Get Schooled on the Mountain

Preparation Equals Chaos Free Kids’ School Experience

Now I don’t know about most people, but for me, just taking a 4- and a 1-year old to the grocery store can be a daunting expedition. So when I was preparing to bring them on their first snow sports vacation I was truly overwhelmed. Used to be my husband and I would throw our gear in the car and go. End of story. But now we had to think about equipment for the 4 year old, daycare for the one year old, keeping them warm, dry and happy and dealing with nap schedules and general crankiness (probably ours more than theirs). I decided that advance preparation was my only weapon in what was sure to be an interesting adventure.

Will Hansen, Director of Sugarbush Resort’s Adventure Learning Center, agreed. He said that one of the best things parents can do to prepare is to log onto the resort’s website in your early planning stages. “Most resorts have ways to make the kids’ ski/snowboard school process smoother and easier. Before you even leave home you can fill out the necessary paperwork to register for ski and snowboard school. We also have a first timers’ area on our site that gives advice about proper clothing, gear, nutrition and hydration.”

We arrived at Sugarbush just after lunch, so the first move we made was to visit the Adventure Learning Center and sign Katie up for school in advance. If we waited until the next morning, I knew it would simply add to the chaos. Next we took her to the rental shop to get her skis and boots. At that time of day we were the only ones in the shop so everyone was helping her and telling her how much fun she’d have. Now we were set for the next day’s chaotic arrival at ski school.

“On the big day, getting there early is key,” says Hansen. “Most schools start at 10 but you can arrive as early as 8:15. The kids can play games and do artwork and you can get an early start to your day on the mountain.” Hansen also notes that the early arrival allows kids to get to know their coach and to feel more comfortable.

“The other really important thing to do is make sure that you’re clear about what your goals are for your kids’ ski/snowboard school experience,” Hansen says. “If you really want your child to advance quickly, you might find that private lessons would give you more bang for your buck.” In addition, he says you should talk to your child and find out what his or her expectations are. “You may need to explain to them that they won’t be going to the top of the mountain on their first day.”

After ski school, many parents want to take their kids out on the slopes and have them show what they’ve learned. Hansen advises that parents should talk to the child’s coach and get a feel for what they’ve achieved and what they can handle. I actually have memories of my mother dragging me up the poma lift on my first day after ski school and me forgetting everything I’d learned on the way down. I took out the lift operator at the bottom – the humiliation lives on to this day.

Needless to say, I was careful to assess where Katie was at when I picked her up. She was, in fact, so tired that we barely made it to the waffle house at the base of the chairlift. I figured rewarding her with a chocolate drowned Belgian waffle while sitting in the snow was teaching her an important lesson about skiing. That, for us, it’s all about family, fun, snow, sunshine and celebrating a great day on the slopes with an après-ski treat.

Four Simple Steps to Chaos Free Kids’ Ski Lessons

1. Make sure your child has appropriate layers with ski/snowboard pants, jacket, layering pieces, gloves, goggles/sunglasses, hand warmers, socks, etc. This seems more daunting than it is; so just stop by your local retailer to get the checklist of what your child will need to have a fun experience on the slopes.

2. Once you arrive at the resort, find the Learning Centers or Ski Schools and sign your child up for lessons.

3. Stop by the rental shop to have your kids fitted for boots, skis or snowboards and a helmet.

4. Take your child to school!

Now, you can enjoy your own free time on the slopes, getting a few runs in before picking your child up from lessons and prepared to listen to your child tell you all about how much fun they had.

Content courtesy of SnowSports Industries America | SIA and

Driving in Winter Conditions

Master the Highways in the Dead of Winter

Driving confidently to a winter resort depends largely on your snow-driving skills. I learned mine at the Bridgestone Winter Driving School in Steamboat, Colorado. While most of us don’t have the luxury of going to Winter Driving School, there are certain driving tips that we should all use.

Before driving on these frozen freeways, we need to understand about a car’s weight transfer and grip. Grip or traction is dramatically affected by weight transfer, which occurs whenever there’s a change from steady braking. When braking, weight is on the front wheels; when the car speeds up, weight transfers to the back wheels. Think popping a wheelie.

Knowing the principles of weight transfer and grip helps to understand the yin and yang that most influence vehicle behavior: understeer and oversteer.

Oversteer is when the car turns more than you want — again, due to too much speed. When you try to slow down, weight shifts to the front, taking away grip from the back and allowing it to fishtail. Sound familiar? To correct it, steer in the direction the rear end is skidding.

Killing Speed

You should practice the following three braking methods: threshold braking, cadence braking and ABS braking. We practiced three separate braking methods after barreling down the track’s slippery straightaway. Threshold braking means applying as much pressure as possible without going into wheel lock-up. Cadence braking, or pumping, works in desperate situations. ABS (anti-locking braking system) is controlled by computer sensors that adjust brake pressure to prevent lock-up. The system pumps the brakes for you, creating rapid pulsations underfoot. My first reaction to ABS was to take my foot off the bouncing brake, but I soon learned to keep the pressure on until the car stopped. Knowing how to brake is huge because intersections and hills become polished and slick with frequent stopping and slowing.

For me, driving on ice is a lot like skiing: steering, transferring weight and adjusting speed to the terrain. And, as in skiing, I never go faster than my guardian angel can fly.

Content courtesy of SnowSports Industries America | SIA and

An Ideal Week at the Mountain

Seven Days of Fun at the Mountain

Now that you’re gaining mastery in skiing or snowboarding, spend a week at a resort to fine tune your skills and add other winter activities to ratchet up the fun meter.

Choosing a resort

Go online. Websites like give subjective reviews and comparative information for all major resorts in North America. Expand your horizons – pick resorts you haven’t visited. Then browse individual resort sites to find a good package deal. Everything from air and lodging to lessons and lift tickets is cheaper online. Children stay and ski for free at many resorts.


Lodge (hotel) room vs. condo. Condos are usually more spacious, allowing one or more families to stay together, and are good opportunities to save on meals. If you’re not into cooking on vacation, the lodge is a good option. Ask about breakfast, hair dryers, hot tub and spa services, laundry facilities, kids programs and on-site ski/snowboard storage. Schlepping equipment is not fun, especially for kids.

Ski-in/ski-out vs. the village. Some properties sit right on the mountain – convenient for slope access but not for restaurants and shops that are found mostly in the village. Ask about distances for walking and shuttles. If you must walk in your ski boots, buy a pair of Cat Tracks. These slip-on rubber soles will protect your boots on pavement and keep you from sliding on ice.


Find out about transportation – from the airport and in and around the resort. Some resorts like Jackson Hole, WY are a distance away from town, requiring a shuttle or rental car if you want to stay at one place and visit the other. Self-contained resorts like Vail, CO have excellent free transportation systems, so you never need a car. If you choose to stay in town, most inns and hotels offer shuttle service to the mountain.

Other activities

To get the full winter experience, book other activities like dogsledding, sleigh rides and snowmobiling. Reserve a spa treatment for the fourth day. After three days on the mountain, you’ll need a soothing break about that time. For the hot après ski, dining and late-night scenes, locals often can be the best resource. You’ll need dinner reservations at major resorts. Concierges at upscale lodges can reserve everything for you.


Take your skiing or riding to a new level by enrolling in a specialty program, such as lessons for bumps, racing and powder. Some schools offer classes just for women and seniors, and others will take you to their secret stashes for tips on all-mountain skiing/riding. Save time by booking your lesson and downloading release forms online. If you aren’t into taking a lesson, go on a free guided tour of the mountain offered by most large resorts.


If you don’t want to schlep your own equipment on a plane, book demos directly on the resort’s website or separately at for pickup at certain shops. Or sign up on for a technician to deliver equipment right to your room. Reserving ahead saves tons of time. You can also ship your own stuff ahead of your arrival.

Content courtesy of SnowSports Industries America | SIA and

A Weekend Trip for the Enthusiast

72 Hours of Freedom-Hit the Slopes

Can’t get enough skiing or riding in one day? Then it’s time for a classic winter weekend in the mountains. All winter weekends are good for heading to the mountains, but if you want more time on the slopes and to avoid crowds, you may want to pick a non-holiday time (pass up Christmas/New Year weeks, Martin Luther King and Presidents’ Day weekends).

Choosing a resort

Since you have only two days, make the most of your time. Pre-arrange everything from lodging, lessons and lift tickets on the resort’s website under packages. Search for special weekend offers. When you select a resort, look for one close to home (less travel time) from all-inclusive sites like that gives subjective reviews and comparative information for all major resorts in North America. Check out the trail map to make sure you can handle most of the terrain.


Find out about transportation – from the airport and in and around the resort. Some resorts like Jackson Hole, WY are a distance away from town, requiring a shuttle or rental car if you want to stay at one place and visit the other – too time consuming for a weekend. Resorts like Breckenridge, CO and Aspen, CO where lifts are right in town are good choices for weekends to enjoy both. They have convenient bus routes, and most inns and hotels offer shuttle service to the lifts/mountains.


Ski-in/ski out is the most efficient option for a weekend. Select a condo if you want to save money on meals; a lodge room if you don’t want to bother cooking after full days on the mountain. (Besides, a night out is part of the fun.) Check out parking situations if you drive; shuttle service from the airport if you fly. Inquire about ski/snowboard storage. Schlepping equipment is not fun, especially for kids. If you must walk in your ski boots, consider purchasing slip-on rubber soles that will protect your boots on pavement and keep you from sliding on ice.


Take your skiing or riding to a new level by enrolling in a specialty program, such as classes for bumps, racing and powder. Some schools offer clinics just for women and seniors, and others will take you to their secret stashes for tips on all-mountain skiing/riding. Save time by booking your lesson and downloading release forms online. If not a lesson, go on a free guided tour of the mountain offered by most large resorts, or just go rip it up with your friends! This could be your breakthrough weekend, where you get out of the green-blue rut and make the move to more challenging black terrain.


If you’re thinking of upgrading your equipment, this is a good time to do it. Stop by your local specialty retailer for great customer service and expert advice. Or, if you can, fly in or drive up Friday afternoon to allow time to visit the ski shop and make your choices. Then ski or ride on demos for the two days – this should give you a good idea of what you’d like to buy. Most shops deduct the cost of the demo from the purchase price. You’ll go home with new gear as well as great memories.

Content courtesy of SnowSports Industries America | SIA and

Snow Skis Buying Guide

You would think buying skis would be fairly straightforward, but it can get a little complicated, so we’re here to help find the right set for you.

The basics are all here. Remember that it’s not only the ski that’s important, but also the binding – for instance, you can turn a downhill ski into a cross-country one simply by changing the binding. So let’s get started…

Kinds Of Skis

Alpine/Downhill skis are for the mountains, and for those skiers who like groomed runs (in other words, you’re not a powder junky, always looking to ski in fresh, ungroomed snow). If you’re looking to get a pair of skis and hit the downhill slopes, these are your baby. There are three different kinds of Alpine skis… All Mountain skis are a kind of Alpine/Downhill ski. They can handle powder or piste (the groomed surface of most ski resorts), but more are usually a little better on piste. These are also good if you like both powder and piste, and don’t want to have two pairs of skis to enjoy them.

Freeride skis or All Mountain skis are also a kind of Alpine/Downhill ski. Freeriders can handle pretty much anything that’s thrown at them – powder or piste, but lean a but more towards the powder. Freeride skis tend to have a cut and design that is best suited for advanced and expert skiers, so be warned. Carving skis are also a kind of Alpine/Downhill ski. They are short skis designed for people who want to carve up the slopes – cut back and forth, a lot.

Cross-Country skis come in many shapes and sizes, so first let’s be clear about what you can expect. “Off-track” touring skis are for powder, while “In-track” skis are mainly for groomed spaces where there won’t be as much fresh powder.

Backcountry skis allow you to not only slide through the countryside, but also to climb up hills and ski down other ones. They usually have metal edges and are nearly as wide as most Alpine skis. Backcountry skis tend to be wider and sturdier then Nordic skis (see below) for the simple reason that they are designed to carry you and your gear. If you currently have Alpine skis, you can try Alpine Touring attachments on your current skis to see if backcountry is for you (the AT attachments allow you to lift your heel when climbing). But serious backcountry aficionados should probably invest in skis designed for all the pleasures that only backcountry skiing can bring.

Nordic skis are more for even cross-country skiing across groomed runs. These are the traditional in-track touring skis that are most suitable for paths that have already been broken in. Because they’re not designed to hold the weight of extra gear or to go down steep hills, these skis are generally lighter than AT or Backcountry skis.

Skating skis use an inline skating style on groomed trails. Skating skis are narrower, shorter, and lighter than other traditional cross country skis.

Alpine Touring (AT) skis are the do-everything ski, from going across the countryside to climbing hills to cruising down the backsides. AT skis usually are light (too heavy and it will be too much work) and have a fair amount of flex. Remember, you can start off by getting AT attachments for your current skis to see if a true pair of Alpine Touring skis are for you.

Climbing skins are available for these skis to help you go uphill with less effort. Telemark skis, much like Backcountry or AT skis, can be used to glide across the countryside, climb hills or shooting down them. Telemarks have a unique design that reflects some important differences. Alpine skis are designed to have most of the weight on one ski when turning (the bottom ski), which means they need to be able to withstand that pressure. Telemarks are designed for skiers to split their weight 50/50 in a downhill turn, with the back leg doing as much work as the front. That’s another way of saying they’re not for beginners.

Twin tips, jumping, ski boards – all these things are designed for snow parks where you will spend most of your time in a half-pipe or other obstacle course.

Kinds Of Skiers

Someone once said that 80% of all skiers are intermediate, but that 80% of them think they’re experts. The bottom line is that buying a ski above your skill level will be a waste of your money and your time, so choose carefully. Here’s a rough guide:


If you’ve only been skiing for weeks or a few years, you’re probably here. Green and blue runs don’t bother you, but black and above make your heart race and your legs ache. Moguls and ice is definitely not for you. You probably can’t tell the difference between a tuned ski and a non-tuned one. The vast majority of us fall into one of these categories. It’s okay – embrace it and buy the right ski. You’ll have a far better time. Trust us.


Advanced skiers can ski the entire mountain – front, back, piste, powder. Off-piste and bumps might still rattle you now and again, but you’re pretty solid everywhere you choose to ski. You can tell when your skis need to be tuned.


You seek and thrive on challenging runs, and can ski in any condition extremely well. You like skis that are stable at very high speeds, and can handle the terrain no matter how dicey it gets.


You know who you are: either a paid, sponsored professional, or pretty darn close to being one.

The Shape Of Your Skis


All modern skis have a sidecut so that they can turn. Without it, your skis would want to go straight when you decided to cut left or right. “Carving” skis have a pronounced sidecut so that they can cut back and forth on the slopes without dumping their owner on his or her neck. By contrast, Nordic skis, which see few turns, have very little sidecut and are relatively narrow. Technically speaking, sidecut refers to the long, inward curves on both sides of a ski. It’s designated by 3 numbers: the widths, in millimeters, of the ski’s tip, waist and tail. The greater difference in these numbers means the larger the sidecut.


Ski width is typically measured in three areas: the width at the tip, at the waist, and at the tail (for example, 122/90/115). These measurements give you an accurate idea of the uses for a ski. Generally, whether an alpine or a cross-country model, your ski needs to be wider if you’re going to be skiing on powder. This spreads your weight out and lets you glide over the snow, instead of plowing through it. Wider skis also provide a more stable platform, which makes them easier to balance on when moving through variable snow conditions. You don’t need to worry about width too much unless you’re a powder junky.


Very basically: Shorter = easier. Longer = harder, but faster. Because of the sidecut, skis no longer need to be long to give you plenty of stability at high speeds. As a general rule, most beginner and intermediate Alpine skis should come between your nose and forehead. But you need to consider the type of skiing you’ll be doing, your skill level, and your weight. All these things impact how long a ski should be. Generally, beginners and intermediates should stick with shorter skis for ease of turning and better control. Once you move up to greater speed and different kinds of conditions, you can begin to play around with your ski length – and longer might in time be better for you. A very rough guide for beginning alpine (downhill skis) skiers is:

Weight (lbs) Ski Length (cm)
Less than 100 . . . 140
101-115 . . . . . . . 145
116-130 . . . . . . . 150
131-150 . . . . . . . 155
151-175 . . . . . . . 160
176-200 . . . . . . . 165
200+ . . . . . . . . . . 170+

DIN setting

The DIN release setting is just simply how easily your boot pops from your ski. To save beginner’s knees, the DIN setting is usually set generously low. More advanced skiers need to have the DIN set higher so that their aggressive moves don’t pop the boot from its binding – a major drag. The DIN is set according to skill, weight, and type of ski.


There isn’t really a ‘flex’ system, but just a few pointers here. Your skis’ flex, or stiffness, is directly related to its performance. Beginners generally want skis that bend more easily, because they are a little easier to control. Stiffer skis are better for performance in crud, boilerplate, and varied snow conditions. But stiffer skis require more energy and skill to turn and move, so there’s always a trade-off.

Alpine Bindings And Mountings

Bindings, like skis, come in many forms, shapes, and sizes. Remember that you can convert an Alpine ski to a cross-country one by changing the bindings to Alpine Touring (which simply lets your heel come up).

Generally, it’s important to simply have the right kind of binding for the right kind of ski and the right kind of skiing. Obvious, right? Just in case, here are a few basics:

Forward Pressure – advanced forward pressure mechanisms can help to keep your skis retained under a lot of flex and pressure.

Release Direction – make sure you toe and heel pieces release in a way that makes sense for your skiing style. So, to be obvious, Alpine ski bindings should release vertically and Nordic ski bindings horizontally – the most likely way you’ll apply the wrong kind of pressure to these skis.

Antifriction Device – antifriction devices (AFD) ensure you ski will release in any condition.

Lift – this simply provides some clearance for your boots in turns. Carver’s, for instance, often have bindings that lift the boots in turns.

Vibration Dampening – no point in rattling your teeth loose if you can help it. Dampening devices absorb the bumps and grinds of the mountain, so you don’t have to.

Cross-Country Bindings

There are two general cross-country bindings available. There are subcategories within these, of course, but all conform in most ways to one of these basic designs.

The NNN (New Nordic Norm) has a bar in the toe of the boot that hooks to the binding. A more aggressive form of this is known at the BC (Back Country).

75 mm (Rottefella, Nordic Norm, 3-pin) are the time-tested bindings originally used on all cross-country skis. Time-tested, which means they’re reliable, durable, and work well.

Telemark Bindings

There are 4 general kinds of Telemark bindings, which will briefly go over here.

Neutral Cable is where it all began. Neutral cables are strong, dependable, and time-tested. Cables exit the toe piece that allows the heel to rise up, and your body motion and gravity lower your heel back down.

Active Cable does a little more of the work for you. Unlike neutral cables, an active one will pull your heel back down toward the ski after each motion, which can make moving a little easier.

Free-Pivoting Touring moves the point of contact forward so that the binding pivots at the front of the toe, instead of the ball of the foot. These makes these bindings more like AT ones, and thus great for backcountry.

Releasable bindings are just what they sound like, and for serious Telemarkers who may be concerned about avalanche and the need for serious speed.

AT Bindings

Most AT skis come with traditional step-in bindings. These are heaver than the newer Dynafit bindings, but they allow for aggressive downhill skiing.

Speaking of Dynafit bindings – they’re super light-weight, which makes climbing up hills a lot easier. Of course, they’re not as good if you’re looking to ski aggressively on the way back down, but many think the trade off in weight and easier movement are well worth it.