Why you need a vacation.


Incredible as it sounds, I’m already planning my ski trips for the coming season; specifically, for next March. I know, there are months between now and then, but I’m still excited. I have a lot of cool stuff coming up, and it’s looking like a great winter.

Seems like I may be unusual. New research suggests that 56 percent of Americans haven’t taken a vacation in the past 12 months. That’s 10 million more people than the year before. In fact, the US is the only advanced nation that doesn’t mandate time off. By law, European countries get at least 20 days of paid vacation per year; some receive as many as 30. Australia and New Zealand each require employers to give at least 20 vacation days per year, and Canada and Japan mandate at least 10 paid days off. What’s more, Americans are taking the least amount of vacation in nearly four decades. And some 25 percent of Americans and 31 percent of low-wage earners get no vacation at all, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Pretty crazy, don’t you think?

People don’t take vacations for all sorts of reasons. Some are afraid of falling behind at work. Some fear losing their jobs. And some risk losing income when they’re not working.

This is really a shame. Vacations are necessary for all sorts of reasons. All of us need a chance to recharge the batteries; to blast out the cobwebs; to remind ourselves of what it means to be human again. And apart from the shower or bed in the middle of the night, some of my best ideas come to me on the ski slope, which is no where near my desk.

There are plenty of health reasons to take vacations, as well: In a study of 13,000 middle-aged men at risk for heart disease, those who skipped vacations for five consecutive years were found to be 30 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who took at least one week off each year. Vacation deprivation may be equally hazardous for women. In the Framingham Heart Study, the largest and longest-running study of cardiovascular disease, researchers found that women who took a vacation once every six years or less were nearly eight times as likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took at least two vacations a year.

Other upsides to downtime, according to Healthnet.com, include the following:

  • Decreased depression – A study conducted by Marshfield Clinic of 1,500 women in rural Wisconsin determined that those who vacationed less often than once every two years were more likely to suffer from depression and increased stress than women who took vacations at least twice a year. Similarly, the University of Pittsburgh’s Mind Body Center surveyed some 1,400 individuals and found that leisure activities – including taking vacations – contributed to higher positive emotional levels and less depression. The benefits of vacationing also extended to lower blood pressure and smaller waistlines.
  • Less stress – A study released last year by the American Psychological Association concluded that vacations work to reduce stress by removing people from activities and environments that tend to be sources of stress. Similarly, a Canadian study of nearly 900 lawyers found that taking vacations helped alleviate job stress.
  • Improved productivity – The professional services firm Ernst & Young conducted an internal study of its employees and found that, for each additional 10 hours of vacation employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved 8 percent, and frequent vacationers also were significantly less likely to leave the firm. Additionally, research by the Boston Consulting Group found that high-level professionals who were required to take time off were significantly more productive overall than those who spent more time working.

So what does all this mean? Maybe you should put vacation right up there with eating healthy, exercise, and getting enough sleep. After all, it’s good for you.



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A Chat with Freeskiing Champion Elyse Saugstad

Elyse Saugstad.

Elyse Saugstad (Photo by Anthony Solis)

In the world of skiing, Elyse Saugstad stands on one of the highest peaks. Winner of the Freeride World Tour in 2008 and recipient of the Best Female Performance Award at the Powder Awards in 2013, she was also named one of the Top 50 Women in Action Sports by ESPN in 2014.

Not too shabby. (There’s more, too. Go here for the full run-down.)

But Elyse has another title that some of you may not know about: Survivor. In 2012, she was in a group caught in an avalanche at Tunnel Creek in Stevens Pass, Washington. Three people died; Elyse survived by deploying an avalanche airbag. Since the group included some of the nation’s top professional skiers, as well as writers and a photographer from POWDER magazine, the avalanche received a lot of media attention. There’s a terrific interactive article about the whole thing in the New York Times (you can find it here), which I highly recommend.

I spoke with Elyse recently from her home in Tahoe.

Q: So Elyse, how’d you get started in freeskiing, anyway?
A: I started skiing before I could walk. As I grew up I got into racing, and I did well, but I burned out in high school. Then when I went to college I had a lot of friends who were really into freeskiing. I wasn’t racing anymore and I really missed skiing, so I went in that direction. And it was so much fun! I grew up in the big mountains of Alaska, and I think that helped, too. After I graduated I eventually moved to Squaw and became a pro skier. That was about ten years ago.

Q: You’ve made a number of ski movies. Are you working on anything right now?
A. Funny you should ask. My husband, Cody Townsend, who’s another professional skier, worked with Matchstick Productions; he had this incredible performance in Days of My Youth – you really should see it — but he wanted to do something a little bit different. So we decided to work together on a movie. It’s called Conquering the Useless. The title refers to a quote from one of Cody’s favorite alpinists, Reinhold Messner, who is one of the greatest alpinists of modern time, and the quote relates to his philosophy of climbing and mountains and how it’s an act of Conquering the Useless.. We brought in Team 13, a production company based in Salt Lake City, as the cinematographer and editor. But since Cody is the producer it’s sort of like an independent ski film. Cody and I are in it, along with Chris Rubens and Dave Treadway. It’ll be out the end of September. I’m working on the website for it now.

Q: I understand you’ll be heading down to South America soon. 
A: Yes, I’ll be heading down at the end of the month to host a camp.

Q: I know you offer avalanche clinics. Is this going to be one of those?
A: No, that happens in early winter. I have to say that I’m really proud of my SAFE AS clinics. I started them with Michelle Parker, Jackie Paaso, Ingrid Backstrom, Lel Tone and Sherry McConkey and Ingrid Backstrom. One day we were sitting around drinking coffee and talking about avalanches, and we decided it’d be really great to offer a women’s specific avalanche course. Most avalanche classes are made up of men. We thought if we created an environment that was for women only, then they’d feel more comfortable and be more likely to come get educated. Plus they could meet other women to become back country partners. We do it in December because for most of the winter we’re pursuing professional our ski careers, so we’re not all available. In the past we’ve held the clinics in Colorado, Squaw, Utah, and Washington.

Q: Has avalanche training changed as a result of what happened to you? Do you think you have a different perspective or a different way of teaching?
A: Most definitely. I think it’d be disastrous if I walked away from that event unchanged or unable to reflect on it. I do a lot of public speaking, and it helps me come to terms with what happened that day. And that’s hard to do, going over everything and taking apart all the things that went into it — this or that could have led to our demise. So I think humility is a very important thing in being a skier – not only a professional skier, but anyone who skis, either in the backcountry or in bounds. We can’t always think that resorts are the safest places, either. The mountains are alive. But that’s part of what makes skiing so fun. It’s really good to have the knowledge of what’s going on out there and to bring that to the forefront, to remind skiers that we need to be educated and make the right decisions.

Elyse Saugstad, Girdwood Alaska (Photo:Adam Clark)

Elyse Saugstad, Girdwood Alaska
(Photo:Adam Clark)

Q: I see you’re a big proponent of avalanche airbags and that you attribute your survival in the avalanche to that piece of equipment. Is that something you advocate in your clinics?
A: I do believe it saved my life. And I think it should be a part of everyone’s safety protocol along with your transceiver, your probe, your shovel, and above all, your brain. I’m hoping that as time goes by and as people become more and more familiar with these backpacks, they’ll become as standard a piece of equipment as those other items are.

Q: I saw in the Times article that after you activated the airbag you thought, ‘gee, I wonder if I’m overreacting,’ which I thought was interesting because I think that’s such a natural response. And as it turned out it was the right move.
A: Yes. When I do my talks about the avalanche, that’s one of the things I like to put out there, because there are several reasons why someone would hesitate to pull the lever on their airbag backpack, like, ‘oh, man, this may cost a lot, I shouldn’t pull it, I’ll have to replace the canister.’ But that’s what it’s there for in the first place. For other people – and this is more in my category – it’s about ego. You think, ‘Everyone is going to make fun of me. I’m going to look like a wimp for worrying that something is going wrong when actually nothing is happening.’ It’s understandable, but if that action could save your life then why wouldn’t you do it. Now I’m glad I did.

Q: What advice do you have for someone just starting out in backcountry?
A: Find an avalanche or snow safety course. A lot of resorts offer some kind of talks, and there are web sites that can help you find classes. Then build your gear as you go along. There are so many people out there who are knowledgable. Take advantage of it.

Q: Since you went through the avalanche, has your relationship with skiing changed?
A: Probably not in the way people might think; that I’d be scared to go out there. The kind of skiing I do can be very, very frightening. But the one thing the avalanche did was make me more methodical than I was in the past. I really think through where I’m going and what I do and who I’m skiing with; I don’t naively put my trust in others, which I used to do a lot more readily. I still love skiing more than anything and I think that in life in general there’s risk, so I do what I can to minimize that as much as possible.  I’ve learned how to say no, and I think I’ve become more confident in being able to speak up and say that I’m not comfortable with something. I’ve done pretty well so far. I’m always aware that there’s always an unknown.

Q: Was it difficult for you to get back out there?
A: You know, it really wasn’t. I started skiing about a week after the avalanche. For me, it was cathartic to be out there with friends. There was so much media attention around that incident. But my friends understood our lifestyle, what we go through. They were very supportive and it felt comfortable. And I wanted to jump back on the horse. I didn’t want skiing to become something I was scared of.

YouTube Preview Image

[editor’s note: Take the time to watch Elyse’s TED talk on fear. It’s well worth seeing.]


Q: I read your interview in Powder, and it said you’d been having difficulty getting sponsors, which pretty much blows my mind.
A: Yeah, you know, it’s difficult in being a female in action sports or in sports in general.

Q: Why do you think that is, and what does that say about women in the ski industry? It reminds me of Lynsey Dyer* and ‘Pretty Faces.’ She had a lot of trouble getting sponsors for her movie, and ended up running a Kickstarter campaign with tremendous response. She ended up doing very well.
A: It has a lot to with the ski companies. I’m sorry to say that some of the people who are in charge just don’t see women as a valuable asset to their companies. They don’t see that the women’s market is as important as it is. The Pretty Faces movie should have been a very good example for them. I mean, look, you may not want be fund ski movies that feature women, but the public will. They want to see them; they want to be inspired. I don’t think the industry noticed. It’s still the token female syndrome, where you have one female per company. It’s really unfortunate.

I feel like there’s been a lot of women in action sports who’ve put themselves out there on social media to get attention. They may be amazing athletes, but they put themselves out there in bikinis. It doesn’t make sense. It’s an interesting situation.

Q: You’ve had some amazing accomplishments. What are your goals now?
A: I’d like to do more public speaking, things along those lines. I want to promote skiing in positive ways to inspire females, from young girls to older women. As long as I’m doing that and making a difference, that’s good.


For more information about Elyse Saugstad and her SAFE AS avalanche clinics, visit her website here.

* To see my interview with Lynsey Dyer, go here.

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Eight fitness myths you should ignore.

I wish I had a nickel for all the pieces of bogus advice I’ve heard. Wait an hour after eating before going into the water. Never wear white past Labor Day. Feed a cold, starve a fever. 

I’d be a millionaire.

Fitness is like that, too. There’s no shortage of things we’re told that are supposed to be true, but are way off in La-La Land. The hard part is trying to separate what’s real from what’s absolute bunk.

So helpful soul that I am, I’m about to save you a whole lotta trouble. Here are eight common fitness myths, busted. Think about them while you’re getting getting in shape for next ski season:

RunningDon’t eat before a workout.

Think about it this way: Would you drive a car without gas? No. Your body needs fuel to power through a workout. Contrary to what some people believe, forgoing food before exercise will not force your body into burning more fat; instead, you’ll end up burning protein (muscle mass), and that won’t do you any good. I’m not saying you should eat a big meal and then immediately run a marathon, but have a snack about 45 minutes to an hour before you start. Best thing to eat: something with carbohydrates and protein.

Stretching is a great warm up.

Experts say this can actually be harmful. Why? Stretching a cold muscle is like stretching a rubber band to its limit. When you stretch to the maximum, your body may think it’s at risk of being overstretched, so it compensates by contracting and becoming more tense. That means you’re not able to move as fast or as freely, so you’re more likely to get hurt. Instead of stretching, many experts recommend warming up with a light jog or sport-specific exercise, like a few serves for tennis. That type of light movement increases your heart rate and blood flow to the muscles, warming up your body temperature.

Walking isn’t as effective as running.

Simply not true. Walking and running target the same muscle groups and offer similar health benefits: a reduced risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes, and better cardiovascular health.  Sure, you’ll have to walk twice as long to use up the same amount of energy as you would running. But a runner and a walker will burn about the same number of calories over the same distance. So don’t worry about taking the slow lane. Just get out there and move!

Weight training makes women bulk up.

This is only true if the woman is on steroids. To be truly bulky, you need a lot of testosterone. That’s why it’s so easy for men to bulk up — the average man produces 10 times the amount of testosterone as the average woman. Weight training, though, has a lot of great benefits: it burns fat, improves your athletic performance, and reduces your risk of diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease. So don’t stay away from weights because you’re afraid you’ll look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. You won’t.

The only reason to wear a sports bra is to keep the girls from bouncing.

There’s more to it than that. Sports bras also help prevent breast sag. High-impact activities, like jogging or aerobics, can stress the connective tissue that keeps breasts firm, causing them to sag more quickly. According to the American Council on Exercise, compression bras work best for smaller-busted women; the more well-endowed (typically a C cup or larger) should opt for an “encapsulation” bra that supports each breast separately. Replace workout bras every six months to a year.

The more time you spend in the gym, the better.

Did you know that lifting weights creates tiny muscle tears? You need to rest to help them repair (this is when they get stronger). Overtraining can also mess with your menstrual cycle. And thanks to your body’s built-in protective mechanisms, it can also cause a plateau in your weight loss. So take some time off to recover. I’m on a three-day on, one day off workout schedule.

Crunches can give you six-pack abs.

Losing weight in a targeted area won’t work. The body just isn’t built that way. Oh, exercise may strengthen the muscular groups in a specific area, but no matter how many crunches you do, you ain’t going to have six-pack abs. Why? Fat can only be lost from the body as a whole in an order that is predetermined by your genetics. So if you have a high percentage of body fat, your abs will be covered with — you guessed it — fat. In order to get visibly toned abs, you have to first reduce your overall body fat, which means plenty of cardio, coupled with strength training for faster results.

No pain, no gain.

This is just plain silly. If it hurts while you’re doing it, STOP. Your body is trying to tell you something. Pain is an indicator that you either have an injury or you’re doing something wrong.  (Of course, this doesn’t include the mild muscle soreness you may feel for a day or two after a workout.) If something really hurts, stop, rest, and see if it goes away. If it doesn’t, or if it starts again or increases after you begin to work out, see a doctor.


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So you want to own a ski area?

Who doesn’t? I can already envision mine: Mount Ski Diva, a mecca for women skiers that’d focus on women’s skiing and learning. There’d be regular women’s clinics taught by the very best women’s instructors; free child care, along with a great children’s ski school; a killer ski shop featuring women’s gear and staffed by helpful, expert sales associates; excellently prepared, healthy food;  and clean, easily accessible bathrooms like the ones at Snowbasin.


Bathroom in Lodge at Snowbasin, UT

There’s no doubt that owning a ski area can be a pretty risky business. Not only is it captive to the whims of Mother Nature, but it requires hefty investments in lifts, snow making equipment, forest service permits, and lots of personnel to take care of the equipment and facility, and most importantly, the guests.

But let’s say that you have a few bucks to spare and want to jump in, anyway. If that’s the case, there are a number of areas on the market right now. CNL Lifestyle Properties, for example, which owns 16 ski areas across the country, is considering getting out of the resort business. As a result, all the ski areas below could be up for sale (the resort name is followed by the name of the company that actually manages the resort):

Sunday River in Maine (operated by Boyne Resorts)for-sale-sign2
Sugarloaf in Maine (operated by Boyne Resorts)
Bretton Woods in New Hampshire (operated by National Resort Management Group)
Loon Mountain in New Hampshire (operated by Boyne Resorts)
Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire (operated by Triple Peaks)
Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts (operated by Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort)
Okemo Mountain in Vermont (operated by Triple Peaks)
Crested Butte in Colorado (operated by Triple Peaks)
Brighton in Utah (operated by Boyne Resorts)
Northstar-at-Tahoe in California (operated by Vail Resorts)
Sierra-at-Tahoe in California (operated by Booth Creek Resorts)
Mountain High in California (operated by Mountain High Associates)
Cypress Mountain in BC, Canada (operated by Boyne Resorts)
Stevens Pass in Washington (operated by Stevens Pass Mountain Resort)
Summit-at-Snoqualmie in Washington (operated by Boyne Resorts)

If these are a bit too steep for your bank account, there are a few smaller areas that might be a bit more affordable:

Bolton Valley: Burlington, Vermont
Cockaigne: Cherry Creek, New York
Maple Valley Ski Area, Dummerstown, VT
Marshall Mountain : Missoula, MT. Only 3 mil!
Maverick Mountain: Dillon, Montana
Mount Waterman: near Los Angeles, California
Snow King: Jackson, Wyoming
Spout Springs: Athena, OR. Cheap! Only $1.5 million!

Interested? Then get your phone, call your realtor, and open your wallet. And be sure to invite me to opening day.


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Why Women Should Lift Weights

If you’re not lifting weights because you’re afraid you’re going to end up looking like this……..


…..forget it. You have nothing to worry about. Most women don’t have the level of testosterone that’s needed to support a bulky physique. And any woman who does is probably supplementing with hormones.

Nonetheless, a lot of women don’t lift weights because they’re afraid they’re going to bulk up. Well, it’s time to set all that aside. Lifting weights is good for you. And here are a number of reasons why:

It’ll help you burn fat: One of the biggest benefits of  weight training is the effect it has on your body’s ability to burn fat during and after exercise. The more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn at rest. So, basically, muscles speed up your metabolism, resulting in more effective fat loss.

You’ll improve bone health: Strength training is an excellent way to combat loss of bone mass, thereby decreasing the risk of osteoporosis. This is particularly important for postmenopausal women, whose bodies no longer secrete estrogen. When you perform a curl, for example, your muscles tug on your arm’s bones. The cells within those bones react by creating new bone cells  The result: your bones become stronger and more dense. Another great benefit: strengthening your muscles can also help improve balance and keep you as strong as possible which lowers the chance of a fall-related fracture.

You’ll decrease joint pain: Stronger muscles are better able to hold your joints in position, improving joint performance and decreasing pain. For example, research shows that weak thigh muscles can increase the risk of knee osteoarthritis. Even small increases in muscle strength can reduce that risk.

You’ll look better: Which would you rather have: a body that jiggles or one that’s tight and sculpted? Weight training can help you get the latter, creating curves and definition right where you want it. It can also help fight the effects of gravity, making you much less likely to have arm jiggle in your upper arms.

You’ll be mentally stronger: Weight lifting is empowering. When you challenge yourself, your confidence grows. And that can help you tackle stuff you never before thought possible.


You’ll improve your heart health:  In an Appalachin State University study, people who performed 45 minutes of moderate-intensity resistance exercise lowered their blood pressure by up to 20% — a benefit equal to or surpassing that of taking anti-hyperintensive drugs. These effects persisted for about 30 minutes after the end of a training session and continued for as long as 24 hours in people who trained regularly — 30 to 45 minutes a few times a week.

You’ll have better control over your blood sugar: This is especially important if you have diabetes or risk factors. A study published on the Nature Medicine website in April, 2013, reported that weight training encourages the growth of white muscle, which helps lower blood glucose because it uses glucose for energy.

You’ll have more strength for skiing: (It always comes back to this, doesn’t it?) Skiing requires more than gravity to get you down the hill. You need lots of strength in your hips, glutes, and thighs to perform to your optimal level. And while you can get some of that through exercise like running or biking, weight training can help build the muscle strength you need and better protect you from the acute and overuse injuries that are too common in this sport. So when you’re getting ready for ski season, be sure to make weight training part of your fitness routine.


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Sashaying Through Summer.

It’s July 20, and you know what that means: if you figure on ski season starting November 15 — and I hope it does — that means we have 118 days left. That’s 3 months and 26 days. Or 2,832 hours. Or 169,920 minutes.

This is much better than it looked on April 13, my last day of the season. At that point, I had 216 days to go. Hey, I’m nearly halfway there! So things are looking up.

All the same, it isn’t easy for us ski addicts to make it through the long ski drought. So I thought I’d help with an on-line fashion show of sorts.

Introducing, for your viewing pleasure, TheSkiDiva Collection!

Okay, so I couldn’t afford to have Gisele Bundchen or one of those other grossly overpaid super-skinny supermodels  sashaying down the runway for us (did you know Gisele earned over $42 million in 2013? Holy crap, that’d buy a lot of skis). Instead, I can only rely on the headless torsos below — and your imagination. Picture yourself in one of these fabulous T-shirts:



Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 6.03.24 PM

Don’t you look great?  Of course you do!

Or imagine grilling in this great apron:

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 6.36.50 PM

Or wearing this cap:


And to complete your ensemble, our fabulous Ski Diva necklace and earrings, available in a variety of stones:



And while you’re  got up in your new SkiDiva gear, how about a fun summer read? Might I suggest DOUBLE BLACK, a Ski Diva mystery that’d be great to read on the beach or along the pool. DOUBLE BLACK follows the adventures of Stacy Curtis, a young woman who moves to a small Vermont ski town to live the life of a ski bum, and stumbles into all sorts of exciting adventures:

Double Black

So where can you get all this stuff? Click on the photos above, and you’ll end up right where you can place your order. How convenient is that?

Happy summer. We can get through this.

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Sexual Abuse Has No Place in Skiing


Or in any other sport, for that matter.

Here’s why this is this week’s blog topic: Not long ago, I learned (via Unofficial Networks) that Bertrand Charest, a former Alpine Canada’s women’s development team coach, is facing 57 charges related to allegations of sexual misconduct:

[Charest] has been in custody since his arrest March 10 on accusations of sexual
assault and breach of trust involving 11 girls and young women under his tutelage between 1991 and 1998. The girls were between 12 and 19 years old at the time.

Radio-Canada has reported the mother of one teen tried to report Charest to
police in 1998, but she said she was counseled by Alpine Canada not to do anything.

The woman, whose daughter is not one of the complainants in the current
criminal case, said the organization told her it would deal with the matter and
advised her to not jeopardize the girl’s skiing career.

This is appalling for so many reasons: First, of course, that it happened at all, and not just once, but again and again and again. But for a mother to be discouraged from reporting the abuse to the authorities; and for the organization to tell her that reporting it could jeopardize her daughter’s race career; and for the mother to buy this sort of twisted logic and keep her mouth shut; well, consider my mind blown.

Okay, even if we don’t assume that Charest is guilty — after all, he’s only been charged, and like it or not, we have to be fair — there’s no doubt that sexual misconduct is something that occurs not only in skiing, but in all kinds of sports. There’s a definite power relationship between coaches and athletes, and there’ll always be some creep who’s going to take advantage of that dynamic.

So is there anything we can do to keep stuff like this from happening? Or do we just throw up our hands and walk away?

Sadly, there’s probably no way to eliminate sexual abuse entirely. But there are things that can make it a little less likely to happen.

First, we need to change the culture (I’m looking at you, Alpine Canada). Any organization in which reporting abuse is discouraged, in which you’re told to keep quiet instead of going to the authorities, is in dire need of a sea change. Instead, it needs to be replaced with a culture that has zero tolerance for sexual misconduct. All reports of abuse must be taken seriously, and all victims treated with the utmost respect and yes, given the encouragement and support they need to speak out. Also, organizations must have policies in place, both for dealing with abuse and for preventing it from occurring.  And everyone responsible — not just coaches, but volunteers, staff, and even other athletes — must be held accountable for misconduct.

But some of the change has to come on our end, too. We have to learn not only how to recognize the signs of abuse, but to give our children the confidence, and the permission, to say ‘no’ in no uncertain terms. Children who are assertive, who know appropriate behavior and know that no one has the right to touch them or to to have a sexual relationship with them, are much more likely to defend themselves. What’s more, we have to teach our kids that it’s okay to report anything unusual to a parent or another trusted adult, no matter who’s involved.

Here’s an interesting statistic: 90% of child targets are abused by someone they know and trust. Scary, isn’t it? So how do you know if abuse is occurring? Experts say that if the answer to any of the following questions is “yes,” there may be a problem. I found this on Momsteam.com, a website for sports parents, and thought I’d post it here:

  • Does your child’s coach make her feel like she needs him in order to succeed?
  • Does your child’s coach spend time with you in an attempt to win your trust or try to be a surrogate parent?
  • Does your child’s coach act differently with her when in front of others?
  • Does your child’s coach try to control her (even off the field)?
  • Does your child’s coach try to separate her from her teammates or other sources of support, like you or her friends?
  • Does your child’s coach spend a lot more time with her than with other athletes?
  • Does your child’s coach try to be alone with her?
  • Does your child’s coach give her gifts?
  • Does your child’s coach tell her not to talk about personal encounters the two of them have had?

Another great resource: Safe4Athletes.com. Safe4Athletes was founded by Katherine Starr, an elite swimmer who endured sexual abuse during her career without the benefit of any resources to fall back on. There’s lots of great info there, including what every athlete should know about sexual abuse, where to go for help, and more.

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How much risk can you handle: On sharks and skiing.

SharkGrowing up on the Jersey Shore, I was totally freaked out by the movie Jaws. So I did what any self-respecting coward would do: I didn’t see it until I moved away. I loved swimming in the ocean, and I was afraid the Great White in the movie would scare me enough to keep me out of the water.

I know, it’s a movie, with very little science to back it up. But still, fear is very rarely rational.

This summer the people in North Carolina are going through their own version of Jaws. They’ve had  eight shark attacks since June 11. And as frightening as this sounds, it’s still very, very rare. According to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File, our chances of being attacked by a shark are just one in 11.5 million. You’re more likely to be killed by a dog or a snake, or even in a car collision with a deer. You’re also 30 times more likely to be killed by lightning and three times more likely to drown.

All this made me think about risk, and how much we’re prepared to take on to do something we love.

Yes, there are accidents in sports. And yes, it is possible to lose your life — which is also something you risk every time you get in your car. The best you can do is make sure to take the proper safety precautions. For skiing, that means wearing a helmet, keeping your bindings and equipment adjusted properly and in good working order, being aware of your surroundings, skiing in control, and skiing in terrain appropriate to your ability.

I recently came upon a chart that compares fatality rates in a number of sports, and I thought it was interesting enough to post it here (it’s from Bandolier, an evidence-based journal on health care from the UK). Granted, some of the data is old, but still, worth looking at.

Sports risk

Skiing is pretty far down on the list.

From the same source, here’s another chart that compares fatalities in a number of sports with everyday activities.



Again, skiing is waaaaay down there.

Eye opening, isn’t it?

The bottom line is this: you can live your life wrapped in cotton and never do anything at all, or you can get out there, have fun, and do what you can to keep yourself safe.

Oh, and if you’re worried about sharks, here’s some recommended reading from the NY Times: Should swimmers worry about sharks?


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Celebrating the Fourth, Ski-Town Style

Fireworks over Vail Mountain

Fireworks over Vail Mountain

The biggest weekend of the summer is almost here, and I know what you’re thinking: I’d like to celebrate the Fourth of July in my favorite ski town, but I’m not sure what’s going on there. Can you help, Ski Diva?

Absolutely! Here’s a sampling of the festivities in some of our favorite ski towns across the country:

Okemo, Vermont:
Celebrate freedom and the holiday weekend with the best party of the summer. Okemo’s Jackson Gore Courtyard will be transformed into an all-American backyard barbecue with live music, games, a hot-dog-eating contest, frosty-cold beverages and fresh-from-the-grill burgers, hot dogs plus lots more. New activities this year include an inflatable water slide, a 65-foot inflatable challenge course and a combo bouncy house/slide.

Killington, Vermont:
The Killington Fire Department hosts the 4th of July party and fundraiser, featuring a parade, BBQ, pool party, fireworks and more at the River Road recreation fields. Start with a book sale at 9:00 AM followed by the parade at 10:00 AM. Enjoy the Fireman’s Barbeque cooked by the Fire Department and other volunteers.  There’ll be games and entertainment during the afternoon, and a fireworks show starting at 9:30 PM.

Stowe, Vermont:
Enjoy a multi-dimensional day-long extravaganza of food, music, entertainers, fireworks and more! Starting with the Moscow parade and ending with Stowe’s incredible annual fireworks display, this is a great day to spend in Stowe.

Lake Placid, New York:
The ever popular I Love BBQ and Music Festival will run this year from July 2 – 5. Come out and watch some of the best BBQ competitors in the country, taste their creations and listen to some awesome live music at this popular annual event. On July 4th there’ll be a parade and the blockbuster “Set the Night to Music” fireworks extravaganza!

Vail, Colorado:
A true summer celebration featuring exceptional entertainment including Vail’s celebrated 4th of July parade and fireworks. The parade will begin at Golden Peak at 10:00 a.m. on July 4 and will wind its way through the villages, ending in Lionshead. This year’s parade theme is Celebrate the USA! Great Moments in American History.

Aspen, Colorado:
Approximately 20,000 local residents and visitors come together to honor the nation’s birthday in true American style. Festivities include a parade, US. Airforce jet flyby, concerts, a kid’s bicycle rodeo, and spectacular fireworks over Aspen Mountain.

Breckenridge, Colorado:
Celebrate Independence Day with lively entertainment, free activities and dynamic family fun. Breck’s Independence Day celebration kicks off with a 10K trail run and continues throughout the day with the Firecracker 50 bike race leading the vibrant Fourth of July Parade on historic Main Street, July Arts Festival, live music, kids’ activities, concerts and so much more. End the night with the National Repertory Orchestra performing a patriotic concert at the Riverwalk Center followed by fireworks at 9:45pm.

Steamboat, Colorado:
Come celebrate the Fourth of July at the annual Jumpin’ & Jammin’ Competition and Community Party following the downtown Fourth of July parade on Saturday; head to Howelsen Hill to watch members of the US Nordic Combined and Ski Jumping National Teams as well as Gelunde jumpers on alpine skis soar off the HS75 meter jump!

Lake Tahoe, California:
The July 4th fireworks extravaganza is one of the most popular Independence Day celebrations in the West with 100,000 plus onlookers. The fireworks are launched from offshore barges and can be seen from all corners of town. South Shore offers convenient access to viewing areas via public transportation, paved bike trails, and nearby park and walk venues.

Sun Valley, Idaho:
The festivities begin with a parade at 10AM, and continue with a bike race, a kids’ carnival on the Main Street, a rodeo, and of course, fireworks at dusk.

Park City, Utah:
More than 70 floats make their way down historic Main Street for Park City’s famous 4th of July parade. Afternoon festivities include a beer garden, a free concert and plenty of tasty food vendors to get your fill. When dusk ascends on Park City, the sky is set ablaze with colorful fireworks.

Big Sky, Montana
Here you’ll find lots of community booths, children’s activities, lots of food, beverages, and live music capped by a firework finale.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming:
The day-long celebration includes a pancake breakfast, a 10K run, a parade, music, and fireworks.


Have fun, be safe, and remember, don’t drink and drive!



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Thanks, Dad.

A few weeks ago I posted a Mother’s Day tribute to all the ski moms out there. Which is only fitting, since TheSkiDiva is geared toward women skiers.

But since Father’s Day was this past Sunday, I thought it was only appropriate to give the Dads their due.

My Dad, in particular.

See, my Dad is the one who introduced me to skiing way back when I was 13. This was pretty amazing, since no one in my family had ever skied or even expressed any interest in skiing (it was an Olympic year, which might explain the sudden attraction). I grew up on the Jersey Shore, which is flat, flat, flat, and where the closest thing to skiing is surfing. Which isn’t really close at all.

But for my 13th birthday, my Dad took us all up to a small resort in the Catskills (that’s in New York state), where there was a small hill served by a rope tow.

It was dreadful.

Rope tows are evil torture devices invented primarily, I think, to encourage people to get off the beginner slope as quickly as possible. The rope absolutely shreds your gloves. And if you don’t keep your feet in the exact track of the skier ahead of you, you’re going to go down, baby. Even worse, if you’re like me and fall without letting go of the rope, you end up getting dragged a good distance before it occurs to you to drop the rope, idiot, and roll away so no one skis into you and there’s a nasty pile-up with you on the bottom, crying.

Suffice it to say I fell in both directions: up and down. I hated it. The only thing that kept going was sibling rivalry. My sister was better than I was, and damn it, I couldn’t allow that to continue. I learned the basics, and by the end of the weekend had (sort of) perfected a wobbly snowplow that got me down an incline not much steeper than a parking lot.

And yet I stuck it out.

Even after that weekend, I continued to ski with my Dad. We’d head to north Jersey (Great Gorge, Vernon Valley, Snow Bowl), New York State (Bellayre), even into Vermont (Mount Snow, Killington, Haystack, Hogback). And ever so gradually, my skiing improved until I was better than my sister — who, by the way, eventually gave up skiing and moved to Florida, where she complains it’s freezing if the thermometer dips below 60. Wimp.

My clearest memory of skiing with my Dad is the way he used to sing when we went up on the lift — corny songs at TOP VOLUME so that everyone, I thought, alllllllllllllll over the mountain could hear, laugh, and point. When you’re a teenager, this is devastatingly embarrassing.

My Dad doesn’t ski anymore. Like my sister, he lives in Florida, and while he’s in excellent health (knock on wood), he’s 92 and his knees aren’t what they used to be. This doesn’t stop him from swimming half a mile three or four times a week. The man is an absolute machine.

Still, what I wouldn’t give to ride up the lift with him and have him sing to me — even at TOP VOLUME — one more time.

So thanks Dad, for everything. You’re the best.

My Dad at Mount Snow, 1971


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