On Snow Reports: Keeping it Honest at Mad River Glen

How many times have you heard a glowing snow report, only to hustle over to the mountain and find yourself the victim of, well, some generous exaggeration?

What? Ski areas lie? It’s not a shock to anyone that they want to put the best face on things so you’ll buy a lift ticket. But for those of us who have real lives — jobs to take off from, child care to arrange, travel to endure — it can be a costly annoyance.

So imagine how refreshing it was in December — the beginning of one of the east’s worst ski seasons on record — to see this video snow report from Mad River Glen:

Single chair at Mad River Glen. Photo By Jeb Wallace-Brodeur

Single chair at Mad River Glen. Photo By Jeb Wallace-Brodeur

If you don’t know Mad River Glen, you may know its very famous tag line: Ski It If You Can. Mad River is known as an old school Vermont resort without the glitz and glamour you’ll find at other eastern resorts like Killington, Stratton, or Stowe. There are no condos or on-mountain amenities. Just skiing. In fact, Mad River is unique in two ways: It has one of the two operating single chairlifts left in the US (the other is at Mt. Eyak, Alaska), and it’s one of three ski resorts in North America that don’t allow snowboarding (the others are Alta and Deer Valley). What’s more, it’s a fully owned co-op, which means instead of being owned by a large, faceless corporation, it’s owned entirely by shareholders — people like you and me who invest capital toward the ski area’s expenses. Mad River Glen isn’t huge — only 115 acres — but the skiing’s great and it’s got a vibe that’s definitely chill.

So about this snow report: Sure, the news was bad. I mean, look at it! But the telling was so honest, so humorous, so unique in its delivery, that it ended up all over the internet. Which is how I came upon it myself.

I wanted to know more about the backstory here, so I spoke to Eric Friedman, Mad River Glen’s marketing director, for some insight.

SD: So just how was it at Mad River this year?
EF: To put it mildly, it wasn’t our best year. We had a total of about 120 inches of snow, which is about half our average. We budget for being open about 110 days a year, based on 50 years’ worth of data. This year we were open a total of 45 days. And of those, the main mountain was open for just 35; for 10 it was just the practice slope. As you can imagine, our financial numbers were down in corresponding amounts.

SD: Isn’t there any snowmaking?
EF: Mad River has a grand total of four guns, and really, we can’t use more than three at a time. We make snow on less than ten percent of our terrain – all of the low elevation, high traffic areas; basically, just the run-outs. Everything else comes from the heavens. People don’t come here for our snowmaking, but it’s important to us, even though it’s limited.

SD: Your snow reports made quite a splash, particularly the one in December. Can you tell me about it?
EF: Sure. The whole idea behind all of our snow reports is immediacy — I want to show people what it’s like here right now. So about this particular report: It was a Saturday, and I wasn’t planning to come to work at all. I was bringing my girlfriend’s daughter to the mountain for junior instructor training. I pulled into the parking lot, and decided to walk over to my office to get something. And that’s when I saw it: this little patch of snow with 40 people doing laps. It was our ski school in training. It was so funny that I decided to do a snow report right then. The majority of people who saw the video thought it was staged, but really, it wasn’t. I did the whole thing in one take, completely off the top of my head. I honestly didn’t think that much of it, but when I posted it, it went nuts.

SD: It was funny and sad and entertaining, but mostly, it was refreshing in its honesty. I think that’s why it connected with so many people.
EF: Well, one of the things about Mad River is that it’s a different kind of a place. It all starts with the fact that we’re owned by the skiers. So we have a little different take on things.

SD: Did you get any blowback from your boss?
A: Actually, no. We have a good relationship and he trusts me to do my job. I’m also one of the few marketing directors that do the snow report themselves. Most ski areas have a staff of snow reporters, but at Mad River, I’m it. And I never lie; if it’s raining, I say it’s raining.  I’ve been here twenty years, and very early on I took the attitude that I was going to have the most honest snow report in the business. I took a longer view of the relationship with our skiers than many other places do. I’m not going to give a snow report to try to sell you a lift ticket today. I’m trying to develop a relationship of trust with our customers and shareholders. I never exaggerate our snowfall totals, so very often it looks like we have less snow than any other area in the state. I’m not under pressure to inflate it like some areas are. Actually, the biggest criticism I get from our shareholders is that I undersell too much and that it’s better than I said in the report. But really, you’re not doing anyone any favors by lying.

SD: Have you been surprised by all the attention you’ve been getting?
EF: Absolutely. I couldn’t believe it. As a marketing professional, it reinforced how interconnected social media is and how they feed off one another. The amount of PR we got from that video was incredible.

SD: By doing that report, you set a pretty high bar for yourself. You did some others, too. I know you did one after the mountain closed for the season that was pretty funny, too. Was that off the cuff, as well?
EF: Yes. It was totally unscripted. Folks just want to know what’s going on up on their mountain,  so whenever anything interesting — or not so interesting — happens here I try to show it. I do mountain reports all summer long.

SD: Let’s take a look at that one, too.

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There’s a little bit of black humor there, but truly, I can appreciate the honesty behind it. I wish more ski areas would follow Mad River’s lead.

Mad River glenMad River ended its ski season on March 14, more than a month earlier than 2015, with a poignant letter to its shareholders. In it, Mad River Glen’s president, Jamey Wimble, told members that its seasonal staff had been laid off earlier this season and full-time workers would be taking unpaid furloughs in the offseason. “The mountain finds itself in the most challenging financial situation it has seen since the founding of the Co-op in 1995,” the memo stated. “Other regional ski areas are experiencing similar or even worse financial challenges.” The marquee outside the resort reflected its surrender to the dismal weather.

There’s a lot to be said for the honesty exhibited by Mad River Glen. Given the great response they’ve received, other resorts would do well to take a page out of their book.

Here’s hoping for a better season next year for Mad River Glen and all the eastern ski resorts.

 

 



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10+ Tips for Taking Care of Your Skiwear.

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We Ski Divas love our ski clothes. In fact, TheSkiDiva forum has an entire thread on jackets we’ve loved and bought (over 100 pages long!), and one on ski pants, too. But ski clothing is meant to be played in, and that means it can get pretty dirty. Stains, dirt, sweat — they all find their way into the fabric and definitely need to be removed.

I know: a blog post about laundry? But really, this is important. No one wants to smell your body odor. Not even you.

Luckily, one of our forum members is Penny Schwyn, a technical clothing expert. The owner of Specialty Outdoors  in Spokane, Washington, Penny has been working with outdoor apparel since the 1980’s, and is factory authorized to repair items from The North Face™, Helly Hansen™  and TREW Gear™.  She gave us some tips for taking care of your ski clothes:

• I run into people all the time who think washing will damage their outerwear. Honestly, you get more damage with a build-up of grime, body oil, sweat, dirt, and all the other stuff that accumulates through use. Ever seen a 15 year old parka that’s never been washed? Ewwwww. No matter what, the DWR (Durable Water Repellency) is going to wear off over time; it depends more on environmental factors than laundering. In fact, not washing regularly will cause something called “masking”, which causes it not to perform properly.

• Wetting out (surface fabric soaking through in rain) is a sure sign that your DWR needs to be reapplied. Putting jackets in the dryer at a moderate temp will help reactivate the DWR, though it does need to be reapplied every so often, no matter what the brand or how much you paid. You can also reactive the DWR by touching up the garment with an iron.

• Washing your shell is a multi-step process. You have to clean it first and then retreat the surface with a DWR application. Start by checking the manufacturer’s tag for any special instructions. To get your garment really clean, pretreat any grimy areas, wash it with a regular liquid detergent, and then rinse it THREE times before using G-wash or Tech-Wash. G-Wash and Tech Wash are vehicles for getting the DWR to adhere to your item, more than an actual cleaning product. This is why it’s suggested to wash it in regular detergent first, rinse extremely well, then use the G-Wash, followed up with DWR application according to the directions.

• Do not use fabric softener on wicking or technical fabrics. It coats the fibers and reduces their action.

• A too-hot dryer can cause all sorts of problems from delamination of the face membrane or seam tape, to actually melting zippers.

Woolite is too harsh for sweaters and similar items; it has added chemicals to make them feel “conditioned.” Baby shampoo does the same thing and is a lot cheaper.

• According to Gore-Tex, you can use Shout and other products on grease and grime. I’ve also used a mild Simple Green solution, but your results may vary. If you’ve got a white coat with grease on it, don’t expect perfection. The best way to prevent nasty grime at the collar and cuffs is with regular launderings. We do our coats twice a season, and I re-treat them in the spring before I put them away.

• For garments insulated with down, declumping as you dry is critical. People send me things to repair that have damp clumps in them. I know it’s tedious, but it’s very important. Dry your down items on an extremely low or air setting, adding tennis balls to break up clumps. You may also need to do some manual declumping.

• Dry cleaning is not recommended for outdoor gear, but if you must dry clean, ask for a clear rinse.

• People complain their Gore-Tex items leak in the rain. This probably isn’t the case. More likely, condensation is building up on the inside. Gore-Tex and similar fabrics are designed to work in cold, drier conditions; not wet humid ones. Those billions of microscopic pores can only move so much vapor. If it’s really wet out, or if you’re perspiring heavily, you are overtaxing the ability of the fabric to function and you will be wet. Gore-Tex and similar garments do have a finite lifetime. The lifetime warranty you get from a manufacturer is product lifetime, not your lifetime. With good care, you should get many years of use out of your investment.

Thanks for the great advice, Penny!

And now, for the million dollar question: how do you remove chair grease from your jacket or pants? I got the following procedure from the kind folks at Okemo Mountain Resort (thanks, Okemo!), and have used it with considerable success.

1. Spray each stain with WD-40 and let set for half an hour or more.
2. Put a small amount of Joy dish soap on each stain and scrub it in with a toothbrush.
3. As the stain begins to release, blot off with paper towels.
4. Continue until the stains are no longer visible.
5. If the stains are still visible, do steps 1 – 4 again.
6. Wash off the affected areas with cold water in the sink.
7. Wash the item according to its instructions.
8. If the stain is still visible, do not put it in the dryer. Instead, begin the process again.
9. When the stain is out, apply a DWR treatment and head for the slopes.

 



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It’s your week to get healthy, Divas!

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Let me be the first to wish you a very happy National Women’s Health Week!

What? You’ve never heard of it?

I’m shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

Well, maybe not. Don’t let my feigned indignation fool you. I mean, it’s not like it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas, or even President’s Day. I’m not surprised I caught you unaware.

But maybe that’s a mistake. After all, we should all know — and celebrate — a week that’s devoted especially to women’s health. As women, we have a tendency to put everyone else first. We take care of our kids, our spouses, our pets, our parents, our homes, often neglecting our own needs in the process. And that’s the problem. If we’re not healthy and happy, we can’t do anything particularly well (and this includes skiing).  It’s all a matter of balance. By putting ourselves first, we actually give ourselves the ability and strength to take care of others better and do the things we want to do. It’s not being selfish. It’s being smart.

Which brings us to National Women’s Health Week.  The week was developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health to promote women’s health and its importance, and to  empower women to make their own health a priority. It also encourages women to take the following steps to improve their physical and mental health and lower their risks of certain diseases:

  • Visit a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings. There’s a terrific interactive screening menu on the National Women’s Health Week website. You can use it to figure out which screenings you need and when you them.  For someone like me, who can find all this very confusing, it’s defintely worth checking out.
  • Get active. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 20 percent of adults in the U.S. are meeting both the aerobic and muscle strengthening components of the federal government’s physical activity recommendations. So how much exercise is enough? I did a blog post about this once. You can check it out here.
  • Eat healthy. This is a key component not just in keeping  your weight under control, but in preventing disease, keeping your energy up, and making you feel all around better. You know the drill: reduce your fat, sugar, and processed foods, eat more veggies, fruit, and whole grains.
  • Pay attention to mental health,  including getting enough sleep and managing stress.
  • Avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, not wearing a seatbelt or bicycle or ski helmet, and texting while driving. This includes skiing safely, too. Watch out for skiers around you. Look uphill before you start. Ski in control. And if you ski in the backcountry, take the necessary precautions and get avalanche training.

So do yourself a favor. Take some time this week to think about what you can do to improve your health and well being. And instead of setting it aside for later, take action now.

And have a good week.



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Here’s to the Ski Moms!

I don’t need to remind you that Mother’s Day is Sunday, do I? Of course I don’t; you’ve already ordered flowers and made your dinner reservation, right?

mothers-dayRemembering our moms is important. They give us life, bring us up, and then bravely, inevitably, let us go. But this Mother’s Day, let’s give a special shout-out to the Ski Moms. After all, it’s the Ski Moms who make sure everyone has the hats, goggles, ski pants, boots, etc. they need on the slopes. Who dress and undress the kids. Assemble the lunches. Haul the equipment. Harbor a secret stash of tissues/sun block/chap stick/energy bars for that unavoidable emergency. Accomodate multiple bathroom breaks and all the dressing and undressing that goes with them. Provide encouraging words after a fall. Drive to and from the mountain. Attend ski races. Wipe noses. Wipe tears. Administer first aid. Put on and remove boots/jackets/gloves/helmets. Make sure nothing gets left behind. Arrange ski lessons. Make sure the kids wear helmets.

For all you do, ski moms, for all your unwavering love, devotion, and support — we salute you!

And to my own mom, who doesn’t ski and never did, here’s to you, too. Thanks for supporting my skiing when I was a kid, and for continuing to support it — without ever asking ‘why’ — now that I’m an adult.

Here I am with my mom, and hey! I'm not in ski clothes!

Here I am with my mom, and hey! I’m not in ski clothes!

Happy Mother’s Day! (And if you hurry, there’s still time to get her a gift.)



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Putting ’em to Bed, or Getting Your Skis Ready for the Off Season.

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Good night, my pets.

I hate the end of ski season. You know how some people get depressed when winter rolls around? I think it’s called “Seasonal Affective Disorder.” I have that in reverse. Sure, I love the sun. And I actually enjoy warm weather. But I mourn the loss of ski days, and the end of winter leaves me feeling a bit blue.

This year, it’s a little different. I’m actually not that sorry to see it go (gasp!). Sure, I’ve had some great times. I spent two weeks out west, which was pretty fantastic; even now, some areas are still going strong. But here in the east, we’ve had one of the worst seasons in years. Yeah, there were some fine days. But I’m hoping ’16/’17 is better.

Nonetheless, ski equipment ain’t cheap, so it’s important to take care of it so it’s in good shape when the season rolls around again. Which (cheer up, everyone) it inevitably will.

So here’s what you need to do to before you put your skis to bed:

1) Clean off the bases and top sheets. This is particularly important if you’ve been skiing in dirty spring conditions. You can do this by spraying them with a garden hose outdoors. Once they’re thoroughly doused, rub them dry with a clean cloth and let them air dry.

2) Coat the bases with wax to protect them from air and moisture. Moisture can lead to rust, and exposure to air can dry out the bases. If you’re going to do this yourself, use at least twice as much wax as you do when you normally wax your skis. Don’t scrape at all. The idea is to leave it there all summer.

3) Put a protectant on the edges to keep them from rusting. A dab of oil, vaseline, or even WD-40 on a rag (don’t spray it on) can do the trick.

4) Some people say you should turn down the DIN on your bindings to ease the tension on the springs. Others say it doesn’t matter. I’ve never turned mine down and haven’t had a problem yet. So it’s up to you. If you do adjust them, however, don’t forget to set them back before heading out next season.

5) Secure your skis with a strap base to base and store them in a cool, dry environment, away from sunlight. This means keeping them off a concrete floor, which can hold moisture and cause the edges to rust.

6) Don’t forget your boots. Clean the outsides, then remove the liners and make sure they’re completely dry. Remember, plastic has a memory, so buckle your boots loosely so they retain their shape.

7) Go through the pockets of your ski jackets. Not just to make sure you remove that half eaten PB&J, but you might find some forgotten treasure. Last year I hit the jackpot: $104., split between five jackets. Woo hoo! I’m rich!

Of course, if you want to give your skis a hug or a kiss, or even tell them a bed time story, well, that’s up to you. I understand the impulse, though.

Whatever you decide, just remember: Take care of your equipment and it’ll take care of you.



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Why aren’t there more women in the US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame?

Little over a week ago, the Class of 2015 was inducted into the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. As always, it’s an impressive group with an amazing list of achievements  (for the full list, go here). A big Ski Diva congratulations to all.

US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, Class of 2015 Left to right: Lessing Stern, son of honoree Edgar Stern*, Genia Fuller Crews, Henry Kaiser, Chris Klug, Bob Salerno, Jim Martinson, David Ingemie *Edgar Stern passed away October 12, 2008 Photo courtesy of the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame

US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, Class of 2015
Left to right: Lessing Stern, son of honoree Edgar Stern*, Genia Fuller Crews, Henry Kaiser,
Chris Klug, Bob Salerno, Jim Martinson, David Ingemie
*Edgar Stern passed away October 12, 2008
Photo courtesy of the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame

I was especially excited about the inclusion of Genia Fuller, a true pioneer in freestyle skiing and a three-time World Freestyle Skiing Champion. But then I realized something: out of the seven new inductees, she was the only woman to receive this honor. So it made me wonder: how many members of the Hall of Fame are female?

The results may surprise you: out of four hundred and ten inductees, there are only sixty women. Yes, you read that right. Sixty. That’s 15%.

I was surprised, too. I mean, what’s going on here? Why so few?

US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame

US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame

First, some background.

Established in 1956, the Hall of Fame is dedicated to preserving and promoting America’s ski heritage through the permanent recognition of nationally outstanding skiers, snowboarders, and ski sport builders. It’s headquartered in the City of Ishpeming on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where the National Skiing Association was first organized over a century ago, and features a museum with displays on the Hall of Fame honorees, trophies, clothing, and equipment. There’s a gift shop, too, as well as a library and theater. Admission is free, and visitors are welcome 10AM to 5PM, Monday thru Saturday year-round.

So how are Hall of Fame members selected?

First, they need to be nominated. And this can be done by anyone. That’s right — you, me, your mom, your sister, anyone. All you have to do is visit the Hall of Fame website and download the nomination form. Nominees are taken in one of three categories: Athletes, which is pretty self explanatory; Snowsport Builders, who are people who have made significant contributions to skiing or snowboarding and who aren’t athletes; and Heritage, which can be athletes or snowsport builders who have been retired from their qualifying activity for 25 years or have participated in it for at least 25 years. You can find the eligibility requirements here.

Once the nominees are in, they’re vetted by a selection committee, which reviews the candidates and determines the final slate via secret ballot. This is then submitted to a national voting panel made up of members of the selection committee, honored members, members of the USSA Awards Working Group, and directors of the US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame and the US Ski and Snowboard Association. The chairman and the board of directors may also appoint a reasonable number of individuals to the national voting panel, including those having distinguished careers in snowsports and holding expert knowledge in snowsports history. Honorees are announced in October, and the induction ceremony held the following April.

Which brings me back to my original question: why so few women?

Is it part of some sinister plot? Is it evidence of blatant sexism? Well, there may be a few things at play here. Consider the following:

First, history. The snowsports industry has long been dominated by men. This is changing (albeit slowly), but years ago, things were very, very different. The individuals involved in building the resorts or developing products or technologies were almost exclusively male. That means there’s a larger pool of men to draw from, which tips the scales in favor of male inductees, particularly in the Heritage and Sport Building categories. The result is more men in the Hall.

Second, the nomination process. As I said earlier, anyone can submit a nomination. So to get more women honorees, more women have to be put up for a vote. And that’s where all of us come in. Nominations for next year are being taken right now through the end of April, so if you like, you can be have a hand in selecting the Class of 2016. Please, get involved, and we can change this. It’s up to us.

BTW, the Hall of Fame Museum is working on a Women in Skiing Exhibit, which will focus on the female honorees and their achievements. Spearheaded by honoree Jeannie Thoren, the exhibit is slated to open in September, 2016. Here she is at the entry to the exhibit with her husband, Thomas Haas.

Photo courtesy of Jeannie Thoren.

Photo courtesy of Jeannie Thoren.

Want some inspiration? I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing several female Hall of Fame honorees for this blog: Muffy Davis, Donna WeinbrechtSuzy Chaffee, and Deb Armstrong. Interesting reading, so be sure to check them out!

 

 

 

 



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A Ski Diva’s Guide to the Solar System

It’s sad but true: climate change is real, and it’s going to mean big problems for us skiers. So even though our skiing right now is limited to Earth, someday we may be forced to look elsewhere. Luckily, we live in a solar system with 8 other planets and a multitude of moons and asteroids. And who knows — one day these could end up as primo ski destinations.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a handy guide to help us Ski Divas know what to expect. Some of this is from Popular Science, some from Wikipedia, and some from NASA, itself. And while I don’t think we’ll be doing this any time soon, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared:

 

Imagine skiing a mountain that’s nearly three times higher than Everest! That’s Olympus Mons, the tallest planetary mountain in the solar system. Located on Mars, Olympus Mons stands  at 21.9 km, or 13.6 miles. In addition to being tall, it is also very wide (340 miles or 550 kilometers) and covers an area larger than the entire chain of Hawaiian islands.

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Tune up your ice skis! Yes, there is ice on Mars. The planet has northern and southern polar ice caps that grow and shrink depending on the season. During the winter, the poles get absolutely no sun, and the resulting drop in temperature freezes both water into ice and carbon dioxide into dry ice.2

Mars Polar Ice Cap.  Photo from NASA

Mars Polar Ice Cap.
Photo from NASA

Moon

Enceladus

 

Saturn’s sixth largest moon, Enceladus, may be the ideal place for hitting the interplanetary slopes. Covered in miles of ice, Enceladus is home to numerous geysers, which jettison ice particles into the air above the moon’s surface. The result is something like snowfall as the ice particles fall back to the ground, coating Enceladus in extremely fine ice crystals. Paul Schenk of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston notes the “snow” would provide great skiing conditions. However, there’s not enough on the surface yet. Give it a couple tens of millions of years or so, and the slopes will be piled high. The other problem? The temperature is -330 degrees Fahrenheit. 2

 

Remember to pack your warmest layers. The largest of Neptune’s 13 moons, Triton, is one of the coldest objects in our solar system. Also home to ice volcanoes, the moon’s surface belches out a mixture of liquid nitrogen, methane, and dust, all of which freeze immediately in the air. The flakes then snow back down to Triton’s surface, which mostly consists of frozen nitrogen. An almost non-existent atmosphere doesn’t help to curb the freezing temperatures (-391 degrees Fahrenheit). 2

 

Seasons on other planets are extremely different from the traditional spring, summer, fall and winter here on Earth. Although they generally have to do with orbital variations and axial tilt, weather variations are typically more pronounced for those planets closer to the Sun. With an axial tilt of only 3 degrees, for example, Jupiter and Venus have literally no difference between the seasons. However, Jupiter’s distance from the sun cause its seasons to change more slowly. The length of each season is roughly three years. And seasons on Neptune can last for 40 years! Talk about endless winter!  

 

If you decide to take a ski trip to Mars, better be prepared to be gone a while. According to NASA, a vessel carrying humans would take roughly six months to travel to Mars and another six months to come back. In addition, you’d have to stay 18-20 months on Mars before the planets re-align for a return trip. In all, the mission would take roughly 2 1/2 years.3

So anyone packing their bags?

References:

1. Wikipedia
2. Popular Science
3. Infoplease

 

 



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Good Riddance to a Dismal Season* (*in the east).

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Photo: Mad River Glen

Yep, the sign on the left at Mad River Glen pretty much sums it up. Mother Nature, you’ve brought us to our knees. We surrender. I personally give up. My ski season is over.

I know, a First World problem, right? Boo hoo — instead of skiing 88 days like I did last year, I only clocked 53.

Yes, I’m whining. But here in the East, the worst ski season in years has had terrible repercussions, not just for skiers, but for the resorts and businesses that depend on them for income. Peak Resorts, for example, which owns 14 eastern resorts, reported revenue down 16 percent from the same quarter last year. Overall visits to Peak properties dropped 23 percent compared to the same quarter in 2015.  And they’re by no means alone.

Call it what you want — The Year of No Winter,  The Winter That Never Was — I’ll just call it dreadful. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, all six New England states set records for warmth, a marked reversal from last winter, one of New England’s harshest. You can read more details in this article in the Washington Post.

In Vermont, the season started bad and never got better. Christmas Day saw temperatures climb into the 70’s. The Nor’easters that typically bring blockbuster storms never materialized. We were plagued with freeze/thaw cycles. And we got far too much rain.

The results speak for themselves. Sugarbush, for example, got roughly half the snow they typically get during an average winter. And as of March 31, Jay Peak was at 55% of normal snowfall and is likely to have the lowest snowfall season in its 35 years of data. Even worse, some smaller ski areas never even managed to open.

For the larger areas, it was all about the snowmaking. Without it, I don’t think we’d have had any ski season at all (for my post about how the snowmakers at Stowe handled the season, go here). To the snowmakers out there, two ski poles up. Thanks for all your efforts. You truly are miracle workers.

Yes, I know. The ski areas in the West have had a banner season. Reports are coming in left and right of resorts that are extending their ski season. And I’m glad for it. Last year was a bad one out there, so yes, they deserve it. Still, I get heartache watching the photos of major dumpage parade by on my Facebook feed.

In the East, though, many ski resorts have wrapped up the season early. Ski shops, loaded with unsold merchandise and struggling to stay afloat, are having blowout sales. And me, I’ve put my skis to bed. If I could manage another trip out west, I would. But since that isn’t going to happen, it’ll probably be seven long months before I ski again.

Goodbye, winter. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out. Here’s to a better ’16/’17.

 



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Why We Love Spring Skiing.

So it’s officially spring: the delicious dessert to the ski season entree. Many skiers think spring skiing is the best, and there are loads of reasons why:

1) The sun:  If you’re having trouble identifying that bright thing in the sky, it’s only because you haven’t seen it for a while. Spring means the sun is higher, the days are longer, and the temps are warmer. And though it’s great to ski on a bluebird day, it’s important to remember that the sun’s rays are stronger this time of year, especially when they reflect off the snow. So don’t forget the sunscreen!

Skiing in the sun.  Photo from StratosphereNetworking.com

Skiing in the sun.
Photo from StratosphereNetworking.com

 

2) Softer snow: Warm temps produce hero snow, the soft snow that makes everyone carve like a champ. If the temps are freezing overnight, you might want to wait a bit til it softens up. Trust me, though, it’s worth it.

Skiing in soft snow. Photo from Okemo Mountain Resort

Skiing in soft snow.
Photo from Okemo Mountain Resort

 

3) Softer bumps: I love bump skiing, but I hate it when the bumps are the rock hard ice bombs we usually have in the east. Now’s when the bumps get nice and soft, so they’re much easier to ski. If you feel the same, then spring is for you.

Soft, spring bumps are the best!

Soft, spring bumps are the best!

 

4) Lighter, less restrictive clothing: I get cold easily, so I tend to pack on the clothing during the winter.  Yeah, it keeps me warm, but sometimes I feel like an overstuffed sausage. In the spring, I can get away with a shell and a light layer. It’s a lot more comfortable and it makes moving much, much easier.

springskiing

photo from Ski Utah

 

5) Smaller crowds: Strange but true: people tend to give up on skiing once the snow disappears from their own backyards. So take advantage of all the people who are staying home and enjoy emptier slopes and no lift lines.

 

6) Great deals: You know those skis you lusted after all winter? And the jacket you thought was just too expensive? Now’s the time to buy. Ski shops and retailers typically drop their prices in the spring to offload this year’s stuff before next year’s comes in. Season pass deals are usually cheaper in the spring, too, so get yours now.

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7) It’s time to par-tay! Spring means tailgating in the parking lot, picnics on the ridge line, and pond skimming at the base. There are loads of spring festivals at ski areas everywhere, so don’t miss out!

Photo from ExploreSteamboat.com

Photo from ExploreSteamboat.com

 

Partying at A-Basin! Photo from FriscoLodge.com

Partying at A-Basin!
Photo from FriscoLodge.com

What do you love most about spring skiing?

 

 

 



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Gear Review: Dragon X1S Transition Lenses

You can go dizzy from all goggle choices out there. Not only are there dozens of manufacturers to choose from, but there are a whole slew of variables to take into account: Do you want flat or spherical? What color lens? How do they fit on your face? With your helmet? Do they fog? What about optical clarity? Peripheral vision? And how do they look on you? (Because, as we all know, that’s what it’s all about. *kidding alert*)

For me, though, simpler is better. I don’t even want to think about my goggles, once they’re on my face. Heck, I don’t even want to think about them before I put them on. So I want a goggle that’s, as they say, grab-and-go. One that’s easy-peasy, fits well, and doesn’t cause me any grief.

For the past few years I’ve been a devoted Smith IO/S goggle wearer. I actually liked them quite a bit; they fit well with my Smith helmet, don’t fog, and have a cool strap that looks great with my helmet and jacket. And frankly, the lens swapping system is pretty simple. It’s head and shoulders above the old system where you had to line up the lens and insert it into a pretty unyielding frame. Granted, it takes a bit of getting used to. But with some practice, it’s actually pretty easy to deal with.

My Smith IO/S goggles.

My Smith IO/S goggles.

Then I got a new Giro helmet and suddenly, my goggles weren’t that great anymore. They just didn’t fit the way I wanted them to. Plus even the easy lens changing system was becoming a bit of a drag. I mean, sometimes a sunny day can turn into a flat light day in a matter of hours. And if you have the wrong lens in place, you’re stuck.

One of the members on TheSkiDiva community mentioned how she loved her Dragon X1S Transition goggles, so I was intrigued.  These are supposed to change to accommodate varying light conditions. That’s right: the company claims they automatically darken in bright sunlight and lighten in cloudy or snowy conditions. According to Dragon’s website, the darkness of the lens tint will vary between 76% and 16% Visible Light Transmission (VLT). A high percentage rate signifies a lighter lens tint, which allows more natural light into the lens in overcast, shaded or low-light conditions. A lower percent signifies a darker lens tint, and is typically best for glare control in sunny conditions.

Photochromatic lenses are nothing new. But in my experience, the lenses just didn’t seem to offer enough of a change to make them that effective. Would these do the trick?

Dragon X1S goggle

Dragon X1S goggle

I had the opportunity to try the Dragon X1S Transitions at the on-snow industry demo days at Stratton in February, and liked them a lot — so much so that I ended up buying a pair. And yes, I have to say that I agree with my fellow forum member: the goggles work as advertised. The first day was sunny and bright, the next day less so, and they really performed. What’s more, I found the clarity of the lens first rate. Peripheral vision was good, too, and I didn’t have any fogging problems. Even better: they work well with my Giro helmet, and they don’t pinch around my nose, which the IO/S always did. The silicone-backed strap is also heftier and more non-slip than the one on the IO/S. A downside: the strap isn’t as graphically pleasing as my old one. But then again, it can go with a lot of things quite easily. So maybe that’s a plus, after all.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

I’ve used these now for a month or so, and I have to say I’m still quite pleased. They’re comfortable, easy to deal with, and I don’t even have to think about them at all. Which to me is a major plus. What’s more, they’re great with the flat light we have here in New England, as well as the bluebird days you’ll find out west. And I never, ever, ever have to think about which lens to choose for the day. Which is a pretty liberating experience.

Right now the X1S Transitions are available with a yellow lens, though I think next year they’ll be offering them in a rose lens, too, if that’s your preference. The rep told me the yellow one is better for flat light days, which we get plenty of here in New England.

For more information on the Dragon X1S Transition goggle, go here..



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