Cold Toes In Your Ski Boots?

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A common complaint we ski instructors here a lot is that our client’s feet are cold in their ski boots.  Cold toes are no fun.  First and foremost, make sure you have good fitting ski boots.  But in addition to that, there are a few things you can do to help prevent cold tootsies….

BOOT WARMERS
Disposable Boot Warmers
If you’re familiar with hand warmers, then disposable boot warmers will be very familiar to you. Disposable boot warmers are little packages that will heat up when opened and exposed to air. Boot warmers are available in two types, the most common is sized smaller than the hand warmer version and also has an adhesive backing so that you can stick it to the bottom of your sock towards the front of your boot. The second type is shaped like a footbed. This style is more comfortable. Both are options if you only get cold feet on rare occasions. But they may affect the way your boots fit.

Boot Heaters
These nifty little gadgets are battery-powered heaters that can be installed in any ski boot. There are two brands of boot heaters on the market, one made by Thermic and another made by Hotronics. Both models work equally well and each comes with a set of rechargeable batteries that you clip on your boots. A wire then runs down inside of your boots between the shell and the liner to the warming disk that goes into the front of your ski boots inside the liner under your foot. You will need to make a small incision in the bottom of your liner to insert the wire, which isn’t a big deal at all.

The batteries will have multiple settings that will allow you to easily control the amount of heat you want your warmers to emit. The batteries will last all day, and may last up to 2 days between charges depending on the setting you choose.

An additional great feature of boot heaters is that they can be easily transferred from one pair of boots to another. If you get new ski boots you can just take your boot heaters off of your old pair and set them up on your new pair. Or if you want to attach them to a pair of regular outdoor boots, you can do that as well. Boot heaters typically run around $240.

A caveat though…is that you should have these professionally installed. If the wire is not placed correctly inside the boot you can injure your nerves.

Boot Gloves
Boot gloves provide a thermal protection layer of insulating neoprene for your ski boots to keep your feet warm. The company claims that it provides up to +20° F more in temps on your feet. Runs $30 to $40.

Heat Tape
This is something inexpensive and that you can do at home to help make your boots retain heat. You can tape the bottom of your footbeds and the toes of your liners with high heat tape that you can purchase at most home improvement stores.

Other Options To Keep Your Feet Warm
-Battery heated socks.
-Spray antiperspirant on your feet to keep them dry (and thus warm).
-Try compression socks.

BOOT DRYERS

One reason why some people get cold feet is that they do not properly dry their liners after each day of skiing. Drying your liners can be accomplished a couple of ways:

• Remove your liners from the shells after skiing each day and set them near a heating vent or other place with good air flow. DO NOT set them by the fire, as this will melt the liner.

• Purchase a set of boot warmer/dryers. These are small heaters that you plug into the wall or a lighter outlet in your car and place inside your ski boots at the end of the day. They will lightly heat the inside of the liners and help to evaporate the moisture that is trapped inside.

• Air powered boot dryers are the deluxe way to deal with moist boot liner problems. This device is similar to a hair dryer as it circulates warm, dry air with a fan. This process pulls out all the moisture and makes your liners usable for skiing again. Some of these also double as glove dryers to solve the same moisture issues with your gloves.

Don’t leave your boots in the car or garage if you can help it. It takes a while for them to warm up so bring them inside to keep warm.

Also when traveling, if you can’t bring all you ski equipment with you, bring your boots. They are the most custom fitted piece of equipment that you likely have in your ski arsenal.

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So You Bought Some Ski Boots….now what? Customizing!

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Ladies….I cant stress enough that having a good fitting pair of ski boots is so important.  Your feet will be warmer and not in pain.  And ski boots are your single most important piece of equipment (after a helmet) because your feet control your skis and what your skis do.  Now that you’ve bought some ski boots, here are some suggestions for how to better customize the fit of them to your feet.

Footbeds
The stock footbeds that come with your ski boots generally don’t offer much arch support and probably don’t match the shape of your foot either. Proper footbeds are essential for an effective fit. A supported foot is stable, strong, balanced and relaxed, while an unsupported one is weak, unbalanced and easily fatigued. Much of the discomfort skiers experience is a result of an unsupported foot trying to stay balanced and working too hard to steer the ski through the turn

A good aftermarket and fairly inexpensive footbed is made by Superfeet and you can get them at most ski or high end runners shops. These generally run around $50 a pair. For even better performance and comfort, consider having a custom footbed made by a trained bootfitter especially if you ski more than 100 days a year. These easily run over $200. They may seem like a big expense after purchasing a pair of ski boots, but insoles put you in a neutral position, alleviating alignment problems that can affect your skiing. They’re also better for your knees and back. Custom footbeds are molded to your foot by taking an impression of it, then placing the heated footbed in the mold with your foot on top.

Another reason to consider new footbeds is to help compensate for the “Q” angle that women have which causes a lot of us to be knock-kneed or to pronate. This is because our pelvis’s are wider which causes our femur bones to approach the knee at a wider angle than a man’s. This causes our ski’s to not be flat on the snow and more on our inside edges, which increases our probability of knee injuries.

Canting
Canting your boot can also help those who are knock-kneed, bowlegged or have other funky leg alignment issues to get your skis flat on the snow. Canting refers to the left or right angle of your boot and most boots have built in canting adjustments on their sides for minor adjustments. What canting does it to put you in a neutral stance. Think of it as putting a matchbook under a tippy table. Canting can also be done either by installing wedges under the bindings when the ski is mounted or planing the sole of the boot. Since this is not something that can be accurately done at home, canting should be left to a qualified bootfitter with the right equipment. But canting is kind of like needing glasses. You either need them or you don’t. If you suspect you have a canting issue, stand on a soft surface like deep carpet or a foam rubber pillow. Look straight ahead and try to assume a balanced and even stance with your feet comfortably apart. Without moving your lower body, peek down at your feet. If one or both feet tend to tip to the inside or outside as you try to stand in a neutral and balanced position, you likely need canting. If you wear off the inside or outside edges of your shoes, that can be another clue. So visit with a bootfitter to get an accurate stance assessment and whether or not you need canting.

Heel Lifts
While women’s ski boots do typically have an increased ramp angle in them to help us get more forward in our skis, heel lifts can help even more. Another reason we women have difficulty getting forward is that we don’t bend at the ankles and knees as far forward as a man and we have less ankle strength. To compensate for this we bend at our waist to try to get enough weight forward to control the tips of our skis. This problem becomes worse on steeper slopes. Heel Lifts….. (and a forward binding position on the skis) help tip the pelvis forward and establish a natural stance of greater stability. The center of gravity is moved slightly forward. Since the heel is higher, a greater amount of forward torque can be generated by the woman with less forced ankle and knee flex. Installing a heel lift is something you can do at home. Pull the liner out of your ski boot and using carpet tape, tape the heel lift on the inside of your boot shell as far back in the heel pocket as it will fit. Make sure you have a good fit in the heel pocket and trim the heel lift if you need to get it to fit as perfectly as possible.

Heat Molding Your Boots At Home
This is a simple way to help your boots mold to the shape of your feet. Doing this can make your boots fit better and be more comfortable. Take a tube sock and fill it with 3-4 pounds of white dry rice and tie off the end of the sock. Spread the sock out on a counter and form it into a large, long sausage shape. Put the sock in the microwave and based on the ovens wattage output set for the following times: 700W – 7 min / 1000 – 1100W 5 min / 1200 – 1250W 4 min. Put a semi thick sock on your feet. Take the sock out of the microwave by its knotted end carefully because it will be very hot. Quickly stuff it into your ski boot making sure it goes all the way to the toe area. Hold it by the knot and place it into your liner. You will need to work the rice sock into your liner by hitting the boot into the floor multiple times first on its heel and then on its toe. Keep on tapping it into the floor going back and forth between the heel and toe until the rice sock has settled deeper into the liner. Set a timer for 5 – 7 minutes and let the boot stand with the rice sock inside the liner. Remove the sock and put the boot on being sure you kicked your heel back into the heel pocket and buckle it down. Stand with your toe on a 1 inch high block (a book or piece of wood) and flex forward. Walk around a few times in the boot too. Do this and leave the boot on for 15 minutes or until the boot has cooled off. You are now done. Remove your foot and get ready to do the next boot in the same way.

Bootfitters
While there are a lot things you can do at home to customize your ski boot fit, it’s sometimes best to seek out a professional bootfitter who can perform extensive modifications to your boots. They are equipped with the proper tools and knowledge to help you achieve the best possible fit. Custom footbeds stabilize and balance the foot and are designed to fit your foot perfectly, while modifying the shell with heat or grinding allows it to take the shape of your foot and eliminates “hot spots” or pressure points.

When to Buy New Ski Boots
Ski boot life expectancy varies. If you ski regularly and you’re hard on your boots, you may need to replace them every few seasons. Don’t wait too long; boot liners eventually tend to “pack out” which can compromise fit and performance. If you take care of your boot liners and dry them out after each day of skiing they can last up to 150 days of skiing. Your boots in general last about 350 days of skiing.

In my next post I’ll talk about things you can do to help keep your feet warmer.

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What You Need To Know About Women’s Ski Boots

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This post is going to be a bit longer than normal but its because it’s about something I’ve very passionate about.  Women’s Ski Boots.  I think I love this topic so much because I currently have some awsome fitting boots .  And how I got them was a great experience that I only hope other boot sellers can emulate.

I was fortunate to have been fitted by Jeannie Thoren (a pioneer in women’s skiing) and her husband who had a store near one of the chairlifts in Vail. She recommended a boot for me then let me make one run in it to see if I liked it. I did but it needed some tweaking. Her husband made some adjustments to the boots and sent me back out to make another run. After about 3 or 4 times doing this I have what I consider a great fitting boot. My feet rarely are cold or hurt. Jeannie and her husband have since sold their store to Outdoor Divas but she is working with them to pass down her expertise. The point I’m trying to make is you too can find that perfect boot but you first need to find someone who knows what they are doing and realize it may take a few visits to them to get it right.

I also get excited about ski boot because they are the single most important piece of ski equipment to own are ski boots. Why????  Because your feet control your skis and what your skis do. Boots transmit both weight and energy to your skis. Your feet cause your skis to tip on edge and your weight pressures the tip of the ski and that’s how you turn. In order for this to happen, you need to have a properly fitted boot. If your ski boot is too loose, there’s a delayed reaction as your foot struggles to move the boot. The result? A sloppy, out-of-control turn. On the flip side, if your boot is too tight, your foot will hurt. Sore feet make for a miserable day of skiing. Also, tight-fitting boots can restrict blood flow, leading to cold and numb feet, which is also miserable. If you’ve lost sensation in your feet, 40% of your balance is lost and you need to get out of those boots within 15 minutes otherwise you can have severe nerve damage. Finally, if the boot is too high and tight around your calf muscle, the issues mentioned above will occur as well as a loss of muscle control. Convinced yet?

If you struggle with making clean, carved turns down the slopes, or feel like your ski tips wander during a turn or your feet are sore after a day of skiing—or even just a run, the solution may be right at your feet.

Why Women Should Buy Women’s Ski Boots….
Women’s ski boots are designed for women. The same reasons women don’t buy men’s shoes hold true for ski boots. The major differences between men’s and women’s ski boots are in the cuff height, heel and ankle fit and in the liners. Besides our feet just being shaped differently than men so are our calves. Men have longer lower leg bones so their calf muscle will generally be above the cuff of a ski boot. But we women have shorter lower leg bones so our calf muscles will likely have to fit inside the cuff of a ski boot. So generally the plastic cuff on women’s ski boots will be shorter than the comparable boot for a man and they may have wider cuffs.

Women also tend to have narrower heels and ankles then men so women’s boots will tend to taper in closer around the heel and may have additional padding in the ankle area to provide a better fit. Liners are also often made with warmer and thicker materials to help combat cold. YEA!

Another huge difference between men’s and women’s boots is the flex of the boot. Women’s boots generally have a softer flex so we can initiate turns easier. The stance of the boots is also typically different having a higher ramp angle. What do I mean by stance and ramp angle???  Technically it’s the “angle of the boot board”. Non-technically it means the bottom of the boot isn’t perfectly flat and is ramped up slightly. Think of it like a wedge shoe. Why do we women need this? Because our center of gravity is closer to our tail bone and below our waist whereas men’s is closer to their belly buttons and above their waists. By having more ramp angle, it helps we women get our body weight forward. So between the softer flex and the different boot design women who ski a women’s ski boot can get their center of gravity closer to the tips of their skis making it easier to start each turn. We’ll cover more about ramp angle when we talk about making adjustments to your boots.

Ready to buy some boots? Here are some tips…..
Find the right ski shop with a large selection. Go to a ski boot shop that has good selection of women’s ski boots and try on several pairs. Don’t buy online without trying on what you are going to buy first. Try to find ski shops that have knowledgeable bootfitters. Avoid the big box stores. Your best bet are ski stores in ski towns. Research online for bootfitter recommendations. Outdoor Divas in Vail specializes in only women’s equipment and is located right off chair 8. They also have a store in Boulder. We also like Larson’s Ski & Sport in Denver and Boulder Ski Deals in Boulder.
Wear one pair of socks. The thinner the sock the better foot’s feel inside the boot. If your feet get cold often, try boot heaters.
Find the right flex. The flex of a boot varies between different models and manufacturers. Find the right balance of flex for your ability: Too stiff and you won’t be able to effectively turn the ski. Too soft and you’ll overpower it. This is where talking to a good bootfitter is important in selecting what is best for you.
Don’t undersell yourself. We women tend to downplay our ability level. Talk honestly about how and where you ski to your bootfitter.
Try on in the afternoon or evening. Feet swell during the day.
Buy boots that fit snugly (but not too tight) in the shop. Slight pressure on your longest toes when the boot is buckled up is usually an indication that the boot will be the right size after some use. Remember the ski shop is a warm environment. Once you get outside, your foot changes.
Found a boot you like? Don’t buy it just yet. Keep them on for at least 15 minutes and walk around so you will feel what it is like when the boots are at work. Bending your knees so that your shins push against the Ski Boot tongue will tell you about the stiffness of the boots you’re wearing. A ski boot is soft if it flexes easily. However, if you cannot flex it forward, it can be an indicator that it is too stiff for your weight or skill. After wearing the boots for a while, check if you feel pain in some vulnerable points such as your ankle bones, shins, as well as toes.
Found two boots you like? Wear the left Ski Boot of the first pair and the right Ski Boot of the second pair. After keeping them on for a while, do the same for the right Ski Boot of the first pair and left Skiing Boot of the second pair. Then decide which pair gives more comfort to you.

How to try on Boot (by Evo.com)
1. Unbuckle the boot completely.
2. Most boots have a loop on the tongue to help you pull it up and forward. It’s usually easiest to keep the boot flat on the ground and step into it as you stand up. Grab the tongue loop, point your toe straight into the boot, and in one deliberate motion pull the tongue up and out as you stand and step into the boot. With very stiff performance boots, it sometimes helps to grasp the medial (inside) cuff by the buckle straps with one hand and the tongue loop with the other and pull the two sides apart as you slide your foot in – this will spread the stiff plastic in the instep area and give you more room to slide your foot in.
3. Make sure to center the tongue on top of your foot and check that it’s positioned inside the leading edges of the liner. Don’t make an assessment about the fit yet, as the boot isn’t buckled and your foot isn’t settled.
4. Don’t be alarmed if your boot feels tight and your toes brush the end of the boot when you first put it on. At this point, your foot hasn’t warmed up the liner foam or started to push excess air out. Also, your foot isn’t in the “ski position” yet, because you haven’t buckled the boot.
5. Start by standing up and buckling the top two buckles lightly to seat the tongue on the instep of the foot. You want to make sure the tongue of the boot is against your leg. After fastening the Velcro power strap, flex the boot forward (hard) a few times with bottom buckles still unbuckled. This will pull your toes away from the front of the boot and push your heel deep in the heel pocket. Bang your heel on the ground if you need to to get your heel back in the heel pocket. Now fasten all the buckles snugly, but don’t over-tighten them to the point of discomfort. Keep in mind that your boots, at this point, are the tightest they will ever be.
6. Now that you’re buckled up, spend some time standing with your feet parallel in a ski stance while simulating ski motions. If your heel is lifting up, your boots are likely too big. Flex the boot forward by driving your knee over your toe while keeping your shoulder and hip vertical. Do this one knee at a time. You want your knee to go 2” past the tip of your toe but no further. The upper cuff should hinge at the ankle. If you are only able to hinge at the hips and can’t move the upper cuff forward with your lower leg, the boot may be too stiff for you. Remember too that your living room is probably around 70 degrees F. and the boot will get stiffer when it’s cold. While flexing the boot, roll the boots side to side as if rolling the skis from edge to edge. If possible, do this in front of an audience – another skier can often tell if you’re flexing the boot properly or if the boot is overpowering you.
7. Make sure you feel no single pressure points or other painful spots. If you feel them now already, you will definitely feel them when they come under the added pressure of actual Skiing. Make sure you feel an evenly distributed snug fit all around your foot not only at the soles of your feet but also on top. The same goes for the upper Ski Boot. Make sure your ankles and calves are connecting well to your Ski Boot but not too tight. Make sure your muscles in your calves are not restricted in their movements.
8. Sizes, fit, and flex ratings vary from manufacturer to manufacturer so be sure to try on your boot before you buy it.

In my next post I’ll talk about how to customize the fit of your boots.  🙂

 

 

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How to Tell if Your Skis Need a Tune-Up

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When was the last time you had your skis tuned? Waxed?
A lot of people think that once or twice a season is all that’s needed but in reality their skis could probably need some love after 8-10 days on the snow. Every time you ski your skis are taking a beating and getting worn down. Hard, icy snow will wear the bases of your skis down pretty fast and dull their edges. And there is no such thing as waxing your skis too much. Wax not only makes your skis faster but also makes them easier to get on edge and thus easier to turn.

Here are some helpful pointers on how to tell if your skis need some work or can wait for a few more ski days:

1. Do your skis need a wax or grind?: Look at the bases of your skis….do they shine? A well waxed pair will shine. If they don’t, is there a white film or surface color that almost resembles dry skin, if there is, your skis are thirsty for wax. If you notice parts of the ski that still have wax on them, usually circular spots, the bases aren’t flat anymore. And if your bases feel fuzzy or you can see little fibers sticking up, it’s time for a stone grind.

2. Look for visible damage: This applies to all parts of your equipment. If you find any cracks or holes on any part of your board or ski, stop right here. You’re done with inspection and you need to bring your gear in for Ptex repair to re-seal the damaged area.

3. Check the edges for rust or burs: Ski edges can have a small amount of rust spots on them but if there is a rust build-up that has a granulated feel when you run your finger over it your skis need their edges worked on. Also if you run your finger (very carefully) along the edges and you feel burrs or nicks all over the place it is time to get your edges sharpened.

4. Binding Safety: if you’ve done and/or can see damage to your binding, you need to have one of our certified professionals look at it. Beyond that, manufacturers recommend you get a binding check performed on your equipment about every 6 days of skiing or after any crash that resulted in an ejection.

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When To Replace Your Ski Gear

While getting new gear is always fun, it’s also not cheap. But skiing on gear that is past its useful life can also be dangerous. Here’s a handy list of when you should replace your gear:

Helmets: Do you know how old your helmet is? If not…time to replace. Life span 3 to 5 years because the foam and plastics deteriorate over time. Doesn’t matter how often it’s used. Replace if you’ve fallen hard or taken any heavy impact.

Goggles: Do they fit your helmet? Googles and helmets made by the same manufacturer are designed to fit

together. You don’t want “gaper gap”. Replace your googles if they don’t fit your new helmet, you have trouble fogging, your lenses are scratched, or the elastic or foam on them is falling apart.

Skis & Bindings: Skis also deteriorate over time and with use. Consider new skis or snowboard after 80 to 100 days of use. Changes in technology and ability also factor into whether you should get new skis. If haven’t replace your skis in the last 5-7 years, you should think about new skis. Technology alone has greatly improved since your skis were made and may make skiing easier and more enjoyable for you. For bindings you may not have a choice. Ski shops actually have a list of approved bindings and only if your bindings are on the list will they work on your skis. Bindings that are deemed too old or not safe to use any more, the ski shop will not touch because they don’t want the liability.

Boots: Boots, your most important piece of gear after your helmet, typically “packs out” after 50-60 days of use meaning they become lose fitting. A lose fitting boot will make controlling your ski more difficult. You should also consider new boots if you can’t get your boots to dry or they are really stinky. You can replace the liners and keep the shell but even the shell deteriorates over time. Shells last about 350 days of skiing.

Out-with-the-Old

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Skiers Nose..Do you have it?

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Yes…yes I do!

Have you ever wondered why your nose starts to run when you’re outside on a chilly day? That condition that many of us suffer on the slopes or doing any cold weather activity where we literally become a walking fountain of snot? Well it actually has a name…skier’s nose! (aka rhinorrhea which is a perfect name considering what it rhymes with)

Its cause is fairly simple to explain. When you breathe cold air, the lining inside your nose swells because the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) swell and warm blood tries to heat the cold air that enters your nose. Our noses try to warm and add moisture to the air we breathe as it travels down into the lungs. So when you inhale cold, dry air, the moist tissue inside your nose automatically increases fluid production to do its job of protecting sensitive lung tissue. Cold air also speeds up mucus production. So when there’s too much fluid, the excess tends to drip out, creating a runny nose. People who exercise in the cold are especially apt to experience skier’s nose.

The good news is that cold-induced runny noses do not last. If it is really bothersome, there are medications available, such as antihistamines and oral decongestants, that can help prevent your nose from running, and let you enjoy the great winter outdoors but they need to be taken before hitting the slopes. Right now Benadryl seems to be working for me but I also haven’t tested it on a really cold day.  If it doesn’t work, I’m told my doctor may be able to prescribe a heavy duty nasal spray like ipratropium/Atrovent that may help.  Experts also say that covering your mouth and nose with a scarf can be effective.
Now to figure out how to keep my eyes from watering…..

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Camping & Glamping & Sisters on the Fly

It’s hard to believe summer has officially ended.  But its been filed with some fun “firsts”.  We made a point of taking the glamper and going well….glamping!  Our first weekend was Memorial Weekend at nearby Pactola Lake.  It wasn’t so great cause it rained the entire time.  Fourth of July found us camping at Angostura with friends from the Black Hills Ski Club.  Where we learned out dog Bandit is a scam artist and will feign being afraid of fireworks just to get to sleep in the bed with us.  He was sound asleep the minute he hit the blankets.  And while I swore we were NEVER have more than two people stay in the glamper, a couple of weeks later my husband and I, our two dogs AND my brother spent the weekend camping in Thermopolis, WY.  If you have never been there it’s a great weekend trip.  Awesome white water rafting, fly fishing, natural hot springs to swim in and lots more.  And despite my brother’s obvious hesitation until the guide yelled at him to pull me back in to the boat after I got dumped white water rafting, it was a super good time.  But the ultimate glamping trip of the summer was in August with Sisters On The Fly near Deadwood, SD.

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Sisters On The Fly 2015

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Now if you’ve not heard of the Sisters on the Fly, they are a nationwide group of women who like to camp (and fish, and hike, and shop, and just plain out have a good time).  Campers of all shapes, sizes, years and degrees of blinged out where there with over 95 women from across the country attending.  Some stayed in cabins, some in tents and one even stayed in a tee pee.  This was my first SOTF event so I really didn’t know what to expect.  Well let’s just say I can’t wait for the next one.  Everyone was fun, friendly and just wanted to have a good time.  I met some new friends.  Saw some adorable campers.  And was kept super busy for four days.  I also earned my first SOTF merit badge….the nymph badge.  To earn it you have to do something….naked.  I think there was at least 16 of us who earned their nymph badge that weekend.  LOL  For me it wasn’t that big of a deal.  I’m pretty comfortable with myself.  But for others it was a totally empowering thing to do and that’s what I love to see and be a part of.

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The whole point of you and me being an ADVENTURE CHIX is to encourage others, especially women, to step out of their comfort zones.  That’s exciting and liberating.  And it can be contagious.  We as women need to help each other be the best we can be and make the world a better place because of it.  And along the way we will make some new friends, learn some new things and have some fun doing it.

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Summer Skiing in Portillo, Chile (part 3)

Spending a week at Portillo is so much more than a typical skiing vacation.  Hopefully you’ve gotten a feel for it from my previous blog posts.  But what I haven’t talked much about is the skiing.

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While we didn’t get any of the powder Portillo is known for we did have some nice spring condition skiing. The mountains are big and look intimidating, but they really aren’t once you get on them. I found a lot of really easy runs at Portillo. But then there are also some very steep ones too, especially if you are willing to hike to some off piste areas. The thing Portillo doesn’t have are long runs. Its longest run is 1 mile. In comparison, the longest run at Big Sky in Montana is 6 miles. Big Sky also has 305 runs whereas Portillo has 35 runs (but that’s not counting the endless off piste runs).

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Halfway through our stay we had another unique experience….an EARTHQUAKE. An 8.3 magnitude quake struck around 8:00 one night about 150 miles from Portillo and lasted about 3 minutes. Luckily Chile has one of the most effective earthquake prepared infrastructures building codes in the world leaving the country virtually unscathed. The Hotel at Portillo suffered numerous cracks including one in our room but otherwise sustained only minor damage. A small avalanche was also triggered on one of the ski slopes but as it was at night, no one was in danger. I, of course, did what any social media nut would do, I filmed it and uploaded it to facebook. Other people when outside which I’m told is the safer thing to do in an earthquake. I will remember that for the next time. Afterwards we hung out with other hotel guests in the big common room next to the dining room and had a couple of glasses of wine.

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Besides the earthquake, we were also fortunate to be at Portillo on Chile’s Independence Day. Several Chileans dressed in historical outfits and skied during the day.

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They also dined and danced at Tio Bob’s which is Portillo’s slope side restaurant overlooking Lake Inca and the Andes that surround it.

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That night the festivities continued with more traditional live music and dancing and was concluded with a torchlight parade of skiers.

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Our last day we were able to pack all our stuff up and still spend half a day skiing as the shuttle didn’t pick us up till 3:00 that afternoon. Our flight out of Santiago wasn’t until later that night. And while our flight home on American Airlines was less than pleasant due to cancellations which put us home a day late, we still loved out time at Portillo.

I hope after reading all my posts about Portillo you are now inspired to go to this amazing, historic and unique resort.

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Summer Skiing in Portillo, Chile (part 2)

As you know we recently spent a week skiing in Portillo, Chile.  My previous blog post was on Portillo in general and getting there.  This week is more on the “experience” that is Portillo.

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Come for the skiing but stay for the food and wine. Coming into Portillo I had no idea what to expect of the whole experience. All I knew was there was no TV but there was Wi-Fi so at least I could indulge my internet addiction. The best way I can describe Portillo is that it is a cross between a cruise ship and the family camp in the movie Dirty Dancing. It has a nostalgic atmosphere but it isn’t run down. The meals are relaxed and you’re seated at a table you will keep for the rest of the week which allows you to get to know your servers. We slept in so we missed breakfast but lunch and dinner were phenomenal. We were always offered several choices of starters, entrees and desserts. The wine is some of the best in the world and even the water tasted excellent.

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Our typical day consisted of us getting up around 10:00 and making 3-4 runs on the slopes. Lunch was at 1:45. Then we would rest a little to let the huge lunch digest a bit before hitting the slopes again and skiing till the lifts closed at 5:00. Tea was served from 5:00 to 6:00. If we didn’t do tea, we went to the outdoor hot tub and soaked for an hour or so and enjoyed some Coronas.

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Then we would go back to our room and hang out for a while before heading to the bar around 8:00 for pisco sours. Dinner was a 9:45. Chileans eat later than most North Americans. Then either back to the bar to listen to great live music or off to bed. The staff at Portillo are awesome. They are relaxed, uber friendly and professional. I highly recommend when you leave Portillo you tip the staff generously.

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A couple of days we indulged ourselves and took some ski lessons. Being friends with Robin Barnes, the director of the ski school, we knew that their instructors were some of the best in the world. And lessons at Portillo are CHEAP compared to what you would pay at a typical big mountain resort in the States. A one hour private lesson runs about $75 plus tip in Portillo where a similar lesson at Breckenridge would be over $200 plus tip. I started off in a group lesson thinking that it would be good for me to see another instructor teach a group. What I didn’t factor in was that the other students in the group would be speaking Spanish and since I do not, I didn’t really learn anything about teaching. LOL So I quickly switched to a private lesson which I really enjoyed. I also got the benefit of having two different instructors show me how to ride these slingshot lifts Portillo has.

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The slingshot lifts are a bit intimidating. One most runs you take a chairlift to the top of the run. But if you want to go higher and steeper you take an additional slingshot lift up. These are so unique that Portillo even has a brochure in your room that explains how to ride them. They are basically a five person pommel lift that you put between your legs that rockets you to the top. Then at the top there is no flat part to get off so you have to figure out how to let go and not go flying backwards down the slope. My highlight of my first attempt on one of these was I was joined by Olympic Gold Medalist Ted Ligety who was there with the US Ski Team training. Unfortunately I was so nervous about slipping off the pommel that all I could say to him was “see ya” when he got off. I’m sure he remembers though….

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Summer Skiing in Portillo, Chile (part 1)

Well we are back from our trip to Portillo, Chile and what an adventure!

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This all started last December which was my husband’s 50th birthday.  His present was to go anywhere in the world he wanted in 2016. He picked skiing in Portillo, Chile. His primary reason was that two of his old skiing buddies are there. Michael Rogan is the Assistant General Manager and Robin Barnes is their ski school director. So Portillo it was. We picked mid-September to go which would put us around the start of their “spring” skiing.  I will admit it was a bit challenging to pack for snow when we still were having 90 degree days here in the Black Hills.

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Needless to say after looking at photos of the terrain I was a bit apprehensive about going. These are BIG mountains that look nothing like what I’m used to here in the States. But I LOVE to travel and having never been to South America, so how bad could it be? I’m happy to say, “IT WAS AWESOME!”

Portillo is a very unique experience. You fly into the capital of Chile, Santiago and drive about two hours north. Initially in Santiago you notice a very heavy haze. Sadly Santiago is very polluted from industrial emissions, vehicle emissions, smoke from wood fires burning in the barrios, and dust particulates in the air from the lack of rain. Is proximity to the mountains also traps the pollution over the city. IMG_0246

But a short drive from the airport you start to see the agricultural side of Chile. Lots of orchards and vineyards with the Andes Mountains as the backdrop.

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The further north you go you start to get in more barren dessert like country that is where the copper mines are. You are also climbing in elevation. Santiago is situated at 1,706 ft above sea level. Portillo is at 9,450 ft and its highest lift reaches 10,860 ft. The peaks around rise an additional 7,000 ft. Portillo is about 3 miles from the Argentina boarder and the road you take is a major international highway that links the two countries. Did I mention that Portillo is at the top of 29 switchback turns in the road?

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The resort is ISOLATED. There is a customs house and Army Base nearby but the nearest town is 37 miles away. For that reason, most guests at Portillo come for an entire week and all meals and lift tickets are included with your lodging. To truly experience Portillo, you need to stay for the week.

The iconic yellow and blue Hotel Portillo situated next to the crystal blue Inca Lake was built by the Chilean government in 1949 to promote tourism. To access the resort visitors had to travel by train as no road existed at the time. In 1961, the hotel was sold to the Purcell family from the U.S. who still operate the resort. Henry Purcell, who I believe is 92, skis every day. In 1966, Portillo hosted the first World Cup ski championships and continues to host several international ski teams, including the US Team, for training each year. As you walk through the hotel, you can’t help but be struck by how much history has taken place there.

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The hotel has only 123 rooms so the slopes are never crowded. Most days you’ll find 1,000 or so skiers spread across the resorts 1,235 acres. Do the math….that’s like one skier per acre. While we were there, there was likely only about 600 skiers. The resort sits entirely above the tree line and 80% of the trails are groomed. They say the real magic of Portillo though is its endless powder. Unfortunately the snow was not plentiful while we were there and the powder gods did not bless us with any new snow. However we were able to ski most runs.

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Because Portillo is so isolated, they put a lot of effort into making your time there an experience. Whether you’re there as a couple or as a family there are tons of activities scheduled each day and night to keep adults and kids busy. It actually is a really great place to take a family. And you can tell that many families have been coming there for generations.

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Do you need to speak Spanish to go there? No, you’ll find English speaking staff but it would help if you do speak Spanish. Or at least try because as with travel in any country, the locals appreciate it when you recognize their culture and try to speak their language. The other nice thing about Portillo is the minimal time change. Jet lag is minimal as it is only three hours ahead of Denver, Colorado

Next week I’ll tell you more about the “experience” that is Portillo.  🙂

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