your realtor, and open your wallet. And be sure to invite me to opening day.


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