March 13 in Skiing Insights by Brion O'Connor Comments Off
2015 Spring Skiing Festivals
Skiing and partying are often synonymous. That goes double during spring. Here are a few of the best springtime festivals from coast to coast.
March 11-April 19: Breckenridge, CO
Breckenridge Ski Resorts annual month-long festival returns to end ski season with a bang, and features a series of events, including a series of concerts with bands such as Third Eye Blind, the pseudo-triathlon Imperial Challenge and Mountain Dew Throwback Throwdown, the GoPro Big Mountain Challenge, and the Closing Day Luau.
March 19-21 and March 26-28: Aspen, Colorado
Bud Light Spring Jam
The 10th annual Bud Light Spring Jam continues like never before with two weekends of new-school competitions, downtown concerts and parties. Visitors will enjoy big air competitions, springtime conditions, live music from artists such as Vampire Weekend, the Greyboy Allstars and more.
March 27-28: Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Jackson Hole Rendezvous Festival
The 5th annual Jackson Hole Mountain Festival weekend kicks off on March 27 with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals headlining a free concert. Then, on March 28, visitors will enjoy the Marmot Coombs Classic and after party.
March 28: Stratton, Vermont
Stratton celebrates Marchdi Gras and the annual Village (Southern-Style) Block Party. Enjoy live music, food and drink vendors, the Famous Ice Bar, fun/free activities for the kids like face painting, caricaturist drawings, acrobatics, stilt walking and more.
April 3-5: Sunday River, Maine
Parrothead Festival Presented by Bud Light Lime
Celebrate another great season with live music, a margarita mix-off, cover bands, and a key lime pie-eating contest. To take full advantage of all of the skiing, sun, and parties at Parrothead Festival, you’ll want to spend the full weekend here.
April 4: Loon Mountain, NH
Break out the straight skis and neon fanny packs for this day-long celebration of big hair and bold fashion choices. When you’re done hot doggin’ for the day, walk like an Egyptian to the Bunyan Room, where an ’80s cover band will help you relive the best decade of the last millennium.
April 9-12: Sugarloaf, Maine
27th annual Reggae Fest
The annual Bud Light Reggae Fest at Sugarloaf is traditionally the biggest springtime party in Northeast ski country. Last year the “Loaf” celebrated Reggae Fest’s 26th edition with an incredible lineup, record-breaking crowds, awesome spring skiing weather and California reggae artist, Iration. Expect an even bigger party this year.
April 12-18: Vail, Colorado
Spring Back to Vail
Vail’s huge end-of-the-season bash features on-snow events, street parties, the World Pond Skimming Championships and free concerts from artists including Guster, Wyclef Jean and the Robert Earl Keen Band.
April 16-25: Whistler, British Columbia
TELUS World Ski & Snowboard Festival
This is Whistler’s defining celebration, a 10-day (and night) showcase of the latest progressions in the skiing and snowboarding world, where even the art events are packed full of adrenaline. Guests enjoy Canada’s largest free outdoor concert series with career-making showdowns of action sports and lifestyle fashion, photography and film, the best spring snow conditions and serious nightlife.
April 18: Jay Peak, Vermont
6th Annual Tailgate Party
Prizes and party. Judged categories include best presentation, best dish, best drink, and overall tailgate champions. Post Tailgate Party starts up at 4 p.m. with live music by Sweet Jayne.
Photo: A-Basin courtesy of Coloradoski.com
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Printable Ski Gear Checklist
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March 7 in Skiing Insights by Brion O'Connor Comments Off
Prepare for Shifting Temps and Conditions
Ah, spring. Is there any single word that evokes so much promise for skiers of every stripe. From diehard powderhounds to weekend warriors, spring conjures images of breathtaking blue skies, dazzling sunshine, and some of the best conditions of the season.
Of course, spring can have a nasty side as well. No one knows that better than New England skiers. After all, the Northeast is where skiers jokingly refer to our famous boilerplate “blue ice” as “New England powder.”
Warmer temperatures also mean shifting conditions, on several fronts. We all dream of perfect surroundings, but Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate. Some years ago, at my brother Sean’s early-April Sunday River bachelor weekend in Maine, the snow was in great shape, but a pelting rainfall forced us to ski with trash bags to protect ourselves, and a thick, heavy fog reduced our visibility to just a few feet.
So what’s a spring skier to do? To get answers, we reached out to Keri Reid, assistant director for Okemo’s Ski + Ride School in Vermont, for a better idea of how to handle any spring surprise, good and bad. Her first recommendation? Don’t trust the weather report.
“Be prepared for any and all conditions,” said Reid. “Dressing right becomes quite the conundrum. One minute you’re freezing, the next you’re sweating.”
Reid suggests getting a high-quality shell – an un-insulated jacket – that can be worn with many or a few layers underneath.
“Gore-Tex and similar fabrics offer breathability and waterproofness for those pesky wet days,” she said. “Layers are the name of the game. As the day progressively warms, you can peel off fleeces and such to stay comfortable.”
Proper preparation includes making sure you not only have the right clothing, but also that your gear is ready to go. Skis and snowboards can be tuned differently to address the variable conditions you should expect to find after February.
“A good tuning tech can prepare your skis to best deal with the slushy spring conditions,” said Reid. “The right base structure can help to shed water and ensure maximum gliding capacity.”
Regardless of your gear, spring can present unique challenges for skiers unfamiliar with the impact of fluctuating temperatures. One of my most vivid spring skiing memories of recent vintage dates back about six years. My family and I were having a great March outing at New Hampshire’s Mount Cranmore. It was the quintessential spring outing, with great conditions from top to bottom at the start of the day. But by late morning, the snow near the bottom of the hill had softened up considerably. My daughter Maddi, who was 12 at the time, wasn’t quite prepared for it.
After a half dozen runs, we decided to head in for lunch. On a long, flat run-in to the base, Maddi turned to cheer us on. What she didn’t account for was the heavy, mashed potato snow under her skis. Poor kid caught an edge, and launched. Skis, poles, goggles, and gloves went everywhere. Maddi went down hard.
Even with her helmet, Maddi suffered a mild concussion. The lesson, of course, is that spring can bring conditions that are at least every bit as unpredictable as mid-winter. According to Reid, spring skiing is a “a mixed bag. You never know what the day is going to throw at you.”
“The mornings usually start out cooler and firmer, with conditions morphing throughout the day,” she said. “The mountain becomes a true challenge, testing your stance and balance. With temperatures rising, skier traffic causes natural moguls to form in places that may typically be groomed. Bumps can be even more difficult as they set early and late in the day.”
Since conditions can change dramatically over the course of the day, your approach to the trails needs to be flexible as well.
“Mornings in the spring should be about warming your body up, same as the snow does,” said Reid. “Stick to runs that were groomed the night before and schuss out the runs that are in the sun early. Those are the ones that you’ll want to hit up first.”
As my Maddi learned, when that morning corn snow softens, it can be treacherous. If your legs start to tire while pushing around the afternoon mashed potato snow, don’t be shy about finishing up early. Which brings us to technique.
“When going down trails that have really gotten slushy, try to look ahead and anticipate how the snow will impact your skis and, subsequently, your balance,” said Reid. “If you’re headed towards a mound or mogul, you’ll likely be pushed to the rear. Fight back by moving your feet forwards through the snow.
“A strong, athletic stance helps to set skiers up right for these kinds of conditions,” she said. “Think stacked: knees over toes, and hips over boots.”
See our listing of great spring ski festivals and mountain events. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
Photo Courtesy of Crystal Mountain
How to Find a Ski Partner
Ski Gear Checklist (Printable!)
Key Ski and Snowboard Accessories
March 4 in Product, Reviews by Steven Abramowitz Comments Off
They Tried the Ski Boot Bag that Hauls All
Girls’ Life Magazine (GL) put the Kulkea Powder Trekker ski boot bag to the test. In the hands of their resident ski instructor, Amanda, Girls’ Life discovered the beauty of the Powder Trekker and its Intuitive Packing System. “Before getting the Kulkea Powder Trekker boot bag, I lugged around a huge blue duffel bag with all of my ski gear — well, and some other stuff too….Once I moved into the Kulkea boot bag, my gear went from chaos to compartmentalized, and I was at once more organized.”
Amanda was happily impressed by the smart hauling capability of the Powder Trekker. “The beautiful thing about this bag is that there is a place for everything, but only enough space for what you truly need. There’s an insulated pocket in the front compartment for lunch. The large central compartment is big enough for gloves, a hat and neck warmer, snow pants and a layer or two. I reserve the small pocket on the very top of the bag for my goggles (the inside of the pocket is lined with fleece to protect delicate lenses), my phone, deodorant and a travel bottle of lotion for cold, windy days that are harsh on my skin.” And, the helmet sling was a welcome bonus! “The sling pulls out and wraps around a helmet, so you don’t have to find a place for it elsewhere, a brilliant design given that helmets tend to be the most cumbersome item to find a place for in a ski bag.”
It is more than the superb design of the Powder Trekker that won over Girls’ Life. It is the technical features, such as ventilated boot pockets and weather protective fabrics. It is the “bulletproof” durability and workmanship. It is an organizer that allowed Amanda the correct amount of space for what she “really, truly, absolutely” needs for a day at the mountain. The Powder Trekker is a great ski boot bag for going from the home to the car to the hill.
Read the full review from Girls’ Life.
More Kulkea ski boot bag reviews.
Image courtesy of Girls’ Life Read More
February 4 in Skiing Insights by Brion O'Connor Comments Off
Looking for a Ski Partner? Choose Wisely
Skiing is undeniably a social sport. After all, it’s the original “the more, the merrier” winter pastime. That’s why ski clubs can be such a blast. But the truth is a ski outing with the wrong mix of people, or simply the wrong attitude or wrong set of expectations, can go horribly wrong before you even get on the hill.
Now, I’m not a pessimist; just a realist. A ski retreat can mean different things to different people. The more bodies you add to the mix, the more likely you’re going to have a difference of opinion. Sometimes, it only takes one other person. Depending on whether that person, or persons, is a certain someone special, a family member, an old buddy, or a colleague, you’ll have some choices to make.
So here are a few tips on finding, and keeping, the right ski partner (or partners):
Skiing with a significant other
With Valentine’s Day in February, it’s always tempting to head for the hills to celebrate this amorous Hallmark holiday. But it’s no secret that mixing your passion and your love life can be a dicey proposition.
My younger brother Mike, an expert skier, taught me a great lesson about skiing with a significant other. Long before he married, Mike was dating a really fun woman with a terrific sense of adventure but precious little skiing experience. Even though Kathleen (not her real name) was game to learn how to ski, Mike didn’t have the requisite patience to wait for her to “catch up.”
However, snowboarding was just coming into vogue, and Kathleen, a good athlete and skateboarder, thought this new sport looked intriguing. Mike, a natural athlete, was willing to give snowboarding a try, and quickly went out and bought a pair of planks. And the two of them absolutely clicked, quickly learning how to snowboard together. It was a tutorial in being flexible and creative, two really important traits in making a mutual ski outing work.
I’d also recommend avoiding the longer, weekend getaway for an initial date. If you and the apple of your eye aren’t seeing eye-to-eye, and you’ve already dropped some serious coin for a weekend hotel and two- or three-day lift passes, things can get frosty fast. The single-day outing gives you a ready escape clause if sparks aren’t flying.
Another thing I’ve learned, if you’re determined to take a multi-day trip, is to spend a few extra bucks and rent a place on the mountain. My wife is a solid skier, but doesn’t share my intrinsic need to be first on the hill the minute the lifts start running. Lauri prefers to ease into the day, which was a problem if we weren’t staying right at the resort. Typically, I’d be champing at the bit, prowling around the hotel or condo while Lauri would meticulously make the coffee and prepare for the day (I guess finite patience is a family trait).
Conversely, with a slope side condo, I could jump on the trails before Lauri was out of bed, bang out a few turns, and swing back in time for a fresh cup of coffee and a bright-eyed bride. Perfect.
These days, after many years of marriage, Lauri and I are comfortable enough with each other to take separate shuttles to the hill, so slope side isn’t quite as important. That’s a nice way to save a few bucks. Great mobile phone service helps as well, as Lauri can let me know once she gets to the lodge.
Skiing with friends
These outings can be a blast. Who among us doesn’t love to relive our wild and unfettered youth? Nothing makes that easier than a boys’ or girls’ weekend with our closest pals. But they can also go sideways quickly if you’re not careful.
Again, knowing everyone’s ability level is a good place to start (remembering, of course, that people often lie about just how good they are). If you’re skiing together, find trails that match the level of the lowest common denominator in your group. If you knowingly bring a novice to a black diamond because that’s what you want to do, you’re just being a jerk, not a friend.
One rule should be paramount: “What happens on the slopes, or at après ski, stays at the resort.” OK, even that rule has limits, considering you might also be good friends with a friend’s spouse or partner. But, by and large, your pals should be able to enjoy themselves without thinking they’ve brought their parents along. (I always ask my friends to avoid putting me in a compromising situation regarding their partners. And they respect that.)
As far as being goofy, and simply having a good time, I’m all in.
Skiing with couples
Drawing again from another “like experience,” an old windsurfing buddy once gave me a great piece of advice on tackling a new sport with couples. Switch partners. It’s amazing how much more patience you have when you’re providing lessons for a friend’s spouse. This requires a certain level of trust among all participants, obviously, but if you’ve got that, it’s a great option.
It’s also a good idea to make sure you’re all on the same page for après ski activities. Some might want a candlelit dinner, and others a raucous night on the town. My suggestion is to let folks do what they want. There’s no reason to be rigid, and coerce others to go along with your plans. That rarely ends well. Again, this is why it’s important to avoid setting expectations beforehand, and maintaining a sense of give-and-take.
Speaking about ski trips with couples, keep in mind that many ski resort accommodations were built either quickly or on the cheap (or both!), and can feature notoriously thin walls. Need I say more? No, I didn’t think so.
Skiing with family
I’m one of six siblings; a classic super-sized Irish Catholic clan. Some of us ski often, and some not so much. We all have significant others, and three of us (myself included) have kids. All together, we number 21 (plus six hounds). That’s a pretty good definition of “logistical nightmare,” especially with children in the mix.
We make it work by communicating early and often. Make sure there are plenty of options for everyone, so no one feels like they’re being pigeonholed, or being asked to do something they’d rather avoid. That’s why all six of us are still such great friends!
Skiing with co-workers
Want to see your co-workers’ true competitive colors? Sign them up for a NASTAR race. Nothing quite ups the ante of an inter-office rivalry like running gates. Think of it as a mid-winter alternative to the company softball game.
Of course, if your boss is talking trash, and it’s clear you can take him (or her), then you’ve got a decision to make. Think long and hard about whether the bragging rights that come from a slalom win (or schuss to the lodge) are worth the potential office backlash. I’m not suggesting you “let” the boss win; I’m a competitive guy myself. In that situation, I might avoid racing altogether.
Here’s another concern. The “what happens on the ski slope” rule, while ironclad among good friends, can be trickier among colleagues. The last thing you want is to have an embarrassing on-hill or après ski incident following you back to the office. Discretion is highly advisable (see previous point about the paper thin walls at your hotel or condo).
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10 Tips for Skiing with Kids
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January 12 in Skiing Insights by Steven Abramowitz Comments Off
Smart Tips when Skiing with Kids
Those idyllic scenes and enjoyable moments of family skiing are yours for the taking. With a little planning and preparation you can avoid the pitfalls. Here’s a short list of what it takes.
- Ski a Family Friendly Mountain - There is a mountain out there for every skier. Find a mountain with the right terrain and amenities for your family. Make sure to consider trail difficulty, mountain conditions, weather, lodging, ski schools and après activities because they all impact the experience.
- Get Organized - Losing, forgetting or misplacing gear, apparel or accessories when skiing is often stressful and costly. Reduce the risk by ensuring each skier has his or her stuff organized in a compartmentalized ski boot bag that has a place for everything, including lunch and water.
- Young Children - A duffle bag or children’s sized ski boot bag will do. Parents usually end up carrying this bag so both a handle and shoulder strap are helpful.
- Older Children - Check out Kulkea’s lightweight Powder Trekker ski boot bag for smaller sized teenagers. For larger sized teenagers Kulkea’s Boot Trekker and Speed Pack ski boot bags are perfect.
- Parents – Don’t forget to take care of you too! It’s critical that your stuff is stowed in a comfortable, ski boot backpack. You’ll need your hands free for the car keys, to help the kids, to buy lift tickets, etc. Checkout Kulkea’s Boot Trekker, Powder Trekker and Speed Pack ski boot bags.
- Learn the Mountain Logistics – Where is parking in relation to the lodge, ski school and ski shop? Is it a long walk? Are there drop-off points, buses or valet services?
- Know the Elements - It sounds obvious, but watch the weather. If it’s sunny don’t forget the sunscreen. If it’s freezing or windy remember face-masks, balaclavas and all the layers.
- Bring the Phone – Keep it on your person and make sure it is charged up! You’ll want to stay in touch with the kids and ski schools and other family members.
- Scope the Mountain – Carry or download a trail map. Make sure the family knows which lifts you’ll be using.
- Pick a Meet-up Location - Pick a meeting point in the event anyone gets separated on the mountain. It will eventually happen so it’s a good idea to have this plan even when off-mountain.
- Be Smart About Lunch – Pick a location and time to meet. Take an early or late lunch to avoid the crowds and get a seat. You can save some money by packing a lunch and water in your ski boot bag.
- Dinner Reservations – Book early. Don’t wait until the day of to think about dinner, especially at large resort areas during holidays and school vacation weeks.
- Bring a Bathing Suit & Flip Flops – The kids will be looking-forward to a hot tub or swimming, sometimes more than skiing so do not forget these important items.
Use these 10 tips to make the most out of your next family adventure on the slopes. Also, see our related articles for additional tips and insights.
Family Ski Gear Checklist (Printable!)
Teaching Kids to Ski
The Right Stuff for Family Skiing Read More