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The wrong trail can be worse than a Dad Joke

It's time to start thinking about getting the family out on the slopes for some much needed fresh air, exercise and time away from zoom....

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Skiing's becoming stranger than fiction

If you've seen the movie "Stranger than Fiction" you'll know about people becoming obsessed with numbers.  Here's a clip from the beginning of the film, which tees up the topic for today's post.

So what's the connection? Northstar's new EpicMix system has been tracking tons of numbers, and has me and some of my ski-school friends constantly comparing stats.

According to Epicmix:

  • I've skied 26 days
  • Racked up 228,564 Vertical Feet
  • Ridden 288 lifts
  • Had 148 photos taken by the Epicmix pro photographers
  • Earned 44 Pins and 5,944 points
According to my lesson journal, I've taught:
  • 22 total lessons 
  • 44 individual students
  • 1 group of awesome kids from the Pioneer Program (Their instructor tore her ACL and I got to fill in for an afternoon)
  • 1 group of ten adult beginners
  • 20 private lessons (a mix of individual kids, individual adults, and groups of both)
My guests journeyed to Northstar from:
  • 4 from Dublin, Ireland
  • 10 from Brisbane, Australia
  • 2 from Texas
  • 1 from India
  • 1 from Santa Barbara
  • 1 from Sonoma
  • 7 from Silicon Valley
  • 5 from the East Bay
  • 2 from Marin
  • and the rest from parts unknown
Now the numbers you're probably most interested in relate to what we're skiing on. With Mother Nature being a bit stingy with her natural snow, I'm happy to report that Northstar's Snowmaking and Grooming Team are the bomb!

Thanks to them, Northstar now has:
  • 16 lifts running
  • 26 total trails opened and groomed
  • 35 features in the terrain park
The corduroy has been awesome in the morning, and the only reason I'm typing rather than skiing on my day off is that one of my students passed on a number of germs.  I don't know the stats, but I'm recording my first cold of the season.

That's all the numbers I can think of to share today, but since I'm home sick, feel free to call me at 415-601-1325 if you want to talk skiing!

Friday, November 18, 2011

We're open! And EpicMix hits Northstar!

I'm happy to report that the snow was awesome yesterday, and it was great to take some warm up runs before this weekend.  

The mountain and the ski school office are officially open, so those of you who've reserved dates on my calendar can call to confirm them with our friendly office staff (Stephanie, Lisa & Jenna). The private lesson line is still 530-562-3848.

And If you've not yet solidified your plans, and want to look or reserve a spot on my calendar it's available at this link. The calendar is not the official version, which is controlled by Stephanie and her team, but I'll be keeping it as up to date as possible.  I'm working on embedding it here on the blog, but having a few technical issues with google and Blogger.

Now there's a ton of changes at Northstar which I outlined in an earlier post, and I've now got first hand experience with the most exciting, EpicMix.   

Here's my quick take, and there's a great video here embedded down below. I'll try not to gush too much.

Last year over 100,000 people used the EpicMix app at Vail's other resorts allowing them to capture and share mountain achievements.  The system tracked how many vertical feet they skied, where they skied, and allowed them to earn fun awards.  If you've seen the Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson movie, The Big Year, you'll understand how people made it a competition to see who could ski the most.

The winner, a retiree with a lot of energy, logged 171 days and over 7,209,005 vertical feet of skiing!  Yesterday I logged my first three runs, and am proud of my 2,881 vertical feet.  

But the best thing about EpicMix is that it's now photo-enabled.  I'm sure you all know how much I love taking photos of my students to share with them (or if they are kids, with their parents).  But I'm not the best photographer in the world, and skiing backwards while snapping pictures isn't as easy as it may look.  So... EpicMix to the rescue!

Northstar will have 25 professional photographers all over the hill, taking pictures for free that will be automatically uploaded to your EpicMix account, and visible online, on your Android or Iphone within just a few hours.  The mountain has high speed wifi, and the photos are sent instantaneously to a center in Colorado where they're quality controlled before hitting your account.  This is all free of charge, and the privacy is under your control as well.  It's totally ok to link your account to Facebook, or not.  

Ok...enough gushing... hope to see you all on the slopes soon!


PS... if you want to be friends on EpicMix, just friend me on Facebook, and activate EpicMix after you get your lift ticket or season pass.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Stress-Free Ski Tips - Getting to the Hill

When a family heads to Tahoe for their children’s first ski weekend, expectations can run high. Heads are stuffed with thoughts of rosy cheeks, roaring fireplaces, hot chocolate and perhaps some alone time for Mom and Dad as the kids enjoy a day at ski school. Video cameras are packed to capture Mary or Michael’s first wedge turns and how darling they look on those little skis clad in their helmets and goggles.

Families making their second journey may have memories of a different nature. The first trip may have felt like an expedition up Mt. Everest, complete with a treacherous drive, a difficult schlep of equipment from the parking lot with mom and dad playing Sherpa, and the smaller team members breaking down in tears several times over the weekend due to lost mittens and cold fingers, or an overcrowded lesson or simply a high-stress vibe coming off of a harried mom or dad.

I started skiing at age 5 after my parents bought a cabin in Vermont. We drove 6 hours every Friday night to hit the slopes for two days and turn around and drive back home.  My parents may seem crazy, but they created a family tradition which still brings us all together.  Even though we live 3000 miles apart, my family gathers once a year for some form of ski vacation.  

As an instructor, my passion is helping other families create positive mountain memories and ski vacation traditions of their own.  So, this is the first of a series of blog postings which fall under the general umbrella of "Stress-free Skiing." The purpose will be to pass on advice and suggestions for making your ski trip as fun and as low stress as possible. For those of you who are members of the Southern Marin Mother's Club, some of what follows will look familiar, as it comes from an article I originally wrote for the group's winter newsletter.

The experience getting to your resort and in the process and procedures to get your family through the resort village, the rental shop and off to the ski school can be really great or painful.  It all depends on where you’re skiing and what you know in advance.  So how can you minimize the stress and maximize the fun factor if you’re new to skiing or new to the area?

First, tap your social network for insider tips. Select your resort, your lodging, your ski instructor and even your departure time and route based on recommendations from those who’ve already blazed the trail.

Getting to the hill

Snowy and icy roads can lead to traffic jams, white knuckles on the steering wheel and tense conversations between driver and passengers.  At their worst, poor driving conditions can cause an accident, which is no way to kick off a ski vacation.

Caltrans has a great resource called the Caltrans Highway Information Network.  It provides road information and even winter driving tips.

Motorists may telephone - 800.427.7623 for up-to-the-minute information in California and Western Nevada (Lake Tahoe/Reno Area). The network is updated as conditions change, and is voice-activated for safety and convenience. Of course, the information is also available online.  So... bookmark this link and know before you go.

Once you arrive, make getting to the slopes easy on you and your kids:

  • Eliminate a hike through the parking lot or the wait for a shuttle bus. Use your resort's courtesy drop off to deposit kids, skis, boards and one parent. The other can then park the car and make his or her way to a pre-arranged meeting spot without having to carry anything.  
  • If you do walk, don't wear your ski boots! Walk in comfortable shoes and utilize the resort’s lockers to store them during the day. This isn't just for comfort... your street shoes may prevent a slip and fall accident.
  • If you’re arranging a private lesson, leverage your instructor’s focus on customer service. Instructors love making every process easier for clients.  I regularly meet clients at the courtesy drop off, ready to be their Sherpa, resort tour guide, rental equipment advisor, and escort through what can be a busy village. 
  • Lastly, take note of where you parked your car, and if you're thinking of skiing in Tahoe, consider leaving a broom or a shovel in the trunk.  (see photo!) 

The next few postings will focus on:

  • How to manage the hand-off of your kids to their instructor in such a way that the kids aren't stressed, you're not stressed, and you've set your kids and their coach up for success.
  • How to extend the fun from the lesson into your own free-skiing with your children
  • Do's and Don'ts when your goal is to turn your little one into a little ripper who loves the mountains more than you do.

The author, Jay Palace, is a PSIA Level Two instructor and specializes in teaching children at the Northstar Ski & Snowboard School. He’s also the founder of Group Experiential Learning, a company which helps executives build high performance teams via active learning experiences. The hints, perspectives and ski tips shared here and on the “This Mountain Life” blog (www.skiwithjay.com) are not representations of Vail Resorts or Northstar-California.  Jay is happy to answer questions, no matter where you ski, and can be reached at 415-601-1325 or skiwithjay@gmail.com

Monday, October 31, 2011

How soon will she be off the bunny hill?


Last season I taught a 4 and half year old student named Mina.  As you can see from the video above, she's adorable.  But I'm posting this to highlight what's really important in ski lessons.  We ski instructors often discuss this amongst ourselves, and when possible, with parents.

Mina's parents' primary concern (after Mina's safety, of course) was that their daughter have fun. This puts them in that great group of parents who get it.

How fast she progressed wasn't important, creating a love of skiing was.

So this was an awesome lesson for multiple reasons:
  • Mom & Dad get it, and were "no-stress" parents.
  • Mina had fun, and is psyched for this season.
  • Mom and Dad were ecstatic.  

The fact that in four short hours, Mina was skiing without an edgy-wedgy and was off the Big Easy is a small source of pride, but in my humble opinion, in the grand scheme of things, it's irrelevant. Below is the actual video of Mina on her way off the bunny slope... It doesn't feature her smiling face, but Mom and Dad like it anyway.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tahoe Weather Geek - The source for snow news

For those of us who plan our ski or snowboarding trips based on long term forecasts, the best source I know is the Tahoe Weather Geek.  The weather guru who posts his forecasts at Tahoeloco.com is a good writer and tends to be really accurate.  You can also sign up for email notification, and whenever a significant weather event is imminent, he sends one out.

Today's email had this to say:
"A weak ridge of high pressure building over the region will mean a warming trend over the weekend, with high temperatures back to around normal by Sunday, perhaps a few degrees above normal.
But the change will be shortlived. Another low pressure system is expected to push past the Tahoe region Monday and Tuesday, bringing a return to cooler day time highs and, in its wake, perhaps some frigid lows. This system, however, is looking like it will stay mostly to our north, so its precipitation potential is slight.
Further out, it is beginning to look like we could begin to see a significant change in our weather by the middle of next week. The high pressure is forecast to move further west into the Pacific, opening the door for storms to reach us from the Gulf of Alaska. If all goes well, this could signal the beginning of the winter snow season."

The last piece of news is that my calendar below has been updated with new Google Appointment Slot technology.  It allows users with a gmail account to click on and reserve a lesson block with me.  Anyone can see the availability. You still need to call the school to confirm the lesson, but blocking it on my calendar sends me an email and lets me email or call the school to hold the date until you're able to call.  If you are wanting to book an all day lesson, simply reserve both the morning and afternoon spot. 

If you want to bookmark and go directly to a less busy appointment slot calendar, here's the link to that.  If you click it today, you won't see any available slots and will have to scroll forward to November 18th... the first day of the season!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Another great snow year in store, according to Dr. Jeff Masters

My good friend Matt Gregory works for WeatherUnderground, and he's an awesome source for weather news. He just passed along this link to a great winter forecast. Skiers and riders, get psyched.

Here's an excerpt, but I highly recommend visiting the full article to see a great graphic and read more.
NOAA winter forecast: drought in Texas, wet in the Northwest and Ohio Valley
By Dr. Jeff Masters

The Southern Plains should prepare for continued drier and warmer than average weather, while the Pacific Northwest is likely to be colder and wetter than average from December through February, according to the annual Winter Outlook released October 20 by NOAA. We currently have weak La Niña conditions over the tropical Pacific ocean, which means that a large region of cooler than average waters exists along the Equator from the coast of South America to the Date Line. Cooler than average waters in this location tend to deflect the jet stream such that the Pacific Northwest experiences cooler and wetter winters than average, while the southern U.S. sees warmer and drier winter weather. NOAA's forecast calls for a typical La Niña winter over the U.S.--warm and dry over the Southern Plains, cool and wet over the Pacific Northwest, and wetter than average over the Ohio Valley. According to NOAA's latest La Niña discussion, La Niña is expected to remain solidly entrenched throughout the coming winter and into spring.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dressing children for skiing or boarding - Warm and dry equals fun!

Ski season is almost upon us, and you may be thinking about buying new gear for the kids.  So here's a repost of one of my most popular entries in the This Mountain Life Blog.
When meeting a group of children for a group or private lesson, the first thing I do is check to see how Mom and Dad have dressed them for the day.

Heads - The most important thing is a helmet, of course, and Northstar provides these free of charge for children taking lessons. Our rental shop also has these available for a very reasonable $8 per day. Goggles are also a necessity, as they protect eyes from the sun and blowing snow.

When choosing a helmet or renting one for your child, make sure it has a functioning goggle retaining strap at the rear of the helmet. Without this, your child is likely to have his or her goggles down over the mouth area, blocking out their shouts of glee.

Hands - Wet and/or cold hands will ruin your child's experience and can make it hard to convince them that time on the mountain is fun. I prefer mittens over gloves and highly recommend those with cuff drawstrings. These can keep snow out or serve as a retention device. When putting them on, the child should insert his or her whole hand through the cuff drawstring first. The drawstring will make sure the glove stays with your child while skiing, on the chairlift, and during that walk to and from your car.

These REI "Three in One" mittens are a good option as they include a liner which can be worn solo on a warm day as well as that important drawstring.

One type of mitten I don't particularly like has a velcro closure running up the side from wrist to the tip of the child's pinky. While these are very easy to get on, one fall can clog the velcro with snow, eliminating its ability to keep the glove closed at all.

Feet - Ski boots should fit snugly, and there are some important rules of thumb for donning them.

  • Only one Pair of Socks - Make sure your child is wearing thin socks and only one pair. While this may seem counter-intuitive, one thin pair provides more warmth and less pain than one or two thick woolly ones. Why? Multiple socks create folds between the shin and the soft, cushioned tongue of the boot, where your child will be applying pressure all day.  
  • No Short Socks - Socks should be long enough to extend up the calf above the boot cuff. Low socks create another ridge on your child's lower shin and similar bruising can occur 
  • No Underwear - While your kids may giggle at this rule, we're actually talking about inside the boots. Long underwear should not extend down over or under your socks. The seam as well as the spot of overlap creates a ridge, which we've hammered home is a definite no-no. 
  • Powder Cuff Outside - Most ski pants have an 4-5 inch cuff sewn inside the bottom of the pant leg. An elasticized band goes over the outside of the boot, extending below the top buckles. The cuff keeps snow out of the boot, and off of your lower leg. You can also buy stand alone gaiters (pictured) which perform the same function.

The Rest of the Body -- Think Layers.

My advice here is to dress for the weather you have, but pack for all possibilities. It's always better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it, with some small exceptions. Northstar's Ski and Snowboard School has a children's center located at mid-mountain just below the Big Easy beginner's area. In it, we have hooks and cubbies where instructors can store excess clothing if a child needs to shed a layer.

A clothing list for the body would include long underwear, a long sleeved shirt or two if it's especially cold, a neck gaiter, ski pants and a ski parka. Try to avoid cotton shirts or thick wool sweaters; the former gets wet and stays wet, while the latter can cause over-heating.

Certain things you shouldn't put on your children:
  • Hats - Your child will be wearing a helmet, and hats don't fit inside. However, you can purchase a balaclava, which does. If you're preparing your offspring for their SAT's, you can tell them that a balaclava was a garment worn originally by soldiers serving in the Crimean War and is named after the village of Balaclava in the Crimea. If you want them to love wearing it, skip that, and tell them it's a Ninja Mask.
  • Long scarves - These can catch on the chairlift and are another thing for a child to trip over while they're trying to learn.
  • Lift tickets on their jacket zippers! If your child is like most, they'll come to love speeding down the trails. A lift ticket flapping in one's face is an annoyance at best or at worst, a distraction which can lead to a collision.
In reading what I've written so far, I've got these final few hints and tips:
  • Break out that sharpie and label everything, especially goggles, mittens or gloves. 
  • Apply a thick layer of sunscreen, and if your child will reapply, put a small tube in a pocket.
  • Another good pocket stuffer is a note with your name and cell phone number.  
  • If your child carries their own phone, instituting a no-using-on-the-chairlift rule is worth considering. I've yet to find the iFly, iBounce or the I'm Waterproof application for my iPhone. 
Questions? Drop me a line at skiwithjay@gmail.com or call 415-601-1325.

Happy Skiing!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Being a kids ski instructor makes me smile year round!

If you have a winter sport and a summer sport, do you find yourself talking about your off season sport very frequently? 

Usually, I'm so focused on doing sailing and adventure race team building programs, I only think about skiing during my stand-up paddleboard sessions. I'm working on my balance and core fitness, so I'm not talking about flexion and extension, deep powder turns, and how to handle bumps with the other surfers.

But my phone just rang. Who was it on the other end?  The parents of three great girls I've taught for the last few years.  It's July, and mom and dad called to say hi, ask for advice about buying new boots and to reserve some private lesson days during Christmas, Martin Luther King weekend, and President's Week. 

It was really fun to catch up, and hear about the girls' exploits on the soccer field this season.

And the best part of the call? I learned that this year I get to teach the oldest daughter how to snowboard.  I'd better get back on the paddleboard to get in shape!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Stop sitting.... ski season is just 6 months away!


The snow may still be falling in Tahoe, but I'm down in Sausalito, hard at work planning team building and leadership programs for my company's clients.

But that doesn't mean I'm not thinking about the upcoming ski season.  We've all probably had about a month to rest our quads and heal any bruises our last ski or snowboarding day left us.

So what time is it? It's time to start your off season training.  And if the kids were fired up about skiing, but are now having trouble shutting off the TV or putting down that video game controller, here's a posting that might scare you and them into motion.

Sitting is Killing You
Via: Medical Billing And Coding

Stay tuned for some blog postings which will help you train. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How soon can you get rid of that Edgy-Wedgie?

Yesterday, I had a really fun one hour lesson with 5 year old Jake and his father, Matt. Matt is a strong skier and had already taken Jake skiing several times. In fact, the two of them had done six runs down the Big Easy before meeting with me.

Jake was skiing with the aid of an Edgy Wedgie, which helps children keep their skis in a wedge. Matt's initial goal for the lesson was for Jake to learn how to turn, and my idea of us losing the edgy-wedgie was a bit of a surprise.  As you'll see in the video below, Jake lost his Edgy-Wedgie and learned to turn in one fell swoop.

Which brings us to the Q & A for today's post.
Q - How many runs should you do with the edgy-wedgie on?
A - As few as possible!  Depending on your child's age and muscle development, I'd say 3 to 8 short runs.

Q- How do you know when your child is ready to ski without it?
A - When you can see that the tubing is not stretching (or not stretching much) between their skis. This shows that they're holding the wedge themselves.

Q - How do you encourage your child to be free of it?
A - When you first introduce the device, make it fun and even funny. I say "Hey, I've got this friend, Sammy the snake, and he's here to help you make your pizza with your skis. See how he stretches when you make a big pizza? OWWW! Careful not to stretch him too hard.... he's a delicate snake!"

Over the course of 3 to 6 runs, I encourage the child to try to ease Sammy's pain by holding their toes together. As soon as I see that Sammy isn't doing any of the work, off he comes, never to be seen again.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spring conditions have arrived in force!

After all the snow she's been giving us, Mother Nature has suddenly turned up the heat.  The kids were skiing in T-shirts yesterday, and the snow was soft, soft, soft. 

Since Northstar has extended the season to April 24th, come up and get some spring skiing!

Down below are links to the photo gallery for the slide show above. All the pictures and videos are from lessons taken in late March and April. 
Students include:
Mina L. April 10 and 11
Allison and Adam (April 4th-7th)
Sophie Y, Keara & Emma H. (April 3rd)
Luke E, (April 3rd)
Dylan M. (April 1st)
Kiana K. (April 2nd)Catherine, Natalie and Danielle G. - (April 2nd)
Theo and Skylar C. (My friends, Erik and Alissa's kids)
Theo and Skylar's friend Lily.(Late March)


April 2011 Lessons

April Videos

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Non-Skiing Post - Perspectives on Japan from three classmates

Tonight I'm posting a column I've just submitted for my grad school class' quarterly newsletter.  It features the experience and thoughts of three friends who live in Japan. Rather than have everyone have to wait for the issue to be printed by the school, I'll put it up here for folks to read while events in Japan are still unfolding.

It’s March 31 in the snowy Sierra Nevada. This week I had the pleasure of skiing with Erik and Alissa Christoffersen’s children; Skylar (5.5) and Theo (3.5). We shared a family dinner last night, talking skiing and catching up. Life is peaceful and good.

But, we all know that on March 11th at 2:46pm, a 9.0 earthquake occurred near the northeastern coast of Japan, followed shortly by a devastating tsunami.  After a tense 72 hours, Masato Iino, Seiji Mitsushi and Takeo Yamada had all reported they and their families safe and sound.  I’ll thank them here for taking time to let us know this good news.

Mairin Macaluso suggested I ask each to share their experience and post-quake perspective. A great idea, I thought, and all three took the time to respond.

Seiji wrote:

“As an individual, I feel that I have no power to turnaround this situation. I am not a doctor, do not have special survival skills, but have to face this reality with my family and friends.  Although it is very tough, I think, the recovery of Japan should be led mainly by us, Japanese, with some support from others.

I would suggest that HBS Club of Japan and the HBS Japan Research Center open special donation accounts for alumni wishing to support Japan and Japanese students. Considering the nature of Harvard, funds could be directed to assist educational institutions with their recovery. Scholarship could be provided for students who’ve lost family but maintain a strong motivation to study. My university, Miyagi U. is a small school in Sendai, and a number of our students lost their homes in the tsunami. Harvard's annual tuition would allow eight of these students to continue their studies for a full year.

However, since the disaster's impact is so huge and spread across so many aspects of life, donors should focus on whatever area speaks to them.

Takeo wrote:

“As I was in Tokyo on Friday, it seemed like just an unusually big earthquake.  On the 15th floor, our building was swinging wildly and some people got seasick.

I have noticed how the situation at the nuclear reactors has been reported differently in Japan from the rest of the world, or at least the US. Initial reports in Japan were lot more optimistic about possibility of containing the situation. Meanwhile, non-Japanese speaking people, especially expats, were
worrying a lot about the fate of the reactors. Some already left Tokyo, not because of possibility of aftershock, but because of concern about radioactive materials.”

Masato wrote:

“I was at the 10th floor of the Shin-Marunouchi Building in Tokyo, one of the newest (and thus assumed safest) skyscrapers in Japan. I knew the building sat on solid bedrock. Nonetheless, the shake was so terrible that a woman started vomiting next to me. I was horrified as I saw neighboring skyscrapers shaking as if made of rubber. Scenes from 911 flashed back and I did consider that I might die. I missed my family.

But none were killed nor injured in central Tokyo. No buildings were damaged. Yes, 3G cell phones were useless, but most of people in Tokyo managed to confirm the safety of family and friends in just a few hours. There were no utility outages and television broadcasts were up and running. People talked later that they found packet communication and SNS’s like Facebook/Twitter far more reliable than 3G voice communications. Trains stopped for a while and some people gave up on returning home until the following day.

I stayed at the office overnight and picked up my daughter who also stayed overnight at school, got back home by 8:30am. My daughter was fine, no psychological scarring. I've lost none from my family, my relatives, or from my friends. By morning, I’d confirmed the safety of nearly all management teams from portfolio companies. The quake happened on Friday and I was back in my normal routine by Monday.

The quake itself barely affected our lives in Tokyo. Compared to what the quake and tsunami caused in Tohoku, it was nothing. I kept asking to myself “what can I personally do?”, but felt helpless beyond donating money.

Through the experience I've realized the power of the internet. Whilst mass media were confused, experts actively communicated openly via blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to help people determine appropriate actions. There were, of course, misleading rumors, but surprisingly, people showed an ability to choose valuable information. Thanks to cloud computing, Facebook and Twitter never went down in Tokyo.

I was surprised by how those directly hit by the disaster were so strong, patient, selfless, and brave. These people made me proud to be Japanese. But at the same time, many people outside of the disaster area, mostly misled by provocative reports, rushed to buy things up, and some were trying to escape from “dangerous” Tokyo.

This “escape” started small, with senior level expatriates leaving, which caused some panic among naïve people suspecting access to “mysterious” special information.  I cannot blame non-Japanese speakers rushing out of Japan, as I would do the same if I found myself in China. English media reported more seriously on the risk of nuclear contamination than did the Japanese government and local language media.

I was disappointed by how some people trusted foreign media over local providers. Yes, Japan has long suffered from poor politics, but we have to trust our own ability to rebuild our nation. We have no time to be uncertain or skeptical about our policy makers during this national crisis.

Another challenge is the overwhelming mood of “save consumption.” Eating out, drinking out and even rock concerts are canceled due to political sensitivity. I personally feel people should spend more, and cheer more. Cindi Lauper was the exception and performed a show on 16th in Tokyo. Applause!

What does the future hold for Japan? The number of dead and missing exceeds 20,000 and still counting. The financial loss is estimated at $150B+. Surely there will be a dispute on further nuclear power development even as Japan has committed to significant CO2 cuts. We were in economic crisis before this disaster struck.

Nonetheless, I am optimistic on the nation’s future. Japan has experience with devastation. My grandfather’s generation lost the war and rebuilt from nothing but ash in 10 years. We will have to examine our priorities, and for my business (venture investment), more investment will be made in sustainable technologies. Let’s build a sustainable energy showcase in Tohoku.

I do not expect or ask any special assistance for our country from my section mates, in the short term.

But from a long-term perspective, I would ask leaders to pay more than their usual attention to Japan. Investors could choose to focus on how China’s economy has surpassed Japan’s and on Japan’s aging and shrinking population. But Japan will soon come back with a series of technological innovations and business models that are cost efficient, safe, environmentally friendly, and durable against disasters. Pay attention to our nation’s recovery potential and invest accordingly.

Lastly, I cannot speak for the people suffering from the disaster. Listen to Seiji for that. Don't overreact on reports with shocking photos. Calm the people around you who are reacting on the basis of poor information. We Japanese will be back!

Ted Holden also responded:

“These are the times which bring people together. I touched base with Takeo and learned he and his family were safe, and was glad the same is true of Seiji and Masato. As my wife Mari is from Japan, we struggled to get through to family and friends. All turned out fine, though they found it hard to relax given the recurring tremors.  Our attention turned to the horror unfolding up north. It is all too easy for Mari and me to imagine the sorts of people who lived in those towns and villages -- friendly, modest, devoted and hard-working people -- and we just cannot believe the suffering they have experienced."

Turning back to happier topics stateside, Eric Gleason shared an exciting update:

“The sale of Allegheny Energy closed and I’ve packed my bags and headed to lovely Juno Beach, FL. My new role is president of US Transmission Holdings, a start-up electricity transmission company with national aspirations. USTH is a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, a leader in the US and a global leader in renewable energy production. I am thrilled to be here, tempered only by the fact that Pippa and our three kids will not move down until the school year. Meanwhile the triathlon training is going OK, I've lost 30lbs but am still pretty slow.”

I’ll close by returning to last night’s dinner with Erik, Alissa, Skylar and Theo Christoffersen. The Christoffersens come up to Tahoe most every weekend and are thrilled that their kids love to ski.  Skylar and Theo also love soccer, gymnastics and swimming. Both speak Norwegian as well as English.

Erik and Alissa are currently reveling in quality family time. Alissa recently left her roles as Associate General Counsel at Google and is writing a spy thriller about Somalian pirates while getting into master-level alpine racing. Erik stepped down as Executive Director of the Mint Project / San Francisco Museum and Historical Society and occupies non-family time with angel investing.

The Christoffersens extend an invitation to any section mates wishing to visit them in Tahoe. I’d suggest coming during the winter months, as long as you don’t mind their five year old skiing rings around you!

To end the blog posting on a happy note, I'm inserting a picture of the Christoffersen family, which should also appear in the printed newsletter.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Saftey Tips for Skiing or Riding in Deep Snow

This is a quick post today for friends heading up to Northstar or anywhere in the Sierras this weekend.

Deep powder is awesome, but it presents challenges and risks for both skiers and riders.  Here are links to a few online articles which can help.

The first, Deep Snow Safety, is from the Northstar-at-Tahoe website.  The major takeaway?  Skiing with a partner is not meeting at the bottom of the lift.  It's riding within sight, and at a distance where you can get to each other quickly if help is needed.

That lesson is hammered home, especially for snowboarders, in Tom Stienstra's article "Find safety in numbers when off trail," which talks about how to avoid or survive encounters with tree wells.  When published in February, tree wells had claimed the lives of 15 snowboarders in the western US since Christmas.

Now on a lighter note, I highly recommend Mike Doyle's About.com article about how to find a ski in deep snow. There's nothing more frustrating than searching for one of your boards when your gang is waiting for you and there's untracked powder to shred. Knowing Mike's technique can help, and this overview of powder cords at E-how will show how a $10 investment can save the day.

Enjoy the snow this weekend... but as the captain used to say on Hill Street Blues... "Let's be careful out there."

Monday, March 21, 2011

6 feet of snow in the last 7 days. Is it really spring?

Nice to have Aussie housemates who like to shovel!
The snow just keeps coming.... check out how buried my Subaru was after this past week's storm! The forecast for this first week of spring looks equally moisture-laden, and I'll quote the Tahoe Weather Geek.

"Our respite will be brief, as another series of storms is lining up in the Gulf of Alaska and taking aim at Tahoe. We could see another 3 to 4 feet of snow this week, possibly more at the higher elevations around the region."

Not surprisingly, Northstar has announced that the season will be extended by a week, so there are five rather than four more weekends to enjoy.  With the way the weather has been, it's hard to predict if we'll be skiing powder, crud or lovely spring corn, but each offers it's own type of fun.

Now I've switched to teaching primarily on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but will come in during the week for guest requests.  The switch is due to needing to get cracking on planning events for Group Experiential Learning, the sailboat-based team building and leadership development business which allows me to winter in Tahoe.  Any sailors or team leaders needing a fun way to get a corporate group gelling should give me a shout.

And for those families who've asked about late season ski lessons, I'm currently only booked with requests on the following mornings:

March 25th
March 26th
April 8th and
April 9th

Drop me a line or telephone if you'd like help with a reservation.



Friday, March 18, 2011

A lesson through a mother's eyes

That all-important introduction!
I started blogging regularly just this past November, and I'm learning a ton in the process. I'm also experiencing some surprises which stem from the power of the internet.

The latest surprise? Getting to see a ski lesson through the eyes of a mom. On March 5th, I taught a 3 year old boy named Luke and his father, Mike, in a lesson we call a "Teach your Tot."

Julie, Luke's mom, was there too, but I had no idea she was documenting the lesson with her digital camera.

A few days later she blogged all about Luke's day on the slopes using her photos to tell much of the story. Some aspects are funny, others are heart warming. The photos are great, although many of them capture a side of me I don't normally see and wouldn't post on the internet.

I especially like how she describes panicking when she couldn't find us on the bunny slope. We had gone up the chairlift about 40 minutes into the lesson (as soon as Luke was able to form his wedge and stop). I'll refrain from extolling the speed at which kids learn during private lessons here, because Julie's story has that covered.

So without further adieu, here's a link to Julie's entry.  It's titled "Ski Bum," and believe me, she's referring to Luke, not to my derriere, despite it's prominence in a couple of the photos.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Northstar 2011/2012 Season Passes and May 30th deadline

I don't have a season pass related photo!
Skiing Friends and Parents,

Your kids don't care about this stuff, but Northstar has come out with pricing for the 2011/2012 season's passes.

As a service to those of you who like to save money, I'm going to pass on some links which you may find helpful.

With the acquisition by Vail, some prices have gone up, others down, and many passes have increased benefits like access to Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Heavenly and Arapahoe Basin. 

The changes have generated some positive and negative reactions from customers. If you follow Northstar on Facebook, you'll see what I'm talking about.

Here are the links:

2011/2012 Passes

Price Comparison Chart

Facebook Letter from Bill Rock (Northstar's GM, who responds to some customer concerns)

The current pricing is guaranteed only until May 30th of this year.  But it looks like you only need to put $49 dollars down to hold your pass.  And if I'm reading it right, if you buy now, you get two free tickets to Heavenly or Northstar good in April of this year.

As a reminder, when I'm blogging, I'm not a representative of Northstar or its parent company,Vail Resorts. Vail has a very clear policy that employees need to make this disclaimer when we're sharing thoughts on our blogs.

Happy St. Paddy's Day,


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Northstar visits Heavenly, 5 year old skis backwards

Today I journeyed to Heavenly in South Lake Tahoe to teach two five year olds, Kaiden and Zach.  It was the first time on skis for both of them, and the energy they show in the photo to the left never dissipated over the course of the day.

The video below is my favorite, although there are seven or eight more clips posted in this lesson album. The embedded video shows young Zach mastering skiing backwards and getting very excited about it. I think his quote is "Oh, Baby!"

So how is it that I got to teach at Heavenly, when I work at Northstar? Simple. Heavenly and Northstar are both part of the Vail Resorts family which allows instructors to teach, in uniform, at their sister resorts whenever our guest request it, and we can make the scheduling work.

Kaiden, Zach and their respective dads, Kareem and Bruce, chose to meet me at Boulder Lodge, one of three ski school locations at Heavenly. Boulder is about 10 minutes out of town and has a great kids ski school with a magic carpet, rental shop, restaurant and very convenient free parking all within a 100 yard radius.

The mountain team at Heavenly was awesome and just as friendly as the gang at Northstar. The team at the kids ski school made me feel especially welcome when I arrived and throughout the day.  I checked in with Ron Blum, the children's supervisor and Scott Dickey, the Boulder Ski School Director.  Out on the hill, Rachel Richards (a great Heavenly instructor) and Travis (The magician helping kids on and off the magic carpet) made me feel right at home.  Everyone treated Kaiden and Zach just like they were Heavenly students, rather than guests who'd imported an instructor from another resort.

So a big thank you goes out to everyone at Heavenly, and to Kaiden, Zach, Kareem and Bruce.  What a great day!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Great Skiing Photos from President's Week at Northstar

So many things about President's Week were awesome. We received a ton of new snow and enjoyed both white-outs and blue-bird powder days.  People struggled with snowy roads, chain-control and highway shut downs but donned big smiles as soon as they hit the slopes.

I skied for multiple days with a few families I've known for years, and met a few new folks as well.   Special thanks to the Tuchs and the McClellands (friends from grad school), for letting me and their kids tear up the powder together. 

With all this snow, we should be skiing into late April. Come on up!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Teaching a powder clinic this Sunday!

A number of my friends keep saying "When's your day off? When can I get you to help me with a few tips to take me to the next level? I don't need a whole day lesson, and mainly want to ski hard, get a few tips and have you show me the mountain."

The problem has been that my days off don't fall on the weekends, and I'm probably teaching their kids on the day they'd like to ski themselves. If you're one of these people, the time to come up and ski with me is this Sunday.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to meet me at 9:30 am at the Snowell Demo Shop next to the Northstar skating rink. [begin Mission Impossible theme music now....]

Why? Because I'm teaching Northstar's Skills Clinic. It's designed for the intermediate and upper level skier (levels 6 and above).

For $219, you get an all day lift ticket, all day lesson and a high performance demo package from Snowell. The Demo Center carries the newest skis from K2, Nordica, Volkl, Atomic, Dynastar, Blizzard and Rossi; ski boots from Technica, Nordica, Lange and Atomic. Demo snowboards from Burton, Forum, Rome, DC and K2.

Each time I've taught this before, I've had only one or two students. It's basically a private lesson with all the perks that go with it, plus an opportunity to try the latest and greatest equipment. We could switch skis multiple times during the day at the mid mountain demo shop, but I think we'll be on the fattest powder boards they have, and we'll stick with them!

This message will not self destruct in 5 seconds... so feel free to "like it!"

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The snow has arrived! Here's a link to an unofficial Northstar Weather Discussion

Northstar Weather Discussion

It's coming down hard, and the majority of the snow is still to come. As you can see in this photo shot from the front door of our Indian Hills condo near Northstar Village, we've already got 14 inches on the ground and the snow plows are hard at work.

I drove back last night after the event at the Sports Basement, and coming over the pass was tough. Chain control was in full force, there was 4-5 inches of snow on the road, and we were creeping at 30mph for what seemed like forever.

If you're coming up, even later in the week, I'd suggest leaving a few hours early. The snow is expected to continue all week.

Be careful, and bookmark the link above or below for a good source of Northstar-specific weather info.

Northstar Weather Discussion

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Recent Ski Lesson Photo Albums

Linking turns is sometimes easier than linking to photos!

Some recent students have been asking where to find the photos from their lessons, so this post is to provide some slide shows and links. 

The most recent album is from the first two weeks of February:

New Year's Week

January Third

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ski & Snowboarding Night 2/15/11 in San Francisco

Back on January 20th, I journeyed down from Tahoe to the Presidio Sports Basement and conducted an evening ski and snowboarding program for the Golden Gate Mothers Group.

The event was fun and the feedback was very positive.  In the audience were moms and dads who'd either heard about it from the GGMG or the Southern Marin Mother's Group.

So, the Sports Basement has invited me down to do it again, this time for anyone with questions about  skiing, snowboarding, North Lake Tahoe and the mountain life.  I'm also bringing couple of friends who are snowboard instructors from the Burton Academy. We'll be on hand from 5:00 to 8:00pm, in the snow sports department of the Sports Basement in the Presidio.

Wagons make things easy, especially if it's Uncle Jay's day off!
We're changing the format somewhat to allow the night to be of value to anyone who skis or snowboards, anyone who wants to, and parents looking for advice as they expose their kids to the slopes. 

For parents, the focus will be as described in the Sports Basement Event Calendar, with special emphasis on making ski trips low stress. 

Kids' Ski and Snowboard Class
Tuesday, February 15, 2011  /  5:00pm - 8:00pm
Presidio Store
Are you planning to take your kids skiing or snowboarding this season? This ski-prep class at Sports Basement is ideal for parents of children under the age of 12 who are new to skiing and snowboarding. You will learn how to dress your child for skiing, how NOT to dress your child, the best products and technology -- gloves vs. mittens, hand and toe warmers, helmets, goggles, and more. Most importantly, you'll learn how to make the ski hill a stress-free zone for you and your child. Stop by anytime between 5pm and 8pm to chat with a certified ski and snowboard instructor. You'll be ready to hit the slopes before you know it!

So, mark your calendars, and hope to see you there!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Video and Hitting the Sports Basement Thursday (1/20/11) to talk about skiing with kids

For folks whose kids have recently taken private lessons, here's a video montage made by my friend, Nat Fay.  Nat's not only a great kids' instructor at Northstar, he's also a video whiz and is trying to teach me the ins and outs of editing software.  This montage has clips from 4 or 5 December and January lessons, and showcases some of the things I've discussed in earlier posts.

Now today, while my friends and fellow instructors are enjoying a hopefully brief period of spring conditions, I'm heading down to San Francisco to meet a bunch of moms from the Golden Gate Mother's Group. I've been invited to offer advice and suggestions on a couple of topics at the Sports Basement at 6:00pm on Thursday evening.  Friends are welcome to stop in, and moms can also check out the mothers' group at the link above.

The first area we'll be talking about is tactical; how best to dress your child for the winter sports environment.  We'll take a hands-on look at helmets, gloves, boots and the rest of the gear with an eye to function over style and a focus on what will keep Jill and Johnny the happiest and safest on the hill.

The second topic is all strategy... how can a parent make exposing a child to skiing or snowboarding as fun and as stress free as possible?  We'll discuss our goals and theirs, safety on crowded bunny hills, group vs private lessons as well as approaches and things to avoid when teaching your child yourself.

As interesting as I find the actual teaching, I think the most valuable discussion will be about ways to maximize the odds of getting from your ski cabin to the slopes with all your kids, all of their gear and the majority of your sanity intact.  Believe it or not, those parents who breeze through the process and aren't fazed by snowy roads, big parking lots, crowded shuttle buses, rental shops, and ticket windows may not really be zen masters.   We'll talk about the things these parents do to arrive nonplussed and leave smiling.


Friday, January 7, 2011

The NYT has it right! Ski school should feel like play.

Big Boss Monster & Captain Baby Butterfly
One of the most emailed articles from the New York Times today is "Effort to Restore Children’s Play Gains Momentum"

I'm directing my clients, my fellow ski instructors and all parents I know to read it. I'm a huge believer in the author's view that play is extremely important to children's development.

Here's one excerpt which might prompt you to click on the link above:

"For several years, studies and statistics have been mounting that suggest the culture of play in the United States is vanishing. Children spend far too much time in front of a screen, educators and parents lament — 7 hours 38 minutes a day on average, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation last year. And only one in five children live within walking distance (a half-mile) of a park or playground, according to a 2010 report by the federal Centers for Disease Control, making them even less inclined to frolic outdoors."

The author also touches on how changes in parental behavior and the fears parents harbor are contributory to the reduction in the amount of time children are allowed to truly play, and play outdoors.

Here's a combination of quoting and paraphrasing which really hammers home to me how important play is:

"scientists, psychologists, educators.. say that most of the social and intellectual skills one needs to succeed in life are first developed through childhood play. Children learn to solve problems, negotiate, think creatively and work as a team when they dig together in a sandbox or build a fort with sofa cushions. The experts define play as a game or activity initiated and directed by children. So video games don’t count."

How does this relate to teaching your children how to ski?  The PSIA trains instructors with a battle cry of Safety, Fun and Learning!  We all can understand that children need to feel safe and comfortable in order to concentrate, but without fun, no learning can take place.  So does this mean you need to seek out an instructor who moonlights as a comedian or a rent-a-clown at birthday parties?  Not at all. With children of a certain age, allowing them to use their vivid imaginations to shape the fun can be enormously successful.

Just last week, I taught five year old fraternal twins who insisted I call them Butterfly and Monster, rather than their actual names.  My role in creating our games and adventures was primarily to kick-start their imaginations and then get out of the way.

I suggested we be ski-pirates, learning to say "Aargh" as we turned our way down the hill.  Monster quickly educated me that vikings were much stronger and better than pirates, and while we would still scream "Arrgh" and "Avast, this pizza be slowing me down," we would be "Viking-Pirate-Knights" hunting polar bears with light sabers, guns and canons.

As the instructor, I never give up my leadership/safety officer role, but it was perfectly fine for Monster to proclaim himself the "Big Boss" in charge of what we were searching for and who we were fighting as we explored the green and easier blue runs.  Butterfly changed her name several times and by the end of the day, had become Baby Butterfly, the captain-princess of the ship.

Throughout the lesson, we focused on making our sword/sabers straight after each turn to be ready to repel boarders (and yes, maybe I was tongue in cheek referring to those scurvy snowboarders).  We also took breaks from the game to play impromptu versions of monkey-see-monkey-do, have spontaneous snowball fights and grab a quick hot cocoa and cookies inside the children's center. (I'm not sure what Monster and Butterfly were thinking in the photo, but it may have been "Avast! There be just two cookies left here on the galley table!") 

What's the take away here?  I've seen parents taking the do-it-yourself route on the bunny hill, exhorting their children to stop and go with shouts of "Make a Pizza" and "Come on, show me your French Fries!" I've also seen them alternating between cajoling and commanding a crying child to get up and "ski like Daddy!"

And at the bottom of the hill, I've heard parents watching their kids' lessons and wondering if ski school is simply daycare rather than education.  "What's with the snow angels?" "Why are they taking off their skis?"

My response is that it is neither day care nor traditional education.  A ski lesson is a playful adventure which takes place on the slopes, primarily on skis, and leaves children excited to come back for more.

If they've had an adventure, I'll bet my day's wages that they've also honed their balancing movements, turn shape, stopping skills and learned some mountain safety tips as well.

Monday, January 3, 2011

January Third - Awesome Lessons today!

Here's a link to photos shot today.

This morning, I skied with Francisco and Juan, two friends from Florida. Juan owns a kite-surfing and water-sports equipment retail store and school in Miami and is an avid snowboarder. Francisco is a skier, but the focus of our three hour lesson was primarily mountain exploration and technique refinement for skiing the steeper blue runs.

The afternoon lesson was for four great kids from LA. They all also speak Armenian, so I learned some new phrases as well. (see the photos to learn how to say "Awesome!")