Oui, Ski Mont Tremblant!

Mont Tremblant

Mont Tremblant

Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated. I mean, I only live a few hours from the Canadian border, and until this past week, I’d never, ever been to Mont Tremblant.

Sure, I’d heard about it for what seems like forever. I’d seen how time and time again, it gets rated #1 in SKI magazine’s annual round-up of Eastern ski resorts. But to get in my car and actually go? That was another matter.

Well, last week I finally made it. I’m a member of the Eastern chapter of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association, and this year our annual meeting was held in Tremblant. I’m so glad it was; now that I know what I’ve been missing, I’ll be sure to come back.

Mont Tremblant is the second-oldest ski resort in North America (Sun Valley, Idaho, is older). But the Mont Tremblant you see today is relatively new. The mountain was acquired by Intrawest in 1991, who has turned it into a world-class destination.

Yes, I said world class; Tremblant has so much to offer that I think it deserves that designation.

Why? Consider the following:

The mountain: For all of us Ski Divas, this is by far the biggest concern. Sure, good food and accommodations are nice, but if the mountain doesn’t delivery, frankly, we’re not interested. Never fear. Mont Tremblant has loads of great terrain for everyone. First, some stats:

Summit elevation: 2,871 ft (875 m)
Vertical drop: 2,116 ft (645 m)
Skiable area: 662 acres (268 ha)
Number of lifts: 13
Number of trails: 96
Longest run: 19,800 ft (6,035 m)
Ability levels: Easiest, 17%; More Difficult, 33%; Most Difficult, 40%; Experts Only, 10%

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So what did I like? First, every part of the mountain is easily accessible. All the lifts go to the top. And once you’re there, you can ski the north, south, or soliel (sunny) side. So if it’s blowy or the snow’s not great on one part of the mountain, you can easily move to another and chances are it’s entirely different. Second, there’s literally something for everyone — lots of long, long trails with a good amount of pitch; super fun glades; great bump runs; terrific views; along with plenty of greens for those who’re just starting out. Some of the favorite trails: Jasey Jay Anderson, Duncan, Mcculloch, Taschereau, and lord knows what else; I just followed the guides around. It’s all good.

 

Le Cabriolet

Le Cabriolet

The village: Spread out across the base of the mountain is a pedestrian village, otherwise known as Quartier Tremblant. Constructed in the early 2000’s, it’s built in a style that’s reminiscent of Quebec’s Old City. And sure, it’s probably a bit Disney-esque. But it’s also very convenient and loaded with hotels, shops, and restaurants, all within easy walking distance of each other and the slopes. We stayed at the Ermitage du Lac, but others in my group stayed in the Holiday Inn Express and the Marriott Residence Inn. To get to the slopes, you can either walk or do what I did: take Le Cabriolet, the commuter lift that skims over the village’s rooftops to land you steps away from the gondola base (my husband said it made him feel ike Mary Poppins).

Quartier Tremblant

Quartier Tremblant

Old World Charm: Tremblant is French to the core; well, French-Canadian, anyway. So you get this Old World-I’m-in-another-country feeling without ever having to cross the Atlantic. It’s lovely, everyone speaks both French and English (which makes it easy for those of us who aren’t bi-lingual), and the food is terrific. Speaking of which….

Lots of dining options: The village has tons of restaurants. A few we had the chance to enjoy include Gypsy at the Westin (great tapas), Le Shack (try the burger), La Diable (wonderful beer options), and Windigo at the Fairmont (great atmosphere and menu). All were very, very good. But if you want to stop and warm-up while you’re skiing, I recommend The Refuge, an on-mountain on-trail cabin that’s positively charming. A great place to stop for hot chocolate by a wood stove.

The Refuge

The Refuge

And lots of non-skiing activities, too: Sure, I was too busy skiing to do anything else. But if you come to Tremblant and have people who want to do something besides ski, there are lots of great options: Ice skating in front of the picturesque St. Bernard Chapel; gambling at the Casino; dog sledding; snow shoeing; fat tire biking; cross country skiing, spa treatments….the list goes on and on.

One of the best parts of the trip was that I had the chance to ski with two other members of TheSkiDiva.com. (Ski Divas are everywhere!) They gave me a local’s tour, as well as their own thoughts on why they love to ski Tremblant:

Three Ski Divas

Three Ski Divas

Judy: There are many reasons I love Tremblant. It’s an easy hour-long drive from my house, and we can park very conveniently on the North Side (not the main side of the mountain), just steps from the lodge. Often the car is so close we use it as a locker. As for the skiing, there’s plenty of choice and you can ski all day never doing the same run twice. There’s also plenty of variety: lots of groomers but also fun ungroomed stuff and glades. And because of the various “versants” (sides) to the mountain, you can stay in the sun all day long. Snowmaking and grooming are excellent. Some people complain about flat runouts at the bottom but you can make use of these – this is where I learned to carve. As passholders who park on the North Side we tend to avoid the busy-ness of the South side, but should we want to enjoy a longer lunch or browse some shops, we can head down to the pedestrian village for a totally different experience. Oh yeah, did I mention the views are great?

Jill: Here’s what I love about Tremblant…
The vertical: There’s over 2,000 feet, compared to places near me in Ontario. Most of these have only have 300 to 400 feet. Even Calabogie only has 760 feet, and that’s the highest in Ontario.
Terrain: There are lots of choices for everyone.
The people:  I have so many friends who ski here.
Things to do beside skiing: Lots of stuff, spas, shopping, dog sledding, tubing, XC skiing, snowshoe….
Conditions: They do try to make it great. Mother Nature can play games, but management makes the best of it.

 

Are there any downsides?
Depends on your perspective. I’ve heard some people say they don’t want to ski in Quebec because it’s cold. Yes, that’s true, there can be cold days. But you know, it is winter. Skiing is a cold weather sport, and yes, it gets cold everywhere. If you dress warmly and take a break here and there, you’ll be fine.

I’ve also heard some people say that it’s hard to get to. If you’re not within driving distance, Mont Tremblant has an airport with direct flights to New York and Toronto. And there’s an airport in Montreal, too, an hour and change to the south.

All I can say is that it’d be too bad if you let any of this get in the way of a great ski trip. So go to Tremblant. You’ll have a blast.

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Highlights for Women from the 2017 SIA Show.

Since they haven’t yet perfected human cloning, I wasn’t able to attend the annual SIA Show in Denver a couple weeks ago. In case you don’t know, this is the snow sports industries’ biggest trade show, showcasing the latest trends, innovations, product lines, and styles. But the winter season is short, and there’s just too much going on for me to be everywhere at once.

Fortunately for me, Bobby Monacella, who writes  DC Ski Mom  and the SIA blog Snow Source, came through with her take on the highlights for women at this year’s show. So take it away, Bobby!

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New Women’s-Specific Technology and Design are Among the Highlights From the 2017 SIA Snow Show

The SIA Snow Show takes place every January at Denver’s Colorado Convention Center. It’s where over 80% of all ski and snowboard manufacturers and apparel makers come together to display their lines for the upcoming season to retailers from across the country. I got a sneak peek of some of the best gear, apparel and accessories for women that will be available for the 17/18 season and I’m excited to share my favorites with you!

Ski companies are really starting to wake up to the fact that women make up 41% of the market, and that we do 95% of the decision making about where the money gets spent in our families. Each year, ski companies are realizing more and more that they need to keep women happy. This means admitting that women are not small men, and that we have specific needs and performance demands from our gear.

“The bottom line is that if mama’s not having fun, no one’s having fun,” says Kim Walker, owner of Outdoor Divas in Vail, CO – the only woman-owned, women’s-specific ski shop in the country. “And each year we have more opportunity to offer equipment for women that allows them to truly have a great experience on the hill. Finally, women’s boots are made for women’s feet, and women’s stances, and allow women to be comfortable and warm, which then helps them want to stay out all day and return again and again. This is what manufacturers are finally realizing – that if you keep mom on the hill and keep her happy, you gain a whole family of lifelong customers.”

For 17/18, lightweight is definitely the trend in women’s boots and skis. Along with women’s-specific fit, this allows more control over your equipment, and therefore better performance, which equals more fun!

In boots, comfort is key for 17/18 with moldable liners and walk-to-ride tech that makes getting around the lodge a lot easier. A few standouts include:

  • The K2 W-SP Spyre 100 Heat has an integrated Therm-ic heat system built into the liner which you charge with a USB cable. It also comes in a softer flexing version, the Spyre 90 Heat.
  • The Tecnica Mach 1 Pro WLV, which was developed by a panel of top bootfitters and female testers, features a pliable upper cuff heated to fit the calf and merino wool in the liner for extra warmth.
  • The Roxa R3 Series is one of the lightest high performance alpine boots available for 17/18. It’s available in a freeride hike/ski model, a freeski model for all mountain performance, and the R3 105 W TI, a high-performance 4-buckle model.
 L to R: Roxa R3 105 W TI, K2 W-SP Spyre 100 Heat, and Tecnica Mach 1 Pro WLV

L to R: Roxa R3 105 W TI, K2 W-SP Spyre 100 Heat, and Tecnica Mach 1 Pro WLV

 

For skis, the focus for 17/18 is on new shapes that offer front-side carving performance but also allow for all-mountain versatility. My favorites included:

  • The Blizzard Sheeva 10 is a lightweight, completely women-specific design that won the SKI Magazine Hot Gear Award for its innovative technology. Blizzard is heavily invested in developing women’s technology with its Women-to-Women Initiative, which involves women in the design process from start to finish. It really shows with the Sheeva 10, which is getting consistent accolades from women testers.
  • The Nordica Astral 84 has new materials and a race-inspired shape, with a rigid tail and wider tip, that allows for superior performance while keeping the ski lightweight and easy to turn.
  • The Elan Ripstick 86W has a women’s-specific tube-filled wood core for lightweight performance and a rocker/camber profile which allows for easy turning.

 

L to R: The Nordica Astral 84, Blizzard Sheeva 10, and Elan Ripstick 86W

L to R: The Nordica Astral 84, Blizzard Sheeva 10, and Elan Ripstick 86W

Base and Mid Layers

This is my favorite category because some of the best brands are women-owned or women-centric, and have great corporate ethics as well as super cute designs.

Krimson Klover, owned by the amazing business powerhouse Rhonda Swensen, makes fabulous traditional ski sweaters, merino dresses and capes, but the base layers are my favorites because the prints are amazing and they’re super soft. The Mikaela Top and matching Victoria Bottoms have a fun Scandinavian design and are 100% merino.

Kari Traa is another base layer favorite mainly because the prints and colors are so great. They have a fun, energetic feel that reflects the personality of Kari Traa herself, a Norwegian Olympic freestyle skier who started the company as an antidote to the “boring black base layers” her sponsors gave her. Many of her designs echo her Norwegian heritage with plays on traditional prints in super fun colors. The new Akle LS Top features Henley snaps and extra long cuffs for a cozy feel. Kari Traa is also introducing a great new midlayer jacket for 17/18, the Svala. It has dry release technology to keep you warm, dry and looking awesome.

Another fun midlayer/apres ski/athleisure – I’m not actually sure what to call it – layer is SmartWool’s Urban Upslope Cape. It looks like it’d be really comfy and easy to throw on after a day on the mountain and it’s a fun alternative to your traditional down vest. It has quilted wind-resistant poly-fill on the outside, and is reversible to a grey camo print merino on the inside. The cozy hood and wool lined pockets make it a great apres-ski option. Plus I love SmartWool because they have a staunch commitment to gender equality and women’s leadership in the company.

Clockwise from top left: Krimson Klover Mikaela Top, SmartWool Urban Upslope Poncho, Kari Traa Akle LS Top, and Kari Traa Svala Jacket

Clockwise from top left: Krimson Klover Mikaela Top, SmartWool Urban Upslope Poncho, Kari Traa Akle LS Top, and Kari Traa Svala Jacket

 

Outerwear

Kjus introduced a new knitted technology for 17/18, with the Freelite Jacket. It’s an incredible ultra-stretch jacket with fully knitted shell, insulation and lining layers. It feels like you’re wearing a sweater, but it’s a totally weatherproof coat that looks amazing.

L to R: The Obermeyer Double Dare 4-in-1 Jacket, Strafe Scarlett Bib, and Kjus Freelite Jacket

L to R: The Obermeyer Double Dare 4-in-1 Jacket, Strafe Scarlett Bib, and Kjus Freelite Jacket

The Obermeyer Double Dare 4-in-1 Jacket won SKI Magazine’s Hot Gear award for its good looks and zip-out primaloft liner that can be worn alone or with the shell layer. It’s a great year for the win, since Obermeyer is celebrating its 70th anniversary. 96-year-old Klaus Obermeyer was on hand at the Show as always, and delivered his traditional yodel at the closing bell.

Bibs are still on-trend for women’s bottoms, and the Strafe Scarlett Bib got a lot of attention for its innovative halter design. The design allows you to heed nature’s call without having to remove your jacket, so it’s a plus for backcountry pursuits or generally hassle-free potty stops. The eVent shell membrane keeps you warm and dry and the styling is feminine with a great range of colors.

Accessories

Okay, I admit it, I have a thing for hats. I have so many favorites – but I’ll try to pare it down to a bare minimum!

One of my all-time favorites is Skida, founded by the fabulous Corinne Prevot. As a Nordic skier in high school she began sewing the hats for friends and now the brand has exploded and is sold across the country. She employs women in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, where garment sewing was a tradition for generations until the mills and factories closed their doors. Now they put those skills to work on the super fun hats and neck gaiters that Corinne designs. She also launched a cashmere line a few years back, and employs women knitters in Nepal where she did a semester during her Middlebury College years. Her latest creations for 17/18 are just as colorful and energetic as always, and are a perennial favorite.

L to R: Sh*t I Knit fur pom pom hat, Skida’s 2017 Snow Show booth, Turtle Fur Reflective Beanie

L to R: Sh*t I Knit fur pom pom hat, Skida’s 2017 Snow Show booth, Turtle Fur Reflective Beanie

A newcomer at the Snow Show this year, Christina Fagan introduced her Boston-based headwear company, Sh*t That I Knit. The name was just a tongue in cheek title for the website she started to share her knitting creations with friends and family. Eventually the designs caught on, and she was selling more than she could knit on her own. She moved her production to Lima, Peru, where she sources her merino and employs moms and other women knitters who work from home to create her beautiful designs.

One more great new hat design that I have to mention is the Turtle Fur Reflective Beanie. It has a fully reflective design built into the flower print, so it’s an incredible addition to any runner’s, dog walker’s or night-time Nordic skier’s ensemble. During the day the flowers sparkle, and at night they’re reflective. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I thought it was too cool to pass up.

My hands are always cold, so of course my favorite glove offering for 17/18 is the new Seirus HeatTouch Hellfire Glove. Thanks to a lithium battery, it touts 12 hours of heat at the touch of the button, which sounds like a dream come true to me. Plus I love their company because CFO Wendy Carey is such a strong force for women’s leadership within the snow sports industry.

L to R: Giro Ella Women’s Goggles, Seirus HeatTouch Hellfire Gloves, Zeal Portal Goggle

L to R: Giro Ella Women’s Goggles, Seirus HeatTouch Hellfire Gloves, Zeal Portal Goggle

I’m a Giro gal when it comes to helmets, so I was excited to see the new Giro Ella Women’s Goggle. It’s a frameless design with quick-change magnetic lenses. It’s also co-branded with Zeiss Optics so they have superior optical clarity, and all for a really reasonable price.

Another cool new goggle option is from Zeal, with their newly launched Rail-Lock technology. The Portal Goggle has rails on the sides of the frame that allow you to slide, click and lock interchangeable lenses without ever touching the lens surface.

With so many new designs and so much innovative technology focused on women’s products at the Show, it’s hard to stop gushing about all the amazing new offerings for 17/18. These highlights are definitely the cream of the crop that caught my eye, and I’m sure they’ll be well worth the investment when they hit stores next fall.

Until then, here’s to a great end to the 16/17 season – cheers to all the ski divas hitting the slopes and loving life! As Klaus Obermeyer told me, “Life is great because of skiing; it should always be fun and make your life wonderful!”

 

Bobby Monacella is a freelance writer who focuses on the subject of raising outdoor kids. She also writes about the business of snow sports, with the occasional update on the perils of climate change and craft brewery reviews thrown in here and there. As a former ski patroller, instructor, and eventually marketer at Breckenridge, Sugarbush, and Stowe, Bobby brings over 25 years of industry perspective to her writing. You can find her at DC Ski Mom and at SIA’s Snow Source blog. View her profile at LinkedIn.



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Gear Review: Female Specific Baselayers from Andie’s Outdoor Undies

I know: what the heck are female-specific baselayers? I had the same reaction when I first heard about Andie’s Outdoor Undies. Bear with me for a moment, because I promise: I will fill you in.

But first, let me tell you about Andie’s Outdoor Undies. Andie’s is a small company in western Colorado that was started in 2012 by Andra Byrnes. When Andra could no longer find her favorite baselayers, she decided to make them herself — only better. She sat down with a technical designer and thought about all the things she liked, and didn’t like, about the baselayers she used to buy. And then she incorporated her thoughts into something new.

Which brings me to the female specific part. I’ll start with the bottoms. To put it simply, Andie’s baselayers are made so you can go to the bathroom without taking them off. Instead, there’s a panel between your legs that parts when you squat, then closes up when you stand. Here are a couple views:

From the back

From the back

Between the legs, opened

Between the legs, opened

Why is this such a terrific idea? Say you’re in the backcountry hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, whatever, and you have to pee. For guys, this is simple: you just unzip and go. For girls, not so easy. We have to unzip, pull our pants down, and bare our butts before we can take a whiz, even if it’s ten below. With Andie’s, you just pull down your pants, squat, and pee; no butt baring required. Or say you’re skiing and you duck into the lodge to use the facilities. With conventional baselayers, you need to 1) untuck your top; 2) pull down your ski pants; 3) pull down your base layer; 3) pull down your undies (if you’re wearing them), and then go through the ordeal of getting yourself back together, when you’re done. With Andie’s, this isn’t the case. All you need to do is pull down your ski pants, squat, and go. Easy, peasy (or pee-zy).

I tried Andies Undies in an indoor environment, and I’ll be honest, at first I was a little wary. What if the opening wasn’t quite large enough? What if I missed and ended up with a wet base layer for the rest of the day?  I will say that yes, it took a few tries for me to feel comfortable. But then it was easy. And for convenience, you can’t beat ’em.

What else makes these female specific? According to Andra, they’re designed to not pull down in the back when you bend over, or bunch around the knees or ankles. And equally important, they’re designed to look nice.

Female Specific Tops

What makes a top female specific? According to Andra, for too long manufacturers have been simply shrinking men’s tops to fit women: a sort of “shrink it and pink it”  for baselayers. Andra told me she set out to re-imagine the top completely, creating one that’s not binding or snug and is more proportional to a woman’s body. She also gave it a turtleneck collar that can be pulled up to act as a neck warmer or to cover the lower portion of your face, like a Buff, and thumbholes so you can pull the sleeves over your hands. And she designed her tops to be attractive enough to wear alone without looking like you just stepped out in your base layer. I tried the Beyond-Your-Basic Turtleneck, and yeah, I was impressed. One of the things I particularly loved is the fabric. It’s 86% Polyester/14% Spandex with 4 way stretch, and it wicks. But it’s also incredibly soft on the inside and really nice and smooth on the outside. Truly, this is by far the most comfortable, most luxurious-feeling base layer I’ve ever tried. I think it’s my new favorite baselayer top.

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BTW, all Andie’s Undies are made in Wray, Colorado through Rural Colorado Apparel Manufacturers, an organization whose mission is to create sustainable jobs for people in rural areas, which is a super great. The products are all sold direct from the company. You can visit her website here.

 



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Another Diva West is in the Books: Aspen Snowmass

Mention Aspen, and what comes to mind? Movie stars, millionaires, plenty of glitz and glamor.

But here’s something new to add to the list: The Ski Divas! Because this year, TheSkiDiva.com held Diva West, our annual Western gathering, at Aspen Snowmass. And like all the others that’ve come before, it was an absolute blast!

Diva West is the one time of the year we come together to meet one another in person; to connect a living, breathing person with a user name. And sure — while the skiing is important, even more important is enjoying the camaraderie of women with a shared passion. These annual meet-ups have helped forge bonds that have resulted in a genuine community, both on and off the slopes. It’s one of the things that makes TheSkiDiva such a great place to hang out.

Some of the Divas on the trip.

Some of the Divas on the trip.

This year’s Diva West at Aspen Snowmass was no different. Besides the fun of just getting together, there was a lot to love about the mountain, too. Here are some of the things we particularly enjoyed:

The size:

Aspen Snowmass from the window of my plane.

Aspen Snowmass from the window of my plane.

Snowmass is Snowmassive! The resort has a total of 3,332 skiable acres: a third more skiable terrain than the other three Aspen areas combined. Seriously, you will not get bored. We skied Snowmass four out of the six days we were in Aspen, and regrettably, there’s a lot of the mountain I missed. Guess I’ll just have to come back.

The views:
Incredibly beautiful. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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And that’s just a sample. Everywhere I turned, I wanted to take a picture. But somehow, skiing got in the way.

There are three other mountains to try:
Sure, Snowmass is amazing and has more than enough to keep you busy. But how could we resist the allure of Aspen Highlands and Aspen Mountain? You can ski Snowmass, Aspen, Highlands, and Buttermilk on the same ticket. Definitely worth exploring.

The shuttle system:
No matter where you want to go in the Aspen area, there’s a free bus to take you there. RFTA makes it easy to go from Snowmass to Buttermilk to Aspen to the Highlands, as well as to downtown Aspen and Snowmass Village. Honestly, you don’t need a car, so why go through the expense?

Forget about lugging your skis:
Skiing at one of the Aspen mountains one day and want to ski at another the next? No problem. Aspen makes it easy. For a modest fee ($12.), they’ll transfer your skis from one mountain to the other. We spent a day skiing at Highlands and knew we wanted to ski at Aspen the following day, so we just dropped off our skis at the Ski Concierge, and like magic, they appeared at Aspen the next morning. Sweet!

There’s terrain for everyone: 
Not everyone skis at the same level, and at Snowmass, this is easy to accommodate. Some in our group enjoyed the Hanging Valley, where you’ll find the steepest trees on the mountain, as well as the Cirque Headwall, accessible by a surface life and known as the former venue of extreme skiing competitions.  Others enjoyed the Powerline Glades, with its widely spaced, low angle trees, and Long Shot, Snowmass’s signature 3 mile trail that goes on and on and on and on. Then there’s the area off the Big Burn lift where you can find wide, open spaces, groomers, widely spaced trees, and a natural half-pipe gully. At Aspen Mountain, the Bells and Glades were a particular favorite. And at Highlands, some of  us tackled the famous Highland Bowl (Fact worth knowing: there’s a free cat that’ll take you part of the way up, so you can skip the hike).

In the Powerline Glades.

In the Powerline Glades.

The on-mountain food:
Aspen, Highlands, and Snowmass all have a good selection of on-mountain food. Yeah, it’s bit pricey, but the variety and quality are excellent. We checked out four of the on-mountain eateries at Snowmass — Elk Camp, the Ullrhof, Gwyn’s (they just completed a $5.9 million remodel), and Sam’s Smokehouse. At Highlands, we lunched at the Merry-Go-Round. And at Aspen, at Bonnie’s.

The town:
A trip to Aspen isn’t complete without a stroll downtown. And sure, you could easily blow a thou’ on a pair of ski pants (I fell in love with a pair that cost $950. No, I didn’t buy them), you don’t have to be a millionaire to browse. The people watching is pretty incredible, too. Let’s just say it was pretty clear I wasn’t in Vermont.

Just plain getting together:
This was the 10th Diva West, and I’ve never failed to be totally blown away by the strength, enthusiasm, and kindness of the women on the site. And though I was thrilled to be at Aspen Snowmass, the venue was truly secondary. The women are the heart and soul of the the site, and I’m truly honored that they took the time out of their busy schedules to get together. Let’s do it again next year!

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One more thing:
One of the things I truly love about the internet is how it allows us to make friends with people we might not otherwise have met. And one of the most outstanding people I’ve come to know is Kristen Lummis, creator of the most excellent ski blog, Brave Ski Mom. Kristen, who lives in Colorado, came to ski with me during Diva West. She’s a fine skier and terrific person. If you haven’t checked out her blog, make sure you do.

The Ski Diva and the Brave Ski Mom.

The Ski Diva and the Brave Ski Mom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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Renoun Skis: The Best Ski You May Not Have Heard Of.

Cyrus Schenck doesn’t let any grass grow beneath his feet. Or snow pile up, for that matter. That’s because he’s too busy traveling from here to there to here again, holding demos and spreading the word about the small ski company he founded in 2011: RENOUN skis.

Cyrus Schenck, RENOUN Skis

Cyrus Schenck, RENOUN Skis

Back then, he and his friends were engineering students at Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY, driving back and forth to ski at Jay Peak, and talking about what they could do to build a better ski than the big guys. Then one day, while sitting in an engineering class, Cyrus learned about a non-Newtonian polymer — a polymer that doesn’t follow Isaac Newton’s third law of motion, which states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Instead, the polymer responds to an action — in this case, impact — by becoming stiffer; more rigid. It’s the basis for RENOUN’s hyper-dampening, or HDT Technology, which RENOUN uses in the core of its skis.

For a small company, this is creating some pretty big buzz. In 2015, RENOUN  captured the coveted world-class ISPO GOLD Award in Munich, Germany, in recognition of its pioneering technological design. And in December, 2015, the New York Times put it on its list of the year’s hottest ski gear.

Sounds like a gimmick, right? Does it actually work?

First, let me tell you more about HDT. All skis tend to chatter at high speeds, or over terrain that’s unforgiving, such as ice and hardpack. According to Schenck, the HDT core minimizes that by constantly changing its density, adjusting in real time to the skier and snow conditions. Put simply, when you ski on a stiffer surface, the ski becomes more rigid and damp. And when conditions become more forgiving, such as powder, the ski becomes softer, less damp. Instantly.

Here’s how the NY Times put it: “The more the skis get deflected because of uneven terrain or a high speed, the damper they become, allowing them to absorb the vibrations. At lower speeds or in powder, the core remains lively and flexible for quick turning.”

RENOUN has two lines: the Z’s, which are performance carvers, and the Endurance, which are freeride skis. Both come in two different widths: the Z’s in 77 and 90 mm, the Endurance in 98 and 104 mm.

RENOUN sent me the Z-77 to review. And yeah, I was pretty excited to try them out. So here goes.

RENOUN Z-77

RENOUN Z-77

First, a bit about me:

Size: 5’1″, 112 lbs
Skier type: Advanced
Where I ski: Mostly in Vermont. Which means I see it all: a lot of ice (aka hard pack), packed powder, sometimes powder on top of ice , and once in a while — but not too often — some actual powder.

And now, the skis:

157 mm, 123-77-111
Core: Canadian Maple and 8-layers of HDT™ inlays (15% core volume).
Reinforcement: Carbon fiber, metal and tri-axial fiberglass

So how do they ski?

My first day on them was ideal for putting them to the test: 2-3 inches of fresh powder that was eventually scraped away to reveal a surface of alternately packed powder and ice. This was great; I got to try them in everything from the sublime to the miserable. And in every instance, these skis rocked.

If I had to reduce it to one word, I’d say they were smooth. No, let me change that to two words: smooth and stable. No, let me change once again: smooth, stable, and OMIGOD THESE ARE SO MUCH FUN.

Okay. I got carried away. But it’s true. These are frickin’ great skis.

Seriously, they didn’t feel like any other ski I’ve ever skied before.

I’ve tried to put my finger on a way to describe them, and it hasn’t been easy. They’re just that different. But here goes, anyway: You know the feeling you get when you transition from one type of surface to another — like from ice to packed powder to hard pack to fluff? It’s not really a jolt; it’s more like a measure of vibration that travels from the ski to your feet to your legs, depending on the surface you’re on. In general, it’s not a bad thing — unless there’s too much of it. Then you get thrown around and your ride can be somewhat uncomfortable.

Most skis have some vibration, and that’s fine. It keeps you on your toes and provides the feedback you need to adjust your skiing to the conditions at hand. The skis that don’t are generally quite damp, and can have a dead, heavy feeling to match.

This isn’t the case with the RENOUN Z-77.  The company says its HDT Technology reduces vibration by 300%. I don’t know if that’s the exact number, but I will say this: the vibration is gone. Yet the skis don’t feel dead, heavy or plank-y. Instead, the Z-77 is responsive, fun, and quick edge to edge. These babies carve. Take them on the groomers and you’ll feel like Lindsey Vonn. But what happens when you slow them down? Do they start to chatter? In a word, no. They’re still very, very fun.

So what else did I find about these skis?
Turn initiation: easy
Long turns: no problem
Short turns: ditto
Smeared turns: why not

In short, these skis do whatever you want them to, and they’ll do it so easily that you’ll wonder how your skiing improved so fast.

Any cons, Ski Diva?

Yeah, a few.

The first is pretty minor — and you could chalk it up to a matter of taste — but I think the graphics are sort of meh. If RENOUN is going after a subtle look, well, they’ve succeeded. And I guess that appeals to a lot of people. But this ski is so super cool that I think it should have some super cool graphics, too. Not that I get skis based on graphics — I don’t — but still, it’d be nice.

Second, yes, you get what you pay for, and these skis are a bit pricey. They do come with a 100-day back guarantee, which is pretty awesome. But still, the price is a bit steep. I’m hoping that’ll come down, as time goes by.

Three, they’re not easy to find. You have to get them directly from the company right now. So if you want to give them a try, you’ll have to catch them at one of their many demo days across the country. Follow them on Facebook and you’ll see where they are when.

And four, I wish they were available in shorter lengths. I know, I’m a pipsqueak. But just so you know, Cyrus is 6’6″, so he’s coming at this from a totally different perspective. Hey, look down here, Cyrus! We may be little, but we need skis, too!

Bottom Line:

Awesome is a word that gets tossed around a lot for just about anything these days (‘Man, that’s an awesome cheeseburger.’ ‘Oh, your shirt is so awesome.‘). So let’s not go there. Instead, let’s call these skis something else: exceptional. These are skis that will make your ski day better than it’d be if you were skiing something else. Skis that will make you grin. Skis that will make you fall in love with skiing all over again. And really, you can’t beat that.

I can’t wait to try to Z-90’s.

Final rating: Two ski poles up!

 



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Building Better Women’s Ski Gear: Blizzard’s Women to Women Initiative

Listen; do you hear that? It’s the sound of money talking. According to the SIA (Snowsports Industries Association), women spent $1.4 billon on women-specific gear during the ’15-’16 season (through February, anyway). That’s 31% of total sales — a pretty hard number for gear companies to ignore.

All the same, not all companies are fully committed to the women’s market. Some still treat it as an afterthought – a backseat to the unisex (read men’s) gear they already produce.

This isn’t the case at Blizzard Tecnica. Well known for its outstanding skis and boots, the company reaffirmed its commitment to the women’s market a little over a year ago with its Women to Women Initiative.

So what is this, exactly? I spoke to Leslie Baker-Brown, Blizzard Tecnica’s US Marketing Manager, to find out.

SD: Blizzard has been selling women’s skis for a long time. What’s the Women to Women Initiative, and how is it different from what you’ve already been doing?

Leslie Baker-Brown, Tecnica Blizzard's US Marketing Manager

Leslie Baker-Brown, Tecnica Blizzard’s US Marketing Manager

LBB: That’s a good question, because the Black Pearl is the best selling ski in the country, so you’d wonder why we need to do anything special. Yes, it’s true we make great women’s products, but we believe we can do better. Our objective is to create authentic, relevant products that work for women. But we also want to improve the way we communicate with, engage, and educate women, too. This includes setting up a platform where we not only bring like-minded skiers together, but bring more women to the sport and get them to say ‘Omigod this is so much fun! Look at the people you meet, the connections you make.’ It’s a two-fold effort.

SD: So what’s the shape of this initiative?
LBB: The first phase has been focused on product — looking at what we have and figuring out what we can do better. In November, 2015, our parent company held a focus group in Italy where we brought together a variety of women to talk about equipment, determine what women value, and explore solutions. The next month, we held a North American focus group in Park City, Utah. And we had another one this past December.

During the first group, we spent a lot of time on the hill skiing our skis along with those of our competitors’. We talked about what we liked, what we didn’t like, and what we’d like to see changed. Then we spent a day talking about the issues women have with boots, whether it’s fit or stance or alignment.

On Mountain Focus Group

On Mountain Focus Group

SD: What came out of the boot portion?
LBB: We have a separate initiative called Project 165 — 165 is the Pantone color of our Tecnica orange – which we started a while ago. It’s made up of five of the people we think are the best bootfitters in the country. Four years ago we put them in a room and said, ‘Okay, blank slate. Design your dream boot.’ The end result was our Mach 1 collection of boots, which has been on the market for three years and has been hugely successful. We work with them on our other boots, too. So at Park City, we sat around and came up with all these different issues that women have with boots, and then brought in the guys from Project 165. They fit a lot of women’s boots so they see a lot of the same things. We all talked about the issues women have, as well as what women want. Then they went away and worked with our product development team to develop solutions.

SD: And what about skis?
LBB: Honestly, we started working on these sooner. We’ve always worked with a number of our athletes on projects and had a lot of success with that. Last year we introduced a women-specific design that basically takes what we’ve learned about carbon to make a ski that’s lighter without compromising performance. And this year moving forward we’ve got some new shapes and side cuts that are a littler more user friendly in terms of initiating a turn — not that they were hard in the past. You wonder, ‘How can they make this better?’ But they just keep doing it. It’s kind of fun.

SD: Have you learn anything from these groups that surprised you in any way?
LBB: Well, here’s something interesting. Everyone knows women’s calf muscles seem to be larger lower down on the leg than men’s, so fit can be an issue. For example, this prevents some women from getting their foot all the way to the bottom of the boot. But we had one woman in our focus group who had a skinny calf and couldn’t get her boots tight enough around her leg. That’s something you don’t generally think about. So we came up wth inserts that a boot fitter can use to fill in space around the calf to make the boot fit a skinny leg.

SD: So is W2W an ongoing project?
LBB: Ongoing. Corporate has hired a woman full-time to spearhead this project globally. She’s a young, Italian former ski racer, but she spent four years in the US, which is helpful for us because it gives her an understanding of the US market. She’s super energetic and fun. And I can tell you that as long as I’m here, we’ll be continuing this effort.

We’re also going to keep having focus groups; we’ll probably hold two in 2017. This past August we did a women’s-only athlete trip to Portillo, Chile. We took four of our athletes – a very diverse group – along with our brand creative manager, and brought in a bunch of prototype skis to get their feedback. We also did a lot of talking about the product, but since the next phase of the project is building out, we also discussed how to engage women, how to speak with them, what sort of information they want to know from us as a brand, and how to connect with them better. One conclusion we came to is that we all love sharing our skiing experiences, so we want to determine how we can we do that better so other women can come to love it as we do.

SD: So what are some of the things we can expect from Blizzard in the future?
LBB: We’re going to get this first phase of product out, and we’re going to launch a website in the next month or so that’s associated with the Blizzard Tecnica website. You’ll be able to go there to learn things like what to expect when you go into a store to buy a ski, what you should be looking for, how you should expect a boot to fit, how to in get shape for skiing. We have athletes we can tap into for expertise; who can act as a resource for women. So the next phase is pushing this out to the female sking community — educating, empowering, and drawing them into the sport. It’s a more 360 degree approach. It’s not just ‘Here’s a boot, we’re done.’ It’s a lot more than that.

 

 



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Why you shouldn’t miss skiing Whiteface.

Okay, let’s get this over with:

Iceface.

Feel better now? Because often, when I mention Whiteface to someone, they’ll roll their eyes and say Iceface in kind of a know-it-all way — even if they’ve never been there before. My advice: Get over it. Because if you don’t, you’re missing out on one of the best skiing experiences in the East.

IMHO, Iceface is a vestigial term, left from a time when there was little to no snowmaking or grooming and yeah, it was icy. Whiteface is a high mountain that gets a lot of wind and weather. So I have no doubt that this was correct.

But times change, and today, I don’t think Whiteface has any more or less ice than anyplace else in the East. Everyone gets their fair share. And there are ways to deal with it now that didn’t exist in the past.

Instead, I’d like to start talking about just how awesome Whiteface is.  Consider this: the Olympics were held there in 1980, and in nearby Lake Placid in 1932. A place has to be pretty special to have that happen. And Whiteface is.

A couple weeks ago, Whiteface invited me and a bunch of other ski journalists for a ski media day. If you read my blog post about Okemo’s media day, then you know that this is a time that the resort people set aside to familiarize the press with all the stuff they have going on. You go on mountain tours, sit through presentations, eat at the various restaurants, and so on. It’s fun and you learn a lot.

Suffice it to say that the one at Whiteface reminded me about why it’s a must-do in the East.

Here’s what I love about it:

Whiteface gondola.

Whiteface gondola.

Long, long trails: The highest lift at Whiteface unloads at 4,386 feet, a vertical drop of 3,166 feet to the base area, which sits at 1,220 feet. Its hike-to terrain, The Slides, is 264 feet  higher (4,650 feet), giving Whiteface the greatest continuous vertical drop in the eastern US (3,430 feet). This makes for some very long, very fun runs. The Wilmington trail, for example, at 2-1/2 miles long, and is the East’s longest intermediate trail. Zoooooom.

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Snowmaking: Whiteface has come a long way in this department. The day of my visit, the guns were blasting everywhere. But what impressed me the most was the quality of the snowmaking system itself. In addition to a hefty arsenal of snow guns that blanket 99% of the mountain with white goodness, Whiteface has 15 TecnoAlpin fan snow guns that are absolutely incredible. These energy-efficient guns produce snow that feels amazingly natural, without blasting your ears when you stop to talk or turning your goggles into a frosty nightmare when you ski past. They have an onboard weather center that tells them how much water to use based on wet-bulb temperature. And their basic operation (start, stop, snow quality and position) can be controlled from any computer or smart phone.

img_5113

Kids’ Program: Whiteface has an entire section of the mountain set aside just for kids/beginners — with its own lodge, dedicated trails, and lift. Which means you don’t get higher level skiers blasting through and creating problems for learners. Truly, it’s  one of the nicest beginner areas I’ve ever seen.

Whiteface Kids Kampus

Whiteface Kids Kampus

The View: The summit of Whiteface offers a 360-degree view of the Adirondacks. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Mount Mansfield in Vermont (home of Stowe) and even into Canada. It’s pretty incredible. Here’s a view down the back side of the mountain:

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View from the summit

Lake Placid: There are ski towns and then there are Ski Towns. Lake Placid is the latter. It’s amazing. The spirit of the Olympics permeates the place. There are Olympic venues and training facilities everywhere. It’s like it took place last week.  And there’s so much to do! In addition to skiing, there’s ice-skating, tobogganing, the Olympic bobsled ride (DO IT!), cross country skiing at the Olympic venue Mount Van Hovenberg. Plus there are lots of great shops, restaurants, and places to stay. Which leads me to the following…..

Andrew Weibrecht stands by his medals

Andrew Weibrecht stands by his Olympic medals at the front desk of the Mirror Lake Inn.

The Mirror Lake Inn: I can’t let this review go by without mentioning the Mirror Lake Inn, one of my very favorite places to stay, anywhere. I actually nominated it for USAToday’s Ten Best Ski Hotels, and it came in fourth. With good reason. Owned and operated by Ed Weibrecht, father of two-time Olympic medalist Andrew Weibrecht, the Mirror Lake Inn is a gorgeous, rambling building on the edge of the lake. Decorated in a style I’d term elegant-Adirondack, the main building features a series of cozy sitting rooms with large, comfy chairs and sofas punctuated by huge, blazing fireplaces, a terrific restaurant, and bar. Downstairs, there’s a first-class spa, a hot tub, an indoor swimming pool, and a fitness center. No, this is not your Econo-Lodge. It’s pricey, but go ahead — treat yourself. It’s worth it.

Mirror Lake Inn

Mirror Lake Inn

So should you go to Whiteface? By all means. And next time someone says Iceface and rolls their eyes, feel free to roll your eyes right back.

 

 



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Making A Difference, Ski-Style.

Christmas has come and gone, along with the all-out consumer binge-fest we’ve been in for the past few months. It’s kind of hard to avoid. The commercials have been running since Halloween, the stores have been offering deals you simply can’t pass up, and money goes faster than Santa sliding down a chimney. And while giving to those we love is very, very nice, it’s also worth noting that there are lots of others out there who could use some help. With this in mind, I’ve put together a list of ski-related charities that are definitely worth supporting.  So before you put your wallet away, take a moment to review the following. I hope you’ll consider making a contribution.

highfives

Photo from the High Fives Foundation

High Fives Foundation: Dedicated to raising money and awareness for athletes that have suffered a life-altering injury while pursuing their dream in the winter action sports community.

SheJumps: Works to increase the participation of women and girls in outdoor activities. This is done through high-visibility Get the Girls Out events, outdoor education, youth initiatives and grassroots recreational gatherings.

skiduckSkiDucks: Dedicated to enriching the lives of disadvantaged and financially underprivileged children by teaching and sharing the joys of skiing and snowboarding. I wrote about SkiDucks here.

Kelly Brush Foundation: Dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals living with spinal cord injuries (SCI)  by purchasing adaptive athletic equipment for those with financial limitations; advocates for improved ski racing safety;  supports research to treat and cure paralysis due to SCI. For my interview with Kelly, go here.

Disabled Sports USA:  Provides adaptive sports opportunities for people with disabilities to help them develop independence, confidence, and fitness.

American Blind Skiing Foundation: Provides blind children and adults with opportunities to build confidence and independence through skiing.

Protect Our Winters:  Dedicated to uniting and actively engaging the global snow sports community to lead the fight against climate change.

Clean Water Carbon Fund: Fights climate change and protects clean water by planting trees along streams and rivers.

Special Olympics: Provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Photo from Special Olympics

Photo from Special Olympics

Challenged Athletes Foundation: Provides opportunities and support to people with physical disabilities so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics.

National Sports Center for the Disabled: Facilitates sporting events for the physically disabled.

Outdoor Women’s Alliance: Engages, educates, and empowers females worldwide through activities that require human-powered initiative in spaces away from city limits.

 

 



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Eleven Reasons to Visit Okemo.

One of the perks of being The Ski Diva is that from time to time I get invited to media events at various ski resorts. These are days that the PR people set aside to familiarize members of the press with all the stuff they have going on. You go on mountain tours, sit through presentations, eat at the various restaurants. It’s actually very nice.

Recently I went to one here in Vermont for Okemo Mountain Resort. Okay, you say, isn’t that your home mountain? It is. But it’s good to hear from management about the new stuff that’s going on, their plans for the future, and so on. And with press people coming from all over the place, it’s nice to have the chance to see the mountain through new eyes. Kind of gives me a new slant on things I see all the time.

So with that in mind, I thought I’d devote this week to giving you my perspective about Okemo: the stuff I really like  — I mean, besides the fact that I can be there in about 7 minutes, which is very nice, too.

 

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1) It’s a cruiser’s paradise:  If you love rippin’ the groomers, Okemo is for you. These trails are designed to make you feel positively giddy. If you’re not smiling by the time you reach the bottom, then I’m sorry, there’s no hope for you at all.

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The Sunburst Six Bubble Lift

2) The Bubble Lift: The official name is The Sunburst Six, but everyone just calls it The Bubble. To be honest, when they first put it in a few years ago, my initial reaction was man, how decadent. What do we need this for? But seriously, on a cold day, when the wind is blowing and the wind chill is below zero,  this is the lift that everyone heads for. Not only does it offer protection, but did I mention that the seats are heated? This Can. Not. Be. Beat. Extra Okemo fact: there’s a second bubble lift at the Jackson Gore area. No, the seats aren’t heated, but it’s a godsend on cold days.

3) Friendly employees: I’ve skied at a lot of places, and I have to say the employees at Okemo are the best by far. They always, always act like they’re happy to see you. This can’t be easy, but somehow they manage to pull it off. It may seem like a small thing, but it really makes a difference.

 

food

Photo courtesy of Okemo.

4) Food: I’m not talking about food in the cafeteria at the base lodges — though the food at the Jackson Gore base lodge is actually pretty good. And to be honest, I’m cheap; I usually bring my lunch. But if you want a treat, try Epic, the sit-down restaurant at the Solitude base area. I’ve eaten there a few times, and it’s excellent.

 

Okemo's Women's Alpine Adventures. Photo courtesy of Okemo..

Okemo’s Women’s Alpine Adventures. Photo courtesy of Okemo.

5) Women’s Alpine Adventures: Okemo’s women’s ski clinic is very well known. In fact, I wrote a review about it here. If you’re a Mikaela Shiffrin, or aspire to be, the WAA, as it’s known, probably isn’t for you. But if you’re looking to gain confidence, have a terrific time, make new friends, and pick up some pointers, you’re definitely in the right place.

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The Magic Carpet

6) The Magic Carpet: Little known fact: the Magic Carpet conveyor lift at Okemo is FREE. For everyone! Which is great for beginners. Oh, don’t think I don’t know the score: the idea is to get you hooked so you want to pay the big bucks for the lift. But it’s a great way for newbies to learn the basics so they can ski more safely before they go up in the chair.

7) Ice Skating: Okemo installed its skating rink in 2006, and this year they’ve improved it with a new refrigeration system that can make ice at temperatures well above freezing. A lot of fun when you don’t feel like skiing.

8) The Timber Ripper: Okay, you’re there for the skiing. But honestly, how can you resist taking what’s essentially a roller coaster ride down the mountain? It starts with a five-minute, 1,600-foot climb followed by a 375 vertical-foot descent along 3,100 feet of track that follows the contours of the mountain, at speeds of up to 25 mph. And it’s open all year long.

Timber Ripper Coaster. Photo courtesy of Okemo.

Timber Ripper Coaster. Photo courtesy of Okemo.

9) Summer concerts: Okemo has a lot of stuff going on in the summer. But to me, the best thing by far is the free Friday night concerts in the Jackson Gore base area. People pack picnics, bring lawn chairs, and just enjoy being out on a summer evening. Everyone loves it.

10) Ludlow: This is the town that’s at the base of Okemo. I’ll be honest: if you’re looking for a picture-perfect Vermont town, this ain’t it. But Okemo is the only ski area in the state that has a town right there. And that does have some advantages. For example, in addition to the ski shops right on the mountain, there are five in town (plus one shop just for boarders). And, love ’em or hate ’em (I’ll leave that up to you), there are lots of restaurants and places to stay.  Which weighs heavily on the convenience factor.

11) Hey, it’s Vermont! What can I say. There’s something special about the Green Mountain State. The rolling hills, the quaint villages, the lack of suburban sprawl, the state’s no billboard policy…it’s New England at its best. All I know is that when I tell people I live in Vermont, it’s like I’ve told someone I live on a tropical island; I get the same sort of reaction. No, it doesn’t have the gnarly terrain as Utah or Colorado. But it’s pretty unique, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Women Who Ski, By the Numbers.

If you’ve ever been skiing and felt like you were the only girl out there, you’re not imagining things. There’s no dispute that there are more male skiers than female. In fact, one of the reasons I started TheSkiDiva.com was so I could find other women to ski with. Self serving, I know, but none of my friends skied, and most of the people I saw on the hill were men.

Ski Divas at Big Sky.

Ski Divas at Big Sky.

That said, it’s one thing to think something is true, and another to back it up with data. I mean, did you ever stop and wonder about the actual numbers? How many women skiers are there? How often do they ski? And really, how much do we really know about this group?

It’s something I think about, myself. Then again, beneath this ultra cool Ski Diva personality is a geek who loves stats of all kinds. (Also map. I love maps. But that has nothing to do with this.)

Kelly Davis, SIA's Director of Research

Kelly Davis, SIA’s Director of Research

Recently I attended a presentation by Kelly Davis, Snowsports Industries America’s Director of Research. Kelly makes it her business to compile data about just about everything to do with snowsports, and she had some fascinating information about women and skiing. So I thought I’d share some of it with you here:

• In ‘15/’16, there were 11.631 million downhill skiers. Forty one percent, or 4.769 million, were female. (This is actually more than I thought, so encouraging news.)

• Thirty five percent of the 8.158 million participants who consider themselves skiers or snowboarders and didn’t participate last season are female. Their three most common reasons for not participating are as follows:  (1) nobody to go with; (2) increased family commitments; and (3) bad weather/snow conditions.

• Half of women skiers ski fewer than 9 times a season; 25% ski 10 to 19 times; and 28% 20+ times. Compare this to men: 39% say they ski 9 days or less, 25% 10 to 19 times, and 37% 20+ days.

• Women tend to rate their ability levels lower than men. About 17% assess themselves as beginners, 50% as intermediates, and 33% as advanced/expert. For men, 5% assess themselves as beginners,  36% intermediates, and 57% as advanced/experts.

• Women who return to skiing after dropping out cite lack of time as their primary reason for stopping. Many return because they want their children to experience skiing. They also return when they feel they have enough disposable income to afford to ski again.

• Women who are new to the sport see four key hurdles to participating: (1) intimidation because they feel that they don’t have adequate skills; (2) lack of confidence due to not having or knowing how to choose the right gear; (3) uncertainty about planning a ski trip, and (4) price sensitivity because they think it’s too expensive.

• Women make up just 25% of a subgroup of skiers that Kelly identifies Core Skiers, a group that accounts for only 5% of the skiing population. Her description of Core Skiers is as follows:

“This participant lives to ski. They might be found hanging around back bowls, tree runs, or skinning in the backcountry. Many live and work in ski towns just so they can focus on their passion for skiing. They are planning trips to exotic ski locations around the world. They have a quiver of skis and will buy high end gear with superior technology including equipment, apparel, and accessories. They probably ‘know a guy’ that works in a specialty shop in town who hooks them up with the best gear. They read SKI, Skiing, Powder, and Freeskier magazines and play close attention to gear guides. They consume ski media and produce their own online content.”

And here’s the group’s demographics:

• College degree
• Household income $25K to $50K and $250K to $1M+. Note: on the lower end of income and age, this person may work at a specialty shop, on the mountain, as a guide, or at a restaurant in a mountain town. On the high end, this could be a consultant or the founder of a successful business venture.
• Averages 30+ days a season
• Age 15 to 30/ages 45 to 65 (about 585K)

So what do we get from these numbers? What do they mean? Why are women such a minority in skiing? It’s a question the industry has grappled with for years, and it’s one I put to the members of TheSkiDiva. Here are a few of the insights they offered:

• Many, many women, especially in my mom’s generation, seem to have this ingrained sense of needing to take care of everyone, including their husbands, while the men have an easier time really embracing a day off. This may affect womens’ willingness to give time over to skiing, because it can be a very, very time-intensive sport, especially if you live in day-trip proximity to the big mountains. They may just be thinking about all the stuff that won’t get done if they spend this or that day up in the hills, and then they go less, and their skiing doesn’t get better. Meanwhile, the men are thinking, “Great! A day off, let’s ski!”

• A lot of my friends skied when I was in college. But fewer and fewer did, as I got older. For some it was because of  kids, and the whole process became just too difficult. For others, it was money. And for others, it was just lack of either time or interest. I’m the only one of us who’s managed to keep at it.

• I think as woman age their priorities change. High School age and younger, they have no responsibilities and are able to enjoy skiing without guilt. College age, there’s more responsibility with school, but no families or children yet. After graduation there’s jobs, thus less time for skiing, more dedication to climbing the corporate ladder etc. Finally marriage, kids, lots and lots of responsibility less and less time for skiing. Skiing isn’t a priority any longer and goes by the way side.

• Women are supporters. And part of the reason for this is because of the way we’re brought up. But I think another part of it is that we reorganize our lives and reprioritize our lives all the time. We tend to reinvent ourselves when things happen in our life, and adjust our priorities. If a guy is a skier when he’s single, he’ll likely be a skier when he’s married, and when he becomes a dad…………..(you get the idea), When an average woman makes those transitions her her life, I think she tends to adjust priorities more readily, and thus the lack of enthusiasm for a given activity.

• It seems women get distracted from skiing by the parenting and total family expense; unfortunate more fathers don’t step up and insist on hanging in the lodge and encouraging mom to get back out there. I don’t live in the land of make believe — a couple of my friends’ husbands did encourage them to get back out there and take turns in the lodge. It makes the difference, for these friends they are still skiers — with and without family.

Next month is Learn to Ski and Ride Month. Many ski areas are offering special rates for lessons and rentals. So if you have a friend who might want to learn to ski, check it out. Or check out my list of women’s ski clinics for the ’16/’17 season. For women who want to return to skiing, it’s a great way to brush up on rusty skills and learn some new ones in a fun, relaxed atmosphere.



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