Tag Archives | Kids

Taking Kids from City Streets to Mountain Peaks.

There’s this:

New York

Then there’s this:

MtWashington

It’s no secret which one I prefer.

But when you think about it, isn’t it a matter of exposure? If my dad hadn’t taken me skiing as a kid, it’s possible I never would’ve discovered skiing at all and my life would’ve been entirely different. I probably wouldn’t love snow and winter as much as I do, I probably wouldn’t live in Vermont, and I certainly wouldn’t have started TheSkiDiva.com.

For a lot of people, skiing is entirely off their radar. Either they don’t have a family member or a friend to get them involved, or it’s so removed from their lives that it doesn’t even register. And while skiing may not affect everyone as profoundly as it did me, exposure to the sport does have its benefits. It’s a way to enjoy the outdoors in the winter, connect with mountains, and stay physically fit. Plus it’s just plain fun.

And that’s where the Peaks Project comes in. The Peaks Project is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to introduce skiing and snowboarding to New York City kids who might not otherwise get on the mountain.

I recently spoke with the organization’s CEO, Molly Tarlofsky, to find out more about what it’s about:

Q: Tell me more about the Peaks Project. What is it? And what are your goals?
A: We’re a nonprofit that aims to teach underprivileged New York City kids how to ski and snowboard. For these kids, skiing just isn’t an option. It’s expensive, and the nearest ski areas are just too far away. We get them the equipment, lessons, and transportation they need to start skiing. But skiing’s just part of it. We focus on personal growth and camaraderie, and there’s an environmental aspect to it, too.

Q: How’d the Peaks Project begin?
A: I originally got the idea  while I was out in Seattle in 2011. I was working in the action sports industry and many of my colleagues were participating in West Coast programs that helped kids get involved in extreme sports. Learning about these programs was truly inspirational. I’d been skiing since I was four and I thought it’d be great to have something similar for kids in New York who’d never had the chance to try skiing or snowboarding. I was still in college, so I wrote the business plan as my senior thesis, and it sort of took off from there. After graduation, I started building the basics. We’re hoping to launch it in 2014.

Q: So tell me about the kids.
A: We’ll be working with Children of Promise,  an organization that works with kids who have incarcerated parents. There’ll be twelve kids in our program, ages 8 to 18. A lot of them have never been outside of NYC, so this will be a great opportunity for them to try a new sport, see what’s out there, and have some entirely new experiences. We’ll be working with them before the season starts to explain what skiing and snowboarding are and share our own experiences. Then once a week — every Sunday for ten weeks — we’ll take them to Camelback Resort in the Poconos [PA].  It’ll be great to see how they improve, from one week to the next.

Q: How are you funding all this?
A: We’ve started a crowdsourcing campaign on indiegogo.com with the goal of raising  $15,000 by November 14. There are goodies for different levels of contributions, so we’re hoping a lot of people who hear about this will realize what a great idea it is and be motivated to donate.

We also have some great corporate partners: Saga Outerwear, SPY Optic,  Grenade Gloves, OvrRide, and Mountain Riders Alliance. Their support has been amazing, and we’re excited that they’ve decided to work with us.

Q: How do you envision the future for The Peaks Project?
A: I’d eventually like to expand The Peaks Project to every major city across the US.  And I’d  like to add more students every year. Having a network of programs, all with the mission of getting kids out on the hill, would be a great success.

Peaks

 



Read full story · Comments { 3 }

Meet Kristen Lummis, Brave Ski Mom

I couldn’t let Mothers Day week go by without a shout-out to the ski moms. After all, it’s the mom who usually makes sure everyone has the hats, goggles, ski pants, boots, etc. they need. Who dresses and undresses the kids. Assembles the lunches. Hauls the equipment. Harbors a secret stash of tissues/sun block/chap stick/energy bars for that unavoidable emergency. Accommodates multiple bathroom breaks with all the dressing and undressing that go with ’em. Provides encouragement after a fall. Drives to and from the slopes. Attends ski races. Wipes noses and tears. Administers first aid. Puts on and removes boots/jackets/gloves/helmets. Makes sure nothing gets left behind. Arranges ski lessons. Makes sure the kids wear helmets.

Obviously, being a ski mom isn’t an easy job. But there is help: Kristen Lummis’ outstanding blog, Brave Ski Mom. Kristen writes about anything and everything related to family skiing: resorts, gear, kids, parenting, and more.  There’s a ton of great information, so it’s a great resource for ski moms everywhere. Plus it’s a lot of fun to read.

 

The Brave Ski Mom Family

I spoke to Kristen recently from her home in Colorado.

Q: How did you get started, and where’d the name Brave Ski Mom come from?
A: I started Brave Ski Mom in late July, 2010, after 16 months of thinking about it. The inspiration came from my older son. When he was 11, we were skiing at Snowbird, UT, and while riding the chairlift, he began going over the points he felt made Snowbird a great place for kids to ski. Listening to him, I realized that he had put a lot of thought into his comments and that they were really insightful. So, I suggested he start a blog. He wasn’t at all interested, but it planted a seed in my brain. A few weeks later, I began writing sample posts and sharing them with family and friends.

My focus for these sample posts was family travel and ski resort reviews. The “where, how, and why” information that is helpful when families are deciding to take a ski vacation. The feedback I got was very positive. But then I got bogged down in the details: the technology, the platforms, hosting, and so on. It seemed so overwhelming that I put the project off. Fast forward 16 months and my older son, now 13, looks at me on a hot summer afternoon and says “Remember your blog? I knew you’d never do it.” My reaction was to sigh and agree with him. Another good idea put off and another project I didn’t do. A couple days later, I realized I had to do it. I had to start Brave Ski Mom, both to show my kids I could follow through and for my own self-respect! Thirty minutes later I had my first post up. The emphasis on ski resort reviews quickly grew into an emphasis on family skiing from all angles — the joys, the challenges, how to get kids’ skiing, competition and more.

The name Brave Ski Mom came from a lovely older European man whom I met at Mount Hood when my kids were at ski camp. I was riding the lift with a friend and he joined us on the chair. We began chatting and he asked, “Are you ski moms?” We answered yes and told him that we had brought our kids from Colorado. As we got off the lift, he looked at us and said, “You are brave ski moms.” I loved being called a brave ski mom. When I was thinking about a name for my blog, it’s the first thing that came to mind.

Q: Does it take special bravery to be a ski mom?
A: I think that being a mom takes a lot of bravery. When you have children you take a jump, headfirst, into the unknown. As moms, we strive to nurture, enrich and protect our kids. Then as skiers, we put them on skis the moment they can walk and push them down a hill. They fall, we brush them off and send them back out with a kiss. Soon, they’ve got it going on and they scream down the mountain at Mach 10. When my kids progressed from powder papooses to ski racers, I had a choice. I could fret and worry or I could take a deep breath and cheer them on. I chose to cheer.

Q: What’s your own family’s ski story? How’d you start your kids skiing, and how are they doing now?
A: Going way, way back, I grew up with a ski instructor dad. Skiing was important to our family and we skied recreationally and well as competitively. My dad was wise and didn’t teach me and my brother, so we took lessons and clinics from other instructors. But I always loved skiing with my dad and I have a favorite childhood memory of him picking me up from school at lunchtime to go skiing. My husband grew up in the East and came to Colorado for college. From the moment we met, we realized that as skiers we had a lot in common and we spent as much time skiing as our meager budgets would allow. Having kids actually got us skiing more. When our oldest was three, we started him. We made many mistakes, including not keeping him warm enough. That year was pretty much a bust. The next year, he was just four and loved it. Our younger son started at age two and has never looked back. At age 6, each boy started in recreational ski racing through our local Buddy Werner club. Then as they progressed they moved up to USSA racing. Those were really fun and busy years, exhausting actually, as we skied every day the boys did not have school and travelled each weekend. Racing gave both boys a tremendous foundation, but they soon succumbed to the lure of powder and double-blacks and stopped competing. Now we are able to ski where and when we want to, but we still ski almost every weekend and logged nearly 50 days this season.

Q: What’s the biggest challenge faced by ski moms?
A: I would have to say the cost involved in getting kids on skis. Skiing is expensive and while many resorts offer deals for families, kids grow and outfitting them is an annual challenge. Every ski family I know makes choices and sacrifices to keep skiing. These sacrifices aren’t painful, because we’re doing what we love, but they are real.

Additionally, I think that one of the biggest challenges a ski mom can face is having a child who doesn’t share her passion. We are lucky. We all love and live to ski. But we know families where everyone loves to ski except one child. It can be hard and frustrating to honor this child’s preferences, especially when it interferes with everyone else’s personal passion. But we have to respect our kids as individuals, even if we don’t understand their choices.

Q: What do you think: Teach your kids yourself or get an instructor?
A: That’s easy! Get an instructor! While I know this means more cost, it’s good to learn from a pro for several reasons. 1) The instructor is specially trained to work with kids and knows the latest techniques and secrets. 2) The instructor is not emotionally involved with the success or failure of the child. She or he won’t worry and fret as much about falls, nor will any whining impact the instructor like it impacts mom. 3) Having a neutral third-party involved takes the pressure off — both the student and the parent. 4) Kids like learning with other kids and are motivated by their peers. While adults often prefer private lessons, small groups for kids are often more fun and enhance learning.

I know that many parents want to teach their kids and one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard is to take a lesson with your child. Tell the instructor, up front, that you want to learn how to teach your child after the lesson is over. Ask the instructor how you can successfully build on the lesson, what words to say, what actions to take. Instructors are trained to help you help your child and you’ll make their job easier for future lessons if you reinforce what they’re teaching. Also, don’t push your child too far, too fast. That is probably the number one mistake parents make. We want our kids to progress, we want to get off the bunny hill, so we push them ahead, rather than letting them set the pace. I know. I’ve done it!

Q: What tips would you give a mom or dad for a happy ski day?
A: These are basic. 1) Make sure everyone has warm clothes and proper layers. We stupidly tried pjs as long underwear and a cute department store parka as a ski coat when our oldest was three. Not surprisingly, he froze and hated skiing. My rule of thumb: if I won’t wear it, why should my kids? 2) Keep everyone fueled. Kids get colder and hungrier much faster than adults. Carry snacks and share them on the chairlift. Take breaks for water and hot chocolate. If your kids get hungry or dehydrated, they will get colder faster. 3) Be prepared to have your plans change. Especially with little kids, you have to expect that one day they’ll ski for hours and the next day they may be done after 15 minutes. While this can be frustrating and disappointing, it seems to me that forcing them to keep skiing will only lead to more problems in the future. 4) Enjoy the time on the chairlift. Chat, laugh, listen to your child’s stories and enthusiasms. I’ve had more fun with my kids on chairlifts than almost anywhere. Put away your phone and turn off the iPod. They’ll do the same and you can really enjoy one another uninterrupted for a few minutes. 5) Let the kids be trail boss. My boys love to study ski maps and snow reports, so we’d be foolish to suggest runs. Instead we follow them. Even when they were little, we let them choose where to go. That way, they would have some control, could choose what was fun for them and rarely got in over their heads. Most kids know what they can do comfortably.

Q: And I have to ask: What’s your kids’ favorite ski lunch?
A: As a family of four, we try to avoid buying ski lunches. The simple reality is that if we bought lunch at a resort each day, we’d quickly be broke. Instead, we usually make sandwiches — pb&j, turkey, or cheese quesadillas — whatever will fit in our pockets or in the pocket of a camelbak without becoming too squished (try “sandwich thins” instead of slices of bread — totally non-squishable). We often take nuts, carrots, celery and of course, chocolate. If we’re at a resort with a lodge that allows coolers, sometimes we really splurge and take…leftovers (my lucky family!)

Our oldest son is a great sport about these cold weather picnics and will gladly eat anything. Our youngest son tries to hold out for hotdogs. He started doing this when he was racing. He’d be starving and not want to eat what we were offering. In my desperation to get something into him, I’d offer hot chocolate and he’d say, “How about a hotdog?” Bang! I’d be so happy to get a response, that I would buy him one.

He still tries this once in a while, but his older brother calls him on it (and calls me out too for “spoiling him.” Is there no end to sibling rivalry?)

This is what you want: happy kids.

* Photos courtesy of the Brave Ski Mom herself, Kristen Lummis



Read full story · Comments { 3 }

My Own Private Whiteface

Have you ever wished you had your own private ski resort?

Who hasn’t?

For one glorious morning recently, I had my wish. And it wasn’t just any resort: it was Whiteface, site of not one, but TWO Olympic games, and the ski resort with the highest vertical in the eastern US (3,400 feet).

Whiteface

Let me explain: Last week I was at Whiteface for a New England Ski Media Day. The New York Olympic Regional Development Authority, of which Whiteface is a part, invited members of the ski press (that’s me! :)) to see what’s new at the mountain this year.

For those of you who are unfamilair with Whiteface, let me tell you a bit about it. I went there last year and absolutely fell in love. It’s located in Wilmington, NY, just 8 miles from beautiful (and I do mean beautiful) Lake Placid. Rather than going into the whole thing again, you can read my post here.

The trouble started with the weather. The day of the event was windy. Not just a little bit windy, but great, big howling gusts that knocked the power out throughout the greater Lake Placid area. This meant — you guessed it — none of the the lifts were running.

A snowcat. Not the one we went on, but a good example.

Did this stop the Whiteface crew? No. They transported us up to the summit via snow cat. Mind you, the mountain is completely closed. So there we were: A total of seven people at the top of Whiteface, all by our lonesomes.

I know cat skiing is common enough out west, but trust me, this does not happen at Whiteface. And to ski the mountain with no one else on it at all — truly  a unique experience. I felt exhilarated. Privileged. And incredibly lucky.

Fortunately, the wind had died down a bit, so the trip down was fine. No, it was better than fine. It was A+. After all, this was my own private ski resort. I just might let them have the World Cup there some time 😉

Okay, so aside from a fantastic ski experience involving a snow cat, what did I learn while I was there? A couple things well worth noting:

They gave us a tour of their Kids Kampus, a section of the mountain that’s a dedicated beginners’ area. I don’t have little kids, so my experience with this is pretty limited. But trust me, if I did have small children, this would be a great place for them to learn. The whole area is set apart from the rest of the mountain, so you don’t get high speed skiers and boarders racing through on their way down the mountain.  The lodge is lovely, featuring day care, a special kid-friendly dining area, ski school check in, rentals for all ages, and accessible parking. The beginning ski area features several gently sloping trails that meander around large stands of trees, for added interest. If you drop off your kids — for either lessons or daycare — they give you a beeper so they can get in touch with you quickly if needed. Which I think is a great idea.

Kids Kampus Lodge

 

The second thing of note is that they’ve completely upgraded their rental fleet  to Rossignol Experience rockered skis. Remember how shaped skis completely transformed the market a while ago? I think we’re heading the same way with rocker. The raised tip reduces the area that the ski engages with the snow, so you’re able to get on edge and turn a lot faster. It also keeps the ski from diving in powder, so float is improved, too. The end result is improved stability, a better ride, and a whole lot of fun for a great learning experience.

So do yourself a favor. Visit Whiteface. I know it’s my private mountain, but on the day you show up, I just might open it to the public. You’ll have to go and find out.

 

 

 

 

 



Read full story · Comments { 0 }

The Law of The Mom.

 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from hosting a ski forum, a sure way to get an argument going is to start a thread on ski helmets.

It’s like starting a fire. For some reason, people feel very strongly one way or the other, and no amount of persuasion is going to change anyone’s mind.

I’m not going to go into the pros or cons here. I’m sure we’ve heard all the arguments before, so why waste valuable blog space?

The only reason I bring it up is because California’s Governor Jerry Brown recently vetoed the legislature’s bill to require ski helmets in children under 18. “While I appreciate the value of wearing a ski helmet, I am concerned about the continuing and seemingly inexorable transfer of authority from parents to the state,” he wrote. “Not every human problem deserves a law. Parents have the ability and responsibility to make good choices for their children.”

Ironically, last year the previous governor, Schwartzenegger, voiced support for a ski helmet law but vetoed it due to its ties to legislation requiring ski resorts to develop and implement formal safety plans.

All this indicates government’s total confusion over what to do in this matter. Still, government has been down this road before. We protect children from alcohol by passing age requirements on drinking. We have laws that require car seats for babies, and we don’t allow people under a certain age to drive. So Governor Brown’s argument, while I agree in some measure, doesn’t really hold up. Then again, do we want to live in a nanny state? Should government be responsible for every aspect of our behavior, down to how we behave on the ski slope? Who’d be responsible for enforcement? And would it even make a difference?

So what’s the solution?

Darned if I know. But one thing is certain. No matter what the law, if I had a kid skiing, I’d put ’em in a helmet. No helmet, no skiing. It’s the Law of The Mom. Simple as that. Because despite all the arguments for and against, it certainly couldn’t hurt. And a head injury certainly could.



Read full story · Comments { 5 }

Make Way for SkiDUCKs!

I’m one of the lucky ones. My Dad started me skiing as a kid. The result was a lifelong passion that’s influenced everything from where I live today to how I make my living.

I don’t know where I’d be without it.

But for many kids, skiing is as remote as, say, a trip to the moon. And while skiing may not affect everyone as profoundly as it did me, exposure to the sport does have its benefits. It’s a way to enjoy the outdoors in the winter, connect with mountains, and stay physically fit. Plus it’s just plain fun.

Enter SkiDUCK, a new national non-profit volunteer-based organization that stands for Skiing and snowboarding for Disabled and Underprivileged Children and older Kids. An outreach program that involves establishing partnerships between ski resorts and youth organizations, SkiDUCK is dedicated to exposing kids to the joys of the skiing and/or snowboarding experience.

I recently spoke with Clint Lunde, self proclaimed ski addict and the organization’s excecutive director and founder:

Q: What inspired you to create SkiDUCK?
A: I’d left a company and decided to intentionally force myself through a “pseudo mid-life crisis” during my new career search. Fortunately, I was at a point in my life that I was ready for a period of self-reflection and deep soul searching. As part of that process, I kept asking questions like: What is my purpose? How can I make more of a difference? How can I better use my passion and skills for a greater good? If money weren’t an issue, what would I be doing? And, rather than focusing on a job or career, how can I turn my passion into a life-long vocation? SkiDUCK was the ultimate answer to all those questions. It combines my personal passion for skiing and the mountains with helping others in need and sharing the sport that I love.

Q: When did SkiDUCK launch?
A: August 12, 2009.  I’d been contemplating creating an organization to introduce skiing and snowboarding to disadvantaged children. I’d done research online and discovered that unlike other sports, like basketball, baseball, football, and golf, there were almost no programs to help introduce underprivileged children to winter mountain sports. I remember sitting on the deck on a beautiful sunny day in August when I finally made the decision to go for it. Once I committed mentally, I had an immediate surge of energy and sense of purpose; like “YES!! This is what I want to do for the rest of my life!”

Almost everyone I consulted told me it would be impossible to create a brand new organization and get the non-profit status approved and everything else required in place before the end of the ski season. That was the wrong thing to tell me. I’ll admit there were a lot of 16 hour work days, but we received our IRS 501(c)3 non-profit approval October 7. Then we began promoting the concept, coordinating with Youth Service clubs and ski resorts, and developing our programs. It took a while, but our insurance policy went into effect February 1, 2010, and we were on the slopes with our first group of  about 30 kids the following weekend, February 7!

Q: Why do you think it’s important to expose disadvantaged or challenged kids to skiing?
A: Just giving them the chance to experience the sheer joy and exhilaration of skiing and snowboarding are reason enough for me. I’ve taught many kids to ski, and I know first-hand how much fun it is for them. But more importantly, as many of us have experienced, the mountains and outdoors — and more specifically for some, skiing and snowboarding — have the power to change people’s lives. Seriously. Some hardly recognize it, since they can only ride for a few weekends a season and then go back to their usual weekday grind. But for others, the mountains become a retreat – where they can rejuvenate their mind, body and soul. More than any other sport or recreation, skiing and snowboarding combine the beauty, peace and serenity of the mountains with the rush of excitement and exhaustion of pushing yourself to your physical limits. I’m so excited to present this new world to kids who otherwise may never have discovered it. And let’s face it, if you don’t learn to ski or snowboard as a child… you’re not very likely to endure the long learning curve necessary to really fall in love with it as an adult.

Q: What are SkiDUCK’s goals?
A: The primary goal of SkiDUCK is quite simple: to introduce skiing and snowboarding to as many disadvantaged children as possible — those who otherwise may never have a chance to get up to the mountains. Besides being a fun and healthy activity for kids, we know there will be many other benefits as well: like developing movement and coordination skills, enhancing interpersonal skills and positive relationships, building a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence, the list could go on and on. But for now, those are all additional benefits, not specific goals of the organization. However, as we grow and mature over time, I fully expect we’ll incorporate other goals to have a much deeper and more significant impact in at least some of these kids’ lives.

Q:  How does SkiDUCK work to accomplish this goal? I understand it’s a collaborative effort. Can you explain how this works?
A: Absolutely. Our motto is to “Partner, Partner, Partner”. The success of SkiDUCK is based upon the foundation of collaboration with both youth service organizations and participating ski resorts. Our model is primarily as a facilitator to connect existing organizations each already doing what they do best. For example, our partnering ski resorts’ ski and snowboard schools are already teaching kids to ski and snowboard. And our partnering youth service organizations, such as the Boys and Girls Clubs, are already serving underprivileged and at-risk children in many ways. But they can’t afford to buy lift tickets, rentals and lessons. Oh, did I mention yet that these are all completely free for the kids and youth clubs? It’s important to point out that the ski resorts are providing free lift tickets, rentals and lessons for the kids. So along with a wonderful group of volunteers, SkiDUCK brings these organizations together to provide opportunities these children may never otherwise have. And if they want, they can come back several times a season and year after year, all the way through high school! Pretty cool, huh? There’s a really good 2-minute video on our website (www.SkiDUCK.org) that shows a typical SkiDUCK day and how this partnership works.

Q: Where does SkiDUCK operate? How many resorts and kids are involved?
A: We launched SkiDUCK in the Lake Tahoe area our first season, as there are quite a few resorts within relatively close distance to small, medium, and large cities — Reno, Sacramento, and San Francisco. Rather than expanding too quickly, we wanted to stay focused and build a really solid model before reaching out to other ski communities. We held events at four resorts — Squaw Valley, Kirkwood, Tahoe Donner and Sugar Bowl — and from our start in February through April, we took nearly 130 kids up for their first-ever day of skiing or snowboarding. Some kids made two or three trips, for a total of over 200 days on the slopes! We’re pretty happy with that, given the short timeframe left in the season. If all goes well, we could potentially bring 10 times as many kids up next year, in our first “full” season. Each of the four resorts has asked us to come back next season and also increased the number of events and free lift tickets/lessons offered. I also expect that we’ll add at least a few more resorts in Lake Tahoe as well as branch out to a few other areas/states. Although, not too quickly;  we still want to focus on quality versus quantity and make sure that we’re creating sustainable programs that will succeed in the long-run.

Q: What’s the response been so far? 
A: The response has been fantastic; from the resorts, from the youth service clubs and especially from the kids and their families. A letter we received from one of the parents says it better than I ever could:

Dear SkiDUCK,

I just wanted to thank everyone that was involved in the trip to Squaw Valley. When my kids came home they were so happy. They said that “they came home from the top of the world”. They told me the sun was shining and the snow was so amazing. I asked them what was the best part of their trip? They said that it was the people that they were surrounded by. Especially the instructors and volunteers. That took me by surprise; that they went to one of the most beautiful places in the world and that was what they said they liked best. A tribute to everyone.

I was born here in Reno and have never been skiing or snowboarding. I think that to give kids a memory that they can take with them their whole life is so awesome. I think that the organization SKIDUCK is the best! I want to wish everyone the best and thanks again for making kids and parents so happy!


Yours,
Thomas Kuykendall

Q: What’s the future hold for SkiDUCK?
A: I know I’m wearing rose-colored glasses at times when looking to the future of SkiDUCK. But in my mind’s eye, I foresee programs either founded or partially funded by SkiDUCK at literally hundreds of ski resorts across the entire country, serving thousands of underprivileged and minority children every year! I envision a national network of local community chapters providing opportunities to children who may never otherwise be exposed to the beauty and life-changing force of the mountains. Eventually, we’ll grow beyond U.S. borders to other mountain countries around the world. And I’m certain that someday a child who first stepped into bindings through a SkiDUCK program will also step onto an Olympic, Paralympic, World Cup, or X Games Gold medal podium.

But setting all the grand designs aside, the truest measure of SkiDUCK’s success will be years from now when someone who first fell in love with skiing or snowboarding through SkiDUCK takes their own son or daughter to the mountain for their first day on the slopes. That’s the dream that still chokes me up.

To find out more about SkDUCK or to make a donation, visit their website at Skiduck.org.




Read full story · Comments { 0 }

A conversation with Olympian Sarah Schleper

A conversation with Olympian Sarah Schleper
Competing in one Winter Olympics is pretty big stuff. But Sarah Schleper, member of the US Ski Team, has competed in not just one, or two, or even three Olympic games. Vancouver was her  fourth Winter Olympics. And that’s not all. She was also the only mom on the US Ski Team in Vancouver, and the only one born in the 1970’s.

A Colorado native, Sarah started with Ski Club Vail at age 11 and made her World Cup debut just five years later. In between, she won five Junior Olympics gold medals and was the Whistler Cup slalom champ in 1994. She also won a Junior Worlds silver medal and a World Cup race, and is a four-time US slalom champion. Skiing magazine dubbed her as “the great blonde hope … part Rasta, part Harpo, part Medusa, all Sarah.”

I recently asked this remarkable skier some questions:

Q: What’s your life been like since the Olympics?
A: Life is life. I keep on living, being a mother, a wife, and a ski racer. I finished out the World Cup season over in Garmisch, and the US Nationals at Lake Placid, New York. When Vail closed for the season, my family and I headed south for our favorite pastime, surfing. I would be in the water all day if it wasn’t for giving my husband a chance to surf while Lasse [her son]and I build castles in the sand.

Q: What was the Olympic experience like for you? Did you do as well as you expected?
A: All four of my Olympic experiences have been some of the most memorable competitions of my life. I always go to the Olympics gunning to win a medal, and for this I maintain a focus that is determined and blinded to a lot of the commotion surrounding an event as big as the Olympics. I enjoyed the Whistler venue and being at a mountain comparable to Vail in skiable acreage. The entertainment in Whistler was unbelievable. Junior Gong, one of my favorites, played a free concert that I saw with my brothers and my pa.As for the races, I was disappointed in my second run in the GS. I put myself in a great position to attack for a medal after the first run. I just didn’t let it run on the second run, which happened on the following day, because the weather was foggy and the visibility was zero. In the slalom, I opened my chin with a gate on my way down my first run. I think this actually relaxed any anxiety I had for the race. My face hurt and I had to concentrate on getting it patched. I made a super fast first run. In the course report for the second run, it was radioed up the hill that there was a hole on this hairpin on the last pitch. I really blew it because I hesitated going into that hole and just lost all my speed and moved from what could have been a medal position to 17th place. Of course, we always dream of gold medals and if we didn’t we wouldn’t be going to the lengths to train hard and go faster everyday. I tasted my dream, and I can live with the experience of racing as a mother, and being proud of myself for undertaking a comeback, with my family always a fast first ahead of my agenda to be number one.

Q: What was your favorite Olympic moment?
A: Team processing with teammates Hailey [Duke] and Megan [McJames]. The three of us have really become close. Sharing the experience with them was incredible — from team processing through the opening ceremonies, training, and races; in fact, all the way to the White House. It was great to share this part of my life with some great people.

Q:  You let out this sort of roar when you come out of the gate. Can you explain how that started and why you do it?
A: It’s the inherent nature of a lioness about to attack, and when I race my lioness comes out to play. It started a long time ago. At times I have felt too reserved to actually do it, but in the end if you can let out a roar before you go it releases the tension of the race and allows for a fluid mentality going through the gates.

Q:  I know you were the only one on the team born in the 70’s. What was it like being the “old lady” of the team? Are challenges different for you now than when you were younger?
A: I wouldn’t go as far to say I am an old lady. Sure, I’ve been around that block a few times, but I am as young as they get, really. Age is a number and my age comes from the seventies, but in reality I am infinite and I just like to go fast. My teammates are my closest friends and I hope I can help create a team that can charge in Europe. I am proud to be teammates with Lindsey Vonn who has achieved the unachievable. I have seen her grow from an innocent 7 year old little racergirl into a very well spoken champion and that has been an experience that changes lives; not only her’s but those around her, including inspiring teammates and anotehr generation of racers. I hope I have also inspired kids to go fast and maybe some mothers, as well.

Q: What are the challenges of being a ski racer and a mom? How do you balance the two?
A:  Thanks be to fate, my husband has been the key to our balance. Both Federico [her husband] and Lasse come on the road. We base out of Innsbruck, Austria, in the winter and live the circus lifestyle. Parenting has come very natural to both my husband and me. We are so proud of our son, and he is the most important part of our lives in every way. It’s hard to get going and get to the gym and things like that, but I have always had a strong will. When I set my mind to something I go at it with all my heart until it’s done. Being a mother has made me a stronger athlete in the end, the balance of life.

Q: You’ve had an incredible career. What would you say has been the highlight so far and why?
A: Highlights and lowlights, as long as we spread the light and share our insight.

Q: Have you started your son skiing yet? Any advice for moms getting their kids started?
A: My brother, Hunter, had Lasse in ski boots and outside Buzz’s [her dad’s shop in Vail] on skis at 14 months. He’s had over 30 days of skiing this winter, both with reins and in between my and my husband’s legs. We never push him to ski. If he wants to go in after one run, we take him in. And when he wants to stay out, we let him rip. I found when we ski with other kids he’s inspired to ski by himself. He loves being with kids so he wants to ski in ski school. I told him he has to be able to stop by himself before he can start ski school. He practices stopping in his shoes. I used the reins, but in the end I found it easier just to have him in between my legs and then when we hit catwalks or places where he can go by himself, I can let go but just stay around him to catch him.

Q: How do you keep in shape during the off season? What’ s your favorite activity?
A:  I would surf every day, every hour, if I could. It’s my passion and I have a love affair with the ocean. I also like riding mountain bikes, water skiing, dirt bikes, swimming, basketball, weightlifting, runnning, doing quickness excersises, circuits, core every morning before I ski, volleyball. I love it all. I am very competitive and very focused.

Q: How would you compare surfing to skiing?
A: My skiing is very jealous of the piece of my heart I give to surfing. They are both spiritual. Being outside with nature and being a piece of the bigger planet and universe has me captivated for life.

Q: What’s next for you?
A:  I won’t be sure if I’m going to continue as a ski racer until later in the summer. I gave this last year everything I had and I am still decompressing and thinking about where I want to be in ten years. I feel I could go on to Sochi, but I want my body to agree.

Q: For the gear heads out there: what do you ski on, when you’re not racing? And when you are?
A: I race on 158 Rossignol Slaloms and 182 Rossignol GS skis. I like the S7’s for deep powder days, and S5’s for an all mountain day. I love running my GS skis for cruising Vail.

Q: You have this amazing hair. Do you do anything special to keep it that way?
A: Au natural, I guess. I never brush it. and I like it when it’s a little frizzy.

I also asked Sarah to complete the following thoughts:

My favorite guilty pleasure is: dancing.
If I wasn’t a ski racer, I’d be: lost.
My favorite after ski meal is: Pasta when in Italy. knoedel when in Austria, my pa’s elk stew when I am at home.
Don’t ask me to: stop.

Don’t worry, Sarah — we won’t!

If you’d like to find out more about Sarah, be sure to visit her website here.



Read full story · Comments { 0 }