Tag Archives | worthy causes

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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Making A Difference, Ski-Style.

Christmas has come and gone, along with the all-out consumer binge-fest we’ve been in for the past few months. It’s kind of hard to avoid. The commercials have been running since Halloween, the stores have been offering deals you simply can’t pass up, and money goes faster than Santa sliding down a chimney. And while giving to those we love is very, very nice, it’s also worth noting that there are lots of others out there who could use some help. With this in mind, I’ve put together a list of ski-related charities that are definitely worth supporting.  So before you put your wallet away, take a moment to review the following. I hope you’ll consider making a contribution.


Photo from the High Fives Foundation

High Fives Foundation: Dedicated to raising money and awareness for athletes that have suffered a life-altering injury while pursuing their dream in the winter action sports community.

SheJumps: Works to increase the participation of women and girls in outdoor activities. This is done through high-visibility Get the Girls Out events, outdoor education, youth initiatives and grassroots recreational gatherings.

skiduckSkiDucks: Dedicated to enriching the lives of disadvantaged and financially underprivileged children by teaching and sharing the joys of skiing and snowboarding. I wrote about SkiDucks here.

Kelly Brush Foundation: Dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals living with spinal cord injuries (SCI)  by purchasing adaptive athletic equipment for those with financial limitations; advocates for improved ski racing safety;  supports research to treat and cure paralysis due to SCI. For my interview with Kelly, go here.

Disabled Sports USA:  Provides adaptive sports opportunities for people with disabilities to help them develop independence, confidence, and fitness.

American Blind Skiing Foundation: Provides blind children and adults with opportunities to build confidence and independence through skiing.

Protect Our Winters:  Dedicated to uniting and actively engaging the global snow sports community to lead the fight against climate change.

Clean Water Carbon Fund: Fights climate change and protects clean water by planting trees along streams and rivers.

Special Olympics: Provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Photo from Special Olympics

Photo from Special Olympics

Challenged Athletes Foundation: Provides opportunities and support to people with physical disabilities so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics.

National Sports Center for the Disabled: Facilitates sporting events for the physically disabled.

Outdoor Women’s Alliance: Engages, educates, and empowers females worldwide through activities that require human-powered initiative in spaces away from city limits.



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How a Community Saved a Small Ski Area: Mount Ascutney, Vermont

Whenever you drive around ski country, no matter what the state, you can’t help but encounter a defunct ski area or two. This is no surprise. Since the 1980’s, roughly 33% of ski areas in the US have gone out of business, and few have any hope of ever coming back.

Sad, I know. Many of these were smaller, more affordable places that were great for families and beginners. They also provided something larger resorts generally lack: a measure of character and community involvement that goes to the heart of what skiing is all about.

Today I’d like to focus on a ski area that’s had a much happier ending. After opening and closing multiple times, Mount Ascutney, Vermont, has almost literally risen from the ashes (the base lodge burned in 2015) .

Mount Ascutney Trail Map, 1969

Mount Ascutney Trail Map, 1969

In its heyday, Ascutney boasted 1,800 vertical, 57 runs, 5 chairs, and 1 surface lift. But after riding a financial roller coaster for many years, the mountain closed for good in 2010. Its lifts were sold, and it looked like the end for a mountain that had operated, albeit intermittently, for six decades.

In 2015, the mountain was purchased by the local community of West Windsor, VT, and re-opened for skiing in December that same year. Laura Farrell,  Executive Director of Mount Ascutney Outdoors, the non-profit charged with operating the mountain, would be the first to tell you that this was the result of efforts by many, many people.  And she’s right. But as Executive Director, Laura is responsible for overseeing the entire operation. I talked to her recently at the base of the resurrected ski area.

Laura Farrell

Laura Farrell

SD: So Laura, tell me a bit about yourself. When did you start skiing?
LF: I’m 64, and I’ve been skiing since I was two. Honestly, I’ve been in the ski industry almost my entire life. When I was a young adult I became a ski instructor, and then I founded Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sport, a non-profit dedicated to providing recreational opportunities to athletes of any age and any disability. It was incorporated in 1987; back then there was nothing like it anywhere in the Northeast. I was involved in everything from teaching skiing to examining instructors, running clinics, and overseeing a race program. Then I moved on to coaching able-bodied kids, which I did for a number of years.

SD: Things didn’t look promising when Ascutney closed in 2010. What is Mount Ascutney Outdoors, and how’d it come about?
LF: Mount Ascutney Outdoors is a non-profit that’s responsible not only for the future of the mountain, but for creating and developing year round recreational opportunities that are accessible and affordable to everybody — skiing, mountain biking, hiking, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, fat-tire biking. It was formed in 2010, when the chairman of the West Windsor select board brought up the idea of purchasing the mountain after it closed. This is a small community, and we were all hit hard when it went under, so the idea was to revitalize both the mountain and the town. The proposal received almost unanimous approval. Fortunately, we were able to get some help from a national non-profit, the Trust for Public Land. The Trust raised the money for the purchase and then handed the mountain over to us.

SD: So how’d you get involved?
LF: Even though the town bought the mountain, it didn’t want to develop, manage, or finance its recreational opportunities or events. And they didn’t want to increase the town’s tax burden, either. So I was asked to help start the non-profit that would develop, manage, and finance all the activities that go on here.

SD: What’s your role as  Executive Director?
LF: Essentially, I’m something of a jack of all trades. Obviously, right now I have my fingers in everything from fundraising to installing the rope tow, to managing the volunteers, projects, and events, but in reality it’s not just me. There’s an amazing group of people that believe in this project, and we all work together. We have nine board members, and they all have different responsibilities.

Ascutney's rope tow.

Rope tow.

SD: So what’s at Ascutney now?
LF: Let me say first that we’re a complete volunteer organization, so everything we have has been donated or built by volunteers. For example, six of us installed a thousand-foot rope tow. We had some help from an engineer, and of course, it had to be inspected by the state. But we did it all ourselves, and it’s a thing of beauty. I can now put rope tow installer on my resume.

So right now, we have 32 miles of trails that are used for mountain biking, hiking, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing. We have the rope tow, which serves three trails that we mow like lawns, so we only need six inches of snow to ski — we don’t have snowmaking because we wanted this to be a sustainable area. You can also skin up the rest of the mountain for backcountry skiing, and that’s a huge portion of the winter activities here. It’s great terrain. We’ve been clearing the old trails up there that haven’t been taken care of for 5 or 6 years. And we have a new warming hut at the base — again, donated and built by volunteers — that can be used year round for all our recreational activities and events and camps.

Once we get enough snow, we’ll be open Wednesdays from noon to 6, Thursdays 4 to 8, Friday 2 to 8, Saturdays 10 to 8, and Sundays 10 to 4. During holidays and vacation weeks, it’s 10 to 4 and on Fridays and Saturdays, 10 to 8. On Thursday nights we’ll have a locals race series under the lights. We’ll also have an informal race program on Friday nights, as well as on Saturday and Sunday. We’ll have courses set up and there’ll be coaches for anyone who wants to come and train. We have lights this year, which is exciting, so people can come out after work. There’s even a grill on the deck of the warming hut so they can cook their dinner.

As I said before, we really want to keep this affordable for anyone who wants to come. This is important. A lot of families can’t afford to get out and ski at the larger, corporate mountains. But we think it’s important to get everyone on the hill. So our rope tow is free to anyone who wants to ride it during our day hours — though we also accept donations — and ten dollars at night.

SD: What are the future plans for the mountain?
LF: The old lodge burned a few years ago but much of it is still standing. But it doesn’t belong to us; it belongs to another property owner. We hope to purchase it so we can tear it down, clean it up, and eventually build a really nice base camp. We’ve been donated a timber frame for just that purpose. We’re also hoping to install a chair lift up to the old mid-station  – the conservation easements only allow us to go up so far. We could also use the lift for mountain biking in the summer, or fat-tire biking in the winter. Needless to say, we’re very excited about the things we have going on here. It’s great to have it back.

New warming hut and old burned-out base lodge.

New warming hut and old burned-out base lodge.

View from the top of the rope tow down.

View from the top of the rope tow down.

Editor’s Note: I was totally charmed by Mount Ascutney and impressed by the hard work, mission, and spirit of  Ascutney Outdoors. The non-profit is funded entirely by donations. and I encourage you to contribute to keep this great community resource going. Click here.


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Beyond the Ice Bucket Challenge

Sometimes things take off big time on the internet: people dancing to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” Grumpy Cat, flash mobs,  anything about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. So when something new starts popping up on your Facebook feed, it’s easy to dismiss it as just another flash in the pan.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is one of these things. Seems everywhere you look, someone is getting dumped on with a bucket of ice water. Justin Timberlake, Ethel Kennedy, Mark Zuckerburg, even me:

I’m not condemning or poo-pooing the Challenge. It’s a terrific cause and it’s done a fantastic amount of good. As I write this, the ALS Association has raised more than $15 million in donations, way beyond what it’s ever raised before in a comparable period of time. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

But like anything else, the Challenge is bound to run its course. So what’s my point? It shouldn’t take a viral video or a celebrity death (I’m thinking Robin Williams) to draw attention to ALS or Parkinson’s or Depression or any other worthy cause. There are a lot of things that could benefit from an outpouring of contributions. All. The. Time.

So before you put your wallets away, here are some great ski-related charities that could benefit from your generosity. Please give, and give generously. No ice bucket or video required (though you could ski a run for them, later on).

High Fives Foundation: Dedicated to raising money and awareness for athletes that have suffered a life-altering injury while pursuing their dream in the winter action sports community.

Kelly Brush Foundation: Dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals living with spinal cord injuries (SCI)  by purchasing adaptive athletic equipment for those with financial limitations; advocates for improved ski racing safety;  supports research to treat and cure paralysis due to SCI.

Disabled Sports USA:  Provides adaptive sports opportunities for people with disabilities to help them develop independence, confidence, and fitness.

American Blind Skiing Foundation: Provides blind children and adults with opportunities to build confidence and independence through skiing.

Kevin Pearce Fund: Supports organizations that enrich and enhance the lives of individuals and families affected by brain injury, Down syndrome, and other challenges.

Protect Our Winters:  Dedicated to uniting and actively engaging the global snow sports community to lead the fight against climate change.

Clean Water Carbon Fund: Fights climate change and protects clean water by planting trees along streams and rivers.

Special Olympics: Provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

SkiDucks: Dedicated to enriching the lives of disadvantaged and financially underprivileged children by teaching and sharing the joys of skiing and snowboarding.

Challenged Athletes Foundation: Provides opportunities and support to people with physical disabilities so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics.

National Sports Center for the Disabled: Facilitates sporting events for the physically disabled.

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A Skier Looks At Earth Day (again)

From I F*cking Love Science.

From I F*cking Love Science.

This is funny, but in a black humor sort of way. Because its premise is real: there are still people who don’t take global warming seriously. Sure, we’ve had record cold this winter here in Vermont. But for some, that’s enough to prove that global warming is a myth. Like just because it’s cold in one place means it’s cold everywhere.

With a winter like this, it’s hard to remember that global warming isn’t steady. It’s a trend. And over time, the trend is definitely toward warmer global temperatures. Take a look at this, from the National Climatic Data Center:

Climate Change

Scary, isn’t it?

I could go on all day. But right now, with Earth Day upon us, I really want to talk about what we, as skiers, can do to help.  With global warming threatening to eliminate winter — and our favorite sport along with it — environmental consciousness is something we really need to get behind.

It’s not all about skiing, either. Snow and ice are critical habitats for a wide range of animals. They provide a substantial amount of the planet’s drinking water. And polar ice melt could sink islands and flood coastlines.

How can we help? I’m sure you’ve heard the same thing over and over again: we need to reduce our carbon footprint. But that’s not easy, especially since snowmaking, ski lifts,and  just getting to and from the slopes require huge amounts of energy. So what are we supposed to do?

Glad you asked. I have a few ideas right here:

Carpool. Or use public transit to get to your favorite ski areas. It’s amazing how foreign this simple idea is to many people, though high gas prices might make it more appealing. Seriously, though. Buddy up, people. It’ll help the planet. It’ll save you money. And it’ll make your trip easier, too. If you’re having trouble finding someone to ride with, check out MountainRideshare.com, which works to hook up people who are traveling to ski resorts.

• Support resorts that use renewable energy resources. According to Patrick Thorne, editor of the Green Ski Resort Guide, 60% of the world’s leading 250 ski resorts get at least some of their power from wind, solar, or water (hydro).  Vail, for example, is the second largest purchaser of renewable energy in North America. And Jiminy Peak (Massachusetts) and Burke Mountain (Vermont) even have wind turbines on site. An interesting one to watch: Mountain Riders Alliance. This organization (I blogged about them here), has the stated goal of  developing values-based, environmentally-friendly, rider-centric mountain playgrounds that have a positive impact in the local community. So far they’ve opened a prototype ski area, Mount Abram, in Maine, and they’re working to re-open Antelope Butte Ski Area in Wyoming and Manitoba Mountain Ski Area in Alaska. Also, be sure to check out the National Ski Areas Association’s Climate Change Challenge, a report of what many resorts are doing to reduce greenhouse gases. Let them know if you support what they’re doing. It really does help.

• Buy from green companies. Another thing I’ve discussed before (go here). In brief, there are a growing number of gear companies that produce outstanding skis and apparel from recycled material. Many also support 1% For The Planet, giving at least one percent of their sales to environmental groups around the world. And some are involved in the Conservation Alliance, a consortium of outdoor industry companies that disburses its collective annual membership dues to community-based campaigns to protect threatened wild habitats. Founded in 1989 by REI, Patagonia, The North Face, and Kelty, the Alliance has more than 180 member companies, and has contributed more than $13 million to conservation projects throughout North America.

• Support environmental causes like Protect Our Winters, which was founded by pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones, after witnessing first-hand the impact of climate change on our mountains. You might also want to check out Climate Solutions, which is working to accelerate practical and profitable solutions to global warming,  C2ES (the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions), and US Climate Action Network.

Of course, there’s a lot we can do in our daily lives, too. Turn off lights when not in use. Use energy saver appliances. Walk or bike when you can. Recycle. Use re-usable shopping bags. Plant trees. Support causes that are working for environmental change.

After all, for skiers, every day should be Earth Day. Celebrate today.


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Lynsey Dyer is making the first all-female ski movie. And she needs our help!

Ever notice how few women there are in ski films? It’s not like I sit there and watch with a scorecard, but the data backs me up: Despite the fact that women make up around 40% of the skiing population and about 30% of the adventure sports film viewership, only 14% of the athletes in major ski films this past season were female. And this was a record of female representation, up from 9% the previous season.*

Lynsey Dyer

Lynsey Dyer

I’m not the only one who’s noticed this. Because Lynsey Dyer — yes, that Lynsey Dyer, world class skier, Powder Magazine Skier of the Year, and ski film star  — is paying attention, too. Like me, she finds the whole thing troubling. But unlike me, she’s actually doing something about it. She’s in the planning stages for the first-ever all-female ski movie, Pretty Faces, and she needs our help.

Lynsey’s already pretty up there in my book. Not just because she’s a phenomenal skier, but because she shares my view that women athletes should be appreciated for their athletic ability instead of how they look in a bikini — which is wrong on so many levels I can’t even address them all here (I’ve written about this here and here, though, if you’re interested). But let’s face it, people pay a lot more attention to Lynsey than they do to me. With good reason. Lynsey wrote an open letter to Freeskier Magazine about the objectification of women in sports that got a lot of people talking. And while speaking out is great, Lynsey walks the walk, too. She’s the founder of SheJumps.org, an organization dedicated to encouraging  women to  participate in outdoor activities.

A girl after my own heart.

But back to the movie: Pretty Faces is about demonstrating to the world that women athletes can really kick ass. It promises to be an amazing film that’s designed to inspire women to get outdoors and realize their true potential, both on and off the hill (see the trailer at the end of this post). There’s a glitch, though: The movie is being funded via a Kickstarter campaign, and unless Lindsey raises $60,000 by January 16, it’s not going to happen. Time is rapidly running out and she has a long way to go. So if you’re a woman or anyone who has a wife, girlfriend, mother, friend, cousin, co-worker, or neighbor who’s female (which I guess is everyone), you need to donate now. There’s a lot of cool swag you can get by giving just a few dollars, and the result will certainly be worthwhile.

I spoke to Lynsey about Pretty Faces, and here’s what she said:

Q: Why did you decide to make an all female ski movie?
A: We see it as an opportunity to connect with and celebrate skiing’s female population. The mass media doesn’t offer young girls many good examples of powerful role models. We need to show them there’s more to the world than skinny jeans, reality TV, and fashion magazines — that they have a place in the mountains and what that kind of lifestyle can look like. A lot of  girls stop participating in sports at around 11 to 15 years old. Or they think that if they want to ski, they have to do it like the guys. We want to show them what’s possible on and off the hill so they can live up to their potential.

Q: Why’d  you decide to call it Pretty Faces?
A: It’s a double-entendre. It’s a reference to the phrase “more than just a pretty face,” but it also refers to the mountains, as in “that’s a pretty face, let’s shred that one!” Our goal is to show girls that there’s a lot more available to them beyond what they look like.

Q: What’s the movie about and how will it be different from a conventional ski movie?
A: The movie will show what it’s like to be a skier girl at different stages and ages of life. So we have a young character who’s so honest I think we’ll all be able to relate, then a high school girl, then a professional woman who sees skiing as an outlet, then a ski pro, and then a great wise woman who has nothing left to prove and is just out there to enjoy herself. The goal is to show we can all enjoy skiing, even though we come at it from a lot of different perspectives. We’re still looking for some of the characters, so we’re welcoming video submissions.

Q: Tell me more about these  submissions. Why did you decide to go that route, and what are you looking for?
A: We want to encourage inclusivity rather than exclusivity. I know a lot of women feel intimidated when they come out to the mountains. We want to encourage them to feel like they can be part of skiing, too; to feel comfortable in the sport. What’s more, we want to show girls that they have a chance to be seen, if they put the effort in. So If someone has a novel idea or wants to share something unique about what skiing is like for them, then they should send us a submission. [editor’s note: Go to UnicornPicnic.com to follow steps for contributing footage to Pretty Faces.  You can also email allie@unicornpicnic.com if you have footage to submit.]

Q: I know you’re going the Kickstarter route. Why?
A: For one reason or another, we just weren’t getting the corporate support we needed, so we thought we’d turn to the audience to see if they’d be willing to back us in something they’d like to see. I’ve never tried to make a movie before, so this is all new to me. Right now I’m really focused on meeting our goal of  $60,000 by January 16, so I’m hoping that everyone who reads this interview will give us their support.

Q: What’s the timetable for the movie, assuming you get all the funding you’re looking for?
A: If all goes according to plan, the film will come out next fall. We’d like to use it as an educational tool, taking it into schools and workshops to inspire girls to get outside. It’ll be more interactive than typical films. If funding allows, we’ll have a speaker panel along with it and possibly a workshop for girls. 

Q: I know you’re the founder of SheJumps.org.  Can you tell me about that?
A: To me it’s all the same thing. It’s getting more girls active and outside. If girls spent even half the time being active and outside as they do worrying about how they look or how their peers perceive them, it’d be a tremendous benefit to both them and society. Everything I do is toward that.

And now, as promised, here’s the trailer for Pretty Faces. Watch, and then please donate at Kickstarter.com.


*Data from the Pretty Faces’ Kickstarter website.

A note about next week:

From January 6 through January 11, I’ll be joining the Columbia Sportswear’s Omniten team in Park City, Utah. Yes, this season Columbia has selected me to be part of a group that’ll be trying new stuff and having all sorts of cool adventures (go here to learn more). So be sure to check back for updates. I’ll be posting all about it.

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Taking Kids from City Streets to Mountain Peaks.

There’s this:

New York

Then there’s this:


It’s no secret which one I prefer.

But when you think about it, isn’t it a matter of exposure? If my dad hadn’t taken me skiing as a kid, it’s possible I never would’ve discovered skiing at all and my life would’ve been entirely different. I probably wouldn’t love snow and winter as much as I do, I probably wouldn’t live in Vermont, and I certainly wouldn’t have started TheSkiDiva.com.

For a lot of people, skiing is entirely off their radar. Either they don’t have a family member or a friend to get them involved, or it’s so removed from their lives that it doesn’t even register. And while skiing may not affect everyone as profoundly as it did me, exposure to the sport does have its benefits. It’s a way to enjoy the outdoors in the winter, connect with mountains, and stay physically fit. Plus it’s just plain fun.

And that’s where the Peaks Project comes in. The Peaks Project is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to introduce skiing and snowboarding to New York City kids who might not otherwise get on the mountain.

I recently spoke with the organization’s CEO, Molly Tarlofsky, to find out more about what it’s about:

Q: Tell me more about the Peaks Project. What is it? And what are your goals?
A: We’re a nonprofit that aims to teach underprivileged New York City kids how to ski and snowboard. For these kids, skiing just isn’t an option. It’s expensive, and the nearest ski areas are just too far away. We get them the equipment, lessons, and transportation they need to start skiing. But skiing’s just part of it. We focus on personal growth and camaraderie, and there’s an environmental aspect to it, too.

Q: How’d the Peaks Project begin?
A: I originally got the idea  while I was out in Seattle in 2011. I was working in the action sports industry and many of my colleagues were participating in West Coast programs that helped kids get involved in extreme sports. Learning about these programs was truly inspirational. I’d been skiing since I was four and I thought it’d be great to have something similar for kids in New York who’d never had the chance to try skiing or snowboarding. I was still in college, so I wrote the business plan as my senior thesis, and it sort of took off from there. After graduation, I started building the basics. We’re hoping to launch it in 2014.

Q: So tell me about the kids.
A: We’ll be working with Children of Promise,  an organization that works with kids who have incarcerated parents. There’ll be twelve kids in our program, ages 8 to 18. A lot of them have never been outside of NYC, so this will be a great opportunity for them to try a new sport, see what’s out there, and have some entirely new experiences. We’ll be working with them before the season starts to explain what skiing and snowboarding are and share our own experiences. Then once a week — every Sunday for ten weeks — we’ll take them to Camelback Resort in the Poconos [PA].  It’ll be great to see how they improve, from one week to the next.

Q: How are you funding all this?
A: We’ve started a crowdsourcing campaign on indiegogo.com with the goal of raising  $15,000 by November 14. There are goodies for different levels of contributions, so we’re hoping a lot of people who hear about this will realize what a great idea it is and be motivated to donate.

We also have some great corporate partners: Saga Outerwear, SPY Optic,  Grenade Gloves, OvrRide, and Mountain Riders Alliance. Their support has been amazing, and we’re excited that they’ve decided to work with us.

Q: How do you envision the future for The Peaks Project?
A: I’d eventually like to expand The Peaks Project to every major city across the US.  And I’d  like to add more students every year. Having a network of programs, all with the mission of getting kids out on the hill, would be a great success.



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Want to save the snow? Plant some trees.

Say trees to a skier, and most likely they’ll picture this:


But trees are good for more than just a skier’s playground. They can be an important tool in the fight against global warming. Trees remove carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the air and emit oxygen into the atmosphere. Less global warming means colder temperatures, which can mean more snow, which means more skiing for me in, say, trees.

So it all goes full circle. I like that.

Recently, I learned that Jay Peak Resort in Vermont is working with a program called the Clear Water Carbon Fund to fund tree planting throughout the region. I spoke with Laury Saligman, co-founder of Conservation Collaboratives, to find out more. An avid cross country skier whose love of  the outdoors mirrors her passion for the environment, Laury  has an MS from the Harvard School of Public Health in Environmental Health Sciences and is a Toyota Audubon TogetherGreen Fellow. Her organization, which she founded in 2006 with her husband, John McGill, is a partner in the tree planting effort.

Q: I understand that the program is based on the use of carbon offsets. Can you tell me what these are and how they work?
A: Sure. All of us produce carbon emissions in our day-to-day activities, whether we’re driving to work or driving to a ski area. These emissions go into the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. Carbon offsets counteract those emissions by linking the person or the business responsible for the emissions to an entity that can absorb them, most often renewable resources. So it’s a way to support these resources by “offsetting” the emissions that have already been produced.

Q: So what’s the Clear Water Carbon Fund? And how is it involved with Jay Peak?
A: The Clear Water Carbon Fund is a carbon reduction program that funds the planting of trees on behalf of individuals and businesses who are interested in reducing their carbon footprint. Jay is offering carbon offsets through its website and online booking. So if you’re coming to Vermont to ski, but you’re attracted to the region – the fresh air, the beautiful views – you can counteract the CO2 you produce traveling here by going to the Jay website and contributing to the Fund. Also, when you book a trip online, you will be invited to participate in the program.The money goes toward  planting and maintaining  trees, periodic monitoring to verify the amount of carbon they store, and paying monetary incentives to landowners  for the loss of  revenue-generating activities such as the use of these areas for hay.

Q: Are the trees planted locally?
A: Yes. Even though CO2 is a global pollutant, the trees will have the same effect on global warming no matter where they’re planted. In Vermont, we’re working with the White River Partnership to replant in areas that were denuded by Tropical Storm Irene or that’ve been assessed as important to watershed health. And we’re working with NorthWoods Stewardship Center to plant trees in the Clyde River watershed,  a tributary of Lake Memphremagog in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. In Maine, we’re planting trees along the Crooked River in the Sebago Lake watershed and along the Androscoggin River near Bethel.

Q: All these are along the water’s edge. Why? 
A:  We try to do all our plantings  within 150 feet of a creek or river. With good reason. Trees help prevent soil erosion, filter sediment and harmful pollutants to keep  water clean, and provide shade for aquatic species and resting areas for migratory birds. We try to plant native species — cottonwood, red maple, and a variety of bushes and shrubs. The more we can mimic the natural environment, the better.

Q: So how may trees have you planted so far?
A: Probably around 2,000. Jay Peak is the first ski resort in the area to offer this to their guests, but we’re hoping to expand it  throughout the state. This way  skiers can both take responsibility for their carbon dioxide emissions and protect our local environmental and water resources. I just wish every ski area would offer this to their guests, and that everyone who came to Vermont would pay a few dollars to support the natural infrastructure that makes this state so special.


Laury Saligman and family.

Laury Saligman and family.


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Support Zanskar, Make a Difference.


Imagine you’re a young girl living in Padum, a small village in the remote Zanskar region of the Northwest Indian Himalaya. It’s one of the highest and coldest inhabited places in the world. Winter temperatures of -22°F are common, and heavy snow keeps your village cut off from the rest of the region for 8 months of the year. Communication and transportation are difficult, if not outright impossible.

This is the world that Heather Chrystie and Cara McGlashan, two young women from the UK, trekked 100 km into two years ago. After spending several years skiing and working at ski areas around the world, they decided to work as volunteer instructors at the Zanskar Ski School, a small non-profit school set up to teach the children of the region how to ski. Its mission: to provide communication, transportation, rescue, and job opportunities for the people of the Zanskar Himalaya through skiing. Yet with one trail only 492 feet long and no lift, Zanskar offers only limited opportunities for learning advanced ski techniques.

Heather and Cara want to change this. They’ve started the Zanskar Ski Project to bring five dedicated students to Gulmarg, a larger ski resort in the Indian Himalayas, where they can benefit from a gondola, more instructors, and more intensive teaching. The journey will involve walking over 100 km on a frozen river, four flights over the Himalayas, and almost 300 km of jeep travel on mountain roads.

Yes, a big trip, with a price tag to match.

So Heather and Cara have done what a lot of people are doing these days to raise money:  they’ve launched a crowd-funding campaign. Right now they’re about a quarter of the way to their goal of $3,500 (Canadian). Which means they have quite a way to go before their deadline of October 15.

Here’s what the two have to say about the project, from their website:

Learning to ski effectively really can revolutionise communication links and transportation in this remote and isolated town. The five dedicated students that we bring from Padum will return home able to share their knowledge and experience with the other students. They will also be able to take more responsibility in the running of the ski school, ensuring its continuation. Their long-term prospects of finding a good job will be vastly improved, and in the short-term they may be able to travel to school more safely and easily.

For Cara and I, the deciding moment was when we asked Padma, the 13 year old daughter of our host in Padum, what she would think about the possibility of going to Gulmarg to ski. For a girl who has never left this remote corner of the Himalaya, and who has hiked for every ski turn she’s ever made, this prospect was mind-blowing. Her face was a picture of incredulous excitement, and left us in no doubt whatsoever. We would do everything we could to bring these children to Gulmarg and share the joy and usefulness of skiing with them.

And here’s a video about the Zanskar Ski School:


For those of us who view skiing as a recreational activity, it’s hard to imagine the impact it can have on these people’s lives, as well as how difficult it is for them to receive good instruction. Sure, I love to ski, but I don’t have to rely on it for communication or transportation. Heather and Cara aren’t just trying to  teach some kids how to take gates faster; they’re trying to give them the tools they need to improve things we Westerners take pretty much for granted. So how about giving them a hand? Visit Heather and Cara’s  Indiegogo page to make a donation.

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The Restorative Power of Skiing

Those of us who love to ski know of its remarkable powers of restoration. Skiing is good for the soul. I’ve heard it said that those who are touched by the spirit of skiing know the joy of the mountain and the spirit of the wind. I couldn’t agree more. When you ski, the cares of your daily life fall away; it’s just you and the mountain, coming together in a beautiful dance. There’s not much that can top it.

So when I learned about the difficulties faced by The Haven, I knew I had to do something to draw attention to its plight. The Haven is a long-term residential treatment facility for women with severe addictions. These women are working hard to get their lives back together and become productive, healthy members of their communities. And skiing is part of the treatment.

Why skiing? According to Stephanie Robertson, Executive Administrator for Friends of The Haven, skiing helps show the residents how much fun they can have without the use of drugs and alcohol. It also helps teach them some important life lessons, such as how to persevere when things get tough, and provides the sense of accomplishment that can come with mastering a new and difficult task.

For the past five years, The Haven has provided ski trips for its clients. These are not pull-out-the-stops luxury vacations. Done in collaboration with the National Sports Center for the Disabled, the women get a day (or two) of experience on the slopes, along with ski instruction.

Are the trips worthwhile? Judging from the reactions of The Haven’s clients, I’d say yes:

Elizabeth: “I grew up in the mountains: Evergreen, Colorado.  My father was a ski instructor in Vail when I was three years old.  We grew apart when I was in my 20’s and I couldn’t afford to travel or ski or do anything that I knew.  My life took a turn for the worst when I started taking pain pills and I forgot what living a sober life was like.  I forgot how to appreciate the wonderful things that life has to offer until I came to The Haven. Going skiing and having the freedom to enjoy life–I can’t express in words how wonderful that was for me.  I remembered who I was, who I am.  The women who had never been skiing before now have a whole new outlook on life.  Skiing is such a magnificent experience.  I appreciate the chance to get to go skiing, it is a gift and I want to express gratitude for the chance to change my life.”

Christina:  “I haven’t been skiing in years because of my addiction.  I’m so blessed to have been able to have the opportunity to go again.  It was wonderful to actually experience something without being in my addiction.  I also enjoyed the bonding experience with my peer sisters.  We did nothing but laugh the whole time.  The experience of being out in the wide open space with a beautiful view was amazing; it made me realize how lucky I am to have this privilege.  I now see the different opportunities that I’m able to have.  I’m excited to introduce my kids to it now.”

I said in the beginning that The Haven was facing some difficulty. And yes, as you might have guessed, it’s funding. This is hardly a surprise, given the cutbacks faced by many similar facilities. The result: no more ski trips.

These trips are not that expensive: a two night stay at Winter Park, which includes lift tickets, equipment, lessons, lodging,  food, and gas, runs $125. per person. I don’t know how you could do it cheaper than that.

I don’t often ask for support for a specific cause, but these women are working to get their lives back together, and skiing truly makes a difference. Think back to what skiing has done for you. If you do, I’m sure you’ll want to help.

To make a contribution, go here. I know they’d appreciate it.


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