Winter Driving, or Getting To The Hill In One Piece.

Have you seen this video? It’s everywhere right now. You can’t take your eyes off it; the slo-mo crashes are amazing. I just hope no one got hurt.

All the same, it serves as a good reminder: Winter driving can be treacherous. The same weather that brings us great ski conditions can also make getting to the mountain a white knuckle experience.

Which means you have to be prepared. You have to know how to handle the worst winter can dish out. For starters, this means having a car that’s reliable and snow-capable. I have a Subaru, the unofficial state car of Vermont. And I’m only half kidding.  Everyone around here has one. It has four-wheel drive, plenty of room, and it’s not an SUV so it’s good on gas. All pluses, in my book. On top of that, I replaced the stock all-season tires with some really good snow tires. Winter is a serious business here. Trust me, you don’t want to take chances.

So in the interest of improving your on-the-road safety, here are some tips that can help you get to the mountain without incident:

Check the road conditions before you go. I’ve been on roads that have been closed by the state police, and believe me, they’re closed for a reason. If a road isn’t open, stay off. And if it says “chains required,” for God’s sake, use them.

Clean off your car. This is so basic it should go without saying, yet I still see lots of people driving with just a peep hole cleared on their windshields, or a foot of snow on their hoods or roofs. Not safe. Snow on the hood can blow onto the windshield and obstruct your vision. And snow on the roof can fly off and impair the vision of the driver behind you. So if not for yourself, please be courteous and clear off the blasted snow.

Keep your washer fluid reservoir full. And make sure you have good wiper blades. Again, you have to see to drive safely. This isn’t rocket science. It’s a fact.

Leave plenty of space between cars. Don’t crowd the car ahead of you. You want to leave plenty of room to stop. And if you go into a skid, the last thing you want is to be up against someone else’s bumper.

S-L-O-W down. You know those car commercials where  an SUV is barreling through ten feeet of snow? Those are professional drivers on closed roads. They are not you. Slow down — so it’ll take you ten minutes longer. It’s worth it.

Keep a portable shovel in your car. I do this, and it’s saved me from being stuck in a snow bank more than once.

Make sure you have emergency stash. A warm blanket, some snacks, and a flashlight can go a long way if you get stuck. As part of this….

Keep your cell phone charged. So you can call for help, if needed. Of course, around here in Vermont, cell phone service stinks; we have a lot of dead zones. Still, you never know.

Keep a couple of sand bags in your trunk. Or cat litter. Not only does this add some extra weight (which can translate into extra traction), you can sprinkle the kitty litter/sand under your tires to give you some purchase, if you get stuck.

winterdriving

Four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicles do not do better on ice. So keep that in mind. Don’t drive like a crazy person when the roads are icy.

Make sure you have good tires: I mentioned this before and I can’t emphasize it enough. For where I live and my car (and yes, it’s four-wheel drive), all-season tires just don’t cut it. I need snow tires that mean business. It’s an added expense, I know, but it could mean the difference between life and death.

Use your headlights. You want to make sure you’re visible to the other cars on the road. This helps.

If you find yourself behind a plow or salt truck, don’t pass until you have plenty of room. Remember, they only have a limited field of vision. And really, do you want to be ahead of the guys who are clearing the road?

If you get stuck, don’t spin your wheels to get out.  It doesn’t help. Go forward, then back, forward, back, in a steady rocking motion. It’ll work a lot better.

Know how to recover from skids. When you brake on a slippery road, it’s all too easy to “lock up” your wheels by stepping on the brakes a little too hard. If you start to skid, gently steer the vehicle in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go and don’t touch your brakes. As part of this….

If you have Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS), don’t pump them.  The whole point of ABS is that they pump themselves to make stopping in snow easier. The pulsing or chattering you hear or feel is just them doing their job. Pumping = strictly old school.

Drive with a light touch. No sudden, herky-jerky movements, no sharp turns at high speeds. Gentle is better.

These should help you get to the mountain in one piece. Anyone have any others to add?



Read full story · Comments { 0 }

A Day at the Races: The 2016 Audi FIS World Cup

I think my ears are ringing.

img_5045It’s no surprise, since it’s just two days after the 2016 Audi FIS World Cup at Killington Mountain Resort, and I think every cow bell on the planet was there. And why not? This was the best of the best in ski racing, only half an hour from home.

How could I not attend?

This was the first World Cup Alpine race in New England since 1991 (Waterville Valley, NH), and the first in Vermont since 1978 (Stratton Mountain). And oh yeah, it was the first World Cup I’d ever attended, too.

Having the race at Killington in November, I thought, took a tremendous act of faith. Weather this time of year just about anywhere is sketchy. The Men’s World Cup in Lake Louise has been cancelled, as has the men’s race in Beaver Creek. But kudos to the people at Killington, who put forth a tremendous effort to make sure their course was World Cup ready. The resort has been blasting snow since October — enough to cover a football field 40 feet deep — and was lucky enough to get some help from Mother Nature: 15 inches in the past week or so.

The lower GS course on Superstar

The lower part of the GS Course on Superstar

But having the race in the East over Thanksgiving weekend was also a stroke of brilliance. Four and a half hours from New York and three from Boston, Killington is easily reachable from major population centers. And this means a lot of excitement, loads of publicity, and a ton of people on hand to watch the race. I was there for the GS race on Saturday, along with an estimated 16,000 other people — by many accounts the largest US World Cup crowd ever. (Which also accounts for what I said before about the cow bells.) In fact, US Ski Association officials estimate the combined attendance for both Saturday and Sunday at nearly 27,000, making it one of the most well-attended women’s ski events in US history.

Just a few of the people who showed up for the race.

Just a few of the people who showed up for the race.

Was it exciting to be there? Yes. It felt like a festival. There was a temporary village set up at the base with tents from all sorts of vendors. There was a pre-race parade featuring a thousand kids from ski teams across the state of Vermont.  There was a free concert by O.A.R. in the base area afterward. And the crowd was clearly stoked, full of Vermont and East Coast pride.

The course was set up on Superstar, a fun run that’s readily visible from Killington’s base area. Superstar starts with a steep headwall, mellows out onto some undulating terrain, and then plunges again with another steep pitch. The starting altitude of the GS course was 3,701 feet and the finish altitude 2,559 — all together,  a vertical drop of 1,142 feet and a course length of 3,166 feet.

Here’s a GoPro preview of the GS course:

Fog on the course.

Fog on the course.

By now, the details of the GS race are well known. Conditions were challenging, with a changeable surface that rutted up quickly. Visibility wasn’t perfect, either, with flat light and fog rolling in and out throughout the day. Thirteen of the 61 racers, including defending GS champion, Swiss skier Lara Gut, either fell or skied off without completing the course. In the end, France’s Tessa Worley, the 2013 GS World Champion, finished first ahead of first-run leader Nina Loeseth of Norway, who finished 0.80 seconds back. Italy’s Sofia Goggia came in third, 1.11 seconds behind Worley. And 2014 Olympic Slalom gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin ended up fifth after finishing 8th on the first run and 5th on the second.

BTW, Lindsey Vonn did not compete. She’s been sidelined by a broken arm she incurred training in Colorado.

What I especially loved was seeing the athletes up close and personal, and finding out that yes, apart from the fact that they’re amazing athletes and ski like goddesses, they’re very human, too.

Here are some small details that I dearly loved:

• Lara Gut wears a knit hat with her name as part of the design.

• Mikaela Shiffrin, who grew up skiing on the East Coast, had her 95 year old grandma there to watch her compete.

• Third place finisher Sofia Goggia uses Vermont Maple Syrup when she makes her favorite American pancake breakfast at home in Italy.

• Second place finisher Nina Loeseth loved the snow; she said it was more like European snow than the lighter snow she’s skied in Colorado.

• Mikaela Shiffrin does Word Searches with her mom before the race  to combat nerves.

• All the racers I heard speak said they loved hearing the roar of the crowd when they came down the final pitch.

• During her press conference the day before the race, Shiffrin talked about how she loved the passion of East Coast skiers. “It’s easy to love skiing in the West, because it’s amazing. When you’re in the East, it’s raining, snowing, sleeting, all in one day. If you’re still out there, it means there’s a passion.”

• And this, from the NBC broadcast of the race later on that day (yeah, I watched it, too): Announcer #1: “What do you think they [the racers] have learned the most from the skiers who have gone before them in these conditions?” Announcer #2: “Now they know why skiers from Vermont are so good. Because conditions change every two seconds. You’ve got to know how to do all of it.”

Here I am talking to Swiss racing phenom Lara Gutt.

Here I am talking to Swiss racer Lara Gut. Note her hat, with her name knitted right in.

The Slalom Race took place on Sunday, and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend. But I did catch it on TV, and congrats to Mikaela Shiffrin for her 22nd World Cup win and her 10th consecutive slalom victory on the World Cup!



Read full story · Comments { 0 }

TheSkiDiva Holiday Gift Guide ’16-’17

Wait! Did you hear that? Yes — it’s the sound of sleigh bells in the distance. And each day they’re getting closer. Which means it’s time to post the annual TheSkiDiva Holiday Gift Guide, filled with lots of great things you might want to ask Santa to bring down your chimney or the chimney of someone you love. So without further ado, here are some great gift ideas for this year:

Ski Art Prints

breckenridge-colorado-backcountry-skiers-57debdb21-600x477arapahoe-basin-art-print-57debda61-600x477

What skier wouldn’t want to decorate her home with unique ski art prints from WildBlueDream.com. Available prints feature a broad range of ski areas in a variety of designs and colors, all printed on high quality, heavy-weight paper using archival inks. Some can even be personalized with your family’s name.

 

Vintage Graphic Top

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-4-58-22-pm

This. Is. Adorable. And sure, it shows snow shoeing instead of skiing, but hey, there’s snow, it’s an outdoor winter activity, and it’s amazing. A mid-weight zip neck that’s a blend of a blend of silk, Merino and Lycra. From Titlenine.com.

 

Cold Weather Cell Phone Survival Kit

pastedgraphic-1

If you’ve ever had your phone run out of juice on the mountain, you’ll know why I love this. The Cold Weather Mobile Phone Survival Kit by Therma-Phone keeps your phone working under extreme temperature conditions. It actually acts like a flexible stainless steel thermos, retaining heat when it’s cold and reflecting heat when it’s hot. *Here’s an extra bonus: Therma-Phone has provided a special discount for members of TheSkiDiva: $11.95 off plus free shipping. Use coupon code skidiva2016, and the discount will show up after you place your order.

 

Ski Wine Glass Charms

charms

These are cute and inexpensive: charms you can put on the stem of a wine glass to identify whose glass is whose. Let’s see, are you difficult, average, or easy? Or do you need help? Available at TheConvertibleGirlShop on etsy.

 

Boot Glove

bootglove

A long time favorite of the members of TheSkiDiva.com, Dry Guy’s Boot Glove provides an extra layer of insulation over your boots to keep your feet warm. I’ve been a user for years. Highly recommend.

 

Ski Diva Sweater Fleece

sdsweater

Show the world you’re a Ski Diva with this full zip sweater fleece. I have this exact garment and wear it all the time over a lighter layer and under a jacket. A great layering piece that’s comfortable, stylish, and warm. Go here to order.

 

Sorel Joan of Arctic Winter Boot

boot

For anyone who’s a fan of warm feet, Sorel’s Joan of Arctic boots are the bomb! Featuring waterproof, full-grain leather and suede upper, super-soft faux fur around the cuff with a removable, recycled felt inner boot to ensure that feet stay warm, dry and comfortable.

 

Razor Carbon Pro Ski Poles

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-10-27-43-am

Anyone who skis the backcountry deserves these poles. If you fall or get caught in a slide, normal pole straps can anchor you facedown in the snow. These poles feature breakaway straps that give you power when you need it and keep you safe when things go awry. The adjustable flick locks and low swing weight are bonuses. From Black Diamond.

 

Ski Poster Puzzle

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-1-42-42-pm

In a digital age, it can be hard to remember how much fun it is to spend a happy evening working on a puzzle. Here’s one the whole family will enjoy: White Mountain Puzzles Ski Posters Puzzle, featuring vintage posters of North American and European ski areas. Which ones have you skied?

 

Adventure Weekender Bag

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-11-03-37-am

The perfect bag for a weekend getaway with the girls, the Adventure Weekender Bag from Neve Designs features limited edition artwork inspired by vintage ski posters. Fully lined and made with canvas construction, the bag is finished with leather handles, and has a removable leather shoulder strap.

 

Beartooth Device

beartooth-radio-device2

I’m giving a qualified recommendation for this, since it’s very, very new. Still, it looks so cool that I couldn’t resist including it here. The Beartooth Device is great for when you’re on the hill and don’t have cell service or internet — because it doesn’t require either. What it does is convert your Smartphone into a two-way radio, so you can communicate with other Beartooth users by either voice or text, up to ten miles away. It can also serve as a back-up battery for your cell phone.

 

 

Ski Diva Mystery Books

DBPBCover   FTW Cover copy

Shameless self-promotion alert: Both of these are by me. First published by Minotaur Books in 2010 and 2011 respectively, Double Black and Fade to White are fun mysteries for skiers and non-skiers alike.

Here’s a description of Double Black:

In DOUBLE BLACK, Boston’s twenty-something Stacey Curtis ditches her cheating fiance and heads for a Vermont ski town. She’s looking for the life she’s always dreamed about, but she stumbles instead into financial intrigue, bitter family warfare, and murder. Populated with quirky characters, loaded with New England atmosphere, and starring a young woman with nerve, spunk, and a sense of humor about it all, DOUBLE BLACK is an exciting run down some treacherous mountain trails.

And here’s Fade to White:

Hollywood has-been Harper Stone arrives in Stacey’s little Vermont town to shoot a mouthwash commercial, and he’s anything but happy about the downward spiral his career has taken. When the ornery actor turns up dead a few days later—and the last person to see him alive turns out to be Brian Russell, Stacey’s jealous ex-fiancé—things start getting complicated. 

You can get the softcovers and e-book at Amazon.comB&N.comKobo.comiBooks, and of course, at wendyclinch.com.

If you’d prefer a personally signed hardcover, you can get that at wendyclinch.com, too.

 

 



Read full story · Comments { 0 }

How a Community Saved a Small Ski Area: Mount Ascutney, Vermont

Whenever you drive around ski country, no matter what the state, you can’t help but encounter a defunct ski area or two. This is no surprise. Since the 1980’s, roughly 33% of ski areas in the US have gone out of business, and few have any hope of ever coming back.

Sad, I know. Many of these were smaller, more affordable places that were great for families and beginners. They also provided something larger resorts generally lack: a measure of character and community involvement that goes to the heart of what skiing is all about.

Today I’d like to focus on a ski area that’s had a much happier ending. After opening and closing multiple times, Mount Ascutney, Vermont, has almost literally risen from the ashes (the base lodge burned in 2015) .

Mount Ascutney Trail Map, 1969

Mount Ascutney Trail Map, 1969

In its heyday, Ascutney boasted 1,800 vertical, 57 runs, 5 chairs, and 1 surface lift. But after riding a financial roller coaster for many years, the mountain closed for good in 2010. Its lifts were sold, and it looked like the end for a mountain that had operated, albeit intermittently, for six decades.

In 2015, the mountain was purchased by the local community of West Windsor, VT, and re-opened for skiing in December that same year. Laura Farrell,  Executive Director of Mount Ascutney Outdoors, the non-profit charged with operating the mountain, would be the first to tell you that this was the result of efforts by many, many people.  And she’s right. But as Executive Director, Laura is responsible for overseeing the entire operation. I talked to her recently at the base of the resurrected ski area.

Laura Farrell

Laura Farrell

SD: So Laura, tell me a bit about yourself. When did you start skiing?
LF: I’m 64, and I’ve been skiing since I was two. Honestly, I’ve been in the ski industry almost my entire life. When I was a young adult I became a ski instructor, and then I founded Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sport, a non-profit dedicated to providing recreational opportunities to athletes of any age and any disability. It was incorporated in 1987; back then there was nothing like it anywhere in the Northeast. I was involved in everything from teaching skiing to examining instructors, running clinics, and overseeing a race program. Then I moved on to coaching able-bodied kids, which I did for a number of years.

SD: Things didn’t look promising when Ascutney closed in 2010. What is Mount Ascutney Outdoors, and how’d it come about?
LF: Mount Ascutney Outdoors is a non-profit that’s responsible not only for the future of the mountain, but for creating and developing year round recreational opportunities that are accessible and affordable to everybody — skiing, mountain biking, hiking, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, fat-tire biking. It was formed in 2010, when the chairman of the West Windsor select board brought up the idea of purchasing the mountain after it closed. This is a small community, and we were all hit hard when it went under, so the idea was to revitalize both the mountain and the town. The proposal received almost unanimous approval. Fortunately, we were able to get some help from a national non-profit, the Trust for Public Land. The Trust raised the money for the purchase and then handed the mountain over to us.

SD: So how’d you get involved?
LF: Even though the town bought the mountain, it didn’t want to develop, manage, or finance its recreational opportunities or events. And they didn’t want to increase the town’s tax burden, either. So I was asked to help start the non-profit that would develop, manage, and finance all the activities that go on here.

SD: What’s your role as  Executive Director?
LF: Essentially, I’m something of a jack of all trades. Obviously, right now I have my fingers in everything from fundraising to installing the rope tow, to managing the volunteers, projects, and events, but in reality it’s not just me. There’s an amazing group of people that believe in this project, and we all work together. We have nine board members, and they all have different responsibilities.

Ascutney's rope tow.

Rope tow.

SD: So what’s at Ascutney now?
LF: Let me say first that we’re a complete volunteer organization, so everything we have has been donated or built by volunteers. For example, six of us installed a thousand-foot rope tow. We had some help from an engineer, and of course, it had to be inspected by the state. But we did it all ourselves, and it’s a thing of beauty. I can now put rope tow installer on my resume.

So right now, we have 32 miles of trails that are used for mountain biking, hiking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing. We have the rope tow, which serves three trails that we mow like lawns, so we only need six inches of snow to ski — we don’t have snowmaking because we wanted this to be a sustainable area. You can also skin up the rest of the mountain for backcountry skiing, and that’s a huge portion of the winter activities here. It’s great terrain. We’ve been clearing the old trails up there that haven’t been taken care of for 5 or 6 years. And we have a new warming hut at the base — again, donated and built by volunteers — that can be used year round for all our recreational activities and events and camps.

Once we get enough snow, we’ll be open Wednesdays from noon to 6, Thursdays 4 to 8, Friday 2 to 8, Saturdays 10 to 8, and Sundays 10 to 4. During holidays and vacation weeks, it’s 10 to 4 and on Fridays and Saturdays, 10 to 8. On Thursday nights we’ll have a locals race series under the lights. We’ll also have an informal race program on Friday nights, as well as on Saturday and Sunday. We’ll have courses set up and there’ll be coaches for anyone who wants to come and train. We have lights this year, which is exciting, so people can come out after work. There’s even a grill on the deck of the warming hut so they can cook their dinner.

As I said before, we really want to keep this affordable for anyone who wants to come. This is important. A lot of families can’t afford to get out and ski at the larger, corporate mountains. But we think it’s important to get everyone on the hill. So our rope tow is free to anyone who wants to ride it during our day hours — though we also accept donations — and ten dollars at night.

SD: What are the future plans for the mountain?
LF: The old lodge burned a few years ago but much of it is still standing. But it doesn’t belong to us; it belongs to another property owner. We hope to purchase it so we can tear it down, clean it up, and eventually build a really nice base camp. We’ve been donated a timber frame for just that purpose. We’re also hoping to install a chair lift up to the old mid-station  – the conservation easements only allow us to go up so far. We could also use the lift for mountain biking in the summer, or fat-tire biking in the winter. Needless to say, we’re very excited about the things we have going on here. It’s great to have it back.

New warming hut and old burned-out base lodge.

New warming hut and old burned-out base lodge.

View from the top of the rope tow down.

View from the top of the rope tow down.

Editor’s Note: I was totally charmed by Mount Ascutney and impressed by the hard work, mission, and spirit of  Ascutney Outdoors. The non-profit is funded entirely by donations. and I encourage you to contribute to keep this great community resource going. Click here.

 



Read full story · Comments { 2 }

Women’s Ski Clinics, ’16-’17

If you’re thinking about taking a women’s clinic, you’re in luck; there are plenty to choose from. Over the past few years, more and more resorts have added them to their ski school line up. Why? Well, a lot of women prefer learning in a testosterone-free environment. Women’s clinics focus on building skills and confidence while providing the camaraderie that comes from skiing in a group of women and working with skilled female instructors. Research actually shows that women are more supportive and men more competitive in a learning situation. And this can carry over to the ski hill, too.

Here’s a sample of what some women on TheSkiDiva.com have to say about them:

• I go every year to at least one of the women’s clinics they have at my local resort. They are fun and it’s great to learn some new tips and have a blast skiing with other women. I like them because they are just a supportive group of skiers and each one of us encourages everyone throughout the lesson – something I certainly don’t get in other types of lessons.

• I have taken both co-ed and women only clinics. I prefer the women only because I feel that with other women the atmosphere is supportive and not so competitive. Every time I have been in a co-ed class, there has been one guy who thinks he knows more than the instructor. Then the whole goal of the class changes to be a competition between the two and I get lost. In co-ed classes I have been subjected to feedback from a guy in the class when I prefer to get my feedback from the instructor. The pace in a women only clinic meets my needs too. We stop for bathroom breaks as needed and to get warm if it’s really cold. Other women share what they think I am doing well not what I am doing poorly. They encourage me to take steps outside my comfort zone but do not slam me if I should choose not to take that step. And, I laugh more on the lifts.

• I opted for the women-only because it was the only clinic offered in my area. It turned out to be really fantastic. One of my instructors was very focused on the difference in the center of gravity between men and women, so the main reason I went to the clinic the first time was to hear more on that subject. The best thing about them — I’ve done two — was meeting new ski buddies. I met two wonderful ladies that I’ve stayed in touch with though we haven’t been able to coordinate skiing again yet. There really wasn’t anything I disliked, other than I wished more folks were signed up. I agree with the other posters – there is a relaxed vibe, we have a great time, we can kvetch about skiing at “that time of the month”, etc. Plus the clinic organizer makes the most awesome goodie bags EVER. She sent me one while I was recovering from breast cancer surgery (she is also a survivor) that blew me away. Again, that made-a-new-friend thing…love it.

That said, women’s clinics aren’t a one-size-fits-all answer. Everyone’s learning style is different, and a co-ed clinic might be fine for you. But if you’ve been looking for a women’s clinic, here are some to consider:



Read full story · Comments { 0 }

Here, There & Everywhere: A Review of the ’16/’17 Warren Miller Movie

warrenmiller2016-468x330_page-slider

How do you get your ski stoke going? Do you plan a ski trip? Cruise your local ski shop? Go to a ski show? Sure, these are all good options. But for a lot of people, the best way to get excited about the new season is to see the latest Warren Miller movie. It’s a tradition — after all, there’ve been sixty-seven of them. And though Warren is no longer personally involved — and there are lots of other ski movies around –Miller is still the granddaddy of them all.

Which brings me to this year’s movie, Here, There, & Everywhere, because Warren Miller is in it quite a bit. That’s a change from most of the more recent WME movies. After all, Warren Miller sold the company to his son in 1988, who sold it to Time Warner, who in 2007 sold it to the Bonnier Group, a Swedish-based media conglomerate that also owns a roster of snow-sports magazines. So Warren Miller, personally, has been out of the picture, so to speak, for a long time.

Why is Warren so prominently featured? Does it have anything to do with his new autobiography, Freedom Found? Or is the release of the book tied to coincide with the release of this year’s movie? In a world of marketing tie-ins, this wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

warrenmillerNonetheless, I was happy to see him back. He’s 92, and yeah, he’s led an incredible life and definitely deserves props for his contributions to the world of skiing. Anyhow, the movie starts off with two young skiers — Colin Collins and Tyler Ceccanti, specifically — on a road trip to recapture the early days of Warren Miller’s career. It’s sprinkled with vintage clips of Warren Miller and short present-day interviews with the man, himself.

To me, that’s where the movie really shines. I love the back and forth between the past and the present, the old juxtaposed with the new. This follows through in a segment on Stein Eriksen, who passed away in 2015, and a feature on Turner Mountain, an old school ski resort in Montana.

As for the rest of the movie, well, there’s the obligatory Alaskan heli-skiing trip; there’s a travelogue-type segment on Greenland, which I found fascinating; there’s a piece on fat-tire biking in Crested Butte; and of course, there’s the usual big mountain skiing that makes your jaw hang open (how do they do that?). To me, though, it seemed like the movie hopped around a bit. At first I thought it was going to be mostly back and forth between the past and the present day; you know, like compare and contrast. But many of the segments depart from this entirely. It’s almost like there are two different movies going on. Then again, most people probably don’t care. There’s lots of great skiing, and for them, that’s enough.

So I’m sure you’re wondering: are women skiers represented? A bit. Former Olympian Kaylin Richardson makes some appearances, and lord, she’s amazing. There are also two all-female segments — one in Switzerland with Jess McMillan and Grete Eliassen, with some terrific skiing and gorgeous scenery. And then there’s one in Crested Butte with Wendy Fischer and Ingrid Backstrom. While these women are incredible skiers, much of the segment focuses on them as ski moms. Ingrid was seven months pregnant(!) during the shoot, and Wendy has a couple of very cute kids. Really, I have no problem with this. It was heart warming and fun. But y’know, two all-female segments and one is mostly about motherhood? Really, WME?

All the same, Here, There & Everywhere is a fun way to pass a couple hours and to get your ski stoke going. So if you want to see the movie, here’s a list of where it’ll be and when. Enjoy!

 



Read full story · Comments { 1 }

TheSkiDiva Wins the Harold S. Hirsch Award for Best Ski Blog!

I’m humbled. Really. But excited enough that I hope you don’t mind my bragging a bit:

The North American Snowsports Journalists Association — NASJA — has named TheSkiDiva Blog the Best Ski Blog of 2016!

hirsch-logo-2016-copyYep, I’ve been given the Harold S. Hirsch Award. Hirsch, a ski clothing pioneer and the founder of White Stag, created the award to promote professionalism in winter sports coverage.

Truly, this is a real honor. After all, I’ve been doing this for ten years, and I won’t lie: it’s nice to get a little recognition.

Back in 2006, I started this blog because I had no one to talk to about skiing. None of my friends skied, and my other friends just about rolled their eyes when I started in about my favorite sport. So to save my social life — and my sanity — I thought I’d create a place on the web where I could go on…and on…and on (619 blog posts so far) about anything and everything ski related. Over the years, I’ve tried to cover topics that I thought would be of interest to women who share my passion.  I’ve done gear and resort reviews, interviewed all sorts of ski luminaries — from Suzy Chaffee  to Donna Weinbrecht and Lynsey Dyer to Elyse Saugsted and Crystal Wright, and written how-to’s on everything from surviving the White Ribbon of Death to buying used skis to taking care of your skiwear.  I’ve even kept things going during the off season with pieces on fitness, travel, outdoor activities, nutrition, weather, and more. Want to know what to do when you encounter wildlife on the trail? How to work out in the heat? It’s in the blog. And yeah, there’s been a measure of feminism thrown in too, because I think women skiers should be given the same opportunities and respect as men, and not treated as beginners, ignoramuses, or pretty little ladies who are there simply to decorate the lodge.

Here are some of the nice comments from the judging panel:

Ski Diva isn’t just a blog, it’s a movement and a community platform. The writing is thoughtful and infused with passion, but technically strong. Smooth, easy to read style of writing. Writes with a vigorous personal voice layered with humor, pragmatism and personal connection. Well written travelogue, expressive writing style that enables the reader to feel like they are there with the author.

Truly, I’m flattered. But as in all things, there’s always room for improvement. I mean, even though the blog’s been named best of the year, no one’s perfect. And after so many entries, it’s not always easy to come up with a topic to write about each week.

So I thought I’d open this up to you: Is there something in particular you’d like to see covered? Do you have any suggestions about what I could do to take this blog to a higher plane? And is there anything you really like or dislike about the blog? I’d love to know.

In the meantime, I’ll keep on keeping on. So thanks, NASJA, for the award. And thanks to you, too, for joining me here each week. Stay tuned. There’s lots more to come.

 



Read full story · Comments { 2 }

What’s new in Utah for ’15-’16

utahIf you’re planning to ski Utah this winter, then I’m sure you’ll find this of interest. The coming season brings a number of new improvements to Utah’s resorts. Here are a few of the things you can expect:

Snowbird: After spending $35 million on capital improvements last season, Snowbird has rebuilt its Creekside Lodge. The lodge, in Gad Valley at Snowbird Entry 1, is currently undergoing massive reconstruction to triple the building’s square footage. The larger facility will be the base of operations for all Snowbird Mountain Ski and Snowboard School lessons, eliminating shuttling students from the Tram Plaza and allowing for a lot more time skiing and snowboarding on the mountain. A new 500-foot conveyor lift will help skiers and riders get from the new Creekside Lodge to Snowbird’s Baby Thunder lift at the far western edge of the resort.

Snowbird is also replacing its 40-year old tram cables, and installing a fiber optic line into the cable, as well. The line will boost the resort’s online webcams to high definition and speed up the free Wi-Fi in the resort’s new Summit Lodge atop the tram. Finally, Snowbird is completing the remodel of the Cliff Lodge, its flagship slopeside lodging property, for the 2016-17 season.

Powder Mountain Resort:  Powder Mountain is adding two new lifts accessing Mary’s Bowl and Lefty’s Canyon, both previously accessible only by snowcat. These lifts will expand Powder Mountain’s skiable terrain to 1,000 acres.

Sundance Resort: Sundance is installing a new Arrowhead Lift to replace an aging triple chair on the mountain. The new lift will be a quad with new safety bars and improved loading and unloading areas. It willincrease uphill capacity by over 500 people per hour and assist in decreasing lift lines.

Cherry Peak: In its second year of operation, Cherry Peak is continuing to expand by adding a third lift. The new Summit Lift nearly doubles the mountain’s skiable terrain to over 400 acres. Cherry Peak is also installing lights in this area so it can continue to offer night skiing throughout the resort.

Brian Head: The resort has built a new state-of-the-art 2,000 square foot restaurant kitchen and BBQ pit. The improvement will triple the size of the previous facilities and double Brian Head’s current capacity for serving up brisket, ribs, chicken or pork every Friday and Saturday evening.

Solitude Mountain Resort: Now in its second year owned and operated by Deer Valley, Solitude is rebuilding the Roundhouse restaurant that was destroyed by a fire after the mountain closed last spring. The building’s architecture will closely mimic that of the former structure.

Other news out of Ogden Valley is the official opening of Whisper Ridge Cat Skiing, which starts on December 26. Whisper Ridge operates on over 30,000 acres of private ski and ride terrain east of the Cache Valley hamlet of Paradise, plus on over 12,000 acres of land south of Snowbasin, and uses eight custom PistenBully snowcats for access. Whisper Ridge is offering single to multi-day cat-skiing tours and optional first descent helicopter drops.



Read full story · Comments { 3 }

Focus on a Woman Entrepreneur: Sara Segall of Orsden

Companies in the ski industry that were founded by women are few and far between. Sure, there’s Title Nine and WinterWomen, retailers who specialize in women’s activewear and ski apparel.  There’s Outdoor Divas, which sells both women’s ski apparel and women-specific ski gear. And there’s Coalition Snow, the only ski company that designs and builds skis for women, by women.

The dearth of women entrepreneurs isn’t just limited to the ski industry. It’s prevalent throughout American business. According to the Kauffman Foundation, a foundation that focuses on education and entrepreurship, women tend to start businesses at roughly half the rate of men, particularly during the prime business formation years between the ages of 35 and 44 (I suspect there may be an even greater disparity in the male-dominated ski industry). There are many reasons for this. Kauffman researchers say that women entrepreneurs tend to face more significant obstacles when it comes to starting their own businesses than their male counterparts, even though they bring unique abilities to entrepreneurship, such as a more sophisticated approach to taking risks, not being overconfident, and not putting their employees at risk. 

So what,’ I hear you say. ‘Does the gender of the entrepreneur really make a difference, as long as they provide a decent product?’ Maybe not. But it doesn’t make sense, either economically or socially, to ignore the abilities, talents, and potential of a large segment of our society. What’s more — and maybe this is sexist of me — I think women have a better perspective on what other women want and need. A female-led company offers better control over meeting those needs. And as a woman, I think that’s a meaningful benefit.

sara

Sara Segall

Recently, I received an email from Sara Segall, founder of a small new ski apparel company called Orsden. Since I don’t hear too often about women-initiated start-ups, I thought I’d give her a call to see what it’s like to get a new company off the ground.

SD: So tell me about yourself. How’d you get started?
SS: I began working in politics in DC and discovered it wasn’t my passion, so I ended up going to business school at Columbia. While I was there, I worked at a luxury retail firm and in brand management for Revlon. I knew I wanted to go into retail and start my own venture, but I didn’t know exactly what my product would be. About a year after graduating, I was shopping for a new ski jacket at Stratton, and I couldn’t get over the high prices. It seemed like every jacket I liked — that I thought was flattering and stylish and also high performance — was at least $600, maybe $1,000-plus.  So I thought there was a real opportunity here.

SD: What makes your company different from other ski apparel companies?
SS: I’d seen the direct consumer model work in other places, so I thought I’d try it with Orsden. This is a unique model for the ski industry. We can offer an amazing high performance product at amazing prices by skipping out on the wholesale model and selling directly to the consumer.

I also think our products are a great marriage of style and performance. This isn’t easy to achieve. I had a pretty clear sense of what I wanted our jacket to look like. I didn’t want a women’s version of a men’s jacket — I wanted something that was  sleek, feminine, and tailored to look a little unique while offering the performance skiers want. It was a challenge to develop, but I’m pleased with the result.

SD: So tell me, why do you think there aren’t more women doing the same sort of thing you are in the ski industry? Why aren’t there more women entrepreneurs?
SS: I wonder about this myself. So much of the messaging in the outdoor industry is geared toward men; women are often overlooked. This is a shame, because there’s a huge opportunity here on both parts of the spectrum: women as customers and as entrepreneurs. Women have unique needs and perspectives. A huge reason I went ahead with Orsden is because I couldn’t find a ski jacket I liked, so I hope that a lot of other women take that risk if they have a great idea and try to make something better and design by women for women. I try to show women on the home page of my company’s web site. And our big email announcement of our launch shows a woman, as well. I’m trying to to show that there are women doing awesome, extreme things, just as there are men, and I’m hoping to make that more of a centerpoint of the brand. My husband’s aunt is Gretchen Besser, who’s in the National Ski Patrol Hall of Fame. She’s 87 years old and she still skis. We’re inspired by her example.

 

 

 



Read full story · Comments { 2 }

A Peek at the Women in Snowsports Exhibit at the US Ski Hall of Fame

Plan to be passing through Ishpeming, Michigan, soon?

US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame

US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame

In case you didn’t know, that’s the location of the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. Yeah, I agree; the Upper Peninsula of Michigan seems an unlikely spot to me, too. You’d imagine the Hall of Fame would be someplace like Aspen or Vail. Or even Stowe, Vermont. But once you learn the reason, you can understand why it’s there: Over a century ago, a group of local businessmen and ski enthusiasts founded the National Skiing Association, thus earning the city the distinction of being the birthplace of organized skiing in the US.

The Hall of Fame Museum has been around since 1956, showcasing not only the members of the US Ski Hall of Fame, but memorabilia of particular interest to skiers.

Now it’s home to something else, too: the first-ever exhibit featuring Women in Snowsports.

I wrote about the dearth of women Hall of Famer’s a few months ago (you can read the entire post here). In a nutshell, there aren’t nearly enough. Out of 410 inductees, there are only 60 women. Yes, you read that right. Sixty. That’s 15%.

There are a lot of reasons why, which you can read about in the post. But instead of getting sidetracked, let’s focus on the positive: The exhibit.

One of the primary movers behind it is Jeannie Thoren — yes, she of the famed Thoren Theory, which introduced a revolutionary concept to skiing: Women are not small men, and may actually have different requirements for ski gear. So she’s pretty inspiring. And yes, she’s a  2014 Hall of Fame inductee.

I recently asked Jeannie about the Women in Snowsports exhibit at the museum.

SD: How did this exhibit come about? What was the impetus behind it? 
JT: Women have always been virtually invisible in skiing.  The exhibit is a way to recognize and put a spotlight on women who have achieved at the highest level. Hopefully, it’ll be inspirational to all visitors, but especially to young girls and their mothers.  I want them to start dreaming big.

I was inducted into the Ski Hall of Fame last September. The organization was in the midst of hiring Justin Koski, an Ishpeming native, to take over the position of Executive Director. During the course of the weekend, I told him of my longtime idea to get all the women members gathered in one section of the museum. There are a smaller number of women members, and I wanted to unite them so they’d be a real presence. He was enthusiastic in his support.

My grandparents were born outside of Ishpeming. The first place I ever skied was in Ishpeming. I have been going to the museum, starting with the older location, since I was kid. Later, in the present building, I never miss a chance to stop in and look around. I’m sure my idea was well received because I am a “local” and have known management for as long as I can remember.

Being inducted into the Ski Hall of Fame was my lifetime goal. I started out in Ishpeming, and after traveling all over the world for skiing, I was finally back home. Assembling this Women in Snowsports exhibit is my way of giving back to the skiing community where it all began for me.

SD: So what does the exhibit include?
JT: To get the ball rolling, the items were decided between the outgoing Executive Director, Tom West, the new Executive Director, Justin Koski, and myself. There is also a Display Committee and a Board of Directors, who have final say on what goes in and what isn’t appropriate. I guess in a way I’m the curator from a distance, but all the credit goes to Ann Schroeder, the Ski Hall’s Secretary. She has the task of making sure everything is labeled and documented.

The cornerstone of the exhibit is a mock-up of Jeannie Thoren’s Women Ski Center. This was the first exclusively women’s ski equipment shop anywhere in the world. It lives on today as Outdoor Divas in Lionshead, Vail.

img_0258

On top is the copper sign I had over my Women’s Ski Center in Lionshead at Vail. The black shadow box contains a signed pair of the Dynastar Exclusive Carves. They were named SKI Magazine’s Ski of the Year in 2007, when I was Dynastar’s Women’s Category Manager. Below that is the framed SKI Magazine article outlining the features which made this truly a winning women’s specific ski. And below that is a fun explanation of the Thoren Theory, outlining some of my on-snow experiences doing clinics from Lake Placid to Mt. Bachelor. All this is flanked by my two latest, state-of-the-art skis which are currently on the market [ed. note: these are custom made by SkiLogik]. The Edelweiss, the stiffer of the two, is on the left, and the friendlier Snowflake is on the right.

Next to it is a ski rack with a pair of my Blizzard Women’s Test L skis, and the end result, the first women’s specific ski, Blizzard’s Fame, with documentation on the project.

img_0238

Yes, that’s Jeannie Thoren.

It’s a shared space with existing exhibits that have been there for years and can’t be moved.  There’s a gondola, three lift chairs, a T-bar, and so on.  There’s also a large platform with mannequins dressed for skiing in styles representing the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s.  And there’s also a  large life-sized photo booth of a skier jumping off a cliff; this is Genia Fuller, a 2015 Hall of Fame inductee.  You just put your head in the hole provided to be the skier.

img_7010

SD: Is this now a permanent part of the museum? How often will it be updated?
JT: Yes, it’s permanent and will be updated on an ongoing basis. It will never be done. Right now it’s a diamond in the rough, but we’re making progress. My ongoing job is to contact women in the Hall of Fame to see if they have memorabilia they can send us. I have a couple of women I’m working with at present.

 



Read full story · Comments { 0 }