Julia and I played hooky on Friday and headed to Alpine Meadows to participate a ski-a-thon fundraiser for The Wounded Warrior Project. We joined our friends the Kips who are dedicated to the annual event. Phelps Kip is an orthopedic surgeon in Reno who has worked with the U.S. Ski Team for many years, and for the last three years he and the Sierra Regional Spine Institute have also been major supporters of the annual WWP event. My husband Rob is a Navy veteran and so the Wounded Warriors is an organization that we enthusiastically support.
Wounded Warriors offers veterans a range of life-enhancing services, including a sponsored vacation that gives veterans a vacation and the opportunity to learn a new sport…skiing, snowboarding, sled hockey and golf among them. At Alpine Meadows, which has a world-renowned adaptive ski program, WWP teams up with Disabled Sports USA, to work with the veterans.
We gathered in the main lodge at Alpine Meadows at 8:00 a.m. and were each given a GPS unit that we were to keep on all day so our runs could be tracked and tallied (the team who got the most runs won a prize). We were given a list of chairlifts we had to ride two times each. From there is was up to us to decide which runs we wanted to take. Since harder runs earned higher points, the girls picked out a challenging series for us.
The conditions were challenging. The snow was Sierra Cement like you read about. Boot high slush that was very tough to turn in. But we made the best of it and completed our 14 runs in, well, not exactly record time (4.5 hours, including a leisurely lunch break).
All in all it was a great day in honor of a very worthy cause.
This video gives more detail about the event and Wounded Warriors:
There is just no way to get a cheap lunch at a ski resort (Okay, at Dave’s Deli at Squaw Valley you can pick up a hard-boiled egg for $1 or a deli sandwich for about $6, but that’s about as good as it gets).
Of course there are exceptions but in general the food is overpriced and not all that good. So I try to allow myself enough time in the morning to pack lunch. The kids can get some fries or a hot cocoa, but on most days that’s where I draw the line.
Anyway, I found a super easy take-along lunch that’s a huge hit with everyone in my house– shout out to my friend Courtney Corda at ScienceBuddies.org for the idea. Here’s what I bring: a jar of roasted red peppers, a slab of Boursin cheese spread and a baguette or some crackers.
With fruit, yogurt, and other snacks, it’s the easiest ski-lunch-in-a-pinch that I’ve found.
Have you found any affordable food options at your favorite resort? Or do you have any favorite lunch-on-the-hill options that you recommend? Please share.
My husband is one of those people who was a skier but after one day on a rented snowboard bought a board and never went back. No hemming, no hawing. That was about 15 years ago. When I decided to give snowboarding a try, I made the mistake of letting him try to teach me. But I digress. What this post is really about is wearing a helmet.
A few years ago, when I decided to learn to snowboard I had one or two of those head-slamming falls that left me seeing stars. I decided that perhaps wearing a helmet might be a good idea. Once I started wearing one to snowboard — and even though I only ride a couple of times a season — I figured I might as well just wear it all the time.
I can’t remember the last time I fell and smacked my head on skis, but just in case someone runs into me I feel better having one on. The last thing I need is a concussion. Plus, wearing a helmet keeps my head warm (and my hair dry).
These days I’m wearing a Smith Intrigue (the ivory colored one, above). It’s super warm when it’s cold out and has plenty of vents for when it’s not. Some people I ski with say they don’t like wearing helmets because of the dreaded goggle gap. But I wear goggles that are helmet compatible and I’ve never had brain freeze or developed a weird sun stripe across my forehead.
According to Ski-injury.com, an evidence-based website devoted to….yep, ski and other snow-sports injuries, ski injuries are relatively rare, and head injuries are in the minority. Still, I’m taking the approach that I might as well reduce all the risks I can. 80% of Swiss skiers wear helmets, compared with just about half of American skiers (though 77% of kids in the U.S. under age 9 wear them).
Do you wear a helmet? If not…why not? If you have kids, do they wear helmets?
It doesn’t happen all that often, but I get to sneak away from my family for an occasional. This past weekend was the 6th annual girls’ ski trip. I was with family, but it was my college family…my sorority sisters. We’ve known each other for, gulp, going on 30 years.
Wait, we actually woke up to this view, on March 17, from the kitchen window of my friend Mary’s house in the Tahoe Keys:
Talk about the luck o’ the Irish! I mean, could it be any more beautiful?
I wish I could report that we were up and out of the house by 8:00 but we were a bunch of women on vacation with no children or husbands to worry about. By the time we got to Heavenly — the
8:45 9:30 10:00.
This is a shot of me at the base of Gunbarrel, Heavenly’s signature double-black manic-mogul run that from this vantage point looks almost flat. Clearly we missed the best of the fresh. Oh well:
I hadn’t skied at Heavenly that many times before Mary bought her awesome vacation house, and, to be honest, it wasn’t my favorite. Over the years I had had a handful of poorexperiences that made me want to avoid it.
But then Vail Resorts bought Heavenly and this girls’ weekend became an annual event (thank you Mary!!). Let me just say that the customer service at Heavenly has done a 180! From the minute you pull into the parking lot until you walk off the mountain at the end of the day, the staff couldn’t be friendlier or more helpful. Heavenly has become one of my favorite places to ski. In part that’s because once a year I get to share it with this group of lovelies (Mary, Holly and and, not shown: “the other” Dana and — we were a smaller than usual group this year but 5 out of six of us made it onto the snow!) But it’s also because the new management makes the whole experience pleasant.
For the record, my friend Corinna (on far right) and I FINISHED the day with a run down Gunbarrel that was so good we took the chair up and did it again! Sunday was just as good. And the mountain was practically empty.
Can’t wait until next year.
So will you ever ski again? It was a question I was asked countless times during the months that I hobbled around on crutches. My answer for 266 days, until the morning I finally limped out my front door without a cast on my foot was, “Of course.”
That day, though, I had a moment when I wondered: Is it really worth it? Being on crutches for seven months and in a cast for nine…unable to drive for half a year…three surgeries and thousands, upon thousands, of dollars in medical bills….leg muscles so atrophied that I feared I’d never get them back. Oh, and I had a toddler and a preschooler at the time. It was a major inconvenience.
Today I happen to be thinking about those long months because it’s the 10th anniversary of the day I skied into a tree. Back then, when I explained to people who asked what had happened – that I had lost my balance when I veered into a tree-well while skiing in deep powder – the observations that followed ranged from “You’re lucky that’s all you hurt,” to “Skiing is just an accident waiting to happen.”
Yes, I was lucky. And the sport is relatively risky. But so is riding in a car without a seatbelt. What about smoking, skydiving, sitting on the couch and watching television for 15 hours a week. I don’t do any of those things. Skiing is my calculated risk. And I still love it.
I can be riding a chairlift to the top of Mt. Rose, the resort closest to my house, 35 minutes after pulling out of my driveway. In less than an hour, I’m at Squaw Valley. I’m a lifelong skier yet I still feel the thrill of anticipation before each run. Sometimes I find myself laughing out loud as I tear down a slope, or whooping with joy.
I was never more patient with my children than during their earliest days on skis.
Before my accident, without fail, I would stop at least once during the day, take a deep breath, look at the snow-covered Sierras surrounding Lake Tahoe and think, “I am the luckiest person on the earth; I have parents who taught me to ski as a child; I live in this beautiful place; I am healthy.” That hasn’t changed.
These days, though, I also feel the pinch of one of the pesky screws that remains in my right leg every time I push against the tongue of my ski boot. This is what my not-so-bionic leg looks like:
One of these days I’ll succumb to another surgery and have all the hardware removed. But in the meantime, that pesky screw is just another reminder of how lucky I am to be out here.
Have you ever been injured doing a sport you love? Did it change the way you do things?
We live 30 miles from Lake Tahoe, and 30 minutes from Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe so it’s hard to justify traveling to ski. But every once in awhile we have the opportunity to go somewhere else.
For instance, last winter we drove (15 hours, thank you!) to Vail because some good friends of ours have a house there and we just couldn’t resist. It was absolutely worth every minute of the drive. See the smiles on four of us — the littlest ripper was in ski school – on a miraculously sunny day in Vail.
Vail has undergone something of a renaissance during the last decade, with new up-market hotels (e.g. Four Seasons, Arabelle, Solaris) and restaurants scattered throughout the village. The work was done in anticipation of the 2012 Winter Teva Mountain Games and the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships, a spokesperson for the Vail Valley Foundation told me.
Of course Vail has always been a family friendly ski town, and even with the new additions, that aura hasn’t changed. And because Vail is the largest resort in the United States, it has something to offer skiers and snowboarders of every level.
Now that we finally have some snow in Tahoe, all of a sudden there are crowds. And lines. When the hills get crowded, rude and foolish behavior become pervasive. I’m always amazed by the things people do that occupy the gray area between bad manners and stupidity. Here are 10 things that make me cringe:
10. Skiing or riding on terrain that you clearly are not skilled for. One word: lessons.
9. People who duck ropes to enter closed terrain “because the snow is better.” Did you see this article about the rise in deaths related to “side country” skiing, i.e. just out of the boundaries of ski resorts? If you get into trouble and get hurt, you endanger your own health, but also that of the ski patrollers who have to come and fetch you.
8. Skiers and riders who lack situational awareness. If you’re ripping down the hill and you see kids in front of you, slow down. They make unpredictable turns and the more space you give them, the better. For everyone.
7. Skiers and riders who stop in the middle of a trail where they can’t be seen from above. This is a good way to get hit, even though…
6. … the skier/rider who is downhill has the right of way whether s/he’s crossing a trail, turning, or stopping. Always.
5. Getting in the doubles line when you’re single. It just messes everything up.
4. People who step out of their skis/board and just leave their gear sitting at the bottom of the stairs or entrance to the lodge. The racks are there for a reason, people.
3. The bro-dude slamming a PBR in line. Chances are very good that he’s not as good a skier/rider as he thinks he is and he presents a serious hazard to my family and me. Save it for Après, s’il vous plaît.
2. Adults who ski/ride without helmets. D-U-M-B.
Or: That One Day that my Kids Thought I was Cool
Every once in awhile I get to do something that makes my kids think I’m sort of. I got to go to the , for example, on behalf of Fitness magazine. Of course they didn’t get to come with me so it wasn’t that cool.
is a day of guided skin instruction day with a mission to “ski more and talk less” (that’s my takeaway anyhow). This day a few members of the local media had been invited but I was the only one who showed up.
Jonny is a local legend, having won anin moguls in 1998, along with other titles too numerous to list. He’s also a super nice guy. At least he was that day. Twenty women, plus my two kids, followed Jonny all over Squaw’s upper mountain, trying to move as gracefully and powerfully down the hill as Jonny did.
At the end of our day, Jonny gave Liam a pointer: “Push forward more in your boots,” he said.
When our day was over, Liam had just two words for me: “Thanks, Mom.”
But here’s what I imagine he was thinking: “OH MY GOD, that was the best day of skiing I’ve ever had. I SKIED IN JONNY MOSELEY’S tracks for THREE hours. He told me I’m a great skier.: I have the coolest mom in the world.”
He’s a teenager so I’ll never really know, but I’m just sure that’s what he was thinking.
Ever do anything that makes your kids think you’re cool? Ever?
Every once in awhile I find a piece of gear that I will never be able to live without. Ever. Like these Gordini GTX Down mittens.
I bought them 4 or maybe 5 seasons ago. They were not cheap. $90 for gloves is a lot, especially for someone who only buys things when they are on sale. But I happened to be on a work-related ski trip and got to Park City only to find I had forgotten my mittens. (Yes kids, even mom forgets stuff sometimes.) Anyway, it was during Sundance, there was not a sale to be found in all of Park City, and so I had to pay full price.
These babies are filled with goose down and also have Gore-Tex to keep moisture out. All these years later, they are still the warmest mittens I’ve ever worn.
Imagine my chagrin when they were stolen midway through last winter. Let me clarify. The gloves have been added to the list of things that Liam has permanently borrowed. My beloved Oakley Plaintiff sunglasses were the first to go, followed by a pair of running shoes.
I scrounged through the box of random gloves and mittens that have accumulated in my garage but nothing else even comes close to keeping finger-numbness at bay, even if I stuff the mittens with Little Hotties.
So imagine how thrilled I was to find my beloved mittens ON SALE!!!
I wore the first pair at least 75 times before Liam adopted them. He’s worn them another 20 so far. They still get the job done. Since frozen fingers can put an end to a day on the hill, these babies are worth every penny.
What is one piece of ski gear that you can’t imagine skiing without?
Earlier this winter — when we were looking forward to snow that didn’t actually show up until this week — Liam and I lined up a bunch of ski movies on the instant stream of Netflix and had a Warren Miller movie marathon. Liam also introduced me to Teton Gravity Research, Matchstick Productions, companies that produce rowdy ski films. These movies feature lots of shots of young men (mostly) climbing out of helicopters and then hucking themselves off of cliffs and doing lots of other crazy gravity-defying tricks. It’s enough to make the mother of a teenager feel sick.
Then Liam found this video on YouTube. It was apparently very popular with male teenaged skiers, but I found myself watching it over and over again because it’s so mesmerizing. Even though I’m not and never will be an urban skier — or even a fan of urban skiing because, sorry kids, it’s just too dangerous — the video is supercool.
There’s a great backstory with details about the filming of the video on Adventure-Journal.com for those who want to know more. And the song! It’s by LCD Soundsystem, a band I didn’t know before, but is now on our “ski tunes” playlist. That’s the list we listen to as we make the drive up the hill to Mt. Rose every weekend. It’s one of the few pieces of music that my kids all agree on. We have disparate tastes: Liam likes Foo Fighters and The Who; the girls like Pitbull and, um, Kelly Clarkson. When Rob’s with us, it’s Jimi Hendrix, Cheap Trick and Neil Young, all the way. For the record: Times Like These, Baba O’Reilly, International Love and Walk Away are all on my iPod.
My son, who is a suddenly sarcastic teenager, recently told me that I should quit my job as a writer and pursue a new career: police photographer. “A cop because you are such a rule enforcer,” Liam said, “and a photographer because you just l-o-v-e to take pictures.”
Fair enough. I will admit to being a rule follower. And I do love to take photos — especially of my kids. I tell them often that when they have kids of their own they will not be required to take a single photo of them. Ever. But while they live with me, they are subjected to my whims.
We were skiing a few weeks ago at Squaw Valley and I shot this video to submit to Good Morning America’s Your Three Words. If you haven’t seen this Saturday morning segment — it’s usually the last five minutes of the show — check it out.I just love it. Each week the producers pick a song and then they flash a series of quick video that viewers have sent in. They have themes on occasion. For example, a few weeks ago all the videos were of Oscar nominees. Anyway, it’s fun. Here’s my entry:
My video hasn’t appeared on GMA yet but even my kids think it’s not as embarrassing as they thought it would be.
What have you done to mortify your kids lately? Do tell.
Two winters ago my husband, Robert, and I chased our three kids, then 5, 9 and 12, down Upper Lakeview, one of the easier black diamond runs at Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe (our local hill). When we all gathered at the bottom, he looked at me and said, “Thanks for doing that.”
I almost burst into tears.
You see, I was the one who had schlepped the kids up the hill to Mt. Rose just about every weekend, for years. Rob would come along occasionally, but he snowboards and is much pickier about the conditions than I am. Read: It must be sunny. It must be 35 degrees out (at least). There must be at least 6 inches of fresh snow. And he doesn’t like Saturdays because it’s too crowded.
Bottom line: the kids and I ski at least 25 days a season and he’s lucky to get 5.
(This is a photo we took just after our big run.)
As any ski-parent knows, the early years of skiing are FILLED with tears. And the tears are not only the kids’.
There have been many, many days when I’ve thought: Why in God’s name am I doing this? Skiing is expensive. It can be dangerous (more on that later). It can be very, very cold. In short, it can be a huge, huge hassle.
The kids sometimes seem like they could care less. But the fact is, they love it as much as I do. Maybe not every-weekend-love-it, but they do love it.
I wanted to make sure that my kids learned how to ski, properly, early. I’m self taught, but they’ve had enough lessons that their bad habits will not stick with them the way that mine have stayed with me.
A few weeks ago I read this essay about the family ski trip by the astute David Carr, the media reporter for the New York Times, that summed it all up. He does a great job of capturing the drama that is family skiing.