A chat with Laura Davies, or How To Ski 15 Countries in One Year

Laura backcountry skiing  outside of Cerro Catedral resort in Bariloche, Argentina

Laura backcountry skiing outside of Cerro Catedral resort in Bariloche, Argentina

How many countries have you skied in? One? Two? Maybe, just maybe three or four? What would you say if I told you I’ve come across someone who’s skied in fifteen countries in just one year? Incredible, right? But that’s just what 27-year old Laura Davies did. In August, 2016, Laura did what most of us only dream about: she left a corporate job in Denver, Colorado, and embarked on what anyone would call the ski trip of a lifetime.

I spoke to Laura recently to find out more.

Ski Diva: What an amazing experience! How’d you come up with the idea to ski around the world?
Laura: The idea came from my first international ski trip to Chile in the summer of 2015. By several accounts this was the worst vacation I have ever taken. I went with four friends to ski Portillo and Nevados De Chillan and we experienced disaster after disaster. We got hit by a truck on our first day and totaled our rental car, a friend got her credit cards stolen, every bus we took broke down, and we lost power in our lodging.  Despite all of that, the skiing was decent and I loved it. I liked the challenge of the travel, the excitement of exploring new mountains, and skiing in the middle of summer just makes you feel like a badass. I was hooked.

Ski Diva: Okay, so you like to ski internationally. How did that turn into quitting your job to ski around the world?
Laura: I was sitting at work one day talking to one of my mentors, Ian, about the next step in my career.  I was at a point of transition and needed to decide if I was going to pursue a change to an operations role in my company or go back to business school. I had been raised in Texas and grew up thinking this was the path to success and happiness: stable job, promotions, marriage, children, a house, etc.  Well, guess what? I wasn’t happy on that path and didn’t see that changing with more money or a better house. I needed to do something different.

So, Ian being the awesome person he is, pushed my thinking and said “Well, if you don’t want any of that, what do you want to do?” It took me a second but it finally clicked: I would ski. I would spend my time skiing around the world. And that was it, the trip was born.

Ski Diva: How were you able to do this? I mean, didn’t you have obligations?
Laura: Sure, I had all of the ones you typically have: an apartment, good job, steady life, and a new relationship. As my dad likes to say, life is a series of trade offs.  I traded all of the stability in my life for an around the world adventure.

Don’t let the simplicity of that answer fool you though, it wasn’t an easy decision.  At 28 I was essentially disregarding every responsible expectation of what I should be doing with my life such as buying a house, finding someone to marry, saving for my 401K, etc. Mentally that was a pretty big hurdle to get over but that standard path wasn’t giving me much happiness and I am so thankful I pursued it.

Ski Diva: How did you go about planning your trip?
Laura: I had a white board in my office and for about six months there was a list of months written on the left hand side and I would research where there was consistent snow during each of those months. I would rigorously check snow reports, resort websites, and country tourism sites to see when resorts were opening and how much snow they would have. I also did a lot of research on the Mountain Collective and Epic Pass resorts to try and align the countries with places where I already had a ski pass. By August I had picked my first country and started the clock on the twelve months.

Ski Diva: Sounds like you were pretty laissez faire with a lot of your planning. Did that strategy ever backfire?
Laura: Absolutely. I was a few hours late in submitting my eVisa for India and ended up getting stranded in Amsterdam because I didn’t have the visa code, even though I had a confirmation email to say I had been approved. The visa number would have been provided by the time I landed in India but apparently that wasn’t good enough for the airline so I was stuck. I stayed in an awesome hotel, CitizenM, and was well rested for the long flight. It was stupid but turned out fine.

Another time, I showed up the day the resort closed in South Korea. That was a huge blow; I was really excited to ski where the 2018 Winter Olympics were going to be held. I had just spent two weeks not skiing trying to reduce swelling from my recently torn ACL and had traveled ten hours only to arrive and be told the resort closed early to lack of snow. Great. I spent about two hours crying in my hotel room before determination set in. I grabbed my touring gear the next morning and skinned up the resort to get my run.

When I provide ski trip advice to other people, which I love doing, I try to give them more detail than I use for my own trips. The last minute style isn’t for everyone.

Chamonix, France - Hikers coming down off of Mt. Blanc

Chamonix, France – Hikers coming down off of Mt. Blanc

Ski Diva: Did you go alone? If so, what was that like?
Laura: Yep, at least 95% of the time I was doing this as a solo female. I would occasionally meet up with friends to ski if they were already in the same country, but there were only a handful of times that happened, so most often I was alone.

The majority of the time I found the solo travel invigorating. People, both men and women, were shocked that I was doing such a big undertaking alone and I loved altering their perception of what is possible. I think traveling to ski towns actually made things easier — you have a common love of the mountain you can bond over.

Ski Diva: How many days did you ski in each country?
Laura: To be honest, I didn’t count. I skied one day in Kazakhstan and spent over a month in Switzerland. It really depended on how much I liked the country and how injured I was at the time. I was skiing with a torn ACL, torn meniscus, and a broken wrist for most of this travel. I’m sure I could have gotten more days on mountain if I stayed home and played it safe. Oops.

Gulmarg, India - Looking out over the Himalayas

Gulmarg, India – Looking out over the Himalayas

Ski Diva: Did you go from country to country, or did you return home in between?
Laura: A little bit of both. For my first five trips I was still working, so I would fly out to ski for a week or two and then come back to Denver for work. Starting in January I left my job to ski full time hoping to start in Japan and work my way back west before going to ski Australia and New Zealand.

Due to some unanticipated injuries I did have to fly back to the US for a few weeks in May for a surgery.  The longest I was out of the US continuously was about three and a half months.

Ski Diva: You mention a number of injuries. What happened?
Laura: Unfortunately, two days after I quit my job in January I was skiing the backcountry of Beaver Creek and smashed into a rock. I broke several bones in my wrist and dislocated my hand from my arm.  We had to ski for two hours to safety and then I was put into surgery the next morning. I was supposed to take off on the biggest portion of my trip two days later starting with meeting some friends in Japan to ski. Obviously that didn’t happen.

After surgery I spent six weeks in Colorado rehabbing and was able to fly to India in February to resume my trip. A week after India I was skiing in Kazakhstan and had a binding malfunction on some rental skis and ended up tumbling down the hill and tearing my ACL. I took two weeks to rehab that injury and then skied the rest of the trip in a knee brace. That worked well until the last week of my trip. I had just started down my first heliski run in New Zealand and heard the dreaded pop on the same knee I had a torn ACL. Something else just went… great. I paid a lot to ski so I was determined to finish the rest of the day and even convinced our guide to give us a bonus run since this would be my last time skiing for several months. After that I only skied one more day and flew home to the US for knee surgery.  The surgeons were surprised I was walking, much less skiing.

The Remarkables, New Zeland - The view from the Remarkables resort truly lives up to the name

The Remarkables, New Zeland – The view from the Remarkables resort truly lives up to the name

Ski Diva: Did you find differences in ski culture between the countries that you visited?
Laura: Such a great question and at the core, no.  I think the best part of skiing is going around the world and knowing that no matter where I am, no matter what language someone speaks, we can relate at a base level over our love of mountains and snow. That feeling was at the heart of every mountain town I went to from Banff, Canada, to Almaty, Kazakhstan.

That said, each place I have skied has things that make it unique and different which is what makes me so passionate to continue skiing around the world.  I have a giant ski bucket list that  I developed as a result of this trip. Some of the coolest things I checked off of my list this year were:

  • Partying with Richard Branson in Verbier, Switzerland
  • Heli skiing in July in New Zealand
  • Skiing on an erupting Volcano in Chile
  • Skiing with snow monkeys in Gulmarg, India

Ski Diva: So what were your favorite — or at least your top three — ski areas and why?
Laura: This is everyone’s favorite question. My favorite resort was Gulmarg in Kashmir, India. I think it is an incredibly underrated hidden gem. When I talk to people about skiing internationally they immediately think Japan, but I believe India is the ultimate powder destination. It has just as much snow, 6,000 ft vertical drop terrain, no lift lines, and the whole trip can cost you less than $2,000 including your guide. I liked it so much I even help book trips for the company I used, KLineadventures.

Las Trancas, Chile - Volcanic eruption on the mountain while skiing.

Las Trancas, Chile – Volcanic eruption on the mountain while skiing.

 



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Ski Diva Holiday Gift Guide, 2017

Unless you’ve been waaaay out in the backcountry and completely cut off from any sort of civilization, you know that the holiday season is upon us.  Sure, there’s been Christmas stuff in stores since even before Halloween, and though IMHO that was wildly inappropriate, I think it’s safe to say the shopping season has begun.

So what do you say, Divas? Have you been naughty or nice? If it’s the latter, here are a few things you might want to put on your list. And if it’s the former, well, you still need to buy gifts for the other Ski Divas in your life. So here are a few things I’ve come across that you might want to consider:

 

Mountain Khakis Teton Market Tote

Teton Market Tote

Teton Market Tote

If you can’t go to the mountain, why not bring the mountain with you? Mountain Khakis is offering this limited edition Market Tote that’s perfect for carting your stuff, wherever you go. Rugged and water resistant, it features recycled climbing rope handles (each is unique).

 

Sorel Tivoli III Boot

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Why can’t all snow boots be this cute? Sorel’s Tivoli III boot is the perfect combination of warmth, water resistance, and style. I love the black and red plaid; sort of lumber-jackish, don’t you think?

 

Personal Prints Ski Name Art

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Now here’s something that’s a bit unique: Wall art that uses ski-themed letters to spell out a first name, last name, or any word of your choice! It popped up on my Facebook theme, and I thought, gee, that’s cool! From Personal Prints.

 

Women’s Ski Clinic

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This is a great gift for anyone who wants to improve their skiing. And after all, who doesn’t? Give them the gift of a women’s ski clinic. I did a blog post a few weeks ago where I listed tons of them throughout the country. So take a look and give someone the gift of lessons!

 

Kulkea Micro Day Pack

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I recently reviewed Kulkea’s Micro Day Pack and can’t recommend it highly enough for days on the hill. Its low profile, well thought out design provides places for all the stuff you might need for your ski day. From Kulkea.

 

Astis Mittens

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So who here is sick and tired of plain old black mittens? Yep, me, too. That’s one of the reasons Astis mittens are so appealing. I mean, look at these. They’re gorgeous. Every pair is hand made of natural materials and lined with dry-wicking Polartec® Thermal Pro® High Loft. I have lusted after these for years. Maybe one day Santa will bring me a pair.

 

Slalom Half-Zip Baselayer Hoody

Baselayer

Slalom Half-Zip Baselayer Hoody

Baselayers don’t have to be boring, and his one from TitleNine sure isn’t. The Slalom Half-Zip Baselayer Hoody features panels of 240 g jacquard knit with 4-way stretch 180 g knit side panels for ventilation.

 

Prêt Lyric X Helmet

Pret Helmet

Pret Helmet

Pret Helmets gets its name from the French word for ready, as in ready to go, and any Ski Diva with one of these will be ready to go down the hill — tout suite (French for right away). I have a Pret helmet and I love it. Not only is it low profile and light weight, but it features MIPS technology, which helps reduce rotational forces on the brain caused by angled impacts to the head. It also has plenty of venting and removable cloth ear pieces, and comes in a variety of colors. And it’s cute, too.

 

Chips 2.0 Bluetooth Speakers

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A great solution to messing with your head phone cable, Outdoor Tech’s CHIPS 2.0 speakers can be used with nearly any audio compatible helmet to stream music from any Bluetooth audio device. There’s also a push-to-talk function and a microphone so you can answer your phone without taking off your gloves.

 

Ugg Wrin Slipper

Wrin Slipper

Wrin Slipper

Warm feet are happy feet, and the Wrin slipper from Ugg will keep you plenty warm. Made of sheepskin and water-resistant suede, it features a rubber outsole, too.

 

Lego Snow Resort Ski Lift

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This may be for kids, but aren’t we all kids during the holidays?  The Lego Snow Resort Ski Lift  lets you build your own resort and features a ski lift with a winch function, a ski slope with slide function, mountaintop restaurant, rock climbing wall, bear cub cave, equipment hire stand and trail map stand.  Watch out, Vail! There’s a new ski area in the mountains!

 

 

 

 



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More Than You Think: A small series that says a lot about women’s skiing

From "More Than You Think"

From “More Than You Think”

A few years ago, a lot of us got excited about Lynsey Dyer’s Pretty Faces, a ski movie made by – and featuring – women skiers. That’s because ski movies typically belong to men. The numbers back this up. In 2014, the Pretty Faces Kickstarter website posted that even though women make up around 40% of the skiing population and about 30% of the adventure sports film viewership, only 14% of the athletes in major ski films were female. And this was a record of female representation, up from 9% the previous season.

I don’t think it’s improved.

So you have to understand how excited I was to see the new video series produced by Outdoor Gear Exchange, a fantastic outdoor adventure store in Burlington, VT. Entitled More Than You Think, the videos feature a group of young women skiing at three different locations throughout the northeast.

Ho hum, you say, yet another ski movie. Except with women. So what. Well, here’s what: This series is terrific. Sure, like a bazillion other ski movies, there’s great skiing and great scenery. But it’s different, too. As a woman, I found it empowering. Heart warming. Up lifting. Unlike conventional ski movies, More Than You Think focuses on regular women — not professional skiers — who are having an absolute blast outdoors. It reminded me a lot of the Ski Diva trips. There’s no pretense, no posturing. It shows how women can really rip and do things together that make them happy, without the company or approval of men.

Perhaps some quotes from the women involved can give you a better feel for what it’s all about:

Throughout the sport of skiing in general, it’s very much accepted as a predominately
male sport. While there are a lot of women who ski, they’re just expected to not
perform as well. And that’s bullshit.”

“It’s really important for me to share this lifestyle with other women. You know,
I’m not a professional skier, but I want to be out here doing what I want to do for
me…..It’s important that other women know that you don’t have to be an expert at something; you can come out and learn.”

“The onus is one us to create our own normal for what it means to be a woman, and
so we need to make sure that as women we’re not complacent and we’re not going
to say, ‘oh, I’m going to be in the B group because I’m a woman.’ You can be in
whatever group you want to be in. We need to take responsibility for making sure
we propogate that understanding.”

“It’s important to normalize the presence of women in the outdoors, particularly
the ski industry, because it provides role models for little lady shredders to look
up to and realize that they are just as capable and equal to males and can
succeed at anything they put their minds to, and it also provides more opportunities
for women to get involved.”

“When I’m skiing with a group of like-minded women, I feel really comfortable just
to be myself myself. I feel really happy in where I am. I feel normal. And I feel empowered.”

There are three episodes in the series. Episode #1 takes place in the Chic Chocs in Quebec; episode #2, in the backcountry around Smuggler’s Notch; and episode #3, in Mount Washington, New Hampshire.

Recently I spoke with Sam Davies, Digital Content Creator at Outdoor Gear Exchange, about the videos:

Ski Diva:Why did Outdoor Gear Exchange decide to do this series?
Sam: We wanted to do something new. We often see mid-level athletes who are perfectly good skiers — but not professional skiers — skiing in all sorts of videos people put together, but they are very rarely female. It was important to us to show that you don’t have to be a man or a sponsored athlete if you want to ski in the backcountry. You can be a relatively decent skier and still ski some pretty cool stuff.

Ski Diva: Who are the women in the video, and how did you select them?
Sam: Honestly, it was just a couple women who work at Outdoor Gear Exchange and some of their friends. We asked if they’d be interested in doing this, and they said sure. There wasn’t an official selection process.

Ski Diva: How about the specific locations? How did you decide where you were going to shoot?
Sam: We decided to shoot the Vermont stuff because it’s close by and easy to get to; the Chic Chocs because I’ve been there before and it seemed like a great place to spend a week; and Mt. Washington because it’s such a staple and test piece of New England backcountry skiing. I think we would have been remiss not to include it.

Ski Diva: Was there a specific focus for each location?
Sam: The one main overall takeaway piece was that you don’t have to be a professional skier to go backcountry skiing. Subsequently, the first episode focuses more on the value of taking an all-female trip. The second one focuses more on the importance of finding a group of women in your own local community that you can ski with before or after work or on your day off. And the third is about introducing women to backcountry skiing who haven’t done it before, and the value of experiencing it in an all female group instead of in one that’s male dominated.

 

And now, sit back, relax, get yourself a snack. Because I think they’re so terrific, here are the three episodes that make up More Than You Think.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.



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16 quick tips for a better ski day

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The Princess and the Pea

You know the story The Princess and the Pea? It’s about how one little thing — a pea under a mattress — ruined an entire night’s sleep for an aspiring princess. The takeaway: sometimes minor things can have a major impact. This can be true for your ski day, too. So with that in mind, I thought I’d share some little things you can do to make your ski day a whole lot better.

Plan ahead for lift ticket deals: I don’t need to tell you how expensive lift tickets are. The walk-up window rate at Vail last season was $175.  That’s nose bleed territory. Sure, you can save a lot with a season pass. But if you don’t have one, don’t despair. You can save a lot if you…..
• Buy though a discount site like Liftopia;
• Buy off mountain at a place like Costco, a grocery store, or a local ski shop. Every resort has different discount outlets, so check around;
• Belong to a ski club. These can be a great source for low price tickets;
• Buy in advance at the resort’s web site.

Make sure you have everything you need before you leave the house. Then check again. I used to work in a ski shop at a resort, and I can’t tell you how many times people came in because they’d left their jackets/pants/socks/gloves at home. Trust me, your life will be so much easier — and so much less expensive — if you check and check again before you leave your house (and the car, too).

Eat a good breakfast. This isn’t always easy, particularly if you’re pressed for time and anxious to get on the road. But trust me; it’ll pay off. According to Diana Sugiuchi of Vertical Drop Nutrition, breakfast provides the fuel you need for a good ski day. “Our blood sugar drops overnight, which means that muscles and brain don’t have the glucose they need to function optimally,” she explained. “The only way to get this fuel is to eat a carbohydrate-rich breakfast, combined with some protein for staying power and not a lot of fat, since that slows you down.” What makes a good ski breakfast? Diana recommends oatmeal with yogurt, raisins and nuts, or eggs and a few pieces of whole grain toast with jam. And as a follow up to this…..

Bring along some snacks. Stash some in your pocket. You’re going to need a boost during the day. Here, Diana recommends carbohydrates with a little bit of protein, like PB & J on whole grain. Cut it up, put it in a plastic bag in your pocket. Easy, peasy.

Dress in layers. I get cold pretty easily. And once I’m cold, well, that’s pretty much it for me. So I dress in layers. It’s much easier to take something off than to be caught without a layer to put on.

Change your socks when you put on your boots: Wet feet are cold feet. So don’t start out with socks that are already damp with sweat. Your feet will stay warmer if you put on your ski socks at the same time you put on your boots.

Check your zippers before you begin. Are they all done up? Are the vents in your helmet closed? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve inadvertently skied with my pit zips open, and I couldn’t figure out why I was so cold. As part of this, close your powder skirt, too. It’s not just for chest deep powder; it helps keep the cold out.

Carry a map. Say you want to be waaaaaaaay over here on the mountain, and you end up waaaaaaay over there. Or say you want to ski blues, and you end up in a spot where there are nothing but double blacks. Keep a map handy so you can get where you want to go.

Put the number for the ski patrol in your cell phone. Just in case. Because you never know. And as part of that….

Keep your cell phone warm. Your cell phone battery drains a lot faster when it’s cold. So carry it in an inner pocket, maybe even next to a small heat pack. Even better, keep a charger in the lodge so you can re-charge your phone at lunch.

Use sunscreen. And lip balm. You gotta protect your skin. According to the Skin Care Foundation, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in more than 2 million people are diagnosed annually. And it’s getting worse. According to the Foundation, a new study reveals an alarming rise in melanoma among people aged 18 to 39. Over the past 40 years, rates of this potentially deadly skin cancer grew by 800 percent among young women and 400 percent among young men.

Avoid the crowds. Timing can be everything, so plan your ski day accordingly. Eat lunch either very early or very late. The trick is to stay on the hill when everyone else is in the cafeteria for their mid-day break.

Carry hand warmers. Or glove liners. or both. My hands get cold really easily, so for me, these can make the difference between staying out and skiing or heading into the lodge.

Go on a mountain tour: Many resorts offer these for free, and and they’re a great way to get oriented and discover great places to ski. If you’re skiing somewhere new, go for it!

Don’t drink and drive. Apres ski is a great way to unwind. But think ahead. Don’t ruin the day by drinking too much and pulling a DUI on the way home. Or even worse, getting into an accident. Drink responsibly or don’t drink at all, if you have to drive.

Remember to have fun. Sometimes we forget the essential element in skiing: having a good time. So don’t let the little things — even a little annoyance — prevent you from enjoying the day. And if you get to the point that it’s not fun anymore, call it a day. Go home. There’s always tomorrow.

 

 



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Line of Descent: A Review of the ’17/’18 Warren Miller Movie

LinesofDescentI have a confession to make: I haven’t been exactly stoked for ski season this year. I know, I know. Pretty sad, isn’t it? I think it’s actually because of the bike accident I had this summer. I’m still on the mend, and I’m a little trepidatious about how I’m going to hold up once I get on the snow.

So I was less than enthusiastic about seeing this season’s movie from Warren Miller Entertainment, Line of Descent. My heart just wasn’t in it. But then something happened. Who knows…..chalk it up to the magic of skiing. Within the first few frames I could feel my spirit starting to lift. The film opened with a series of quick clips of people doing the most amazing skiing; of majestic, snow covered mountains; of skiers enveloped in billowing clouds of powder. And almost immediately I was reminded, hey, so this is what it’s all about; this is why I love to ski. So if the purpose of ski films is to get you stoked, let me be clear: Line of Descent delivers. Really, it was just the doctor ordered. What do I think about ski season now? Bring. It. On.

Setting that aside, writing a review for one of these movies isn’t particularly easy. Why? Well, to be honest, most ski films are pretty interchangeable. It’s the nature of the beast. The format and subject matter are pretty limiting. I mean, we’re not looking at intriguing plot lines or character development. Line of Descent is no exception, as it follows the classic WME pattern: exotic locales, fantastic skiing, plenty of hucking cliffs, back flips and slo-mos of skiers hurtling through chest-deep powder (be forewarned: you’ll want to wear a bib to sop up the drool). All the same, do we really care that it’s not Oscar material? No. I think we all know what we’re in for when we buy our ticket. It’s fun. It’s entertaining. And that’s all that matters.

Anyway, here are my comments — and I do have some — about this year’s movie, Line of Descent.

• As you’d expect, the movie focuses on side and backcountry locales, with various resorts acting as springboards for much of the skiing: Jackson Hole, Squaw, Steamboat, Silverton, Val d’Isere. The first segment of the film is essentially a valentine to Jackson Hole, focusing on the spirit and community that make it such a great place to ski (oh, and there’s Corbett’s, too). At Squaw, the focus is on Jonny Moseley and his kids (needless to say, they’re adorable. And they rip, too, of course) as well as on Errol Kerr from the Jamaican Ski Team (you read that right, though he grew up in the US. His dad was Jamaican and his mom, American. Kerr’s competed on both the US and Jamaican Ski Teams). The segment on Steamboat is fun, featuring skiers at the NASTAR Nationals. And at Val d’Isere, well, more on that later.

• Each year the films feature at least one locale outside North America. This year there’s the aforementioned Val d’Isere, as well as segments in New Zealand and Norway. Norway particularly intrigued me, with huge, gorgeous mountains that run down to the sea. Not too shabby.

• I was struck by the absence of big park skiing and/or boarding. Other WME films have had segments featuring heart-stopping slopestyle or freestyle. I guess I’ve come to expect it. But this time, no big park features, no moguls.  And aside from a few quick clips in the intro. there wasn’t the customary urban segment, featuring skiers or boarders hucking off buildings or sliding down stair rails. So if you’re looking for that, you won’t find it here.

• As you know, Warren Miller left WME Entertainment a time ago, though he often makes an appearance in the company’s films. But there was even less of him this year than in years’ past — just one short segment in the beginning where he talked a bit about his childhood. Warren, we miss you. The film just aren’t the same. It’s too bad they haven’t found someone with the same amount of charm who could pick up the baton. Jonny Moseley, the current narrator, is lovely, but let’s face it — he’s no Warren.

• I think my favorite segment of all was the one about pow surfing in British Columbia. (Yeah, it wasn’t even skiing!) This is essentially snowboarding without bindings. Pow surfing was covered in the ’15/’16 movie Chasing Shadows, and I remember liking it quite a bit then, too. But the spirit of the participants, the outstanding conditions…heck, they just seemed to be having a blast. It all came together to produce what I thought was the most fun part of the movie.

• Like the other WME films, Line of Descent belongs almost exclusively to the men. Sure, the segment in Val d’sere is all women – Lexi duPont, Amie Engerbretson, and McKenna Peterson, the same three spotlighted skiing in Alaska in Chasing Shadows. I love seeing them ski. These women absolutely rip, and they seem to have so much fun, too. Other women featured include Jess McMillan, Kaylin Richardson, Linda Haaland, Arielle Gold, and Kalen Thorien. Yes, out of  the 29 skiers/boarders represented, only 8 were women. I think WME could do better.

So there you have it. So go, welcome in the new season with Line of Descent. After all, Warren Miller movies are a tradition, and why the heck not. Here’s where it’s playing and when. And here’s the trailer.

 



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Women’s Ski Clinics, ’17-’18

WAA1

Getting some pointers at Okemo’s Women’s Alpine Adventures

If you’re thinking about taking a women’s clinic, you’re in luck; there are plenty to choose from. They’ve pretty much become a staple in resort ski school offerings. Why? Well, a lot of women prefer learning in a testosterone-free environment. Women’s clinics focus on building skills and confidence while providing the camaraderie that comes from skiing in a group of women and working with skilled female instructors. Research actually shows that women are more supportive and men more competitive in a learning situation. And this can carry over to the ski hill, too.

I’ve reviewed a few women’s clinics — The Women’s Discovery Program at Sugarbush (VT), Women’s Alpine Adventures at Okemo (VT), and Donna Weinbrecht’s Ski Camp at Killington (VT) — and yes, I’m a fan. Other members of TheSkiDiva community are, too. Here’s a sample of what they have to say:

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

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

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

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

  • Women’s Wednesdays, Alyeska, AK: Contact resort for dates
  • Women of Winter Clinic, Squaw Valley, CA – Alpine Meadows: Wednesdays at Squaw, Sundays at Alpine
  • Women’s Ski Camp, Mammoth Mountain, CA:  Jan 17-19; Feb 28-Mar 2; Mar 21-23
  • Legendary Ladies, A-Basin, CO: Nov 29, Dec 6, 13, 2017; Jan 10, 17, 24, 2018; Jan 31, Feb 7, 14, 2018
  • Women’s Wednesdays, Copper, CO: Wednesdays, 1/10-3/7
  • Women’s Days, Eldora Mountain Resort, Session 1: 6 consecutive weeks, Tuesdays or Wednesdays, 1/9-2/14; Session 2, 4 consecutive weeks, Tuesdays or Wednesdays, 2/20-3/14


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

Kelly Pawlak

Kelly Pawlak

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

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

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

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

I recently spoke to Kelly about her new position.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 



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

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

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

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

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Kulkea Micro Pack

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

Features

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

This velcro strap is perfect for my gaiter!

This velcro strap is perfect for my gaiter!

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Lip balm pocket and clip for an emergency whistle.

 

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

 

 

Helmet attaches to the outside.

Helmet attaches to the outside.

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

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

 

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

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

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

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

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



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Nutrition Tips for Skiers: Eat Smart, Ski More

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

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

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

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

Diana Sugiuchi

Diana Sugiuchi

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

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

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

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

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

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

 



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Eight Questions Skiers Get Asked All The Time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skier with poles.

Why do skiers use sticks?

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

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

 

 

 



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