The Jackson Hole Babe Force: Strong. Sexy. Soulful.

Chances are you’ve heard of the Jackson Hole Air Force, a group of avid powder skiers formed in the early ’80’s famous for hard skiing, hard partying, and poaching gnarly out-of-bounds terrain. It was a group that Crystal Wright, two-time Freestyle world champion and Jackson native, had looked up to her whole life. Problem was, it was an all boy’s club. So Crystal did what any self-respecting Ski Diva would do: in 2012, she took matters into her own hands and started the Jackson Hole Babe Force.

Espousing the motto Strong, Sexy, Soulful, the Babe Force has a mission I can totally get behind:

“To encourage female skiers and snowboarders to push your limits, gain confidence, and support each other, all while building relationships with other like-minded women who are down to get buck wild in the mountains.”

I spoke to Crystal from her home in Jackson a few days ago, where she was helping her mom recover from ankle surgery.

Crystal Wright

Crystal Wright

SD: So how’d the Babe Force get started?
CW: I grew up in Jackson admiring the Air Force, but there were never any girls in it. There were some token females — my mom, for example, and Emily Coombs, Doug Coombs’ wife — but they were never really included, and they were all super-inspiring to my generation. As I got older, I realized that there are a lot of women in Jackson who are pushing themselves and excelling, and I thought, well, the guys have their club, we should a club for girls, too!

When my friend, Sarah Felton, and I first came up with the Babe Force, we thought it was pretty funny.  But the more we thought about it, the better it sounded. We worked at a restaurant in Jackson, and during slow times, we’d work on coming up with our mission and what we wanted to do.

SD: So what’s the idea behind the Babe Force?
CW: Basically, we wanted a group where women could learn from one another, build confidence, make friends, and find new ski partners. It’s a way to get out on the mountain, hear stories from one another, and make new friends. I have a gym here in Jackson, and I see so many young girls or women who’re training and who only ski with their boyfriends or brothers. Skiing with other women is motivating and empowering. I remember I was nervous all the time when I skied with just guys. When I ski with the girls, it’s a different feeling.

My big thing is getting women to push themselves out of their comfort zone, but in a safe manner. It comes down to the if she can do it, maybe I can do it mentality. Women tend to push themselves more with other women than they do with a bunch of guys. When we have ski days, or when I teach at a camp, there are women who say, ‘I would never do this with my husband!’ It’s fun to get that dynamic going.

The Babe Force is open to women of all different abilities and demographics – from young girls all the way through 80-year old women. We mentor the young girls, and we challenge the older women. We want to get everyone involved.

SD: How do you go about doing this?
CW: Our goal is to have an event each month. On our first ski day, about 50 people turned out, which was a real shock! To be honest, it was a little overwhelming. So we’re planning on developing activities to make things a bit more manageable, like scavenger hunts on the mountain, where you have to partner with 3 people you don’t know and find things all over the resort. We’re also planning “Queen of the King” at our local hill, “Snow King.” We go night skiing, and you try to make as many runs as you can to become Queen of the King.

One of the things we want to focus on is building our scholarship program. Last year we offered our first Avalanche scholarships to help women take their Level 1 Avalanche Training. We had our first fundraiser in May, and raised $8,000, so we’re going to be able to offer a lot more scholarships this year. We also plan to partner with the Doug Coombs Foundation to donate our time with the kids. And we’re going to partner with Search and Rescue for talks about how to deal with getting caught out in the backcountry.

It’s not always skiing. We do other fun stuff, too. Tomorrow we’re going to do a hike. And last year we had a Halloween party. It’s ways to have fun and build relationships, on and off the mountain.

jhbfpatchSD: The Jackson Hole Air Force has a very famous patch, and I see you have one, too. Can you tell me about it?
CW: Sure. These are only given out for special reasons. They can be earned one of three ways: Facing your fears, Progression Session, and Inspiring Epic Adventure. So they’re for things like skiing off the tram for the first time or doing a super chute or going in the backcountry for the first time. Eventually we want to get a nomination process going, so you’d nominate a friend who’s gone above and beyond or who’s really inspired you. I had a lady write me from Finland about her friend and why she wanted to give her a patch, so I sent a patch to Finland!

SD: Do you have any plans to go beyond Jackson Hole?
CW: We’re not totally committed to local; we’d like to inspire ladies all around. What I’d love to do is have chapters all over the place, like an Alta Babe Force chapter. So no matter where a woman was, there’d be a local chapter where they could find a ski partner. For right now, we’re keeping it local.

Members of the Babe Force having fun!

Members of the Babe Force having fun!

 

 

 



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Ski Swaps, ’16 -’17

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

skiswap

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

To make your search a bit easier, here’s a list of some of the swaps you’ll find in the months ahead:

NORTHEAST

Sept 30: Potter Bros. Ski Swap, Kingston, NY

Sept 30-Oct 2: Pico Ski Swap, Pico Mountain, VT

Oct 6-10: Wachusett Mountain Ski & Snowboard Swap, Wachusett, MA

Oct 8-10: Ski Butternut Ski Swap, Great Barrington, MA

Oct 8-10: BBTS Ski Swap, Waterville Valley, NH

Oct 9-11: Killington Ski Club Ski Swap, Killington, VT

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

Oct 28-30: Greek Peak Ski Club Ski Swap, Cortland, NY

Nov 4: Sundown Ski Patrol Ski Swap, New Hartford, CT

Nov 5: Gunstock Ski Club Swap, Gilford, NH

Nov 6: Pat’s Peak Ski Team Ski & Snowboard Sale, Henniker, NH

Nov 6: Brunswick Ski Swap, Brunswick, ME

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

Nov 18-19: OMS Ski Swap & Sale, Okemo Mountain, Ludlow, VT

Nov 21-22: Cambridge Rotary Ski Swap & Sale, Jeffersonville, VT

MID ATLANTIC

Oct 1-2 & 8-9: Mt. Pleasant Ski Swap, Cambridge Springs, PA

Oct 7-10: Alpina Ski Swap, White Haven, PA

Oct 10-15: Buckman’s Tent & Ski Swap, All stores, PA

Nov 5: Ski Roundtop Mega Sale, Lewisberry, PA

Nov 25: Wintergreen Ski Patrol Ski Swap, Wintergreen, WV

MIDWEST

Sept 23-25: Buck Hills Ski Swap, Burnsville, MN

Sept 30-Oct 1: Welch Village Fall Ski Swap & Sale, Welch, MN

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

Oct 1: Harbor Springs Ski Team Ski Swap, Nub’s Nob, MI

Oct 1: Skitoberfest, Boyne Mtn Resort, MI

Oct. 1-2: Wild Mountain Open House & Swap, Wild Mountain, MN

Oct 2-11: Afton Alps Ski Swap, Hastings, MN

Oct 10-16: Boston Mills/Brandywine/Alpine Valley Ski Patrol Ski Swap, Peninsula, OH

Oct 14-15: Mt Kato Ski Patrol Ski Swap, Lake Crystal, MN

Oct 21-22: Giants Ridge Ski Swap, Biwabik, MN

Oct 28-30: Team Duluth Ski Swap, Duluth, MN

Oct 29: Ski Swap at Crystal Mountain, Thompsonville, MI

Oct. 29: Chestnut Mountain’s Open House and Ski Swap, Galena, IL

Nov 12: Central Wisconsin Ski & Sport Swap, Stevens Point, WI

WEST

Sept 30-Oct 2: Snowbird Sports Education Foundation Ski & Snowboard Swap, Snowbird, UT

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

Oct 16: Sac State Ski Swap, Sacramento, CA

Oct 21-23: Vail Ski Swap, Vail, CO

Oct 21-23: Sandia Ski Patrol Ski Swap,  Albuquerque, NM

Oct 22: Jackson Hole Ski Club Swap, Jackson, WY

Oct 22-23: Marin Ski & Snowboard Swap, San Rafael, CA

Oct 24: North Tahoe Ski/Sport Swap, North Tahoe, CA

Nov 4-5, Red Lodge Ski Swap, Red Lodge, MT

Nov 5: San Ramon Valley High School Ski & Snowboard Swap, Danville, CA

Nov 5: Truckee Ski and Snowboard Swap, Truckee, CA

Nov 5-6: Bridger Foundation Ski Swap, Bozeman, MT

Nov 7: Hesperus Ski Patrol Ski Swap, Durango, CO

Nov 10-12: Beaver Mountain Ski Swap, Garden City, UT

Nov 11-12: University of Nevada Ski Swap, Reno, NV

Nov 11-12 & 19-20: Helm of Sun Valley’s Ski Swap, San Mateo, CA

Nov 23: Larson’s Ski Swap, Wheat Ridge, CO

Dec 2-4: Ski Dazzle, Los Angeles, CA

PACIFIC NORTHWEST:

Oct 12: Skyliners Winter Sports Swap, Bend, OR

Oct 22: 49° North Ski Swap, Chewelah, WA

Oct 23: Leavenworth Gear & Ski Swap, Leavenworth, WA

Oct 20-23: Corvallis Ski Swap, Coravallis, OR

Oct 27-30: Eugene Ski Swap, Eugene, OR

Oct 29-30: Mt. Spokane Ski Swap, Spokane Valley, WA

Nov 1–2: Tacoma Ski Swap, Tacoma, WA

Nov 2-6: Ski Fever & Snowboard Show’s Ski Swap, Portland, OR

Nov 4-6: Bogus Basin Ski Swap, Boise, ID

Nov 11-12: Newport Ski Swap, Bellevue, WA

Nov 12: Schweizer Alpine Racing School Ski Swap, Sandpoint, ID

Nov 21-22: Olympia Ski Club Ski Swap, Olympia, WA

CANADA

Oct 13-16: Canada’s Largest Ski & Snowboard Swap, Toronto, ON

Oct 21-23: Calgary Ski Swap and Sale, Calgary, AB



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What’s New in Vermont for ’16/’17

The beach at Chincoteague, Virginia

The beach at Chincoteague, Virginia

I’m on a beach vacation this week on Chincoteague Island on the Eastern Shore of Virginia (yes, the place that’s known for its wild ponies). It’s beautiful, the water’s great, the biking’s FLAT (quite different from Vermont), and I’m having a wonderful time. That said, I still can’t get my mind off the coming ski season. So when I got this information from Ski Vermont about what’s new for ’16/’17, I thought I’d share it here. Start waxing your skis, boys and girls. It’s coming, and here’s some of the new stuff Vermont skiers will find:

skimapKillington Resort
Killington Resort is bringing Alpine World Cup skiing back to the eastern US for the first time in 25 years, when the Audi FIS Ski World Cup takes place November 26-27. Giant Slalom and Slalom races will pit the best female technical alpine skiers against one another on Superstar trail, the infamous New England steep that is regularly the Eastern US’s last remaining open ski trail through late May or June. The general public is invited to view the women’s giant slalom and slalom races in a free general admission area at the base of the trail with a jumbo screen for watching the full race course, plus a weekend loaded with festivities including free live music, multiple movie premiers and additional surprises to be announced.

Magic Mountain
Magic will be under new ownership in 2016-17 as SKI MAGIC LLC purchased the area with an initial 5-year plan to invest capital into lifts and snowmaking. With a robust operating budget and new snow guns, Magic will have more snow in 2016-17, made earlier than ever before to improve the consistency and reliability of skiing on both the easier East Side and more challenging West side trails. For the first time in years, both bottom-to-top summit lifts (1,600’ vertical) will be in full operation. There will also be new daycare facility for young parents and some refurbishing to the lodge and Black Line Tavern.

Stowe Mountain Resort
Stowe Mountain Resort is opening an $80 million Adventure Center. Located at Spruce Peak and adjacent to Stowe’s new outdoor Ice Skating Rink, Stowe’s Adventure Center is home to all Stowe’s children’s programs. From daycare facilities to ski and ride programs for kids 3 and up, the new Adventure Center has significantly advanced and expanded family amenities and services at the resort. The building also includes new shops, an Indoor Climbing Center (called Stowe Rocks), and family-friendly dining.

Smugglers’ Notch Resort
After investing $5 million in snowmaking enhancements over the last four winters, Smugglers’ Notch Resort is turning its attention to the resort village’s most popular amenity for families, the FunZone. One section, designed to appeal to families with kids ages 2-10, will feature inflatables, games, and areas for imaginative play. A second area, targeted to older children and adults, will include features such as a ninja warrior-type obstacle course, laser tag, a climbing wall, column walk, slot car racing, and arcade and redemption center. A $4 million investment, the new Fun Zone is expected to open mid-winter 2016-17.

Quechee Ski Area
The Quechee Club ushers in a new experience for its members, visitors and area guests this winter season with the completion of a newly constructed Aquatic Complex and fitness club expansion.

Burke Mountain Resort
The Lodge at Burke Mountain opened its doors on September 1st. The 116-room hotel is situated mid-mountain and provides a true ski-in ski-out experience. Suites range from a standard studio to three bedroom with onsite amenities including a pub, restaurant, heated pool & hot tub, fitness center, arcade, retail and repair shop for guests to enjoy. Striking views of the Willoughby Gap and Burke Mountain can be seen from nearly every window in the Hotel.

Jay Peak Resort
Jay Peak is increasing the snowmaking capacity to its LZ and Jug Handle parks by 60%, running a new waterline up the Interstate trail, and installing 20 new guns along the Interstate. The expansion will not only allow the Jay Peak parks to open sooner, but will also allow the resort to open learning terrain at its Tramside area earlier, as well.

Okemo Mountain Resort
After several years of major snowmaking improvements totaling more than $1 million, Okemo has once again expanded its snowmaking system. 18,000 feet of new pipe will introduce snowmaking capabilities on Catnap and Suncatcher in the South Face area. A Prinoth Bison X park cat, equipped with a Caterpillar 400 horsepower, tier 4 engine that meets all federal emission standards, is the newest addition to Okemo’s fleet of grooming machines as Okemo enters its third year of partnership with Snowpark Technologies. Rental equipment upgrades include 515 Volkl skis, 153 Burton snowboards and more than 1,000 pairs of boots. Also, Okemo has joined the MAX Pass family of resorts this year. Okemo season passholders can take their pass on the road – up to 30 mountains with an Add-On upgrade.

Stratton Mountain Resort
Stratton announces an addition to its slope-side Village dining fleet– Karma: an Asian fusion experience. A menu inspired by the Asian travels of Karma’s chef will debut with traditional ramen bowls and dumplings fresh-made with local ingredients, imaginative entrees and craft cocktails with a twist like vodka filtered through Herkimer diamonds for a side of positive energy.

Stratton’s snowmaking fleet gets a new computerized control system, allowing snowmakers to record real time energy use for increased snowmaking efficiency.

Mount Snow Resort
Mount Snow’s is now offering the Peak Pass, which features a total of six pass options valid at seven different mountain locations across four states in the Northeast. It’s also increasing the uphill capacity in its beginner terrain park by 50 percent, replacing its Ski Baba Lift with a 400’ SunKid conveyer called Grommet (Lift One). The resort has also spent over 1600+ hours pruning, mowing and clearing new lines through tree skiing areas in preparation for powdery runs this winter.

Suicide Six Ski Area
Woodstock Inn & Resort’s Suicide Six Ski Area replaces chair #1 with a new quad chairlift that will double capacity. Leitner-Poma of America, Inc., will install the lift at an estimated cost of $1.5 million.

Bolton Valley
Bolton Valley have given major upgrades to most suites and rooms at its hotel. Improvements include new carpet, drapes, furniture, painting, renovated bathrooms, new mattresses and new artwork to greatly enhance guest comfort.

Sugarbush Resort
Sugarbush has invested $750,000 into capital improvements for the 2016-17 winter season which include lift improvements and improvements to the snowmaking pond. The resort has also completed Gadd Brook Residences, sixteen ski-in/ski-out condominiums at the base of Lincoln Peak available as two-, three-, and four-bedroom units.

 



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Woo Hoo! TheSkiDiva Is Ten Years Old!

Happy-Tenth-Birthday-With-Colorful-Balloon

Amazing, huh? We’ve hit double numbers!

It hardly seems possible, but this week marks an entire decade since TheSkiDiva.com made its debut on the world wide web.

In internet years, that’s like a bazillion. Seriously, we’re in super-senior citizen mode. After all, the shelf life of web sites is shorter than fresh fish. A few days, just about, and many are abandoned or forgotten. So it’s pretty amazing that we’ve not only stuck around, but that we’ve continued to grow and thrive.

For me, it’s been a great ten years. I can still remember when I came up with the idea for the site. I was on line for the gondola at Steamboat when I looked behind me………. and all I could see was men.  ‘This is ridiculous,’ I thought.  ‘I can’t be the only woman who likes to ski.’ But at the time it seemed that way. I didn’t have any women ski friends. And none of the online ski communities or ski magazines really paid that much attention to women, either. We were marginalized, treated as an interesting side-line. Just an afterthought on the slopes. If you were a female skier, you couldn’t be very serious or very good. You were probably just out looking for a guy. Or maybe you just wanted to wear the latest ski fashions, take two runs, and sit in the lodge.

So I created TheSkiDiva.com for a couple of reasons. Selfishly, I just wanted to find some ski friends. But I also wanted to find a place to connect with other women and talk about skiing in a way that I could relate to. And though the site’s been through some changes, I’ve held firm in keeping it for women only. Yeah, I’ve taken some flak for this, but I’ve never regretted my decision. It’s nice to have a little corner of the ski world that’s testoserone-free. When you want to know about women’s gear, someone knowledgeable actually answers. And no one puts you down or makes a snide remark when you proudly proclaim, “Yes, I AM a jacket slut.” (If you think this sounds weird, go here and you’ll find 105 pages worth of Diva jacket love.)

Here are some interesting facts about TheSkiDiva:

As of September 6, 2016

Number of members: 4,747

Number of discussions: 19,294

Number of messages: 323,700 

Site visitors (since July, 2007): 1,353,162

Where they’re from (top 4): 73% from the US; 8% from Canada; 6% from the UK; 3% from Australia/New Zealand

Where we’ve held for Diva gatherings:
Diva West:
Solitude, Steamboat, Summit County (Breck, Copper, Keystone, Beaver Creek, Vail), Tahoe (Northstar, Squaw, Alpine Meadows, Sugar Bowl), Big Sky, Snowbasin, Powder Mountain
Diva East: Whiteface, Killington, Okemo, Sunday River, Sugarloaf, Stowe, Jay Peak

And here are a few comments about the site that forum members made in last year’s anniversary thread:

• I think I’ve been on the forum since 2009 and have got so so much from it: many new friends and ski buddies. I’ve benefited from the knowledge of so many – for things like tours of Big Sky , trip organization, even meet-ups outside of ski season  – the list could go on and on and on. Also, tons of great info on gear and equipment. And, most of all, I thank Ski Diva for keeping this forum such a positive, supportive place. It’s always a pleasure to “visit.”

• What a great site and GREAT skiing ladies! Since becoming a member I, too, have so many new women ski friends and know I”ll be skiing with my Ski Diva friends on here for the rest of my life!

• I have had so much fun with the Ski Diva’s. The knowledge and support of this group is beyond comparison. Many of us have been through a few life crisis, and the Diva’s were always there for support. We have many technical experts with how to ski, what to ski on or where to ski. I’ve made to Diva East at Sugarloaf. Been to two Mother’s Day weekends at A-Basin. Shown many Diva’s around Tremblant. Did a Ski Diva Roxy weekend at Whistler! I now have ski buddies at Tremblant as well. And if I were to take off for somewhere, I know there is probably a Diva to show me around!

• I have loved being part of this site and learning and reading about what other woman skiers and feeling often, inspired, exited and intimidated some times at the same time, some times different feelings. But whatever it has been, I love it. Although I have not met many “Divas” in person, and I don’t post as much as others (or even very often anymore), I still love coming here. I love that I can post something and feel safe and that I will get feedback and not ridiculed for posting something that may seem silly.

Some of the Ski Divas at Big Sky

Some of the Ski Divas at Big Sky

Administering TheSkiDiva is an honor and a privilege. The caliber of the people, their tremendous spirit, and the friendly, supportive nature of the community makes it a truly remarkable place to hang out. A forum is only as good as its members, so it’s a tribute to the Divas that it’s so much fun.

Happy Tenth! Here’s to the next decade!

 

 

 



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No Limits: 11 Women Who Shattered the Snow Ceiling.

I’m writing this on August 26, Women’s Equality Day. Sure, I know, I’m posting it four days later. But y’know, Women’s Equality shouldn’t be limited to just one day. It’s something we need to think about all the time. Why? Because it’s 2016, not 1916, and a lot of the issues that hold women back should’ve have been resolved a long time ago.

Nonetheless, Women’s Equality Day got me thinking about all the women in the ski world who’ve broken gender barriers and smashed through the snow ceiling. Certainly, there are a lot of amazing women I could include — too many to name, in fact — but I thought I’d point out a  few who have done their part to show that women shouldn’t be limited just because they have female rather than male anatomy.

Andrea Mead Lawrence

Andrea Mead Lawrence

 

 

Andrea Mead Lawrence: Let’s start with a good one. Andrea Mead Lawrence was the first American alpine skier to win two Olympic gold medals. Not first female alpine skier — the first alpine skier. She showed all of us that sure, it could be done. And yeah, it could be done by a woman.

 

 

 

Jeanne Thoren

Jeanne Thoren

Jeanne Thoren: Granted, some of the modifications she proposed for skis and boots are still being debated today. But whether you agree with her or not, you have to give Jeanne Thoren her props. Jeanne was the first person in the ski industry to realize that women were not just miniature men and maybe, just maybe, we needed gear engineered to suit us. A radical concept, in its time (which incidentally, wasn’t all that long ago). In 1986, Jeanne designed what is believed to be the first women’s ski, for the Austrian company Blizzard. She also created awareness of and demand for women-centric ski gear, raising the bar for the entire industry and improving the sport for all women. The Exclusive Carve Ski she designed for Dynastar became Ski magazine’s 2007 Ski of the Year. In 2009, she opened the Jeannie Thoren’s Women’s Ski Center in Vail, Colorado.

 

Suzy Chaffee

Suzy Chaffee

Suzy Chaffee: I had the privilege of interviewing Suzy a couple years ago, and it was pretty mind-blowing to speak to someone I idolized when I first started skiing. Sure, she’s a three-time world freestyle skiing champion, and yeah, she was the first female member of the US Olympic team board of directors. But I think her most far-ranging achievement is her work as a champion of Title IX legislation. Suzy was instrumental in convincing federal lawmakers to enact the statute that guarantees equal opportunities for men and women in federally funded sports and education programs. You can find my interview, along with her long list of achievements, here.

Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn

 

Lindsey Vonn: I hardly need to write anything here. Lindsey isn’t just arguably the best women’s skier of all time, she’s also considered one of the best skiers of all time.  I won’t go into all her accomplishments (you can find them in Wikipedia), but I’ve included her in this list for one important reason: her extremely high profile serves as an inspiration for girls and women everywhere.  She’s also the founder of the Lindsey Vonn Foundation, which empowers young women through scholarships, programs and unique opportunities.

 

 

Lynsey Dyer

Lynsey Dyer

Lynsey Dyer: A phenomenal world-class skier who was named Powder Magazine’s Skier of the Year, Lynsey is also the founder of  SheJumps.org, an organization dedicated to encouraging  women to  participate in outdoor activities. But that’s not all: Fed up with the fact that only 14% of the athletes in major ski films are female when women make up around 40% of the skiing population, Lynsey took it upon herself to produce Pretty Faces, an all-female ski movie, raising the bulk of the money she needed via a Kickstarter campaign. I interviewed her about all this here.

 

 

Lindsey Van

Lindsey Van

Lindsey Van: Yes, another Lindsey/Lynsey (what the heck is with that name, anyway?). But this one is different: she flies. Lindsey is an amazing ski jumper; in 2009, she became the first World Champion in women’s ski jumping after winning the first World Championships to allow women to compete. She also holds the North American women’s record with a jump of 171 meters. Before the Olympic Games in 2010, she held the hill record for both men and women in Vancouver. More importantly, her continued efforts not only helped put women’s ski jumping on the map, but helped put it into the 2014 Olympics. For more information on this, here’s a piece I did about it in 2013.

Sarah Burke

Sarah Burke

 

Sarah Burke: Taken from us way too soon, Sarah was a force to be reckoned with on the Freestyle Skiing circuit. In fact, it’s thanks to her tireless efforts that women’s ski half-pipe was finally included in the X Games, three years after men were competing in this same event. Sarah went on to become a four-time X Game champion. She also coached girls on glaciers in the summer, paving the way for future female competitors in more than one way.

 

 

 

Pam Murphy

Pam Murphy

 

Pam Murphy: There still aren’t a lot of women in the upper echelons of ski area management, but the first to break the snow ceiling was Pam Murphy. Starting in the ticket office at Mammoth Mountain in 1973, Pam rose through the ranks to vice president of marketing and sales and in 1998, became Mammoth’s general manager — the first female GM for a major ski resort in the country. Pam retired from the post in 2014.

 

 

Kim Beekman

Kim Beekman

 

Kim Beekman: One of the major publications of the ski industry, Skiing Magazine never had a female editor-in-chief in its 68-year history until Kim Beekman took the helm. Named to the post in 2015, Kim is an award-winning journalist, an accomplished lifelong skier, and director of SKI’s rigorous Women’s Ski Test. As editor-in-chief, she’s focused on welcoming a wider range of skiers into the fold, no matter what their ability, through compelling story telling and informative articles.

 

 

 

 

Angel Collinson

Angel Collinson

Angel Collinson: Angel is kind of the ‘it’ girl of skiing right now. But not without cause. Angel was the first woman to win the Best Line at the Powder Awards, creating what the Ski Journal called “the burliest—and most entertaining—female film segment of all time.” Her footage ended up earning her the coveted closing segment in Paradise Waits, marking the first time a woman has been selected for a TGR finale. The previous year, she broke barriers with the first female opening segment of a TGR film, in 2014’s Almost Ablaze. In fact, until Collinson showed up on the scene three years ago, the studio hadn’t featured a woman in a film in years.

 

 

Jen Gurnecki

Jen Gurnecki

Jen Gurecki: What do we do when we’re unhappy with the women’s skis out there? Here’s what Jen did: she stepped up and created Coalition Snow, the first ever woman-owned ski company — not an easy task in an industry that’s dominated by men. The company’s tag line says it all: We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for. Yep, don’t tell her she can’t; she’ll turn it into a can. I interviewed her here.

 

 

 

There’s no doubt there are a lot of inspiring women in the ski world (some of the others I’ve interviewed include Muffy Davis, Donna Weinbrecht, and Elyse Saugstad). In fact, the Ski Hall of Fame will soon be opening a special exhibit on women hall-of-famers, a well-deserved tribute to a talented, powerful group. Helmets off to them all!

 



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Choose Your Deity: The Gods & Goddesses of Snow

 

Ullr, from an 18th century Icelandic manuscript.

Ullr, from an ancient Icelandic manuscript.

It’s the end of August, and the gods and goddesses of snow are starting to stir in their beds. This past weekend snow was in the forecast for the higher elevations of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. Yes, boys and girls, it’s coming.

‘Gods and goddesses?’ you say. ‘I thought it was all about Ullr!’

Well, not really. Sure, the Nordic deity is the one who gets all the press. Even the most staunch unbelievers aren’t shy about trying all sorts of things to get him to deliver snow during ski season. But Ullr isn’t the only god of  snow out there. Plenty of other cultures have them, too. So if you want to hedge your bets, here are a few others you might want to direct your attention to:

Chione (Khione): The goddess of snow in Greek mythology. Chione was daughter a daughter of Boreas, god of the wintry north wind. She was also the consort of Poseidon, god of the sea.

Aztec

Itztlacoliuhqui, Aztec god of snow.

Itztlacoliuhqui: No, I have no idea how this is pronounced, but the Aztecs had a god of snow, who was also the god of frost, ice, cold, winter, sin, punishment and human misery. Illustrations show his face as a piece of finely curved black obsidian. Some say this reflects his blindness to the hardship inflicted on farmers by a bad, crop-destroying frost. According to legend, Itztlacoliuhqui started off life as the god Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli (Lord of the Dawn, Venus) who, after a shooting match with the Sun God Tonatiuh, was punished and transformed into Itztlacoliuhqui, the god of stone and coldness — which is why it’s always cold at dawn.

Poli’ahu: Incredibly enough, there’s a snow god in Hawaii, too. Poli’ahu, whose name means “cloaked bosom,” or “temple bosom,” is a legendary daughter of Wakea who dwells at the summit of Mauna Kea. The antithesis of her fiery arch-rival, Pele, Poli’ahu spreads her beautiful white kapa across the summit of Mauna Kea in the winter, and adorns the mountain with her pink and gold cloak in the summer.

Aisoyimstan: Many native American tribes had dieties for snow; Aisoyimstan is the snow god for the Black Feet people of Montana. Aisoyimstan is the  ‘Cold Maker’ who blankets the earth with frost and snow. He is completely white, down to his hair and clothing. And he even rides a white horse.

Caillech

Cailleach Bheur

Cailleach Bheur: The goddess of winter for ancient Scottish, Irish, and Manx peoples, Cailleach Bheur is often depicted as a blue-faced hag who is reborn every October 31. Cailleach Bheur brings the snow until the Goddess Brigit deposes her. She eventually turns to stone on April 30.

Moran (Marzanna): In Slavic mythology, Morana was the Slavic goddess of winter and death. She usually appeared as an ugly old woman, but to those who showed no fear she appeared as a beautiful young girl. Moron’s arrival was always expected with fear and her departure was celebrated with a lot of noise and happiness.

Kuraokami: is a legendary Japanese dragon and Shinto deity of rain and snow.

Khuno: The Incan snow god. According to  legend, Khuno burned the land of all vegetation during a fit of rage, leaving only the coca plant behind. The hungry people ate it and discovered that coca leaves helped them endure the cold. Hey, could this is the reason cocaine is referred to as snow?

So pick your deity, or pray to them all. It can’t hurt.



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Is Vail taking over the ski world? And is this a good thing?

@Vail Resorts

@Vail Resorts

Last week the ski world reverberated with the news that Vail was entering into an agreement to buy Whistler Backcomb, arguably the crown jewel of Canadian ski resorts, and one of the best and largest in the world.

This is anything but small potatoes. Vail is spending $1.1 billion for the acquisition, or $1.4 billion Canadian. As part of the deal, Vail would acquire 100 percent of the stock of Whistler Backcomb and Whistler Blackcomb shareholders would receive C$17.50 per share in cash and 0.0975 shares of Vail Resorts common stock, for a total value of $27.38 per share or C$36.00.

There’s no denying that Vail has been on a bit of a spending spree, buying nine resorts in three countries in less than six years. Here’s what they’ve acquired over the past fourteen, and for how much:

  • 2002 • Heavenly, California: $99.2 million
  • 2010 • Northstar At Tahoe, California: $63 million
  • 2012 • Kirkwood, California: $18 million
  • 2012 • Afton Alps, Minnesota; Mt. Brighton, Michigan: $20 million
  • 2013 • Canyons, Utah: $305 million (50-year lease)
  • 2014 • Park City Mountain Resort, Utah: $182.5 million
  • 2015 • Perisher, Australia: $136 million

Can they afford it? According to Jason Blevins of the Denver Post, “Vail Resorts last fall reported $1.4 billion in revenue for fiscal 2015, marking the sixth time in the last decade the company’s annual revenues surpassed the billion-dollar mark. The company showed a 36 percent in EBITDA to $365.8 million in fiscal 2015 and strong sales of its popular Epic Pass in the spring of this year has the company tracking toward another record year for fiscal 2016.”

In a nutshell, they’re doing well. And if they can afford it and it fits with their business plan, well, they’re free to do as they like.

For skiers, the benefits of all these acquisitions are obvious: Ski areas are capital intensive, and Vail’s deep pockets can mean greater investments in things like lifts, snowmaking, grooming, on-site amenities, and so on. It might even mean better salaries for resort employees, which can help attract top tier people to its resorts. And it can mean investments in more and better non-skiing activities, which are essential in turning its resorts into four-season destinations —  critical for their survival in the face of climate change. What’s more, a growing roster of mountains under the Epic pass  umbrella gives skiers greater access to some of the best skiing in the world. Nothing wrong with that.

But still, I’m conflicted. Like a lot of people, I’m not convinced that the Vail-ification of the ski world is a good thing. I’m always a little nervous when one company gets too big in any particular industry, and I’m afraid this is what we’re seeing here. Sure, Vail is doing well now. But as a publicly traded company — and a big one, at that — Vail is certainly captive to the crazy gyrations of the stock market. A bad stock year can cause problems not just at the Mother Ship, but at all its resorts, across the board. What’s more, Vail has a responsibility to its shareholders to continually improve its bottom line. And this doesn’t always engender practices that are to the customers’ liking. If Vail decides to increase its lift prices, for example, a lot of people at a lot of mountains are screwed. The competitive incentive is gone. And that’s not good.

For the acquired resorts, there’s the issue of having a remote corporate overlord.  Will decisions have to be approved by someone hundreds of miles away? Everything from expansion plans to the color of ski school jackets may now have to through a number of corporate layers. Will pay for employees go down, instead of up? Will issues that affect the community get the consideration they deserve? And will the acquired resorts become more and more homogenized, so they bear more resemblance to one another and lose the characteristics that once made them so unique?

I’m also worried about the tremendous influence a company as large as Vail has in the ski world. Whatever Vail does — good or bad — can have a profound effect. If Vail offers a particular amenity, for example, a lot of other resorts are going to feel pressure to do the same, whether it makes sense or not.

Which leads me to the following: all this makes it increasingly difficult for smaller ski areas to survive What’s the incentive for a skier to go to a smaller, independent resort, if they can purchase an Epic pass and have access to multiple resorts for the same amount they’d spend for one? And with Vail having such deep pockets for investment, how can a smaller area compete? Before you shake your head and say, well, that’s the market at work, survival of the fittest and all, consider this: Since the 1980’s, roughly 33% of US ski areas have gone out of business and up to 150 more are considered threatened by industry experts. Sure, there are a lot of factors that have caused this to happen. Many of these places were smaller Mom and Pop hills. And though they had limited lifts and trails, they also nurtured beginner skiers and served as feeder hills for resorts like Vail. What’s more, they offered something larger resorts generally lack: a measure of character and community involvement that goes to the heart of what skiing is all about.

Are there ways for smaller areas to stay competitive with the Vail behemoth? Not many. In recent years, the ski industry has seen little to no growth, so skiers who go to one resort tend to take  business away from someplace else. In short, one resort tends to cannabilize another. For example, Vail sold about 50,000 season passes less than a decade ago. Now the number is closer to 550,000. These skiers are choosing Vail over some other resort. And while it’s great for Vail, it’s not so great for wherever it is they’re not going.

One organization that’s trying to help stem the tide is Mountain Riders Alliance, which has made it its mission to champion smaller areas that are environmentally friendly and have a positive effect on the local community. I’ve written about them here and here, so if you want to find out more about the good work they’re doing, take a look.

The bottom line is this: Vail Resorts may be getting bigger and bigger, but I’m not sure that’s best for the ski industry. What do you think?



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Should the Olympics Have a Permanent Home?

Before I get started, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I love the Olympics. I mean, what’s not to love? In this summer’s Games, for example, we get to see the best athletes in the world competing in 300 events in 35 sports. There are amazing contests of skill, inspiring back stories, and heart-stopping finishes. And best of all, for 16 days, the focus of the world is on something that doesn’t have to do with war, political upheaval, or some other horrible disaster. We’re all in this together, and it’s just plain fun.

But in all honesty, the Olympics are a mess. Take this summer’s games in Rio. From Zika and infrastructure problems to pollution, crime and politics, it’s like a perfect storm of nearly everything that could possibly go wrong. Some athletes have elected not even to attend. And given the situation, I’m not sure I entirely blame them. Really, it’s sad.

Traditionally, cities have vied for the honor of hosting the games. It’s a matter of civic and national pride. The Games provide them with a terrific showcase and can potentially bring in millions of TV and tourist dollars. But in recent years, a growing number of cities are giving them a pass. Oslo, Stockholm, Lviv, and Krakow all withdrew their bids for the 2022 Winter Olympics, leaving only Beijing and the Kazakh city of Almaty in the running, two undemocratic cities with less than stellar human rights records. This is hardly a surprise. Both have autocratic governments that can pretty much spend money as they like, without answering to the public.   (Here’s a spoiler alert: Beijing won, and the mountains where the events will be held have an average annual snowfall of less than two inches. Crazy, right?).

Why the change? A look at previous Olympic sites can give us some insight. Host cities often face corruption, ballooning costs, underinvestment in public services, and projects that don’t help — and sometimes even harm — much of the population. What’s more, the Olympics are not the job creators one might imagine. According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Games typically create anywhere from 50,000 to 300,000 jobs, but most are just temporary and go to people who already have work (only 10% of the 48,000 jobs created by the London Olympics, for example, went to previously unemployed people). In the end, host cities are often left with tremendous debt that they usually can’t afford to pay, and white elephant structures that cost too way much to maintain. Photos from Athens, Sarajevo, Sochi, and other locales bear this out, showing crumbling, abandoned structures just a few years after the games.

Athens

Athens

Sarajevo, during the games and after @AP, Reuters

Sarajevo, during the games and after @AP, Reuters

In a 2006 paper, “Mega-events: The effect of the world’s biggest sporting events on local, regional, and national economics,” Holy Cross economics professor Victor Matheson had this to say:

“Public expenditures on sports infrastructure and event operations necessarily entail reductions in other government services, an expansion of government borrowing, or an increase in taxation, all of which produce a drag on the local economy. At best public expenditures on sports-related construction or operation have zero net impact on the economy as the employment benefits of the project are matched by employment losses associated with higher taxes or spending cuts elsewhere in the system.”

The solution: a permanent Olympic location
It only makes sense. Instead of building new facilities and creating entirely new infrastructures every few years — and incurring millions of dollars in debt — why not build, maintain, and re-use a permanent Olympic venue? This could overseen by the IOC and financed by all participating countries. And as for hosting, the IOC could sell rights to a different country for each Olympic Game, thereby giving the licensee the showcase they would have otherwise enjoyed. Another solution: A decentralized Olympics, with different cities hosting different events. This would result in a more diverse Olympics than we’ve had in the past, create showcases for multiple cities, and spread the cost out over more than one locale.

I’m not an economist, and I surely don’t have the knowledge that’s required to figure this out. But it’s clear that a different approach is needed for the Olympics to remain sustainable. Let’s hope someone comes up with one soon.



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Why you need a vacation.

luggage

Incredible as it sounds, I’m already planning my ski trips for the coming season. 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 important. 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. Tell your boss it’s good for you.



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Maine-ly Biking.

If you’re looking for something really fun to do this summer,  here’s a suggestion:

Go biking along the coast in Maine.

Why? Well, where else do you get such a combination of gorgeous, rocky shore…………

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beautiful wetlands……

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lovely harbors……….

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and lobster?

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Each year my husband and I try to take a trip or two to Maine to do some road biking. This year we went to Cape Elizabeth, just south of Portland, for a celebratory 42-mile anniversary ride.

Here’s a map of our route:

Map

The route is great for a number of reasons: it’s not difficult, because the terrain is pretty flat. And with plenty of water views, the scenery is gorgeous. It also takes you by a number of lighthouses, from the very tiny “Bug” light to the quite large, iconic Portland Head Light. Here are a few:

IMG_4494 IMG_5325 IMG_3326

Portland Head Light

Portland Head Light

Some tips if you decide to go:

Lodging: Staying in Portland area can be pricey, especially if you opt for one of the hotels by the waterfront. We cut our costs by staying by the airport in South Portland, which is a short ride from just about anywhere you decide to go. Plus we liked the cancellation policy, an important consideration in case it rained and we decided to change our plans

Eats: Portland restaurants regularly get named among the best in the country, so there are tons of great options to choose from. Go on Yelp.com, and you’ll find lots of reviews. I love lobster roll, so I’ll put in a good word for Eventide Oyster Company (tasty but a bit small), Two Lights Lobster Shack (south of Portland near Two Lights State Park), and Harraseeket Lunch & Lobster (about 20 minutes north of town on the way to Freeport). If you love baked goods — and who doesn’t — check out Standard Baking in Portland and Scratch Baking in South Portland. Yum.

Shopping: If you’re so inclined and want to drop a few bucks, Freeport, of famous LLBean fame, is only about half an hour north. There are loads of outlet stores to investigate. We didn’t do it this time, but, well, just sayin’…….

Beaches: This is MAINE. There’s about 3,478 of shoreline. Sure, a lot of it is rocky, but there are plenty of beaches, too, and everyone has their own favorite. Remember, though; the water is C-O-L-D. We spent a day at Crescent Beach State Park, a lovely swath of sand on Cape Elizabeth. We also biked through Higgins Beach, which is about as charming a beach town as you’ll find anywhere, with a nice, though fairly narrow, stretch of sand.

Cool stuff: chairs made out of lobster pots!

Cool stuff: chairs made out of lobster pots!

 

I look pretty happy, don't I? Having fun on the Maine coast!

I look pretty happy, don’t I? Having fun on the Maine coast!

 



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