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Breaking Through The Snow Ceiling June 30, 2011

Posted by Wendy in Interview, Women's Skiing.
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There’s nothing unusual about female ski instructors. And women in resort human resources, marketing, communications, and sales? Common as dirt.

But women general managers are a somewhat rarer breed. According to statistics from the National Ski Areas Association, there are only about 20 to 30 nationwide. It’s more or less a boy’s club.

That’s why it’s particularly noteworthy that Colorado Ski Country, the not-for-profit trade association representing Colorado’s twenty-two ski and snowboard resorts, recently bestowed its President’s Award on Cindy Dady, General Manager of Echo Mountain Resort. The award honors outstanding achievement within the Colorado ski industry, as well as excellence in serving the association.

According to CSC,  Dady “created an operationally excellent business unit that consistently exceeded volume, revenue and profit expectations, and successfully developed and implemented a registration process resulting in a 20 percent increase in overall guest satisfaction over a three-year period. One of the hardest working individuals and a developing star within the Colorado ski industry family, Dady’s leadership has provided inspiration for many both inside and outside of her home resort of Echo Mountain.”

Cindy Dady

Cindy Dady, General Manager, Echo Mountain Resort

All this is certainly worthy of respect and admiration. But what does it take to be a female GM? How did she get where she is today?

We spoke to Cindy to find out.

First of all, congratulations on your award, Cindy. That’s a pretty big deal.
Thanks! I’m elated. It means a lot to me.

Tell me, have you always worked in the ski industry?
Yeah, I started when I was in college. I was a Rec Ed major at SUNY [State University of New York] in Cortland, where I spent a lot of hanging out at Greek Peak. I worked there as a part time instructor from 1982 through 1990, and eventually went full time to develop their kids program. I became their KIDS ski school director in 1991. We put in the first magic carpet on the east coast and built a new kids building, which was actually too small the day we moved in. In the midst of all this, I went back to school for a Phys Ed degree. I was thinking, well, I have to grow up one of these days, so I’ll be a phys ed teacher.  Then in 1998, one of my great friends was working at Stratton, and the next thing I knew, I was taking a job to run their ski-ride program. It was great, but by 2005 I began to think I wanted more. So I moved within Intrawest to Winter Park to run its KIDS ski and ride program. I was there til 2008, when I had a partial knee replacement and went back to school to get an MBA in finance. The next thing I knew, I had a job with Echo Mountain.

You say you wanted more. What were you after?
With all my knee problems — I had 9 surgeries in 3 years — I knew I couldn’t be a ski school director forever. So I began to look at opportunities for growth. Getting my MBA provided that extra bit of validation and opened up new doors. Plus I had a ton of great experience. In many respects, I was running mini resorts at Stratton and Winter Park. I had my instructors, my rental staff, my food and beverage staff, my lift attendants. It made me very well rounded for whatever came my way.

Why do you think there are so few female General Managers?
First,  there aren’t that many jobs. And second, I think it’s a case of believing you have the skill set and experience to take it on. Take me, for instance. I’m the youngest in my family. The oldest is 18 years older than me. By the time I was born, my mom could see that the world was changing. I have a sister who’s 15 years older who was a runner up for Miss America. But I wasn’t into that. When I was little, I wasn’t confined by the same boundaries that she was. I was playing football and baseball with the boys. When Title Nine came through, I had the opportunity to play Little League in the 70’s. I’ve never looked at things in terms of gender, and I think that’s the biggest problem most people have.

There are more women than ever before in upper management in the ski industry, and I think there’ll be more as positions open up. There are a number of women who are assistant GMs, so I think it’ll become a lot more common. Given all the opportunities, women aren’t looking at a position as a “guys only” job. They look at it and think, hey, I’ve got the skill set, I’m going to go for it.

Are people surprised that there’s a woman GM? Do you have any problems you’ve had to overcome?
No. I haven’t seen any of it. It’s been very welcoming. The mountain hired the person they thought was the best fit for this job. I’ve had no problems being that person.

What advice would you give a woman entering the ski industry?
I think the big thing is build a diverse resume. No job is off limits. What you come with — your own internal beliefs in your ability — sets the limits. If you think you can do anything, you can. I sit on a number of boards, and when I talk to kids, I tell them not to pigeon hole themselves. Have experiences in all phases of outdoor opportunities, so if you’re applying for a management position, you’re well rounded.

Is there an achievement at Echo Mountain that you’re most proud of?
We’ve been adding fun things all the time, like our race component. And we’ve been growing the ski and ride school. Each year we’ve seen new and exciting developments. Two years ago a member of our community became Terrain Master of the Year. We’re the itty bitty mountain, but we’re showing that we have the same caliber staff as the big guys.

How do you compete with the Vails and Breckenridges out there?
We’re the resort where families can come and feel safe, where the kids can have fun in the terrain park. We’re only 35 minutes from Denver, so we’re close enough to be a place to come for the day, as opposed to a destination resort. We actually have Winter Park/Loveland/Vail buy lane space for a month at a time throughout the winter so their front range kids can have the same training opportunities as the mountain kids who’re living at the resort. The fact that Vail is coming to us speaks volumes.

What’s in the future for Echo Mountain?
More expansion! We’re one of, if not the only, privately owned mountain, meaning we’re not leasing the terrain from the forest service. This gives us a lot of freedom in everything from deciding what trees we cut to where we erect pole banners. We can do whatever we want. We have 240 acres, and we’re sliding on between 60 and 80, depending on who you talk to. So we’re continuing to expand.

Do you have a favorite run at Echo?
The entire mountain. It’s all good.

Can you ski, given the problems you’ve had with your knee?
Absolutely, as long as I’m not pounding through the bumps.

Do you ski on your day off?
No, I just relax. My time off is for my son, my dog, and my golf game. A season like we had this year when Denver was so warm, I was playing golf in March. I get around 120 rounds a year.

For our gearheads out there: What do you ski on?
I’ve been in Tecnica boots since their founding year, I think 1983. I ski on Blizzard skis. I’ve ordered the Crush and the Viva 8.1.

Thanks, Cindy! And again, congratulations!

Be sure to visit TheSkiDiva.com, an internet forum especially for women skiers, where women skiers can connect with one another to talk about everything and anything ski-related.

Raise Your Restraining Device. May 25, 2011

Posted by Wendy in Interview.
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Imagine skiing the height of Mount Everest 143 times.

Yeah, I can’t, either.

But that’s what Stephanie Jagger, a 30-year old skier from British Columbia, did. Stephanie recently broke the record for the most vertical feet skied in a single year, skiing 4,161,823 vf, besting the previous record of  4,146,890.

Crazy. As in crazy amazing.

I’ve never kept track of my vertical feet, but I know some people who do. A friend of mine spent all winter working to reach one million. He did it, but it took a lot of dedication. So trust me when I tell you: more than four mil is pretty incredible.

Stephanie maintains that before this, she was pretty much a weekend warrior, skiing maybe 30-some days a year. To reach the record, she quit her job, traveled to nine countries and five continents, and clocked 161 ski days.

Steph hitting 4 mil at Whistler-Blackcomb

I recently spoke to Stephanie to find out more about her epic year and what it took to reach this amazing milestone.

Q: How’d you decide to do this?
A: I’d been in marketing for a number of years and wasn’t really enjoying it, so I quit and went traveling for a month. I was up at Whistler skiing; it was one of those days that was absolutely perfect. We were sitting on the lift and my friends asked me, “What are you going to do? You don’t have a job.” I said, “I think I’d just like to ski around the year for a year and write about it.” They had a good laugh. “You don’t have the skill for this. You don’t the money.”  We got to the top, and on most chairs, there’s a sign that says “Raise Your Restraining Device” or “Raise The Bar.” That was my “Aha” moment: What is my restraining device? What’s holding me back? From then that point to the time I left was a year and a half.  I took a job and saved as much money as I could, even rented my place during the Olympics.

Q: So you weren’t initially looking to break the vertical feet record. When did it occur to you to do that?
A; My original goal was to communicate the message of Raise Your Restraining Device. But I added on to that based on what I’d skied on an average weekend and multiplied that out, then added in some travel and rest days. When I was telling people what I was doing, they’d ask if that was some kind of record until finally — I guess it was about in February — I looked it up and there was a record from a British guy. I figured that was just an extra four or five days of skiing, so why not go for it?

I’m still in the process of working with Guiness. I’m not the official record holder at this point, so we’ll see what happens. If I don’t have my picture in the book next to the person with the world’s longest fingernails, I’m okay with that.

Q: How would they verify that?
A: I have my altimeter and a log and receipts and references. The only thing that might trip it up is if they decide they need a witness for every day I skied. But I wasn’t doing it for the record, anyway. The experience I went through meant more than hitting a certain number.

Q: How did you decide where to go and how’d you plan your trip?
A: I wanted to book a ‘round the world ticket because it was cheaper. So I had to plan which direction to go, since they only allow you to circumnavigate in one direction. I picked places that would allow me to ski the vast majority of the year – South America, New Zealand, that type of thing. And then from there I picked “must stops.” I really hadn’t skied outside of Whistler-Blackcomb, so the “musts” for me were places like Jackson Hole, Chamonix in France, and a few in Japan. Then I filled in the rest. I think that if I did it over again, I’d buy individual tickets as I went along, so I could have a little more flexibility depending on snow conditions.

Q: Did you have a place you liked better than any of the others?
A: I get asked this a lot. I think that mountains are like people and if you spend enough time with each of them, you’re going to find redeeming qualities. That said, we do have our favorite people, and we do have our favorite mountains. Some of my favorites are there for different reasons. I loved the skiing and experience in Patagonia, and for the best bang for your buck, I’d have to choose Argentina. The terrain, the people – everything was great. If you’re a powder hound, then Japan has hands down the best snow I’ve ever skied. And Jackson Hole and Kicking Horse stand out, too.  I was astounded by the steeps in Kicking Horse, and it’s absolutely beautiful.

Q: Was there anyplace that you wished you weren’t there and wouldn’t have minded being someplace else?
A: I’d have to say the resort skiing in New Zealand is not comparable to the resort skiing in North American or Europe. There are some smaller resorts and club fields [ed note: small ski resorts owned by ski clubs] that are fantastic and are exceptions to that rule. New Zealand is a beautiful place and I would recommend people going there, but I would recommend the club skiing.

Q: Were you injured at all?
A: I was major injury free, I was minor injury semi-plagued. You have to take the long term view, so the minute I felt like there was something going on, I got myself to a physio or massage. I hurt my neck a little bit in Japan drying my hair, and that plagued me for the remainder of the trip.

Q: What skis did you use?
A: I skied on a pair of Head John 94’s, and those were the one pair I took with me. They’re a fantastic all mountain ski, and they lasted a long time. I rented a pair of touring skis for a few days, touring in South America, and I bought a pair of touring skis in New Zealand.  I lost one of those skis in the back country – not a good day.  When I got back, I replaced my skis with a pair of Head Motorhead Infernos, which is next year’s ski. It’s kind of like the big brother to what I have. I’ve been skiing on Head for years, and I love them.

Q: Did the airlines ever lose your luggage or your skis?
A: No! The only time I had to pay extra for baggage was when I took a month off and went to Indonesia to learn how to surf. They charged me on the way out of there. They wouldn’t have if it had been scuba or golfing gear, but they weren’t familiar with skis.

Q: Aside from skiing a heck of a lot of vertical feet, what did you take away from this experience?
A: I’m really excited that your website [TheSkiDiva.com]  is specifically for women.  I think one of the biggest things I learned has to do with the dialogue surrounding womanhood. There are all these milestones in our culture that mean all of a sudden, you’re a woman. It could be a certain age, or it could be getting married or having a baby. But I’m not sure womanhood can be defined this way.  I think there’s much more of a journey involved. What makes it tough is that in our society, you can go through life and still be an adolescent in your mind and in the way you live. I think that the dialogue around this journey is missing and that’s something that I personally went through. I’m not sure I’m on the other end of it yet.

There’s a side of me I call the “petulant child” – if I white knuckle it, I can get through anything. This is a very masculine traits. But when I get tired enough, I become emotional and different sides of a woman come out. One of the challenges I faced was how to complete a trip that was actually quite masculine in its activity, in its aggressiveness, while still handling it as a woman. A lot of the things I was doing were quite masculine, so I was trying to reconcile these two things. I feel I learned more about myself as a woman than ever before.

Q: So are you burned out now?
A: At the end, I could barely move. I’m not a professional athlete, so I didn’t have a network of health professionals or trainers. I found as I went along I had to pay attention to what I was eating and my energy levels. I’ve subsequently been to a number of physios and nutritionists and so on. It’s been an interesting experiment. In the last two weeks I’ve done absolutely nothing.

Q: Okay, now this is important: Who has the best on mountain food and who ahs the worst?
A: I think Whistler-Blackcomb and Deer Valley probably have the best on mountain food in North America. But in Argentina, there are lots of huts on the  mountain that I really enjoyed. And when you go to Europe, a number of resorts have independent restaurants that are fantastic.

Q: What’s next for you?
A: I don’t think this journey for me is quite finished. I’ve been going through a whole transformation and an exploration of womanhood. I have no idea what the process is but I might put together a book. I think this whole trip taught me that if you walk into the room of life with excitement and being truthful to yourself, the doors will open. Something will come up, and I’ll know that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.

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For thos who love stats, here are some from her from her blog, TheVerticalFeat (do yourself a favor and check it out!):

Total vertical feet skied: 4,161,823
Number of days skied: 161
Average vertical feet skied per day: 25,850
Amount spent in lift tickets: $9,988.94 CAD
How much money I borrowed from my parents to complete the feat: $0 CAD
Number of continents skied: 5
Number of beds slept in: 65
Number of flights boarded: 31 including one helicopter
Estimated number of hours of flight related travel: 340
Amount of vertical feet skied in the southern hemisphere (season 1): 1,030,099 (or 19,076 per day skied)
Amount of vertical feet skied in the northern hemisphere (season 2): 3,131,724 (or 29,268 per day skied)
Pairs of boots used: 1
Pairs of skis used: 4
Pairs of skis lost: 1/2
Number of pictures of Restraining Device signs: 14
Height of Mount Everest (from sea level to peak): 29,029
Equivalent number of Mount Everest descents on skis: 143
Most vertical feet skied in one day: 63,923
Most vertical feet skied in one week: 294,452
Number of resorts skied: 45
Number of massage therapists, chiropractors and physiotherapists visited: 9
Favorite phrase learned: Yuki ga futte iru…or “It’s snowing” in Japanese.
Number of falls so big I was shaken: 3

Be sure to visit TheSkiDiva.com, an internet forum especially for women skiers, where women skiers can connect with one another to talk about everything and anything ski-related.

Meet Tracy Evans, Female Athlete Philanthropist of the Year May 16, 2011

Posted by Wendy in Interview.
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Being an Olympic athlete takes an incredible amount of self focus. All day, every day, you have to concentrate on your training, your diet, and the attitude you need to win the competition. It’s me, me, me, all the time.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s what separates the great from the super-great. And it’s what gets the job done.

Yet as self-involved as this sounds, many of these athletes go on to do incredibly altruistic things. Take three-time Olympic aerialist Tracy Evans. Tracy competed in the ’94, ’98, and ’02 Olympics, then went on the World Cup circuit where she achieved a host of top then results.

Tracy Evans, Olympic Aerialist

But Tracy’s accomplishments don’t end there.

In 2008, Tracy founded Kids Play International (KPI), a foundation that uses sports to educate and empower Africa’s youth. KPI’s mission is to teach life skills and impart the importance of physical fitness and healthy living through the use of sports. It’s also established a scholarship fund to help girls achieve a comprehensive education.

Recently, Tracy was named Female Athlete Philanthropist of the Year by the United Athletes Foundation, a group whose mission is to empower athletes to impact communities through education and social development.

I spoke to Tracy to learn more about her involvement with KPI.

Q: First of all, Tracy, congratulations on your award. KPI sounds like a fantastic organization. Can you tell us what motivated you to start it?

A: I was exposed to volunteering from a very early age. My mom is a registered nurse who’s done volunteer medical work all over the world. She always encouraged me to go on a volunteer trip of my own. For a long time I thought volunteering was for people who were teachers or in the medical field, so I wasn’t sure I had the appropriate skills. Finally, in June, 2008, I decided to go on a trip with an organization to Malawi in Africa. I came up with the idea of bringing over some sports equipment to play with the kids in the orphanage. My team leader loved it, and it turned out to be an incredible success.

For me, it was life changing. These kids had never had anyone interact with them like this. A lot of the games I introduced were completely new to them. I loved exposing them to sports they hadn’t played before. Gender equality is a big issue over there, so picking a sport where boys and girls can learn together creates a whole new dynamic. When they played a familiar sport, they reverted to traditional gender roles. For example, girls don’t play soccer, so the boys don’t want girls to play. But with a new game, this wasn’t an issue.

When I left after two weeks, I could see I wanted to pursue this further. My father helped me set up a non-profit organization called People Helping People International. Kids Play International is actually part of that. A year later I assembled a group of volunteers and went back to the same orphanage. We brought over all sorts of sports equipment and set up a sports room so the kids could continue to play even when we were gone. These kids don’t have any after school programs, community centers, or Girls or Boys Clubs. So what we were doing made a huge difference.

Tracy Evans in Malawi.

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Q: How has the program developed?

A: Right now we’re trying to get over there twice a year with volunteer groups. The trips are great, but since they’re only for two weeks, our impact is fairly limited. It’s a great way to introduce people to the program and see the country. But I want to make an impact that’s more longer lasting. So I’m currently developing a pilot program in Rwanda. It’s an after school education program that would run all the time, even when I’m not there. I’m at a point where I’m getting funding to train in-country coaches and program directors –- local staff who can run it so kids have a place to come after school. And I’ve developed a curriculum.

Q: What do you want kids to come away with?

A: Essentially, we’re using sports as a vehicle to teach them life skill lessons that they can use on a daily basis to improve the way they handle conflict and work with one another. It’s also a way to teach them leadership skills and  gender equality. We want them to learn by doing, and sports is a great way to do that.

We’ve also set up  an education scholarship fund for girls, because these are the ones who are not typically in school. It’s been shown that if you educate the women, you’ll change the country. The other alternative is to have them learn a trade.

Q: This sounds very ambitious. Do you have any help?

A: I’m not trying to re-invent the wheel here, I’m bringing in a lot of partners, like the  World Olympians Association (WOA). I love how they work at bringing athletes and their foundations together to see what synergies exist, so you don’t have to do it all yourself.

Q: As if KPI isn’t enough, I see you’ve also started something called the Golden Games. Can you tell me about that?

A: That’s a local program here in Salt Lake City, Utah, geared to seniors in nursing homes and assisted care facilities. It’s a one day event that brings them together to compete in a host of events.

Q: How has being an athlete had an affect on the way you work?

A: My education is in marketing, and all through my competitive career, I’ve found that you have to be aware of what’s going on; you can’t hand it over to anyone else. You have to be very hands on and knowledgeable about what you’re doing. I’ve brought that same mindset to KPI. It’s served me well.

Q: Sounds like you’re really busy. Do you have any time to ski anymore?

A: My boyfriend is an avid skier and is always trying to get me out to ski. I do love to get out on the slopes, but it’s more of a social thing for me. One of the things I love about skiing is that it’s something people of all ages and abilities can do. For me, it’s not about how many days I can get in. I’m not the first person on the lift or the last one off. It’s just something I do for fun.

A: Do you do freestyle any more?

Q: Here in Park City, we have our summer training facility at the Utah Olympic Park. It’s a ramp with a plastic surface that goes into a big swimming pool. There’s a big day lodge, and a lot of corporate groups come in throughout the summer. We put on a water ramp show set to music for them. We’re the entertainment. Freestyle just isn’t as big a part of my life because I’ve been so busy. Between my casting company [Athlete Source Casting] and my work in Africa, I just don’t have the time. But I still love to jump. It’s by far the best adrenaline kick there is.

Q: You’ve been in three Olympics. Do you have one that stands out for you?

A: Lilllehamer was extra special. It was my first Olympic games, my brother was there coaching, and my folks were there, too. It was an amazing venue. But you know, the flip side was the Olympics in Salt Lake. It’s rare for an athlete to compete in your own country, let alone in your own back yard. My extended family could come out and see me. It was an incredible experience.

Q: So what are your hopes for the future?

A: With the pilot program in Rwanda, I want to get a really nice, easy model to replicate so I can expand into other areas of the countries I’m working in, as well as into other countries, too. Basically, I want to provide a Boys and Girls Club for Africa; an after-school community program so these kids have a safe place to come, play and learn and have opportunities and resources so they can be successful and industrious.

I also want to connect the youth of the US with the youth of Africa. I think that’s an important part of it. Right now, through my volunteer trips, I’ve had a few kids from Park City come along with me. One of them was so inspired that she started a Kids Play International club at her high school to boost awareness about what’s going on over there.

Q: Thanks, Tracy. And congratulations again on your award.

You can make a tax-deductible contribution to Kids Play International at their website. Go here.

Be sure to visit TheSkiDiva.com, an internet forum especially for women skiers, where women skiers can connect with one another to talk about everything and anything ski-related.

The Lady In Red. April 19, 2011

Posted by Wendy in Interview.
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I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been a little bit in awe of ski patrollers. And  it’s not just because of their super cool jackets (though that could certainly be part of it). But how many jobs are there that involve shooting off avalanche guns! And skiing first tracks! And riding lifts with rescue dogs!

Okay, that’s a pretty juvenile take. And not exactly genuine, on my part.

The real reason I’m in awe  is because of what they do. Part police officer, part EMT, part mountain ambassador, ski patrollers are the ones we turn to at the first sign of trouble on the mountain. They’re sort of like super heros, but even better — because they ski!

It’s hardly surprising that patrolling involves a certain amount of machisomo. After all, most members of the ski patrol are men. But more and more, you’ll find a woman guiding that tobaggon with the injured skier down the mountain.

What’s it like being female in this male-dominated world? To find out, I interviewed Kim Kircher, a professional ski patroller from Crystal Mountain, Washington:

Kim Kircher

Q: How long have you been on the ski patrol and why’d you join? 

A: This is my twenty-first season. I started in 1990 as a volunteer when I was in college. I needed a season’s pass, and figured it’d be a good way to get one. As a kid, my parents were ski instructors and patrolling was my way of rebelling just a little. I didn’t want to follow exactly the same path, which, when I look back, is pretty hilarious. I continued to volunteer on weekends for seven years, until in 1996 I needed a break from teaching high school English and decided to get on the patrol full time for a year. After just one season as a pro patroller, I never looked back.

Q: What’s a typical patrol day like for you?

A: So much depends on the weather. With new snow, our day can start with a 4:30 AM wake up call in order to get on the hill and throw explosives, causing avalanches before public loads at 8:30. Most days, avalanche control might continue all morning, or even longer, since we have two outer areas that allow for staggered openings. On days without new snow, after our morning meeting and training we do sign runs, putting out rope lines and drilling in slow signs on the runs. Throughout the day we maintain these warnings, rotate through speed control stations, and respond to accidents. At the end of the day, we sweep each run to make sure no one is left up on the hill at closing.

Q:What do you like about patrolling? What don’t you like?

A: I love this job. I especially enjoy being outside all day and getting paid to ski and exercise. I also like helping injured skiers. However, the best part of the job is avalanche control. When I first started patrolling, I was afraid of the explosives. I never played with matches or firecrackers as a child (as I suspect some of my male colleagues might have done). It took a few seasons of handling explosives and watching huge slides before I became comfortable with it. Now, I enjoy the pristine slopes, the early-morning hikes to the top of the slide paths, and the camaraderie and trust found out on the slopes.

Ski patrolling is not without tragedy. This year, a skier got lost, and we still haven’t found him. We suspect he fell into a tree well, but without a well-defined area to look for him, after several weeks and five feet of fresh snow, we had to postpone the search until the snow melts. We still have not found him.

Q: Is the job what you expected? If not, why not?

A: Since I started, first as a volunteer, I had a pretty good idea what to expect. The year I got on as a pro, a few other women were also hired, and we formed a close bond. Throughout the years I have had the chance to work with many strong, amazing women. In a male dominated job such as patrolling, it takes some balance to find one’s place. Early on, I felt I had to be just like one of the guys. Now, I realize that I can be girly and also strong, that the two are not mutually exclusive. A few years back I started carrying a Barbie lunchbox to work. It fit well in my pack and kept my PB&J from getting smashed. For a while there I had the nickname “Outdoor Barbie,” and I have to admit, I didn’t really mind.

Q: How big is the patrol, and how many are women?

A: We have about 40 patrollers and this season about a third are women, which is pretty good odds in this industry.

Q: Is it hard to get women interested in patrolling? If so, why? Is anything being done to recruit more women? 

A: I find that only women who believe themselves to be highly qualified — both in first aid as well as skiing ability — apply for this job. Whereas, the male candidates tend to be more varied in their skills, and even those that are unqualified might still apply for the job. At Crystal, female recruits have a better chance of getting hired than at other areas. It takes a special kind of person to want to be a pro patroller — whether male or female, and the best recruiting is done by word of mouth.

Q: Do the male patrollers treat the women differently than they do the men? How? 

A: Not at Crystal. Here, we are all equals. At other areas I’ve seen female patrollers that feel they need to prove themselves to their male counterparts, which changes the dynamic. We are lucky in that our patrol director, Paul Baugher, sets a tone of equality and equanimity.

Q: Do you get a different reaction from the skiing public than the male patrollers? 

A: I’ve noticed, at times, a few male patients that seem dubious of my strength to bring them down in a toboggan. I’m fortunate in that I’m quite tall (and often mistaken for a guy while skiing). Some of the petite patrollers have expressed this feeling of being second-guessed. However, this can usually be overcome with professionalism.

Q: What about the duties of the women on the patrol. Do most of them stick to off the hill things, like working in the medical center? Is this by choice or assignment?  

A: The duties for professional women patrollers are the exact same as for men at Crystal. Avalanche control, skier safety and accident response are all part of the job.

Q: Do women last less long on the patrol? If so, why do you suppose that is?

A: In a few instances, women patrollers have left the job to start a family, however, many of those have come back to the job and raised their children on the slopes. Every season we have a fair amount of attrition — many people want to be a ski bum for a season before continuing their education and getting a “real job”. This is equally true for women and men. However, of the ones that stay, women tend to stick with it long term. This is also more indicative of age than sex. Every year we get a group of young patrollers who, after a season or two, move on to other things. It’s the older ones who stick around longer, having been out in the “real world” and have now made a conscious choice for a healthy life in the mountains.

Ski patrolling is a great job. It’s exciting, fun, and healthy, and I get to be on the slopes every day and help others. I can’t think of a better way to spend my winters. When not on the slopes, I’m a writer. With my memoir coming out in November, I’m still learning to balance my time on the hill and my time in front of the computer.

Editor’s Note: Kim’s book, The Next Fifteen Minutes, is coming from Behler Publications in November, 2011.

Thanks, Kim, and thanks to all the patrollers out there, for the terrific job you do.

Be sure to visit TheSkiDiva.com, an internet forum especially for women skiers, where women skiers can connect with one another to talk about everything and anything ski-related.

A conversation with Olympian Sarah Schleper May 12, 2010

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Competing in one Winter Olympics is pretty big stuff. But Sarah Schleper, member of the US Ski Team, has competed in not just one, or two, or even three Olympic games. Vancouver was her  fourth Winter Olympics. And that’s not all. She was also the only mom on the US Ski Team in Vancouver, and the only one born in the 1970’s.

A Colorado native, Sarah started with Ski Club Vail at age 11 and made her World Cup debut just five years later. In between, she won five Junior Olympics gold medals and was the Whistler Cup slalom champ in 1994. She also won a Junior Worlds silver medal and a World Cup race, and is a four-time US slalom champion. Skiing magazine dubbed her as “the great blonde hope … part Rasta, part Harpo, part Medusa, all Sarah.”
I recently asked this remarkable skier some questions:

Q: What’s your life been like since the Olympics?
A: Life is life. I keep on living, being a mother, a wife, and a ski racer. I finished out the World Cup season over in Garmisch, and the US Nationals at Lake Placid, New York. When Vail closed for the season, my family and I headed south for our favorite pastime, surfing. I would be in the water all day if it wasn’t for giving my husband a chance to surf while Lasse [her son] and I build castles in the sand. 

Q: What was the Olympic experience like for you? Did you do as well as you expected?
A: All four of my Olympic experiences have been some of the most memorable competitions of my life. I always go to the Olympics gunning to win a medal, and for this I maintain a focus that is determined and blinded to a lot of the commotion surrounding an event as big as the Olympics. I enjoyed the Whistler venue and being at a mountain comparable to Vail in skiable acreage. The entertainment in Whistler was unbelievable. Junior Gong, one of my favorites, played a free concert that I saw with my brothers and my pa.

As for the races, I was disappointed in my second run in the GS. I put myself in a great position to attack for a medal after the first run. I just didn’t let it run on the second run, which happened on the following day, because the weather was foggy and the visibility was zero. In the slalom, I opened my chin with a gate on my way down my first run. I think this actually relaxed any anxiety I had for the race. My face hurt and I had to concentrate on getting it patched. I made a super fast first run. In the course report for the second run, it was radioed up the hill that there was a hole on this hairpin on the last pitch. I really blew it because I hesitated going into that hole and just lost all my speed and moved from what could have been a medal position to 17th place. Of course, we always dream of gold medals and if we didn’t we wouldn’t be going to the lengths to train hard and go faster everyday. I tasted my dream, and I can live with the experience of racing as a mother, and being proud of myself for undertaking a comeback, with my family always a fast first ahead of my agenda to be number one.

Q: What was your favorite Olympic moment?
A: Team processing with teammates Hailey [Duke] and Megan [McJames]. The three of us have really become close. Sharing the experience with them was incredible — from team processing through the opening ceremonies, training, and races; in fact, all the way to the White House. It was great to share this part of my life with some great people. 

Q:  You let out this sort of roar when you come out of the gate. Can you explain how that started and why you do it?
A: It’s the inherent nature of a lioness about to attack, and when I race my lioness comes out to play. It started a long time ago. At times I have felt too reserved to actually do it, but in the end if you can let out a roar before you go it releases the tension of the race and allows for a fluid mentality going through the gates.

Q:  I know you were the only one on the team born in the 70’s. What was it like being the “old lady” of the team? Are challenges different for you now than when you were younger?
A: I wouldn’t go as far to say I am an old lady. Sure, I’ve been around that block a few times, but I am as young as they get, really. Age is a number and my age comes from the seventies, but in reality I am infinite and I just like to go fast. My teammates are my closest friends and I hope I can help create a team that can charge in Europe. I am proud to be teammates with Lindsey Vonn who has achieved the unachievable. I have seen her grow from an innocent 7 year old little racergirl into a very well spoken champion and that has been an experience that changes lives; not only her’s but those around her, including inspiring teammates and anotehr generation of racers. I hope I have also inspired kids to go fast and maybe some mothers, as well.
Q: What are the challenges of being a ski racer and a mom? How do you balance the two?
A:  Thanks be to fate, my husband has been the key to our balance. Both Federico [her husband] and Lasse come on the road. We base out of Innsbruck, Austria, in the winter and live the circus lifestyle. Parenting has come very natural to both my husband and me. We are so proud of our son, and he is the most important part of our lives in every way. It’s hard to get going and get to the gym and things like that, but I have always had a strong will. When I set my mind to something I go at it with all my heart until it’s done. Being a mother has made me a stronger athlete in the end, the balance of life.
Q: You’ve had an incredible career. What would you say has been the highlight so far and why?
A: Highlights and lowlights, as long as we spread the light and share our insight.
Q: Have you started your son skiing yet? Any advice for moms getting their kids started?
A: My brother, Hunter, had Lasse in ski boots and outside Buzz’s [her dad’s shop in Vail] on skis at 14 months. He’s had over 30 days of skiing this winter, both with reins and in between my and my husband’s legs. We never push him to ski. If he wants to go in after one run, we take him in. And when he wants to stay out, we let him rip. I found when we ski with other kids he’s inspired to ski by himself. He loves being with kids so he wants to ski in ski school. I told him he has to be able to stop by himself before he can start ski school. He practices stopping in his shoes. I used the reins, but in the end I found it easier just to have him in between my legs and then when we hit catwalks or places where he can go by himself, I can let go but just stay around him to catch him.
Q: How do you keep in shape during the off season? What’ s your favorite activity?
A:  I would surf every day, every hour, if I could. It’s my passion and I have a love affair with the ocean. I also like riding mountain bikes, water skiing, dirt bikes, swimming, basketball, weightlifting, runnning, doing quickness excersises, circuits, core every morning before I ski, volleyball. I love it all. I am very competitive and very focused. 

Q: How would you compare surfing to skiing?

A: My skiing is very jealous of the piece of my heart I give to surfing. They are both spiritual. Being outside with nature and being a piece of the bigger planet and universe has me captivated for life. 

Q: What’s next for you?
A:  I won’t be sure if I’m going to continue as a ski racer until later in the summer. I gave this last year everything I had and I am still decompressing and thinking about where I want to be in ten years. I feel I could go on to Sochi, but I want my body to agree.

Q:  For the gear heads out there: what do you ski on, when you’re not racing? And when you are?

A: I race on 158 Rossignol Slaloms and 182 Rossignol GS skis. I like the S7’s for deep powder days, and S5’s for an all mountain day. I love running my GS skis for cruising Vail. 

Q:  You have this amazing hair. Do you do anything special to keep it that way?

A: Au natural, I guess. I never brush it. and I like it when it’s a little frizzy.

I also asked Sarah to complete the following thoughts:

My favorite guilty pleasure is: dancing.
If I wasn’t a ski racer, I’d be: lost.
My favorite after ski meal is: Pasta when in Italy. knoedel when in Austria, my pa’s elk stew when I am at home.
Don’t ask me to: stop.

Don’t worry, Sarah — we won’t!

If you’d like to find out more about Sarah, be sure to visit her website here.

Be sure to visit TheSkiDiva.com, an internet forum especially for women skiers, where women skiers can connect with one another to talk about everything and anything ski-related.

Allison Gannet, revisited. April 22, 2010

Posted by Wendy in Interview, Uncategorized.
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It seems to me that a great way to celebrate Earth Day is to re-publish an interview I had in September, 2008, with Allison Gannett. In addition to being a world champion Free Skier, a ski film star, a ski designer, and a master instructor, Alison has dedicated herself to championing environmental causes, tirelessly working to make our planet a better place. She’s worked on the environment with Al Gore, started the Save Our Snow Foundation and The Office For Resource Efficiency, teaches environmental awareness with the Global Cooling Tour, and been named one of the Green All Stars by Outside Magazine.

Alison is also member of TheSkiDiva.com forum for women skiers, and she kindly consented to answer some questions for us.

Q: Many athletes are involved in supporting various causes, and I know you’re extremely involved in the environmental movement. Tell me what led you to become so active in this. When and how did you begin? Was there some sort of epiphany?


A: I have been involved in the environmental movement since childhood and especially college. I was an environmentalist, and worked on consulting for global warming for the last 20 years. My professional freeskiing career came afterwards. I did have an epiphany to blend my two careers when I injured both my knees at the X Games. I realized then that the ski industry was pretty shallow, and that I was just a number. I needed more, so I sought sponsors that cared about doing good for the planet, and that had ideals like my own. Everyone said I was crazy, but it turned out to be the best desicion I ever made. Seems like if you follow your heart and not the masses, things work out better!

Q: As part of this, I hear you’ve built a straw house in Crested Butte. Why did you build it? What were you trying to demonstrate or accomplish? How is it different from living in a conventional house, and is it something you see as really taking off?


A: I’ve always been determined to walk the talk, so building my home was a natural place to show what is possible. Showing is always better than preaching. I built it in 1997, and it was the first straw bale home in a National Historic district – in Crested Butte, Colorado. I designed it and general contracted it. I wanted to show that being green doesn’t have to cost more or look weird. That you can have your cake and eat it too – a beautiful non-toxic home, with super energy efficiency and insulation, built with local materials, and solar electric, solar hot water, and passive solar heating, also.

Q: Tell me about your Global Cooling Tour. What does it involve, where have you been, and where are you going? Does it take up a lot of your time?


A: I started my official Global Cooling Tour two years ago. My aim is to educate the world on solutions to global warming, but doing it with exciting images and movies from my crazy adventures around the world. I work with individuals, businesses, events, communities, trade shows, and governments, teaching my four-step CROP framework for solutions to climate change. I work to show solutions, such as my Ford Escape SUV, converted to a plug-in hybrid vehicle that gets 100 miles per gallon, and the first SUV in the world powered also by solar power. I do many presentations around the US and all over the world.

Q: What led you to choose freeskiing over other types of skiing? What skill sets do you find most valuable for it?


A: I was a bad ski racer as a kid, and also a mountaineer, so both gave me great technical skills. Many years later, I was discovered by Warren Miller’s film crew, and that is how my ski career started. I never could stay inside the gates racing, so it was a natural fit to express myself more freely.

Q: I’ve seen videos of you skiing down some incredibly hairy stuff in Alaska. Can you tell me what goes through your head when you’re doing something like that?


A: The really hairy stuff takes some work, but I think my mountaineering background really enabled me to adjust to Alaska uber steeps easier than most. I could read terrain really well, and knew crevasse rescue and avalanche safety, and I was comforable being alone on top of a remote peak. It still is one of the craziest rushes in the world, but like anything, if you are prepared, it comes naturally. It still is weird having terrain so steep that you can’t see your next turn, with all the snow pouring down around you, and literal free-fall between turns. I also loved showing the boys that women can really rip just as hard as the men!

Q: Is there a particular run or place that really scared the stuffing out of you? If so, what was it and why?


A: I would get the most scared when the people I was filming with did not have avalanche training or big mountain skills, which was pretty much all the time. You are only as safe as your crew to save you if things go wrong, and that drove me nuts filming the sick stuff. When the avalanche conditions would get creepy, I’d get a sick feeling and I learned that it meant to pull the plug and hop a plane home. Lots of bad stuff usually went down when I left. But I also had some close calls with avalanches, and almost complete burials, when I wasn’t paying attention to my gut, knowledge and intuition.

Q: I know you’re involved with Head skis. What do you like about them, and what do you ski on?


A: I am on the Head Women’s team – there are 14 of us, each from a different country around the world, and we get together to design the Head skis, inside and out. I don’t think there is another company in the world that actually has skis designed for women, by women, and I love that. I like that they are easy to ski, yet fun, and the graphics are really cool. I usually ski on the Head Sweet One, which a fat skis that rips on the groomers, and of course is fantastic in powder and crud. Fat skis make me a hero skier, and will do the same for any woman wanting to expand her horizons. We are working on a super fat ski called the Head Bitchy One, and I can’t wait!! It will be 110mm under the foot, but can also ski groomers amazingly well.

Q: What clinics will you be doing this year? When and where?


A: Right now I’m doing the Head Rippin Chix Steeps Camp on Feb 14-15 in Crested Butte. It is open to women who tele or alpine ski black runs and goes up from there in seven levels. I sell out every year, and it was chosen as one of the three best camps in the country. I have special guest champion freeskier instructors, like Wendy Fisher, Carrie Jo Cheroff, Jill Sickles Matlock, and Susan Medville. I’ll be working on several other camps also – check www.alisongannett.com for more info.

Q: Between your skiing and your environmental work, you’ve accomplished so much. What’s next?


A: Well, saving our ecosystems such as our snow and water is a tough job, because it never ends. This year I had some great honors, such as training Al Gore’s staff, and being selected as a Green All-Star next to Leonardo DiCaprio and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the planet is in dire circumstances. My goal is to bring the message of solutions to climate change to Hollywood and the world, working to brand my four-step CROP solutions framework so that people are not so confused in what to do to make a difference. My athletics such as skiing and biking give my life real balance, as my enviro job can be pretty depressing. We are also launching a film on my adventures to document glacial recession in Pakistan this year, and that will be fun going to the big film festivals, while also getting the solutions message out there. I’m also working on educating politicians on solutions, because Washington seems pretty clueless on climate change. I also want to have some fun, by teaching more Rippin Chix camps. And I also work hard to prepare my life for what I predict will be a tough future – rising oil prices, more extreme weather, decreasing food availability, overpopulation, etc. I am working everyday to make my own life more sustainable.

Don’t forget to CROP your life! remember my four east steps to greening your life:
C – calculate your carbonfootprint – www.carbonfootprint.com
R – Reduce your carbonfootprint – eat organic – Clif Bar, and local when possible, support companies making a difference such Patagonia, Osprey, and Smartwool, get an energy audit on your house by contacting your electric company, inflate your tires, take your roofrack off and by a high mileage vehicle.
O – Offset your carbonfootprint – www.carbonfootprint.com
P- Finally, after you have reduced your footprint, produce your own power with wind, solar, etc.

Q: What’s your idea of the perfect ski day?
A: A remote hut in the woods, deep powder, tons of great food, my boyfriend, friends, or family.

Q: What’s your favorite apres-ski meal?

A: I have to say that pizza is my favorite apres meal, but I love chocolate chip cookies, also.
To find out more about Alison Gannett, visit her web site at www.alisonganett.com

Be sure to visit TheSkiDiva.com, the online home especially for women skiers, where women skiers can connect with one another to talk about everything and anything ski-related.

What you need to know about NASTC. September 21, 2009

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A few weeks ago I announced the first ever TheSkiDiva/NASTC clinic, which will place March 1-3, 2010, at Lake Tahoe.

I am so excited about this! NASTC, or the North American Ski Training Center, is one of the best clinic organizations out there. And it is going to be a real blast skiing and learning with the fantastic women from TheSkiDiva.com.

To give you a better idea of what NASTC is all about, I recently spoke with Jenny Fellows, who heads NASTC with her husband, Chris.

Q: What is NASTC, and what makes it different from any other ski clinic?

A: NASTC is an independent ski school with a proven unique philosphy and methodology towards ski improvement. NASTC offers full immersion, multi-day ski improvement programs at some of the best mountains in the world. NASTC ensures that your ski training experience is rewarding both physically and spiritually. Our goal is for you to have the best time on and off the snow.

Q: Tell me about the history of NASTC. How and when did it get started? Do you have a particular philosophy for the clinic?

A: My husband, Chris, and I started NASTC in 1994 to offer the general public a “ski academy” alternative to the quick-fix, one hour or half-day lesson. NASTC was modeled in part on the European ski school model for instructors, the Austrian Bundessportheim, which Chris had been chosen to attend for a season in 1989. We wanted people to have the chance to truly improve, to bring their skiing up a full level. Or, if they had “plateaued,” to get off that intermediate or advanced plateau and up into the next realm of skiing. We felt, and still feel, that one only improves at a sport via a total immersion, multi-day approach where you have the chance to breakdown old movement patterns and rebuild with new ones. We also feel that by following and learning from the best pros in the ski business, your skiing will improve much faster and more permanently. The name we chose for our school, NASTC, or the North American Ski Training Center, contains the original vision of a home base, a “training center.” We even had lodge plans drawn up by an architect friend. But we quickly saw that our clients wanted to go to different resorts, not be stuck at just one. So we now offer 28 clinics at 18 resorts in Tahoe, the US, and worldwide.

Q: Tell me something about your staff. What does it take to be a NASTC instructor?

A: Our staff is comprised of some of the top instructors in the United States. Our trainers are all Examiners and National and Regional Demo Team members, who have gone through a rigorous certification process and made a career of helping skiers like you have a better time on the snow. We handpick our instructors based on their excellence as skiers and coaches and their ability to create a fun and welcoming environment.

Q: How do you envision TheSkiDiva clinic? Levels, group sizes, skills taught?

A: We envision TheSkiDiva Clinic as a really good opportunity for women to come and improve their skiing, and also as a really good time with lots of laughter and smiles! Our NASTC Women’s Team is excited to work with such an enthusiastic and passionate group of women. We will likely have several groups of different levels. Skiers will be grouped according to their skiing level and goals for the clinic. Each group will have about 7-8 skiers and will have their own focus based on the needs and goals of the group. The clinics begin with a short orientation where we split into groups and discuss our goals for the clinic. We head out to the snow and take a couple of warm up runs and make sure that everyone is in the right group. We ski all the way up to lunch. After that, you can head back outside for more free skiing and practice. We also take footage of everyone skiing, and your trainer reviews your footage with you. After the video review sessions we generally have a short tech talk on a topic that enhances your performance and knowledge of the sport. Typically the whole group gets together and goes out to dinner at one of the many wonderful local restaurants.
###

This is truly something not to be missed. The cost for the clinic is $790., which includes three half days of instruction, three days of lift passes, and one group dinner. Lodging packages are available at the Cedar House Sport Hotel.

And get this: if you register by November 1, you’ll get 5% off!

To sign up or for more information, go to the NASTC web site or email NASTC at ski@skiNASTC.com.

Be sure to visit TheSkiDiva.com, an internet forum especially for women skiers, where women skiers can connect with one another to talk about everything and anything ski-related.

Alison Gannett, Off Season June 2, 2009

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Here’s another genuine Ski Diva weighing in on how she stays fit during the off season:

Alison Gannett.


In addition to being a world champion Free Skier, a ski film star, a ski designer, and a master instructor, Alison has dedicated herself to championing environmental causes, tirelessly working to make our planet a better place. She’s worked on the environment with Al Gore, started the Save Our Snow Foundation and The Office For Resource Efficiency, teaches environmental awareness with the Global Cooling Tour, and been named one of the Green All Stars by Outside Magazine.

Q: What athletic activities do you participate in during the off season? Why did you choose these and what is it that you like about them?


A: I surf, road bike, bike tour, mountain bike, practice yoga, and run. I don’t “train” per se, rather I choose things that are fun for me. I love to bike tour — great exercise while enabling me to get exercise while traveling for work on the road. I love using different muscle groups and doing something really different — like surfing. I love the peace of the water, working on a really hard sport, while using my arms and back more than I normally do.

Q: Is there any particular activity you do that keeps you in shape for skiing? How? How often do you do it and what does it involve?


A: I like sports that exercise my whole body. Surfing big waves keeps me in killer shape while having fun, as do all my biking sports, while yoga keeps me balanced — especially after eight knee surgeries. I like to vary my exercise so that it is fun and different. I try to do something every day.

Q: Do you ski during the summer months, say in South America or some other location? Is this for fun or for training purposes? Can you tell me about it?


A: I used to ski a bunch in the summer in South America, but I really like the change of the seasons and really enjoy my other sports and also compete mountain biking. That being said, I live at 9,000 feet, and we can ski almost all year round here, if you want to!

To find out more about Alison Gannett, visit her web site at www.alisonganett.com

Be sure to visit TheSkiDiva.com, an internet forum especially for women skiers, where women skiers can connect with one another to talk about everything and anything ski-related.

Kristen Ulmer, Off Season May 27, 2009

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Ever wonder how a genuine Ski Diva keeps in shape during the off season?

We did, too, so we asked one:

Kristen Ulmer.

A pioneer of the extreme sports movement, Kristen was a mogul specialist for the US Ski Team in the ’90’s and appeared in a number of ski movies, jumping off cliffs and making heart-thumping, jaw-dropping, knee-knocking descents on some of the world’s gnarliest terrain. She’s been named by both the media and her peers as the world’s best big mountain (extreme) skier and overall woman skier, beating out Olympic Gold medalists. And in a cover feature about her life, Powder Magazine called her “the biggest icon the ski industry never expected” and the “protoplasmic mass of the ski industry.” During ski season, she heads the Ski To Live clinic, which combines ski coaching with a western form of Zen teaching called Big Mind.

Q: What athletic activities do you participate in during the off season? Why did you choose these and what is it that you like about them?


A: I ride my road bike a lot — a Cannondale Synapse 3 which I just bought and fell immediately in love with. I ride it super slow for transportation, usually listening to my ipod, and consider it meditation. Even chubby girls wearing flip flops and riding Huffy’s pass me by. It’s definitely not a “sport” for me; it’s more of a slow down in life, then I just ride far enough it’s a workout too.

I also love kiteboarding and take at least 3-4 trips per summer to go kiting. Been doing this for 8 years now which is a long time in such a new sport. Love it because it’s adrenaline based and learning new tricks can be super challenging. It’s also cool just to know how to do it.

Q: Is there any particular activity you do that keeps you in shape for skiing? How? How often do you do it and what does it involve?


A: Biking for sure. I probably ride 25 miles 3 times a week. When the ski season is coming back ’round I start riding up the Canyons in Utah — Little Cottonwood and Big Cottonwood, maybe 2 times a week. Other than that a little bit of weight lifting and I’m good to go. I don’t ski hard anymore and have a pretty efficient technique so I don’t really need to get in shape for ski season anymore. I coach Zen while skiing now, and I don’t ski with pros often.

Q: Do you ski during the summer months, say in South America or some other location? Is this for fun or for training purposes? Can you tell me about it?


A: I don’t ski in the summer unless someone hires me to ski with them and facilitate a wisdom experience alongside the sport. I’ll always love skiing — kind of like I’ll always love my ex-boyfriends — but it’s no longer my passion. My work with Big Mind and Consciousness through the sport of skiing is my current passion.

You can find out more about Kristen Ulmer’s Ski To Live clinics at her website, www.kristenulmer.com.

Be sure to visit TheSkiDiva.com, an internet forum especially for women skiers, where women skiers can connect with one another to talk about everything and anything ski-related.

A conversation with Allison Gannett September 27, 2008

Posted by Wendy in Interview.
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We can learn a lot from Allison Gannett. In addition to being a world champion Free Skier, a ski film star, a ski designer, and a master instructor, Alison has dedicated herself to championing environmental causes,  tirelessly working to make our planet a better place. She’s worked on the environment with Al Gore, started the Save Our Snow Foundation and The Office For Resource Efficiency, teaches environmental awareness with the Global Cooling Tour, and been named one of the Green All Stars by Outside Magazine.

Alison is also member of TheSkiDiva.com forum for women skiers, and she kindly consented to answer some questions for us.

Q: Many athletes are involved in supporting various causes, and I know you’re extremely involved in the environmental movement. Tell me what led you to become so active in this. When and how did you begin? Was there some sort of epiphany?


A: I have been involved in the environmental movement since childhood and especially college. I was an environmentalist, and worked on consulting for global warming for the last 20 years. My professional freeskiing career came afterwards. I did have an epiphany to blend my two careers when I injured both my knees at the X Games. I realized then that the ski industry was pretty shallow, and that I was just a number. I needed more, so I sought sponsors that cared about doing good for the planet, and that had ideals like my own. Everyone said I was crazy, but it turned out to be the best desicion I ever made. Seems like if you follow your heart and not the masses, things work out better!

Q: As part of this, I hear you’ve built a straw house in Crested Butte. Why did you build it? What were you trying to demonstrate or accomplish? How is it different from living in a conventional house, and is it something you see as really taking off? 


A: I’ve always been determined to walk the talk, so building my home was a natural place to show what is possible. Showing is always better than preaching. I built it in 1997, and it was the first straw bale home in a National Historic district – in Crested Butte, Colorado. I designed it and general contracted it. I wanted to show that being green doesn’t have to cost more or look weird. That you can have your cake and eat it too – a beautiful non-toxic home, with super energy efficiency and insulation, built with local materials, and solar electric, solar hot water, and passive solar heating, also.

Q: Tell me about your Global Cooling Tour. What does it involve, where have you been, and where are you going? Does it take up a lot of your time? 


A: I started my official Global Cooling Tour two years ago. My aim is to educate the world on solutions to global warming, but doing it with exciting images and movies from my crazy adventures around the world. I work with individuals, businesses, events, communities, trade shows, and governments, teaching my four-step CROP framework for solutions to climate change. I work to show solutions, such as my Ford Escape SUV, converted to a plug-in hybrid vehicle that gets 100 miles per gallon, and the first SUV in the world powered also by solar power. I do many presentations around the US and all over the world.

Q: What led you to choose freeskiing over other types of skiing? What skill sets do you find most valuable for it? 


A: I was a bad ski racer as a kid, and also a mountaineer, so both gave me great technical skills. Many years later, I was discovered by Warren Miller’s film crew, and that is how my ski career started. I never could stay inside the gates racing, so it was a natural fit to express myself more freely.

Q:  I’ve seen videos of you skiing down some incredibly hairy stuff in Alaska. Can you tell me what goes through your head when you’re doing something like that? 


A: The really hairy stuff takes some work, but I think my mountaineering background really enabled me to adjust to Alaska uber steeps easier than most. I could read terrain really well, and knew crevasse rescue and avalanche safety, and I was comforable being alone on top of a remote peak. It still is one of the craziest rushes in the world, but like anything, if you are prepared, it comes naturally. It still is weird having terrain so steep that you can’t see your next turn, with all the snow pouring down around you, and literal free-fall between turns. I also loved showing the boys that women can really rip just as hard as the men!

Q: Is there a particular run or place that really scared the stuffing out of you? If so, what was it and why? 


A: I would get the most scared when the people I was filming with did not have avalanche training or big mountain skills, which was pretty much all the time. You are only as safe as your crew to save you if things go wrong, and that drove me nuts filming the sick stuff. When the avalanche conditions would get creepy, I’d get a sick feeling and I learned that it meant to pull the plug and hop a plane home. Lots of bad stuff usually went down when I left. But I also had some close calls with avalanches, and almost complete burials, when I wasn’t paying attention to my gut, knowledge and intuition.

Q: I know you’re involved with Head skis. What do you like about them, and what do you ski on? 


A: I am on the Head Women’s team – there are 14 of us, each from a different country around the world, and we get together to design the Head skis, inside and out. I don’t think there is another company in the world that actually has skis designed for women, by women, and I love that. I like that they are easy to ski, yet fun, and the graphics are really cool. I usually ski on the Head Sweet One, which a fat skis that rips on the groomers, and of course is fantastic in powder and crud. Fat skis make me a hero skier, and will do the same for any woman wanting to expand her horizons. We are working on a super fat ski called the Head Bitchy One, and I can’t wait!! It will be 110mm under the foot, but can also ski groomers amazingly well.

Q: What clinics will you be doing this year? When and where? 


A: Right now I’m doing the Head Rippin Chix Steeps Camp on Feb 14-15 in Crested Butte. It is open to women who tele or alpine ski black runs and goes up from there in seven levels. I sell out every year, and it was chosen as one of the three best camps in the country. I have special guest champion freeskier instructors, like Wendy Fisher, Carrie Jo Cheroff, Jill Sickles Matlock, and Susan Medville. I’ll be working on several other camps also – check www.alisongannett.com for more info.

Q: Between your skiing and your environmental work, you’ve accomplished so much. What’s next? 


A: Well, saving our ecosystems such as our snow and water is a tough job, because it never ends. This year I had some great honors, such as training Al Gore’s staff, and being selected as a Green All-Star next to Leonardo DiCaprio and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the planet is in dire circumstances. My goal is to bring the message of solutions to climate change to Hollywood and the world, working to brand my four-step CROP solutions framework so that people are not so confused in what to do to make a difference. My athletics such as skiing and biking give my life real balance, as my enviro job can be pretty depressing. We are also launching a film on my adventures to document glacial recession in Pakistan this year, and that will be fun going to the big film festivals, while also getting the solutions message out there. I’m also working on educating politicians on solutions, because Washington seems pretty clueless on climate change. I also want to have some fun, by teaching more Rippin Chix camps. And I also work hard to prepare my life for what I predict will be a tough future – rising oil prices, more extreme weather, decreasing food availability, overpopulation, etc. I am working everyday to make my own life more sustainable.

Don’t forget to CROP your life! remember my four east steps to greening your life:
C – calculate your carbonfootprint – www.carbonfootprint.com
R – Reduce your carbonfootprint – eat organic – Clif Bar, and local when possible, support companies making a difference such Patagonia, Osprey, and Smartwool, get an energy audit on your house by contacting your electric company, inflate your tires, take your roofrack off and by a high mileage vehicle.
O – Offset your carbonfootprint – www.carbonfootprint.com
P- Finally, after you have reduced your footprint, produce your own power with wind, solar, etc.

Q: What’s your idea of the perfect ski day?
A: A remote hut in the woods, deep powder, tons of great food, my boyfriend, friends, or family.

Q: What’s your favorite apres-ski meal? 

A: I have to say that pizza is my favorite apres meal, but I love chocolate chip cookies, also.
To find out more about Alison Gannett, visit her web site at www.alisonganett.com

Be sure to visit TheSkiDiva.com, the online home especially for women skiers, where women skiers can connect with one another to talk about everything and anything ski-related.