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.
With an average of more than 300 inches of snow, along with around 300 days of sunshine each year, Telluride Ski Resort is a popular snow sport destination in the mountains of Colorado. Founded in 1878, Telluride was an important trading post during the gold rush era, but with the mines shutting down in 1953, families moved away and the town was all but deserted until, thanks to a wealthy entrepreneur named Joe Zoline, the snow-covered mountains were turned into a ski area boasting five lifts and a day lodge. Ever since, Telluride has kept up with the times, making improvements for the benefit of snow sport enthusiasts who visit each year, and there are a number of enhancements and new features visitors can look forward to in the 2013-2014 snow skiing season.
In recent years, Telluride has been marketed as being “Unmatched in North America“, but the resort has chosen to use the tagline of “The Most Beautiful Place You’ll Ever Ski” for the new season. Director of Telluride’s public relations and communications, Tom Watkinson, noted that the tagline was chosen to focus on the natural surroundings of the resort, which is an aspect guests appreciate and value.
To ensure that skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts spend less time traveling, flights to the two local airports – Telluride and Montrose – will be increased in the winter months. Round-trip flights will be offered between Montrose and Denver, Phoenix, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and Houston, while Great Lake Airlines will continue to operate flights between Denver and Telluride. This initiative promoted by the Colorado Flights Alliance will overcome the challenge of gaining access to the relatively remote ski area.
During the off-season period Telluride spent $1 million upgrading snowmaking facilities and increasing its number of snow-guns. These upgrades mean that more snow can be made much faster and with less waste – all good news for skiers and riders itching to hit the slopes. With snowmaking crews working 24-hours a day in 12-hour shifts, snowmaking is set to start in late October, continuing through to February. New grooming equipment is ready to start preparing the slopes as soon as they are covered in snow. So, make your plans now for a snow skiing holiday at Telluride in Colorado.
Fans are no doubt delighted at the news that Lindsey Vonn is back on the slopes again, more than six months after her knee surgery. The four-time World Cup Overall Champion recently tested out her skills on the slopes in Portillo, Chile, and proved that her recovery is way ahead of schedule, putting her in line to compete at the 2014 Sochi Olympics taking place in March next year. The US Team is busy with a two-week training camp in Chile and Vonn intends to get plenty of practice during this time.
The road to recovery has not been an easy one for Vonn who damaged her ACL and MCL ligaments when she wiped out at the world championships in Schladming, Austria, in March this year. She has spent four hours a day in the gym focusing on rehabilitative exercises to heal her right knee. She also took up the hobby of fly-fishing which helped her to remain calm and focused as she worked toward her goal of regaining her strength and getting back to the sport she has dedicated herself to.
In the year 2000, at the age of 16, Lindsey Vonn made her World Cup debut. She went on to compete at the 2002 Utah Winter Olympics, claiming her first World Cup title in 2008, repeating the performance in 2009, 2010 and 2012, and going down in history as the second American woman to win four World Cup overall titles. At the 2010 Winter Olympics Vonn won the gold medal in downhill, the first time ever that this event has been won by an American woman. Her other World Cup achievements include 6 titles in the downhill discipline, four titles in Super G, and 3 titles in the combined. She has won World Cup races in all five alpine skiing disciplines, being one of only six women to have done so in World Cup history.
Vonn hopes to return to competition at Beaver Creek, Colorado, (near her hometown of Vail) in late November – a few months ahead of Sochi. A recent post on Vonn’s Facebook page announced “I’m on the road to Sochi and I’m not slowing down!”
The Lahti Ski Museum, located at the foot of the Lahti Sports Center ski-jump ramps, was started in 1958 by veterans of the Lahden Hiihtoseura skiing club in Finland and officially founded in 1974. The first permanent exhibition for the museum was set up in the club’s old sauna, and as the museum collection grew, a new building designed by Esko Hämäläinen was built and opened to the public in November 1989. In the year 2000, the façade of the building was renovated and an 80-seat auditorium and restaurant were added. Today, visitors can enjoy a range of activities and discover fascinating facts about snow sport at the Lahti Ski Museum.
The permanent exhibition at the museum offers insight into the history of competitive skiing in Finland. It highlights prominent personalities in snow sport history, and displays examples of skiing equipment through the ages, giving visitors the opportunity to see the advances that have been made in ski safety and utility. There is a saying that every Finn has the desire to participate in the Lahti Ski Games at least once in a lifetime, and this is evidenced by the displays dedicated to this iconic annual event. Through multi-media displays and exhibitions of relevant memorabilia, visitors have the opportunity to ‘meet’ pioneering and famous sportsmen and sportswomen who have excelled in various categories of snow sports. Items on display include skis, sticks, bindings, items of clothing, flags, skates, books, photographs, stamps and more. The museum is also entrusted with taking care of the records of the Lahti Ski Club and Finnish Ski Association.
Activities include a simulation of the highest ski-jump in Lahti where visitors can experience the thrill of speeding down the slope and hurtling through the air – but without the risks. The simulator measures the participant’s weight and adjusts the experience accordingly. The distance of the jump is measured by the point used for takeoff. Visitors can even compete against one another as to who makes the longest jump. A downhill skiing simulator is also available for visitors to experience of this popular type of snow skiing, while an optical gun gives participants a chance to try out the fast-paced sport of biathlon. Certainly, there are many reasons to visit the family-friendly Lahti Ski Museum in Finland.
Located in the spectacular Pennine Alps, the Klein Matterhorn is the second highest peak in Switzerland‘s Zermatt-Cervinia ski area and boasts Europe’s highest cable car – a fact which is advertised on a billboard at the 3,883 meter summit. The panoramic view from this summit is breathtaking, and with generous snow cover all year round, the Klein Matterhorn is a popular destination with snow sport enthusiasts. Promoted as the ‘Matterhorn Glacier Paradise’, the peak of the Klein Matterhorn is part of the Plateau Rosa glacier on the border of Italy and Switzerland.
Europe’s highest cable car had to overcome many obstacles before it was constructed. After negotiating with the Swiss Nature Conservation Society and the Swiss Alpine Club, two areas (Matterhorn and Monte Rosa) were designated as protected zones, with a third area being approved for tourism development. Objections by the citizens of Zermatt and environmentalists caused delays in granting the license for the cable car construction, with permission being granted in December 1973.
With the red-tape out of the way, the next challenge was to recruit workers who were willing and able to labor at the high altitudes of the three construction sites – the lower terminal, tower sites and mountain terminal. The construction eventually started in August 1976. The terminal at the peak proved to be the most challenging task, with up to 2,000 cubic meters of concrete being transported by helicopter to the site. To accommodate the below freezing temperatures, the concrete was mixed with warm water and anti-freeze before being ferried in insulated tanks to the site. Workers had to contend with temperatures that dropped below 40 degrees Celsius, and winds that reached a speed of more than 100 km/h. By the summer of 1977 the project was ready for the installation of the 35.8 kilometers of cables that would carry the two 100-passenger cabins.
In December 1979, the cable car carried its first passengers to the summit of Klein Matterhorn. Since then an average of 560,000 people visit the summit of Klein Matterhorn each year, many of whom make their way through the tunnel in the mountain to the ski slopes of one of Europe‘s most beautiful ski areas. If you have the good fortune to be among the skiers enjoying this experience, give a thought to the workers who made this possible under very challenging circumstances.
With climate change impacting negatively on snow sport destinations in many parts of the world, an artificial alternative may be just what snow skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts are looking for. An engineering firm in the UK has developed an artificial surface that mimics real snow, with the added advantage of being available all year around, irrespective of weather conditions. Moreover, the artificial surface has no hidden obstacles and is softer to take a tumble on, making it the perfect choice for beginners, while at the same time being suitable to create slopes and features to challenge experienced skiers and riders.
Dubbed Snowflex® by the manufacturers, this high performance product is made from a polymer composite, consisting of a monofilament fiber and carrier layer which is laid on top of a shock absorption system to give skiers the authentic feel of snow beneath their skis. A misting system reduces friction and adds to the experience. The fact that the system is used outdoors and requires no grooming means that its carbon footprint is significantly lower than snow-covered slopes in refrigerated buildings offered as all year around skiing venues. Developed specifically with snow sport in mind, Snowflex® has received two awards from the British Department of Trade and Industry and has been acknowledged as a viable alternative to snow.
Offering skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing every day of the year, the Liberty Mountain SnowFlex Center is the first venue of its kind in the United States. Located at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, the center features beginner, intermediate and advanced slopes catering for all levels of skill, and has a lodge with all the facilities needed for an enjoyable day out or an extended stay.
The Liberty Mountain SnowFlex Center offers lessons, with a view to steady progress by students, who will soon find they are tackling jumps, rails and other exciting features. Day camps and overnight camps include other activities such as rock-wall climbing, tubing, paintball and swimming.
So if you long for the thrill of snow skiing in the middle of summer (or at any time of the year), head for the Liberty Mountain SnowFlex Center and enjoy!
While thousands of people enjoy the natural wonders of Yellowstone National Park in the summer, a growing number of snow sport enthusiasts have discovered that the winter months are great for exploring the network of trails and backcountry areas of America’s historic national park on skis or on snowshoes. Some tour operators offer adventurers a touch of luxury with heated tents, gourmet meals and other nice-to-have amenities, while others offer a rough ‘n tough outdoor experience and some groups prefer the self-guided option.
Whichever way visitors decide to discover this national treasure, park authorities ask visitors to be mindful of the fact that Yellowstone is a wilderness and there are risks attached to exploring it. Visitors should be prepared for any situation, know the limits of their abilities and take responsibility for their own safety. Having said that, Yellowstone National Park makes a wealth of information available to visitors to plan their excursion and make the most of the park’s breathtaking natural beauty, while respecting the resident wildlife and the environment.
One of the easiest routes into Yellowstone in the winter months is from the town of West Yellowstone in Montana. Dry powder snow generally starts falling at the beginning of November, with snow cover lasting until May, giving snow skiing enthusiasts plenty of opportunity to explore the park on skis. Appropriate gear can be hired from Freeheel & Wheel in the town, and up to 35 kilometers of groomed trails are run by Rendezvouz Ski Trails not too far from town. This is the site of the annual Yellowstone Ski Festival held during Thanksgiving week – an event definitely worth including in your Yellowstone adventure itinerary.
As the roads in Yellowstone National Park are closed to cars during the winter months, visitors can travel by snow coach (a bus mounted on snow tracks) to check out “Old Faithful” in the Lower Geyser Basin, along with dozens of other thermal pools. Be sure to look out for elk, bison and flocks of trumpeter swans. The damage done by the 1988 fire which destroyed almost thirty percent of the park is still evident, but there are encouraging signs that the park is recovering. Groomed trails lead out from the village, and skiers can expect to see a variety of wildlife such as elk, moose, foxes, antelope, bison and bobcats along the way. Because there are less people around in winter, and food is harder to find, the resident wildlife venture out into areas they may avoid in the summer months, making winter the best time for wildlife viewing in Yellowstone National Park, and the best way to do this is on skis or snowshoes.
Located at the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway in Franconia Notch State Park, the New England Ski Museum is dedicated to preserving the history of recreational and commercial alpine and cross-country skiing in the northeastern United States. With ski resorts across the country celebrating the 75th anniversary of snow skiing this year, the new exhibit at the museum is very appropriate. Under the banner of Ski Area Survivors: Prewar American Ski Centers with a History, the exhibit will highlight ski areas that have continued to promote the sport through some very tough times.
The Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway is one of the survivors featured on the exhibit, having opened on June 28, 1938, and still going strong. The ten main ski areas dating back to prewar years set the standard for defining what constitutes a ski resort, as opposed to a ski area. These standards include groomed and maintained ski slopes or trails; modern ski tows or aerial lifts; on-site or easily accessible lodging; and an active ski patrol.
Opened in the winter of 1937, Sun Valley in Idaho was the first and most developed ski area, becoming the benchmark for ski centers that followed, and directly influencing the developments that took place at Belknap Recreation Area (now known as Gunstock) in Gilford, and North Conway’s Cranmore Mountain, both in New Hampshire.
Previously known as Whitney, Black Mountain in Jackson, New Hampshire, was one of the new resorts to open in the eastern areas, followed by Cannon Mountain in Franconia. Resorts in Vermont included Pico in Mendon and Mount Mansfield in Stowe. The western area’s main resorts were Mount Hood in Oregon, Alta, Utah, California, Sugar Bowl and Sun Valley. In addition to the leading ski resorts mentioned here, up to forty areas featuring T-bars and rope tows made skiing available to the growing number of enthusiasts. Some of these informal ski areas developed into prime ski resorts counted among the biggest and best in the country today. Among them are Aspen, Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado, and Deer Valley and Snow Basin in Utah.