Tag Archives | women’s skiing

Clinic Review: Women’s Discovery Program, Sugarbush, VT

UnknownVermont has 20 alpine ski resorts. And though each has its own particular charm, one of my favorites is Sugarbush. Located in the Mad River Valley, a beautiful region in an especially beautiful state, Sugarbush consists of two main peaks: Lincoln Peak (3,975 elevation, 2,400 vertical) and Mount Ellen (4,083 elevation, 2,600 vertical). Between the two is Slide Brook basin, a wilderness ski area made up of 1,000 acres.

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Sugarbush

So what makes it so special? First, it strikes a great balance between being a skier’s mountain and a family destination. There’s plenty of expert terrain — more than 40% of the mountain is rated black diamond — but there’s enough to keep intermediates and beginners happy. Instead of the broad groomers that make one mountain pretty interchangeable from the next, Sugarbush has terrain with character. There are lots of the traditional, winding New England trails that offer a surprise around every bend. There’s plenty of tree skiing and bumps. And there are spectacular views; look one way, and the Green Mountains stretch out before you; the other, Lake Champlain. What’s more, Sugarbush has what can only be defined as a Vermont vibe. It’s as if the place was weaned on maple syrup. And yes, it makes a difference in the atmosphere.

This past week I had the pleasure of spending a few days at the mountain’s Women’s Discovery Camp. Sugarbush ran two of these this season: one over a weekend in January, and one during the week in early March.  So let’s cut to the chase: Was it good? Would I recommend it? An emphatic yes to both.

I’ve always been a strong proponent of women’s clinics. I even wrote a blog post a while back called Why a Women’s Clinic, which explains why I think they’re so worthwhile. Meredith McFarland, Sugarbush’s Director of Adult Programs, agrees. “It’s a fun, comfortable, supportive environment. The women who come love the camaraderie. It’s just different from learning in a mixed group.”

I’ve attended a few women’s clinics over the years, and I liked what I saw at Sugarbush. Maybe it’s because it has a history. Meredith told me that the clinic at Sugarbush goes back at least 25 years. Although the focus was initially more social than instructional, it evolved over the years to the shape it’s in today.

So what did I like about it?

• Great student/instructor ratio: The clinic I attended had 13 women attendees, the one in January, 20. In general, there’s a 6:1 student/instructor ratio (though my group was 4:1). Which means you get a lot of individual attention and feedback.

• First rate female instructors: Make no mistake, these women are top notch. My instructor, Lisa Segal, is an L-3 PSIA Examiner. In case you don’t now, this is as high as you can go in the instructor hierarchy. It requires a massive amount of  training and expertise. And it showed.

So does it make a difference to have all-women instructors in an all-women’s clinic? I believe it does. As Meredith McFarland said, “I think it’s easier for a female instructor to understand what a woman is asking about some sort of movement. Sure, there are men who are great at teaching women. But I think women instructors generally have better insight into what works and doesn’t work for a woman skier.”

PSIA Examiner, and my instructor, Lisa Segal.

PSIA Examiner, and my instructor, Lisa Segal.

 

• The terrain: I described Sugarbush’s terrain at the beginning of this piece, and the variety makes it perfect for a learning situation. You get to try new skills in a lot of different situations.

• Off slope learning: The first morning of the clinic, we had an address by Terry Barbour, Sugarbush’s Ski School Director. Terry discussed the importance of proper stance along with the uses of edging and turn shape, and took us through a few off-slope drills. Later that day, there was a presentation about new skis. And the next day, a talk about ski boots. So a lot of good information about stuff skiers need to know.

Ski School Director Terry Barbour explains rotation.

Ski School Director Terry Barbour explains rotation.

• Sure it’s a learning experience. But if sure feels like fun! That’s because everyone associated with it — the instructors, the staff —  did their best to make this a low pressure, highly enjoyable environment. Let’s face it: we’re not trying out for the US Ski Team. The idea behind this is to not only make you a better, more confident skier but to amp up the fun factor. And they do.

Instructors and students of the March session

Instructors and students of the March session

• Ski demos: If you want to try new skis, you can. Demoing is a great way to figure out if a particular ski is right for you before you plunk down your hard-earned cash, and Sugarbush had a variety of skis available free to clinic attendees. Usually, you have to pay to demo. So this was an added plus.

• Running gates: OMG this was so much fun! I’m not a racer, so I’ve never had the opportunity to run gates before (full disclosure: these were stubbies). But it gave you a feel for what it was like. And it helped us with our turns.

Running the stubbies.

Running the stubbies.

 

• Videotape analysis: This is pretty standard in any good clinic. Nonetheless, it’d been a loooong time since I’d been taped. And yeah, it’s an eye opener to see how you really ski, particularly when it’s slowed down for frame-by-frame examination. A good way to find out what you’re doing wrong — and right! :smile:

An instructor takes an attendee through videotape analysis.

An instructor takes an attendee through videotape analysis.

• Yoga: We had the option of starting each day with a yoga workout, something I took advantage of.  And why not? Yoga gets your body ready and engaged for skiing. Plus it’s just good for your all around health.

Don’t just take my word for it.

Here are some comments from some of the other women attending the Camp:

• What I really like about the camp is how it not only helps engender a love of skiing, but also helps foster friendships that last. This is the third one of these I’ve attended at Sugarbush. And though the chemistry of each is different, they’ve all been fantastic.

• I love the low pressure environment. Sure, I’m here to learn, but I don’t feel the anxiety that I’ve found in a mixed group. The instructors really know what they’re doing. They’re so supportive. And they make it so much fun!

• I came to improve my skiing and I found a community, and every time I come back, I refind that community.

And then there’s the hotel…..

One of the great things about doing the clinic was staying in the fabulous Clay Brook Hotel, just steps away from the lodge at the base of the mountain (can you say pampered?). Opened in December, 2006, the hotel has accommodations ranging from studios to five bedroom suites. I stayed in a one bedroom unit, which consisted of a full-sized, completely outfitted kitchen, a living room/dining area with a  gas fireplace, a bedroom with a Queen-sized canopy bed, and a bathroom featuring a huge jetted tub. It even had a washer/dryer to take care of dirty ski clothes. If you want to soak out the kinks after your day, you can relax in the hotel’s heated pool or hot tub. Or if you don’t get enough of a work out on the slopes, there’s a fitness center, too.

All my interactions with the staff were extremely pleasant. For example, check in was a snap. They valet your car, unload your gear, and take your skis and boots to the respective ski and boot valets where they’re conveniently stored until you need them again. As for check out: I wanted to ski before I left, so they even put my bags in my car, where they were waiting when my vehicle was brought around at the end of my stay.

Here’s a file photo of the hotel. I love the Vermont barn-influenced design.

Clay Brook Hotel

Clay Brook Hotel

Here’s the living room/dining area of my unit, looking toward the kitchen (you can see the door to the hallway against the wall):

Clay Brook Living Room

Clay Brook Living Room

I also highly recommend the Timbers restaurant, which is attached to the hotel. I had dinner there one night. The food is terrific, and look at this place. It’s reminiscent of the round barns you can find in the area:

Timbers Restaurant

Timbers Restaurant

It was awfully nice to relax in this place at the end of a busy ski day. Truly, I felt like I was in the lap of luxury.

Was there anything you didn’t like?

Hmmmmm……um….no.

The bottom line:

Sugarbush has a great thing going. Granted, it’s probably not for those of you who are thinking about trying out for the US Ski Team. But for the recreational skier who wants to improve their skiing, increase their confidence and have a hell of a good time, it’s definitely worth doing.

 

 

 

 



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How To Get The Most Out of a Lesson.

Photo from Smuggler's Notch

Photo from Smuggler’s Notch

I remember once telling a non-skiing friend that I was going to take a lesson. “Why?” she said. “Don’t you already know how to ski?”

Well, yeah, I do. And yeah, I don’t, too. Skiing is one of those things that the more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know. Which sounds kind of funny, but trust me, it’s true. There’s always so much more to learn, so many ways to improve. It’s a never-ending process.

Which is the reason I’m writing this today.

Lessons can improve your confidence and expand your options on the hill. The better you ski, the more you’ll be able to do, and to me, that means more fun. But lessons are also an investment in both time and money. So what do you do to make sure you’re getting the most out of yours? To find out, I went to one of the best resources I know — the TheSkiDiva.com — and asked the members there for their input. Here’s what they had to say:

• I think one of the important thing in a group lesson environment is to speak up. You can’t be shy about making yourself heard. In my experience, in many group lessons there is one person who tends to monopolize the instructor’s time and attention. Very good instructors will be able to diffuse this, but I have seen instances where they do nothing. In order to get what you want out of the lesson sometimes you can’t just sit back and be quiet.

• Being nice, respectful, and attentive is going to get you a better lesson than being sullen or difficult. If you don’t like what’s happening in the lesson, communicate that to the instructor – respectfully. Don’t just bitch about it to the other people in the lesson as you’re going up the lift.

• For a parent, it may be useful to provide a quick introduction for a child to a new instructor and pass on any information that might be useful. This is especially important when there’s something that’s not particularly obvious and you know your kid isn’t going to mention it. For instance, when my daughter was 6 or 7, she was already skiing black runs in the southeast, which is not that common. Since she was petite and looked a year of two younger than she was, I would try to make sure a new instructor knew something about her age and ability before the lesson started.

• If you’re a student, be sure to ask what the purpose of the exercise is if you want clarification. “Why are we working on learning pivot slips in easy terrain when I want to learn to ski bumps?” And if you’re an instructor, it might be helpful to say up front, “We are working on precise, effective pivot slips because they are an important skill you will use to steer through the bumps – and you’ll soon see why.”

• For a trip out west from the flatlands, consider the timing of a lesson. While it’s good to have a lesson early in the trip, if you know that adjusting to the high altitude takes a day or two then perhaps plan for the lesson on the second ski day. If you are not a morning person, then look for a ski destination that offers afternoon group lessons if that’s what you prefer. At Alta, it’s possible to schedule a semi-private or private for 2 hours, with the option of extending to 3 hours. That’s handy when working with a new instructor or the weather is changing the day of a pre-scheduled lesson.

• For most beginners, a highly certified (or even just Level 1 certified) instructor is not necessary, but the more specific a student wants to get, the more they are going to get out of a lesson with a higher-level certified instructor. First of all, the time, effort, and money invested in getting to level 3 (PSIA) means that persons who achieve that are not just great skiers, but they have a real passion for teaching and communicating with students. In addition, they have been teaching and learning how to teach longer, and have more experience. They can often quickly and easily change communication style, demos or exercises to help student learn quicker. That being said, I know some excellent Level 2 instructors who have a lot of experience, are wonderful instructors, but for various reasons — time away from work or family, injury/illness/chronic disease — haven’t gone for their Level 3.

•You can always learn something from an instructor, even if you find that you don’t agree with or like what they’re teaching, or even their style or approach. If you’re a chronic lesson taker like I am, mix it up — take some classes that you think might be too easy for you and other times, ones that will push you. Also mix up instructors. One instructor pointed out something so obvious that made such a huge difference, than I can’t believe no one else pointed it out! Maybe the rest of them thought it was so obvious it didn’t need mentioning? Or maybe they didn’t see it… who knows?

• [From an instructor point of view] I think it’s important to come into any type of a lesson with an open mind. Many times what the student wants to work on or terrain they want to ski is NOT what they should be working on or skiing on. I want to know the following: skiing experience, why they are taking a lesson, what would make the lesson fabulous for them, and how they learn. If you know your learning preference, tell the instructor. I had a physical therapist student last year. She told me at the beginning of the lesson that she needed very descriptive, technical explanations and that she did not learn by watching. We had a 3 hour lesson and it was fantastic. I went in to much more detail than I would with some people and she was off to the races. It was phenomenal.

• [From another instructor] If you are in a group lesson and don’t understand something, please let the instructor know. Don’t be afraid to ask for another demo or another explanation. Chances are others in the group are in the same boat.

Ski at your pace. Do not feel obligated to ski faster than your comfort level because of the group speed. If the group is too fast, ask to move to a different group.

Skier levels are to help put groups of people together with similar abilities so that everyone can learn. Don’t be disappointed if you are put with the 6’s instead of the 7’s. The numbers are really meaningless.
Be willing to put yourself out of your comfort zone. If you always go last, try going first. Instructors in a group manage a lot of things and sometimes it is difficult to manage all of the personalities. Go first – be seen! (I often direct who goes first so that everyone gets a chance).

Please be present! Put the phone on silent, be on time and listen/watch not only the instructor but the others in the group. It is amazing what you can learn by watching and listening.

• [And from yet another instructor] If you’re a first timer, be sure to answer the following questions for your instructor:Why do you want to learn to ski? What do you do in real life? Work, sports, other. This gives them a good idea of your learning style without asking. Where are you from? Base elevation can play a big roll in the learning process!

For other skiers, it’d be helpful for your instructor to know the following:Why are you taking the lesson? What is your ski experience (hours, days, years)? What terrain do you feel most comfortable on? What do you want to get out of the lesson? And finally, what are your goals?

One of the best ways to learn is to take one of the many women’s clinics given at resorts around the country; you can find a list of this year’s here. Next week I’m going to attend the Women’s Discovery Clinic in Sugarbush, VT. I’ll report back and let you know how it goes.

The best advice I have for you? Relax , enjoy yourself, and don’t sweat it too much. Remember: skiing is supposed to be fun.



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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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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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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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A Day at the Races: The 2016 Audi FIS World Cup

I think my ears are ringing.

img_5045It’s no surprise, since it’s just two days after the 2016 Audi FIS World Cup at Killington Mountain Resort, and I think every cow bell on the planet was there. And why not? This was the best of the best in ski racing, only half an hour from home.

How could I not attend?

This was the first World Cup Alpine race in New England since 1991 (Waterville Valley, NH), and the first in Vermont since 1978 (Stratton Mountain). And oh yeah, it was the first World Cup I’d ever attended, too.

Having the race at Killington in November, I thought, took a tremendous act of faith. Weather this time of year just about anywhere is sketchy. The Men’s World Cup in Lake Louise has been cancelled, as has the men’s race in Beaver Creek. But kudos to the people at Killington, who put forth a tremendous effort to make sure their course was World Cup ready. The resort has been blasting snow since October — enough to cover a football field 40 feet deep — and was lucky enough to get some help from Mother Nature: 15 inches in the past week or so.

The lower GS course on Superstar

The lower part of the GS Course on Superstar

But having the race in the East over Thanksgiving weekend was also a stroke of brilliance. Four and a half hours from New York and three from Boston, Killington is easily reachable from major population centers. And this means a lot of excitement, loads of publicity, and a ton of people on hand to watch the race. I was there for the GS race on Saturday, along with an estimated 16,000 other people — by many accounts the largest US World Cup crowd ever. (Which also accounts for what I said before about the cow bells.) In fact, US Ski Association officials estimate the combined attendance for both Saturday and Sunday at nearly 27,000, making it one of the most well-attended women’s ski events in US history.

Just a few of the people who showed up for the race.

Just a few of the people who showed up for the race.

Was it exciting to be there? Yes. It felt like a festival. There was a temporary village set up at the base with tents from all sorts of vendors. There was a pre-race parade featuring a thousand kids from ski teams across the state of Vermont.  There was a free concert by O.A.R. in the base area afterward. And the crowd was clearly stoked, full of Vermont and East Coast pride.

The course was set up on Superstar, a fun run that’s readily visible from Killington’s base area. Superstar starts with a steep headwall, mellows out onto some undulating terrain, and then plunges again with another steep pitch. The starting altitude of the GS course was 3,701 feet and the finish altitude 2,559 — all together,  a vertical drop of 1,142 feet and a course length of 3,166 feet.

Here’s a GoPro preview of the GS course:

Fog on the course.

Fog on the course.

By now, the details of the GS race are well known. Conditions were challenging, with a changeable surface that rutted up quickly. Visibility wasn’t perfect, either, with flat light and fog rolling in and out throughout the day. Thirteen of the 61 racers, including defending GS champion, Swiss skier Lara Gut, either fell or skied off without completing the course. In the end, France’s Tessa Worley, the 2013 GS World Champion, finished first ahead of first-run leader Nina Loeseth of Norway, who finished 0.80 seconds back. Italy’s Sofia Goggia came in third, 1.11 seconds behind Worley. And 2014 Olympic Slalom gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin ended up fifth after finishing 8th on the first run and 5th on the second.

BTW, Lindsey Vonn did not compete. She’s been sidelined by a broken arm she incurred training in Colorado.

What I especially loved was seeing the athletes up close and personal, and finding out that yes, apart from the fact that they’re amazing athletes and ski like goddesses, they’re very human, too.

Here are some small details that I dearly loved:

• Lara Gut wears a knit hat with her name as part of the design.

• Mikaela Shiffrin, who grew up skiing on the East Coast, had her 95 year old grandma there to watch her compete.

• Third place finisher Sofia Goggia uses Vermont Maple Syrup when she makes her favorite American pancake breakfast at home in Italy.

• Second place finisher Nina Loeseth loved the snow; she said it was more like European snow than the lighter snow she’s skied in Colorado.

• Mikaela Shiffrin does Word Searches with her mom before the race  to combat nerves.

• All the racers I heard speak said they loved hearing the roar of the crowd when they came down the final pitch.

• During her press conference the day before the race, Shiffrin talked about how she loved the passion of East Coast skiers. “It’s easy to love skiing in the West, because it’s amazing. When you’re in the East, it’s raining, snowing, sleeting, all in one day. If you’re still out there, it means there’s a passion.”

• And this, from the NBC broadcast of the race later on that day (yeah, I watched it, too): Announcer #1: “What do you think they [the racers] have learned the most from the skiers who have gone before them in these conditions?” Announcer #2: “Now they know why skiers from Vermont are so good. Because conditions change every two seconds. You’ve got to know how to do all of it.”

Here I am talking to Swiss racing phenom Lara Gutt.

Here I am talking to Swiss racer Lara Gut. Note her hat, with her name knitted right in.

The Slalom Race took place on Sunday, and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend. But I did catch it on TV, and congrats to Mikaela Shiffrin for her 22nd World Cup win and her 10th consecutive slalom victory on the World Cup!



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Women’s Ski Clinics, ’16-’17

If you’re thinking about taking a women’s clinic, you’re in luck; there are plenty to choose from. Over the past few years, more and more resorts have added them to their ski school line up. Why? Well, a lot of women prefer learning in a testosterone-free environment. Women’s clinics focus on building skills and confidence while providing the camaraderie that comes from skiing in a group of women and working with skilled female instructors. Research actually shows that women are more supportive and men more competitive in a learning situation. And this can carry over to the ski hill, too.

Here’s a sample of what some women on TheSkiDiva.com have to say about them:

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

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

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

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



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TheSkiDiva Wins the Harold S. Hirsch Award for Best Ski Blog!

I’m humbled. Really. But excited enough that I hope you don’t mind my bragging a bit:

The North American Snowsports Journalists Association — NASJA — has named TheSkiDiva Blog the Best Ski Blog of 2016!

hirsch-logo-2016-copyYep, I’ve been given the Harold S. Hirsch Award. Hirsch, a ski clothing pioneer and the founder of White Stag, created the award to promote professionalism in winter sports coverage.

Truly, this is a real honor. After all, I’ve been doing this for ten years, and I won’t lie: it’s nice to get a little recognition.

Back in 2006, I started this blog because I had no one to talk to about skiing. None of my friends skied, and my other friends just about rolled their eyes when I started in about my favorite sport. So to save my social life — and my sanity — I thought I’d create a place on the web where I could go on…and on…and on (619 blog posts so far) about anything and everything ski related. Over the years, I’ve tried to cover topics that I thought would be of interest to women who share my passion.  I’ve done gear and resort reviews, interviewed all sorts of ski luminaries — from Suzy Chaffee  to Donna Weinbrecht and Lynsey Dyer to Elyse Saugsted and Crystal Wright, and written how-to’s on everything from surviving the White Ribbon of Death to buying used skis to taking care of your skiwear.  I’ve even kept things going during the off season with pieces on fitness, travel, outdoor activities, nutrition, weather, and more. Want to know what to do when you encounter wildlife on the trail? How to work out in the heat? It’s in the blog. And yeah, there’s been a measure of feminism thrown in too, because I think women skiers should be given the same opportunities and respect as men, and not treated as beginners, ignoramuses, or pretty little ladies who are there simply to decorate the lodge.

Here are some of the nice comments from the judging panel:

Ski Diva isn’t just a blog, it’s a movement and a community platform. The writing is thoughtful and infused with passion, but technically strong. Smooth, easy to read style of writing. Writes with a vigorous personal voice layered with humor, pragmatism and personal connection. Well written travelogue, expressive writing style that enables the reader to feel like they are there with the author.

Truly, I’m flattered. But as in all things, there’s always room for improvement. I mean, even though the blog’s been named best of the year, no one’s perfect. And after so many entries, it’s not always easy to come up with a topic to write about each week.

So I thought I’d open this up to you: Is there something in particular you’d like to see covered? Do you have any suggestions about what I could do to take this blog to a higher plane? And is there anything you really like or dislike about the blog? I’d love to know.

In the meantime, I’ll keep on keeping on. So thanks, NASJA, for the award. And thanks to you, too, for joining me here each week. Stay tuned. There’s lots more to come.

 



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Focus on a Woman Entrepreneur: Sara Segall of Orsden

Companies in the ski industry that were founded by women are few and far between. Sure, there’s Title Nine and WinterWomen, retailers who specialize in women’s activewear and ski apparel.  There’s Outdoor Divas, which sells both women’s ski apparel and women-specific ski gear. And there’s Coalition Snow, the only ski company that designs and builds skis for women, by women.

The dearth of women entrepreneurs isn’t just limited to the ski industry. It’s prevalent throughout American business. According to the Kauffman Foundation, a foundation that focuses on education and entrepreurship, women tend to start businesses at roughly half the rate of men, particularly during the prime business formation years between the ages of 35 and 44 (I suspect there may be an even greater disparity in the male-dominated ski industry). There are many reasons for this. Kauffman researchers say that women entrepreneurs tend to face more significant obstacles when it comes to starting their own businesses than their male counterparts, even though they bring unique abilities to entrepreneurship, such as a more sophisticated approach to taking risks, not being overconfident, and not putting their employees at risk. 

So what,’ I hear you say. ‘Does the gender of the entrepreneur really make a difference, as long as they provide a decent product?’ Maybe not. But it doesn’t make sense, either economically or socially, to ignore the abilities, talents, and potential of a large segment of our society. What’s more — and maybe this is sexist of me — I think women have a better perspective on what other women want and need. A female-led company offers better control over meeting those needs. And as a woman, I think that’s a meaningful benefit.

sara

Sara Segall

Recently, I received an email from Sara Segall, founder of a small new ski apparel company called Orsden. Since I don’t hear too often about women-initiated start-ups, I thought I’d give her a call to see what it’s like to get a new company off the ground.

SD: So tell me about yourself. How’d you get started?
SS: I began working in politics in DC and discovered it wasn’t my passion, so I ended up going to business school at Columbia. While I was there, I worked at a luxury retail firm and in brand management for Revlon. I knew I wanted to go into retail and start my own venture, but I didn’t know exactly what my product would be. About a year after graduating, I was shopping for a new ski jacket at Stratton, and I couldn’t get over the high prices. It seemed like every jacket I liked — that I thought was flattering and stylish and also high performance — was at least $600, maybe $1,000-plus.  So I thought there was a real opportunity here.

SD: What makes your company different from other ski apparel companies?
SS: I’d seen the direct consumer model work in other places, so I thought I’d try it with Orsden. This is a unique model for the ski industry. We can offer an amazing high performance product at amazing prices by skipping out on the wholesale model and selling directly to the consumer.

I also think our products are a great marriage of style and performance. This isn’t easy to achieve. I had a pretty clear sense of what I wanted our jacket to look like. I didn’t want a women’s version of a men’s jacket — I wanted something that was  sleek, feminine, and tailored to look a little unique while offering the performance skiers want. It was a challenge to develop, but I’m pleased with the result.

SD: So tell me, why do you think there aren’t more women doing the same sort of thing you are in the ski industry? Why aren’t there more women entrepreneurs?
SS: I wonder about this myself. So much of the messaging in the outdoor industry is geared toward men; women are often overlooked. This is a shame, because there’s a huge opportunity here on both parts of the spectrum: women as customers and as entrepreneurs. Women have unique needs and perspectives. A huge reason I went ahead with Orsden is because I couldn’t find a ski jacket I liked, so I hope that a lot of other women take that risk if they have a great idea and try to make something better and design by women for women. I try to show women on the home page of my company’s web site. And our big email announcement of our launch shows a woman, as well. I’m trying to to show that there are women doing awesome, extreme things, just as there are men, and I’m hoping to make that more of a centerpoint of the brand. My husband’s aunt is Gretchen Besser, who’s in the National Ski Patrol Hall of Fame. She’s 87 years old and she still skis. We’re inspired by her example.

 

 

 



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A Peek at the Women in Snowsports Exhibit at the US Ski Hall of Fame

Plan to be passing through Ishpeming, Michigan, soon?

US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame

US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame

In case you didn’t know, that’s the location of the US Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. Yeah, I agree; the Upper Peninsula of Michigan seems an unlikely spot to me, too. You’d imagine the Hall of Fame would be someplace like Aspen or Vail. Or even Stowe, Vermont. But once you learn the reason, you can understand why it’s there: Over a century ago, a group of local businessmen and ski enthusiasts founded the National Skiing Association, thus earning the city the distinction of being the birthplace of organized skiing in the US.

The Hall of Fame Museum has been around since 1956, showcasing not only the members of the US Ski Hall of Fame, but memorabilia of particular interest to skiers.

Now it’s home to something else, too: the first-ever exhibit featuring Women in Snowsports.

I wrote about the dearth of women Hall of Famer’s a few months ago (you can read the entire post here). In a nutshell, there aren’t nearly enough. Out of 410 inductees, there are only 60 women. Yes, you read that right. Sixty. That’s 15%.

There are a lot of reasons why, which you can read about in the post. But instead of getting sidetracked, let’s focus on the positive: The exhibit.

One of the primary movers behind it is Jeannie Thoren — yes, she of the famed Thoren Theory, which introduced a revolutionary concept to skiing: Women are not small men, and may actually have different requirements for ski gear. So she’s pretty inspiring. And yes, she’s a  2014 Hall of Fame inductee.

I recently asked Jeannie about the Women in Snowsports exhibit at the museum.

SD: How did this exhibit come about? What was the impetus behind it? 
JT: Women have always been virtually invisible in skiing.  The exhibit is a way to recognize and put a spotlight on women who have achieved at the highest level. Hopefully, it’ll be inspirational to all visitors, but especially to young girls and their mothers.  I want them to start dreaming big.

I was inducted into the Ski Hall of Fame last September. The organization was in the midst of hiring Justin Koski, an Ishpeming native, to take over the position of Executive Director. During the course of the weekend, I told him of my longtime idea to get all the women members gathered in one section of the museum. There are a smaller number of women members, and I wanted to unite them so they’d be a real presence. He was enthusiastic in his support.

My grandparents were born outside of Ishpeming. The first place I ever skied was in Ishpeming. I have been going to the museum, starting with the older location, since I was kid. Later, in the present building, I never miss a chance to stop in and look around. I’m sure my idea was well received because I am a “local” and have known management for as long as I can remember.

Being inducted into the Ski Hall of Fame was my lifetime goal. I started out in Ishpeming, and after traveling all over the world for skiing, I was finally back home. Assembling this Women in Snowsports exhibit is my way of giving back to the skiing community where it all began for me.

SD: So what does the exhibit include?
JT: To get the ball rolling, the items were decided between the outgoing Executive Director, Tom West, the new Executive Director, Justin Koski, and myself. There is also a Display Committee and a Board of Directors, who have final say on what goes in and what isn’t appropriate. I guess in a way I’m the curator from a distance, but all the credit goes to Ann Schroeder, the Ski Hall’s Secretary. She has the task of making sure everything is labeled and documented.

The cornerstone of the exhibit is a mock-up of Jeannie Thoren’s Women Ski Center. This was the first exclusively women’s ski equipment shop anywhere in the world. It lives on today as Outdoor Divas in Lionshead, Vail.

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On top is the copper sign I had over my Women’s Ski Center in Lionshead at Vail. The black shadow box contains a signed pair of the Dynastar Exclusive Carves. They were named SKI Magazine’s Ski of the Year in 2007, when I was Dynastar’s Women’s Category Manager. Below that is the framed SKI Magazine article outlining the features which made this truly a winning women’s specific ski. And below that is a fun explanation of the Thoren Theory, outlining some of my on-snow experiences doing clinics from Lake Placid to Mt. Bachelor. All this is flanked by my two latest, state-of-the-art skis which are currently on the market [ed. note: these are custom made by SkiLogik]. The Edelweiss, the stiffer of the two, is on the left, and the friendlier Snowflake is on the right.

Next to it is a ski rack with a pair of my Blizzard Women’s Test L skis, and the end result, the first women’s specific ski, Blizzard’s Fame, with documentation on the project.

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Yes, that’s Jeannie Thoren.

It’s a shared space with existing exhibits that have been there for years and can’t be moved.  There’s a gondola, three lift chairs, a T-bar, and so on.  There’s also a large platform with mannequins dressed for skiing in styles representing the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s.  And there’s also a  large life-sized photo booth of a skier jumping off a cliff; this is Genia Fuller, a 2015 Hall of Fame inductee.  You just put your head in the hole provided to be the skier.

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SD: Is this now a permanent part of the museum? How often will it be updated?
JT: Yes, it’s permanent and will be updated on an ongoing basis. It will never be done. Right now it’s a diamond in the rough, but we’re making progress. My ongoing job is to contact women in the Hall of Fame to see if they have memorabilia they can send us. I have a couple of women I’m working with at present.

 



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