Up Front Skiing

Busy Weekend

We all can brag about our fun weekends, but I think I can top it in today’s blog. I expected to talk about my time on the slopes around Denver, known for world-class skiing and many celebrity sightings. You can’t beat a Saturday night in J-Bar at the Jerome hotel. Many friends can be found resting after a hard day fighting the moguls. But last weekend, I took a break from the white stuff to party with friends.

Some of my best pals have young kids. Parents know that children are a magnet for other neighborhood tots. They love to get together in a welcoming backyard, perhaps for a game of youth soccer. During this particularly get-together, they were already at play when I arrived. They were so cute in their colorful team outfits. They represented the great American and Canadian teams, depending upon the father’s particular preference. The ball was bandied about with little, active feet. The kids ran, or should I say, stumbled about—more interested in cavorting than kicking the ball into these portable goals that one of the parents had bought.

These little ones are our soccer players of tomorrow. The game is fast gaining popularity in the US and Denver is no exception. All sports are healthy, even though football for boys is on the wane out of fear of injury and concussion. That comes later in one’s athletic career, but parents don’t want to start them out for no reason. I say, “Take them to the slopes.” Of course, in Denver, most parents do.

Soccer is a European and South American phenomenon that has surprised school coaches and parents alike. Americans always had their own sports, but for some reason they have gotten more sophisticated about appropriating those of other nations. Now, everything stops during the World Cup. Even though we don’t have a national team, fans are watching in record numbers. I wasn’t really one of them until I saw those budding soccer players during my friend’s party. I want to learn more so I can talk to the kids and egg them on. I may even learn Spanish because most games air on these networks.

I am told by the proud parents that soccer is a great team sport. You don’t need a lot of expensive equipment and the game moves fast unlike, say, football that has multiple pauses between plays. The kids in school don’t need tremendous physical strength to do well and enjoy the sport. It is a great social experience and super exercise.

Socializing with Colleagues

The wind hits your face as you are gliding at who knows how many miles an hour. You feel that you are flying as you pass others on their way to the bottom. You are in the zone, a place you only can be when the conditions are right. The snow is soft and light with no icy patches. The moguls are big enough to enjoy but not particularly steep today. You forge a path right through them without catching an edge. As you approach your ski lift destination, you slow down a bit and make a huge carved stop in front of all the spectators in line. Wow! You are invigorated and alive. Nothing beats skiing from late fall through early spring. Each experience is unique. People say this about other sports like basketball, but I am skeptical that it even approaches the same high.

Denver dwellers like me can be found on their way to Vail or Aspen for special occasions, and closer venues for a quick day outdoors. Some of my coworkers prefer a pickup game of basketball while I am wending my way up to the summit. They talk all the time about how much fun they have, especially during tournaments. I listen politely and refrain from comments.

I want to socialize and be a good sport, even if my heart is on the slopes racing against time on the slalom course. I had to pay attention when they asked me to find some knee sleeves online to help them save precious time for practice. Of course, I agreed. Who doesn’t love a bit of Internet research? It is even more fun when you can buy. A quick search later and I was reading Baller’s Guide and then buying the knee sleeves for the whole team. I hope this helps me bond with others and make new friends at work. Having colleagues in your fold is incomparable. The basketball gang likes to have picnics and parties to celebrate success, and these good times are well known for good food and the best beer. The team likes to be outside as much as I do although I have more options with a winter sport. I am game to help out and hope I find just what they need.

Basketball sleeves are plentiful and come in all sorts of shapes and sizes for different joints of the body. They are great for protection and support, helping to minimize injury. The elbow sleeve seems to be the popular choice. Non-players like to wear them for minor pain, sprains and general instabilities. If you have arthritis, tendinitis, or bursitis, it is a familiar device. By means of compression, the basketball player gets soft-tissue support. Some fancy models come with therapeutic heat for after the game. I hope I buy the right kind!

Housewarming Hacks

My absolute favorite thing is to strap on some skis and hop on a lift for a day out on the trails. Because I live in Denver, I get to hit the slopes as much as I want. In this ski capital of the west, it is a way of life. It’s exciting, it’s great exercise, and you get to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. I’m always either skiing or talking about skiing. Needless to say, I love the snow.

You wouldn’t be a died-in-the-wool skier if you didn’t enjoy cold weather and snow-capped mountain views. I prefer the depths of winter when the snow is fresh and soft. Deep powder sends me into a state of bliss. I love how it covers the steeper and icier moguls that appear like white menaces in the spring to taunt the snow bunny tourists. Late in the season, the snow is slushy and heavy with patches of dangerous ice where you expect them the least. So, let me be clear. I like the cold. If there is a blizzard or too much wind, I will revise this statement. Just let me ride up the gondola.

With this intro to today’s blog, I am about to compare the cold indoors and out. I have established the positive value of the latter. However, when it is practically a refrigerator inside, I am less than happy.  If this happens to you, whether you are in a ski lodge or at home, here are some quick warm up tips.

  1. Turn off your ceiling fan. It is there for the summer and early fall. It may circulate stale winter air, but it also creates an unwanted breeze. Depending on your Ceiling Fan Choice, you may have a winter switch that helps circulate warm air – in that case, you can leave the fan on. Otherwise, let’s keep the cool breeze for outside.
  2. When I look for a warm ski resort, I always ask if they have thermal curtains or drapes. I know that they care about the temperature of the room. I appreciate when the heat is already on when I arrive. I like it pleasant but not too toasty.
  3. If they mention a “smart” LED thermometer (that operates on infrared sensors), I am ready to book my stay. It should display illuminated measurements and have a color-coded indicator for quick reading.
  4. Last but not least, I expect a down comforter and extra blankets in the closet. It makes a room cozy and you feel warmer than you actually are.
  5. I want a lodge that has an emergency generator in case the power goes out. I am not up to sleeping by the lobby fireplace. Yes, this has happened to me so it is on my list.

With these hacks, you can keep your home warm when the temperature drops. They are particularly useful in evaluating vacation hotels and inns. I hope I have been helpful today. Stay tuned for more paeans to skiing and special tips and tricks to make the sport more enjoyable. I will also touch on funs ways to enjoy après-ski time.

Post Ski Ritual

There is so much to do on a ski trip, especially when I go with my friends. There’s the day spent on the slopes, skiing and enjoying the snow and the speed and all of the fun that skiing can bring. Afterwards, I like to do certain things.

The first thing I do is change. It’s nice to get out of those stiff boots and layers of clothing. I typically bring something soft and warm to change into. I also put some lotion on my face and use some lip balm. Then I feel a little more human.

My next mission is to warm up. Usually I grab a hot chocolate. After a full day of activity, you don’t realize just how cold you actually are! A warm beverage in front of a nice fire or a window with a gorgeous view of the mountain I’ve just been on helps, too. I can thaw out, relax, and just feel that endorphin high from a great workout. Sitting down also feels pretty good at that point. If my friends are around, I’ll sit with them and we’ll chat. Otherwise, I’ll flip through a magazine or stream a tv show on my phone for a little while. Just something else to do to relax, you know?

Once I’ve warmed up, I usually round up my friends (if they’re with me) or my family (I with my sister and/or my parents sometimes. I know, right?) and see if anybody is up for some serious snacking. I may have mentioned this before, but skiing is pretty good exercise, and just being out in the cold makes me soo hungry. Whether we grab something at the resort or head towards home and somewhere less pricey to eat, food is always the next thing on my list!

After that I I am usually done for a bit. The combination of cold weather, exercise, food coma, and my adrenaline wearing down is the perfect recipe for a good snooze. If we’re staying somewhere, I’ll head to the room and take a much-deserved nap. If someone else drove, I usually zonk out in the car on the way home. Pretty much anybody who knows me knows that I am useless on the way home and rarely ask me to do the driving! But I’ll tell you, I sleep better during this post-ski nap than I do at any other time. It’s amazing. It’s not usually for too long, because the next part of my post-ski ritual is the best part.

Once I’m awake again, it’s time for some FUN! I’ll meet up with some friends (this is when it is good to be away on a trip. Everyone is already together) and head out for a few beers and a good time. Whoohoo après ski! It can get pretty crazy, and is another reason why I take those naps! Another great thing if I’m staying at a resort is that I get to wake up and do it all over again the next day!

Fun for the Whole Family

I got into skiing when I was very little. My parents are big skiers, and I know it was exciting for them when we were all old enough to strap on a pair of skis and share in their favorite hobby. It was a nice thing that we did together as a family. Other families get excited over opening day for their favorite sports team. At my house, it was the day we got our season passes to the resort for the winter.

They say if you want your kids to learn to ski, at least wait until they are around five or six years old. That may seem like a random age, but there is some logic – that is the age most kids start school. They are more capable of understanding safety directions and are better coordinated so that they can handle themselves on easy, green hills.

I don’t remember when my parents started with me and my siblings. I’m the last of three, so my brother and sister already knew how by the time I learned. My parents would have us all in lessons early in the season when we were small. I remember watching my parents wave goodbye as they went out on the slopes together and the three of us would be stuck in lessons. Once my siblings progressed enough, they’d laugh at me as they waved goodbye and walked next to our parents to a better slope.

It made me so jealous!

Now, of course, I am actually grateful for those lessons. I use things I learned there every time I strap on my skis. I certainly learned a lot and I am able to really enjoy my time out on the slopes. I don’t think I ever would have had the confidence to continue if my parents had not kept encouraging me to learn. It shaped my views on the sport and helped me stay confident, even after every fall and mishap I managed to find myself in.  And there were a lot of falls, spills, and mishaps along the way.

My parents still ski together, which I think is downright adorable. My older brother moved to snowboarding and never looked back. My sister does a little of both but prefers skiing, same as me. Her husband didn’t ski when they first started dating (he’s from Louisiana, and we try not to hold that against him. He just didn’t know any better), and now he is out there loving it as much as we do.

I think that skiing is a great thing to bring the whole family together, especially if you all start at the same time. It’s a good bonding experience, it creates lasting memories, and best of all – it is physical activity. It is so much better than sitting around together doing nothing but staring at personal devices. Some of my best childhood memories are out on the slopes with my brother and sister, or with my parents, or all of us together. I definitely recommend it!

Are Ski Lessons Worth It?

If you’ve never strapped on a pair of skis before and you want to learn how to ski, you may think that lessons are expensive. You may even convince yourself that skipping them is OK. The equipment, the resort, the lift ticket, they cost money. You might think this is one place you can cut corners and save a few bucks.

Please don’t.

Now, I love to ski. I’ve been skiing since I was very small. So I can say this with a lot of confidence: you really, really need to know what you’re doing out there. You could be a danger not just to yourself but to everyone else going down the mountain with you. While skiing is not considered dangerous (in that you probably won’t die), you can still seriously hurt yourself or someone else if you aren’t paying attention or don’t know what you’re doing.

You need to spend some time getting familiar with equipment, lingo, mechanics, and technique. It depends on where you are and how much you want to pay as far as what type of lessons are offered. You may have a private instructor or be in a group, If you’re in a group, you will be with people at the same skill level as you, so you have no reason to feel self-conscious.

Some of the first things you’ll learn in a lesson are how to carry your skis, since they’re so awkward, and how to put them on and take them off properly. Once you’re sure you can do that, you’ll probably be asked to walk around, bend your knees, and that sort of thing. This way, you can get a feel for how to move with the skis on. You’ll learn sidestepping (a way to position the skis as you walk so you don’t slide down the mountain until you want to) and how to hold the ski poles. You’ll also be shown the proper posture and positioning. The more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll be. Then you’ll get to ski down a small slope. The more you practice, the better you get. Keep taking lessons if you still feel uncomfortable or are really enjoying the learning experience.

Other advice: start out slow. Don’t go straight from the bunny trails to black diamond runs. Work your way up to more challenging runs. Don’t go off the trails (we call it off-piste). Your risk for serious injury goes way up. While it may look like a great ride, you never know. There could be dangerous rocks or other obstacles, difficult drop offs or turns, or a serious avalanche risk. Plus, if something happens to you, who is going to think to look out there for you? If you do fall, please get checked out, especially if you bang your head. I’d like to say that it’s common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people write off a fall and then find out they have a concussion only later when it becomes more serious.

Staying Fit When There’s No Snow

Skiing is always going to be my first choice of physical activity. It combines everything I like: speed, the outdoors, and snow! It is the perfect combination for me. Although skiing here can run from October/November all the way through April or May (early June in a good year), that is still nearly half a year of not hitting the slopes at all.

What’s a girl to do?

Well, considering the three things I love about skiing (I mentioned them above), mountain biking provides two of them – meaning it is a great summer alternative for me. I especially love that some of the resorts around here open bike trails in the summer. You can even take a ski lift up to some of them – that’s the kind of ride you’re in for. Love it! The weather here is often so nice and mild that you can get out there a lot. I try to ride as much as possible. It keeps my legs strong and my endurance up. It’s great.

Speaking of resorts, a lot of them have zip lines. If you’ve never gone, you totally should! I’m sure there is a lot that goes into being a zipline instructor, but for those of us just there for a good time, really the only thing you have to learn how to do is stop, and even that is a bit debatable – there’s typically an instructor at the end of the line there to “catch” you if necessary. You just don’t want to crash into them and knock you both off the platform. It feels a little like skiing! Ziplining can be a good upper body workout, and since you have to start high up, you may need to hike to the location. Way more appealing to me that just a regular old hike. There’s this great reward at the end, zipping back down to the bottom.

If careening down a mountain on a bike or a zipline isn’t your thing, there is another activity that I really enjoy: paddle boarding. There’s a bunch of places within around an hour’s drive of where I live that my friends and I can go stand up paddle boarding. While it doesn’t have the speed of mountain biking, there are plenty of benefits. Stand up paddle boarding gives you some excellent core and upper body workouts. It also helps with balance. Once you get the hang of it, it is really fun. I definitely enjoy it. If I go out with enough friends, we’ll get pedal boats. We’re usually too busy goofing off to realize that we’re really working our lower bodies. You notice it after you get out of the boat, though! And if you’re already near water, swimming is always a fabulous full body work out.

So these are just a few of the things I like doing in the warmer months when, unfortunately, there is no snow. What about you? What do you like to do to keep yourself active?

New Ski Club Buddies

Lately I have been looking to find other people who like to ski. First of all, they don’t get bored talking about skiing, like the people I know aren’t interested in the sport. Second, they often have tips on good trails to hit, gear to get, techniques to try, and other little bits of info. Lastly, they are basically just my type of people.

So, after debating for a while, I decided to join a ski club. I never have before but I realized it has been harder to make friends as an adult than I would have liked. I’ve got my old friends from my school days and people from work, but nobody new and interesting, you know? I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, because I am usually shy around new people, but this was different. I guess because we had a giant hobby in common, it was easy to meet people and have something immediately available to talk about. And then there’s the perks!

The great thing about some ski clubs is that they have a ‘home resort.’ In other words, there’s a specific location that either offers discounts to ski club members, or even better: is exclusive to members, either at specific times/days of the week, or are private trails just for members. I mean, how great is that? Having somewhere to meet up AND ski with great people was reason enough for me to join!

I have met some really fun people. There’s a group of about three others that are my age and have been skiing for roughly the same amount of time. It is a good mix of people, too – two guys and one other girl. They like a variety of activities, which is fun. Alpine skiing, slaloms, moguls. That means there’s always somebody up for doing something different. It’s great to have friends (as opposed to just people I am related to) to hop on a lift with whenever there’s some fresh powder.

We’ve had a few meetups since I joined the ski club and it has been going super well. I really feel like I fit in with them. Tomorrow, we are hitting the slopes to see who gets the best time down a trail. Whoever comes in last has to buy everyone dinner, and the winner doesn’t have designated driver duty for two weeks! I certainly hope I win, but no matter what place I come in, it should be super fun.

So I guess if you’re wondering if it is worth it to join a ski club, I will tell you to ask yourself three questions: 1) do you really enjoy skiing? And 2) Are you looking to meet new people 3) are you looking to have better access to trails? If the answer to at least two of these questions are yes, then you should seriously consider joining a ski club as well.