Tag Archives: Skiing

Ready, Set, Ski!

The progression of shaped skis from 1995-2017. On the far left, a fairly straight K2 from 1995; next, a side-cut Volant from 1998; a more dramatic cut on a K2 from 2003; a rounder tip and a wider ski from K2 circa 2008; and a rockered Rossignol from 2017. All five skis are classified as All-Mountain for intermediate to expert skiers, in other words…your average ski.  

There’s a bunch of things even seasoned skiers some times slip up. I use the term “seasoned” as opposed to”experienced” or “avid” here because I’m targeting a certain demographic of winter sports enthusiasts; you may be that person or you may know one…or several. I consider a seasoned skier as being someone that knows how to ski but either hasn’t done it in a while, only puts a few days on the mountain a year (generally in one block), or even is a frequent skier that perhaps could use a refresher lesson.

Shape Up

Let’s work that list in reverse. Close to 20 years ago the shape of skis went from nearly straight to having a very defined sidecut. A lot of folks like myself learned how to ski prior to that time, upgraded their equipment as the trend changed, but never learned how to ski correctly on shaped skis. I myself was guilty of this for a few seasons. Add in “rocker”technology, which started showing up in skis about a decade ago, and you discover “How To Ski” has dramatically changed since Picabo Street won the gold in the 1998 Super-G.

Almost two decades after shaped skis hit the market you can still find people swooshing down the piste in a tightly closed parallel stance trying to “Ski Like Stein.” Don’t. While you’re on your trip,drop a few bucks for a private lesson with a PSIA instructor and take a few hours to really use those planks properly. Intermediate and advanced lessons not only serve to sharpen your skills, but can potentially give you the experience of a lifetime.

Gear Check

If you’re that “One Big Trip a Year” skier or rider, consider a few things. Does yours and your family’s gear fit and is it in good condition? Your son or daughter might have grown out of their helmet.Does the lid fit the kid? Did you just stash your stuff after last year’s vacation? Better check those edges and get a fresh coat of wax. Are you bindings in good shape? How about those boots? Wear them around the house a few hours a day before you go to get the fit dialed in. A few years ago, I ripped the buckle on the power strap on the top of a boot during my final expedition of the season. When I got home I stashed my gear keeping the broken part on my mental backburner but the summer happened and I forgot to address the problem. Guess what? The boot was still broken when I went to use it the following December.

Lesson Learned

Finally, there are those who at one time, probably while in college and shortly thereafter, were avid skiers. Then, life arrived and they got married and had kids, and stopped skiing. Now, the kids are older and can tackle sliding down the trail with various types of metal and polymer based products strapped to their feet. No matter how great of a skier you were, don’t try to teach your kids to ski, unless you are an instructor (and even then some instructors will have other instructors teach their own kids.)

There’s a number of reasons why you should not do this.First, you’re not an instructor. There’s more to it than “Pizza and French Fries.”Pros know the tricks and tips you don’t. Secondly, eliminate the parent-child dynamic. If things go south, you’re not bringing it home with you or having it come up ten years later when one of you is on the therapist’s couch.

Additionally, if you’re coming out of skiing hiatus,refer to all of the above. If you just bought a bunch of new stuff, get familiar with it at home before packing up the SUV. If you’re dusting off a pair of planks that haven’t seen the snow since the Clinton Administration,check it over well. If your gear wasn’t abused and was stored well, it may not be the slickest stuff, but it can still serve you fine with some moderate maintenance.

Check your supplies, address your issues, and enjoy the mountains!

Vermont Skiing Madness

Photo 1
At the top of Mad River Glen

It’s the last Tuesday in January. A dozen or so skiers from Pennsylvania are waiting for a lift ride to the top of a mountain in central Vermont. Its trails twist and turn through trees and remain mostly marked in moguls. One by one they make embark on an uphill voyage on a relic of yesteryear, the last single chair ski lift in the lower 48 states. For some it’s their first ride, others are veterans, but whichever is the case, in a few moments they’ll reach the top and ski Mad River Glen.

A decade ago I was living in Vermont and was working in the ski industry. Through numerous sources I had access to a lot of free and low-cost skiing, some of which were restricted but a lot were open to everyone, just not well advertised. Occasionally my friends from Pennsylvania would come up and we’d make use of whatever deals we could. Such was the case in 2006 when two of my buddies came up and we took advantage of the “Roll Back the Clock Day” at Mad River Glen, a day when tickets are just $3.50.

Roll Back The Clock on the last Tuesday every January!

The autumn following that first trip I moved back to NEPA but the lure of cheap skiing and the lore of that inaugural adventure (which also took us to Jay Peak and Okemo) prompted us to go back and bring others. In addition to the deal at Mad River Glen, we picked up some vouchers for Killington and Mount Snow by attending the screening of the annual Warren Miller film at the Broome Co. Forum in Binghamton. We journeyed north, skied, and told more folks. This has perpetuated itself now for ten years. Our numbers have grown from three to over twenty, and through the years we’ve tacked on days at twelve Vermont resorts plus others in Massachusetts and New York. Where else we ski is largely determined by what discounts we can find, but Mad River Glen is always on the agenda and remains the focus of the trip.

The Iconic Single Chair
The Iconic Single Chair

MRG is something of an anachronism. Amidst the ever-expanding; state-of-the-art; full-service; all-amenities included style of resorts that cater to every possible whim of the vacationing snow sports enthusiast, it stands as the last bastion of bare bones; no frills; take-it-as-it-is skiing in all of the Northeast. It, along with Alta and Deer Valley (both in Utah) remain as the only resorts in the US that do not allow snowboarding, and thus is both praised and resented for that fact. Unique as well, it is owned by a Co-Op, not a private firm or a megalithic resort company, and it spends very little on marketing letting it’s supporters do most of the advertising simply by plastering it’s iconic red and white “Mad River Glen: Ski It If You Can” bumper stickers on cars, trucks, road signs, or whatever. I’ve met many seasoned skiers through the years that have never heard of the place and it doesn’t surprise me.


MRG’s only neighbor is Sugarbush, a moderate sized resort. Both are tucked away and more of a challenge to get to than other mountains. Both share some similarity in terrain but that’s about it. Where Sugarbush is modern, makes snow, and grooms its trails; Mad River is throwback; it relies solely on Mother Nature for its snow and only grooms its easiest slopes. Just as it’s loved or hated for its snowboard policy, MRG is hailed or condemned for its trail conditions….and that’s what draws us back year after year.

MRG Gladed Trails
MRG Gladed Trails

We fully know that we could show up to 7” of fresh powder or encounter rock hard ice and patches of bare ground, but for $3.50 we’ll take a gamble. More often than not things work our way. With an open woods policy and plenty of gladed terrain undoubtedly most of us take to the trees for exploration as much as technical skiing. Slipping into a sketchy chute we dodge spruce and birch trees through untracked snow and discover a frozen waterfall. Here we take a break and examine the cascade of ice before making out way back to a thin, winding trail that opens up to a steep bowl littered with moguls. After that, we breeze back to the bottom and jump in line for the Single Chair again.

Waterfall Exploration!
Waterfall Exploration!

Not everyone in our group has the desire to go crashing through the branches. Ages range from young adults to retirees and ability levels go from novice to expert but regardless we all find something there we like. Depending on the route taken down, a skier can meander back and forth across the mountain several times and take upward of a half-an-hour to make their way down witnessing spectacular scenery on the descent. No matter what, by 3pm most of us are spent. We’ll head back to our hotel, get ready for dinner, and compare stories about the day before planning out what to tackle the next day. In a few days we’ll be back on the Pocono slopes spinning out tales and undoubtedly someone new will be telling us they want to go on the next trip.

Originally Published in Connections Magazine. January 2014