Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The core of your being.

I've been hearing a lot of talk about core strength recently.

Core strength refers to the muscles in your core, or trunk. Your lower back, glutes, and abdominal muscles all come into play, working together to create movement, disseminate force, and keep you stable as you ski. A strong core can influence your balance to keep you from falling, and help provide you with greater control on the slopes.

So how strong is your core? Take a look at the video below for a simple(?) test that can help you find out.

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.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Falling Man.

To anyone who's still not in the helmet-wearing camp, here's something to chew on:

Last week my dear husband had a fall on an easy connector run we've skied a million times. There was no crazy skiing involved, he just caught an edge and went down hard. What makes it of particular interest is that it was bad enough to crack his helmet. You read that right.

Imagine if he hadn't had one on.

If he hadn't, we'd probably be facing a bad concussion or a skull fracture right now. I'd have spent the past weekend in the hospital, making not too pleasant phone calls to family members, talking to doctors, arranging things with the insurance company, and so on. Hey, he's a writer -- maybe that new book would never have been finished!

Instead, my husband was merely a bit annoyed that 1) now his brand new helmet was ruined, and 2) he had to buy a new one.

Hey, that's what the helmets are for! I'm just glad he's okay.

Moral of the story: Don't worry about hat hair. If you don't have a helmet, get one.

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, January 17, 2008

Review: Stockli Spirit ED

Me: Advanced skier, 110 lbs, 5' 1-1/2"
Skis: 149 (13.5m—115/68/98). These skis jump in length from 149 to 157, so on the advice of a friend who's about my size and ability -- and who's tried them herself -- I went with the 149.

I've always heard about how wonderful Stockli skis are -- easy to flex and fantastic on the ice. Hand made in Switzerland, each ski gets 22 passes on the stone (the bases are a thing of beauty). And they're not easy to find. The company only ships 4,000 to the US each year. So my expectations for this ski have always been somewhat high.

Maybe too high.

I've been waiting for the perfect day to try them. So today, when the snow was particularly, shall we say, hard packed, I figured the time was right.

I wish I could say I was wowed. Though they do edge quite nicely, I just felt like there was nothing there. No pop. No fun. No spirit. Just damp to the point of being dead.

It's always disconcerting to think that you're the only one in the world who doesn't like a ski. Makes me think, what am I doing wrong?? So maybe it is me. Maybe someone else would really love these. Maybe I would've liked them better in the 157. Who knows. All I can say is, the Stockli Spirit was a disappointment. I expected better.

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, January 10, 2008

A conversation about fear with Mermer Blakeslee.

For many of us, skiing is a head game. Get past the fear, and suddenly things become a lot easier. So who better to talk to about this than Mermer Blakeslee, the ski industry's recognized fear expert and author of In the Yikes! Zone: A Conversation With Fear (Dutton, 2002).

Mermer started skiing at the age of 3. After training at Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont, she competed internationally. For the past 20 years, she’s trained instructors as an examiner for Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA). In 1996, she became a member of PSIA’s elite National Demonstration Team and now serves as a selector for that team. Mermer travels all over the country educating industry professionals. She also leads women’s seminars at Wyndham, NY, and Snowbird, Utah.

Q: Mermer, I know you're also the author of two novels [In Dark Water and Same Blood], yet you do all this work with skiing and fear. How do you reconcile the two?
A. I know they seem diametrically opposed, but both of these disciplines come together in the core of my being. A lot of what I've done with fear and skiing is also what I'll do with fear and writing. When you have a writing block, it's because your expectations are high. You need an entrance ramp to get into either writing or skiing. You can't just click in and be in the zone. It's like when you come into music. You can't just start dancing unselfconsciously. You may start out on the sidelines watching, then you may start moving a bit, then you slowly get drawn in. You have to find your process to actualize what you're capable of doing.

One big difference between me and sports psychologists is that I treat the athlete as an artist. The psychologists deal with conditioned responses and overlook the creativity of the sport. I talk about skiing as a metaphor for any creative act. There's always that moment where you have to give yourself up and let go. You know, I really love skiing just for itself. It doesn't have to be a metaphor. But I find that because it's such an emotional sport, the metaphor can easily transfer into people's lives.

Q. So what do you do in your fear clinic?
A. I gear the clinic toward getting women to respond to skiing in a new way, based on their own ability. We get them into a place where they're free of what I call the "nag." That's the negative self-talk that tells you you can't do something.

Q. How did you get started with your fear clinic?
A. I started to teach skiing at Wyndham (NY), and no one liked teaching the fearful women who came in for lessons. I told the ski school to give them to me, and I started developing a reputation for dealing with them. It's ironic because when I was ski racing at Burke Academy, I understood there was a mind-body connection; that it was my mind that was keeping me from getting better. So I felt that these fearful women were just like me. I also thought they had amazing emotional courage, to attempt to do something even though they were frightened. Eventually I was asked to do a special clinic about fear; I think that was back in '85. Now I offer one clinic a year, and I train a lot of fear clinicians. I also train ski teachers and I help examiners become better examiners. I do staff training and women's clinics at Snowbird. I'm trying to mainstream fear into the way people think about ski teaching.

Q. Do you think it's healthy to feel fear?
A. I distinguish between fear and respect. A lot of what we teach in the clinic is a healthy respect, because some people misjudge their own fear. They think it's fear when it's actually respect. What they need to do is develop more skills to expand their comfort zone. It has nothing to do with not fulfilling their potential. They have to put in the ground work and develop their skills.

Q. Do you find that men and women have different approaches to fear?
A. A lot of women don't understand the amount of repetition that's needed to become good at something. There's a dichotomy in the psyche of many women. On one hand, they feel unathletic. On the other, they're not aware of how much work it takes to improve, so they think they should be better than they are.

There are two approaches to fear. One is avoidance. You avoid going down a particular trail. A lot of women are like that. I call them Janes. You have to give them a push. Then there's the person who rushes through fear. I call them Roberts. These are mostly men, though they could be women, too. For those people, you have to modify the rush.

Q. So how do you handle this in your clinic?
A. We start inside with a conversation about fear and how it affects us. Then we take it out on the hill and work on it concretely and literally, to determine what is happening to our bodies. We do a lot of strategies, though I wouldn't say we "overcome" fear. You're always going to be frightened of the next step. What we do is expand the ability to move in and out of fear so that someone's comfort zone doesn't have to shrink around them.

Q. For all our gearheads, what are you skiing on now?
A. I'm skiing on Fischer SC Race skis. It's a great eastern ski. I can take it into the bumps and it's great on ice, too. I have a 3 degree side bevel on them. I have Fischer boots, too.

Mermer offers her women's fear clinic at Wyndham Mountain in New York. For more information, visit Wyndham Mountain or call 800/754-9463 ext. 1120

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, January 03, 2008

Dress for success.

I hate the cold.

There. I said it.

Seems almost sacrilegious, when you consider this is a ski blog. But as much as I love to ski, I absolutely hate to be cold. And the only way to get around that is to dress for the conditions. Today the temperature was brutal. It was about minus 3F, and with the wind chill, about minus 25F. Tough to dress for, I know. I think I wore everything I owned.

Which leads me to the best way to dress for thte cold: Layer. Layers trap warm air, so you stay warmer. Another benefit -- you can tailor your clothing to the conditions. So if you get warm during the day, you can just pare down.

What sort of layers? Start with a base layer that's not too heavy. Most important, be sure that it's not made of cotton. Because cotton holds moisture, it can keep perspiration next to your body. And a wet body is a cold body. Instead, use a base layer made of a fabric designed to transfer moisture away from your skin. This will keep you dryer, and a lot warmer.

After that, consider a fleece, maybe a vest, and then your jacket or shell, depending on the temperature, and you're good to go!

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.