As ski-biking becomes more popular, an increasing number of North American ski resorts and ski areas are opening up trails to this exciting sport. Durango Mountain Resort in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains has been featuring ski-biking as a winter activity for some time now, offering lessons, rentals and spectacular terrain for a whole lot of family fun (minimum age is 12 years-old). Because of the level of stability afforded by three contact points with the snow, ski-biking is generally easier to learn and safer than skiing (although tuition is strongly recommended), making it an ideal activity for skiers who don’t get to the slopes as often as they would like to. It is also a lot kinder to the knees, allowing skiers with knee problems the opportunity to enjoy the slopes for longer without discomfort.
The fact that ski-biking is generally safer, does not mean it is boring or doesn’t require skill. Ski-bikes have been specially developed to travel and maneuver with speed, and stop abruptly when required in much the same way as conventional skiers do, so riders need to be in control of their ski-bikes at all times. As with any other snow sport, having the correct equipment is very important. Ideally, when sitting on the ski-bike, the upper part of the rider’s body should be parallel to the position of the lower legs with knees lower than the hip joint. Feet are attached to short skis and riders should grip the saddle with their knees, keeping the short skis, or ‘gliders’ close to the ski-bike. Instructors will demonstrate turns and stopping, ensuring the new ski-biker is competent and confident before heading for the slopes.
Because ski-biking is still a relatively new and unusual sport, it may be viewed with some mistrust by others on the ski slopes. So, as ambassadors of the sport, it is essential that ski-bikers are courteous and follow slope rules to the letter. For more information on ski-biking in North America, visit the American SkiBike Association website.
Held in Koenigsee, Berchtesgadener Land, Bavaria, the 2014 wok racing championships – WOK WM 2014 – took place on March 8, with the gold medal going to Joey Kelly, silver to Georg Hackl and bronze to Armin Zöggeler. The team event was won by Otelo team with the four-member team from Jamaica comprised of Hanukkah Wallace, Marvin Dixon, Seldwyn Morgan and Wayne Blackwood. Georg Hackl’s speed record of 88.2 km/h set in 2012 remains unbroken. The four-person-woksled speed record of 97 km/h was set in 2006 by FROSTA team.
Wok racing is exactly what the name suggests – competitors seated in a Chinese cooking wok, racing down a bobsleigh track. Initiated by German entertainer and television host Stefan Raab, the wok racing championship has taken place annually since 2003, when Raab won the gold medal at the host venue in Winterberg. It should come as no surprise that the most enthusiastic supporters of wok racing are skilled lugers who are accustomed to hurtling down tracks at breakneck speed, at times reaching speeds of 140 km/h. The highest recorded speed of a luger was 154 km/h, set by Manuel Pfister of Austria at Canada‘s Whistler track. Of the three 2014 winners, both Georg Hackl and Armin Zöggeler are Olympic champions, while Kelly participates in a number of challenging sports including multi-discipline endurance events.
High-quality Chinese cooking woks are used in wok racing, with modifications being epoxy reinforcement of the bottom and polyurethane foam along the edges to prevent injury. Team woksleds consist of two pairs of woks held together by a frame, and the two pairs connected by a coupling. Much as in luge events, steering of the wok is done with shifting weight and body movements. Competitors wear well-padded protective gear and full-face helmets. To reduce friction competitors wear ladles under their feet, and woks are sometimes heated underneath with a blowtorch to enhance performance.
While it’s unlikely wok racing will become a winter Olympics sport anytime soon, it is a whole lot of fun for both competitors and spectators.
Considered to be one of the finest alpine ski racers in history, Hermann Maier is the holder of two gold medals earned at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympic Games and one silver medal earned at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic Games, as well as four overall World Cup titles – 1998, 2000, 2001, 2004. He also has numerous World Cup titles in other disciplines, including the World Cup Super-G title for 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2004.
Born in Altenmarkt im Pongau, Salzburg, Austria on December 7, 1972, Maier was introduced to skiing at a young age through his father’s skiing school. He showed great promise with his technique and at the age of 15 he was accepted into the Austrian national ski academy. Due to problems with his knees and his smaller than average size, he was dropped from the program and he returned to Flachau, competingin local races and becoming a regional champion in Tyrol and Salzburg.
In January 1996, he achieved the 12th fastest time in a giant slalom event in Flachau, which brought him to the attention of the coaches of the Austrian World Cup ski team and launched his international competitive ski career. On February 10, 1996, Maier made his World Cup debut at Hinterstoder, Austria, finishing 26th in the giant slalom. In February 1997, he won the World Cup Super-G race in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and in 1998 he won gold medals for both the giant slalom and Super-G at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. What makes his victories even more noteworthy is that they took place only days after he flew off the course of a downhill race and went tumbling head over heels a few times before crashing through two stretches of B-netting, walking away unscathed. The crash and his gold medal achievements brought him to the attention of the sporting world and he made the cover of Sports Illustrated with the byline “Thrills and Spills – The Olympics as You’ve Never Seen Them”.
Maier’s career went from strength to strength and in 2000 he won the World Cup title, as well as the title for downhill, Super-G and giant slalom, setting a record of the most points garnered by an alpine skier in a World Cup title. (His record of 2000 points was broken in 2013 by Tina Maze who scored 2414 points.) In 2001, Maier repeated his World Cup wins and gained silver and bronze medals at the 2001 World Championships held in St Anton.
In August 2001, Maier was in a serious motorcycle accident which required lengthy reconstruction surgery and rehabilitative therapy. However, he returned to international competitive skiing in January 2003, winning the Super-G at Kitzbühel, Austria. His amazing recovery and return to competitive skiing was acknowledged by the 2004 Laureus World Sport Award for the “Comeback of the Year” after he reclaimed both the overall World Cup title and the Super-G title. It’s no wonder that he is sometimes referred to as ‘The Herminator’.
Following several more victories, and having made an indelible mark on the history of the sport of snow skiing, Hermann Maier announced his retirement from competitive skiing in October 2009.
With days getting a little longer and temperatures warming up, spring in Vermont offers skiers and snowboarders loads of opportunities to get some skiing in before summer arrives. Up to 80 percent of the ski areas in Vermont have snowmaking facilities to supplement the snowfall experienced this winter, and more snow is forecast, all of which is likely to extend the snow skiing season at least to the end of March, possibly into early April.
Smugglers’ Notch Resort is offering some great family packages, with the lowest rates of the season applying from March 14 through to April 5, 2014. Ski and stay packages includes condominium lodging, daily lift tickets, and access to the resort’s indoor pool and hot tubs. They also offer snow tubing and an indoor FunZone with games and gigantic inflatables for the younger family members.
It’s not too late to grab some fun time at Stratton Mountain Resort. Specials include a Kids Ski and Stay Free offer for children 17 years old and younger, on condition that two adults purchase lodging and lift packages. Also, don’t miss the action of the 24 Hours of Stratton skiathon on March 15.
Sugarbush Resort is running a “Show Us Yours, We’ll Show You Ours” initiative where skiers presenting passes for other mountains will be given a discount on lift tickets – offering the perfect opportunity to experience this popular resort in what many consider to be the best time of the year.
From March 17 to the closing day of the season, Okemo Mountain Resort’s Spring Skiesta Card allows cardholders unlimited snow skiing and snowboarding. Plus, if cardholders buy a 2014/15 season pass by April 30, 2014, the price they paid for the Spring Skiesta Card ($99) will be applied as a discount.
Killington Resort’s offer for March 15 through to the end of the 2013/2014, dubbed the 2014 Nor’Beaster, offers snow skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts unlimited skiing and riding, live music and discounted lodging. The Nor’Beaster kicks off with a Shamrock Scavenger Hunt in honor of St Patrick’s Day, followed by a host of fun events such as the Ski Bum Race Series, Life is Good Nor’Beaster Festival, a Woodward Mini Camp for 7-19 year-olds, and much, much more.
Other Vermont ski areas and resorts offering specials to wind down the season include, Magic Mountain, Middlebury College Snow Bowl, Bromley Mountain, Jay Peak Resort and Bolton Valley.
Often referred to as “Sunny South Africa”, this diverse multicultural country on the southern tip of the African continent is generally not readily associated with snow skiing. However, there are snow skiing options in the country, at least one of which is available all year around – The Ski Deck in Ferndale, Gauteng. Facilities at the Ski Deck include wet surface ski slopes, a 20m static ski slope and the country’s first fully computerized simulator, dubbed The Sky Tek Power Carver – for ski and snowboard training. Additionally, The Ski Deck has an on-site shop offering top imported brands in ski clothing.
With a guaranteed 30,000m of skiing slopes, and 30 years of teaching experience on tap, The Ski Deck offers the quickest, and safest, methods of mastering skiing and snowboarding skills. Skiers in South Africa who are planning to head to Northern Hemisphere slopes for a skiing vacation can jump-start their experience by learning skiing and snowboarding techniques beforehand. This means more time on the slopes at their destination, and a whole lot more confidence in tackling the real thing.
Another advantages of learning to ski or snowboard at The Ski Deck include having an instructor on hand, providing pointers and giving correction where needed. Also, with no waiting for ski lifts to take them back to the top of a ski resort slope, students can pack a whole lot of skiing into a short space of time, perfecting their rhythm and turns. Beginners will find this particularly helpful, as learning on snow is subject to changing weather conditions and the sometimes difficult task of making their way back up the slope after each descent.
Experienced skiers can practice their skills on The Sky Tec Power Carver, ensuring they are in good shape when hitting the slopes at their favorite resort. Skiers of all levels of competency can practice their skills all year around, thereby strengthening and toning muscles used for skiing, but not necessarily in everyday life. No more aches and pains to hinder skiers as they rediscover muscles they’d forgotten they had.
Snow sport enthusiasts don’t need to leave the country to enjoy snow skiing. Reservations for the 2014 ski season at Tiffendell in the Eastern Cape Highlands of South Africa are now open. So make your booking and start honing those snow skiing skills.
Skate-skiing offers adventure seeking snow sport enthusiasts something different to try their hand at on groomed trails and it is fast gaining in popularity at a number of North American ski resorts. Although it is possible to skate-ski on cross country skis, it’s not ideal and skiers won’t get the true effect of the sport. Likewise, skate-skis are not suitable for cross country skiing, so while skate skiing has the advantage of speed, it does restrict skiers to groomed trails, which some classic skiers may not enjoy. Nevertheless, it is worth trying for the thrill of it.
The skier’s height and weight will both be factors in choosing the correct length of skate-skis, which are generally around 10cm shorter than cross-country skis. They need to be shorter and lighter as the skate-skier must lift them up off the snow for each forward stride, but they do need to be long enough to deliver stability and glide. Skate-skis are generally between 41mm and 45mm wide, as the narrower the ski, the higher the speed. Adding to the speed is the fact that skate-skis generally fit into established tracks and skiers can use these to gather momentum downhill.
On most skis the waist of the ski is the narrowest part, but skating skis are often wider at the waist to facilitate the skating motion. The camber, or arch, of skate-skis is less pronounced than that of touring skis allowing skate-skiers to push off the skis’ edges effectively. Also, skate-skis are less flexible than touring skis. Because of the twisting action of the skate-skiing technique, boots used in this sport offer more ankle support and have stiffer soles.
Poles used in skate-skiing should be sturdy and around 90 percent of the skate-skiers height, or from the ground up to between the chin and lips, which is different from touring poles which reach to the armpits. This allows the skate-skier to use major muscle groups in upper body and abdomen to propel forward.
As there are marked differences between classic forms of snow skiing and skate-skiing, skiers who would like to try this exciting sport are advised to have some professional tuition before hitting the slopes.
Canadian ski resorts are enjoying excellent snowfall this season, attracting a host of snow sport enthusiasts from Europe, as many European resorts experienced a slow start to the season. Many resorts in North America have been enjoying extensive snowfall, with the Polar Vortex keeping temperatures low, much to the delight of skiers. The fact that the English Pound/Canadian Dollar is very much in favor of travelers from Britain is quoted as another factor in the spike in bookings at Canadian resorts.
But as long-time skiers will tell you, snow conditions can change very quickly, and this was the case at Mad River Glen in Waitsfield, VT. The area started off with good snowfall in December, but in recent days rain has washed the remaining snowfall off the slopes. The Vermont Ski Areas Association confirmed that there have been more closed trails in the area this January than last. With minimal snowmaking equipment and communities who depend on snow to make a living, everyone is hoping some ‘white gold’ will fall.
Warm weather and poor snowfall have caused Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the Bavarian Alps to cancel a race which forms part of the Alpine Ski World Championships which were scheduled for the last weekend in January. Although the area has extensive snowmaking facilities, the weather has been too warm to even attempt to keep the slopes covered. German economic geography professor, Jürgen Schmude, is of the opinion that changes in the weather could drastically impact Germany’s ski industry as skiers head east in search of more snow. He predicts that by the year 2050 it is very likely that only Germany‘s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, will have snow for skiing. Whether this bleak prediction will become a reality remains to be seen, but in the meantime communities who rely on ski tourism to make a living watch the weather anxiously and skiers chase the snow wherever it leads them.
As snow starts falling in the Northern Hemisphere, weekend warriors are dusting off their skis and snowboards and heading for the slopes in increasing numbers. While keeping fit all year round is the best solution for avoiding painfully rediscovering muscles you haven’t used since last ski season, if you haven’t been doing that, experts recommend that skiers and snowboarders start an exercise program prior to hitting the slopes – and it’s never too late to start.
Cardio endurance is essential if you want to get the most you can out of your costly lift ticket. Preparing your body and your heart for a full day’s skiing should include a cardio-focused workout such as running, step aerobics, rollerblading, using an elliptical trainer or stair-master three to five times a week. Workouts should vary in intensity and last between 20 and 45 minutes, with a 60 minute workout once a week to build both strength and endurance. Muscular strength is essential in allowing you to relax into the experience of skiing, while maintaining control and being capable of making the split second adjustments required when negotiating uneven terrain.
While leg strength is important, skiers and snowboarders also need to stretch the upper body, and the core twist is excellent for this. Standing with your knees slightly bent, cross your arms in front of you and slowly look over one shoulder while letting your body follow until a good stretch is felt in your back and side. Hold this position for at least five seconds before repeating on the other side. Include some quadriceps and hamstring stretches in your routine.
Balance boards are a fun and effective way to prepare for time on the snow-covered slopes of your favorite ski resort. Other equipment for balance training includes wobble boards, medicine balls, balance trainers and slide boards. So, start exercising today. Even a short period of pre-slope exercise is better than nothing at all!
Developed by Jackie Paaso, Lel Tone, Elyse Saugstad, Michelle Parker, Sherry McConkey and Ingrid Backstrom, S.A.F.E. A.S. Clinics aim to raise snow safety and avalanche risk awareness among snow sport enthusiasts, particularly female snow sport enthusiasts. The name of the organization – Skiers Advocating and Fostering Education for Avalanche and Snow Safety (S.A.F.E. A.S.) – says it all, and with loads of experience between the six founders, they provide a welcoming environment where communication and participation are encouraged.
Swiss-born Lel Tone is the lead instructor of S.A.F.E. A.S. and has been involved in the Squaw Valley Ski Patrol since 1994, as well as being the Assistanct Avalanche Forecaster for the area since 2004. Her qualifications and experience include being a heli ski guide, a California-licensed Avalanche Blaster and an Avalanche control route leader at Squaw, as well as being a qualified Level 1 and Level 2 Avalanche Instructor through AIARE – American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education. Lel’s advice to skiers is to listen to and respect Mother Nature, remembering that she calls all the shots.
As a professional skier, Jackie Paaso has been a member of the Squaw Valley Freeride Team since 2009. She competes on the Freeride World Tour, with her wins including the 2010 Squaw Tram Face event and the 2012 Chamonix event. She has completed the AIARE Level 1 course and explored the Norwegian Arctic as part of Warren Miller Entertainment’s crew for the movie Flow State.
Raised in Girdwood, Alaska, Elyse Saugstad is a professional skier specializing in freeride and backcountry skiing. She earned the Freeride World Tour Champion title in 2008 and has notched up a number of International Freeride Competition victories during her successful career, as well as working with ski film companies and Chugach Powder Guides.
Ingrid Backstrom is a professional big mountain skier, appearing in Matchstick Productions movies, Warren Miller Entertainment Films, and Rocky Mountain Sherpas. The ski destinations Ingrid has been fortunate to visit include Antarctica, Pakistan, Greenland, Baffin Island and China. She has completed the AIARE Level 1 course.
Born and raised in Squaw Valley, Michelle Parker has been a member of the Squaw Valley Freeride team since 2006 and features in a number of productions by Matchstick Productions, including the film Superheroes of Stoke. Michelle has completed an AIARE L1 course and spends most of her time outdoors, following the snow between the northern and southern hemispheres.
Outdoor enthusiast Sherry McConkey uses her knowledge and experience as a teacher of Anusara yoga to help athletes with therapeutic stretching and yoga movements that focus on realignment, healing the body, gaining strength and clearing the mind. Sherry is the founder of the Tahoe-based non-profit organization, the Shane McConkey Foundation. She is currently completing the AIARE L1 course.
Visit the S.A.F.E. A.S. Clinics Website for information on current events and classes.
Located primarily in Austria, the ski region of Tyrol features no less than 500 peaks rising more than 3,000 meters above sea level. More than one hundred alpine ski resorts with more than 5,200 kilometers of skiable terrain, catering for a wide range of snow sport activities, can be found in Tyrol, making it one of the world’s most popular winter destinations. Resorts that consistently feature in the Top Ten ski destinations in Tyrol include Sölden, Hintertuxer Gletscher, Stubaier Gletscher, Ischgl, Mayrhofen, Pitztaler Gletscher, Serfaus, Kitzbühel, Obergurgl and St Anton.
Sölden lies in the midst of three mountains – Gaislachkogl, Tiefenbachkogl and Schwarze Schneide – all of which are over 3,000 meters in height. They are often referred to as the “Big 3″. The altitude of the skiable area ranges from 1,377 to 3,250 meters and incorporates two spectacular glacier ski areas. All slopes below 2,200 meters have snow-making machines to supplement natural snowfall, and 33 state-of-the-art lift systems ensure that skiers get to the slopes with minimum delay. As a World Cup host, Sölden is well equipped to ensure that large numbers of skiers are catered for in comfort.
While winter is high season at Hintertuxer Gletscher, the resort offers skiing 365 days of the year – the only resort in Austria to do so. With breathtaking panoramic views of the dolomites, and impressive ski runs and terrain parks, the Hintertux Glacier should be on every snow sport enthusiasts list of places to visit. The glacier circuit features 72,000 meters of descent and there is a network of lifts and other transport options to allow easy access to the entire resort.
Tyrol’s Stubaier Gletscher (Stubai Glacier) is the largest of Austria’s glacier skiing areas. It offers 110 kilometers of pistes with options for beginners right through to the most experienced of skiers. Snow is guaranteed from October through to June each year, with snow-making machines ensuring sufficient snow cover and enjoyment for all.
Covering an area with the altitude of between 1,377 and 2,872 meters, Ischgl is promoted as one of the biggest interconnected ski areas in Tyrol, with the Silvretta-Arena being its main attraction. In addition to its impressive ski areas and high-tech lift and cable car systems, Ischgl offers a range of events, concerts, shopping and other entertainment.
Certainly, snow skiing enthusiasts could spend a lifetime exploring Tyrol and never tire of the experience.