Tag Archives | Family

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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Adventure Mamas: Redefining Motherhood.

Adventure Mamas co-founders Stephanie Fuller (left) and Justine Nobbe (right)

Adventure Mamas co-founders Stephanie Feller (left) and Justine Nobbe (right)

I’ve never understood people who make grand pronouncements about how moms are supposed to behave. As far as I’m concerned, moms should be able to do anything they like. If they enjoyed doing stuff outdoors before they had kids, they should be able to enjoy the same things even after they’re moms.

But I do understand about “mommy guilt.” There’s tremendous pressure to put your kids first, not only from society, but from yourself, too. So you end up forgoing some of the things you love to do – and that can make you anxious, depressed, and even resentful.

Not good.

That’s why I was so excited to hear about Adventure Mamas, an organization whose mission is to redefine motherhood by encouraging moms to enjoy outdoor life, without being constrained by guilt or societal pressures. According to Adventure Mamas, you shouldn’t have to give up outdoor adventures just because you’re a mom. Sure, your adventures may change a bit, but it’s still entirely possible — and even desirable — to get outdoors to do the things you love.

Adventure Mamas has been around since 2015, and is now a network of more than 15,000 women around the world. These are women who are interested not just in pushing strollers, but in pushing themselves to have adventures that provide both physical and mental challenges, sometimes with children, and sometimes without. Like TheSkiDiva, Adventure Mamas is a community of women who share a passion for the same thing and want to connect with one another for support, camaraderie, and just plain fun.

I recently spoke to Justine Nobbe, co-founder of Adventure Mamas, to find out more about this exciting initiative:

SD: Tell me about yourself. Have you always been interested in the outdoors?
JN: Not exactly. I grew up in a small town in Indiana where there was essentially no outdoor culture. I didn’t get into the outdoors until I was midway through college – I was working toward a degree in English — and I started coming across all this literature about people who were living in ways I had no idea was possible. It totally blew my mind and changed my life pretty profoundly. As soon as I graduated I started working in an outdoor gear shop and figuring out what I could do to enter the outdoor world. I did a bunch of bike touring, trekking, rock climbing, and even worked as an adventure therapy guide in Utah for several years.

SD: So how did this lead you to start Adventure Mamas?
JN: My husband and I had a son in 2016, and although that was really exciting, there’s that moment when you think, okay, so how does my old lifestyle fit into motherhood? I started to do a lot of research to try to find a community that validated a woman’s need to continue to adventure after she had a child. There were all these individual women doing different things – you’d have this skier or this climber – but there wasn’t a community that supported women pursuing their passions that was relevant to me. So I decided to create a meet-up group in Salt Lake City to make friends with women who weren’t going to let motherhood slow them down. I told a good friend about it who thought it was a great idea [Stephanie Feller, Adventure Mamas co-founder], and we pitched in together to make it happen. It just took off from there. Other groups began opening up across the country, and it kept growing and growing. Now we have ten national groups, as well as a lot of international women who are engaged, too.

SD: So what makes adventure so important for women and for mothers, in particular?
JN: At Adventure Mamas, we believe in the transformative power of adventure and wild places. There’s a lot of research that says being outside looking at a landscape, or breathing fresh air, or moving your body can be extremely healing and centering. Adventure – putting yourself in a challenging situation, where your adrenaline is pumping and you have to think critically – gives you tremendous focus and clarity, which can translate very easily into everyday life. For mothers, adventure is extremely important. There’s research that says that women with children are more susceptible to mental unwellness than other populations, so adventure can actually be preventive healthcare. It’s good for your health and for your personal identity, which translates into healthy families, healthy communities, a healthy culture, and yes, even healthy kids. We want to tell our kids that they can do anything and be anything, but a lot of adults don’t believe it themselves. We seem to get stuck in a rut. We want women not to just talk to their kids about how they can do anything, but to show them through their actions.

Credit_ @littlemountainlady Sarah Gorka-2

SD: So what makes Adventure Mamas different from other outdoor women’s groups?
JN: Although there are a lot of outdoor women’s groups that are multi-adventure – that is, they cover everything from hiking to skiing – they aren’t necessarily oriented toward women with kids. Much of their outreach and marketing is done toward younger women. So say you’re an enthusiastic outdoor woman who belongs to one of these other groups, and you find out you’re expecting. The new baby arrives, and while it’s an exciting and happy time, you don’t feel like the other group applies anymore. You still want to participate, but you may be wondering, is it weird if I bring my baby along; what if I have to nurse on the trail; will people be upset if my baby is crying. This has been a pretty universal experience for the women we’ve met. It’s disheartening, because your identity is so warped after you’ve had a baby, and now, on top of that, you don’t feel relevant in the outdoor community anymore. For us, it’s all about getting outdoors and exploring, with your kids and without. We have women-specific events, where we encourage women to adventure without their kids so they can do things that are harder, but we also offer events where women can bring their children along. And as we move forward, we’ll be facilitating more events where we’ll offer childcare, too.

SD: What kind of outdoor activities does Adventure Mamas have?
JN: We are very specifically adventure based. We’ve had events across the country that facilitiate everything from kayaking to rock climbing to stand-up paddle boarding to mountaineering. We’ve had more than 40 events since we started. Our first national event will take place this July. We have an expedition that’ll be scaling 13er’s and 14er’s in Colorado. We also offer workshops on things like the role of self care as a mother and empowered motherhood and things like that. Even better, we’re a non-profit, so all this is free.

Credit_ @littlemountainlady Sarah Gorka

SD: Is this just for young mothers?
JN: I think people think we’re more oriented toward younger women and new moms, and I think the resources we provide are important for new or expecting moms. But we also have this important sub-niche of women with older kids who are almost empty nesters. A lot of them are stepping up and saying, I’ve spent my whole life caring for my children, but now I feel really lost. I used to like to do these things. Am I welcome here?  So it’s really dynamic. We’ve had so many women reach out and say ‘Can adventure grandmas be better represented?’

SD: So how’s it worked out for you?
JN: I have an 18-month old son who comes along on a lot of things. It’s been kind of his whole life. Adventure Mamas started because of him, so we’ve been doing things together from the get-go. Of course there are ups and downs, but I embrace them. I personally find adventure parenting easier than indoor parenting. We’ve been on 5 or 6 cross country road trips, and done bike tours, hiking, climbing; he comes everywhere. The thing about Adventure Mamas is that a lot of moms want to pass their passion for adventuring on to their kids. I hope my kid continues to want to come along, but if he doesn’t, that’s okay, too. I’m still going to go.

Editor’s Note: Adventure Mamas is a non-profit organization, but it needs money so that it can continue offering outdoor adventures to moms at no cost.  The organization has a fundraising campaign going on through the end of June at generosity.com. To make a donation (and to get some great swag), go here.


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Gear Review: Kulkea Tandem Ski Duffle

I’m often asked to do product reviews. Which is fine, except when there’s a product I really can’t use. Enter Kulkea Tandem Ski Boot Duffle, a bag especially designed to hold kids ski gear.

You see, I don’t have any little kids. So to do the job properly, I called upon Emily Bryk, a mother of two who has lots to carry to the ski hill. Emily agreed to put the bag to the test, and here’s what she had to say:

When you’re skiing with young children, a lot of the challenges have very little to do with what happens on the hill. There are the snacks. There are the bathroom breaks. Adjusting the boots. Adjusting the boots again. But for me, one of the hardest things is just managing all the gear. The most difficult part about a ski day is sometimes getting to the mountain in the first place.

My 5 year old son has been skiing for two years now. He’s excited about skiing and, in the manner of all kindergarteners, he’s very confident, but he’s still a little guy and he can’t yet be relied upon to pack or to haul his own equipment. My daughter is two and this winter was her first time trying out skis. She’s just going out on some little Lucky Bums toy skis, but she wants to keep up with her big brother. Between the two of them, I’m swamped before my husband and I even start to pack up our own things.

Enter Kulkea’s Tandem boot duffle bag. This bag makes everything easier. It’s a double duffle, large enough to hold two kids’ ski gear and with enough specialized storage to keep everyone organized all day long.

Kulkea (the company name comes from the Finnish verb “to go,” appropriately enough) has designed exactly the bag that every ski parent needs. When I started to open up the Tandem, I understood why: the cooler top means that the entire top of the bag opens, which allows access to every part of the bag. No more twisting and angling to fit boots or helmets and no more wondering exactly which wrinkle the chapstick fell into. With the entire bag opened up wide, it’s easy to load up fast and to check out your gear at a glance.

Kulkea Tandem Bag, all packed and ready to go.

Kulkea Tandem Bag, all packed and ready to go.

And there’s a lot you’ll want to keep track of inside the Tandem. This bag is B-I-G. It holds a startling 64 liters – that’s 13” tall, 32” long, and 12” wide. It could be easy to lose things in that amount of space, but it’s not. The bag has four large interior compartments. Two are designed to hold helmets and boots (they’re ventilated, thank goodness!), and two more designed to hold snowpants, extra layers, and other clothing. On top of that, the lid has two mesh pockets, perfect for smaller items like hats, gloves, or (if you’re me) snacks.

As I was loading the Tandem, I worried that all the gear packed inside would make it too difficult to carry. Honestly, though, this isn’t a problem. The adjustable shoulder strap is padded enough to distribute the load nicely, and the messenger-style structure kept it easy to carry.

In fact, this bag is so big that I used it for my gear as well as my kids’! The Tandem is so adaptable that it got all three of us to the mountain. While the bag promises to fit only boots up to 22.5, I actually fit my 24s in there without a hitch. Want to know how much I could carry?

  • 1 pair of women’s boots in a size 24
  • 1 pair of kids’ boots in a size 19
  • Three (three!) helmets: two kids’ and one adult
  • Three pairs of goggles
  • Three pairs of mittens
  • One pair of toddler snowpants
  • Sandwiches, oranges, and bananas for one and all
  • Gaiters

On the way home from the mountain, things got even better. Those boot compartments? They have grommets for drainage, so damp boots don’t stay damp for long.

So do you need a Tandem? If you have small kids, absolutely. This bag’s size and features make it easy to pack, easy to carry, and easy to organize. I’m not going skiing without it.

Emily with her Kulkea Tandem Bag.

Emily with her Kulkea Tandem Bag.

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A Chat with Heather Burke, Ski Resort Reviewer

This sounds like a tough gig, doesn’t it? Going all over the country — heck, all over the world — to review ski resorts. Where do I sign up?

This is the job that Heather Burke slicked into 25 years ago when she started her websites, LuxurySkiTrips and FamilySkiTrips. Both offer travel tips and reviews for resorts all over the world. They’re a great way to gain info about a resort from someone who’s actually skied there, so you can plan your trip more easily. Heather also writes about skiing for a wide variety of ski and travel publications, and is the family ski blogger for Boston.com.

I recently spoke to Heather to find out more about how she does what she does.

Heather at work.

Heather at work.

Q: Tell me about your web sites. How’d you get started? How long have the sites been around?
A: I grew up skiing, even taught skiing in college at UVM [University of Vermont], but when it came time to teach my own kids to ski, I found out how incredibly complicated it is. So I started FamilySkiTrips.com to help fellow moms with tips on how to pack, how to find the best ski schools, how to get the most from a ski lesson…that was 1995! Then Luxury Ski Trips evolved soon after as I reviewed over 150 ski resorts, top mountainside hotels in the East, West, Canada and Europe. I love being editor of both sites. They’re my babies.

Q: So how many resorts do you review in a year?
A: Typically, about 10 new ski resorts annually, though last year we visited the Italian Dolomites and skied 14 in 10 days!  I think I’ve done more than 160. I remember being on a flight from Montana with my daughter, Aspen, and suggesting she write down all the places she’d skied by age 16. She filled every space on the cocktail napkin –- over 70. The guy seated next to us was flabbergasted.

Q: What do you look for when you evaluate a resort? What is it that puts it in your top ten?
A: For me, a ski resort needs great terrain and scenery above all – I just love being on a beautiful mountaintop. But convenient on-mountain lodging, fun places for après ski, a few shops, maybe dog-sledding or snowmobiling, give a ski trip that certain “je ne sais quoi.” Finally, the vibe from the locals –- the feeling you get from the liftline to the lunch line– matters. It’s not easy to make my top 10 ski resorts list. I’m a skiing critic.

Heather at Verbier

Heather at Verbier

Q: If you had to choose your favorite resort for each area of the country, which would they be and why?
A: In the East, I love Sunday River – lots of terrain, swift lifts, some of the best snowmaking and grooming in the biz, plus plenty of on mountain lodging and ski in ski out dining. It’s a happy place. Stowe is also special to me; the Front Four are classically steep and worthy, while the new Spruce Camp base village and the Stowe Mountain Lodge are cushy and swank – a brilliant combination. Out west, I love Big Sky and Whitefish –- both big mountain Montana skiing, amazing scenery, nearby Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks — respectively, but I have been asked to stop sending people out to the last great ski state. So, shhhh.

Q: What’s your favorite way to après?
A: First, I feel strongly about getting out of my ski boots, changing into something a bit more stylish, a SKEA skirt and stylish midlayer for après ski. I love a little wine by a fire with ski stories, true or exaggerated, or a live band, beer and nachos, with whomever I’ve had the pleasure of schussing with that day.

Q: Do you have a favorite ski bar?
A: After visiting Europe, American après ski pales. The Austrians in particular know how to celebrate the end of ski day. Still, I love Sunday River’s Foggy Goggle where you have a view of the ski slopes, live music and fun people. Cannon’s Cannonball Pub has the best memorabilia. Out West, the Trap Bar at Grand Targhee is an all out ski party – people dancing in ski socks. Whitefish’s Bierstube is epic too, where the locals outweigh, outdrink and outdress the skiers from away every Wednesday.

Q: I know you have a number of travel tips on your web site. What would be your top tip for someone going on a ski trip?
A: I learned the hard way that its an expensive hassle (read: time & money) to forget things – mittens, goggles, long undies. So now I pack like-a-pro with checklists for everyone in the family.

Q: Any booking advice that can save skiers money?
A: Midweek skiing is the bomb. You pay less for more acreage, more cord, no lines, and better lodging. Taking your kids out of school is educational if you take them to ski school, right?!

Q: What’s your favorite hard snow ski? Powder ski? All Mountain?
A: I like a versatile all-mountain ski, My Rossignol Experience 88 do it all from gripping and ripping, to plowing through fluff and even slush. They carve on dime, and come in a softer ladies version: the Rossi Temptation. I also love Blizzard’s Black Pearls. A girl should always have pearls.

Q: As we all know, all good things have to come to an end. So what’s your favorite activity for the off season?
A: I love to waterski. Early morning glass on a lake in Maine is as close to first tracks in snow that I can find in summer. Stand Up Paddleboarding is a great pre-ski work out too, requiring balance and core and quad strength, just like snow skiing.

Ski Journalist Heather Burke resides in Kennebunkport Maine, when she’s not skiing the globe. Her husband-photographer captures their ski adventures. See www.luxurysktrips.com and www.familyskitrips.com for more.

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Sexual Abuse Has No Place in Skiing


Or in any other sport, for that matter.

Here’s why this is this week’s blog topic: Not long ago, I learned (via Unofficial Networks) that Bertrand Charest, a former Alpine Canada’s women’s development team coach, is facing 57 charges related to allegations of sexual misconduct:

[Charest] has been in custody since his arrest March 10 on accusations of sexual
assault and breach of trust involving 11 girls and young women under his tutelage between 1991 and 1998. The girls were between 12 and 19 years old at the time.

Radio-Canada has reported the mother of one teen tried to report Charest to
police in 1998, but she said she was counseled by Alpine Canada not to do anything.

The woman, whose daughter is not one of the complainants in the current
criminal case, said the organization told her it would deal with the matter and
advised her to not jeopardize the girl’s skiing career.

This is appalling for so many reasons: First, of course, that it happened at all, and not just once, but again and again and again. But for a mother to be discouraged from reporting the abuse to the authorities; and for the organization to tell her that reporting it could jeopardize her daughter’s race career; and for the mother to buy this sort of twisted logic and keep her mouth shut; well, consider my mind blown.

Okay, even if we don’t assume that Charest is guilty — after all, he’s only been charged, and like it or not, we have to be fair — there’s no doubt that sexual misconduct is something that occurs not only in skiing, but in all kinds of sports. There’s a definite power relationship between coaches and athletes, and there’ll always be some creep who’s going to take advantage of that dynamic.

So is there anything we can do to keep stuff like this from happening? Or do we just throw up our hands and walk away?

Sadly, there’s probably no way to eliminate sexual abuse entirely. But there are things that can make it a little less likely to happen.

First, we need to change the culture (I’m looking at you, Alpine Canada). Any organization in which reporting abuse is discouraged, in which you’re told to keep quiet instead of going to the authorities, is in dire need of a sea change. Instead, it needs to be replaced with a culture that has zero tolerance for sexual misconduct. All reports of abuse must be taken seriously, and all victims treated with the utmost respect and yes, given the encouragement and support they need to speak out. Also, organizations must have policies in place, both for dealing with abuse and for preventing it from occurring.  And everyone responsible — not just coaches, but volunteers, staff, and even other athletes — must be held accountable for misconduct.

But some of the change has to come on our end, too. We have to learn not only how to recognize the signs of abuse, but to give our children the confidence, and the permission, to say ‘no’ in no uncertain terms. Children who are assertive, who know appropriate behavior and know that no one has the right to touch them or to to have a sexual relationship with them, are much more likely to defend themselves. What’s more, we have to teach our kids that it’s okay to report anything unusual to a parent or another trusted adult, no matter who’s involved.

Here’s an interesting statistic: 90% of child targets are abused by someone they know and trust. Scary, isn’t it? So how do you know if abuse is occurring? Experts say that if the answer to any of the following questions is “yes,” there may be a problem. I found this on Momsteam.com, a website for sports parents, and thought I’d post it here:

  • Does your child’s coach make her feel like she needs him in order to succeed?
  • Does your child’s coach spend time with you in an attempt to win your trust or try to be a surrogate parent?
  • Does your child’s coach act differently with her when in front of others?
  • Does your child’s coach try to control her (even off the field)?
  • Does your child’s coach try to separate her from her teammates or other sources of support, like you or her friends?
  • Does your child’s coach spend a lot more time with her than with other athletes?
  • Does your child’s coach try to be alone with her?
  • Does your child’s coach give her gifts?
  • Does your child’s coach tell her not to talk about personal encounters the two of them have had?

Another great resource: Safe4Athletes.com. Safe4Athletes was founded by Katherine Starr, an elite swimmer who endured sexual abuse during her career without the benefit of any resources to fall back on. There’s lots of great info there, including what every athlete should know about sexual abuse, where to go for help, and more.

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Thanks, Dad.

A few weeks ago I posted a Mother’s Day tribute to all the ski moms out there. Which is only fitting, since TheSkiDiva is geared toward women skiers.

But since Father’s Day was this past Sunday, I thought it was only appropriate to give the Dads their due.

My Dad, in particular.

See, my Dad is the one who introduced me to skiing way back when I was 13. This was pretty amazing, since no one in my family had ever skied or even expressed any interest in skiing (it was an Olympic year, which might explain the sudden attraction). I grew up on the Jersey Shore, which is flat, flat, flat, and where the closest thing to skiing is surfing. Which isn’t really close at all.

But for my 13th birthday, my Dad took us all up to a small resort in the Catskills (that’s in New York state), where there was a small hill served by a rope tow.

It was dreadful.

Rope tows are evil torture devices invented primarily, I think, to encourage people to get off the beginner slope as quickly as possible. The rope absolutely shreds your gloves. And if you don’t keep your feet in the exact track of the skier ahead of you, you’re going to go down, baby. Even worse, if you’re like me and fall without letting go of the rope, you end up getting dragged a good distance before it occurs to you to drop the rope, idiot, and roll away so no one skis into you and there’s a nasty pile-up with you on the bottom, crying.

Suffice it to say I fell in both directions: up and down. I hated it. The only thing that kept going was sibling rivalry. My sister was better than I was, and damn it, I couldn’t allow that to continue. I learned the basics, and by the end of the weekend had (sort of) perfected a wobbly snowplow that got me down an incline not much steeper than a parking lot.

And yet I stuck it out.

Even after that weekend, I continued to ski with my Dad. We’d head to north Jersey (Great Gorge, Vernon Valley, Snow Bowl), New York State (Bellayre), even into Vermont (Mount Snow, Killington, Haystack, Hogback). And ever so gradually, my skiing improved until I was better than my sister — who, by the way, eventually gave up skiing and moved to Florida, where she complains it’s freezing if the thermometer dips below 60. Wimp.

My clearest memory of skiing with my Dad is the way he used to sing when we went up on the lift — corny songs at TOP VOLUME so that everyone, I thought, alllllllllllllll over the mountain could hear, laugh, and point. When you’re a teenager, this is devastatingly embarrassing.

My Dad doesn’t ski anymore. Like my sister, he lives in Florida, and while he’s in excellent health (knock on wood), he’s 92 and his knees aren’t what they used to be. This doesn’t stop him from swimming half a mile three or four times a week. The man is an absolute machine.

Still, what I wouldn’t give to ride up the lift with him and have him sing to me — even at TOP VOLUME — one more time.

So thanks Dad, for everything. You’re the best.

My Dad at Mount Snow, 1971


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Here’s to you, Ski Moms (a little bit late).

Mother’s Day was this past Sunday. And though I’m just getting around to posting this now, it doesn’t mean I forgot. I didn’t. After all, remembering our moms is important. They give us life, bring us up, and then bravely, inevitably, let us go.

mothers-dayBut it’s the Ski Moms who I think deserve special recognition, not just on Mother’s Day, but every day. They’re the ones who make sure everyone has the hats, goggles, ski pants, boots, etc. that’s needed on the slopes. Who dress and undress the kids. Assemble the lunches. Haul the equipment. Harbor a secret stash of tissues/sun block/chap stick/energy bars for that unavoidable emergency. Accomodate multiple bathroom breaks and all the dressing and undressing that goes with them. Provide encouraging words after a fall. Drive to and from the mountain. Attend ski races. Wipe noses. Wipe tears. Administer first aid. Put on and remove boots/jackets/gloves/helmets. Make sure nothing gets left behind. Arrange ski lessons. Make sure the kids wear helmets.

For all you do, ski moms, for all your unwavering love, devotion, and support — we salute you!

And to my own mom, who doesn’t ski and never did, here’s to you, too. Thanks for supporting my skiing when I was a kid, and for continuing to support it — without ever asking ‘why’ — now that I’m an adult.

Here I am with my mom, and hey! I'm not in ski clothes!

Here I am with my mom, and hey! I’m not in ski clothes!

Happy (belated) Mother’s Day!

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Here’s to you, ski moms!

I don’t need to remind you that Mother’s Day is Sunday, do I? Of course I don’t; you’ve already ordered flowers and made your dinner reservation, right?

mothers-dayRemembering our moms is important. They give us life, bring us up, and then bravely, inevitably, let us go. But this Mother’s Day, let’s give a special shout-out to the Ski Moms. After all, it’s the Ski Moms who make sure everyone has the hats, goggles, ski pants, boots, etc. they need on the slopes. Who dress and undress the kids. Assemble the lunches. Haul the equipment. Harbor a secret stash of tissues/sun block/chap stick/energy bars for that unavoidable emergency. Accomodate multiple bathroom breaks and all the dressing and undressing that goes with them. Provide encouraging words after a fall. Drive to and from the mountain. Attend ski races. Wipe noses. Wipe tears. Administer first aid. Put on and remove boots/jackets/gloves/helmets. Make sure nothing gets left behind. Arrange ski lessons. Make sure the kids wear helmets.

For all you do, ski moms, for all your unwavering love, devotion, and support — we salute you!

And to my own mom, who doesn’t ski and never did, here’s to you, too. Thanks for supporting my skiing when I was a kid, and for continuing to support it — without ever asking ‘why’ — now that I’m an adult.

Here I am with my mom, and hey! I'm not in ski clothes!

Here I am with my mom, and hey! I’m not in ski clothes!

Happy Mother’s Day! (And if you hurry, there’s still time to get her a gift.)


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Meet Kristen Lummis, Brave Ski Mom

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

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


The Brave Ski Mom Family

I spoke to Kristen recently from her home in Colorado.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what you want: happy kids.

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

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Great Expectations.

WreathSad, but true: For some people, the most wonderful time of the year just isn’t all that wonderful.

Sometimes it’s a matter of expectations. All around us, we’re bombarded with images of the way the holidays are supposed to be: sort of like a Norman Rockwell painting crossed with a Hallmark card and a Walton Family TV special. There’s no way real life can possibly measure up.

This is especially true with a holiday ski trip. For months, you’ve been waiting to take the fam on the slopes. You can see it now: the snow glistening as it slowly drifts down, the kids gaily laughing as they execute perfect turns, the conditions Warren Miller perfect, and of course, the empty, uncrowded slopes. Apres ski, you sit around a roaring fire, hot chocolate in hand,  bowls of popcorn at the ready. The kids never whine or complain. Nothing and no one gets lost.

I hate to burst your bubble, but chances are, this ain’t gonna happen.

Nonetheless, a ski trip doesn’t have to be perfect to be great. It’s simply a matter of adjusting your expectations. Be flexible and roll with the punches. And follow a few handy tips. Things will go a lot better if you do.

• Prepare for the worst: Sorry, I don’t mean to start out sounding negative, but a little advance planning can go a long way in saving you a ton of aggravation. If you’re flying, bring your boots and a change of ski clothes in your carry-on. If you’re driving, do yourself a favor and invest in a GPS; it’ll help prevent the dreaded “where do I turn” arguements. When you’re on the slopes, establish a meet up place in case you get separated. Put ID information in the kids’ helmets or jackets. Give everyone a few bucks so they can at least get a hot chocolate if they get cold. Bring extra mittens, neck warmers, goggles, hand and foot warmers. Believe me, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

• Be flexible: Don’t be so rigid that you’ll be horribly disappointed if things don’t go exactly as planned. If conditions are lousy, come up with alternative activities: a nature walk, seeing a movie, browsing the ski shops, going out for a nice lunch, enjoying the hot tub or pool. All these offer their own kinds of fun.

• Expect it to be busy. It’s the holidays. You’re not the only ones off. Yes, there will be lift lines. Yes, it will be crowded. Know this before you go and take it in stride. Smile at people. Be nice to the employees who are working to make your stay enjoyable. Things will go a lot smoother if you do.

• Try a small, local area. If you have a problem with crowds, scale down and go to a smaller, local resort. You’ll spend lot less, encounter fewer crowds, and the kids will probably be just as happy.

• Take turns. While one of you goes to conquer the black diamonds, let the other stay in the lodge with the kids, or take them on the appropriate slopes. You’ll get the gnarly skiing you want, without feeling deprived.

• Put the kids in ski school. Let them learn from the pros. It’ll free up some time for you to ski by yourself, and it’ll make them better skiers, too. Don’t teach them yourself. There’s far too much baggage associated with that, and you’ll all have a better time.

• Enjoy the little things. An hour spent bonding over a cup of hot chocolate can sometimes be even more fun than an hour on the slopes. Take in the view. Tell each other stories. It’ll be fun.

• Laugh. Make jokes. Tease one another. Try not the let the little things drive you nuts. Remember, sometimes the biggest screw-ups make the best memories.

Remember, you chose to vacation with these people because you love them. So if tempers run high, if people get on your nerves, take a step back. Breathe. Maybe go off on your own for a few minutes. Adjust your expectations and simply expect to have a great time, no matter what happens.

And have a happy holiday.


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