Learning to ski or snowboard at an early age is the perfect way to help young children instill a love for winter. Exploring the slopes helps kids build self-confidence, meet new friends and develop a lifelong affinity for the outdoors.
That wraps up the general feeling in the car as three women drive north on Vermont’s Route 7 from Stratton, heading back to Burlington. We’re down two of our group, as they had to head south. We’re all returning home after completing Stratton’s nationally recognized Women on Snow Camp in January.
Erica, Dana and I keep returning to the same subject as we meander through beautiful Vermont villages in our rental. Who knew we had so much to learn about making a turn and that so many small changes could completely alter our skiing in such a positive way?
To say Stratton’s WOW camp instructors were good at breaking things down is a huge understatement. They were professional deconstructors. The only thing more amazing than their knowledge was their ability to deliver the information in ways that were easy to swallow, and tasty to boot.
Each of the All Mountain Mamas that attended the camp came away with a different experience, another testament to the attention to detail given by the instructors. Though Gina, Erica and Dana were all in the same group, they each received personal feedback and tips that took them to new levels. Mara, more adept at tackling black diamonds, came away with a new confidence in her owns skills and tips to last all season.
Stratton Women on Snow Camp Highlights
As the only female in my household who delights in the company of her sons and husband (and who is the most experienced skier in her family), I was dubious about the benefits of a women-only clinic. But I’m a solid convert now. The WOW coaches were generous and supportive and clearly liked what they were doing. And I loved and was inspired by the women who were 15 to 20 years older than me. I watched them working it on the slopes and heard their stories. We had our own dedicated space in the base lodge and it was lovely to gather there on breaks or at the end of the day to share our small triumphs – “I skied my first black diamond” or “I finally got my skis further apart – I’ve been trying to do that for years.”
I also realized that when I’m with my kids I’m usually more focused on how they are skiing than on myself. In fact it’s no wonder that I’ve been skiing so fast that I didn’t know what I was doing – I’ve been chasing my older son down the mountain for years. Or I’ve been trying to get my younger son to use his poles. Or I’ve been arguing with both of them that a double black diamond trail isn’t a good idea when the mountain is covered in glare ice. None of that is conducive to thinking about my turns or weight distribution. But after just two days at Stratton I feel certain that I can apply what I learned and keep up with my kids.
At lunch on the second day of the camp, the instructors gave out what they called “Paper Plate Awards” to each woman in their groups. Everyone was singled out for the unique thing she brought to the table, whether that be good humor, a willingness to try new things, or the wherewithal to get up after multiple falls.
And my prize? Thanks to my work trying to master my erratic speed and form, Lucia game me the award for Wild Woman Tamed. I love that it was a powerful woman who showed me how to harness my own strengths.
Read more about Mara’s experience at The Mother of All Trips.
I’ve been skiing for a long time, but my technique is still a bit stuck in the past. I have old school muscle memory and ski with my legs too close together, not enough weight on my uphill ski, and my shoulders are often uneven when I turn. Thanks to the Stratton WoW clinic, I’ve finally made the step to become a much better, more advanced skier.
- Keep an athletic stance.
- Keep your skis apart.
- Keep your skis down in a turn rather than lifting.
- Keep your head up and look down the mountain.
- Keep taking lessons.
I told Amy that I resisted lessons over the years because I felt somewhat intimidated by my limitations. Here’s what she told me:
“Many skiers feel limited in their ability and are inhibited by their limitations. Some are intimidated by instruction, feeling they will spend too much time in their fear zone. Choose an instructor you feel comfortable with. At the start of the lesson, explain your inhibitions. Your lesson should be a learning partnership between you and your instructor. As instructors, we work to build trust in our students. We want our students to learn and enjoy the lesson. We want our students to come back and to be a lifelong learner and a lifelong skier.”
Read more about Erica’s experience at Happy Vermont.
As someone who only recently learned to ski, all of the lessons I’ve taken remain fresh in my mind. During the past three seasons, through a combination of group and private instruction and time on snow, I’ve become a decent skier—falling less, challenging myself to ski more difficult terrain, working to tighten up my turns, and trying to focus on leaning forward into my boots. But at Stratton’s WOW Camp, I became a real skier—honing my techniques on the mountain starting with my feet and moving all the way up to my head. The two-day clinic was jam packed with instruction that was perfectly tailored to my needs and ability and I can say unequivocally that this was the best lesson experience I’ve ever had.
Our instructor Amy Macy, veteran skier and 3-year WOW coach, began by taking us all the way back to the beginning, helping us to become aware of our bodies on the snow in a way I’d never before considered. Amy’s teaching was methodical and brilliantly executed—each drill we ran complemented the technique we’d just practiced, helping us to create a solid foundation of skills we built upon throughout the camp. At the same time, Amy’s energy and enthusiasm was contagious, making the experience, while challenging, a ton of fun. She tailored her instruction thoughtfully, continuously assessing our form and helping us to replace old habits with sound technique. I left the clinic with my head full of Amy’s wisdom and can’t wait to get back out onto the snow to put it all into practice!
Read more about Gina’s experience at Kids Unplugged.
During my early ski days in the Catskill Mountains a family friend once said to me, “Ski across! There’s always snow on the other side of the ice!” My friend’s words still resonate with me today as I sometimes skid and slide down the mountains of Vermont. I have always wanted to ski without fear. To ski comfortably and enjoy it — not just get down the mountain. Stratton’s Women on Snow camp gave me the opportunity I needed to move towards that goal.
After an initial run to assess our ski level, our instructor Amy got down to business. She broke down the basics of skiing working step-by-step on each of the mechanics. We talked about stance, balance and feeling the snow underneath our skis. As the day progressed Amy moved on to our turns. She drew pictures in the snow depicting large arcs in the shape of a grapefruit to emphasize the curve we should strive for. We practiced learning to stop by turning up hill. We then worked on putting weight on our outside ski while carving out big and small loops. Eventually we added in our poles linking together all that we had learned.
It was clear that in order to improve our technique it was important to focus on one thing at a time. I am not going to remember everything I was taught at the two day camp but I know I will remember these key points going forward:
- Nose over toes – this helps you to lean forward over your skis.
- Belly button faces down the mountain – this keeps your body aligned properly.
- Bend your knees – this increases your balance and forces you to lean forward in your boots.
- Look up – this keeps you looking downhill, not down at the tips of your skis.
- Tap and go – this helps you execute a proper pole plant in your turns.
Read more about Dana’s experience at Dana Freeman Travels.
Supportive Women Not Optional
Aside from all the amazing skills that were developed that weekend, it’s safe to say the Mamas also took away an appreciation for skiing with a group of other women. The camp was not only only filled with informative, supportive instructors, but the campers themselves were also inspiring. From women in their twenties to some even in their eighties, everyone was so fun and uplifting right off the bat. Many friends were made, laughs were had, and skills unlocked together.
How Can I Attend Stratton’s WOW Camp?
Interested in attending? There is one more camp this season, March 11-13, 2016 and Stratton typically run 4 camps throughout the season. Find the schedule and details about the WOW camp at stratton.com.