Tag Archives | winter

Winter Driving, or Getting To The Hill In One Piece.

Have you seen this video? It’s everywhere right now. You can’t take your eyes off it; the slo-mo crashes are amazing. I just hope no one got hurt.

All the same, it serves as a good reminder: Winter driving can be treacherous. The same weather that brings us great ski conditions can also make getting to the mountain a white knuckle experience.

Which means you have to be prepared. You have to know how to handle the worst winter can dish out. For starters, this means having a car that’s reliable and snow-capable. I have a Subaru, the unofficial state car of Vermont. And I’m only half kidding.  Everyone around here has one. It has four-wheel drive, plenty of room, and it’s not an SUV so it’s good on gas. All pluses, in my book. On top of that, I replaced the stock all-season tires with some really good snow tires. Winter is a serious business here. Trust me, you don’t want to take chances.

So in the interest of improving your on-the-road safety, here are some tips that can help you get to the mountain without incident:

Check the road conditions before you go. I’ve been on roads that have been closed by the state police, and believe me, they’re closed for a reason. If a road isn’t open, stay off. And if it says “chains required,” for God’s sake, use them.

Clean off your car. This is so basic it should go without saying, yet I still see lots of people driving with just a peep hole cleared on their windshields, or a foot of snow on their hoods or roofs. Not safe. Snow on the hood can blow onto the windshield and obstruct your vision. And snow on the roof can fly off and impair the vision of the driver behind you. So if not for yourself, please be courteous and clear off the blasted snow.

Keep your washer fluid reservoir full. And make sure you have good wiper blades. Again, you have to see to drive safely. This isn’t rocket science. It’s a fact.

Leave plenty of space between cars. Don’t crowd the car ahead of you. You want to leave plenty of room to stop. And if you go into a skid, the last thing you want is to be up against someone else’s bumper.

S-L-O-W down. You know those car commercials where  an SUV is barreling through ten feeet of snow? Those are professional drivers on closed roads. They are not you. Slow down — so it’ll take you ten minutes longer. It’s worth it.

Keep a portable shovel in your car. I do this, and it’s saved me from being stuck in a snow bank more than once.

Make sure you have emergency stash. A warm blanket, some snacks, and a flashlight can go a long way if you get stuck. As part of this….

Keep your cell phone charged. So you can call for help, if needed. Of course, around here in Vermont, cell phone service stinks; we have a lot of dead zones. Still, you never know.

Keep a couple of sand bags in your trunk. Or cat litter. Not only does this add some extra weight (which can translate into extra traction), you can sprinkle the kitty litter/sand under your tires to give you some purchase, if you get stuck.

winterdriving

Four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicles do not do better on ice. So keep that in mind. Don’t drive like a crazy person when the roads are icy.

Make sure you have good tires: I mentioned this before and I can’t emphasize it enough. For where I live and my car (and yes, it’s four-wheel drive), all-season tires just don’t cut it. I need snow tires that mean business. It’s an added expense, I know, but it could mean the difference between life and death.

Use your headlights. You want to make sure you’re visible to the other cars on the road. This helps.

If you find yourself behind a plow or salt truck, don’t pass until you have plenty of room. Remember, they only have a limited field of vision. And really, do you want to be ahead of the guys who are clearing the road?

If you get stuck, don’t spin your wheels to get out.  It doesn’t help. Go forward, then back, forward, back, in a steady rocking motion. It’ll work a lot better.

Know how to recover from skids. When you brake on a slippery road, it’s all too easy to “lock up” your wheels by stepping on the brakes a little too hard. If you start to skid, gently steer the vehicle in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go and don’t touch your brakes. As part of this….

If you have Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS), don’t pump them.  The whole point of ABS is that they pump themselves to make stopping in snow easier. The pulsing or chattering you hear or feel is just them doing their job. Pumping = strictly old school.

Drive with a light touch. No sudden, herky-jerky movements, no sharp turns at high speeds. Gentle is better.

These should help you get to the mountain in one piece. Anyone have any others to add?



Read full story · Comments { 0 }

Choose Your Deity: The Gods & Goddesses of Snow

 

Ullr, from an 18th century Icelandic manuscript.

Ullr, from an ancient Icelandic manuscript.

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

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

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

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

Aztec

Itztlacoliuhqui, Aztec god of snow.

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

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

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

Caillech

Cailleach Bheur

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

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

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

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

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



Read full story · Comments { 0 }

Snow Appreciation

With the Winter Olympics in full swing and ski season well under way, it’s all too easy to get caught up in thinking of snow as a means to an end: skiing.

But there’s a lot more to snow than just being something to slide on. Snow is transforming. It covers the world’s imperfections under a pristine blanket of white. When it snows, the world seems to stand still. It deadens sound and calls our attention to things we miss when the world is full of color. Yet sometimes when we ski, we fail to see the beauty of snow. We’re so intent on getting down the mountain, or in making our turns, or in perfecting our technique, that we don’t really notice the beauty around us. I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I stop and look around, I get a catch in my throat. It’s that beautiful.

I’m by no means an accomplished photographer, but I thought I’d take a break from the usual blog posts about gear and resorts and the like and show you some pictures I’ve taken. Some are at ski resorts, some aren’t. But all celebrate the beauty of snow.

Late Fall, Camel's Hump, VT

Late Fall, Camel’s Hump, VT

 

First Snow, VT

Early season snowfall, VT

 

Big Sky, Montana

Skiing into the clouds, Big Sky, Montana

 

Big Sky, Montana

Big Sky, Montana

 

Powder Mountain, UT

Powder Mountain, UT

 

Morning in the Wasatch, UT

Morning in the Wasatch, UT

 

Looking down the lane, VT

Looking down the lane, VT

Light pillar in Whiteface, NY

Light pillar in Whiteface, NY

 

Vermont road

Vermont road

 

Vermont cemetery

Vermont cemetery

Sugarbush ski area, VT

Sugarbush ski area, VT

Green Mountains, Okemo, VT

Green Mountains, Okemo, VT

As skiers, we’re lucky to be out in some of the most beautiful landscape on the planet. Take some time to take it in. You’ll be glad you did.



Read full story · Comments { 2 }

If you want to go skiing, you have to get there first.

Part of being a skier means dealing with stuff that, though important to the sport, doesn’t necessarily take place on the hill.

Take winter driving. The same weather that brings great ski conditions can make getting to the mountain a white knuckle experience. But if you want to ski, you really don’t have a choice (‘oh, it’s a powder day, I think I’ll just stay home.’ Yeah, right.)

Which means you have to be prepared. You have to know how to handle the worst winter can dish out. For starters, this means having a car that’s reliable and snow-capable. I have a Subaru, the unofficial state car of Vermont. And I’m only half kidding.  Everyone around here has one. It has four-wheel drive, plenty of room, and it’s not an SUV so it’s good on gas. All pluses, in my book. On top of that, I replaced the stock all-season tires with some really good snow tires. Winter is a serious business here. Trust me, you don’t want to take chances.

So in the interest of improving your on-the-road safety, here are some tips that can help you get to the mountain without incident:

Check the road conditions before you go. I’ve been on roads that have been closed by the state police, and believe me, they’re closed for a reason. If a road isn’t open, stay off. And if it says “chains required,” for God’s sake, use them.

Clean off your car. This is so basic it should go without saying, yet I still see lots of people driving with just a peep hole cleared on their windshields, or a foot of snow on their hoods or roofs. Not safe. Snow on the hood can blow onto the windshield and obstruct your vision. And snow on the roof can fly off and impair the vision of the driver behind you. So if not for yourself, please be courteous and clear off the blasted snow.

Keep your washer fluid reservoir full. And make sure you have good wiper blades. Again, you have to see to drive safely. This isn’t rocket science. It’s a fact.

Leave plenty of space between cars. Don’t crowd the car ahead of you. You want to leave plenty of room to stop. And if you go into a skid, the last thing you want is to be up against someone else’s bumper.

S-L-O-W down. You know those car commercials where  an SUV is barreling through ten feeet of snow? Those are professional drivers on closed roads. They are not you. Slow down — so it’ll take you ten minutes longer. It’s worth it.

Keep a portable shovel in your car. I do this, and it’s saved me from being stuck in a snow bank more than once.

Make sure you have emergency stash. A warm blanket, some snacks, and a flashlight can go a long way if you get stuck. As part of this….

Keep your cell phone charged. So you can call for help, if needed.

Keep a couple of sand bags in your trunk. Or cat litter. Not only does this add some extra weight (which can translate into extra traction), you can sprinkle the kitty litter/sand under your tires to give you some purchase, if you get stuck.

Four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicles do not do better on ice. So keep that in mind. Don’t drive like a crazy person when the roads are icy.

Use your headlights. You want to make sure you’re visible to the other cars on the road. This helps.

If you find yourself behind a plow or salt truck, don’t pass until you have plenty of room. Remember, they only have a limited field of vision.

If you get stuck, don’t spin your wheels to get out.  It doesn’t help. Go forward, then back, forward, back, in a steady rocking motion. It’ll work a lot better.

Know how to recover from skids. When you brake on a slippery road, it’s all too easy to “lock up” your wheels by stepping on the brakes a little too hard. If you start to skid, gently steer the vehicle in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go and don’t touch your brakes. As part of this….

If you have Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS), don’t pump them.  The whole point of ABS is that they pump themselves to make stopping in snow easier. The pulsing or chattering you hear or feel is just them doing their job. Pumping = strictly old school.

Drive with a light touch. No sudden, herky-jerky movements, no sharp turns at high speeds. Gentle is better.

These should help you get to the mountain in one piece. Anyone have any others to add?

 



Read full story · Comments { 2 }

How open is open?

The first ski area in the US opened this weekend: Wild Mountain in Minnesota.

Before you get too excited, here’s a pic:

Wild Mountain, MN, Oct 7, 2012

I know there’s a certain cachet with being the first ski area in to sell lift tickets. It brings a lot of publicity. And it’s great to put on your marketing materials. But if this is all there is, are they really and truly open? Wouldn’t it be more correct to say “Partially Open?” Or  even “Openish?” And if this was all that was open in the spring, would they be so quick to keep the lifts running?

I’m as anxious as the next person to get out there and ski. My last ski day was sometime in April, and I’m dying to click into my bindings and take a few turns. So I can readily understand why people want to get out there. And why they’re probably flocking to Wild Mountain.

In the weeks ahead, we’ll be seeing a lot more mountains opening with a single White Ribbon of Death. I have mixed feelings about skiing like this. Conditions are generally dicey, and the WROD can get pretty crowded, too. Nonetheless, it’s hard to resist the pull after the long summer ski drought.

And really, you have to admit, it looks kind of sad……..

Your thoughts?

 



Read full story · Comments { 6 }

Forecasting Winter.

It’s official. The autumnal equinox has passed, and fall is here. The days are getting shorter, the weather cooler, and we’re just one season away from winter.

!!!!! SKI SEASON !!!!!

Yet if you’re like me, you want to know right now how it’s going to shape up. Will it arrive early? Last long? Will there be lots of powder days? Oh, please, let’s not have a re-run of ‘11/’12.

You could drive yourself crazy with all the long range predictions out there. From the Farmer’s Almanac to Accuweather, everyone has an opinion on what the weather’s going to be.

But how accurate are these things, anyway? Does it do any good to track them down? Would we be better off consulting an astrologer? Reading tea leaves? Flipping a coin? Should we even pay attention?

The short answer is, probably not.

According to the National Weather Service, “long range forecasting is based on mathematical models and past prevalent weather patterns. The further you go into the future, the lower the degree of accuracy. That is because forecast models are partly based on the recent weather patterns. These patterns surely will change. If we try to guess what the weather will be in a certain area two months from now, the data necessary to create a forecast simply does not exist.

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) creates general temperature and precipitation outlooks up to one year in advance. Their forecasts only deal with the above or below normal expected temps or precipitation, not what the weather will be in one location. Long range weather forecasts are only accurate to an extent and should not be taken too seriously, there is always room for something in the atmosphere to change.”

So while I continue to look at the long range forecasts and cheer at the ones that say what I want them to say, these are the ones I like the best:

 

Here’s hoping for a snowy winter.

 



Read full story · Comments { 2 }

WOOO HOOOO! I DID IT!

I must have. Broken the curse,  I mean.

It’s obvious — last week I wrote about the severe snow deficit we’re facing throughout the country, and then, look what happens: it snows like crazy in the Midwest and New England,  and the forecast looks good in Colorado, Tahoe, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest.

Behold! All bow before the power of The Ski Diva!

 

Yeah, right. :)

Regardless, I’m more than a little pleased that winter has decided to finally make an appearance. And just in time for Martin Luther King Weekend, when ski areas rely on big crowds to rake in the dough. I mean, as  much as I hate skiing in crowds and won’t go out over holidays and weekends, ski resorts depend on attracting loads of people  to keep the lifts running. (If you skied then, my undying gratitude.)

So what did I do last Thursday, during the first round of decent snowfall, here in the Green Mountain State?

I hauled out my Atomic Century skis for the very first time. Okay, I’ll admit it. I did something very, very bad — and uncharacteristic, for me. I got these skis without benefit of demoing (phew, confession is good for the soul). This is something I always advise against, but I went ahead and did it anyway. I figured if I didn’t like them, I could always turn around and sell them.

Well, that ain’t gonna happen.

These babies rock. First, just give them a gander:

Way cool, right?

First, let me tell you about me: I’m an advanced eastern skier, 5’1″ (and a half!), 110 lbs.

And let me tell you about them:

Length: 166
Dimensions: 128.5-100-100.5
Turning Radius: 18

The Atomic Century has an early rise tip with traditional camber in the middle. This allows it to float in the powder, while giving you the edge control you’ll need in the hard pack. This is really good in the east, where you can encounter all sorts of conditions on the same day — everything from deep snow to bare ice. The day I’m talking about here had loads of nice powder, but the wind had scoured all the snow off the top of the mountain, leaving behind, as they say, “dust on crust.” No matter: the Atomic Century handled it all quite happily. I found them poppy, light, stable, and willing to go, go, go, no matter where I took them: fresh tracks, cut up crud, and yes, even ice. Pretty cool looking, too.

Though my go-to skis (Volkl Tierras) are 156, I went 10 mm longer with these — alllllllllllll the way up to 166, which is longer than any ski I’ve owned in many, many years. Why? The early rise decreases the point of contact with the snow. And in powder, you want a longer length for greater stability, anyway. I have to say I had no problem at all.

So now we have the snow. I have the skis. Keep it coming, Ullr. I’m ready!

 

 



Read full story · Comments { 0 }

Where’s winter?

What is it they say: “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.”

If only we could.

It’s no news to anyone that this winter has been dreadful for skiers. I have proof. Take a look at this map of the Western snowpack this winter vs. the snowpack last winter:

And check out how far below average the snowfall is here in Vermont:

Here’s some other scary stuff: Temperatures reached record highs in 268 places on January 5. As of January 6, just 16 percent of the U.S. had snow on the ground.  Midland, Texas, has had more snow so far this winter (19.5″) than Burlington, VT (15″). And for the first time since the late 1800s, Tahoe had no snow in December.

So this isn’t just me being cranky. It’s real. And for people like me who wait all spring, summer, and fall to click into our bindings, it’s more than a little frustrating.

So why is this happening? Is it global warming at work? Did someone forget to make a sacrifice to Ullr, the god of snow? Did I put my snow tires on too early? And more importantly, will it snow if I take them off?

To be sure, all of these are possibilities. Still, for those of us who were terribly spoiled by the epic snow we had last season, none of them are very satisfactory.

From what I understand, meteorologists are puzzled, too. Jim Cantorre of The Weather Channel says it’s a self perpetuating cycle. The lack of snowpack contributes to the warm temperatures. “Without a refrigerator to cool the airmasses that are coming down, they moderate very quickly,” he said  in a recent report on NBC Nightly News, “and we wind up with a lot of record highs.”

According to Weather Underground, part of the problem is the Arctic Oscillation, an atmospheric pattern of the northern latitudes that’s hard to predict more than two weeks in advance. Angela Fritz, an atmospheric scientist with WU, says that winter conditions in the upper tier of US states are often determined by the strengthening of pressure systems around the Arctic. When pressure systems are weak, cold air that’s normally trapped flows southward, resulting in extreme winter conditions for the US and Western Europe.While that was the case for the past two winters, Arctic high pressure systems this year are “allowing the cold air to get trapped up north,” she said. “Last year, the refrigerator door was left open. This year, the refrigerator door was left closed.”

All I know is that I want some snow. And if it takes dancing naked around a bonfire, sacrificing a sheep or a ram, or even yes, removing our snow tires, most of us skiers are prepared to do it.

Are you listening, Ullr?

Depiction of Ullr, the God of Snow.

 

 

 

 

 



Read full story · Comments { 2 }

Thank you, Skiing!

So it’s Thanksgiving Week, the time we all spend battling traffic, eating like pigs, and then hitting the stores to engage in a money-spending orgy we’ll be paying off for months ahead.

I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Well, sort of. Because even though we do all those things — to one extent or another — we also spend time giving thanks for the many blessings we have in our lives. Which is really the point of the holiday, after all.

And what’s one of the things we give thanks for, boys and girls?

Skiing, of course.

So I thought I’d devote this week’s post to why I’m thankful for skiing.

Hang onto your ski poles. Here we go:

1) Skiing makes me excited about winter. Seriously. If it weren’t for skiing, I’d probably  spend the winter burrowed beneath a blanket, wishing for warmer weather. Thanks to skiing, I’m positively giddy about the winter months. It’s the best season Mother Nature dishes out, and I wish it were a heck of a lot longer.

2) Skiing keeps me physically fit during the winter, and gives me something to stay fit for during the off season. To be honest, I’d probably work out anyway. But it’s a good motivator.

3) Skiing is one of the main reasons I ditched my old life back in Pennsylvania and moved to the beautiful state of Vermont, which I love dearly and with all my heart.  It’s a move I’ve never regretted, not even in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene. I <3 Vermont.

4) It’s broadened my horizons considerably. Thanks to skiing (and TheSkiDiva.com) I’ve made tons of new friends and traveled to places I’d never have gone to otherwise.

5) It’s made me appreciate certain advancements in technology. Chairlifts, snowmaking, technical clothing, shaped skis — all the things that make skiing both easier and more readily accessible to everyone out there.

6) It’s given me a new fondness for soup, chili, and hot chocolate. Essentially anything hot. There’s nothing like a bowl of hot soup/chili when you come in from sub-zero temps and a howling wind. Yum.

7) It’s made me appreciate snow tires and four wheel drive, necessities for living here in the Green Mountain State. Both have saved my bacon more than once.

Of course, skiing isn’t the only thing I’m grateful for. Friends, family, health, the list goes on and on. So this Thanksgiving, count your blessings. Turn your thoughts to the good things in life. Draw your loved ones close, eat a good meal, and give thanks for whatever you hold dear.

I wish you all a happy holiday.

 



Read full story · Comments { 1 }