Tag Archives | travel

Flying in winter? What you need to know.


Let me get this out of the way first: Mother Nature rules. She always gets her way. You just have to sit back, relax, and give her space to do her thing.

As skiers, we know this. As citizens of the 21st century who work pretty hard to bend Mother Nature to our collective will, it’s sometimes easy to forget.

Right now I’m holed up in a hotel room waiting for the the third Nor’easter in two weeks to haul out of New England so I can get on a plane for a Ski Diva gathering out west. I live three hours from Logan International, so we figured it’d be wiser to drive down last night and stay near the airport, rather than drive in today during the storm. The forecast is for 18″ of snow  (I’m almost sorry I’m not home in Vermont to enjoy the fresh pow), and our flight is scheduled for tomorrow. Mother Nature willing.

The chance of that happening? I’ll give it a strong……maybe. The storm is supposed to end tonight, so yes, there is a chance. It just depends on if the storm moves out to sea. And if they can clear the runways. And if our plane can get in. And if the flight crew can arrive. And a million other things that I can’t even name. But it’s still a possibility, so I’ll hang on to that.

So what do you do if you’re flying in winter?

Here are some things to do before you go:

Pre-pack. Make sure you have a carryon with  some essentials: toothpaste, clean underwear, medication, a phone charger, etc. That way, if some leg of your journey is cancelled, you’ll have a few important items with you.

And this may seem evident, but check your flight before you leave to make sure it’s still scheduled. This could save you a trip to the airport. Your best bet is your airline’s website. Or you might want to try Fightaware.com. This website bills itself as the world’s leading flight tracking data website and provides real time tracking maps for every single flight. Another option is Fly.faa.gov. The Federal Aviation Administration hosts a map that pinpoints which cities’ airports are generally showing significant delays or if an airport has closed.

But what if you get to the airport and your flight’s canceled?

If the customer service desk is crowded, call the airline on your cell. You might get through faster.

Know your rights. For domestic flights, US airlines are not obligated to compensate you for cancellations. If weather’s the problem, they must get on on the next available flight, but they’re not obligated to put you on another airline. If it’s non-weather related, they must put you on the next available flight.

Go online. If you used an online travel agency to book your reservation, try to reach them. And don’t forget about your  hotel or car reservations, either. Cancelled flights have a ripple effect, and your other travel providers may need to be notified, too. You can rebook, or they may give you a partial refund.

Find out if there’s a compensation package. You may be entitled to something: a hotel room, a refund. If you have a smart phone, an app called Hotel Tonight is a great way to find last minute hotel room.

More importantly, stay calm. You’ll think more clearly, and it’s a lot better for your general well being. Remember, there are things a lot worse that could happen. I know it’s hard to keep this in mind, but try.

Keep your fingers crossed for me. I’ll get there, eventually. The Ski Divas are calling, and I must go.


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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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Women Roaming Solo: Taking A Ski Trip Alone

Ever take a ski trip alone? I don’t mean just for the day; I mean traveling to a remote destination, staying alone in a condo or motel, skiing solo, dining without partners — you get the picture.

It may surprise you that it’s not particularly uncommon for women to travel by themselves. I did some research, and while statistics are limited, the Travel Industry Association says an estimated 32 million single American women traveled at least once in 2014, with about 3 in 10 making tracks five times or more. Travel agents also report that it’s much more common for woman to travel solo than men, with 73% of agents polled noting that more female travelers go on trips alone than their male counterparts. In fact, according to market researcher Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell, the average adventure traveler is not a 28-year old male, but a 47-year-old female.

And here’s some more interesting stats: In an article in Conde-Nast Traveler, Cynthia Dunbar, general manager of REI Adventures, reported that “since 2010, women traveling with us has grown by 60 percent, and we continue to see this figure grow steadily each year. Last year alone, 58 percent of all our guests were women.” In the same piece, VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations, known for its six-hour-long bike rides through the French countryside, said that 60 percent of its customers are women.

Women on TheSkiDiva certainly fall into the adventurous group, and many have no problem taking solo ski trips. A thread on the forum backs this up. I asked the woman who started the discussion, Christina Dolan, to write about her experiences during a recent trip to Mammoth:

My Solo Adventure: Mammoth Mountain

by Christina Dolan

Christina at the top of Chair 3, Mammoth

Christina at the top of Chair 3, Mammoth

“You came all the way out here by yourself!?” exclaimed the young boy as his friends looked at me with eyes as wide as pie plates. They were a group of four boys, aged about eleven to thirteen, and I’d stopped beside the trail to lend them my multi-tool as they struggled with a loose bike seat. They were lively, friendly kids who were a genuine pleasure to talk with, and in the course of discussing the merits of different types of mountain bikes, I mentioned that where I live, Pennsylvania, we have tons of rocks so I liked my light, nimble bike. That’s what prompted the astonishment that I would travel 3,000 miles alone to ski and ride bikes. The boys’ incredulity caused me to reflect on the more subtle reactions I’ve noticed when people find out that I’m travelling alone.

Is solo adventure travel, particularly for women, still surprising? I wondered if people would be as taken aback to find a man traveling alone, or whether it was my age (late forties) more than my gender that prompted the raised eyebrows.

When I heard that Mammoth Mountain would be open for skiing until at least July 4th this year [ed. note: the new closing date is August 6], I immediately began scheming to get out to California. I’d returned to skiing last year after a thirty-year hiatus and was eager to extend my season. It’s always difficult to steal time from work obligations in the winter, but a three-week swathe of June in the Sierras with no other responsibilities was too good to resist. Happily, the warm weather allowed for camping, which made the trip relatively affordable, and my teacher’s vacation schedule provided the time. I don’t know any other skiers who had the time for such a trip, so I booked and planned it solo without a second thought.

Throughout my trip, I met countless wonderful, friendly people. The parking lot adjacent to the Stump Alley chairlift turned out to be a vibrant social community of die-hard skiers, mostly local. The day I wore my Suicide Six t-shirt, I must have met every New Englander on the mountain, and I now have faces to put to the handles of people on two different ski forums. At some point in every conversation, nearly everyone asked if I were travelling alone, but the raised eyebrows seemed to me to express pleasant surprise rather than concern or disapproval. Everyone I met at Mammoth seemed absolutely delighted by what one man called my “awesome, epic adventure.”

The boys on the bike trail were the only ones dramatically surprised to find a woman traveling so far alone, and to be fair I don’t imagine most middle-schoolers do much traveling on their own, so I’m sure I was a novelty to them.

The Benefits of Traveling Alone

Skiing off Chair 3There are many real benefits to solo travel, which is an especially great format for introverts. Going solo allows you to socialize exactly as much as you care to and also have plenty of time to enjoy solitude. I’m not an extrovert by nature, but when skiing and doing other outdoor activities, I find it easy to talk with people who share a common interest. I’ll listen to music or podcasts on the lift if I have a chair to myself, but I always prefer to have someone to chat with. Something about a chairlift seems conducive to pleasant conversation; the introvert in me suspects it’s the finite nature of the ride. There’s no need for awkward extrication from a conversation when the off-ramp approaches; all that’s required is a cheery “Have a good one!”

Because I was alone in Mammoth, I met people that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have. Having travelled from the northeast, particularly solo, for such an extended trip made for an easy conversation starter. I think that when you’re clearly by yourself, people see you as perhaps more open to conversation than as part of a couple or a group, and a friendly “good morning” can turn into a substantive and interesting conversation.

Travelling alone also allows you complete flexibility to do what you want, when you want. Of course I enjoy skiing with friends, but it was fun to have the freedom to zip around from trail to trail without stopping to discuss options with a group. I rested and ate when I felt like it, and then happily hopped on a barstool at the end of the day for a post-ski beer and friendly banter with other skiers. If there was nobody to talk with, I busied myself on my phone, updating my social media site with pictures or texting with friends and family. In general, though, I tried to be open to conversation by keeping the phone tucked away and my ears free of headphones.

With solo adventure, the experience is heightened in many ways because all of the decisions are yours, as are all of the risks. I’m still learning and don’t yet ski off-piste or in situations where it would be imprudent for anyone to ski alone; I’m certainly not advocating careless risk-taking. But if you decide to challenge yourself on a steep inbounds trail that approaches the limits of your ability, you have to dig deep and find the mental confidence to do it without support or encouragement. It’s easy at those times to think: “I shouldn’t be here” or “this is too much for me.” But overcoming that fear and uncertainty on your own can have immeasurable rewards.

The low points during any sort of travel can fall hard when you’re alone, of course. Those difficult days when nothing seems to be going right, it’s easy to let the dark cloud of pessimism settle in, but I also think that presents an opportunity to emerge mentally stronger as a result.

I had an amazing time in Mammoth Lakes. The skiing was great, the views in every direction were spectacular, and I have nothing but fond memories of my interactions with the people I met. It wasn’t easy to board that flight bound for Newark, but I did so knowing that I’d almost certainly visit Mammoth again, most likely solo, and that was fine by me.

June 13. Amazing, huh?

June 13. Amazing, huh?


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10 Ways to Avoid Getting Sick When You Travel.

sickSo who has travel plans this summer? You? And you, too? I’m not surprised. Ski Divas aren’t the sort to sit around and veg on the couch. We want to take trips and have adventures, even if they don’t involve skiing. And we don’t want anything to get in the way of our fun.

Nonetheless, sometimes our bodies remind us who’s really in charge. I remember being on a plane from Steamboat with a guy hacking and coughing in the row behind me. Sure enough, a couple days later I came down with a miserable cold.

This isn’t uncommon. The Wall Street Journal cited a study that found you have a 20% increased risk of catching a cold on a plane. Another study in the Journal of Environmental Health Research found that colds may be more than 100 times more likely to be transmitted on a plane than in normal life on the ground.

But it’s not just colds that are the problem. I’m sure you’ve all heard about those awful outbreaks of GI infections on cruise ships, where hundreds of passengers are stricken with vomiting and diarrhea. Not a vacation highlight, I’m sure.

You don’t have to trust to luck to stay healthy. There are a few things you can do to minimize your chances of falling ill:

Boost your immune system.  The best way to stay healthy starts way before your trip begins, with a good immune system. According to Consumer Reports, there are more than 1,000 products on the market that claim to fend off disease. But honestly, the best way to improve your immunity is very simple: maintain a healthy lifestyle. Get enough sleep. Eat healthy. Take vitamins. Exercise. Don’t smoke. Reduce stress. Maintain a healthy weight. Control your blood pressure. And if you drink alcohol, drink it in moderation. Good advice, even if you’re just staying home.

Wash your hands. A lot. This seems so basic that it shouldn’t even need to be said. But yet it does. I don’t want to sound like a germaphobe, but according to the Mayo Clinic, cold and flu germ-laden droplets may remain infectious for several hours, depending on where they land. And some viruses can live on surfaces for as long as seven days. In any event, why take chances; just wash your hands, particularly before you eat. According to the CDC, proper hand washing requires at least 20 minutes of scrubbing. And according to a recent study published in Time magazine, it makes no difference whether the water is hot or cold.

Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated helps maintain the mucus in your throat and nasal cavity, which provides a good barrier against germs. That said, be careful of the water you do drink. No doubt you’ve heard about people getting sick from drinking tap water while overseas. This isn’t necessarily because the water is contaminated. It could just be that it has local  bacteria that your body isn’t used to. So if you’re traveling abroad, you might want to drink bottled water or invest in a water filter.

Carry wet wipes. Hand sanitizer, too. I do. I use them to wipe down my seat tray and arm rests on the plane, as well as the TV remote in a hotel room, the faucet, and pretty much anything else I can think of.

Eat healthy. Sure, vacation is a time to indulge a little and try something new. This is fine. But remember, all things in moderation. And consider the source. If no one is eating at a particular restaurant, there may be a reason. When in doubt, eat food that’s either boiled or peeled. Germs will be killed off pretty much universally by boiling, and can’t get into food that has a peelable skin. Some people recommend taking probiotics for a few weeks before vacation, the idea being that populating your gut with healthy bacteria or yeasts can help fight disease-causing organisms.

Make sure you’re up on your vaccines. Depending on where you go, you may need special shots. Visit the CDC Travel Health site for details on the vaccines you’ll need for various parts of the world, as well as other important information to stay healthy while you travel. It also doesn’t hurt to make sure your tetanus shot is up to date.

Don’t forget your meds.  Be sure to bring along any prescribed medications you need. And it wouldn’t hurt to throw in some  Tylenol, Advil, and Immodium, too. It’s not a bad idea to bring along some motion sickness pills, either, if you’re planning on a cruise.

Use insect repellent.  Mosquitos can spread all sorts of diseases (according to Wikipedia, these include  malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, chikungunya, yellow fever, filariasis, Japanese encephalitis, Saint Louis encephalitis, Western equine encephalitis, Eastern equine encephalitis, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, La Crosse encephalitis and Zika fever. Phew!). Then, of course, there are tick-transmitted diseases, like Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. These little bugs can cause a lot of trouble. So bring along some insect repellent and be sure to use it.

If you’re going abroad, make sure you have medical coverage. If not, buy some. But before you do, check with your medical insurer to see if you’re covered by your existing health plan. Even if your health plan does cover you internationally, you may want to consider buying a special medical travel policy.

Going up? Acclimate.  If you’re taking a trip that involves any significant increase in altitude, give yourself some time to adjust at lower elevations first. It doesn’t matter if this is your first or tenth trip over 8,000 feet; altitude sickness can strike at any time. The human body actually takes weeks to acclimate to high elevations, but since you probably don’t have that much vacation time, give yourself between 48 and 72 hours to adapt. It also helps to avoid tobacco and alcohol and drink lots and lots of water. If you start to show symptoms of moderate altitude illness, don’t go higher until your symptoms diminish.


Stay safe, stay healthy, and have fun, Ski Divas!


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A Chat with Rachel Pohl, where Skiing and Art Intersect

Have you ever skied in Montana? I have, and it’s amazing. We’ve had two Diva West gatherings at Big Sky (go here and here), and I’ve been there myself another time or two. The beauty of the landscape, the quality of the snow, the caliber of the terrain, all combine to create a ski experience that’s second to none.

Lone Peak at Big Sky

Lone Peak at Big Sky

So when Montana Tourism contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in talking to Montana born-and-raised Rachel Pohl, a 24 year old skier and artist who resides in Bozeman, I said of course. Rachel is a ripping skier who finds inspiration in the Montana backcountry. Her paintings use bold colors and shapes to create exciting, fanciful representations of the landscape around her.  In short, she embodies the intersection of art and skiing. And the results are quite remarkable.

Rachel Pohl

Rachel Pohl

SD: So Rachel, tell me. Are you a skier who paints or a painter who skis?
RP: I’ve been fighting a cold and an ankle injury, so I haven’t been skiing that much this year. At the same time, this has probably been my most fulfilling season ever, because my work has been taking off and more people have been connecting with it. So I guess I’d say I’m trending toward a painter who skis. For me, right now it’s more meaningful to share my vision of the world with others, and inspire them to get outside and have their own adventures and experiences.

SD: Why do you think skiing and art go together so well?
RP: To me, they’re each a pure expression of my appreciation for being alive. When I ski, I’m immersed in my environment, at peace, and in love with the world, with every snowflake, tree, and swath of blue sky. I have that same feeling when I paint; of feeling so dang excited to be alive that I can hardly contain myself. Also, both involve an expression of creativity on a blank canvas. Painting the places I ski brings everything full circle, although anything I paint echoes the feelings I have when I’m outside.

SD: I understand that a lot of your artwork is about Montana. So what is it about Montana that you find so inspiring?
RP: The landscapes I appreciate most are cliffs and rocky, craggy spires; the sort that are almost fanciful and don’t feel quite real. There’s a lot of that in Montana. We also have really unique sunsets, sunrises and alpenglow; I’ve heard a lot of people say you don’t see anything like it anywhere else. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say that color bathes the landscape in a way it doesn’t anywhere else. Plus it’s home.

SD: How do you decide what to paint? And what are you trying to capture in your art?
RP: I’m drawn to jagged peaks, but I think that’s also changing. I just really appreciate form and filling it in with color. I’m also drawn to certain subject matters and colors. Inevitably, I’ve have experiences where I’ve had no idea I was going to paint that thing or a place existed, and I get inspired and have to paint that. I’m trying to be a bit looser about my style but then a bit tighter about being deliberate with my subject matter. It’s such a dynamic process that I never really know. There’s no formula, and that’s what I really love.

Red Moonlight Sun

Red Moonlight Sun

American Fork Twins

American Fork Twins

SD: I understand you live in Bozeman. I’ve been there, and it’s a very cool town.
RP: Yeah, it has a great art scene, too. There’s something special about it; there’s a great focus on art and appreciation for the nuances of culture. It may be because we’re surrounded by so much ranch land and empty space. There’s room to be quiet there. You don’t have the pretentious attitude you’ll find in other places, which I really appreciate.

Bozeman, Montana

Bozeman, Montana

SD: What about sking in Montana? Do you have a favorite place? What is it about skiing in Montana that makes it so special?
RP: I love skiing Big Sky. I spent three years working with a mentoring program, called Big Sky Youth Empowerment there, where we ski and snowboard with “at risk” teens in the community. I haven’t done the program for a few years now, but it was a very special time in my life, devoting every Sunday to these kids (it’s an all year program actually). The program is flourishing and I encourage people to check it out at byep.org because I have seen first hand how skiing can change the lives of these kids. The program is completely free, mentors volunteer, and Big Sky generously donates tickets to the 80+ participants and 30+ mentors for every weekend for the entire season, every year. That makes it a pretty special place to me!

I also love how unpretentious Montana is, that there are still plenty of ski areas with under $50 lift tickets where people still wear jeans and wool sweaters for outerwear. It is pretty refreshing to return to the essence of the sport, especially at little resorts in Montana.


For more about Rachel and her art, take a look at the following video. 



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Oui, Ski Mont Tremblant!

Mont Tremblant

Mont Tremblant

Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated. I mean, I only live a few hours from the Canadian border, and until this past week, I’d never, ever been to Mont Tremblant.

Sure, I’d heard about it for what seems like forever. I’d seen how time and time again, it gets rated #1 in SKI magazine’s annual round-up of Eastern ski resorts. But to get in my car and actually go? That was another matter.

Well, last week I finally made it. I’m a member of the Eastern chapter of the North American Snowsports Journalists Association, and this year our annual meeting was held in Tremblant. I’m so glad it was; now that I know what I’ve been missing, I’ll be sure to come back.

Mont Tremblant is the second-oldest ski resort in North America (Sun Valley, Idaho, is older). But the Mont Tremblant you see today is relatively new. The mountain was acquired by Intrawest in 1991, who has turned it into a world-class destination.

Yes, I said world class; Tremblant has so much to offer that I think it deserves that designation.

Why? Consider the following:

The mountain: For all of us Ski Divas, this is by far the biggest concern. Sure, good food and accommodations are nice, but if the mountain doesn’t delivery, frankly, we’re not interested. Never fear. Mont Tremblant has loads of great terrain for everyone. First, some stats:

Summit elevation: 2,871 ft (875 m)
Vertical drop: 2,116 ft (645 m)
Skiable area: 662 acres (268 ha)
Number of lifts: 13
Number of trails: 96
Longest run: 19,800 ft (6,035 m)
Ability levels: Easiest, 17%; More Difficult, 33%; Most Difficult, 40%; Experts Only, 10%


So what did I like? First, every part of the mountain is easily accessible. All the lifts go to the top. And once you’re there, you can ski the north, south, or soliel (sunny) side. So if it’s blowy or the snow’s not great on one part of the mountain, you can easily move to another and chances are it’s entirely different. Second, there’s literally something for everyone — lots of long, long trails with a good amount of pitch; super fun glades; great bump runs; terrific views; along with plenty of greens for those who’re just starting out. Some of the favorite trails: Jasey Jay Anderson, Duncan, Mcculloch, Taschereau, and lord knows what else; I just followed the guides around. It’s all good.


Le Cabriolet

Le Cabriolet

The village: Spread out across the base of the mountain is a pedestrian village, otherwise known as Quartier Tremblant. Constructed in the early 2000’s, it’s built in a style that’s reminiscent of Quebec’s Old City. And sure, it’s probably a bit Disney-esque. But it’s also very convenient and loaded with hotels, shops, and restaurants, all within easy walking distance of each other and the slopes. We stayed at the Ermitage du Lac, but others in my group stayed in the Holiday Inn Express and the Marriott Residence Inn. To get to the slopes, you can either walk or do what I did: take Le Cabriolet, the commuter lift that skims over the village’s rooftops to land you steps away from the gondola base (my husband said it made him feel ike Mary Poppins).

Quartier Tremblant

Quartier Tremblant

Old World Charm: Tremblant is French to the core; well, French-Canadian, anyway. So you get this Old World-I’m-in-another-country feeling without ever having to cross the Atlantic. It’s lovely, everyone speaks both French and English (which makes it easy for those of us who aren’t bi-lingual), and the food is terrific. Speaking of which….

Lots of dining options: The village has tons of restaurants. A few we had the chance to enjoy include Gypsy at the Westin (great tapas), Le Shack (try the burger), La Diable (wonderful beer options), and Windigo at the Fairmont (great atmosphere and menu). All were very, very good. But if you want to stop and warm-up while you’re skiing, I recommend The Refuge, an on-mountain on-trail cabin that’s positively charming. A great place to stop for hot chocolate by a wood stove.

The Refuge

The Refuge

And lots of non-skiing activities, too: Sure, I was too busy skiing to do anything else. But if you come to Tremblant and have people who want to do something besides ski, there are lots of great options: Ice skating in front of the picturesque St. Bernard Chapel; gambling at the Casino; dog sledding; snow shoeing; fat tire biking; cross country skiing, spa treatments….the list goes on and on.

One of the best parts of the trip was that I had the chance to ski with two other members of TheSkiDiva.com. (Ski Divas are everywhere!) They gave me a local’s tour, as well as their own thoughts on why they love to ski Tremblant:

Three Ski Divas

Three Ski Divas

Judy: There are many reasons I love Tremblant. It’s an easy hour-long drive from my house, and we can park very conveniently on the North Side (not the main side of the mountain), just steps from the lodge. Often the car is so close we use it as a locker. As for the skiing, there’s plenty of choice and you can ski all day never doing the same run twice. There’s also plenty of variety: lots of groomers but also fun ungroomed stuff and glades. And because of the various “versants” (sides) to the mountain, you can stay in the sun all day long. Snowmaking and grooming are excellent. Some people complain about flat runouts at the bottom but you can make use of these – this is where I learned to carve. As passholders who park on the North Side we tend to avoid the busy-ness of the South side, but should we want to enjoy a longer lunch or browse some shops, we can head down to the pedestrian village for a totally different experience. Oh yeah, did I mention the views are great?

Jill: Here’s what I love about Tremblant…
The vertical: There’s over 2,000 feet, compared to places near me in Ontario. Most of these have only have 300 to 400 feet. Even Calabogie only has 760 feet, and that’s the highest in Ontario.
Terrain: There are lots of choices for everyone.
The people:  I have so many friends who ski here.
Things to do beside skiing: Lots of stuff, spas, shopping, dog sledding, tubing, XC skiing, snowshoe….
Conditions: They do try to make it great. Mother Nature can play games, but management makes the best of it.


Are there any downsides?
Depends on your perspective. I’ve heard some people say they don’t want to ski in Quebec because it’s cold. Yes, that’s true, there can be cold days. But you know, it is winter. Skiing is a cold weather sport, and yes, it gets cold everywhere. If you dress warmly and take a break here and there, you’ll be fine.

I’ve also heard some people say that it’s hard to get to. If you’re not within driving distance, Mont Tremblant has an airport with direct flights to New York and Toronto. And there’s an airport in Montreal, too, an hour and change to the south.

All I can say is that it’d be too bad if you let any of this get in the way of a great ski trip. So go to Tremblant. You’ll have a blast.





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Another Diva West is in the Books: Aspen Snowmass

Mention Aspen, and what comes to mind? Movie stars, millionaires, plenty of glitz and glamor.

But here’s something new to add to the list: The Ski Divas! Because this year, TheSkiDiva.com held Diva West, our annual Western gathering, at Aspen Snowmass. And like all the others that’ve come before, it was an absolute blast!

Diva West is the one time of the year we come together to meet one another in person; to connect a living, breathing person with a user name. And sure — while the skiing is important, even more important is enjoying the camaraderie of women with a shared passion. These annual meet-ups have helped forge bonds that have resulted in a genuine community, both on and off the slopes. It’s one of the things that makes TheSkiDiva such a great place to hang out.

Some of the Divas on the trip.

Some of the Divas on the trip.

This year’s Diva West at Aspen Snowmass was no different. Besides the fun of just getting together, there was a lot to love about the mountain, too. Here are some of the things we particularly enjoyed:

The size:

Aspen Snowmass from the window of my plane.

Aspen Snowmass from the window of my plane.

Snowmass is Snowmassive! The resort has a total of 3,332 skiable acres: a third more skiable terrain than the other three Aspen areas combined. Seriously, you will not get bored. We skied Snowmass four out of the six days we were in Aspen, and regrettably, there’s a lot of the mountain I missed. Guess I’ll just have to come back.

The views:
Incredibly beautiful. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.





And that’s just a sample. Everywhere I turned, I wanted to take a picture. But somehow, skiing got in the way.

There are three other mountains to try:
Sure, Snowmass is amazing and has more than enough to keep you busy. But how could we resist the allure of Aspen Highlands and Aspen Mountain? You can ski Snowmass, Aspen, Highlands, and Buttermilk on the same ticket. Definitely worth exploring.

The shuttle system:
No matter where you want to go in the Aspen area, there’s a free bus to take you there. RFTA makes it easy to go from Snowmass to Buttermilk to Aspen to the Highlands, as well as to downtown Aspen and Snowmass Village. Honestly, you don’t need a car, so why go through the expense?

Forget about lugging your skis:
Skiing at one of the Aspen mountains one day and want to ski at another the next? No problem. Aspen makes it easy. For a modest fee ($12.), they’ll transfer your skis from one mountain to the other. We spent a day skiing at Highlands and knew we wanted to ski at Aspen the following day, so we just dropped off our skis at the Ski Concierge, and like magic, they appeared at Aspen the next morning. Sweet!

There’s terrain for everyone: 
Not everyone skis at the same level, and at Snowmass, this is easy to accommodate. Some in our group enjoyed the Hanging Valley, where you’ll find the steepest trees on the mountain, as well as the Cirque Headwall, accessible by a surface life and known as the former venue of extreme skiing competitions.  Others enjoyed the Powerline Glades, with its widely spaced, low angle trees, and Long Shot, Snowmass’s signature 3 mile trail that goes on and on and on and on. Then there’s the area off the Big Burn lift where you can find wide, open spaces, groomers, widely spaced trees, and a natural half-pipe gully. At Aspen Mountain, the Bells and Glades were a particular favorite. And at Highlands, some of  us tackled the famous Highland Bowl (Fact worth knowing: there’s a free cat that’ll take you part of the way up, so you can skip the hike).

In the Powerline Glades.

In the Powerline Glades.

The on-mountain food:
Aspen, Highlands, and Snowmass all have a good selection of on-mountain food. Yeah, it’s bit pricey, but the variety and quality are excellent. We checked out four of the on-mountain eateries at Snowmass — Elk Camp, the Ullrhof, Gwyn’s (they just completed a $5.9 million remodel), and Sam’s Smokehouse. At Highlands, we lunched at the Merry-Go-Round. And at Aspen, at Bonnie’s.

The town:
A trip to Aspen isn’t complete without a stroll downtown. And sure, you could easily blow a thou’ on a pair of ski pants (I fell in love with a pair that cost $950. No, I didn’t buy them), you don’t have to be a millionaire to browse. The people watching is pretty incredible, too. Let’s just say it was pretty clear I wasn’t in Vermont.

Just plain getting together:
This was the 10th Diva West, and I’ve never failed to be totally blown away by the strength, enthusiasm, and kindness of the women on the site. And though I was thrilled to be at Aspen Snowmass, the venue was truly secondary. The women are the heart and soul of the the site, and I’m truly honored that they took the time out of their busy schedules to get together. Let’s do it again next year!


One more thing:
One of the things I truly love about the internet is how it allows us to make friends with people we might not otherwise have met. And one of the most outstanding people I’ve come to know is Kristen Lummis, creator of the most excellent ski blog, Brave Ski Mom. Kristen, who lives in Colorado, came to ski with me during Diva West. She’s a fine skier and terrific person. If you haven’t checked out her blog, make sure you do.

The Ski Diva and the Brave Ski Mom.

The Ski Diva and the Brave Ski Mom.













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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Ski Diva’s Guide to the Solar System

It’s sad but true: climate change is real, and it’s going to mean big problems for us skiers. So even though our skiing right now is limited to Earth, someday we may be forced to look elsewhere. Luckily, we live in a solar system with 8 other planets and a multitude of moons and asteroids. And who knows — one day these could end up as primo ski destinations.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a handy guide to help us Ski Divas know what to expect. Some of this is from Popular Science, some from Wikipedia, and some from NASA, itself. And while I don’t think we’ll be doing this any time soon, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared:


Imagine skiing a mountain that’s nearly three times higher than Everest! That’s Olympus Mons, the tallest planetary mountain in the solar system. Located on Mars, Olympus Mons stands  at 21.9 km, or 13.6 miles. In addition to being tall, it is also very wide (340 miles or 550 kilometers) and covers an area larger than the entire chain of Hawaiian islands.

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 7.30.46 AM


Tune up your ice skis! Yes, there is ice on Mars. The planet has northern and southern polar ice caps that grow and shrink depending on the season. During the winter, the poles get absolutely no sun, and the resulting drop in temperature freezes both water into ice and carbon dioxide into dry ice.2

Mars Polar Ice Cap.  Photo from NASA

Mars Polar Ice Cap.
Photo from NASA




Saturn’s sixth largest moon, Enceladus, may be the ideal place for hitting the interplanetary slopes. Covered in miles of ice, Enceladus is home to numerous geysers, which jettison ice particles into the air above the moon’s surface. The result is something like snowfall as the ice particles fall back to the ground, coating Enceladus in extremely fine ice crystals. Paul Schenk of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston notes the “snow” would provide great skiing conditions. However, there’s not enough on the surface yet. Give it a couple tens of millions of years or so, and the slopes will be piled high. The other problem? The temperature is -330 degrees Fahrenheit. 2


Remember to pack your warmest layers. The largest of Neptune’s 13 moons, Triton, is one of the coldest objects in our solar system. Also home to ice volcanoes, the moon’s surface belches out a mixture of liquid nitrogen, methane, and dust, all of which freeze immediately in the air. The flakes then snow back down to Triton’s surface, which mostly consists of frozen nitrogen. An almost non-existent atmosphere doesn’t help to curb the freezing temperatures (-391 degrees Fahrenheit). 2


Seasons on other planets are extremely different from the traditional spring, summer, fall and winter here on Earth. Although they generally have to do with orbital variations and axial tilt, weather variations are typically more pronounced for those planets closer to the Sun. With an axial tilt of only 3 degrees, for example, Jupiter and Venus have literally no difference between the seasons. However, Jupiter’s distance from the sun cause its seasons to change more slowly. The length of each season is roughly three years. And seasons on Neptune can last for 40 years! Talk about endless winter!  


If you decide to take a ski trip to Mars, better be prepared to be gone a while. According to NASA, a vessel carrying humans would take roughly six months to travel to Mars and another six months to come back. In addition, you’d have to stay 18-20 months on Mars before the planets re-align for a return trip. In all, the mission would take roughly 2 1/2 years.3

So anyone packing their bags?


1. Wikipedia
2. Popular Science
3. Infoplease



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Taking your gear from here to there.

Let me put this right up front.

I’m cheating this week. I’m actually writing this five days prior to the post date. With good reason:  I’ll be in Colorado and I’ll be way too busy skiing to sit around writing my blog.

Which leads me to today’s topic: getting your ski gear from here to there. This is something I’m going to have to deal with in a day or two, so for me, it’s top of mind. Oh, I know some people ship their stuff to where they’re going in advance, but hey, I’m cheap. Plus I’m also a bit OCD about having my equipment with me. So I go through the agony of packing up, carting my stuff through the airport, and praying it makes it to where I’m going, along with the rest of my stuff.

To be sure, I’m not the only person who does this. Which means there are thousands — even millions — of ways to pack your stuff. Everyone has their own system. And while mine may or may not be better than anyone else’s, it’s what works best for me. So in case you’re interested, here’s what I do:

First, I never ever never — did I say never? — check my boots. I’ve worked too hard to get them to fit properly, and if they were lost, I’d have to spend a day or more in rentals, which could wreak enough havoc on my feet to make the rest of my stay unpleasant. So I put boots in a carry-on. I also fill the carry-on with a change of ski clothes, so if my luggage gets lost I’ll at least have something to wear so I can ski for a day or so. My bag of choice is a Kulkea boot bag (I reviewed it here). The Kulkea easily fits in the plane’s overhead compartment. And since it’s a backpack, it’s easy to carry through the airport.  The boots go in the boot compartments, and the clothes in the main section in the middle. Yes, I do bring a helmet. I just pack it in my checked bag. Rightly or wrongly, I figure it’s the one piece of equipment I could do without, if I had to. Plus it makes the Kulkea easier to squish into the overhead.



Now on to skis.

There are loads of ski bags out there: singles, doubles, cloth, hard-shell, wheeled, unwheeled. A few years ago I got a Sportube. It’s a hardshell, so it provides a measure of protection that soft ones don’t. And it’s wheeled, so it’s relatively easy to drag through the airport. My bag is a double, so it’s big enough to carry both my and my husband’s skis. I also surround the skis with base layers. This provides extra padding, and frees up my suitcase for other stuff.

See the base layers between the skis?

And here we’re all closed up, ready to go!

And that’s pretty much it. I also check a bag with additional ski and non-ski clothing. Now, I know some other Ski Divas just check their skis and bring everything else in a carry-on. I haven’t mastered that yet (unfortunately), even though I try not to bring a lot of stuff. As I said, there are many paths to the same goal: getting your gear to your destination. And as long as it reaches there, it’s all good.


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