Friday, September 28, 2007

Why don't more women ski?

Let's face it -- there are far more men than women on the slopes. It's one of the reasons I launched TheSkiDiva.com -- to give women skiers a place to connect with one another.

So what's keeping women off the slopes? I already posted about this a while ago (go here). But here are a few more thoughts about this from some of the members at TheSkiDiva.com:

  • When I was in college a lot of my friends skied. But as I got older, they got fewer and fewer. For some it was kids, and the whole process was too difficult. For others, it was money. And for others, it was just lack of either time or interest. I'm the only one of us who's managed to keep at it.

  • I think as woman age their priorities change. High School age and younger, they have no responsibility, and are able to enjoy skiing without guilt. College age there's more responsibility with school, but no families or children yet. After graduation there's jobs, thus less time for skiing, more dedication to climbing the corporate ladder etc. Finally marriage, kids, lots and lots of responsibility less and less time for skiing. Skiing isn't a priority any longer and goes by the way side.

  • Part of the reason women fall into supporter roll is because of the way we're brought up, but I think another part of it is that "we" reorganize our lives and reprioritize our lives all the time. We tend to reinvent ourselves when things happen in our life, and adjust our priorities. If a guy is a skier when he's single, he'll likely be a skier when he's married, and when he becomes a dad..............(you get the idea), When an average woman makes those transitions her her life, I think she tends to adjust priorities more readily, and thus the lack of enthusiasm for a given activity.

  • It seems women get distracted from skiing by the parenting and total family expense; unfortunate more fathers don't step up and insist on hanging in the lodge and encouraging mom to get back out there. I don't live in the land of make believe -- couple of my friends husbands did encourage them to get back out there and take turns in the lodge. It makes the difference, for these friends they are still skiers -- with and without family.

  • 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.

    Monday, September 24, 2007

    A conversation with Didi Lawrence.

    Didi Lawrence is an incredible woman. In March, ’07, as part of a personal spiritual quest, Didi traveled to Nepal where she skied Annapurna (26,538 ft), one of the world’s least climbed mountains.

    This is an incredible feat for any skier, let alone a 52-year old recovering alcoholic who suffered a broken pelvis just a few years ago. Didi also conducts a women’s ski clinic at Aspen Highlands, as well as a Masters Extreme Clinic for women. Plus she’s a gear tester for Ski Magazine (that’s her on the cover of the 2006 Gear Guide).

    From her home in Aspen, Colorado, Didi talked about her trip to Nepal, as well as about her skiing legacy and her clinics.

    Q. Your mom, Andrea Mead Lawrence, is the only American to have won two gold medals at a single winter Olympics. Your dad, David Lawrence, was on the Olympic Team as a coach. And your grandparents founded Pico Mountain in Rutland County, Vermont. Has this legacy been a blessing or a curse?
    A. It’s been a combination of both. I grew up under my mother’s umbrella, so there was always a certain expectation from the outside that I’d follow in her footsteps. After all, everyone has so much admiration for an extreme athlete. But it’s also been a blessing, because the gift my parents gave me was skiing. But they never pressured me about it. The only pressure they put on me was to have a great life.

    Q. Why did you go to Nepal and what was the scope of the trip?
    A. For me, it was more a spiritual journey than about skiing – though that was a thrill, too. I was part of a group of four Americans, and even though we only skied three days and took a total of seven runs, it was absolutely incredible. We skied the north side where probably no one had ever skied before. The rest of the time – we were in Nepal a total of three weeks -- we went hiking, sightseeing, visited temples, even went to a Maoist rally. And we went parahawking, too. That’s when you paraglide with birds of prey who are trained to show you where the thermal currents are.

    Q. What did you get out of going to Nepal?
    A. As I said, this was a personal journey. Everyone struggles with who they are. Even though I’ve been through a lot, the universe has given me a second chance at life, and I’m so grateful just to be alive. The trip helped me realize the enormity of life and how great the universe really is. It was also about my love for my mom and what she’s done with her life. I’ve always been her personal champion. For me, it was a spiritual awakening.

    Q. What was the highlight of the trip for you?
    A. There were a lot of different ones besides skiing. But here’s one of the skiing ones: On the first day, two of us plus our guide went to the top of a run that was about 100 yards wide and 3,000 vertical feet. It’d never been skied before, and there was powder up to our knees. When we got to the bottom, both of us burst into tears. It was so wonderful -- like a magic carpet. We named it Mom’s Run, in dedication to our moms.

    Q. Tell us a bit about your clinic in Aspen. What are you teaching, what do you want attendees to come away with?
    A. I run a local women’s clinic every weekend. As you know, there are 10 levels in PSIA. I’ve added a level 12, and it's for women who want to experience steeper, deeper terrain. I tell them how to do it in an offensive rather than a defensive way. It’s extremely empowering, and it runs every weekend, January through March.

    I also run a Masters Extreme Clinic for women for four days in January. This is a huge draw for women who want to experience life and grow. I see skiing as a metaphor for life and how I approach my fears. Life is about confronting your fears and getting through them. In this clinic, we move through the fear that may be blocking their growth. I take women to experience the mountain in the same way that I do. It’s both empowering and emotional, and It really opens up the whole universe for women to ski in a way they they’ve never done before, without men or boyfriends.

    Q. What are you skiing these days?
    A. My boots are Nordica Doberman 130s. And my skis are Nordicas, too: the Olympia Firefox. Nordica has done a great job with its women’s program, and I feel honored to work with them.

    Anyone who wants to contact Didi about her clinics may do so by emailing her at didilawrence@comcast.net.

    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.

    Tuesday, September 18, 2007

    The Zen of Skiing.

    I've been hearing from a lot of people lately how skiing is a metaphor for life. And the more I think about it, the more I think it's true.

    Here are some thoughts on the subject expressed by some of the women over at TheSkiDiva.com:

  • You can't have fun getting down the mountain if you're down on yourself.

  • Skiing requires that you give up control of the things that seem obvious (leaning into the hill=safe) and surrender yourself to falling. The joy that comes with that experience is astonishing.

  • Forget about being in control: Be in balance and you will be able to control your response to the conditions around you.

  • Stop once in awhile, breathe, and enjoy the view around you.

  • All physical discomfort is relative: There was always a colder day, a sorer muscle, a meaner boss, a more difficult co-worker, etc.

  • It's important to be flexible, the best laid plans can be disrupted by unexpected events (what do you mean that chairlift is not running today?).

  • Falling down once in a while is part of life. So what. Get up, dust yourself off, and move on.

  • For every down there is an up. And vice versa.

  • Control takes a certain measure of self-awareness, practice, and discipline. Don't just launch yourself into something without knowing what you're doing. Have the tools at hand to handle the situation, and you'll be fine.

  • 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.

    Thursday, September 13, 2007

    Boot up.

    It wasn't too long ago that all ski boots were built the same. You had the same boots as your brother or your husband or your son. There weren't any just for women.

    Now that's changed. And it's not that they're making them in pink (thank God it hasn't come to that!). Manufacturers have finally realized that women have special needs in boots, just as they do in skis. Many now offer female-specific models. And they're worth checking out.

    Women tend to have lower, thicker calf muscles than men, so the cuffs may be larger, lower, or scalloped. Our anatomy may make it harder for us to get forward, so boots may include heel lifts, spoilers, or other devices. And because we're (generally) lighter in weight than men, the shell may be softer. (Look for a boot that can provide this without any sacrifice in lateral or rear support.) Some boots may even have cushier, warmer insides to reflect our cushy, warmer insides (not really; it's just because that's something we like).

    Boot shopping takes time, and it takes some real expert assistance. So be sure to visit a shop where there's an expert bootfitter on staff. Your feet will thank you.

    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.

    Sunday, September 09, 2007

    A few words with Gold Medalist Deb Armstrong.


    Deb Armstrong is a skier's skier. Winner of the Gold Medal in the Women’s Giant Slalom at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo, she's been inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame and is on the PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) National Alpine Demo team.

    I caught up with Deb while she was packing for her move to Steamboat Springs, CO, from her home in Taos, NM. After eight seasons overseeing the ski school at Taos, Deb is assuming the position of Alpine Technical Director at the ski school at Steamboat.

    Q: Why the move to Steamboat?
    A: Ski technique is my passion, and I'll have a wonderful outlet there. I've loved working at Taos, but Steamboat is offering me what I'm looking for. There's more potential for involvement in more programs.

    Q: Why did you decide to instruct?
    A: I'm passionate about delivering the gift of skiing. I think I can relate well to people of all levels and deal with them as individuals. That's important.

    Q. Do you have a philosphy for skiing and instructing?
    A: Skiing is a life long learning process. It's a metaphor for so many things, and there's always more to learn. When I instruct, I try to be accessible and very clear. I try to get everyone excited about skiing.

    Q. Is there one problem you see more than others in women skiers?
    A. That's hard to say. Everyone is different, men and women. For some, it might be equipment problems. For others, it might be confidence. I much prefer to treat women as individuals rather than lump them all together in one group. I think that can be demeaning and frustrating. As a woman myself, I can be sensitive to a whole scope of things that might be going on.

    Q. Do you ever get scared when you ski?
    A. When I was racing there was so much adrenalin that this wasn't really an issue. Skiing can be a mental game. You have to learn quickly that if you're fearful, you'll lose the tools that can help you succeed. When you're scared you freeze up or lean back. So you have to be smart. You can't get in over your head. And you have to ski with conviction. It'll keep you over your feet.

    Q. How has your skiing changed over the years?
    A. The equipment has changed a lot, and that brings in technical changes. I've had to evolve my technique. I've worked hard at that.

    Q. What are you skiing on these days? Skis and boots?
    A. Nordica is making amazing skis these days for women of all levels. The Olympia Firefox is fantastic. It's their highest end women's ski and it's a ripper for the female ripper skier. I love it. As for boots, I'm using Nordica's Doberman 150, which are way too stiff for the average recreational skier.

    Q. A few years ago you suffered from a serious illness. How's the recovery been? Was it hard to get back into skiing?
    A. I'm 100% recovered. No problems at all. I took a year off and got right back into it.

    Q. When you're not skiing, what do you like to do?
    A. In the off season I like to read, particularly non-fiction. And I like golf, tennis, and bike riding. I'm an active person.

    Deb will be offering a series of women's clinics at Steamboat Ski Resort: January 15-17, February 5-7, and March 4-6.

    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.

    Tuesday, September 04, 2007

    So you're looking for new skis....

    If you haven't looked at women's skis lately, maybe it's time you took another look. Because to paraphrase an old ad campaign, they've come a long way, baby.

    It wasn't too long ago that manufacturers would simply take their men's skis, power them down, slap on some flowers, and call them women's skis. The technical term for this: shrink it and pink it. The result was less than satisfactory.

    Today, ski manufacturers have changed their tune, offering women's skis that'd give anyone a run for their money. They're making skis that are lighter and softer to accomodate women's lower muscle mass, but giving them the strength and stability we crave. (And they don't rely on cutesy graphics so much, either. Which, by the way, I always found somewhat offensive.)

    Other differences you may see in women's skis include:

  • Shorter tips: This keeps your boots closer to the front of your ski, for better turn initiation.

  • Lighter, forward mounted bindings: The heels may be raised, too. All this is done to accomodate our lower center of gravity, and make it easier for us to get our skis on edge.

  • Waists that are farther forward: This, too, is to accomodate our lower center of gravity, as well as our forward mounted bindings.

  • This year there are plenty of great choices to choose from. So take another look. I think you'll like what you see.

    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.