Hi everyone! I know I post a lot about skiing, but it’s been a while since I shared some news about my own skiing life. And so… Some short time ago, I met Ariel Quiros, the new owner of Jay Peak. Guess What? He invited me to come up and see the new Jay Peak. The last time I skied there was in 2007, and I can’t wait to see what’s changed.
Grass skiing began as an alternative training program for winter skiers in the warm summer months. In Germany in the 1960s, downhill snow ski racers devised an adaptation for the sport that would allow them to engage in outdoor training during the summer. From there, the sport was introduced to sporting crowds in Europe and immigrated to the eastern United States. By the 1970s, the sport had reached the San Francisco Bay Area.
The sport uses specific grass skis for the task, which have short runners with wheeled, well oiled, tank-like treads strapped to standard downhill ski boots. The alternative to skiing to occupy the summer months had just started to gain attention, when a segment of a television show entitled “That’s Incredible” depicted the sport and all who engage in it as extremists, purposely crashing and embarking on risky maneuvers. From there, the sport gained notoriety for drawing in excessive risk takers.
An article recently from the Great Falls Tribune chronicled the discovery and investment of one man to the sport, and his attempt to eliminate this negative perception.In 1979, Brian McKay discovered grass skiing as it made its way across the country. In 1983, he embarked on a trip to Australia to serve as part of the United States Grass Skiing Team. He met his future wife during the trip, and eventually made his home there. Recently, he returned home to Medford, Oregon to care for an aging parent.
Since his return, he has struggled to find grass skiing partners. With this misguided perception of risky behavior in mind, many struggle to not only understand the activity as a sport, but to have a desire to engage it. Often, when McKay approaches a perspective skier, many laugh in his face at the ridiculousness of it. However, some have proven to be committed, as McKay offers a test drive on his grass skis for those willing to have an open mind about the sport.
This is a recap of a much longer read, concerning the skiing exploits and adaptation of writer and skier Tracy Ross, presented in a news-like style.
According to an article published in Ski Magazine, one skier struggled in the transition needed to meet her goal of becoming a ski racer, as opposed to standard skiing practices. Specifically, she had chosen her debut event as the Summer Fun Nationals, as she knew the average age of competitors was nearly twice her age and should, therefore, present less of a challenge for her novice status. However, the conversion proved to be more challenging than she had originally anticipated, resulting in her need to nearly relearn the art of skiing all over again.
Several key aspects presented a challenge to the author of the article. Racers don’t just ski; they are experts at angulation, which allows them to take gates at a quicker and smoother rate. Involved in this is an ability to carve a turn, not skid through it. Average recreational skiers skid turns, as it is easier to master. However, racers need to carve through turns, using the edges on their skis to get the most speed for their output of energy.
On her first racing run with a trainer, the author was informed that her form was completely off to adapt her methods for a racing pursuit. The trainer informed her that her form was overly rigid, her turns were skidded and that she rotated her torso too much across the full line. For the next few months prior to the Summer Fun Nationals, the author worked to improve all of these facets of her form. She struggled most with the practice of carving, not skidding her turns. Eventually, a trainer introduced a series of drills involving the use of two poles to reprogram her body to carve through the turns as opposed to her default setting of skidding.
Regardless of her months of practice, she still felt unprepared on the morning of the race. Through her run, she felt positive things were going well; she experienced the feeling of her body moving in two parts that comes with angulation and managed to edge the turns and tuck in to the finish. However, despite the positive feeling she had during the run, she was surprised to discover that she finished fourth from last, finishing behind so many other skiers that were nearly twice her age. After feeling the temporary pull of disappointment, she realized that she had experienced a bright adrenaline rush and that the compulsion to live to race another day still lived within her; that was, in her opinion, far more important and valuable than the success of a fast finish time.
Another story of resilience:
In March of 2007, Jeff Parelli suffered a car accident, in which a person pulled out in front of him. The injuries Parelli sustained resulted in a traumatic brain injury and complete paralysis of his left side. For the first month, it was a struggle for Parelli to even dress himself, let alone to consider getting out of bed and skiing or hiking. However, as soon as his daughter mentioned Parelli’s faithful pastime, it was the first time in a month that he sounded like his old self—able to remember facts and the identity of those who surrounded him far better than he had been able to up until that point.
Despite the myriad of injuries Parelli’s accident brought on, according to an Ski Magazine he had only two goals in mind in regards to his recovery; he wanted to ski and to hike at least one more time. Over the course of seven years and including a combination of cognitive and physical therapy, Parelli was finally able to achieve his goal. A wheelchair is needed daily for Parelli to maintain movement due to the complete paralysis on the left side. However, he also has a full KAFO, which stands for a knee-ankle-foot orthesis; the full leg brace allows him to walk, hike and ski.
His first trip through the snow was on an excursion to Mt. Snow in southern Vermont. By this time, he had only had his KAFO for five months. After the first run, he made some adaptations to the KAFO to keep the cold weather from causing it to lock; the device doing so would force Parelli to bail out, a very dangerous prospect for a skier with TBI that cannot suffer another head injury. Parelli uses electrical tape, rubber jar grips and other various materials to help the cables bound to the hitches to the knee to keep the KAFO from locking in place. Through these implementations, Parelli is able to ski at least twice a year for approximately three to four hours at a time. Although he is forced to rest after each run, he is still able to engage in his favorite pastime, which, to Parelli, makes the whole expedition worth it.
It’s a joy whenever one’s home country is selected to host an international event highlighting a sport that is held dear to the heart. And since this blog is focused on the joys of skiing and the accomplishments of skiers, you should have no problem figuring out where exactly this post is going.
Recently, the US has been selected by the International Skiing Association to host the 2019 World Championship for freestyle, freeskiing, and snowboarding. The news came from across the Atlantic, from Barcelona, Spain (as reported by Team USA’s official site). This particular bid was unusual by international standards- Even though the United States is hosting these events, the bid itself was put forward by three Utah resorts acting as one: Canyons Resort, Deer Valley Resort, Park City Mountain Resort. Utah is also no stranger to hosting winter events. Remember the Salt Lake City Games? They also have served as a hub for the weeks leading up to the winter olympics for the past four groups of US Olympic delegation. The Championship will take place in just under five years, in February 2019. The official start date is on the tenth day of that month, and spectators can expect to see the very best skiers and snowboarders compete in twelve events during that ten day period.
Not only is the United States Skiing Association (USSA) linking up with Park City Resort for the event, but Utah Sports Commission and the Park City Chamber/Bureau are going to be working together in order to ramp up buzz for the event. The blitz of PR will hopefully bring hype to both domestic and international markets. Not that skiing enthusiast need all of the extra advertising, because we’re already pumped up enough as it is.
In order to assure spectators and athletes alike that only the best competitors will be coming to the States to compete in the World Championship, the USSA is partnering up with other sporting associations (namely Association of Freeskiing Professionals and TTR World Snowboard Tour) to insure top quality competition will be a go. And if anyone is unsure about the USSA’s ability to convert their efforts into tangible results or be a huge influence on the world state, just look to the winter Olympics- it was integral to the addition of halfpipe skiing, slopestyle skiing, and slopestyle snowboarding to the games. Oh, and those events will be included in the 2019 championships as well. Consider it an awesome way to celebrate and watch a diverse set of skiing events: moguls, aerials, halfpipe events, and more.
It’s finally summer. Well not quite, as summer is officially another couple weeks away (11 days, to be exact). But here in New York, we’ve had a fulfilling memorial day weekend, and now the sun shines it’s warm countenance upon us, as we stow away parkas and pairs of mittens for bucket hats and boat shoes.
And what a relief the late spring/faux summer has been! Because when we weren’t skiing, winter for your average northeasterner meant braving the backbreaking, Herculean task of removing snow from the driveway, a frosty nip on the extremities when you realized you left your gloves at the office or at a party, more delays on trains and commuter rails then you could count, and if you’re a New Yorker, dealing with street slush and deftly sidestepping the accumulated pools of blackened, frosty gunk that made their homes on the shore of sidewalks’ concrete curb, like a beach cruelly designed to make to generally make the feet miserable, dampening socks and spirits alike.
But Hilary Saucy is far from the average northeasterner.
Saucy just finished her sophomore year at the University of Maine at Presque, and while she is committed to her studies, made sure to use the extra weeks of winter to her advantage, practicing her cross country skiing every chance she got. The college student has been practicing her craft since she was 13 years old. After receiving a pair of cross country ski’s one Christmas, she learned the ropes in her backyard, and began making trips to New York State in order to test her skills on official trails.
Before long, Saucy took a lesson when she was 17, and got even better. Now she trains for competitive skiing, and currently competes at national and college levels. Her most recent results? Two second-place finishes and a third-place finish. Oh, and that was her first shot competing at the Senior Level, where all the other competitors were older and more experienced than she.
As we covered in a previous post, just because we can bask on lawn chairs or soak up some rays on roofs, that does not mean hitting the slopes is a dead possibility for us skiing enthusiasts. Even when snow isn’t present in physical form, Saucy experiences it in spiritual essence- constantly training on drier ground to remain in peak physical condition. This includes cardio such as running and cycling, as well as strength exercises.
Always, do what you love!
For better or for worse, it seems that spring in the Northeast is finally here to stay. This winter was, no doubt, a long one. At first it may have started out like any other winter- the days getting ever so slightly shorter, the night seemingly inching back every single hour. And then before we knew it, it was night by five o’clock, and our commutes home were done in the cover of darkness. And as it got darker, the temperatures accordingly dropped, and as those temperatures tumbled that frigid change became as easily detectable in meters of mercury as surely as the sun dipped below the horizon even before we had a chance to leave the office. But then the temperatures kept falling, below what we expected. It just didn’t stop. And so we got a parade of weathermen and weather women telling us that the plunging temperatures and frosty conditions were the result of an old and forgotten phenomenon called “the polar vortex”. And while no one really bothered to explain it while abandoning the technical vocabulary and jargon of meteorologists, we all knew this icy menace was holding us in it’s cold grip for a bit longer than we would expect. And December was rough, and January, and February too. But by the time March came around, lots of breathed a collective sigh of relief, and expected a bit of a change from the wintry chill. But when the third month of the year provided no relief, we invested all our hopes in April. Sure, we got some great days, but on the whole it was a bit cooler than many of us would hope. But May is finally here, and the Sun King has come along with it, and happiness reigns supreme once more.
But it’s too often something’s absence that makes us realize how much we miss it’s presence. Remember a few months ago, when I wrote a post on the ways that a later winter meant beefed up skiing opportunities for the spring? Well Christian Science Monitor seems to have one upped me, as they have recently written about Colorado’s Araphoe Basin’s recent snowfalls (as much as 17 inches in the past few days). While many ski resorts have since closed, the Basin is wide open, and June skiing will be going strong. So it may be time to hit the road again! This time for skiing a little farther out west, in Colorado.
Not even two months removed from the Sochi Winter games, its finally time to talk once more about the US National Team. And why wouldn’t we want to pounce at this opportunity to talk about a fantastic team; after all, the Olympics were all the way back in February and we have to wait another (almost full) four years before we can see some powdery action on an international stage that large, in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
But for the time being, let us turn our collective American attention to the U.S. Alpine Skiing Team nominations, as reported by NBC OlympicTalk Naturally, some of the athletes named are heroes from the winter games in Russia, like Ted Ligety, who struck Olympic Gold at the giant slalom. The last two years has seen Ligety ranked third and fourth, but this time, he has an overall title in his sights. Others, like Lindsey Vonn, are coming off of injuries and ready to prove themselves during the World Cup season. Specifically, Vonn had surgery back in January, and is aiming to be back just before the seasons officially starts.
19-year old Mikaela Shriffin is also coming off international, including Olympic, successes- Shriffin took home gold from Sochi, and the World Cup title in Slalom. Like many other athletes, she’s setting the bar high for herself, and hopes to catapult her previous accomplishments and achieve new ones, like winning the giant slalom on the world cup stage. Julia Mancuso has been nominated too. Manusco won bronze back in Sochi, for the super combined, but did not finish higher than 15th place in any World Cup level events. Another notable nominee is Bode Miller, who hold the distinction of being the oldest skier to win an olympic medal (bronze, in Sochi).
Several notable skiers, such as Resi Stiegler, did not earn a nomination. For Stiegler, it was health issues that proved an immovable hurdle to competition. Others earned B-team spots. However, the final roster will be announced later, in the autumn.
Find the Men’s and Women’s A-Team nominees below:
Men’s A Team
Women’s A Team
If you consider yourself to be an avid skier, chances are that you have some a favorite slope. Who knows, maybe you have two. But over at Popular Mechanics, Shannon Hassett has compiled a list of very unusual ski resorts. I’ll share a few here
Gulmarg (Kashmir, India): This ski resort is located in the westernmost parts of the Himalayas, so you know that height is a huge factor for these slopes. Each year, they are dumped with a ton of snow. The impeccable snow (or “curry powder” as skiers and snowboarders call it) is largely untouched for a reason. These are some incredibly high slopes, and as such, are reserved for the most advanced skiers and snowboarders. And if you have the daring and courage and iron endurance to make it to the top, you’ll do it by way of a special gondola. See, the highest slopes are accessible by a single gondola, which itself can be a rattly ride.
Woodward at Copper (Copper Mountain, Colorado): Skiing is great, we can all agree, yea? But the only thing better than that could be skiing available year round, and Woodward at Copper offers just that. Technically, it’s actually an extension of action sports camp, Camp Woodward. The skiing facility is more like a training ground for skiers and boarders alike, both on the hill and off the hill. À la carte sessions are available, but so are week-long training periods. And as I said before, the facility is indoors. I know what you may be thinking, “but its not the real thing!”. Yes, it’s not. But while it’s not the real experience, it’s probably better than nothing during those warmer months, and definitely better than waiting and wishing for snow.
Pic du Midi (Pyrenees, France): If you’re into skiing, theres probably a chance that you don’t mind exploring the great outdoors. Maybe you even love it. Maybe you love skiing, because exploring the natural world is a part of the experience! If that’s the case, Pic du Midi is a tailor-made skiing experience crafted on the peaks of the French Pyrenees itself. You know what makes Pic du Midi stand apart from all the other peaks in the range? It’s observatory. On the peak. It’s actually a relic from 1960’s NASA, where scientists took pictures of the moon in preparation for the Apollo landing. A cable car will actually take you to the observatory, where you can start gaze before signing a waiver to ski down the 3,000+ foot slope.
Check out the other unique resorts here.
Last month, I shared some really sweet deals on spring skiing. But let’s just say you can’t get out to your favorite slope today, or tomorrow, or the next, or this spring season at all, for that matter. Now nothing comes close to the real thing, but sometimes a well written entry on the joys of skiing can really bring that happiness home. Just think of the good things.
To that end, I want to invite you to check out this amazing guest post by author Marcus Brotherton. Originally posted on the blog The Art of Manliness, Brotherton’s post- An Ode to Spring Skiing– is full of poetic lyricism, and is a great example of the importance of self reflection. We learn that Brotherton loves to ski, but that was not always the case. He first learned of skiing when he was a young boy, from a cousin living in the United States (Brotherton is Canadian by birth). His love for skiing started small, but grew as he surrounded himself with friends who loved the sport. By the time he was fourteen, he was invested in skiing, even buying gear that closely resembled boyhood’s unanimous hero, the MI6 agent 007- James Bond.
By the late 1980’s Brotherton had discovered spring skiing, and embraced it fully. He describes his experience as participating in an entirely new sport, where the elements are with, instead of against, you. His anecdote comes to a close with an acknowledgement of his newfound powdery passion of mountainous proportions, the forsakenness of sunscreen, and the discovery of a new facet of his personality. He concludes with a conversation between him and a high school classmate: A girl makes a remark inquiring about his obviously sunburnt body, and he cooly shrugs off all derision while embracing his physical appearance. It was, after all, the result of him doing what he loved. That cool confidence turned the tables in his favor, and the girl left the conversation impressed.
Now, we are all unique, but I think we can take something away from this Ode to Spring Skiing. It may be a good idea to think about whatever it is you’re passionate about- skiing, or otherwise- and reflect on how it changed or shaped you, or otherwise assisted in your personal growth. Then share that story with others, spreading inspiration and appreciation.
Till next time.