On your knees.

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

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

Knee joint anatomy

Knee joint anatomy

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

Which leads to the following question:

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 



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What to do with your old skis.

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

You have plenty of options:

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

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

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

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Women Roaming Solo: Taking A Ski Trip Alone

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

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

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

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

My Solo Adventure: Mammoth Mountain

by Christina Dolan

Christina at the top of Chair 3, Mammoth

Christina at the top of Chair 3, Mammoth

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

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

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

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

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

The Benefits of Traveling Alone

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 13. Amazing, huh?

June 13. Amazing, huh?

 



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Summer, interrupted.

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

Me on my bike, in happier times.

Me on my bike, in happier times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Chances of Dying
Source: Best Health Degrees

At least I’m not hang gliding.



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Close Encounters of the Wildlife Kind.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 6.46.06 AMScreen Shot 2016-06-30 at 6.46.26 AM

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Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 6.46.55 AM

The takeaway from this? Wear bug spray.

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

 



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Quiz: Are you a ski nerd?

anerdIf you follow this blog, then chances are you’re pretty nuts about skiing. But are you a ski nerd — someone who knows stuff about skiing that most people don’t? And to put an even finer point on it: how big a ski nerd are you? To help you find out, I’ve put together a short handy-dandy quiz. Answers are at the end, but no peeking (or Googling, either)!

1) I have a pair of skis that are 124/93/112. What do those numbers mean?
The length of your legs/the circumference of your neck/the length of your arms;
The distance of your eyes from the tip of the ski/the circumference of your neck/your waist size;
Ski tip width/waist width/tail width;
The day of the year in which your skis were made/how many days your skis will last/a code for the skis’ country of origin

2) What does DIN stand for?
Dynamic Individual Number;
Deutsches Institut für Normung;
Des Institutes pour la Neige;
Decimal Incremental Notation

Big Sky, MT

Big Sky, MT

3) You have a MAX pass. At which resort can it be used?
Big Sky, MT;
Heavenly Mountain Resort, CA;
Park City Mountain Resort, UT;
Beaver Creek, CO

4) What does ‘shred the gnar’ mean?
To eat on the chairlift with your mouth open;
To excel in challenging conditions;
To rip your ski pants in an embarrassing manner;
To criticize another skier

5) You have a jacket with a tag that says ‘DWR.’ This stands for:
Down Winter Rating;
Durable Water Repellent;
Dirt & Wind Resistance;
Don’t Wear Ripped

Lyndsey Vonn

Lyndsey Vonn

6) ‘Skinning’ means:
Wearing a ski jacket made out of fur or leather;
Skiing buck naked;
Sticking a synthetic skin to the base of your skis, climbing a mountain, and skiing down;
Skinny-dipping in the hot tub apres ski

7) ‘Negative camber’ means:
Bad Karma;
A ski that’s low on energy;
A ski that has a slight overall convex or U-shape from tail to tip;
A bad attitude

8) Where was the first lift-served ski resort in the US?
Mount Greylock, MA;
Banff, AB;
Suicide Six, VT;
Whiteface, NY;

Colorado

Colorado Ski Resorts

9) What ski area has the highest elevation in North America?
Arapahoe Basin, CO;
Jackson Hole, WY;
Mout Hood, OR;
Aleyska, AK

10) Which state has the most ski areas?
Vermont;
Colorado;
Idaho;
New York

11) It’s a powder day! This means:
You took a powder and left work early;
You coated your feet with baby powder so they’d smell better in your ski boots;
Your doing a line of coke (please, don’t);
It’s snowing

12) Which of the ski resorts below doesn’t allow snowboarding?
(Yes, still.)

Wintergreen, VA;
Mammoth, CA;
Sugarloaf, ME;
Taos, NM;
Mad River Glen, VT

13) Name a celebrity who died after hitting a tree.

14) A shell fit is:
A technique used to determine the size of the body armor you need for ski racing;
A technique that uses the boot shell to determine ski boot fit;
A technique used to determine helmet size.

15) You took a lesson from an L3 PSIA instructor. This means:
She’s taught for at least 3 years;
She’s met the Level 3 requirements set by the PSIA;
She’s taught at at least three different resorts.

Is this skier Fighting a Yeti?

Is this skier Fighting with a Yeti?

16) What’s the phrase for when a skier loses all his ski equipment during a fall, spreading it all over the slope?
Yard Sale;
Buying the Farm;
Bringing Down the House;
Fighting a Yeti

 

 

Answers:
1) Ski tip width/waist width/tail width; 2) Deutsches Institut für Normung; 3) Big Sky, MT; 4) Excel in challenging conditions; 5) Durable Water Repellent; 6) Sticking a synthetic skin to the base of your skis, climbing a mountain, and skiing down; 5) Arapahoe Basin, CO;  7) A ski that has an overall convex or U-shape; 8) Suicide Six, VT; 9) Arapahoe Basin, CO; 10) New York; 11) It’s snowing! 12) Mad River Glen, VT; 13) Sonny Bono; 14) A technique that uses the boot shell to determine ski boot fit; 15) She’s met the Level 3 requirements set by the PSIA; 16) Yard Sale.

 

How’d you do?

 

 

 

 

 



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Ten Types of Skiers Everyone Knows.

I’ve never been one to put people into tidy little boxes. That’s because people are mostly a combination of things; a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Nonetheless, skiers are a funny bunch. Many of us have certain, shall we say peccadilloes, that seem to emerge when we’re on the hill. See if any of these apply to you or to anyone you might know:

Statistics

 

The Statistician: There are all kinds of skiing apps out there, and the Statistician knows them all. Why? Because if you’re not keeping track of the days you’ve skied, your vertical feet, your maximum and minimum speeds, slope angle, altitude, duration, and more, what can you brag about back at the lodge?

 

 

CometThe Shooting Star: Now you see him, now you don’t. By the time you get your pole straps over your mittens when you exit the chair, this skier is long gone, and there’s no catching up. So much for skiing together.

 

 

skisThe Gear Junkie: Want to know about a specific ski, jacket, pole, boot, goggle, backpack, ski pant, base layer, mitten, glove, etc., etc.?  This skier can tell you the pros and cons of everything, along with where you can get the best deal. Oh, they’re only too happy to tell you what’s wrong with your stuff, too.

 

duct-tape-2-410x290

 

The Dirt Bag: The older, the more beat up, the cheaper the better. Skis from the swap, poles from the Lost and Found, goggles someone left in the lodge. Duct tape is both a necessity and a favorite accessory.

 

 

SwanThe Swan: Everyone likes to watch a Swan ski. Graceful, elegant, swoon-worthy turns, smooth, effortless-looking transitions…it just doesn’t get any better. The envy of everyone on the hill.

 

 

classroom

The Scholar: If knowledge is power, this skier is Superman. This Scholar thrives on breaking down the technical aspects of skiing, from the minutest weight shift to the subtlest edge change. Takes lessons and clinics everywhere, and can give you the low down on every instructor at just about any mountain. Aspires to Swan status.

 

 

Trapeze

 

The Performer: See that cliff over there? The Performer will huck it, and then do a 360, a back flip, a front flip, a rodeo flip and a corkscrew. Often found in the Park, various ski films, or Red Bull commercials. Open to all sponsorship offers.

 

 

 

TimeMachineThe Time Traveler: This skier learned to ski before the era of shaped skis, and it shows. No matter if the skis are straight or shaped, you’ll see the same form learned forty years ago. Hey, if it was good enough then, it’s good enough now, ThankYouVeryMuch.

 

 

Teletubby

 

The Teletubby: Easy to identify by the GoPro on top of his helmet or strapped across his chest. Every minute of every run is worth recording. Otherwise, how will he know where he’s been?

 

 

 

 

 

Flower

 

The Flower: Someone who only skis on sunny days. Or when the temperature is above degree. Or when conditions are not too icy. Or not too powdery. Or only when a specific person can go with them. Or…or…or…

 

So how about it? Sound like anyone you know?



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10 Ways to Avoid Getting Sick When You Travel.

sickSo who has travel plans this summer? You? And you, too? I’m not surprised. Ski Divas aren’t the sort to sit around and veg on the couch. We want to take trips and have adventures, even if they don’t involve skiing. And we don’t want anything to get in the way of our fun.

Nonetheless, sometimes our bodies remind us who’s really in charge. I remember being on a plane from Steamboat with a guy hacking and coughing in the row behind me. Sure enough, a couple days later I came down with a miserable cold.

This isn’t uncommon. The Wall Street Journal cited a study that found you have a 20% increased risk of catching a cold on a plane. Another study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research found that colds may be more than 100 times more likely to be transmitted on a plane than in normal life on the ground.

But it’s not just colds that are the problem. I’m sure you’ve all heard about those awful outbreaks of GI infections on cruise ships, where hundreds of passengers are stricken with vomiting and diarrhea. Not a vacation highlight, I’m sure.

You don’t have to trust to luck to stay healthy. There are a few things you can do to minimize your chances of falling ill:

Boost your immune system.  The best way to stay healthy starts way before your trip begins, with a good immune system. According to Consumer Reports, there are more than 1,000 products on the market that claim to fend off disease. But honestly, the best way to improve your immunity is very simple: maintain a healthy lifestyle. Get enough sleep. Eat healthy. Take vitamins. Exercise. Don’t smoke. Reduce stress. Maintain a healthy weight. Control your blood pressure. And if you drink alcohol, drink it in moderation. Good advice, even if you’re just staying home.

Wash your hands. A lot. This seems so basic that it shouldn’t even need to be said. But yet it does. I don’t want to sound like a germaphobe, but according to the Mayo Clinic, cold and flu germ-laden droplets may remain infectious for several hours, depending on where they land. And some viruses can live on surfaces for as long as seven days. In any event, why take chances; just wash your hands, particularly before you eat. According to the CDC, proper hand washing requires at least 20 minutes of scrubbing. And according to a recent study published in Time magazine, it makes no difference whether the water is hot or cold.

Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated helps maintain the mucus in your throat and nasal cavity, which provides a good barrier against germs. That said, be careful of the water you do drink. No doubt you’ve heard about people getting sick from drinking tap water while overseas. This isn’t necessarily because the water is contaminated. It could just be that it has local  bacteria that your body isn’t used to. So if you’re traveling abroad, you might want to drink bottled water or invest in a water filter.

Carry wet wipes. Hand sanitizer, too. I do. I use them to wipe down my seat tray and arm rests on the plane, as well as the TV remote in a hotel room, the faucet, and pretty much anything else I can think of.

Eat healthy. Sure, vacation is a time to indulge a little and try something new. This is fine. But remember, all things in moderation. And consider the source. If no one is eating at a particular restaurant, there may be a reason. When in doubt, eat food that’s either boiled or peeled. Germs will be killed off pretty much universally by boiling, and can’t get into food that has a peelable skin. Some people recommend taking probiotics for a few weeks before vacation, the idea being that populating your gut with healthy bacteria or yeasts can help fight disease-causing organisms.

Make sure you’re up on your vaccines. Depending on where you go, you may need special shots. Visit the CDC Travel Health site for details on the vaccines you’ll need for various parts of the world, as well as other important information to stay healthy while you travel. It also doesn’t hurt to make sure your tetanus shot is up to date.

Don’t forget your meds.  Be sure to bring along any prescribed medications you need. And it wouldn’t hurt to throw in some  Tylenol, Advil, and Immodium, too. It’s not a bad idea to bring along some motion sickness pills, either, if you’re planning on a cruise.

Use insect repellent.  Mosquitos can spread all sorts of diseases (according to Wikipedia, these include  malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, chikungunya, yellow fever, filariasis, Japanese encephalitis, Saint Louis encephalitis, Western equine encephalitis, Eastern equine encephalitis, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, La Crosse encephalitis and Zika fever. Phew!). Then, of course, there are tick-transmitted diseases, like Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. These little bugs can cause a lot of trouble. So bring along some insect repellent and be sure to use it.

If you’re going abroad, make sure you have medical coverage. If not, buy some. But before you do, check with your medical insurer to see if you’re covered by your existing health plan. Even if your health plan does cover you internationally, you may want to consider buying a special medical travel policy.

Going up? Acclimate.  If you’re taking a trip that involves any significant increase in altitude, give yourself some time to adjust at lower elevations first. It doesn’t matter if this is your first or tenth trip over 8,000 feet; altitude sickness can strike at any time. The human body actually takes weeks to acclimate to high elevations, but since you probably don’t have that much vacation time, give yourself between 48 and 72 hours to adapt. It also helps to avoid tobacco and alcohol and drink lots and lots of water. If you start to show symptoms of moderate altitude illness, don’t go higher until your symptoms diminish.

 

Stay safe, stay healthy, and have fun, Ski Divas!

 



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What’s it like to ski in June?

I’m the type of person that would ski all year, if I could. Unfortunately, for me that’s not possible. Some Ski Divas, however, are luckier than I am, and are still out making turns, even after Memorial Day. Since it’s something I’ve never done, I asked Ski Diva forum member, Rachel Vecchitto, to give us her take on skiing in June. So take it away, Rachel!

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When I moved out west six years ago, there were lots of reasons I chose Boulder, Colorado: 300+ days of sunshine a year (it’s true!), plenty of jobs in my field, respectable mass transit, and an unbeatable location right at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. If I’m honest with myself, though, the biggest reason I chose Boulder was probably because I’d have easy access to lift-served skiing 9 months a year at Arapahoe Basin.

You can ski into late spring and early summer in more places than you might think. Snowbird and Mammoth stay open as long as they can, which almost always extends their seasons into June and beyond. Whistler and Timberline both have high alpine snowfields that usually stay open for limited skiing and riding all summer long. Few places, though, match A-Basin’s commitment to keeping as much terrain open for as long as they can (the 10,600ft base elevation and north-facing slopes don’t hurt).

I headed up to A-Basin on Saturday, June 3rd, excited for a solid day of late spring skiing and another month of getting out on the snow. Crowds have usually died down by June, and Saturday was no exception. By the time early spring and its surprise snowfalls have passed, everyone except the most dedicated skiers have moved on to mountain biking, climbing and all the other summer activities the mountains have to offer. It’s fantastic; you can roll into the parking lot at a leisurely 10:30AM and not worry about finding a place to park, and you’re sharing the slopes with super enthusiastic skiing superfans who are so psyched to still be out on the snow that it’s impossible not to get caught up in the energy and have a great time.

Excited to still be making lift-served turns in June.

Excited to still be making lift-served turns in June.

Conditions were excellent for so late in the season. A-Basin runs two lifts this time of year, but as summer gets closer the terrain that’s served becomes increasingly limited as snow melts and conditions deteriorate. On June 3rd, though, thanks to a solid early winter and some great late spring snow, just about all of the possible terrain was still open. I was able to ski wide open alpine faces, slushy bumps and soft groomers, pop off a few cornices, and pick my way down playful gullies. When I lived back east I made the pilgrimage to Tuckerman Ravine and took advantage of Killington’s late season operations, but in my experience it’s hard to beat the variety and quality of terrain that A-Basin works so hard to offer in the springtime.

A-Basin in June 2017: a few bare spots surrounded by tons of skiable terrain.

A-Basin in June 2017: a few bare spots surrounded by tons of skiable terrain.

Even at 10,600 ft, the weather is warming up by June, and temperatures from about 50F to 65F are common. I usually wear a light long-sleeved baselayer and a T-shirt, but that’s mostly just because I don’t think there’s enough sunscreen in the world to keep me from frying in the June high alpine sun. Many others are braver than me, and wear bathing suits, tank tops, shorts and all kinds of crazy costumes. My favorite this spring was a skier dressed as a giraffe, playing a vuvuzela. Combined with all the usual springtime skiing trappings — pond skimming, live music, BBQ, tailgating — it’s quite the scene.

June 1, 2017: a crowd cheers on the skiers and riders during their pond skimming attempts.

June 1, 2017: a crowd cheers on the skiers and riders during their pond skimming attempts.

I really do think that A-Basin in the springtime should be on every skier’s bucket list. There’s usually no powder, but you’d be hard-pressed to find an experience that’s more fun, more novel, or more likely to get you counting the days until next season.

 



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Adventure Mamas: Redefining Motherhood.

Adventure Mamas co-founders Stephanie Fuller (left) and Justine Nobbe (right)

Adventure Mamas co-founders Stephanie Feller (left) and Justine Nobbe (right)

I’ve never understood people who make grand pronouncements about how moms are supposed to behave. As far as I’m concerned, moms should be able to do anything they like. If they enjoyed doing stuff outdoors before they had kids, they should be able to enjoy the same things even after they’re moms.

But I do understand about “mommy guilt.” There’s tremendous pressure to put your kids first, not only from society, but from yourself, too. So you end up forgoing some of the things you love to do – and that can make you anxious, depressed, and even resentful.

Not good.

That’s why I was so excited to hear about Adventure Mamas, an organization whose mission is to redefine motherhood by encouraging moms to enjoy outdoor life, without being constrained by guilt or societal pressures. According to Adventure Mamas, you shouldn’t have to give up outdoor adventures just because you’re a mom. Sure, your adventures may change a bit, but it’s still entirely possible — and even desirable — to get outdoors to do the things you love.

Adventure Mamas has been around since 2015, and is now a network of more than 15,000 women around the world. These are women who are interested not just in pushing strollers, but in pushing themselves to have adventures that provide both physical and mental challenges, sometimes with children, and sometimes without. Like TheSkiDiva, Adventure Mamas is a community of women who share a passion for the same thing and want to connect with one another for support, camaraderie, and just plain fun.

I recently spoke to Justine Nobbe, co-founder of Adventure Mamas, to find out more about this exciting initiative:

SD: Tell me about yourself. Have you always been interested in the outdoors?
JN: Not exactly. I grew up in a small town in Indiana where there was essentially no outdoor culture. I didn’t get into the outdoors until I was midway through college – I was working toward a degree in English — and I started coming across all this literature about people who were living in ways I had no idea was possible. It totally blew my mind and changed my life pretty profoundly. As soon as I graduated I started working in an outdoor gear shop and figuring out what I could do to enter the outdoor world. I did a bunch of bike touring, trekking, rock climbing, and even worked as an adventure therapy guide in Utah for several years.

SD: So how did this lead you to start Adventure Mamas?
JN: My husband and I had a son in 2016, and although that was really exciting, there’s that moment when you think, okay, so how does my old lifestyle fit into motherhood? I started to do a lot of research to try to find a community that validated a woman’s need to continue to adventure after she had a child. There were all these individual women doing different things – you’d have this skier or this climber – but there wasn’t a community that supported women pursuing their passions that was relevant to me. So I decided to create a meet-up group in Salt Lake City to make friends with women who weren’t going to let motherhood slow them down. I told a good friend about it who thought it was a great idea [Stephanie Feller, Adventure Mamas co-founder], and we pitched in together to make it happen. It just took off from there. Other groups began opening up across the country, and it kept growing and growing. Now we have ten national groups, as well as a lot of international women who are engaged, too.

SD: So what makes adventure so important for women and for mothers, in particular?
JN: At Adventure Mamas, we believe in the transformative power of adventure and wild places. There’s a lot of research that says being outside looking at a landscape, or breathing fresh air, or moving your body can be extremely healing and centering. Adventure – putting yourself in a challenging situation, where your adrenaline is pumping and you have to think critically – gives you tremendous focus and clarity, which can translate very easily into everyday life. For mothers, adventure is extremely important. There’s research that says that women with children are more susceptible to mental unwellness than other populations, so adventure can actually be preventive healthcare. It’s good for your health and for your personal identity, which translates into healthy families, healthy communities, a healthy culture, and yes, even healthy kids. We want to tell our kids that they can do anything and be anything, but a lot of adults don’t believe it themselves. We seem to get stuck in a rut. We want women not to just talk to their kids about how they can do anything, but to show them through their actions.

Credit_ @littlemountainlady Sarah Gorka-2

SD: So what makes Adventure Mamas different from other outdoor women’s groups?
JN: Although there are a lot of outdoor women’s groups that are multi-adventure – that is, they cover everything from hiking to skiing – they aren’t necessarily oriented toward women with kids. Much of their outreach and marketing is done toward younger women. So say you’re an enthusiastic outdoor woman who belongs to one of these other groups, and you find out you’re expecting. The new baby arrives, and while it’s an exciting and happy time, you don’t feel like the other group applies anymore. You still want to participate, but you may be wondering, is it weird if I bring my baby along; what if I have to nurse on the trail; will people be upset if my baby is crying. This has been a pretty universal experience for the women we’ve met. It’s disheartening, because your identity is so warped after you’ve had a baby, and now, on top of that, you don’t feel relevant in the outdoor community anymore. For us, it’s all about getting outdoors and exploring, with your kids and without. We have women-specific events, where we encourage women to adventure without their kids so they can do things that are harder, but we also offer events where women can bring their children along. And as we move forward, we’ll be facilitating more events where we’ll offer childcare, too.

SD: What kind of outdoor activities does Adventure Mamas have?
JN: We are very specifically adventure based. We’ve had events across the country that facilitiate everything from kayaking to rock climbing to stand-up paddle boarding to mountaineering. We’ve had more than 40 events since we started. Our first national event will take place this July. We have an expedition that’ll be scaling 13er’s and 14er’s in Colorado. We also offer workshops on things like the role of self care as a mother and empowered motherhood and things like that. Even better, we’re a non-profit, so all this is free.

Credit_ @littlemountainlady Sarah Gorka

SD: Is this just for young mothers?
JN: I think people think we’re more oriented toward younger women and new moms, and I think the resources we provide are important for new or expecting moms. But we also have this important sub-niche of women with older kids who are almost empty nesters. A lot of them are stepping up and saying, I’ve spent my whole life caring for my children, but now I feel really lost. I used to like to do these things. Am I welcome here?  So it’s really dynamic. We’ve had so many women reach out and say ‘Can adventure grandmas be better represented?’

SD: So how’s it worked out for you?
JN: I have an 18-month old son who comes along on a lot of things. It’s been kind of his whole life. Adventure Mamas started because of him, so we’ve been doing things together from the get-go. Of course there are ups and downs, but I embrace them. I personally find adventure parenting easier than indoor parenting. We’ve been on 5 or 6 cross country road trips, and done bike tours, hiking, climbing; he comes everywhere. The thing about Adventure Mamas is that a lot of moms want to pass their passion for adventuring on to their kids. I hope my kid continues to want to come along, but if he doesn’t, that’s okay, too. I’m still going to go.

Editor’s Note: Adventure Mamas is a non-profit organization, but it needs money so that it can continue offering outdoor adventures to moms at no cost.  The organization has a fundraising campaign going on through the end of June at generosity.com. To make a donation (and to get some great swag), go here.

 



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