Reflections on Burn Out, Family Skiing and Giving Thanks

pow day breck april 2014.

A pow day shot (especially in April) is worth more than 1000 words!

brave ski mom logoI am often not at a loss for words.

But last week, when I sat down to write about family skiing, in particular, to share a wonderful experience I had moderating a family skiing workshop at the 2014 Mountain Travel Symposium, the words wouldn’t come.

As I struggled to find some way to express what I’d learned, I realized that more than anything, I was feeling burnt out.


Not a good feeling, but certainly something we’ve all felt from time-to-time.

brave ski mom breckenridgeI remember this feeling after working as an art volunteer in my kids’ elementary school for several (let’s call it 7 years).

Suddenly, I’d had it with washing tempera paint out of stubby brushes.

I’d had it with objectively picking one student, from the forest of raised hands to advance the slides during our weekly slide show (yes, our district was still using slide projectors).

I’d had it with pretending to care about the history of Artist X and trying to find a unique and kid-friendly way to share his or her formative experience (most of which weren’t kid-friendly).

So here I am again, burnt out at the end of what was arguably the best skiing and writing season of my life. Truly I should have no complaints. Everything went well, every experience was incredible, no one was injured and, remarkably, we still have plenty of skiing ahead of us this spring and into summer (Wahoo!).

Why Do We Ski?

Last week, as our family skiing session was introduced, Alex Allen from (the session’s corporate sponsor) shared this remarkable quote about family skiing.

So, why do we do it (ski)?

Because, like generations of skiers before us, we will eventually push-off, leaving behind not just all that schlepping, but the weight of Newton’s laws as well. Gravity becomes our friend. The sullen teenager lights up, the 8-year-old stops whining, and your spouse is no longer a parent, but a fellow skier. We will each take our own route, but we will go down the hill together.

Darn that’s good. I wish I’d written it.

But I didn’t. It was written by David Carr in a December 2011 essay on family skiing published in the New York Times.

Reading it again today, I feel less burnt out.

family skiing at breckenridge


I’m no longer a stressed-out mom, trying to balance the springtime craziness which marks a school year nearing its end. I’m no longer trying to decide if its guilt or desire that makes me feel I should spend all day “spring cleaning” our closets.

I realize I have no need to whine, and that my temporary sullen demeanor is “unbecoming” (as my husband might say).

Just reading about family skiing (especially today, in someone else’s words) is lighting me up.

I’m still burnt out. And I still need a break.

I think I need to go skiing…just skiing.

Silently, with no words.

pretty pow day breck colorado

Thank You…

While I didn’t write what I set out to write, public thanks are still due my co-conspirators in planning and presenting the family skiing session at the 2014 Mountain Travel Symposium in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Mountain travel symposium 2014

So big thanks to:

Mara Gorman, my co-moderator and new-found friend. Mara is an accomplished family travel writer and expert. She is the founder of The Mother Of All Trips and Back to Ski.

Anne Haight, Sales and Marketing Director at Silver Star Mountain Resort. I met Anne in December when I visited Silver Star, one of my new favorite resorts. Anne is not only a ski industry pro, but a kind person and a worthy friend on a powder day.

anne haight at breck

Anne Haight stops for a photo, after the pow is tracked out. There was NO stopping before !

Jodie Silva, Vice President, Marketing and Sales, at Winter Park Resort. Jodie is a marketing genius who led Winter Park’s Season of the Seven rebrand this winter. She’s also adjusting to life at 9,000 feet quite nicely thank you very much. And she’s proud to share that Winter Park is one of CNN’s Top 15 U.S. Spots for Kids!

okemo best family resort on the snow

Brian Halligan with 2014 Honors.

Brian Halligan, Director of Sales at Okemo Mountain Resort. I’ve not yet skied Okemo, but I hope to, someday soon. Brian is a ski industry veteran who’s skied all over the world. He’s also quite proud that Okemo is’s 2014 Family Resort of the Year.

Additional thanks to John McColly from Mountain High Resort, who couldn’t make it to Breck, but helped us anyway, Bruce Rosard the powerhouse behind the entire symposium, Amy Zelinsky who handled the logistics, the good folks at GoBreck and Breckenridge Ski Resort Ski who got us on mountain and mother nature…for all that incredible spring snow!


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The Biggest, Best Ski Lift Views in North America

Peak 2 peak gondola

Photo courtesy Whistler Blackcomb. Photographer: Paul Morrison.

brave ski mom logoLast fall, my friends at Liftopia and I had a great time compiling a list of the “Ten Best Chairlift/Gondola Views in North America.”

We built our list through suggestions from social media: the Brave Ski Mom and Liftopia Facebook pages, our Twitter feeds, my Google+ page and a posting at forums (a favorite go-to source for insight and opinion).

The answers were fascinating. Some respondents, loyal to the end, were clearly shouting out for their favorite resort.

Bu then we also had some serious questions, as in what defines good view from a lift.

Is it only what you can see going forward, or is it okay to crane your neck and look around, or admire the big view once you’ve dismounted? (Answer: We were looking for views on a lift, those views that take your breath away while you’re en route.)

mt rainier view from crystal

Photo courtesy Crystal Mountain.

So what makes a good view? Either big mountains or big water. There was also a clear consensus that gondolas provide the best views, as you can see 360 degrees, rather than just straight ahead.

Here’s our list. As you reflect back over this year’s ski and snowboard season, what do you think?

The Biggest, Best Ski Lift Views in North America

1.            The Peak 2 Peak Gondola, Whistler/Blackcomb, British Columbia.

peak 2 peak gondola

Photo courtesy Whistler Blackcomb. Photographer: David McColm.

Spanning the distance between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, the Peak 2 Peak gondola joins the high alpine terrain of these two mountains. Three-hundred-sixty degree views take in the valley and Whistler Village to the south, with Garibaldi Provincial Park’s mountain range to the north, and a bird’s eye view of Overlord Glacier and Fissile Mountain.

Peak 2 peak whistler blackcomb

Photo courtesy Whistler Blackcomb. Photographer: Amy McDermid

In addition to these stunning views, the gondola holds three world records: the longest unsupported span of 3.024 km; the highest lift of its kind at 436 meters above the valley floor; and, as the critical link between Whistler and Blackcomb, it completes the world’s longest continuous lift system.

peak 2 peak whistler blackcomb

Photo courtesy Whistler Blackcomb. Photographer: Amy McDermid.

2.            Heavenly Gondola, Heavenly, Lake Tahoe, Nevada/California.

heavenly gondola

Photo courtesy Heavenly.

With stunning views of forever blue Lake Tahoe, the Heavenly Gondola starts just blocks from the shore and climbs to 2.4 miles the resort base, high up on the mountain.

While the views from the gondola received the most acclaim, other lifts at Heavenly also got props, especially the Dipper Express with a view unlike any other, highlighting the contrast between the alpine lake on one side and the arid Carson Valley on the other.

tamarack express heavenly

Photo courtesy Heavenly.

Additional Lake Tahoe resorts receiving votes for their lake views include Homewood, California where the lake nearly laps the base of the lifts, and Diamond Peak, Nevada.

3.            Aerial Tramway, Cannon Mountain and Wildcat Express, Wildcat Mountain, New Hampshire.

cannon mountain new hampshire

Photo courtesy Cannon Mountain, NH. Photographer: Greg Keeler.

Often mentioned together, these two New England favorites offer big views of the northeast’s biggest mountains.

The historic and much-loved Aerial Tramway at Cannon Mountain shows off views of New Hampshire, Maine, the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Adirondacks in New York. On the clearest of days, you can see north into Canada.

cannon mountain new hampshire tramline

Photo courtesy Cannon Mountain, NH. Photographer: Greg Keeler.

While you can’t see Mount Washington from Cannon Mountain, you do get enticing views of nearby Mount Lafayette and the Franconia Range.

wildcat express quad

Photo courtesy Wildcat Mountain, NH.

To gaze upon Mount Washington, Wildcat Mountain is the place to ski or ride. As one respondent shared: “Incredible views of Mount Washington are right in your face.” Other stunning sights from the Wildcat Express include views of Tuckerman Ravine, a popular spring skiing backcountry destination.

wildcat mountain summit

The Wildcat Mountain Summit. Photo courtesy Wildcat Mountain, NH.

4.            Bridger Gondola, Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Jackson hole tram

Photo courtesy Jackson Hole

Talk about big mountains: almost everyone who has skied at Jackson Hole is blown away by the Tetons. While all the lifts have good views, the Bridger Gondola inspired lots of comments, including this one from Facebook: “Off the hook views of the Tetons juxtaposed against the view of the flat valley of Jackson Hole. Very neat to get up in those mountains!”

Jackson hole dining

Photo courtesy Jackson Hole.

Looking south, the view from the Leitner Poma gondola takes in Corbet’s Couloir and the resort’s signature aerial tram.  

5.            Telluride Gondola, Telluride, Colorado.

telluride gondola

Photo courtesy Telluride Ski Resort.

A key component of Telluride’s public transportation system, the Telluride Gondola was built in 1996 to mitigate resort expansion impacts and protect the area’s clean air. Free to everyone except skiers and riders (who must have a lift ticket to get off at the top of the mountain), the gondola connects the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village. It runs daily from 7:00 a.m. to midnight year-round, and you can even bring your dog along for the ride.

allreds gondola

Photo courtesy Telluride Ski Resort.

Leaving Telluride, the historic mining town drops quickly behind as the lift rises toward the summit at Station San Sophia. On the Mountain Village side, the views extend west to the La Sal Mountains of Utah, 90 miles beyond the dramatic close-in summits of Palmyra Peak and the 14,000+ feet Wilson Peak group.

mount wilson view telluride6.            Mount Rainier Gondola, Crystal Mountain, Washington.

mount rainier crystal mountain

Photo courtesy Crystal Mountain.

Since 2011, the Mount Rainier has ferried skiers and riders from the Crystal Mountain base area to the summit, where you can dine at Washington’s highest elevation restaurant (the Summit House). From the top of the gondola there is a completely unobstructed view of 14,410 foot Mt. Rainier, just seven miles away.

mount rainier gondola

Photo courtesy Crystal Mountain. Photographer: Don Svela.

Four other dramatic, and dormant, volcanoes are visible: Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens, Mount Baker and Glacier Peak, as well as the Olympic mountain range.

7.            Snowbird Tram, Snowbird, Utah.

snowbird winter tram

Photo courtesy Snowbird.

Depending upon where you stand, you either love or hate the Snowbird Tram.

If you’re by a window, the view of the High Wasatch mountains is breathtaking. The tram docks atop 11,000 feet Hidden Peak, where you can enjoy the highest lift-served skiing and riding in Utah, as well as access most of the resort’s 2,500 acres of rideable terrain.

From Hidden Peak, views of Mount Superior, the American Fork Twin Peaks, and even Mount Timpanogos may be seen.

snowbird skiing

Photo courtesy Snowbird.

Since the tram holds about 110 people, the line is rarely long, but if you can’t get to a window or you’re short, you won’t see as much. For a nearby alternative, check out the view from the Supreme Chairlift at next door Alta. You can take in both views in one day with an Alta Snowbird pass.

8.            Great Divide Express Quad Chairlift, Sunshine Village, Alberta, Canada.

sunshine village ski and snowboardOne of the few chairlifts to make the list, the Great Divide Express Quad features panoramic views of all three mountains open to skiers and riders at Sunshine Village.

From left to right, look for Goat’s Eye Mountain at 9200 feet (2806 meters), the twin-spired Eagles at 9200 feet (2806 meters)and 9300 feet (2837 meters), and Lookout Mountain at 8954 feet (2730 meters). Visible from the Great Divide Quad is Delirium Dive, one of Sunshine Village’s most popular, and difficult, extreme off-piste faces.

sunshine village ski

Photo Courtesy Banff Lake Louise Tourism. Photographer: Dave Riley.

In addition to fantastic, dramatic mountain views, the Great Divide lift starts in Alberta, crosses over into British Columbia and then goes back into Alberta where it terminates near the summit of Lookout Mountain.

Of special note, Sunshine Village is located within spectacular Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

9.            Panorama Gondola, Mammoth Mountain, California.

minarets mammoth

Photo courtesy Mammoth Mountain.

The Panorama Gondola begins at Mammoth’s Main Lodge base complex, from which it quickly soars over the top of “Main Park,” one the USA’s largest terrain parks, and the home of the Mammoth superpipe.

With a gentle swing through McCoy Station, Mammoth Mountain’s mid-mountain lodge, guests can either get out, or stay on the gondola to access the Top of California at 11,053 feet. As you near the summit, riders take in stunning views of the Sierra Nevada mountains, including the famous Minarets, along with an 18 foot high sign which is often buried by snow. 

mammoth sign buried.

Photo courtesy Mammoth Mountain.

According to one Mammoth skier, “it’s a view that would make John Muir smile.”

10.             K1 Gondola, Killington, Vermont.

killington k1 gondola

Photo courtesy Killington.

On a clear day, you can see the mountains of five states, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York and Massachusetts, from the K1 Gondola at Killington, while on any day dramatic views of Killington and Pico Mountain.

The K1 Gondola tops out on Killington Peak, the highest lift-served mountain in Vermont. From the summit, guests can access the entire resort, with trails back down spanning the spectrum from green circle to double black diamond.

Killington K1 gondola

Photo courtesy Killington.

And Your Favorites Are?

Please let us know. If you know of a stunning chairlift or gondola view that we missed, shout it out!


Portions of this post originally published at on October 30, 2013.



Posted in Skiing | Tagged , | 11 Comments

Tips from a Pro: Ski and Snowboard Safety For Families

arapahoe basin ski patrol

Photo courtesy Arapahoe Basin.

brave ski mom logoParents are often concerned about safety when their kids start skiing or snowboarding.

Even if they ski or ride themselves, it’s easy to imagine accidents happening.

The same is true for biking, football, and even ballet. It’s easy to let our imaginations run wild.

Luckily, it’s also easy to prevent most accidents and mishaps. Here are some safety tips from Jake Ziemski, the Colorado Patroller of the Year.

What’s the most important step families can take to be safe on the mountain?

Be prepared. Make sure everyone has good gear, that works properly.

Next, wear a helmet and goggles. This is one of the most important things you can do.

You also need to be able to deal with inclement weather. Some days may be sunny and you’ll need sunscreen. Others may be blowing or snowing. You need to be prepared for all weather conditions.

a basin avalanche dogs

Photographer: Brian York. Photo courtesy Arapahoe Basin.

What advice do you have specifically for parents?

This is good advice for anyone, but especially for parents. Stick together and don’t ski or ride alone.

If your children are old enough and skilled enough to ski or ride on their own, communicate with one another. Choose a meeting place and a time to meet.  Ask each other, “Where will you be skiing?”

And, have a plan just in case someone gets lost. Look out for one another.

Also, parents need to be aware of their children’s limits. Don’t push your child to be the next Lindsey or Bode. The goal is for your child to build their skills and learn to love the mountain. This means every ski day should be enjoyable.

arapahoe basin colorado

Photo courtesy Arapahoe Basin.

What’s the biggest safety mistake someone can make?

The biggest mistake you can make is to cut a rope and enter closed terrain.

Terrain is closed for a reason. It is never closed because we “want to keep it for ourselves.” Our goal on ski patrol is always to get the whole mountain open and get it open safely.  We want to enjoy the mountain just like everyone else, with everyone else.

Entering closed terrain can cost you. In Colorado, there is a $1000 fine if you get caught. Plus, closed terrain is not swept at the end of the day.  If you get hurt in closed terrain, you’ll be on your own for a while. We may not know you’re in there.

How did you become a patroller? Would you recommend this job?

jake ziemski

Jake Ziemski, Colorado Patroller of the Year. Photo courtesy Arapahoe Basin.

It all started when I was going to school in Duluth, Minnesota. I had to get my EMT for my fire science degree.

I was looking for ways to use my EMT. My father-in-law was a patroller at Spirit Mountain Ski Area, so I decided to try that, too and volunteered for patrol.

I liked it so much that when I graduated I moved to Colorado and took at job at Keystone.

That summer, I went to Queenstown, New Zealand for an endless winter. Then I came back to Colorado. I’ve been at A Basin now for seven years.

Any tips for skiing or riding at Arapahoe Basin?

Definitely come up and check it out. A Basin is a pretty unique place for the state of Colorado. With the summit at 13,050 feet, almost 3/4 of the resort is above tree line. It is true Rocky Mountain skiing.

Thanks Jake, and congratulations on being the Colorado Patroller of the Year!

skiing arapahoe basin

Photographer Adrienne Saia Isaac. Photo courtesy Arapahoe Basin

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Even When I Feel Like a Loser, It Turns Out I’m A Winner

NASJA award winners 2014

Award winners Gerry Pallor of New York (video), me (blogs), and Marty Basch of New Hampshire (newspaper columns). Not pictured Tom Winter of Vail, Colorado a dual winner for photography and feature writing.

brave ski mom logoOn October 10th, I was feeling sorry for myself.

It was raining —again – a not uncommon experience in Colorado during the fall of 2013.

My husband was in Aspen partying with friends from college, many of them my friends too, but since it was a “guy thing,” I was at home.

My kids were in Moab, Utah with my parents waiting for the rain to break and the trails to dry so that they could have a fun weekend mountain biking.

I was mending a moth hole in a  favorite cashmere sweater (really).

My phone rang.

I let it go to voicemail.

Then I listened.

Guess What? You Won!

nasja logoIt was Kim Kircher, an author, creator of an amazing adventure radio show and an online friend. She’s also the Vice President of Awards for NASJA, the North American Snowsports Journalists Association.

As I listened to her message, my ears started ringing. Bells were pealing in my brain and I couldn’t stop smiling.

I had won the Harold S. Hirsch Award for the Best Snowsports Blog of 2013 for my work here, at the Brave Ski Mom. (You can see a video prepared for the awards by clicking on this link.)

nasja winners

Other honorees included Michael Berry, the President of the National Ski Areas Association; Jon Lundin, Communications Director for the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority; Ted Heck, editor and publisher of The Blue Book of European Skiing; and Raelene Davis, Vice-President of Marketing for Ski Utah.

Toot! Toot! Here Goes My Horn!

For the past 3 ½ years, I’ve put a lot of work into my blog. It’s taken me places I would never have imagined (most recently Quebec and Vermont) and introduced me to people who have become dear friends.

It has opened doors within the ski industry that I didn’t even know existed and it gave this rather bored stay-at-home mom of teens an invaluable creative outlet.

And yet, many of friends didn’t get it. “Why do you do this?” they’d ask. “Do you make any money? Isn’t it a lot of work?”

The last question was easy to answer. Yes, it is a lot of work, but it’s fulfilling.

The middle question was also easy to answer. No, I make very little money, although the blog has opened doors to paying writing gigs.

But the first question, that’s the kicker.

bonhomme and friends

Good friends all: me, Bonhomme, the mascot of the Quebec Winter Carnival and Jenn Boyd of Weidinger PR, South Lake Tahoe, CA.

Why Do I Do This?

And the answer is, because I love it. Even on days when I’m tired and blue, I love it. When there’s a hole in my favorite cashmere sweater and no one is signing up for a giveaway, I still love the process of writing.

harold hirsch award blogsI love it. It energizes me. And to be able to write about skiing, and parenting, and family is a double bonus.

The Brave Ski Mom blog combines all of my loves into one. I am truly blessed.

Plus, it feels super good to have my work recognized by my peers and experts from the field of journalism.

Toot! Toot!

I wrote this post about one hour after finding out that I’d won the 2013 Harold Hirsch Best Blog Award from NASJA. Per NASJA tradition, we’re supposed to keep things quiet and not share the good news. With no family at home, I turned to typing and writing and smiling…and smiling…and smiling.

Thank you so much for reading and helping me to make this adventure what it is!


nasja friends killington

Just a few of my outstanding NASJA friends last week at Killington!

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Tight Turns: Would You RENT Ski Clothes? And What the Heck is NASJA? , July 1, 2013.

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Ashley Sifers: From First Year Instructor to Colorado Ski Instructor of the Year

Ashley Sifers Granby Ranch

Ashley Sifers, the Colorado Ski Instructor of the Year. Photo courtesy Ski Granby Ranch.

brave ski mom logoIt’s not very often that a first-timer wins the award.

Sure, we sometimes hear of child prodigies who stun the world with their insight or talent, or the breakthrough teenage athlete, but often these examples are few.

Usually, time and experience win out over native, brand new enthusiasm.

Not so with Ashley Sifers, the Colorado Ski Instructor of the Year for 2013, who received the accolade just weeks after completing her first year as an instructor.

Ashley, who is now the Manager of the Ski Granby Ranch Ski and Ride School, says she was “floored” when she won the award from Colorado Ski Country USA.

Susan Seppi, Vice President of Operations at Granby Ranch nominated Ashley.

“Ashley is passionate about teaching snow sports and she loves to share the mountain experience with everyone she encounters,” explains Susan when asked why she nominated a rookie ski instructor. “She is exceptional at understanding how a personalized snow experience can help guests quickly gain confidence.”

And while her supervisor truly believed Ashley could be Colorado’s Instructor of the Year, Ashley herself, did not.

“I didn’t think I had snowball’s chance,” she laughed.

“It’s a real honor.”

Family on lift ski granby ranch

Photo courtesy Ski Granby Ranch.

A Unique Perspective

Of course, there’s more to this story than you might expect.

With a background in therapeutic recreation, Ashley spent 10 years working with people with disabilities. “My job wasn’t necessarily to teaching skiing, but working for a nonprofit, I ended up teaching skiing by default.”

“In my job, we used skiing and other sports as vehicles to other means,” Ashley explains. “I really enjoyed teaching skiing and wanted to become a full-time ski instructor. So last year, I quit my job and made it happen.”

Ashley’s background helps her bring a unique perspective to ski instruction. While the skills she is teaching are important, she sees skiing and her role as a teacher from a more broad perspective.

ski school ski granby ranch“I believe skiing is a way to enrich life and grow experiences,” she shares. I love the look on people’s faces when they accomplish something and have a breakthrough. I enjoy being part of that process.”

Although she also admits to what most of us have always suspected about ski instructors.

“It’s an awesome way to spend a day.”

Safety Rules

As an instructor, Ashley is part of her resort’s safety team. Instructors start by teaching students the basic skills they will need to manoeuver safely on snow: starting, turning and most importantly, stopping. They also teach “The Code,” the skier and snowboarder Responsibility Code.

national ski areas association know the code

Image courtesy National Ski Areas Association.

“It’s really important for everyone to understand the Code. These rules mean something and everyone needs to understand them,” explains Ashley.

“Since no one ever gets the entire mountain to themselves, everyone needs to trust and respect one another, so that we can all have a good time and come off the hill safely.”

Ashley also believes it’s important for skiers and riders to listen to their bodies and know when to stop. It’s always tempting to take one more run, as most of us know and some of us have learned the hard way. But rather than risking a fall when you’re tired, Ashley suggests prudence.

“You don’t have to eke out every minute of the day to have a successful, awesome day on the hill.”

She’s right.

jumping ski granby ranchIn addition to talking about safety, we also talked about building skills. As you would expect from an instructor, Ashley believes in the basics. Learn the fundamentals from a pro and progress from there. But she also believes in pushing one’s limits.

“If you feel comfortable with what you’re doing, it’s time to move on and try something harder. Just remember to always take a buddy,” cautions Ashley.

Memories That Count

Reflecting on her first year as a Level 1 PSIA Instructor, Ashley relishes the connections she made with students and her ability to share a skiing with them. Her goal is to help them build memories that are so positive that they’ll want to continue skiing for years to come.

Drawing on her own experience, she remembers her grandfather bringing his grandchildren from Missouri to Colorado each winter to learn to ski. A World War II veteran, her grandfather learned to ski in wartime Europe. It enriched his life and he was adamant that his grandchildren share skiing with him.

“We still talk about our ski vacations, 20 years later,” reflects Ashley. “If I can help someone build a fun family memory that will last at least 20 years, then I’ve done a good job at the end of the day.”

ski granby ranch

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