Anyone who reads this blog knows I’m a huge proponent of women’s ski clinics. I even wrote a post a while back called Why a Women’s Clinic, which explains why I think they’re so worthwhile. In a nutshell, it comes down to this: Men and women have different learning styles. Research shows that women are more supportive and men more competitive in a learning environment, and that carries over to the ski hill, too. Women’s clinics allow you to develop skills and technique in an atmosphere that’s friendly and fun. Plus they give you a way to connect with other women skiers, so you can make a lot of new ski friends. What could be bad about that?
Recently I had the pleasure of attending the Your Turn clinic at Whiteface Mountain, near Lake Placid, NY. Sponsored by both Whiteface and the Mirror Lake Inn, this one really ticked all my boxes. Why? Read on and you’ll find out.
First, the mountain
Okay, let’s get this over with: Tell people you’re skiing Whiteface, and you’re liable to get the following reaction: “You mean Iceface?” Which never fails to rile me. Oh, sure, there’s ice. After all, this is the East, and you’d be hard put to find a mountain that didn’t have ice. But the unflattering nickname seems to be a relic of the days when there was little or no snowmaking or grooming. This is no longer the case. I’m here to tell you that Whiteface is a fantastic mountain (hey, it hosted the Winter Olympics, twice!). It has the most vertical in the east (3,430 ft), the terrain is phenomenal, the trails fun and looooong (the longest is 2-1/2 miles), and there are lots of lifts, so access is easy. And yeah, even though this winter hasn’t been the best snow year, conditions during the clinic were fine. Whiteface is one of my Eastern favorites, and I’m always delighted to ski there.
So what did I like about the clinic?
Pretty much everything, but I’ll try to quantify it here:
• Great student/instructor ratio: The clinic had 9 women attendees. We broke into two groups, one of four and one of five. So we got a lot of individual attention and feedback. You can’t beat that.
• Amazing instructors: When’s the last time you were coached by an Olympic champion? With me, I can safely say January 8th and 9th. Because one of the instructors was Andrew Weibrecht, two-time Olympic medalist and Lake Placid native. (Whiteface recently named their race arena after him; you can see the sign for it in the photo on the right.)
The other instructor was Your Turn clinic founder, Lisa Densmore Ballard. Lisa started Your Turn in 1991, and estimates she’s helped improve the skiing of nearly 7,000 women. A former member of the US Ski Team, she’s won numerous world and national titles in all disciplines, and is a six-time Masters Skier of the Year. So yeah, we were in good hands.
Between Andrew and Lisa, we were able to get some great feedback and learn some new skills. My group concentrated on committing to the downhill ski and turning on steep terrain. There were lots of great drills that I know will improve my skiing, in the long run.
• And speaking of terrain: Even though it’s a low snow year, there was still plenty of terrain on the mountain which we could do our drills. So we were able to try out things in a variety of situations.
• A fun atmosphere: Let’s face it, even though we’re skiing at a prior Olympic venue and being coached by an Olympic skier, we were definitely not training for the Winter Games. The atmosphere was relaxed, friendly, and in a word, fun! Truly a low pressure environment, which is just right for me.
• Off slope learning: The first morning of the clinic, Lisa led us through an informative talk on ski construction and trends in women’s skis, followed by a review of Volkl’s current line-up. The evening of the second day, we were treated to a presentation on ski boots by Lake Placid Ski and Board. So a lot of good information about stuff skiers need to know.
• Ski demos: If you wanted to try new skis, there were a variety of women’s Volkls available. Demoing is a great way to figure out if a particular ski is right for you before you plunk down your hard-earned cash. Usually, you have to pay to demo. So this was an added plus.
The icing on the cake: The Mirror Lake Inn
One of the highlights of the clinic was staying in the fabulous Mirror Lake Inn, which is probably my favorite ski hotel in the East. With good reason: This is no ordinary hotel. It’s been honored with the AAA Four-Diamond, Exceptional Award 37 years running, which means it has to live up to some pretty high standards. It’s also been named the #1 Ski Hotel East of the Rockies in USAToday’s 10Best Reader’s Poll, and has garnered a long list of other top hospitality awards too numerous to name.
Decorated in a style I’d term elegant-Adirondack, the Inn sits at the edge of Mirror Lake on the north end of Lake Placid, and has a spectacular view of the Adirondack High Peaks. The main building features a series of cozy sitting rooms with large, comfy chairs and sofas punctuated by huge, blazing fireplaces. There’s a four star restaurant, a terrific bar, and across the street, the Cottage, a cozy restaurant and bar (also owned by the Inn) where you have the option of dining in refurbished gondola cars they obtained from Whiteface. Downstairs, there’s a first-class spa, a hot tub, an indoor swimming pool, and a fitness center. The rooms are lovely, all with lake views, and the staff and service first-rate. Sure, it’s a bit pricey, but you get what you pay for, and trust me, this is no Econo-Lodge.
Here are some pics:
Something else worth mentioning: If you’ve always wanted to ski with an Olympic skier and can’t attend the clinic, the Inn has a package that lets you ski with Andrew Weibrecht. You can check it out here. He’s a great guy and, needless to say, an amazing skier. You’ll have a terrific time.
The bottom line.
Am I glad I went? You bet. Would I recommend the Your Turn clinic to women who want to fine tune their skiing? Without a doubt. It’ll be around again next year, so set yourself a reminder and be sure to sign up.