A chat with Kelly Pawlak, new president of the National Ski Areas Association

Kelly Pawlak

Kelly Pawlak

There’s nothing unusual about female ski instructors. And women in resort human resources, marketing, communications, and sales? Common as dirt.

But women general managers are a somewhat rarer breed. According to statistics from the National Ski Areas Association [NSAA], there are only about 20 to 30 nationwide. It’s more or less a boys’ club.

All this is about to change. Because starting in January, the boys’ club will have a woman in charge. Kelly Pawlak, GM of Mount Snow, VT, will become NSAA’s first female President and CEO. NSAA represents 313 alpine ski resorts that count for more than 90 percent of the skier/snowboard visits nationwide, as well as 414 supplier members who provide equipment, goods, and services to the mountain resort industry.

That’s a pretty big responsibility. According to its website, NSAA’s primary objective is to meet the needs of ski area owners and operators nationwide and to foster, stimulate, and promote growth in the industry. To do this, it analyzes and distributes ski industry statistics; produces annual conferences and tradeshows; produces a bimonthly industry publication; and is active in state and federal government affairs. It also provides educational programs and employee training materials on industry issues including OSHA, ADA and NEPA regulations and compliance; environmental laws and regulations; state regulatory requirements; aerial tramway safety; and resort operations and guest services.

I recently spoke to Kelly about her new position.

SD: You’ve been in the ski industry for a long time. How’d you get started?
KP: Quite honestly, it was sort of by accident. When I graduated from college, I realized that if I wanted to ski, I’d have to pay for it, myself. My dad wouldn’t do it anymore. So I looked for a job, found one at Mount Snow, and never left.

SD: You really came up the ranks, too. I understand you held a variety of positions, correct?
KP: Yes, I’ve been there since 1985, and I’ve worked in marketing, sales, operations, events…pretty much everything.

SD: So how has this has helped prepare you for your position at NSAA?
KP: Well, I think it helps me understand some of the needs of the 300-plus member ski areas. Clearly, my expertise is not very strong in the west and midwest, so I have a lot of learning to do there. Luckily, I’m not alone. There’s an extremely qualified staff of about 12 people behind me, so I’m confident that with their assistance, and talking with the folks at the ski areas, retailers, and suppliers, I’ll be a quick study.

SD: Women GM’s are few and far between, and you’re the first female president of NSAA. What are your thoughts on that? Why aren’t there more female execs in the ski industry?
KP: There are more and more women every year. Certainly there aren’t as many as men. But it’s a demanding schedule and it’s a woman’s choice to decide whether or not she wants that lifestyle. I often joke and say that most of my women friends who work in the industry are too smart to take a position like mine because they know the hours I work. I was lucky – I was able to work it out with my husband so I could do this job. He put his career on the back burner for me, and I’m grateful for that.

SD: There are a number of issues facing ski areas today. Off the top of your head, what do you think are the biggest challenges and which do you think you’ll be addressing right away?
KP: The biggest issues are already being addressed by NSAA, but I have two that interest me the most. The first is getting enough people to fill the jobs at ski areas and ski towns. As you know, the hospitality business requires a lot of people to get the job done; it’s not as automated as some other industries, so finding staff is difficult.

SD: I understand  there have been a lot of issues recently regarding  J-1 Visas. [Ed. Note: there are reports that the President is considering axing the program that allows students from all over the world to work U.S. ski area jobs in the name of cultural exchange.]
KP: Exactly. We’re trying to make our legislators understand that if we could fill all the positions with domestic staff, we would, but it’s just not possible. So we support the international staff members.

The other challenge – and we’ve been working on this for years – is bringing new skiers into the sport and retaining them, once they try it. I think this is an area where we need a lot more discovery. We’re going to have to try some new things. Skiing is an amazing opportunity for people and once you’ve tried it and had an enjoyable experience, you’ll want to do it for life. We have to discover what those hurdles are and break them down and make it easy for folks to ski. There’s more work that needs to be done and we’re going to have to be a bit more innovative.

SD: How do you feel about all the consolidations that have been going on in the ski industry?
KP: There are pros and cons, depending on where you are and who you are. It’s not black and white; it’s gray. At Mount Snow, I’ve been part of three different ownerships and each one brought different benefits to the resort. A lot of times when a ski resort changes hands it really motivates other resorts in that demographic to try new things. I know that for Peak Resorts, which owns Mount Snow, buying Hunter Mountain was a really good move because we were able to connect all of our ski areas, so now our skiers could buy our Peak Pass and ski the Poconos, Hunter, and Mount Snow. So in that case, it was excellent for our portfolio.

SD: Consolidations can also make it difficult for the smaller resorts to compete. What can NSAA do to support them?
KP: Besides working with the larger areas, part of my new job will be visiting some of the smaller ski companies so I can better understand their challenges. It’s important to address their needs just as much as the larger ski areas.

SD: I know climate change is another major challenge. That has to be high on your agenda right now, too.
KP: Yes. Again, NSAA has been working on this for many years. There isn’t a ski resort that isn’t focused on sustainability. NSAA is great about sharing knowledge, so every time we can learn about a resort that’s lowering their kilowatt hours or reducing their dependence on diesel air compressors, we share that throughout the industry. What helps one helps us all.

SD: And it seems that so many of them are working on becoming four season resorts, too.
KP: Absolutely. The ski industry is becoming so versatile. We have resorts that do better in the summer than in the winter.

SD: On a personal note, you’ve been living in Vermont for a long time. I suppose you’ll be moving to Colorado now? You’ll have to trade your ice skis in for powder skis.
KP: Exactly! I’m going to have to take some lessons and learn how to ski powder. I’m looking forward to that. But this position does have quite a bit of travel involved, so I still plan to come back east to ski. This time, however, I’ll be a guest so I can do all the things I couldn’t do when I was focused on providing the guest experience at Mount Snow. I’m looking forward to that.



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Gear Review: Kulkea Micro Pack, a multi-activity daypack

Fall is a season that gives you plenty of options. One day you could be hiking to see the changing leaves, the next you could be skiing in an early season dump.

Which is why it’d be great to have a daypack that can seamlessly transition from one activity to another. So when Kulkea contacted me about taking a look at their new Micro Pack, a multi-sport day pack, I was intrigued.

I’ve been a fan of Kulkea’s since a few years ago, when I encountered them at the Boston Ski & Snowboard Show. They sent me their Powder Trekker boot bag to review, and I absolutely loved it. Not only was I impressed with the way it was made, but I was blown away by the variety of  features it had to offer (you can read my review here). I’ve been through a number of boot bags, and for me, this was by far the best.


Kulkea Micro Pack

Could the Micro Pack live up to the standards of the Powder Trekker? Let’s take a look.


Out of the box (technically, a plastic bag), the Micro Pack looks really nice: sturdy, well made, with lots of compartments to stow your stuff. At the  top, there’s a goggle/sunglass compartment; below that, a secure compartment for your wallet/phone/keys. Unlatch the clips, and you’ll find the main compartment, which is great for keeping an extra layer, or maybe even your lunch or snacks. You could also easily snug another layer between that compartment and the one for your wallet/keys; the straps would hold it in place (see the third picture below). The pack also has a drink caddy that can hold a couple of water bottles, and a number of loops and hooks for suspending whatever you like. There are padded, easy to adjust shoulder straps. And this is handy: the straps have a special pocket for lip balm, a clip for an emergency whistle, and a universal strap for gloves, hats or whatever item you want to hang.

This velcro strap is perfect for my gaiter!

This velcro strap is perfect for my gaiter!


Lip balm pocket and clip for an emergency whistle.


But what makes this particularly useful for skiing is its ability to be clipped to a Powder Trekker boot bag. This allows you to carry both to the slopes as one unit, unclip the Micro Bag, and use it as a ski daypack. It’s also easy to unclip when you get on the lift. And there’s a hook on the back for your helmet, too.



Helmet attaches to the outside.

Helmet attaches to the outside.

The Micro Pack attaches easily to the Powder Trekker boot bag.

The Micro Pack attaches easily to the Powder Trekker boot bag.


So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

As a day pack for hiking, I give it a big thumbs up. I love how there are all these different compartments for my stuff, so I’m not rummaging around in one big area trying to locate this or that.

Sadly, I haven’t skied with it yet, but I like what I’m seeing. It seems easy to use, and a great way to keep an extra layer or pair of goggles handy throughout the day.

BTW, we’re giving away a  bag on TheSkiDiva forum right now. The contest is open to Ski Divas only, so if you’re a registered member, head here for a chance to enter. We’ll take entries until 5PM (Eastern Time) on October 29, and the winner will be randomly selected later that day.

For more information on Kulkea, go here. MSRP for the Powder Trekker is $119.95.

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Nutrition Tips for Skiers: Eat Smart, Ski More

We all know that food can make a huge difference in the way you feel. Eat crap and you feel like, well, crap. So it stands to reason that this would carry over to skiing. We may own the best gear and hit the hottest slopes, but if we haven’t fueled up the right way before, during, and after skiing, we won’t be able to ski to our full potential. It’s as simple as that.

Diana Sugiuchi has given this a lot of thought. A Registered Dietician and member of TheSkiDiva.com community, Diana runs Vertical Drop Nutrition, where she provides nutritional counseling, both personally and virtually, to skiers of all levels. In her new book, Eat Smart, Ski More, she offers practical tips and recipes that can help improve your stamina, strength, and concentration while skiing. She answers some questions about it here:

Eat Smart Ski More-19SD: What motivated you to write this book?
DS: A few things. First, I love to ski. And second, personal experience. A few years ago, I had a ski day where I didn’t feel that great or focused. I’d eaten a small breakfast some time earlier, and I realized I’d probably run out of fuel. So I went into the lodge, had a bagel, and I felt loads better when I went back out. Now, I’m a dietitian who works with a lot of athletes, and I know the right things to eat at the right time, but I still neglected this for myself. So I was pretty sure that people who aren’t dietitians aren’t fueling up the right way to optimize stamina, strength, and mental focus on the slopes. The sports nutrition resources out there for skiers are for competitive athletes. This book is aimed for recreational skiers who want to get the most out of their ski day. Skiers spend a lot of money on lift tickets, the right gear, and so on, but something as simple as eating the right things at the right time can mean a few more hours on the slopes each day, fewer injuries, quicker muscle recovery, and just a better ski day.

SD: Are skiers nutritional needs different than other athletes? And if so, why?
DS: Skiing involves both cardiovascular and muscular endurance plus a lot of mental focus. Making sure you are eating the right mix of nutrients and timing meals and snacks is so important to make sure that none of these suffer. In the cold, skiers may not feel thirsty, but because of the cold, dry air, and especially at high altitude, hydration is so important and can be harder to keep up with than for other sports.

Diana Sugiuchi

Diana Sugiuchi

SD: The book has a lot of great info, but one of the things that surprised me the most was your mention of beet juice as a preventive for altitude sickness. Really? 
DS: Yeah, beet juice! It can be a little “challenging,” as we say in the nutrition world, but it really works and there have been multiple scientific studies that back this up. It also helps with endurance. Unfortunately, you need to drink about 16 ounces for it to be effective, which isn’t going to happen for many of us. And cooked beets don’t work; they have to be raw, which is what beet juice is made from. A better option is to go with one of the powdered options, plus it travels way more easily. My personal favorite, and I am not compensated by them in any way, is Beet Elite cherry flavored powder. You just mix it with water and drink it like a shot.

SD: Did you create all the recipes in the book? 
DS: I did create them. These are all recipes I’ve come up with over the years with my main job, Nourish Family Nutrition, for cooking demonstrations, cookbooks, and just for fun. My family and friends were the tasters. The breakfast smoothie is a family favorite and my teen daughter loves the tart cherry cocktail apres ski; I just make hers without vodka.

SD: Were there any clinkers?
DS: Oh, yes. The beef stew I made with purple potatoes was such a colossal failure the whole family talks about it every time I make beef stew! Purple potatoes look super cool, but never ever use them in a stew. The whole thing turned this very unappetizing blue color and no one would eat it, even though it did taste good.

SD: Which recipe is your favorite and why?
DS: My personal favorite is the Sweet Potato, Peanut & Kale Soup with Chicken & Black Eyed Peas. I seriously could eat this every day in the fall and winter because I love the combination of flavors and it’s a complete meal in a bowl. It freezes really well so you can make a bunch and then freeze for later. I have brought it in a thermos with me for lunch while I’m skiing.

SD: I notice the apres-ski staple, beer, isn’t included. What’s your opinion of alcohol apres ski?
DS: Nope, I didn’t include beer, but I did include a recipe for a tart cherry cocktail. But nothing at all against beer. I am all for alcohol apres ski, as anyone who has ever skied with me can attest. I don’t advise drinking for the first couple of days when adjusting to high altitude and of course, overdoing at any time can lead to a bad ski day the next day. A good rule of thumb is to have at least one glass of water for every drink you have.

SD: How can someone get a copy of your book?
DS: You can buy it directly from my website, eatsmartskimore.com, and it’s in several ski and book stores.


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Eight Questions Skiers Get Asked All The Time.


Skiers love to talk about skiing to just about anyone. But there are a few questions we get asked by non-skiers pretty regularly. I’m not complaining. I mean, you’re not going to learn if you don’t ask, right? And I’m quite sure that some of my questions about, say, football or just about any team sport, are maddeningly dumb and annoying to anyone who knows about such things. In any event, here are a few questions I’ve encountered more than once. Show this to your non-skiing friends. Maybe they’ll quit asking.

1) Aren’t you afraid you’ll get hurt?
Of course I’m afraid I’ll get hurt. I’m also afraid I’ll get in a car accident when I’m driving down the highway. Or that I’ll come down with a cold when someone’s hacking away near me on an airplane. Or that I’ll get stuck in an elevator and starve to death before I’m rescued (just kidding). There are inherent risks in just about everything we do. The trick is to do whatever you can to stay injury-free.

2) How can you stand the cold?
I absolutely hate being cold, but I love to ski. That’s why God invented tech fabrics, down jackets, boot heaters, and all the great things that can keep you warm when it’s 10 below. Dress for it and you won’t have a problem.

3) Isn’t skiing just gravity? You just point yourself down the mountain and go, right?
To some extent, gravity helps, but anyone who points themselves down the mountain and just goes without knowing how to turn and stop is bound to run into trouble (see question #1). Technique, skill, and practice all play an important part. See the following question, too.

4) Why do you keep taking lessons? Don’t you already know how to ski?
Well, yeah, I do. And I don’t, too. Skiing is a never-ending learning experience; there’s always room for improvement. Lessons help me get better and open up new terrain so I can better enjoy the mountain. It’s like piano. Sure, I could play chopsticks all day long. But wouldn’t it be great to play Mozart?

5) Isn’t skiing expensive?
Yes, skiing does require an investment in gear, lift tickets, and so on. But there are lots of ways to save money. You can buy lift tickets on Liftopia or one of the other discount sites. You can purchase gear at ski swaps. You can join a ski club that has killer lift pass deals. In other words, seek the savings and ye shall find.

6) Do you ski when it’s snowing? Do they keep running the lifts?
Ah, yes. That’s kind of the point. We like the snow.

Skier with poles.

Why do skiers use sticks?

7) Why do skiers use sticks?
I think they mean ski poles, and though some people ski without them, I’d say that most people don’t. Poles help skiers with timing and rhythm, and can help get you moving across flat terrain. I am definitely pro pole.

8) Why do snowboarders wear such droopy, baggy pants?
I have no idea. Then again, I’m not a 16 year old teenage boy.




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Ski Swaps, ’17-’18

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 21-22: Great American Ski & Snowboard Sale, Mount Peter, Warwick, NY

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

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

Nov 4: Gunstock Ski Club Swap, Gilford, NH

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

Nov 6: Brunswick Ski Swap, Brunswick, ME

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Nov 24: Wintergreen Ski Swap, Wintergreen, WV


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

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

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

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

Oct 7: Skitoberfest, Boyne Mtn Resort, MI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov 11: Pioneer Ski Swap, Osseo, MN


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

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

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

Oct 22: Sac State Ski Swap, Sacramento, CA

Oct 20-21: Vail Ski Swap, Vail, CO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TBD: University of Nevada Ski Swap, Reno, NV


Oct 14: Skyliners Winter Sports Swap, Bend, OR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Hurricanes vs. Blizzards


Blizzard © Boston Globe

Hurricane Irma ABC News

Hurricane Irma © ABC News









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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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And just like that, it’s pre-season.


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

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

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

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

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

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

Vermont in the fall

Vermont in the fall



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

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



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

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

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

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

Here are a few things you should look at:

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

Some pretty bad edge damage here.

Some pretty bad edge damage here.

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

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

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

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



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How to be Fearless.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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On your knees.

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

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

Knee joint anatomy

Knee joint anatomy

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

Which leads to the following question:


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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