Friday, April 30, 2010

How many jackets does a Ski Diva need?

There's no right or wrong answer. The number of jackets you need is a simple math problem: take the number you want and divide it by the amount you can afford. Then consider the conditions under which you want it for. Brutal cold? High winds? Spring skiing?

A lot to think about, huh?

There's a jacket out there for every situation. The key is to find the one(s) that suit you best. And with all the end of season sales going on now, there's no better time to go shopping.

Right now I have three ski jackets. Well, five if you throw in the two liners I can wear alone or as layers. And I think I'm covered in every situation.

Let me explain:

First, I have an unlined shell. A Cloudveil RPK. This is a pricey jacket, but I got it at half price at TJ Maxx, so it was a great deal. Nonetheless, even at full price it's a terrific buy. Why? Basically, because it's pretty much bombproof. Water resistant, wind proof, great alone for spring skiing, and when the temperature plummets, I can layer it with a down liner and be good to go.

Jacket #2: For above 15 degees or so, I have a Mountain Hardwear Steep Jacket. When I first tried it on, I thought it wasn't heavy enough to be warm. Well, like about so many things, I was wrong.  Even though it's lightweight, it's insulated with something Mountain Hardware calls ThermoMicro insulation, which does the job nicely. It also features Conduit laminate (the company's version of Goretex), pit zips, 20K of water- and wind-resistance, and a zip off hood. I even love the color.

Jacket #3:  Another Cloudveil. This is the Down patrol and it is W-A-R-M.  I wear this when it's brutal out there -- in the single digits and below -- and it's great. It has 650-fill goose down. windproof, pit zips. I love to ski, but I get cold easily. This does it for me. Again, another sale find.

To round things off, I have two liners that I can wear under any one of these, but which I typically wear under Cloudveil RPK. One is a Northface Thunder Jacket, which is extremely lightweight and WARM, thanks to 800-fill down, and the other is an EMS liner with 120g of Primaloft insulation.

On, we have a discussion going on called "Are you a jacket slut?" Some people have way more jackets than I do, some have fewer. I'm not sure I've reached jacket slut-dom yet, but I can try. After all, who knows what I'll find on the clearance rack.

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

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Allison Gannet, revisited.

It seems to me that a great way to celebrate Earth Day is to re-publish an interview I had in September, 2008, with 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 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 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 -
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 -
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

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

Saturday, April 03, 2010

I'm done.

My ski season is over.

Even though they're still getting loads of snow out West, it's time for me to dress my skis in their summer coats.

I know, it's sad.

We didn't have the best season here in the East. My first ski day wasn't until December 7, and my last, April 1 (no foolin'!).  I've had years when I started in mid-November and skied til the middle of April, so this year is shorter on both ends. But temps are soaring into the seventies, there are rocks and bare spots on the trails, the snow is receding like a senior citizen's gum line.

Still, I shouldn't complain. I know with 63 ski days, I've skied more than a lot of people this year. And even though the snow may not have been the best, I've had a great season. Here are some of the highlights:
  • New skis! It was a Volkl sort of year. I got two pair: the Volkl Tierras and the Volkl Auras, and seriously, I love them both. The Tierras ride ice like they're on rails, yet can still bust through crud and several inches of powder like nobody's business. Easy to turn, great energy, just plain fun. The Auras, well, what can I say. A 94 waist so you can take them in the pow, yet it's still a great all around ski.
  • A trip to Schweitzer in northern Idaho. A terrific area that's not on a lot of eastern skiers' radar. I spent 4 days there at the end of January, and I definitely intend to go back.
  • Diva Week in Tahoe. Why haven't I been here before? Tahoe is incredible: phenomenal terrain, great snow, loads of ski areas within a (relatively) short driving distance. We managed to hit Squaw, Alpine Meadows, Sugar Bowl, and Northstar. And skiing with the women from during our annual gathering was icing on the cake. A trip to remember.
  • The first ever clinic.  We teamed up with NASTC, the North American Ski Training Center, for three days of instruction in Tahoe. NASTC is one of the world's premier ski clinic organizations, and it's easy to see why. The caliber of their coaches is second to none. 
  • The release of DOUBLE BLACK: A SKI DIVA MYSTERY.  Yep, I wrote a book. It's ski mystery, published by Minotaur, an imprint of St. Martin's Press, and it came out in January. In the words of Tasha Alexander, author of TEARS OF PEARL and A FATAL WALTZ:  "DOUBLE BLACK is the literary equivalent of a perfect powder day:  small town Vermont, characters who feel like old friends, and enough suspense to make closing the book before you've finished nothing short of impossible."
For my friends who are still skiing out West, take a run for me. I hate having to hang up the skis.  Trouble is, how I beat this next year?

Be sure to visit, an internet forum especially for women skiers, where women skiers can connect with one another to talk about everything and anything ski-related.