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Living Vicariously. July 7, 2011

Posted by Wendy in General skiing.
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While most of us are sweltering in the summer heat, it’s mind boggling to think that some of us are still skiing. In July. In North America. And no, not at Mount Hood.

There’s no denying that it’s been an incredible season with record snow packs. But while my season ended in April (yeah, I’m in the east), some Ski Divas celebrated the Fourth of July by strapping on their skis and making some turns.  I thought I’d post a few pix, so the rest of us could enjoy their good fortune.

Here’s A Basin:

A Basin in July

A Basin in July

And here’s Mammoth:

Mammoth in July

Maybe not ideal mid-winter conditions, but skiing in July???? I’d take it.

To see more pix, 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.

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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.

Skiers who should die in a zombie apocalypse. June 20, 2011

Posted by Wendy in Uncategorized.
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I’m feeling a bit cranky today, so just go with it:

  • Anyone who takes someone on a slope way above their ability and tells them, oh sure, you can handle it; just go. This goes double for adults with little kids.
  • Parents who don’t wear ski helmets, even though they force their kids to wear them.
  • Anyone who spreads out all their stuff in a lodge to “save” a table for lunch.
  • People who don’t tip ski instructors.
  • People who swing their skis on the chair lift (when I’m sitting with them).
  • Anyone who skis too fast and out of control.
  • Anyone who collides with someone and doesn’t stop.
  • Anyone who smokes in a lift line.
  • Those who refuse to alternate in a lift line.
  • Skiers or boarders who block a trail.
  • People who don’t look uphill to see if anyone is coming before they take off.
  • Ski resort people who lie about snow conditions.
  • Inattentive lifties who don’t clean the snow and ice off a chair, or who don’t make sure the seat is in a down position.
  • Anyone who skis or boards with their pants around their knees.
  • Anyone who wears a thick wool hat (not a liner) under their ski helmet. It just looks dumb.
  • People who jump without first checking to see if anyone is in their landing zone.
  • Anyone who litters on the hill or who doesn’t clean up after themselves in the lodge. Slobs!

That does it. For now.

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.

Thanks, Dad. June 15, 2011

Posted by Wendy in Uncategorized.
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Back in May I posted a Mother’s Day tribute to all the ski moms out there. Which is only fitting, since my blog (and my forum, too) are geared toward women.

But with Father’s Day approaching, I thought it only appropriate to give the Dads their due.

My Dad, in particular.

See, my Dad is the one who introduced me to skiing way back when I was 13. No, we weren’t a skiing family. I grew up on the Jersey Shore, which is flat, flat, flat, and where the closest thing to skiing is surfing. Which isn’t really close at all.

But for my 13th birthday, my Dad took us all up to a small resort in the Catskills (that’s in New York state, for those who don’t know), where there was a small hill served by a rope tow. Of course, we all had to try it.

It was dreadful.

Rope tows are evil devices invented primarily, I think, to separate the wheat from the chaff. You have to really want to ski to stick it out on a rope tow. The rope absolutely shreds your gloves. And if you don’t keep your feet in the exact track of the skis ahead of you, you’re going to go down, baby. If you’re like me and fall without letting go of the rope, you end up being dragged a good distance before it occurs to you to drop the rope, idiot, and roll away so no one skis into you and there’s a nasty pile-up with you on the bottom, crying.

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

And yet I stuck it out.

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

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

My Dad doesn’t ski anymore. Like my sister, he lives in Florida, and while he’s in excellent health (knock on wood), he’s 88 and his knees aren’t what they used to be. This doesn’t stop him from swimming half a mile three or four times a week. The man is an absolute machine.

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

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

My Dad at Mount Snow, 1971

For more memories of Ski Divas skiing with their Dads, 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.

Sex sells. But should it in skiing? June 7, 2011

Posted by Wendy in Women.
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The ski blogosphere has been buzzing lately with reactions to an opinion piece, “Pornstars in Powder,”  in the Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald. In it, the author bemoans how women in various states of undress are being used to sell ski gear. “Call me old fashioned,” she says, “but I’ve never understood how a bikini, a bare breast or a naked woman in a canine position has anything to do with the performance, fit and ability of a ski boot to get me down the hill.”

All this is nothing new. I wrote about it here in 2006 in response to Julia Mancuso’s posing semi-nude in Lange ski boots. I get it. Sex sells. People  like to look at women’s bodies. They’re beautiful. I’m not stupid; even I recognize that.

My problem isn’t that these women don’t look great. Or that they don’t have the right to do whatever they want. Or that I’m some kind of dried up old prune who can’t stand to look at naked pictures.

My problem is that this kind of marketing is so tired it almost makes me yawn. Cheesecake ads remind me of the kind of calendars you used to see on filling station walls. It’s so archaic and lacking in originality that it’s practically embarrassing. And okay, so I’m not the target audience for pictures of semi-clad women. But the ski industry does have women customers. And this type of ad makes us feel like we’re not valued as skiers; like we’re trivial and an interesting side show in the skiing universe. And I, for one, find that both annoying and demeaning.

For me, the best ad is one that points out why something is so incredibly great that if I didn’t use it, I might as well stay home. Show me Lindsey Vonn ripping down the slopes on a particular ski. That’s the ski I want to buy. Not the ad that shows ski boots as nothing more than a pair of bedroom slippers.

Which leads me to my next point. If you’re going to use someone like Julia Mancuso or Lindsey Vonn in an ad, why not take full advantage instead of reducing them to the same level as a Victoria’s Secret model (who probably doesn’t ski, anyway)? In case no one’s noticed, these are world class athletes. And instead of being celebrated for that amazing achievement, they’re sitting around in their underwear. It diminishes what they’ve done, it devalues them as individuals, and by objectifying themselves, they objectify the rest of us, too. Because if this what they have to do to get noticed, then there’s no hope that the rest of us will be taken seriously as women skiers.

This debate is far from over. There are always going to be people who think sex in advertising is fine, and it probably is for products like perfume, cosmetics; that sort of thing. But in skiing, I fail to see the connection. It’s unoriginal and effectively trivializes  — and potentially alienates — an entire group of customers. Ski industry, you could do better.

If you’re interested in seeing what real women skiers think about all this, go here for a discussion on TheSkiDiva.com.

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.

—————————————————————

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.

Glub, glub. May 19, 2011

Posted by Wendy in Uncategorized.
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I think I’m drowning here. And I’m only just a little bit kidding.

It’s official. This is the wettest spring on record here in Vermont. The creeks and rivers are high, Lake Champlain is well above flood stage, and we’ve had days on end of rain, rain, and more rain.

For me, the transition from ski season to off season is never easy.  I actually get a little depressed when I can’t ski anymore. But even a die-hard like me knows that ski season can’t last forever. I know, I know — they’re still skiing at some places out west. And during the summer, there’s always Chile or New Zealand. But for me those are out of the question, as a quick scan of my bank account confirms.

Usually by this time of the year I’ve moved on to other sports. Vermont is a great place for biking, kayaking, hiking — all kinds of outdoor pursuits. But with all the rain, I’ve been limited to working out at my local fitness center, riding the stationary bike, lifting weights, swimming laps. It’s not terrible, but it’s not ideal.

Vermont’s the Green Mountain State for a reason. It rains. If it didn’t, we’d be like Arizona or Utah. Places where there’s cactus (cacti?), tumbleweeds, alkaline flats and arroyos. They say the desert holds a special kind of beauty. That may be true, but it’s not for me. I love the green rolling hills, the rushing creeks and rivers, the astounding varieties of wild flowers.

So even though I’ve essentially had it up to here with downpours, mud, and soggy shoes, I should probably embrace the rain and have faith that it can’t last forever. I’ve heard a rumor we may see the sun by the middle of next week. And even though I won’t be skiing, maybe it’s time I moved on to other things. At least for a while.

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.
6 comments

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.

Moms are Ski Divas, too. May 2, 2011

Posted by Wendy in Uncategorized.
2 comments

Just because someone’s a Mom doesn’t mean they can’t be a Ski Diva, too. Believe me, I know it’s rough. The hard stuff always falls to the Mom. She’s usually the one responsible for making sure everyone has the hats, goggles, ski pants, boots, etc. they need on the slopes. Dressing and undressing the kids. Assembling the lunches. Hauling the equipment. Harboring a secret stash of tissues/sun block/chap stick/energy bars for that unavoidable emergency. Accommodating multiple bathroom breaks with all the dressing and undressing that go with ’em. Providing encouraging words after a fall. Driving to and from the ski slopes. Attending ski races. Wiping noses. Wiping tears. Administering first aid. Putting on and removing boots/jackets/gloves/helmets. Making sure nothing gets left behind. Arranging ski lessons. Making sure the kids wear helmets.

So this Mother’s Day, get the Mom/Ski Diva in your life something special. Here are a few things I think would make great gifts:

The Ski Diva Necklace

Let your mom show the world she’s a Ski Diva. Available in a choice of stones. I have one of these — okay, I have two; one in cubic zirconia stone and one in garnet, and they never fail to get noticed. Go here.

Ski Like A Girl T-Shirt

Beneath that sweet exterior, you know your mom’s a bad ass. Now everyone else can know it, too. Features TheSkiDiva.com logo on the back. Available here.

A massage or facial:
This winter I discovered the joys of a facial, and couldn’t believe it took me so long. It’s that wonderful. Don’t let her repeat my mistake. Skiing can be rough on skin, so get her a gift certificate to her favorite spa. She’ll love it.

Season pass for next year:
Birds gotta fly, Ski Moms gotta ski. Get her something she’ll thank you for all season long. Most resorts have special savings if you buy before a certain date. Well worth looking into.

A new camera:
Mom’s always love pictures of their kids. Give her a way to take her own with a new camera. I just got one myself — a Nikon Coolpix S8100 — and I’m really excited about it. This camera received terrific reviews in Consumer Reports and has a ton of special settings, along with HD video and burst shooting, so you can get great action shots on the slopes.

Ski Gear:
Always appreciated. See my reviews for the class of 2011/2012 here, or TheSkiDiva’s selections for our first-ever Best of the Year awards here.

Mother’s Day will be here before you know it, so you better get moving. Don’t make me have to tell you again [Yes, I’m wagging my finger at you]!

Seriously, your Mom deserves it.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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.

You can’t always get what you want. April 24, 2011

Posted by Wendy in Uncategorized.
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4 comments

You know that old song by the Rolling Stones? Well, that’s what was playing this morning when we entered the base lodge at Killington.

Yep, even though you can’t always get the conditions you might like, you can still ski. Which is what we did today, April 24, 2011. Hey, I’d never skied on Easter before. And even though I was sure I ended my season two weeks ago,I figured why not. We’d had a few inches of snow yesterday (albeit wet, heavy stuff). And I had some vouchers I’d neglected to use.

So with the temperature hovering around 50° this morning at 7 AM, we hauled out the rock skis and drove to mountain, determined to get in  a few runs.

It didn’t look too promising outside the lodge:

But looking up at the hill was a bit more encouraging:

Unless, of course, you looked over here (yes, this was open):

Still, it was fun. The views from the top were still beautiful. After all, it is Vermont:

And I was plenty happy. It was Day #81 for me. We only skied eight runs. The temperature reached 60°, and it got pretty gloopy real fast. All the same, a great way to end my season!

Yep, those are Day Lilies coming up at my house. Spring is here!

Happy Easter, all!

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.