Surviving Spring Skiing.

I always welcome spring with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I love the warmer weather, the longer days, and the soft, carvable snow. On the other, spring signals the winding down of ski season. And to me, that’s a big deal. Skiing is more than just a sport to me. It’s a passion. And watching it disappear for 6-plus months is a pretty bitter pill to swallow.

Really, I have nothing to complain about. It’s been a great season. We’ve had a ton of snow here in New England, and as of today, I’ve had 87 ski days — a new personal record. What’s more, I’ve skied at 13 different mountains (four of them for the first time), attended two women’s clinics, and even took a snowboarding lesson. And even though my ski days are dwindling down, it’s important to remember that ski season will come again. Of that I have no doubt.

But in the meantime, let’s live in the moment and enjoy what we have left. Yesterday I skied in sixty degree temps under a bluebird sky. The snow was soft and easy to carve, and the bumps were positively delicious. Really, a glorious day.

Me at Okemo, April 13, 2015

Skiing at Okemo, April 13, 2015

Spring skiing is a completely different animal from skiing in say, early season or mid-winter conditions. And though I’m not an expert,  there are a few things I’ve learned over time about skiing this time of year (yes, I know — I posted this last year. But good advice bears repeating):

1) Wear sunscreen: The sun is higher in the sky than it’s been all winter. So even if you haven’t dipped into the tube of SPF 30 yet, now’s a good time. After all, researchers have discovered that even a little tan isn’t healthy. More than 2.5 million cancers in 3 million people are diagnosed  annually. If you want the look of a goggle tan, try some make-up, instead.

2) Wax your skis: You know that grabby snow that can bring your skis to a stop, while your body continues to travel? Not good. A coat of warm weather wax will fix that right up. Carry some rub-on in your pocket, too, for touch-ups on the mountain.

3) Dress accordingly: Layers are a good idea. It may start out pretty cold and warm up quite a bit, so you may want to peel as the day goes on. Also, no matter how warm it gets, do not wear short sleeves or shorts. Why? If you fall, you’re gonna pay big time. Falling on snow is like falling on sand. The ice crystals will scrape your skin raw, plus you’ll get very, very wet. So protect your skin, stay dry, and wear a shell.

4) Timing is everything: If the temps are still dropping below freezing at night, you might want to start your ski day a little bit later than usual. This is practically sacrilege coming from me; I’m always out when the lifts start running. But if you want to avoid rock hard ice, stay in and have another cup of coffee. Then follow the sun around the mountain. Ski the south and east-facing slopes in the morning and the north and west-facing slopes in the afternoon, so you can catch the snow as it softens up. Conversely, if you don’t get an overnight freeze, get out there as early as you can so you can ski before the snow turns  into a gloppy, sticky mess.

5) Softer and wider is better: Set aside your narrow waisted carving skis and go for something wider. Powder skis have a bigger surface area that lets them to surf over the heavy stuff  without getting bogged down.  They also have a softer flex, which allows them to bend more, so you don’t have to steer as much.

6) Ski it like you mean it: Keep a balanced, even weight on each foot. Also, steer lightly by tipping the skis on edge ever so slightly to turn. To put it simply, slow moves, long turns. Let the tails follow the tips, and don’t twist your feet too much. Commit to the fall line and don’t spend too much time shopping for good stuff.

7) Enjoy! A lot of people end their ski season when they no longer see snow in their own backyard. This is good for those of us who stick it out.  The mountain is a lot less crowded. Quieter. Just the way I like it.

So what’s your spring skiing tip?

 

 

 

 

 



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2015 Mountain Top Picks: What The Divas Loved This Year

You’ll never find a lack of opinions on TheSkiDiva.com. We have views on just about everything ski related: gear, apparel, resorts, you name it. After all, we Divas aren’t ones to hold back. If there’s something we love, we make sure everyone knows it. And if something doesn’t make the grade, well, we let it all hang out, too.

That’s where our Mountain Top Picks come in. Each year, we vote on the best of the best from the past season. And though there’s no awards ceremony, no fancy statuette, not even a cheesy certificate, the winners get the honor of being named a Diva favorite (they can even use this neat little logo, if they like). And really, isn’t that enough?

MTP-2015

So now, for your reading pleasure, here are TheSkiDiva.com’s selections for this 2015′s Mountain Top Picks.

The winners are as follows:

[Drum roll here]

Ski Gear
Favorite ski for hard snow: Blizzard Viva 810 Ti
Favorite ski for powder: Rossignol Savory 7*
Favorite All Mountain Ski: Volkl Kenja
Favorite Ski Boot Brand: Dalbello Kryzma
Favorite Ski Goggle: Smith IO/S*
Favorite Helmet Brand: Smith Variant

Ski Apparel
Favorite Brand of Baselayers:  Icebreaker*
Favorite Brand of Socks: Smartwool*
Favorite Jacket Brand: Marmot
Favorite Brand of Ski Pants: Arc’teryx

Ski Resorts
Favorite Eastern Resort: Okemo Mountain Resort
Favorite Western Resort: Big Sky
Favorite Resort, eastern Canada: Mont Tremblant
Favorite Resort, western Canada: Whistler-Blackcomb*
Favorite European Resort: Chamonix

*Second year in a row! For a list of our 2014 Mountain Top Picks, go here.

Congratulations to all!



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If Ski Areas Had Honest Slogans.

Okay, I admit it. I got the idea for this blog post here. But it’s a good one. After all, we all know that ski areas create slogans to project a certain image. They may not be a true reflection of how they are in real life, but they’re the ones they come up with to get across an idea to the general public. So I thought I’d ask the Ski Divas for the nitty gritty: the slogans they think ski areas should have if they were being completely honest. Here are some of the ones that were posted on the forum.

(By the way, you know I’m just funnin’. These are great ski areas, and I love them all.)

 

Snowbasin
Snowbasin, Utah: Shhhhhhhhh.

 

whitefish_logoWhitefish, MT: The locals know where they are.*
*It can be very foggy.

 

 

logo_originalMt. Spokane, WA: You don’t have to see it to ski it.*
*Same as above.

 

 

logo_breckenridgeBreckenridge, CO: Where the high comes from more than the altitude.

 

 

303003_logo_1401735337.jpgAspen, CO: Look, there’s (insert celebrity name here)!

 

Alta-Ski-Resort-Logo

 

Alta, UT: Another Long Traverse Ahead.

 

 

 

21095

 

Silver Mountain, ID: World’s Longest Gondola for World’s Shortest Runs.

 

 

sunshine_logo-s-543-0

 

Sunshine Village, AB: No sunshine. No village.

 

 

FernieLogo

 

Fernie, BC: World’s Best Powder*
*unless it’s raining, or hot, or sleeting, or windy, or icy, or tropical, or crowded, or skied out or…

 

 

logo

 

Shawnee Peak, ME: Because we lost gnar points when we were called “Pleasant Mountain.”

 

SB-Logo-Transparent

 

Saddleback, ME: After a 14 minute ride on our circa 1968 double chairlift, you deserve some great terrain. If you ever thaw out.

 

 

Tremblant

 

Mont Tremblant, QC: The trembling mountain, because you’re the one trembling after the ride up the Duncan chair. You’ll thaw out in late March.

 

 

killington-logoKillington, VT: Nyaa, nyaa, beat ‘ya!*
*Killington is typically one of the earliest mountains to open and the latest to close in the northeast.

 

MtSnow

 

Mount Snow, VT: Stop the car! You’re in Vermont!*
*Mount Snow is the southern-most ski area in Vermont. People coming up from the south tend to just STOP when they cross the state line.

 

OkemoResortLeftOkemo, VT: Connecticut’s most northern ski resort.*
*Okemo gets a LOT of people from Connecticut

 

bg-logo-printMad River Glen, VT: No shaving required.

 

 

LOGO Jay Peak VermontJay Peak, VT: Just about Canada, eh.*
*It’s like 2 miles from the border.

 

Cannon

 

Cannon, NH: Bode Miller’s Home Mountain

 

 

bretton_woods_logo-300x138Bretton Woods, NH: NH’s best lift-access cross country skiing.

 

 

whiteface-logo
Whiteface, NY: East, shmeast. The Olympics were held here. Twice.

 

 

 

 



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Combo Ski Passes: More Mountain for Your Money

You know it’s spring when you start seeing emails about next year’s season lift passes in your in-box. I’ve received quite a few lately, and I’ve been struck by the many combination deals that are cropping up; you know, the ones where you pay for a pass that’s good at more than one resort. Some of these, like the Epic and Mountain Collective Passes, have been around for a few  years. And some, like the MAX pass, are brand new for next season.

These are great for just about everyone. The resorts get money up-front, as well as loyal customers who’ll spend on peripheral items like food, lessons, and equipment. And skiers can realize big savings, too. In an era when the walk-up window rate can be over $100., you could end up paying for your pass in just a few visits.

Some of the best season pass deals are listed here. Many offer extra savings for buying early, so you may have to move fast to get the best price.

BTW, if you know of any other combo deals, please post them in the Comments section below.

In the West:

listingRocky Mountain Super Pass+: This gives you access to five Colorado resorts and one in New Zealand. It includes unlimited Access to Winter Park Resort, Copper Mountain & Eldora Alpine Pass, as well as restricted access to Steamboat, Crested Butte, and Mt. Ruapehu. For a bit less, you can get the Rocky Mountain Super Pass, which gives you unlimited access to Winter Park and Copper, and limited access to Mt. Ruapehu, or the Route 40 pass, which gives you unlimited ski/ride days with a Winter Park Resort season pass and 4 days at Steamboat.

epic-pass-logo2(1)Epic Pass: You have four choices here:

The Epic Pass with unlimited access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton, and Arapahoe Basin.

The Epic Local Pass, with unlimited access to Breckenridge, Keystone, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton & Arapahoe Basin,  10 total restricted days at Vail and Beaver Creek, and limited restrictions at Park City, Heavenly, Northstar, and Kirkwood.

The Summit Local Pass, unlimited access to Keystone and Arapahoe Basin, and limited restrictions at Breckenridge.

The Tahoe Local Pass, access with limited restrictions to Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood, and limited restrictions to Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone,  Park City, and Arapahoe Basin.

logo_Powder_Alliance copy.jpgPowder Alliance:  Buy an anytime season pass to any of 13 areas and receive three free days at all the rest. Powder Alliance Resorts include Angel Fire Resort, Arizona Snow Bowl, Bridger Bowl, China Bowl,  Crested Butte, Mountain High, Mount Hood Ski Bowl, Schweitzer, Sierra at Tahoe, SilverStar, Snowbasin, Stevens Pass, Timberline.

 

 

d5bbb8e18cf3c3cd310bb2d137955221Mountain Collective Pass: This covers 16 days total at The Collective destinations. You get two days each at Alta/Snowbird, Aspen Snowmass, Jackson Hole, Mammoth, Ski Banff-Lake Louise-Sunshine, Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, Sun Valley, and Whistler Blackcomb. You also get 50% off all additional days at The Collective destinations, and special Mountain Collective lodging deals. Even better, no blackout dates.

 

Ski Utah Silver and Gold Passes: The Ski Utah Silver Pass allows the holder to ski for 30 days at each Utah resort (30 days at Alta, 30 days at Deer Valley, 30 days at Sundance, etc.). The Ski Utah Gold Pass offers 50 days of skiing at each Utah resort; however, the pass is also fully transferable pass so your friends and family can enjoy your same privileges on the days you’re not using the pass.

The Gold Tahoe Super Pass: Worried about buying a season pass and not using it? Here’s one with a  worry-free guarantee.  The Gold Tahoe Super Pass gives credits for unused days that can be put towards the following season. Skiers get unlimited access to Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows, plus four additional days at both Sierra-at-Tahoe and Sugar Bowl, as well as 50% off lift tickets at the eight resorts that are part of the Mountain Collective, including Jackson Hole, Alta-Snowbird, and Sun Valley. But if you’re unable to ski at least four days during the upcoming season for any reason (not just poor conditions), you get a $100 credit for each unused day. So if you don’t ski at all, their 2016/17 pass would be discounted by $400.

california-cali4nia-ski-passCali4nia Pass: One pass covers Mammoth, Bear, June, and Snow Summit. There’s a host of benefits when you buy early, including 5 exclusive Early Up events at Mammoth, 5 Bring-A-Friend tickets, 10% off rentals, 10% off retail when you spend more than $100., and up to 20% off lodging at Mammoth Lodging Collection properties.

 

In the East:

 Ski Roundtop/Liberty Mountain/Whitetail Pass: Includes unlimited access to Ski Roundtop, Liberty Mountain, Whitetail Resorts. You also get preferred parking at Roundtop on weekends and holidays until 5PM,  50% off regular class lessons, two snow tubing tickets valid Monday through Thursday non-holiday, one free First Class Learn to Ski or Board Package for a friend, special hotel rates at the Liberty Hotel, and a 15% discount in the sports shops.

superpassWhite Mountain Superpass: Valid every day of the 2015/16 winter season at Bretton Woods, Cannon, Cranmore and Waterville Valley.

 

 

NEPass_logo-bw-180New England Pass: Includes Sunday River, Loon, and Sugarloaf. You also get lodging deals, retail savings, and free or discounted lift ticket at Boyne Resorts’ western mountains including Brighton, UT and Big Sky, MT.

 

UnknownFour.0 College Pass: This is for the full-time college student who wants unrestricted access to Okemo, Mount Sunapee, Killington and Pico at a price that fits a student’s budget. Includes resort-specific benefits.

 

East & West, Combined

MAX_Pass_Logo_highresThe MAX Pass: Brand new for the ’15/’16 sesason, the MAX pass covers 22 mountains throughout North America, with five days at each mountain (110 days total!). In the west, this includes Steamboat, Mount Bachelor,  Big Sky, Winter Park, Copper, Crystal, Brighton, Boreal, Cypress, Las Vegas, and The Summit. In the east, Killington, Pico, Sugarloaf, Sunday River, Stratton, Tremblant, Blue Mountain, Snowshoe, Boyne, Loon, and Boyne Highlands.

 



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Why do a women’s ski trip.

I’m writing this at 35,000 feet, on my way home from Big Sky, Montana, where I just spent a week at the annual gathering of members of TheSkiDiva.com. We’ve gotten together every year since 2007, hitting such places as Solitude, Summit County, Steamboat, Tahoe, Big Sky, Snowbasin, and Big Sky again. Each year I say it’s the best trip ever, and truly, this year is no exception.

Ski trips come in all sorts of combinations: friends, families, ski clubs, and school groups. But the trips the Divas do once a year are truly one of a kind. Many of us don’t know one other before we meet at our final destination, which I think in itself is pretty remarkable. It takes a great measure of faith to venture from your comfortable home and spend your vacation with people you’ve never met. But it’s the interaction we have on the forum that make us feel less like strangers than like members of a community – albeit one that spreads not only across the US, but across the world. Women come from all over: Scotland, Massachusetts, Virginia, Florida, California, Washington, Pennsylvania, to name a few. After all, there are Ski Divas everywhere.

So what makes them come? And what makes these trips so great?

A shared passion: It’s not easy to find women who care as much about skiing as the Divas. I know I’ve had to tamp down my own enthusiasm so as not to drive others crazy. But at TheSkiDiva,  I’ve found kindred spirits – women I’m not boring when I talk about the attributes of a particular ski or the best technique for tackling the trees or how to make my turns better. It’s nice to know we’re not alone, and that it’s okay to go on and on about our favorite activity.

It’s a supportive, caring environment: Here’s a example: on one of our trips, a group of us decided to tackle something that some of us considered a bit difficult. As each one made their descent, the  others stood by and cheered. Yes, cheered. Not heckled or made snide comments. When one of us ended up injured this year, the others didn’t leave her forgotten on the sidelines. We hung out with her during the day, took her to the doctor’s, made her comfortable and just generally bucked her up. We were happy to do it, because that’s how we roll.

It’s a heck of a lot of fun: There’s something freeing about skiing with a group of girlfriends. You laugh a lot. You have great conversations on the lifts. You’re free of the label of girlfriend, mother, wife, caregiver. It’s just you, the mountains, the snow, and your friends. What could be better?

So rather than just go on and on about this, I thought I’d include some pictures from Diva Week. The smiles here tell more than I could in any blog post:

DivaGroup

 

Divas

group

 

Clinic2

 

 



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Skiing the Sun Mountain: Bromley, Vermont

It used to be  you couldn’t swing a cat in Vermont without hitting a ski hill (not something I’d recommend, by the way). Sadly, that’s no longer the case. According to The New England Lost Ski Area Project (NELSAP), there are  111 closed ski areas throughout the state. As for the smaller areas that remain, well, it’s easy to ignore them as you rush down the road to the bigger resorts like Stratton, Killington, Okemo, and Stowe.

But that’d be a mistake. Granted, they might lack the high speed lifts or the fancy amenities of the larger areas. But the smaller mountains have a charm all their own. The skiing’s a blast, lift tickets are generally cheaper, and they’re great places for family skiing (I lie — they’re great places for just about everyone).

So after years and years of driving past Bromley on my way somewhere else and saying, “Oh, that’d be a fun place to ski,” I finally went ahead and tried it. And I’m glad I did.

Bromley Mountain in Peru, Vermont, has been there for what seems like forever. Founded in 1936 by Fred Pabst Jr., the son of the founder of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, Bromley is known as the Sun Mountain because unlike most ski areas, it faces south so it gets the sun when others don’t. If you’ve ever skied at Stratton, you can see it shining like a beacon across the valley (why aren’t I skiing over there?) while you’re stuck in a cold, gray day.

Plaque commemorating Bromley founder Fred Pabst, in the Bromley base lodge.

Plaque commemorating Fred Pabst, in the Bromley base lodge.

Bromley, courtesy of Bromley Mountain

Bromley, courtesy of Bromley Mountain

Not so during my visit. It snowed like crazy and from time to time, we had a near white out. The upside: boot high powder, fantastic conditions, zero crowds, and loads of fun.

Did I say zero crowds? It didn’t look that way when I first entered the lodge at 8:30 on a Monday morning. The Vermont High School State Championships were underway, and the old-style lodge was packed with teenagers putting on their gear. This cleared out within half an hour or so, and really, I didn’t see them for the rest of the day.

Bromley isn’t huge. It stands at the west side of a valley ringed by Stratton on one side and Magic on the other. On a sunny day, you can get fantastic views from the peak. The mountain is also on Vermont’s Long Trail, which is hiking trail that extends the entire length of the state, a favorite among hikers during the warmer months.

But more about the skiing: while the vertical isn’t as high as some of bigger resorts, you can easily have just as much fun. There’s a nice mix of terrain with everything from good, long cruisers to glades and bump runs. Even better, it’s easy to navigate. All the trails end up at the same place — in front of the base lodge. So it’s easy to meet up with friends, and hard for kids to get lost.

Granted, the lifts aren’t super fast. If you’re looking for a gondola or a bubble lift, you’re going to have to go elsewhere. It’s a slower pace, and yeah, for a lot of people, that can be a drawback. But what you’re getting in return is a more old-style Vermont ski experience. And there’s a lot to be said for that.

Here are some stats:

  • Lifts

    • Number of Lifts: 9
    • High-speed quads: 1
    • Quad chairs: 1
    • Double chairs: 4
    • Surface lifts: 3
    • Uphill Lift Capacity: 10,806 skiers per hour
    • On Mountain Lodging: Bromley Village and Sun Lodge
  • Elevation
    • Base: 1,950 feet
    • Summit: 3,284 feet
    • Vertical drop: 1,334 feet
    • Longest run: 2.5 miles – Runaround
    • Snowmaking: 86%
  • Types of runs
    • Beginner: 32%
    • Intermediate: 37%
    • Advanced: 31%

Bromley also has a learning center that features Terrain Based Learning, of which I’m a huge fan (you can read my posts about it here and here). TBL uses natural features that allow students to focus on the movements, sensations, and body positions that form the basis of good skiing. Basically, it eliminates the traditional anxieties so learners can spend less time learning how to stop, and more time learning how to go.

Does the fun stop at the off season? At Bromley, no. The mountain has a Mountain Adventure Park with all sorts of fun stuff in the summer: an alpine slide, an aerial adventure park with ropes, ziplines, and bridges spread across the tree canopy, and

So if you’re in Vermont, should you race past Bromley on your way to bigger mountains? If you do, you’ll be missing out on a really fun day. I’m only sorry I didn’t discover it sooner.



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Gear Review: Partial Face Masks

Remember when you were little and you’d stick out your tongue and your mom would say, “Watch out or your face will freeze like that?”

It’s been so cold here in Vermont that this has almost felt like a real possibility. Temperatures have been in the single digits and below, and there’ve been times when it seemed like I could end up with a permanently affixed expression.

Okay, maybe I exaggerate. But below zero temps are not to be taken lightly. Leave your face unprotected, and you could end up with frost bite. I suffered a spot on my cheek a few years ago, and it left me with a small, permanent mark. I’d prefer not to have that happen again, so on really cold days you need a face mask. Yeah, I know — not the most flattering look, but really, it beats the alternative.

That said, face masks have their own set of problems. Conventional masks can cause warm air to back up and fog your goggles. What’s more, they’re just sort of icky. I hate the way your breath condenses on the fabric around your mouth. It’s wet, uncomfortable, and just plain gross.

Lately I’ve been using something that I think is a whole lot better: a partial face mask. This covers your cheeks, nose, and upper lip, leaving your mouth exposed so your breath can escape. No more condensate backing up into your goggles, no more wet fabric on your lower face.

So I have to give two ski poles up to the FaceSaver Mask.  I learned about the FaceSaver from a friend of mine who lives out west. It turns out that it hasn’t yet made it to stores outside of Utah, Idaho, and Colorado, but you can  order directly from the company’s web site — which is what I did. Made of fleece-lined neoprene, the FaceSaver comes in junior/extra small, small, medium, and large, and velcros  around the back of your head. It’s sturdy, comfortable, easy to use, and I can attest that it works perfectly. My face stays warm, and my goggles don’t fog up. I use this in combination with a neck gaiter to cover my face below my mouth, and I’m as warm as toast.

FaceSaver, goggles up

FaceSaver, goggles up

FaceSaver, goggles down

FaceSaver, goggles down

FaceSaver isn’t the only partial mask out there. I recently learned about another that’s now looking for funding on Kickstarter. It’s called the FaceGlove, and it comes with interchangeable straps that fasten either around your ears  or around your head. The FaceGlove is available in a heat moldable material or as a more conventional soft shell. You can find out about it here.

Do I recommend partial face masks? Yes. I’m a convert. A great way to stay warm, dry, and protect yourself from frostbite.



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Clinic Review: Okemo’s Women’s Alpine Adventures

Women love Okemo’s Women’s Alpine Adventures.

okemo-logo-e1363449581241How do I know? For two of the past four years, it’s been voted Favorite Women’s Ski Clinic by members of TheSkiDiva.com. But there’s more, too. I personally know women who’ve attended the clinic year after year. They bring their girlfriends, their neighbors, their sisters and daughters-in-law. My neighbor down the road attends with a group of four or five friends every year, and she’s done the clinic eighteen times. You read that right. Eighteen times. And she’s not alone. This happens time after time after time.

Okemo’s women’s program has been around for what seems like forever — which means they recognized the value of women’s-only clinics long before a lot of other mountains put them in place. (I couldn’t get a definite number, but it’s been at least twenty years.) First known as Women’s Ski Spree, the clinic now meets several times a season for varying lengths of time. There’s a five-day at the end of January, a two-day and a three-day in February, and new this year (because of popular demand), a two-day in March. When something inspires this sort of loyalty, you just have to find out why. And that’s how I ended up participating in the WAA (or WAA WAA, as they call it. I guess anything good bears repeating) a couple weeks ago. And here’s what I learned:

It’s fun. Sure, this is ski instruction. That’s why we’re all here. But let me get this up front: This is not training for the US Ski Team. There’s a different kind of vibe here. Playful. Relaxed. As Barb Newton, program coordinator, told me, “You’re here to get some ski tips. But you’re also here to have a great time.” And they do whatever they can to make sure you do.

They understand how women learn. Again from Barb Newton: ”There’s a different dynamic with a women’s group — it’s much more supportive. Not that women aren’t competitive; I think we’re more competitive with ourselves, with our own desire to improve. Women want to elevate not just themselves, but everyone in their group. If someone’s struggling, they’re going to offer encouragement. This isn’t necessarily the case with guys. It’s not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just different. I think we create a place where  we embrace that philosophy.  We provide the support that encourages women to do better. Most of our women want to come and get some key tips that are specific to them that are going to make them feel confident going into the rest of the season. I think we really excel at figuring out what people are thinking  and how that thinking is keeping them from trying new things. We’re going to take you to the place where we’re going to invite you to try something new. But we’re not going to push you. We’re going to make you believe you can do a lot more.”

My group gets pointers at  the WAA.

My group gets pointers at the WAA.

It’s not all about the skiing. Okemo does more than get you on the slopes. They provide a killer breakfast and lunch. There’s a welcome party with a lot of dancing. Awards and recognitions (especially for returning alum). During the five day, there are extra activities like a ski fashion show, a banquet, parties, and sometimes even seminars on things like boot fitting.

There’s a great sense of community. Barb Newton, clinic coordinator, stresses this as one of the things that makes the WAA unique. “With so many women coming back, there’s a strong sense of friendship and community that stands out. These women really bond. There’s a Facebook page that was started by clinic alum. It’s just for them — we stay off. And some of them even get together off the slopes.” Case in point: the neighbor I mentioned earlier? The one who’s done the clinic 18 times? She met with members of her clinic group for lunch in New York City this past summer.

A testimonial
I wasn’t the only member of TheSkiDiva.com community who showed up for the clinic. Another member who was  there posted her own review on the forum:

I just got back from the Okemo Women’s Alpine Adventure program, and I wanted to put down my thoughts while they were still fresh. I highly recommend this program to anyone interested in taking their skiing to the next level, whether you are at the beginner or advanced level. My teacher and fellow group members taught me more in two days than I could have learned on my own in a year. I’m in the advanced intermediate range, but I was put in a group of skiers with much more experience than me. I went down trails I never would have had the confidence to try on my own. I’m a confident blue/black skier on groomed runs but was able to conquer bumps on black runs, ungroomed glades, and even the half-pipe in the terrain park! The best part was being surrounded by supportive women who all had the same goals: to improve their skiing. Also invaluable was the video analysis, which gave me a great visual of my strengths and weaknesses. I highly recommend this program. I had a great time, learned a ton, and even got to meet the SkiDiva herself! I’ll definitely be going back next year. They have a March session, if you’re interested in signing up.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?
The WAA is a clinic that will inspire you to improve your skiing and make you a more confident skier. If you’re a Mikaela Shiffrin, or aspire to be, this probably isn’t for you. But if you’re looking to gain confidence, have a terrific time, make new friends, and pick up some pointers, you’re definitely in the right place.

Ski Diva Rating: Two ski poles up!

 

 



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Oui, Ski Quebec!

Bonjour, mes amis.

Pardonnez-moi if I practice my French, but I can tell that it’s something I’m going to need in the years to come. You see, I just came back from Quebec, and I am positively smitten.

What was I doing there? Oh, just attending Winter Carnaval, staying in the gorgeous Chateau Frontenac, eating great food, and skiing at both Le Massif and Mont Sainte-Anne. I was in Quebec as part of the annual meeting of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association, and Quebec City Tourism rolled out the red carpet for us lowly ski writers. The result was a trip I’ll never forget, and a destination I’ll be sure to visit again.

Why stay in Quebec City if you want to go skiing? 
Sure, it’s not a ski-in-ski-out location. But if you only rely on that, you miss a lot. I can’t recommend staying in Quebec City highly enough. My husband came up with what I think is the perfect tag line for the city — Closer than the rest of Europe — because more than any other city I’ve visited in North America, Quebec has a distinctly European flavor. And it’s not just because the people speak French (though yes, that’s part of it). The architecture, the winding streets, the culture is loaded with Old World charm. It’s a totally different vibe than you get anywhere else in North America. What’s more, Quebec is beautiful. Perched high on a bluff above the St. Lawrence, you get sweeping views of the river, made even more dramatic in the winter thanks to piles of heaved-up ice. The restaurants are great, the accommodations lovely (like the iconic Chateau Frontenac), and really, hearing French spoken everywhere is just oh-so-much-more romantic. Trust me — it adds a completely new layer to the ski trip experience. Besides, the drive from the city to the ski areas isn’t really that bad.

Chateau Frontenac

Chateau Frontenac

Old City, Quebec

Old City, Quebec

Les femmes sont belle en Quebec.

Les femmes sont belle en Quebec.

Winter Carnaval
Another great benefit from staying in Quebec: you get to experience cultural events that you won’t find anywhere else. Winter Carnaval is a great example. The city turns itself into a celebration of the Quebec winter. There are a pair of night parades with amazing floats, incredible snow sculptures, tobogganing, ice bumper cars (yes, really. I definitely have to try this next time), and a canoe race on the ice-laden St. Lawrence that you’ve got to see to believe. People line the shore to watch competing teams push canoes across ice that’s been heaved up in great huge piles to (more or less) open water, then leap aboard and paddle like mad down the river, dodging ice floes and chunks along the way. It’s an incredible spectacle, and you can only see it in Quebec.

Canoe racing on the Saint Lawrence.

Canoe racing on the Saint Lawrence.

wolfhead

At the Carnaval night parade.

One of the many snow sculptures.

One of the many snow sculptures.

Le Massif de Charlevoix
And of course, we went skiing. We spent one day at Le Massif, about an hour northeast of the city. Le Massif is located on a mountain overlooking the St. Lawrence, and the slopes run right down to the river’s banks. Look at the views you get when you ski down the trails. It feels like you’re skiing directly into the water. It’s almost a safety hazard because it’s so hard to keep your eyes on where you’re going. Absolutely breathtaking!

Le Massif

Le Massif

In addition to astounding views, Le Massif has a terrific trail system. There’s something for everyone: long bump runs, fun glades, nice long groomers, and on the west side of the resort, more challenging terrain. Le Massif has the highest vertical in eastern Canada, and you can ski….and ski….and ski. Fun fact: Le Massif was developed in part by one of the co-founders of Cirque du Soliel.

Here are some stats for the mountain:

Trails: 52 trails and glades, on 307.6 acres
Ability levels: 15% easy, 30% intermediate, 20% difficult, 35% very difficult
Longest trail: 5.1 km / 3.17 milles
Vertical: 770 m / 2,526 feet
Base Elevation: 36 m / 118 feet
Top Elevation: 806 m / 2,645 feet
Skiable Terrain: 164.5 hectares / 406.3 acres

One cool thing that we did not get the chance to do: Le Massif has a 7.5 km sled run that looks absolutely fantastic. Unfortunately, it wasn’t operating when we were there. Next time, for sure.

From Le Massif, we took a 12 mile journey on the lightrail train along the St. Lawrence to the tres chic and very contemporary Hotel La Ferme. Although we didn’t spend the night, this is a great option for someone who for some reason doesn’t want to stay in Quebec. It’s fun and easy to take the train to the mountain and back, and the scenery along the river is stupendous. There are lots of great restaurants in the lovely town of  Baie-Saint-Paul, too.

Train

Mont Sainte-Anne
Another day, another fabulous  mountain. We spent our second ski day at Mont Sainte-Anne. Sainte-Anne is closer to the city and larger than Le Massif. And like Le Massif, it has spectacular views:

Mont Sainte-Anne

Mont Sainte-Anne

I absolutely adored it. There’s a terrific variety of runs, and the mountain is laid out for very easy access; you can get to just about everything from the top of the gondola. Mont Sainte-Anne features both north and south facing trails, so if you’re not loving the conditions on the south side, the runs on the north side can be completely different. A tip for families skiing with little kids — or just people who love all things maple — be sure not to miss the Sugar Shack off La Pichard, one of the green trails. On weekends and holiday periods, you can stop at the shack for some traditional hot maple taffy, served on a bed of fresh snow and scooped up with wooden sticks.

Here’s some stats on Mont Sainte-Anne:

Altitude at the summit: 800 meters [2625 feet]
Vertical drop: 625 meters [2050 feet]
Skiable terrain: 222 ha [547 acres]
Gross acreage: 868 ha [2145 acres]
Natural snowfall: 480 cm [190 po]
Number of trails: 71 trails covering 73 km [45 miles] on 3 different sides
Night skiing: 20 trails, covering 15.5 Km [9 miles]
Trail breakdown: easy: 23%, more difficult: 18%, difficult: 45%, extreme: 14%
Longest trail: Le Chemin du Roy – 5.7 Km [3.6 miles]
Average length of season: 148 days

Hotel de Glace (The Ice Hotel)
Located about five miles north of Quebec, this is something you really shouldn’t miss if you’re in the area. The first and only ice hotel in North America, Hotel de Glace is re-built each year and is open the first week of January until the last week of March. The hotel boasts 44 rooms and suites, a bar, an indoor ice slide, and a chapel, all made entirely out of snow and ice. Yes, you can stay here if you wish, but be prepared: The ambient temperature varies only by a few degrees between 23°F and 26°F, no matter what the outside temperature.

Ice Hotel Entrance

Ice Hotel Entrance

A Hallway Entrance

A hallway entrance

A room in the Ice Hotel

A room in the Ice Hotel

I think it’s pretty clear that I loved the entire Quebec experience; honestly, it’s hard not to be swept up in its Old World charm. For a ski vacation with a European flavor, there’s no place like it in North America. Go see for yourself.



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The State of the Winter.

Here we are. It’s the beginning of February, and winter’s in full swing. So how’s it shaping up so far?

As skiers, we eat, sleep, and dream weather. We worry about it. Anticipate it. Think and talk about it. No surprise there. If you’re involved in a sport that’s dependent on a certain type of temperature, a certain type of precipitation, it’s only natural to be concerned about what Mother Nature’s dishing out.

Before we go any farther, step into my WayBack Machine and transport yourself into the not-s0-distant past, all the way back to September/October 2014, when we pored over winter forecasts like Talmudic scholars, parsing every phrase to determine what was coming in the ski season ahead. What’d the Farmer’s Almanac say? How thick was the Wooly Bear Caterpillars’ brown stripe (if it’s thick, it’s the sign that the winter will be mild)? Was there going to be an El Nino? If so, how strong or weak would it be? It was easy to drive ourselves nuts. There were dozens of prediction maps, including this one from WeatherAdvance.com:

2014-2015-winter-4

Now slowly, slowly, bring yourself back. Let your molecules settle into the present day. I’m not a meteorologist (nor do I play one on TV), but here are a few interesting things that have occurred this winter:

• The Pineapple Express notwithstanding, the West is still extremely dry. Virtually all of California remains in drought. Utah, Arizona and New Mexico are also abnormally dry. Colorado fares slightly better, but its snowpack still far lags where it usually sits this time of year. And the snowpack in the northwest is below normal, too. Not good.

To illustrate: Here are a couple pics from Cliff Mass’s weather blog. The first is from the Mt. Shasta web cam on December 26, the second from Monday, February 2. See the difference?

CliffMasspic1

CliffMass2

Also disturbing, the NOAA snow depth analyses for the Cascades from December 29, 2014 and January 29, 2015:

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 7.00.07 AM

• As part of this, we’ve seen a number of ski area closures due to lack of snow. In California,  Mt. Shasta, Dodge Ridge, and Badger Pass. In Oregon, Willamette Pass, Hoodoo Ski Area, and Mt. Ashland. And in Alaska, Eaglecrest. It’s all too sad. Let’s hope things turn around.

• After a less-than-impressive start, the East Coast has finally cranked it up. A train of snow storms, one after another, has blanketed the northeast with record-setting snowfalls. Right now things are looking great in New England. According to Tim Kelley, meteorologist with Ski the East and NECN (New England Cable News), the east has the best snow in the lower 48 right now. As a Vermonter, I’d have to say it’s pretty damned good.

• Remember the Polar Vortex? Well, lucky us — it’s back! Arctic air from Canada has brought temps into the single digits and below from the Midwest to the East, with bone chilling wind chills. I don’t mind temperatures in the teens, and if it’s not windy, I can deal with the single digits on a limited basis. But enough is enough. Give me a balmy 25° any day.

• Conversely, women from the west who post on TheSkiDiva.com have been complaining about the warm temperatures. In our Where is Winter thread, there’ve been reports of temps in the 50′s and 60′s in Oregon and Washington. Check out the temperatures in Denver from this past weekend (from the Denver CBS- affiliate):

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 8.41.47 PM

While I certainly believe global warming is real, I have no idea if these are weather glitches or related to a broader weather scenario. All evidence supports that our climate is changing, which means we can expect all sorts of crazy weather ahead. I encourage all of you to support causes like Protect Our Winters and do whatever you can to minimize your carbon footprint on this fragile planet.

What does the rest of the winter have in store? I’ll give it a scientific who knows. Wish I could go into the WayFuture Machine to find out. But one thing I know for sure: spring will come, then summer, and then we’ll start the speculation all over again.

Such is the circle of (a skier’s) life.

 



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