jump to navigation

The Lady In Red. April 19, 2011

Posted by Wendy in Interview.
Tags: ,
4 comments

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.

Advertisements

Announcing TheSkiDiva’s First Best-Of Awards: The ’11 Mountain Top Picks. April 4, 2011

Posted by Wendy in Gear Review, Ski Gear.
2 comments

Everyone’s heard of the Oscars. The Emmys. The Grammys. There are tons of awards to celebrate the best of everything.

Which got me thinking. Why not let the world know what women skiers consider the best in the ski world? So a few weeks ago, I emailed a survey to all 2,700+ members of TheSkiDiva.com, the leading online community of women skiers, to determine their favorites in everything from skis and apparel to resorts. The winners would be named a 2011 Mountain Top Pick.

Now the results are in. No, there’s no prime time telecast on the major networks. Not even on cable (though who knows, maybe someday…..). In the meantime, imagine this: a ballroom filled with luminaries from the ski industry. Look — there’s Lindsay Vonn! Glen Plake! The CEO of Vail! Eddie the Eagle! Everyone dressed in their finest fleece and Gore Tex, sitting down to bowls of ski lodge chili and local microbrew.

Sigh.

For now we’ll have to make do with simply listing the results on this blog. So here are the winners of the 2011 Mountain Top Awards from TheSkiDiva.com

(Please hold your applause til all the winners are announced. )

Favorite Front Side Carver: Volkl Tierra

Favorite Powder Ski: Rossignol S110W

Favorite All Mountain Ski: Volkl Aura

Favorite Ski Boot: Dalbello Krypton Storm

Favorite Ski Goggle: Smith IO/S

Favorite Helmet: Smith Variant Brim

Favorite Base Layer: Patagonia Capilene

Favorite Ski Sox: Smartwool

Favorite Jacket brand: Arc’tyrex

Favorite Ski Pants: The North Face

Favorite Gloves or Mittens: Swany

Favorite Eastern Resort: Stowe

Favorite Western Resort: Alta

Favorite Midwestern Resort: Nub’s Nob

Favorite Eastern Canada Resort: Mont Tremblant

Favorite Western Canada Resort: Whistler Blackcomb

Favorite European Resort: Val d’Isere

Favorite Women’s Clinic: Okemo’s Women’s Alpine Adventures

Favorite Kids Ski School: Keystone

Unfortunately, we don’t have any statuettes or plaques to award. Just a handy dandy logo that the winners may or may not use.

2011 Mountain Top Picks

Congratulations to all those who were selected. To the Divas, you’re the best!

(You may now applaud.)

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.

Early season vs. late season? March 20, 2011

Posted by Wendy in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Which do you prefer?

Me, I’m torn. Nothing beats going out to ski after the long summer-imposed ski drought. That first time I click on my skis, ride the lift, and slide down the mountain is a true release.  To me it almost doesn’t matter if it’s ice or pure powder; I have so much pent up longing that I hardly even care. Here in the east, the slopes are pretty empty before Christmas. So with the exception of some other die hards, during the week I almost have the mountain to myself.

Then there’s spring skiing. After the crushing cold of winter, it’s an incredible relief to ski without freezing; to feel the sun on my face, unimpeded by a face mask or gaiter. And when the sun turns the snow into beautiful, carveable corn, and the rock hard ice boulders into soft-as-butter mounds (again, we’re talking east here), pure perfection.

So like I said, I’m torn. Perhaps I’m being too picky. Maybe it’s all good, and I should just learn to enjoy the moment. And hope the season goes on a bit longer.

Really, there’s no pleasing some people.

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 peek at the class of ’11/’12 March 3, 2011

Posted by Wendy in Gear Review.
3 comments

So many skis, so little time.

That was pretty much my mantra during the ski industry on-snow demo days, held this week at Loon Mountain, New Hampshire. For two days I got to try as many skis as I wanted. The problem: what to try, and what to leave out.

Poor me. 

Just the same, I gave it my best shot. It was absolutely dizzying. To fit in as many as possible, I could only spend a couple runs per ski. So it’s almost unfair to call this a demo. Think of it as speed dating with skis. Still, first impressions can be revealing. Then again, just as in real life, sometimes not. You never know.

On the whole, most of the skis I tried were quite good. IMHO, it’s almost difficult these days to find a ski that’s really bad. I think it mostly comes down to a matter of taste and what works best for (insert condition & level of skier here). For me it’s either “man, this is nice” or “meh, this is fine, just nothing to get excited about.” Maybe I’m not a sophisticated enough reviewer; that could easily be the case. For me, the bottom line is this: if it makes me smile, it’s a good ski.

The trend for next year can be summed up in three words: “Rocker” and “early rise.” These are everywhere, both in new models and in models that have been around for years. Call it a marketing ploy, call it a performance improvement, it’s the Next Big Thing. Used to be you only saw these in powder skis. Not anymore. According to the reps I spoke with, a raised tip has a couple of advantages, even when you’re not in a foot of freshies. First, shock absorption. It’s supposed to make the ski better in bumps. When the ski hits a bump, the raised tip keeps you from getting jolted around. Instead, there’s more of an up and over motion. And second, it makes the ski a bit more forgiving and turnable, since it’s a bit less grabby on the snow. Does it make a difference? I think so. The last change I remember this pervasive was when companies went from straight skis to shaped. So if you haven’t tried it yet, trust me — you probably will.

First, a little about me. I’m 5’1”, 110 lbs, an advanced New England skier. Which means I spend a fair amount of time on hard pack.

And second, conditions. The first day, the snow changed from hard pack to soft, as the temps warmed into the low thirties. The second day we had a couple inches of fresh snow. So no, I didn’t have the foot of fluffy powder which would have been ideal to try the fatter skis. What can I say – you work with what you have.

So here goes.

Nordica


Cinnamon Girl: You know the song in which Neal Young sings “I could be happy the rest of my life with my Cinnamon Girl?” This might’ve been what he had in mind. The Cinnamon Girl is Nordica’s spicy new front side carver, based on the men’s Fire Arrow. A traditional camber ski with a 74 waist, designed for medium and large turns. And yes, it’s that good. The CG is a responsive, grippy ski that’s easy to turn. Think of it as your front-side sports car. Vroom!


Nemesis: I almost hate to reveal this so close to the beginning, but this was my absolute fave of the day. I’d take these home in a minute, and one of these days, I just might. The Nemesis isn’t new; the only change they made from this year’s model is the topsheet. But why mess with perfection? These skis do it all. Even though they’re 98 underfoot, they’re easy to get on edge. A beefy ski that’s solid and smooth, yet playful. These skis will take you through anything. Love.

Fisher
I’ve always loved Fisher skis. Fishers are marvelous for eastern conditions, plus they’re reasonably priced. What’s not to love?

I tried the Fisher Koa 84, which is based on the men’s Watea. Again, not a new ski, though they’ve gone ahead and added some rocker and changed the top sheet (IMHO, they should have stuck with last year’s). The Koa will go through anything and make you feel like a champ. It’s incredibly stable and powerful, yet loads of fun, too. Great on the ice, and crud. I’d love to give these a shot in the powder. I demoed these in a 159. Another ski I’d definitely take tome.

Blizzards


Black Pearl: I don’t know what Blizzard was thinking, but these skis win the prize for the most schizo graphics. The tip features an evil looking purple bull’s head, with blazing hot pink eyes (Say in a Russian accent: “Unh. You are strong like bull!”) But picture this: you can’t tell from the photo, but a lot of the ski is sparkles and stars – the sort of thing that’d appeal to a third grade girl. Its bizarre. Be that as it may: these are fun skis. The Black Pearl features Blizzard’s new Flipcore technology. If I understand correctly, it works like this: most skis come out of the mold with a traditional cambered core. If they’re supposed to be rockered, they’re literally forced into that position. Blizzard doesn’t do this. Instead, it flips the core upside down to match the desired camber of a rockered ski. The ski is then pressed in a non-forced, natural way, which allows the rocker to be produced without bending or artificially shaping the ski in a press. According to the rep, the end result is a ski that’s more stable and easier to ski. All this is beyond me. All I know is that the Pearl is indeed a lot of fun and very responsive. 88 underfoot.


Blizzard Crush: I took these out because I’d heard great things about them, and I wasn’t disappointed. These skis can handle anything I threw at them. The 98 waist makes them great for deep conditions, but don’t let that fool you. These are crud busters, ice eaters, Plus they’re easy to turn, too. Here, too, not crazy about the graphics,. Skied in a 163.

BTW, didn’t try these, but the Viva Magnum’s, a great line that’s been out for a few years, all have rocker. I’d have loved to give these a try, but didn’t have the time.

Elan


Amphibio Insomnia: I don’t know who thought this up – based on the name, maybe someone with sleep issues — but this is one crazy ski. The inside edges are cambered, the outside edges are early rise. According to Elan, this gives you the edge grip and stability of a cambered ski but the versatility and ease of turning of an early rise. Yeah, yeah. I thought. What a gimmick. But does it work? Oddly enough, yes! The result is a great carver that’s loads of fun. I’d consider this a terrific front sider. They’re 74 underfoot. I tried them in a 152. Just be aware: these skis have a definite right and left ski. It says it right on the graphics so you don’t get mixed up. A good idea, I thought.


Zeal: This used to be the Free. They’ve changed the name and the top sheet and given it some rocker, but otherwise, it’s exactly the same. The Zeal isn’t as burly as some of the others I tried, so I think it’s better suited for in bounds skiing. Still, despite it’s width, this is a playful ski that’s nice and responsive. Fun. I think this was around 88 or 89 underfoot.

Volkl


Kenja: These skis absolutely rock. According to the rep, the Kenja is a narrower the Aura (88 underfoot), with a thin profile so it’s “nice and flexy.” The Kenja is fully cambered so it carves a nice turn, yet versatile enough all conditions. I skied it in a 162(?). Steady, stable, with that great Volkl edge. And SOOOO much fun. I heart these skis.


Aura: Yes, they’ve changed the Aura a bit. First, the graphics: the busty geisha girl is gone (good riddance, I say). Instead, there’s a big green hummingbird. It’s —- okay. I think they could do better, but that’s just me. As for its construction, they’ve given it an early rise in the tip, and made it a bit wider (I think it’s 96 now). All in all, a great ski made even better. Dust off your credit cards, ladies. This one’s for you.

Yes, Volkl’s still have the Bio-Logic. No changes to the Tierra (as the rep said, “why mess with perfection?” I think I agree).

Atomic


Elysian: This is a twin tip that’s 98 underfoot. It’s pretty burly, but it handles like a play thing. Turns like crazy, lively, and SOOOO much fun. You just float over the snow. I actually skied this in a 168 with no problem. Something I’d be happy taking home.


Affinity series: A step up from the popular Cloud series (which they incidentally still have). The Affinity Pure, with a 78 waist, is a more aggressive, a bit more turn-y. There’s also Affinity Storm, which is 84 underfoot. I thought the Pure was a great front side ski. Easy to get on edge, playful, responsive, a great carver. Skied the 160.

Rossi

I’m just not feeling the love here. I tried the Attraxion 8, and the new Temptation, and just didn’t feel the kind of energy I felt with the other skis I demoed. Of all the skis I tried, these were my least favorite. That doesn’t mean they should be yours.

Another cool thing from the demo day: Helmets with an integrated goggle that slides up and down. What a great idea! The goggle snaps out, so you can replace it with varying tints. I slid one on and it was waay too big, but the range of vision was phenomenal. Definitely something to watch for over the next few years.

So there you go. There are many other skis I would’ve liked to try. Never got to the K2s, the Lines, the Dynastars, Heads, or Salomons (I wanted to try the BBR, but the smallest length was a 177. No thanks). I also would’ve loved to have tried the Icelantics, but they weren’t there, so no luck.

I think I need another Demo 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.

Ski Jumping, Vermont Style. February 20, 2011

Posted by Wendy in Ski Jumping.
5 comments

Have you ever been to a ski jumping event?

Until today, my answer would’ve been “no.” But today I had the pleasure of attending the Harris Hill Ski Jump Meet, an annual occurance in Brattleboro, Vermont.

Harris Hill Ski Jump is the only 90-meter ski jump in New England and the newest Olympic size jump in the country. The Hill’s been in nearly continuous operation since 1923. Only an occasional snow drought, World War II, and a three-year hiatus to re-build the jump (2006 – 2008) have interrupted the annual tradition. It’s been the site of 18 national and regional championships, most recently in 1992 when Brattleboro hosted the National Championships.

Here’s the jump:

And here’s how you know you’re in Vermont:

The skis the jumpers use are incredibly long and wide, with free heel bindings that allow them to lean forward as they soar off the ramp.

It’s breathtaking to watch.

There were jumpers from all over the place: Steamboat, CO; Park City, UT; Lake Placid, NY. Even a few Europeans.

Although most were men, a few — six, I think — were  young women, competing in the Ladies category. Which reminded me that ski jumping is the only event in the Summer and Winter Games in which the IOC doesn’t allow women to compete.

I’ve written about this a few times in this blog, most recently here and here. I won’t go into it all again now — suffice it to say that the IOC backs up its decision with a variety of crackpot  reasons, ranging from “ski jumping is bad for women’s bodies from a medical point of view,” to “women’s ski jumping lacks universality.” But even today at Harris Hill, it was easy to see that these young women are tremendously talented athletes, and excluding them from the games is beyond belief.

That said, if you have the chance to attend a ski jumping event, by all means, go. Watching people soar off a ramp with huge boards strapped to their feet is an amazing spectacle. And Harris Hill is a great place to do it.

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.

Time To Make The Snow: A Woman’s Perspective February 13, 2011

Posted by Wendy in New York Skiing, Resort Review, Whiteface Mountain.
Tags: , ,
1 comment so far

Snowmaking is a tough job. It’s a delicate balance between air, water, temperature, pressure, and weather. And if the results aren’t perfect, you could end up costing the resort customers. What’s more, there are hoses to lug, all sorts of mechanical devices to deal with, and hey, it’s cold out there!

All this is something Shannon at Whiteface Mountain, NY, knows only too well. For the past four years, she’s been the only female member of the resort’s snowmaking team. And she loves it.

We asked Shannon some questions about her job:

Q: Can you explain a bit about how snowmaking works?
A: Snow is made by water and air under really high pressure. It gets pushed up the mountain and out the snow guns. On average, from start to finish, you can get okay coverage in about five days, provided the conditions are right. A week is nice. It all depends on the wind, humidity, temperature, and weather. It has to be really cold, so sometimes we’ll get freezing in the guns and hoses, even in the line. We try to keep everything cleared out and as clean as possible so it keeps circulating. Once it’s going, it’s usually pretty good. 

Q: How is it being the only woman on the snowmaking team?
A: It’s good, although it’s really easy to be singled out or for people to keep tabs on you.  The guys can be mistaken for one another. Not me. Initially, I think it was harder, now maybe a bit easier — but I have a little seniority, too.  When I first started, most of the guys were not too happy, but it got better each year. The people that mattered, like my boss, noticed I’m a good worker, came in on time, and prepared for whatever job needed to be done that day.  My role has changed over the years and I feel like it’s been good.  I have a great boss and work with some interesting people. 

Q: How was the job in the beginning?  How has it changed for you?
A: I’ve  learned a lot — like how to drive a snow cat, the different types of snow guns, how to make snow (how many people even thought of that), the inner workings of a ski mountain.  I work alone more now, but I like it. 

Q: You must have a different perspective than the men on the team. Have you come up with any new ideas on how things can be done?
A: My first year there, they were pulling small buckets of slush by hand out of the pit in  pump house #1, using rope tied to the handles. The ropes were all wet and would freeze to the door when you were walking out to dump the slush. It sucked, but that’s how they’d done it for years. I noticed a beam directly above the pit and asked why don’t they just put a pulley there. Everyone was amazed that no one had thought of it sooner. Within the day the pulley was up and a carabineer attached to the end of the rope. It’s a lot smoother now. One person pulls the bucket up, detaches it, attaches an empty bucket, and lowers it. The person carrying the bucket doesn’t have a 7 foot rope getting them all wet. You can also use two buckets instead of  one per person. So that was my best contribution, in my opinion. 

Q: What’s a typical day for you?
A: I go all over, so it depends where I am. Some of the typical things I do are operate a pump house, move snow guns and hoses, ride a snowmobile, and dig out air and water hydrants to replace them. 

Q:  It seems like a very physically demanding job. Is it dangerous?
A: Yeah, it’s a little dangerous sometimes. The most common snowmaking injury is a broken leg. We’re on the trails before there’s any snow and a lot of times it’s just rock and ice and you have to where crampons. It’s almost like mountaineering. You have to carry all the gear and set it all up, so it’s pretty labor intensive. 

Q: Would you recommend snow making for other women?
A: Depends, if you like being outside in the winter and have a cool boss. Plus I get a free liftpass and good overtime. 

Q: What’s your favorite part about making snow?
A: Riding the shovel. We have to walk to each gun, so sometimes we sit on our shovels and slide down to where we want to go. 

Q: Do you ski or do other snow sports?
A: I ride (snowboard) mostly, then occasionally get out to X-C ski, snow shoe and ice climb. 

Q: Anything else you would like to say to the folks a home?
A: Have a good time riding it! 

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.

Ode to Joy February 9, 2011

Posted by Wendy in Resort Review.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

I just had one of the best ski days of my life. And it wasn’t at the gnarliest hill on the planet, nor one that’s particularly exotic or remote.

It was at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.

For those of you who don’t know, Bretton Woods is a mellow, modest-sized ski area tucked in the shadow of Mount Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern United States.  The area is known for the magnificent Mount Washington Hotel, site of the historic Bretton Woods conference of 1944, which established rules for commercial and financial relations among the world’s major industrial states (To find out more, go here. But since this is a ski blog, let’s move on.).

Here’s the hotel:

 

Impressive, isn’t it?

The ski area, not so much. Though the sign to at the entrance to Bretton Woods proclaims  “The largest ski area in NH,” it’s really fairly small. The vertical is only 1,500 feet and it’s a mere 464 acres. But the size of the place — or lack thereof — wasn’t the reason we chose to come.

We came on account of the trees.

For those of you who don’t know me, let me confess: I’m a bit of a wuss. You know that risk gene that causes people to huck cliffs and hurtle down 90° precipices? I don’t have it. I’m a decent enough skier, but let’s just put it this way. I know my limits. And skiing in densely packed trees is one of them.

For me, Bretton Woods was perfect. There are glades for all sorts of abilities. You want steep and dense? Check. Prefer something tamer ? Check on that, too.

At Bretton Woods, I became a tree fiend. Plus conditions were amazing. It was absolutely dumping snow. Our tracks filled in almost as soon as we made them.

We were giggling. Howling, Chortling with glee.

In short, we experienced pure, unadulterated,  joy. One of the best ski days I’ve ever had.

As I said before, size isn’t everything. Don’t turn up your nose if a ski area isn’t the biggest one around. You may have your own Ode to Joy.

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.

Pix! From Space! February 2, 2011

Posted by Wendy in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far


If you’re reading this and you’re in the US, chances are you’re being affected by the monster storm that’s hammering practically the entire country.

Groundhog, I think you’re officially snowed in.

Here in Vermont, we’re expected to get about 2 feet. Add this to the snow already on the ground, and you’re talking some serious coverage. A big improvement over last year, that’s for sure.

I found these great pix of the storm from outer space, and I thought I’d share them here:

 

How cold is too cold to ski? January 23, 2011

Posted by Wendy in Uncategorized.
4 comments

It differs for everyone.

Right now I’m in Sugarloaf, Maine, a resort known for its extremely cold temperatures. The high today is forecast for -1°F, the low tonight, a bone-biting -22°F.

Yeah, that’s cold.

This is tough. I hate to be  cold, but I love to ski. So yes, I’ll still go out there. I’m not sure how long I’ll last, and I’ll probably have on everything I own to stay warm.  But this is New England. It’s January. The alternative is to stay indoors and wait for summer.

In case you’re interested, here’s what I’ll have on, from bottom to top:

Feet: Thin pair of ski sox, Hotronics boot warmers, Boot Gloves (these go over my boots) with a toe warmer heat pack placed underneath it.

Legs: three pair of base layers (Hot Chilly’s micro-fleece, Smart Wool, Mountain Hardware Power Stretch Tight), Cloudveil Madison Pants.

Torso: Thin baselayer followed by heavier one; Patagonia Nano Puff pullover; EMS Prima-Loft layering piece; Cloudveil Down Patrol jacket

Face: Definitely a face mask & goggles

On my head: My Smith Variant helmet

Whew! Sounds like a lot to go through, just to have some outdoor fun. I feel kind of like an astronaut gearing up for a space walk. Or a scuba diver getting ready for a big dive. Will I look beautiful? No. Will I stay warm? Hopefully. Am I crazy? Probably.

As I said in the beginning, everyone’s tolerance of the cold is different. There’s even a discussion about it on TheSkiDiva.com.

The bottom line is you have to do what you can to stay as warm as possible, avoid frostbite, and have fun. Let’s hope that’s in the cards for me today.

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 MUST Go to Lake Placid. January 15, 2011

Posted by Wendy in Resort Review.
2 comments

Sometimes it really pays to be the Ski Diva.

Take recently. The Olympic Regional Authority (ORDA) of New York State invited me to take a press tour of Lake Placid and Whiteface Mountain. I’d never been there, so I figured why not.

A better question is, why hadn’t I been there before? If I knew what I’d been missing, I wouldn’t have waited so long.

Some of you are already familiar with the area. You’re either local or have already paid a visit. Well, you’re smarter than I am.

I was positively smitten with the whole Lake Placid experience. The legacy of the Olympics permeates the place. You feel like you’re in the presence of giants. Olympic champions, and those who are associated with the Olympics, are as common as dirt. For example, Ed Weibrecht, owner of the Mirror Lake Inn, where I stayed, is the father of Andrew Weibrecht, winner of the bronze in the Men’s Super-G in Vancouver. They even have his medal on display:

And the woman whose family owns the Crowne Plaza Resort tells us her dad either coached (or coached the coaches) for such champion skaters Paul Wiley and Sasha Cohen. Hannah Kearny comes and stays at her house. She even dog sits for her. As I said, mind boggling. (The Crowne Plaza is also very nice, by the way.)

Olympic facilities are everywhere. You can ski the Olympic Downhill, take the Olympic bobsled ride (which I did, without throwing up OR screaming. Go here), see the HUGE Olympic ski jumps (holy height anxiety), cross country ski where the Olympians do. It’s incredible and humbling –- all at the same time — that mere mortals can play where Olympians play.

Here’s a picture of the ski jump, by the way, which does not do it justice. I skied with a young woman who was an ex-ski jumper. She seemed to think it was nothing out of the ordinary. Can you imagine??

My trip started with check in at the Mirror Lake Inn. Let me say at the outset, this is not your Econo Lodge. And though they do offer some incredible specials from time to time, it’s not for the budget minded. It’s first class, all the way. The Inn is located on the shore of Mirror Lake, and it’s absolutely beautiful:

Here are some pix of the inside, though you’ll find much better ones at the Inn’s website:

If you’re looking for a special place in a gorgeous setting, this is it. Conde Nast named it one of the best places to ski and stay in North America (it was #12), and I’m not surprised. The service is stellar. The staff is attentive, friendly, and willing to do anything to make your stay as pleasant as possible. There are home-made chocolate chip cookies at the front desk, all day long. A four diamond restaurant with terrific food. A great bar and a pub across the street. Ice skating. A fantastic spa, where I had the most amazing facial and chilled out (or heated up) in a eucalyptus steam bath. Amazing rooms, with a few extra-spectacular ones in a couple free-standing buildings across the street, directly on the lake shore (yes, we were given a tour). I could see this as being a great destination, whatever the season. Seriously, this is one of the best places I’ve ever stayed. I know I sound like I’m gushing, but really, it’s that good.  HIGHLY recommend. I will be back, next time with my husband in tow.

So, now for the activities.

1) Skiing. At Whiteface. For years I’ve heard Whiteface dissed as Iceface. Which is one of the reasons I never wanted to go there. To that I now respond: they had the Olympics here for a reason. Twice. So don’t sell it short.

As for “Iceface:” if that referred to conditions, well, this is the East. Like it or not, you’re going to get ice…..er, I mean hardpack. But there have been tremendous advances in snowmaking and grooming, so let’s give it up already. If “Iceface” refers to cold, well, yes, you’ll find that, too. Again, this is the Northeast. You either get used to skiing in the cold, or you stay home and wait for summer. That’s just how it is. That’s why God invented things like down and boot heaters. And there is a Gondola, which definitely helps.

To be honest, I think I probably hit the three best days of the year, weatherwise. The first day it was sunny and clear, not cold, and no wind. No one could believe how fantastic it was. From the summit, you could see all the way to Mount Mansfield in Vermont (that’s where Stowe is), a distance of I’d guess about 80 miles. The second day it snowed like crazy all day: 20 inches of fresh powder. And the third, well, we reaped the benefits of Day #2.

Here are some of the views from the top:

The skiing was positively awesome. Yes, I skied the Olympic Downhill, singing the Olympic theme song while imagining a cheering crowd and a gold medal waiting at the bottom. But I skied lots of other trails, too. There’s enough variety to keep you interested, and tons of fun.

The only downside I can think of is that some of the lifts are kind of slow. But there is the gondola that I mentioned, which gets you to the top in a hurry. And the runs are nice and long, so that sort of makes up to it.

The bottom line: this is one big mother of an Eastern mountain. Whiteface boasts the East’s greatest vertical drop (3,430′). There’s a tremendous amount of great skiing here. You will have a blast.

2) The Olympic Bobsled.

To be honest, I was a little nervous about this. I’m not a roller coaster person. But the bobsled action is more side to side than up and down, and before I got on I kept telling myself not to be scared. So I wasn’t.

I’m glad I didn’t chicken out. It was an absolute blast.

You don a helmet and squish in with two of your all of a sudden best friends, along with a guy in the front, who steers, and a brakeman who pushes you off and then hops on. People said it’d be over in a flash, and though it wasn’t quite like that, it was pretty quick, though you do have time to experience some amazing G-forces. Plus at the end they give you a T-shirt, a pin, and a picture of yourself, looking positively exuberant after your ride. How can you beat that?

3) SPA!!!!! I’ve already talked about the Spa at the Mirror Lake Inn. To be honest, at first I wasn’t too keen on taking time away from skiing to do this. My husband had some advice, “Pretend you’re someone else. Someone less obsessed with skiing.” I think he meant enjoy what you’re doing, when you’re doing it, even if it’s not skiing.

He was right.

Consider me a convert. It was wonderful. So relaxing and great for your skin. You could feel the toxins and anxiety slipping away. After five minutes I was sure I must look five years younger. Why haven’t I been doing this all along? I could definitely get used to having facials on a regular basis. Why not. And the spa there is lovely. If you go, you have to give it a try.

4) Cross Country Skiing. Again, something I didn’t think I’d like. I mean, you’re on skis and you’re not going downhill? Give me a break. Consider me wrong about this, too (hey, at least I admit it!). There are miles and miles of cross country ski trails in Lake Placid. You could ski yourself silly. We had a wonderful guide at Mount Van Hoevenberg, which is part of the Olympic Sports Complex, who gave us excellent instruction and took us through miles and miles of winding, wooded trails. The snow was falling, the woods were beautiful. Ahhhhhhh. Another thing I could get used to.

So there you have it. A trip that was absolutely stellar. If the intent of the Olympic Regional Development Authority was to get me excited about Lake Placid and all its wonderful activities, consider it done. There is so much to do that I missed: dog sled rides on the ice, toboggan rides, ice skating (at the Olympic oval!). I think I’ll have to go back.

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.