Saturday, September 27, 2008

A conversation with Allison Gannett


We can learn a lot from Allison Gannett. In addition to being a world champion Free Skier, a ski film star, a ski designer, and a master instructor, Alison has dedicated herself to championing environmental causes,  tirelessly working to make our planet a better place. She's worked on the environment with Al Gore, started the Save Our Snow Foundation and The Office For Resource Efficiency, teaches environmental awareness with the Global Cooling Tour, and been named one of the Green All Stars by Outside Magazine.

Alison is also member of TheSkiDiva.com forum for women skiers, and she kindly consented to answer some questions for us.

Q: Many athletes are involved in supporting various causes, and I know you’re extremely involved in the environmental movement. Tell me what led you to become so active in this. When and how did you begin? Was there some sort of epiphany?

A: I have been involved in the environmental movement since childhood and especially college. I was an environmentalist, and worked on consulting for global warming for the last 20 years. My professional freeskiing career came afterwards. I did have an epiphany to blend my two careers when I injured both my knees at the X Games. I realized then that the ski industry was pretty shallow, and that I was just a number. I needed more, so I sought sponsors that cared about doing good for the planet, and that had ideals like my own. Everyone said I was crazy, but it turned out to be the best desicion I ever made. Seems like if you follow your heart and not the masses, things work out better!

Q: As part of this, I hear you’ve built a straw house in Crested Butte. Why did you build it? What were you trying to demonstrate or accomplish? How is it different from living in a conventional house, and is it something you see as really taking off? 

A: I've always been determined to walk the talk, so building my home was a natural place to show what is possible. Showing is always better than preaching. I built it in 1997, and it was the first straw bale home in a National Historic district - in Crested Butte, Colorado. I designed it and general contracted it. I wanted to show that being green doesn't have to cost more or look weird. That you can have your cake and eat it too - a beautiful non-toxic home, with super energy efficiency and insulation, built with local materials, and solar electric, solar hot water, and passive solar heating, also.

Q: Tell me about your Global Cooling Tour. What does it involve, where have you been, and where are you going? Does it take up a lot of your time? 

A: I started my official Global Cooling Tour two years ago. My aim is to educate the world on solutions to global warming, but doing it with exciting images and movies from my crazy adventures around the world. I work with individuals, businesses, events, communities, trade shows, and governments, teaching my four-step CROP framework for solutions to climate change. I work to show solutions, such as my Ford Escape SUV, converted to a plug-in hybrid vehicle that gets 100 miles per gallon, and the first SUV in the world powered also by solar power. I do many presentations around the US and all over the world.

Q: What led you to choose freeskiing over other types of skiing? What skill sets do you find most valuable for it? 

A: I was a bad ski racer as a kid, and also a mountaineer, so both gave me great technical skills. Many years later, I was discovered by Warren Miller's film crew, and that is how my ski career started. I never could stay inside the gates racing, so it was a natural fit to express myself more freely.

Q:  I’ve seen videos of you skiing down some incredibly hairy stuff in Alaska. Can you tell me what goes through your head when you’re doing something like that? 

A: The really hairy stuff takes some work, but I think my mountaineering background really enabled me to adjust to Alaska uber steeps easier than most. I could read terrain really well, and knew crevasse rescue and avalanche safety, and I was comforable being alone on top of a remote peak. It still is one of the craziest rushes in the world, but like anything, if you are prepared, it comes naturally. It still is weird having terrain so steep that you can't see your next turn, with all the snow pouring down around you, and literal free-fall between turns. I also loved showing the boys that women can really rip just as hard as the men!

Q: Is there a particular run or place that really scared the stuffing out of you? If so, what was it and why? 

A: I would get the most scared when the people I was filming with did not have avalanche training or big mountain skills, which was pretty much all the time. You are only as safe as your crew to save you if things go wrong, and that drove me nuts filming the sick stuff. When the avalanche conditions would get creepy, I'd get a sick feeling and I learned that it meant to pull the plug and hop a plane home. Lots of bad stuff usually went down when I left. But I also had some close calls with avalanches, and almost complete burials, when I wasn't paying attention to my gut, knowledge and intuition.

Q: I know you’re involved with Head skis. What do you like about them, and what do you ski on? 

A: I am on the Head Women's team - there are 14 of us, each from a different country around the world, and we get together to design the Head skis, inside and out. I don't think there is another company in the world that actually has skis designed for women, by women, and I love that. I like that they are easy to ski, yet fun, and the graphics are really cool. I usually ski on the Head Sweet One, which a fat skis that rips on the groomers, and of course is fantastic in powder and crud. Fat skis make me a hero skier, and will do the same for any woman wanting to expand her horizons. We are working on a super fat ski called the Head Bitchy One, and I can't wait!! It will be 110mm under the foot, but can also ski groomers amazingly well.

Q: What clinics will you be doing this year? When and where? 

A: Right now I'm doing the Head Rippin Chix Steeps Camp on Feb 14-15 in Crested Butte. It is open to women who tele or alpine ski black runs and goes up from there in seven levels. I sell out every year, and it was chosen as one of the three best camps in the country. I have special guest champion freeskier instructors, like Wendy Fisher, Carrie Jo Cheroff, Jill Sickles Matlock, and Susan Medville. I'll be working on several other camps also - check www.alisongannett.com for more info.

Q: Between your skiing and your environmental work, you've accomplished so much. What’s next? 

A: Well, saving our ecosystems such as our snow and water is a tough job, because it never ends. This year I had some great honors, such as training Al Gore's staff, and being selected as a Green All-Star next to Leonardo DiCaprio and Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the planet is in dire circumstances. My goal is to bring the message of solutions to climate change to Hollywood and the world, working to brand my four-step CROP solutions framework so that people are not so confused in what to do to make a difference. My athletics such as skiing and biking give my life real balance, as my enviro job can be pretty depressing. We are also launching a film on my adventures to document glacial recession in Pakistan this year, and that will be fun going to the big film festivals, while also getting the solutions message out there. I'm also working on educating politicians on solutions, because Washington seems pretty clueless on climate change. I also want to have some fun, by teaching more Rippin Chix camps. And I also work hard to prepare my life for what I predict will be a tough future - rising oil prices, more extreme weather, decreasing food availability, overpopulation, etc. I am working everyday to make my own life more sustainable.

Don't forget to CROP your life! remember my four east steps to greening your life:
C - calculate your carbonfootprint - www.carbonfootprint.com
R - Reduce your carbonfootprint - eat organic - Clif Bar, and local when possible, support companies making a difference such Patagonia, Osprey, and Smartwool, get an energy audit on your house by contacting your electric company, inflate your tires, take your roofrack off and by a high mileage vehicle.
O - Offset your carbonfootprint - www.carbonfootprint.com
P- Finally, after you have reduced your footprint, produce your own power with wind, solar, etc.

Q: What's your idea of the perfect ski day?

A: A remote hut in the woods, deep powder, tons of great food, my boyfriend, friends, or family.

Q: What's your favorite apres-ski meal? 

A: I have to say that pizza is my favorite apres meal, but I love chocolate chip cookies, also.

To find out more about Alison Gannett, visit her web site at www.alisonganett.com

Be sure to visit TheSkiDiva.com, the online home especially for women skiers, where women skiers can connect with one another to talk about everything and anything ski-related.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Save Our Snow!

Anyone who loves skiing should know about the Save Our Snow Foundation -- for obvious reasons. Lose the snow, and you lose something we skiers feel passionately about. After all, if there's no snow, there's no skiing. Just last year a ski area in France actually closed due to lack of snow (Abondance),

But as they say, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Nearly 50% of the world's drinking water comes from glacial and snow melt. No snow, and a lot of the world goes thirsty. Conversely, glacial and snow melt can drive up ocean levels, sinking low lying areas and submerging islands. 

There are other problems, too. Global warming can cause more extreme, unpredictable weather, leading to more severe, frequent droughts and storms. And it can allow warmer weather insect species to invade and devastate our northern forests and crops. 

As snow lovers, we can't just sit idly by and allow this to happen. Save Our Snow is a good place to start. The organization was formed to educate people on the problem of global warming. Believe it or not, there are some people who still don't believe this is a reality. Even the CEO of General Electric, whom I saw on the Stephen Colbert show the other night, remain unconvinced. (I'm shaking my head even as I write this; it boggles the mind.)

You can check out Save Our Snow or donate to the cause here. Every little bit helps.

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 16, 2008

Do you wear make up when you ski?

Generally, no.

With my helmet, goggles, gaiter, and sometimes even a face mask, it's hard to tell if I have a FACE, let alone if I'm wearing any make up.

Still, I am getting older. So sometimes I'll cave in and put some on. If I know I'm going to skiing with a bunch of friends -- just so I don't scare them away. I know it's vanity. I know it's futile. But I'll do it, anyway.

Far more important than makeup, however, is sun screen. You can get a mean burn from the sun reflecting off the snow. Make sure it has a high SPF, and be sure to re-apply. And when you get off the slope, moisturize. The wind and cold temps can dry out your skin. Definitely worth 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.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Saving money on ski gear.

I don't know about you, but I'm always on the lookout for ways to save a buck with ski gear. So imagine my delight when the same folks who brought us SteepandCheap.com opened up Tramdock.com. It's just like SAC, except it's all about skiing.

How does it work? They sell one item at a time at a deep discount until it's gone. Then they introduce something else. Could be skis, jackets, sox, ski boots -- anything ski related.

Forgive me if this sound like a commercial, but it's too good not to spread the word. Check it 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.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A talk with a boot expert.















Want to know what's new with women's boots? I did, too, so I went to talk to Shon Racicot, owner of Bootpro, a new shop opening in late September in Ludlow, VT.

Shon is one of the great bootfitters in the industry. He's been working with boots since 1986, and is a 15 year graduate of Masterfit University. He previously worked with Northern Ski Works in Ludlow, VT.

Q. Why is bootfitting so important?
A. I've always felt that the boot is the key component to comfort. You can buy any brand of boot, but you have to tweak it to adjust it to an individual's biomechanics and anatomy. That's key. Just like a ski; if it's not tuned correctly, it doesn't work, no matter how much it costs. The last 10% of adjustment is 90% of performance.

Q. Can you describe the difference between men's and women's boots?
A. It's driven by anatomy. Women typically have a narrower heel and foot, so women's boots tend to grip the heel a little tighter. Many women come in and say they have big calves, so their calves hurt in their boots. The truth is that women's achilles tendons are shorter, so the calf is farther down in the boot, and that makes it seem like they're larger, even though they're not. A men's boot is going to fit higher on the calf. So for women's boots, you want to make sure you have a scalloped calf.

Women also have a different hip angle than men. The new women's skis have the mounting point more forward because a woman's hip structure is farther back. This centers the hips over the skis. This can cause a woman to crouch, pushing the calf forward and really working the quads. It's like doing wall sits all day; your quads end up killing you. Women need to stand up straighter to support themselves skeletally rather than muscularly. The trick is to let the calf go out the back of the boot and maybe even elevate the toe. That can help you stand stronger.


Q. That's interesting. I've always heard that a lot of women need heel lifts to make them more forward over the ski.
A. Heel lifts can definitely work. But I've noticed that reducing ramp angle in a ski boot can help you stand taller. Everyone is different. It could be driven by the new shaped skis, too. You're very upright, and you want to lead into that turn with the shovel of the ski. With the old skis, there was a lot of dynamic motion where you had to start at the shovel, work to the middle and end at the tail. Now it's a very stable position with more subtle movements. Then again, heel lifts may work for some women. Everyone is different, depending on anatomy and biomechanics of the skier.

Q. So what's the latest in women's ski boots?
A. One of the biggest innovations in ski boots is the co-molding of plastics where you can have a soft plastic co-molded with a stiff plastic. So in the zones of the boot where you need rigidity and edge transmission you put the hard plastic. Then you put in softer material where you need the flexibility that allows the skier to suck up terrain and make subtle changes without throwing the ski. Women's boots can now be made softer, with easier flex.

Atomic has a very good program with its new Hawk series of boots. These have a suspension-like system in the forefoot that allows the boot to really steer the ski. It's softer, so it allows better edge transission. It's like an accordian in the forefoot.

We're also seeing new materials in the liner, so the boots are warmer than they've been in the past. Some are actually using wool in their liners. Lange is even using quilted down. Some boots have it just in the toe, and some in the whole liner.


You can get in touch with Shon at his new shop, Bootpro, by phoning 802/228-2776 or by emailing info@bootpro.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.