Skiing through adversity.

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No one goes through life unscathed. And while we all associate skiing with fun times, we can’t escape bad ones just because we’re on the slopes. Real life is out there, and it can intrude on us, wherever we are.

Everyone handles adversity differently. Some of us stop skiing, either permanently or temporarily. Take me, for instance. My daughter had health issues when she was little, and I ended up not skiing for about 17 years. It was just too……complicated. Then again, I wasn’t as into it as I am now, so it wasn’t something I even thought about much.

There’s no right or wrong answer for what you should or shouldn’t do. But studies show that exercise — and that includes skiing — can have a key role in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. And spending a day outdoors as the snow drifts slowly down, standing on a mountaintop taking in the views — all can bring a feeling of peace that cannot be denied.

I asked a few Ski Divas about the role skiing played during difficult periods in their lives, and here’s what they had to say:

Ski Diva #1’s husband passed away at the same time she was battling breast cancer:
Skiing was a great help after my my husband, Michael, died by helping me clear my head. When you ski, you can’t focus on anything else. So I never stopped. I knew Michael wouldn’t have wanted me to. The first time I skied the women’s Olympic downhill run at Snowbasin was bittersweet. I told my coach that I wished Michael was there to see it. “He did,” he said. Since then, my coach and his wife have become dear and valued friends. They’ve walked me through the years after Michael’s death, helping me use skiing as a way to face my fears and accurately assess that I can do this.

I also battled breast cancer eight months before Michael died. We caught it very early on a routine mammogram. I had a lumpectomy and radiation, which wrapped up just before Christmas in 2011. That had no impact on my skiing. However, the follow-up medication, Tamoxifen, was a nightmare. When combined with my underlying polycystic ovary syndrome, it wreaked havoc on my health. Together they slowed my metabolism way down and initiated an accelerated menopause with its attendant issues. I also suffered nearly all the side effects of Tamoxifen, the worst being 24/7 joint pain. This made skiing much more difficult; between the joint pain and the weight gain, it’s been a real struggle. But this also kept my stubborn/determined streak going.

To me, skiing represents overcoming adversity, not only in my life, but in actually learning to ski. I’ve never been a particularly athletic person, so being able to ski, and do it well, is a constant reminder to me that I CAN. That reminder is essential to me.

Another thing: when I’m on the mountain — when I’m really in synch with its contours and the snow — there’s a feeling of being one with a force outside myself that is truly powerful. I get a sense of timelessness, that I’m one person on one day in the eternity of this mountain. And at least once each day I stop somewhere that reminds me of Michael, and I give thanks for his life and that he introduced me to this delightfully addictive sport.

Ski Diva #2 went through a divorce:
To be honest, after the divorce, all I wanted to do was ski. But I think anxiety and stress caused me to struggle. I had panic attacks like I’d never had before, on terrain I’d skied comfortably just the year prior. Skiing was helpful primarily because I also worked on the mountain so I met lots of new people, including the guy I’m dating now. So even though I was struggling, I was also rebuilding a network of friends who share my passion for skiing!

I think the overall picture of the past year or more was that I went from being on almost a manic high, to the lowest of lows, which I’m still struggling to come back from. It created a lot of fears that I didn’t have before –primarily financial — that affected my entire life, and still do. It’s been pure hell at times. Having been out of the job market for ten years, then trying to reestablish myself in a business can be daunting for anybody. I’ve also found a person who’s had the patience to bear with me while I muddle through and try to find security and happiness again. The fact that he’s a lifelong skier who loves to ski with me has definitely brought joy back to the sport for me!

Ski Diva #3 endured the death of a parent:
My Dad died during ski season. It was sudden and unexpected. He had a massive heart attack, and it blew a hole right through my world. He’d always been extremely healthy, and though I knew intellectually he wouldn’t last forever, it was still very unexpected. Dad was the one who started me skiing when I was a kid, and even though I suffered the typical teenage angst, we still managed to connect when we were on the slopes. I skied a few weeks after he passed, and I couldn’t help but picture him out there with me. Sure, it was difficult, particularly at first. Enjoying myself — being happy — almost seemed wrong. But I knew he’d want me to ski, and I had so many happy memories of skiing with him that it seemed to help. He was my biggest cheerleader, and even seven years later, when I have doubts about my abilities, I can hear him say ‘you can do it!’

Thank you, ladies, for sharing your stories.

Finding something that can get you through a bad time is a blessing, and if skiing can help, then I’m all for it.

I wish you all peace, strength, and hope.



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Winter Olympic Prep 101: What you may not know about South Korea & Skiing.

Alpensia Resort, South Korea.

Alpensia Resort, South Korea.

I’ll admit it — I know absolutely nothing about skiing in South Korea. Which isn’t good, particularly since the 2018 Winter Olympics are just around the corner. Since I figure I’m probably not alone, I thought I’d take this opportunity to give all of us a crash course on a few things that might be worth knowing so we’re ready when the Games begin.

• The Korean peninsula is bisected by the Taebaek Mountains, which stretch approximately 310 miles (500 km) from Wonsan in North Korea to Busan in southern South Korea. The highest peak is 5,603 ft (1708m) in Gangwon-do.

• The 2018 Winter Games will take place in Pyeongchang County, about 120 miles southeast of Seoul. Eighty-four percent of its territory is comprised of mountains with average elevations of 2,296 ft (700 m).

• Pyeongchang has a slogan, ‘Happy700 Pyeongchang,’ taken from the county’s average elevation (in meters).

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• The Games are gathered around two main venues: the Pyeongchang Mountain Cluster, which includes Alpensia,  Jeongseon Alpine Centre, and Yongpyong Alpine Centre, for alpine and the coastal city of Gangneung for indoor sports (figure skating, hockey, curling, etc.). A free-standing venue, Bokwang Snow Park, will host freestyle skiing and snowboarding.

pyeongchang2016mascotSoohorang, the mascot of the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, took its motif from the white tiger. The white tiger has been long considered Korea’s guardian animal. Sooho, meaning protection in Korean, symbolizes the protection offered to the athletes, spectators, and other participants of the Games. Rang comes from the middle letter of Ho-rang-i, the Korean word for tiger, and is also the last letter of Jeong-seon A-ri-rang, a traditional folk song of Gangwon Province.

• South Korea opened its first resort, Yongpyong, in 1975, but the sport didn’t really take off until 1992, when Short Track Speed Skater Kim Ki-Hoon brought home the country’s first Winter Olympic Gold medal.

• Yongpyong is owned by the Unification Church, a religious movement founded by Sun Myung Moon. It has 15 different lift facilities. The lift-served summit is 4,783 ft (1,458 meters ), and the base area is at approximately 2,530 ft (770 meters).

• South Korea has 21 ski resorts. The largest are scattered throughout Gangwon-do province.

• The South Korean ski season runs from early December through March.

• None of the terrain within any of the ski areas is above the tree line, and every resort lines every ski slope with high chain-link fences. Tree skiing is absolutely not an option.

• Although South Korea is fairly close to Japan, the snow is completely different. Unlike Japan, which is known for powder generated when cold air from Siberia intersects with moisture from the Sea of Japan, Korea’s cold air comes from the dry plains of China and Manchuria, and does not go over any large bodies of water. The result is drier, less plentiful snow. South Korean ski resorts rely heavily on the artificial variety, and have extensive snow-making systems in place.

• Korean resorts logged about 5 million skier visits in 2016, less than one-tenth of the US’s 54 million skier visits.

• South Koreans love night skiing! Alpensia is open until 10 PM, while chair lifts at Yongpyong, also known as Dragon Valley, operate until 2:30 AM.

• North and South Korea recently agreed that their ski teams would train together in the Masikryong ski resort in North Korea.

• The women’s ice hockey squad will be the first combined Korean team for the Olympics, and the first unified team since their athletes played together for an international table-tennis championship and a youth soccer tournament in 1991.

• North and South Korea’s delegations will march at the opening ceremony behind a unified Korea flag that shows an undivided Korean Peninsula.

• And for a handy-dandy guide on how to pronounce all those unfamiliar South Korean place names, I found a great video on this from NBC Chicago. Go here.

Incidentally, it’s hard to think about South Korea without thinking about the North. If you’re interested in reading an excellent book about what life is like there, I strongly recommend “Nothing To Envy” by Barbara Demick.

 



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Gear Review: Renoun Z-90 Skis

Ulysses S. Grant

Ulysses S. Grant

The great Civil War general, Ulysses S. Grant, was famous for being unnaturally calm under pressure; the hotter the action, the cooler he became.

Today I’d like to introduce you to the Ulysses S. Grant of skis: Renoun’s Z-90.

A strange comparison, I know. So perhaps I better explain.

Renoun is the only company that makes its skis using a non-Newtonian polymer, incorporating it into a patented technology: HDT™, or Hyper Damping Technology™.  HDT doesn’t follow Sir Issac Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which states that for every action, there’s an equal or greater reaction. Instead, the HDT core minimizes chatter by constantly changing its density, adjusting in real time to the skier and snow conditions. So if you ski on hard snow, the ski actually becomes stiffer, more damp. And if you’re in soft conditions, it becomes softer, more flexible, and less damp. And it does all this in real time.

Hence the Ulysses S. Grant comparison: As the pressure amps up, the Z-90’s become steadier and more stable. Pretty cool, right?

Last year I tried Renoun’s Z-77’s, and I was sold. I believe the word I used was ‘exceptional.’ Here’s a recap of what I said in my review:

“These are skis that will make your ski day better than it’d be if you were skiing something else. Skis that will make you grin. Skis that will make you fall in love with skiing all over again. And really, you can’t beat that.”

Fast forward to this year. Renoun offered to send me the Z-90’s, and believe me, I was excited.

First, a bit about me:

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

And now, the Z-90’s:

157 mm, 136/90/124
Core: Canadian Maple and 8-layers of HDT™ inlays (15% core volume).
Reinforcement: Carbon fiber, metal and tri-axial fiberglass

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So do these skis deliver?

You know what I said about the Z-77’s? I could do a cut and paste here. The Z-90’s provide the same smooth, stable, smile-inducing ride I enjoyed before, without being dull and damp. The condition of the snow doesn’t matter. They transition smoothly from hard snow to soft in a heartbeat, without either bucking you around or feeling dead. The company says HDT reduces vibration by 300%. I don’t know if that’s the exact number, but I will say this: these are skis that will make you fall in love with skiing all over again.

How are they different from the Z-77’s?

It’s a matter of dimensions. The Z-77’s are narrower, measuring 123/77/111. So their ride is a bit different. Let me put it this way: the 77 is a sports car, perfect for groomer zoomers when you want to carve, carve, carve. Sure, you can take it off piste or into the powder. But it’s still a 77-waist ski, and it behaves like one. The 90’s are dimensionally larger, so they’re more of an SUV.  You can take them anywhere, though they’re still easy to turn and get on edge. I had them on hard pack, in 6 inches of powder,  in pushed up piles, in powder with ice underneath — it didn’t matter. Wherever these skis go, whatever they do, they perform.

I’m actually smiling as I write this. They’re that good.

An unmatched guarantee.

No, you can’t get the Z-90’s in a store. Actually, you can’t get any Renoun ski in any store. They’re only available on line at the company’s website. And though Renoun used to hold demos at ski resorts from time to time, they’ve decided to concentrate their efforts on getting skis out the door instead of schlepping them from one ski resort to another.

So what’s a skier to do?

Order them. Because if you don’t like them for any reason — and you have 100 days to decide if that’s the case — you can send them back and Renoun will give you a full refund. I don’t know any other ski company that does this. You have absolutely nothing to lose.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

I hereby pronounce The Z-90’s the perfect East Coast ski. They can rip the corduroy, handle the ice, take you through chopped up stuff, powder, trees, you name it, like a champ. They’re agile yet stable, lively yet smooth. The Z-90 is a one-ski quiver any eastern Ski Diva would be happy to own — and I’ll bet a lot of western Ski Divas, too. Take a look at the picture below. My smile says it all.

Me and my new best friends, the Renoun Z-90's.

Me and my new best friends, the Renoun Z-90’s.

 

© 2018,  TheSkiDiva.com. All rights reserved. Any use or publication of content, including photos, requires express permission.



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A chat about fear with fear expert Mermer Blakeslee.

 

Mermer Blakeslee

For many of us, skiing is a head game. Get past the fear, and suddenly things become a lot easier. So who better to talk to about this than Mermer Blakeslee, the ski industry’s recognized fear expert and author of In the Yikes! Zone: A Conversation With Fear .

Mermer started skiing at the age of three and has taught skiing at Windham Mountain, NY, since 1979. In 1996, she won Skiing magazine’s Instructor of the Year Award. That spring, she successfully competed for a spot on the PSIA National Demonstration Team, an elite group that spearheads the development and direction of instructing in America and represents American skiing internationally (she was one of the few women and the only mother to do so). She has also lectured at PSIA’s National Academies and National Women’s Seminars, as well at as the National Ski Patrol’s annual conventions, and has traveled throughout the US training instructors and serving as an examiner for PSIA-Eastern. Mermer has been a coach for the Divisional Clinic Leaders, the Development Team, and the Eastern Demonstration team.

I had a chat with Mermer about her unique approach to fear and skiing.

SD: Mermer, I know you’re also the author of two novels [In Dark Water and Same Blood], yet you do all this work with skiing and fear. How do you reconcile the two?
MB: I know they seem diametrically opposed, but both of these disciplines come together in the core of my being. A lot of what I’ve done with fear and skiing is also what I’ll do with fear and writing. When you have a writing block, it’s because your expectations are high. You need an entrance ramp to get into either writing or skiing. You can’t just click in and be in the zone. It’s like when you come into music. You can’t just start dancing unselfconsciously. You may start out on the sidelines watching, then you may start moving a bit, then you slowly get drawn in. You have to find your process to actualize what you’re capable of doing.

One big difference between me and sports psychologists is that I treat the athlete as an artist.The psychologists deal with conditioned responses and overlook the creativity of the sport. I talk about skiing as a metaphor for any creative act. There’s always that moment where you have to give yourself up and let go. You know, I really love skiing just for itself. It doesn’t have to be a metaphor. But I find that because it’s such an emotional sport, the metaphor can easily transfer into people’s lives.

SD: So what do you do in your fear clinic?
MB: I gear the clinic toward getting women to respond to skiing in a new way, based on their own ability. We get them into a place where they’re free of what I call the “nag.” That’s the negative self-talk that tells you you can’t do something.

SD: How did you get started with your fear clinic?
MB: I started to teach skiing at Windham (NY), and no one liked teaching the fearful women who came in for lessons. I told the ski school to give them to me, and I started developing a reputation for dealing with them. It’s ironic because when I was ski racing at Burke Academy, I understood there was a mind-body connection; that it was my mind that was keeping me from getting better. So I felt that these fearful women were just like me. I also thought they had amazing emotional courage, to attempt to do something even though they were frightened. Eventually I was asked to do a special clinic about fear; I think that was back in ’85. Now I offer one clinic a year, and I train a lot of fear clinicians. I also train ski teachers and I help examiners become better examiners. I do staff training and women’s clinics at Snowbird. I’m trying to mainstream fear into the way people think about ski teaching.

SD: Do you think it’s healthy to feel fear?
MB: I distinguish between fear and respect. A lot of what we teach in the clinic is a healthy respect, because some people misjudge their own fear. They think it’s fear when it’s actually respect. What they need to do is develop more skills to expand their comfort zone. It has nothing to do with not fulfilling their potential. They have to put in the ground work and develop their skills.

SD: Do you find that men and women have different approaches to fear?
MB: A lot of women don’t understand the amount of repetition that’s needed to become good at something. There’s a dichotomy in the psyche of many women. On one hand, they feel unathletic. On the other, they’re not aware of how much work it takes to improve, so they think they should be better than they are.

There are two approaches to fear. One is avoidance. You avoid going down a particular trail. A lot of women are like that. I call them Janes. You have to give them a push. Then there’s the person who rushes through fear. I call them Roberts. These are mostly men, though they could be women, too. For those people, you have to modify the rush.

SD: So how do you handle this in your clinic?
MB: We start inside with a conversation about fear and how it affects us. Then we take it out on the hill and work on it concretely and literally, to determine what is happening to our bodies. We do a lot of strategies, though I wouldn’t say we “overcome” fear. You’re always going to be frightened of the next step. What we do is expand the ability to move in and out of fear so that someone’s comfort zone doesn’t have to shrink around them.

Editor’s Note: This first appeared in the blog in 2008, but I thought it was worth running again. Mermer is offering her women’s fear clinic at Windham Mountain from January 26-28, 2018. For more information, visit Windham Mountain or call 518-734-4300, ext.1120.

 



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TheSkiDiva named Best Ski Blog for 2nd year in a row!

They say that lightning doesn’t strike twice, but I beg to differ. Because for the second year in a row, TheSkiDiva blog has been granted the Harold S. Hirsch Award by NASJA, otherwise known as the North American Snowsports Journalists Association. Created by the founder of the White Stag clothing company to promote professionalism in winter sports coverage, the Award recognizes creativity and excellence in editorial and artistic content in both print and broadcast journalism.

HH-SD-2017

Truly, this is a great honor. After all, I’ve been doing this for eleven 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 (680 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:

Wendy Clinch, a former Hirsch Award winner and braintrust behind The Ski Diva, knows three things: her audience; skiing; and the best ways to integrate the two  [I have to interrupt here. I love that he called me a ‘braintrust’]. A solid, prolific writer, Clinch clearly devotes significant time to the original researching and reporting of each weekly column, something that sets her apart in the genre. Whether she’s profiling the women who make it to the top of today’s skiing circles or introducing us to the latest in women’s basewear, Clinch does her homework. She doesn’t just tell us that Andie’s Outdoor Undies are great for women; she tries them out and explains the intricacies. Trust me, her women readers wanted to know. Clinch should be the premier go-to writer for women who ski – and for the men who know women who ski.

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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A chat with Meegan Moszynski, first female Executive Director of the National Ski Patrol

Meegan Moszynski Photo Credit: Amy Wright

Meegan Moszynski
Photo Credit: Amy Wright

2017 was quite a year for women in the ski industry. Kelly Pawlak was named first female director of the National Ski Areas Association (you can read my interview with her here), and over the summer, Meegan Moszynski was named first female executive director of the National Ski Patrol. This is huge: Although the NSP has over 30,000 members, only 25% are women. So we’re looking at a fairly substantial crack in the snow ceiling here.

But being a woman isn’t the only thing that’s interesting about Meegan: She’s also never been a member of the Patrol. Her experience working with leaders in the private, public and nonprofit sectors more than make up for it, though. She’s collaborated on clean energy initiatives in China, educational and vocational training programs for women and children in Pakistan, and rural economic development projects in Cambodia. She speaks French, Italian, and Spanish, and has lived and traveled throughout South America, Western and Eastern Europe, southern Africa and northern China. And she’s not afraid to shake things up.

I recently interviewed Meegan to find out what she sees ahead for the NSP:

Ski Diva: Let’s start with the basics. What are the responsibilities of the Executive Director?
Meegan: I’m in charge of running the national office here in Lakewood, Colorado, along with the organization’s general operations. I also work with the national board of directors on larger, more strategic questions, initiatives, ideas, projects, and so on that involve the ethos of our organization, our strategic plan, our identity and ambitions, and more. What all this means is that I’m not the big boss of all NSP ski patrollers; each patroller works for her or his own ski area, not for me. I run the membership organization of which they are a part.

Ski Diva: You’ve never been a member of the Patrol. What’s the benefit of that to the culture of the organization?
Meegan: Hopefully, my outsider perspective will be a great addition to the organization as we think about both our current structure and future. I’ve been a skier my whole life and have lived in mountain towns, so I understand the culture and the outdoor recreation industry. The benefit of not being a patroller, however, is that it allows me to think as a nonprofit leader as opposed to a member. I also did go through the OEC [Outdoor Emergency Care] course in college, so I’m familiar with our curriculum. So I’m not a total stranger to what we do.

Ski Diva: I’m sure you’ve heard this question before, but the NSP has a reputation for being an old boys’ network. What are your thoughts on being the first female Director and on getting more women involved in the Patrol?
Meegan: I get this question a lot, but I think it’s a pretty important one. I’m proud of the organization for putting their faith in my leadership capabilities and trusting that I can run this organization. I think their decision is representative of what we’re starting to see across the industry: Women are becoming more involved in skiing and in outdoor/mountain recreation, and we’re taking more leadership positions in the for-profit and non-profit sectors. The NSP’s history and legacy are very important to us, and by definition that means that our world is more strongly represented by men; however, we have serveral women in leadership positions throughout the organization, and any woman patroller I’ve met can more than hold her own. So while NSP has, in fact, been an old boys’ network, I do think the mentality is starting to expand into recognizing what we need to do to grow and remain sustainable as an organization and as an industry. And I would love to see female participation grow while I’m here, so women, please join us!

Ski Diva: So how do you plan to expand the organization?
Meegan: In the coming year I’d really like to focus on new strategies for marketing the NSP to potential members. What can we do more or better to attract people to patrolling? How can we spread the word on what it means to be a member of NSP and what can we offer a new patroller? The NSP is so much more than a ski pass; it’s the camaraderie, the passion, the friendships, and the opportunity to help other people. Of course, there’s everyone’s favorite, the 4AM wake-up calls. I think that getting out there and working with our stakeholders, joining conversations with our industry partners about the future of the ski industry and how we can all work together – these are the things that will make us even more relevant and exciting.

Ski Diva: In addition to recruitment, what do you see as the major challenges facing the NSP, and what are your goals for the organization?
Meegan: I think we have some great opportunities to really grow. I want to focus on modernizing the NSP, on collaborating with ski areas, other nonprofits, the retail and manufacturing sectors, and other key stakeholders to make sure we’re addressing our common challenges and working together on solutions that benefit all of us. Issues like climate change, the shortening of the winter season, and the consolidation that we’re seeing among ski areas are all important issues for us to address, to be aware of, and be part of. We have an opportunity here to take a stand and assume the lead in creating a sustainable future for our industry, which will allow us and future generations, to continue enjoying what we love.

Ski Diva: What most excites you about working with the National Ski Patrol?
Meegan: Everything! Seriously, it’s been such an incredible experience. The people I’ve met, the passion I see among our members, and the places I get to see are all so much fun. It’s also a lot of work, and that excites me, too, because I’m both an ideas person and a Type-A/very organized person. It’s really a perfect combo for me, and I’m so grateful to be here.

Ski Diva: I read somewhere that you’re looking at expanding the Patrol to include mountain biking. If so, why do you see it heading in this direction?
Meegan: I’m so glad you asked, because we’re no longer just about skiing, and that’s a really important thing to know about NSP these days. Our board of directors approved mountain bike patrols in the spring of 2017, which means that we’ll start rolling out the details about what it means to be an NSP bike patroller in the near future. We’ve been working with some industry partners on how we can best contribute to the growing world of mountain biking, and I’m really excited to see what that looks like for this coming summer. This idea really came about because we work so closely with ski areas, who really are our end customers, and they’re starting to look into year-round operations in reaction to changing seasons, economic needs, and so on. As they start implementing downhill bike courses, high-ropes courses, trampolines, etc., we asked ourselves how can we continue to support these areas when there’s no snow. It made total sense to implement a bike patrol program in answer to that question. Besides, many ski patrollers are bike patrollers in the summer.

Meegan hiking for turns in Chile.

Meegan hiking for turns in Chile.

Ski Diva: So even though you haven’t been a patroller, I know that you’re a skier. Can you fill me in on your ski history? When did you start, where’d you ski, and how involved have you been throughout your life?
Meegan: I started skiing at age three at Snowbird. I remember doing the Cookie Doodle Races; it was so much fun! And I promised myself that when I grew up, I’d live in a ski town. I went to Middlebury College in Vermont, where I planned to try out for the patrol – and where I took my OEC course – but due to a personal tragedy in my first weeks of college, I dropped that plan and joined the swim team instead. I wouldn’t trade that decision for anything in the world, as some of my dearest, lifelong friends were made through that team, but it did mean that my ski days during college were limited. I did a short stint in New York after college, and as soon as I could, I got out of there and headed to Jackson, Wyoming. I lived there for 8 years, where I really got to know the resort and the backcountry and made many more lifelong friends. During my time there, my parents and my brother all trickled out to Colorado and ended up in the Aspen/Snowmass area, so after grad school I moved back in with them for a year. And then Denver. So I’ve always been a skier and have lived in ski towns on and off for the past 14 years. I love it.

Ski Diva: So what skis is the Exec Director of the National Ski Patrol skiing on these days?
Meegan: Icelantics. Nomad Rockers, specifically. 183’s. Wow, these skis are amazing! I was a Volkl skier for a while, and then I switched to Icelantics to support a local company, and I’ll never go back. I love, love, love these skis! They are snappy and responsive and so fun – and isn’t that what it’s all about?

 

 

 



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Got cold feet? Here’s what to do.

I’m not talking about being too afraid to do something, as in “I was going to huck the cornice but I got cold feet.”  I’m being a bit more literal here. As in “My feet feel like they’re encased in ice; I have to go inside right now to warm up.”

A real wet blanket on a great ski day. And no, not an actual wet blanket.

Cold toes can be a bummer, but there are things you can do to keep them warm. (I’ll fill you in on my super-effective-OMG, it’s minus 20 and my feet are still warm-combo later.)

So let’s start from the top.

Make sure your boots fit: Believe it or not, cold feet can be caused by ill-fitting boots. Something could be cutting off your circulation, and determining if that’s the cause is a worthwhile endeavor. A good boot fitter can  help.

Wear proper socks: I know it seems counter-intutive, but thicker socks will not make you warmer. All they’ll do is 1) make your feet sweat, which will make your feet colder, or 2) bunch up in  your boots and either give you blisters or  interfere with your boot fit, thereby cutting off your circulation and making your feet colder (see above). You really want a thin ski sock. Trust me on this. And be sure to avoid cotton. Cotton stays damp. You want socks made out of merino wool.

Keep your boots dry and warm: This is pretty obvious, but if you store your boots in the car overnight, they’re going to be plenty cold when you put them on in the morning. So keep them inside. Also, dry your boots out from one use to the next. Sweat can make the liners damp, and once again, a damp boot is a cold boot. Use either a boot drier or remove the liners to dry. But let’s say you do leave your boots in the car overnight (hey, everyone makes mistakes). Here’s a tip: stick a couple hand warmers in each toe for a quick warm up. And an extra boost, put them next to a heater for a few minutes.

Keep your feet dry, too: Dry feet are warmer feet. I spray mine with anti-perspirant before I head out to ski. Not only are they drier, but they don’t stink, either. :)   I also wear different socks over to the mountain, and put on my ski socks right before I put on my boots. Some folks even change their socks at lunch, to keep their feet extra dry.

Heat your feet: Heaters can do a lot to keep your toes toasty. You use use either disposable heaters that stick to your socks or the interior of your boot (some people swear these work better when they’re stuck to the underside of a boot glove; I’ll talk about these next). Or you can use a  battery-operated heater, like Hotronics. The former are very cheap, the latter, not very. The way you go is up to you. I prefer the latter.

Wear Boot Gloves: If you thought gloves were just for your hands, think again. Boot Gloves are neoprene covers that fit over the outside of your boots. Added bonus: they keep your boots drier and prevent snow from invading any cracks, too.

Replace the liners: Some boot liners just aren’t that warm. You can replace yours with a custom moldable liner, such as those made by Intuition. Not only do they keep your feet warmer, but they feel great, too.

Keep your core warm: The warmer your core, the less blood flow you’ll need to keep it warm. Which means more blood flow to your extremities — your hands and feet. So wear those extra layers and that warm jacket. It’ll help your feet.

Any one of these things may work for you. Or more than one. Which leads me to my extra-special-heavy-duty-works-like-a-charm method for warm feet. I’ve had success with this even in temperatures down to -20°F: I dry my boots each night, keep my boots indoors, and even spray my feet with anti-perspirant. On top of that, I use the triple threat: battery-operated heaters, Intuition Liners, and Boot Gloves. Okay, maybe it seems like overkill. But if my feet don’t get cold in those conditions, they ain’t never going to be cold.

Remember, dry feet are happy feet. And happy feet love to ski.



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How to survive skiing during the holidays.

 

Very crowded ski resort

For a lot of people, Christmas week isn’t complete without skiing. You’re off from work, the fam is together, and besides, you have all those vacation days you have to use up. Nonetheless, this isn’t the easiest time to be out on the mountain. There are loads of like-minded individuals who are going to be there. It may even be your first ski day of the season. And let’s not forget holiday pressure: You WILL have a good time! It’s Christmas! Be HAPPY! But if you’re determined to ski this week, there are a few things you can do to make it more fun:

Start early. I know it’s vacation, but really, the earlier you start, the better the snow and the less crowded the mountain. So while a lot of people are still in bed nursing their hangovers, make an effort to be out when the lifts start spinning. Really, you get out of bed early for work and that’s a heck of a lot less fun. I know you can do it.

Go to a smaller resort. You don’t have to ski the mega resorts to have a good time. Smaller, more off the radar resorts can offer just as much fun, at prices that are a lot more family friendly.

Lock your skis. Don’t let the beautiful surroundings lull you into a false sense of security. Yes, there are some nasty characters around, and yes, they have their eye on your skis. Well, on anyone’s skis for that matter. I can’t fathom how these sleazebags get their jollies making off with someone else’s equipment — it’s sort of the anti-Santa Claus — but somehow they do. Ebay is full of them. So if you’re going into the lodge, lock up your equipment. You’ll save yourself a lot of pain, and maybe put the sleazies out of business.

Bring your lunch. Unless you  have a hankering for a hamburger that tastes like cardboard and is made from God knows what, this is really the way to go. Food at ski resorts doesn’t just taste bad, it can cost a small fortune. So bring your own, save big bucks, and eat a lot healthier.

Eat early. Or late. If you really want to avoid crowds in the cafeteria, eat when others don’t: either way before noon, or way after. Added bonus: you’ll see fewer people on the mountain when everyone else is chowing down.

Try the singles line. It’s a lot faster. Plus, if you need a break from your friends and family, this is definitely the way to go. Besides, you never know who you’ll end up on the lift. Hey, it could be Mikaela Shiffrin under that face mask!

Establish a meet up place in case you get separated. And a meeting time, too. Sure, you can always text one another. But texting’s not always convenient and if you’re like me, you’re not always aware when a text comes in.

Leave plenty of time. For EVERYTHING. Renting equipment, buying lift tickets, parking. It’s all going to take a lot longer, especially if you have kids. Recognize this. Embrace it. Live in the moment. And breathe. Just breathe.

Have Fun. The seems so basic, but a lot of people forget to enjoy themselves, especially since skiing during the holidays can be full of frustrations — the lift lines, the crowds (I don’t need to go on). Realize there are lots of things you can’t control, and decide at the outset that you’re going to have a good day. Your attitude can make a big difference not just in your own enjoyment, but in the enjoyment of people around you. So suck it up, buttercup. Leave your complaints in the car.

Remember, ’tis the season. Peace, love, and good will to all. And happy holidays.



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Gear Review: Chaval SuperNova Heated Gloves

You’ll have to forgive me. I know I posted my holiday gift guide a couple weeks ago, but that was before I had the chance to review the SuperNova heated glove from Chaval Outdoor. The upshot: I need to amend the list. Because if you’re looking for a gift that’ll warm the heart – and the hands – of any skier on your list, you need to consider the SuperNova.

Chaval isn’t the biggest glove company on the planet, but they’ve been making waves in the heated glove category since they first came on the scene six years ago. Located in the Seattle area, the company was founded by two high tech guys who are avid skiers and outdoorsmen. I first learned about them in 2013, when they sent me a pair of their XRT gloves to review. Right away I was a convert. You see, even though I love to ski, I hate being cold — and I get cold pretty easily. I suffer from Raynaud Syndrome, which means my hands and feet are profoundly affected by cold temperatures. It’s really unpleasant, so I do as much as I can to keep them warm. My usual solution had been really warm mittens, glove liners, and hand warmers. Effective, but pretty bulky. Let me put it this way: The XRT gloves were a godsend.

Fast forward to this year: Once again, I was contacted by Chaval. The company had a new heated glove, and would I be interested in giving it a try?

Lord, yes. And I’m glad I did.

Right out of the box

Right out of the box

The technology
Conventional heated gloves pretty much operate the same way. Think about the old electric blankets of the 70’s and 80’s, which were powered by a network of heating wires and controlled by a switch with three heat levels. Conventional heated gloves use this same principle. Chaval, however, decided to toss out the wires and replace them with a paper-thin nanotech polymer heating film. This polymer film has a proprietary molecular ‘programming’ that allows it to self-regulate heat output and maintain an even temperature in each finger and thumb. So instead of requiring you to regulate the heat levels by constantly adjusting them up or down, Chaval’s technology does it for you, automatically. Pretty slick. Extra bonus: the film is considerably less bulky and easier to flex. So you get better dexterity, too.

The glove
While the technology for the SuperNova and the XRT are pretty much the same – oh, there’ve been some refinements since the pair I received in 2013 – the biggest difference is the glove itself. First, the sizing. As much as I loved the XRT, the glove, even in the extra-small size, was simply too large for me. That’s because it was sized for men’s hands, and an XS men’s is not the same as an XS women’s. The extra-small in the SuperNova fits me perfectly. Second, the SuperNova is made entirely from goat skin — no synthetic materials on the shell at all — which amps it up from a lot of the other gloves on the market. It also makes it softer and more supple than the XRT (which is made with cowhide), which means it has a shorter break-in period and just feels great.

Some of the other features include:

The "C" lights up when the heat is on.

The “C” lights up when the heat is on.

• One touch technology: There’s only one button to deal with – an on-off switch. Hold it down for 3 seconds, and the glove comes on (the “C” on the outside of the glove lights up). Hold it down for three more seconds, and it goes off. This prevents you from turning it on or off accidentally and draining the battery.
• Wrist straps. You may think this seems like a trivial matter, but not to me.  I need straps on so I don’t drop my gloves if or when I take them off on the lift, something I’m in mortal terror of doing.
• No batteries. This is a biggie. Instead of bulky batteries, each glove features connectors that attach to an exterior power supply for charging. A full charge takes from 5-7 hours. When you’re ready to use them, simply disconnect from the charger, latch the connectors together, and you’re ready to go. Pretty idiot proof.
• Built in drying system: The charging system doesn’t just charge the glove; it also acts to dry the liner. This means the gloves are comfortable when they’re ready to use, and prevents bacteria from growing in the glove.
• Reinforced fingers: The gloves have extra padding that extends up each finger and thumb.  This makes them sturdier and improves wearability.
• Warm interior liner. Even with the heating element off, these are nice, soft warm gloves.

So cut to the chase. How long will the heat last? 
A good question. After all, the whole point of these gloves is to heat up and keep you warm. According to Chaval, the SuperNova lasts three times longer than other heated gloves on the market. Company co-founder and managing partner, Mark Boone, says that though other gloves promise 2 to 8 or 10 hours of run-time, this is misleading. “Only their highest heat level setting will produce an effective level of heat, and the run-time at that level is only about 1-1/2 to 2 hours. In the very coldest conditions, our gloves will produce an effective level of heat for a minimum of 4 hours. In warmer conditions, up to 6 hours of run-time.”

Is this true? I have to be honest: I can’t say for sure because I haven’t been out more than 4 hours at a time, and the temps haven’t been lower than the teens. That said, the gloves stayed on for as long as I was out, and generated a nice level of warmth. My hands were not cold. At all.

A couple things to consider
First, a word about care. The gloves are treated to be water-resistant and have a waterproof breathable lining beneath the leather to protect both the technology and your hands. But Chaval also includes a special waterproofing treatment along with your order, and provides very specific instructions on how to apply it.  I strongly suggest you use it to optimally protect the leather from moisture and abrasion, and preserve the overall condition of your gloves.

Second, cost. The SuperNova gloves are not cheap, but that’s pretty much the case with all heated gloves.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?
I liked these gloves. A lot. They’re comfortable, fit well, and are extremely well made. I liked them even when the heat was off, and when it’s on, wow. Just wow. I wish I could fit my entire body in these gloves. But since I can’t, I’ll just have to settle for my hands.

Bottom line:

If you’re like me and cold hands can really hamper your enjoyment of the day and effect how long you stay out, these are definitely a worthwhile investment. 

Two ski poles up.

For more, go to ChavalUSA.com

UPDATE, JANUARY 4, 2018: We’ve been having an incredible cold snap here in Vermont, with temps below zero and wind chills you don’t even want to think about. I’ve been using the SuperNova, and I’m pleased to report that these gloves absolutely rock! My hands have stayed warm in the most severe conditions. I know I recommended them before, but I double recommend them now! They’re that amazing.



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A chat with Laura Davies, or how to ski 15 countries in one year

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

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

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

I spoke to Laura recently to find out more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gulmarg, India - Looking out over the Himalayas

Gulmarg, India – Looking out over the Himalayas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 



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