Girl Power Extraordinaire: Women from the Telluride Ski & Snowboard School, Part One

Marti, Cristina and Me on a Ski Break

Marti, Cristina and Me on a Ski Break

As I ease into off-season mode, I find myself almost sentimental about all the camaraderie I share at Telluride Ski & Snowboard School. Indeed, I’m now shifting into a more solitary existence, left to fend for myself–as a lone freelance writer–instead of being part of the team that helps to make magic at Telluride Ski Resort. Within Ski School, we’re very much like a family; we’re part of a tribe that speaks the same language and shares many of the same passions even though we are a mix of astonishingly unique human beings.

The women at Telluride Ski & Snowboard School feel like sisters to me and over the years I’ve come to love many of them in my own special way. They are strong, beautiful ladies that radiate a sense of well-being that’s surely the envy of many. They’ve chosen a lifestyle that embraces the outdoors and the physical and a profession that focuses on how to share their remarkable love of the mountains with others. These gals are hot–not so much from what they wear (although a new pair of shades is always remarked). But rather their sizzle comes from how they turn their skis and boards; or even better, from the self assuredness that those skills give them, on and off the slopes. They exude a self confidence and authenticity far superior to anything you might see on the runway or red carpet. Solid and grounded, our band of Telluride Ski & Snowboard instructors serve as terrific role models for women of all ages.

There are many gals that standout at Ski School. So I thought it would be fun to start highlighting them in posts here at my blog, a series that I plan to continue next year. This lineup is by no means all-inclusive. The idea is to spotlight some of the girl power in our special club and also perhaps to provide a few beauty tips along the way.

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Transitioning from the Mountain Into My Writer’s Life

My Fortune

My Fortune

I came across the above fortune a few weeks ago in our local Chinese restaurant here in Telluride, Colorado. That was when I was in the throes of spring break craziness and the end of ski season was drawing near. It seemed most à propos since I was already contemplating my flip side, or how I would soon transition from a predominantly physical existence–that of a ski instructor–to the more cerebral ponderings required of a writer.

Indeed, at that point I was craving a good read and near desperate to sit still for a while and give my body a rest. As hard as I may try, reading and writing during ski season is always a challenge, especially from February on when I go full tilt. I’m just too tired at the end of the day to do much more than swill a glass of wine from my couch, and so the stack of books on my nightstand piles up as high as the writing assignments awaiting me at my desk.

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The Gold Season in Colorado: A Festive Time for Professional and Amateur Photographers

America the Beautiful

America the Beautiful

Oh Say Can You See

Oh Say Can You See

It’s unfair that the northeast of America is most often credited for its fabulous fall foliage. I’m from upstate New York and know well the glorious riot of colors that typically explodes there and–in New England–in autumn. But here in Colorado, I’m doubly awed–not only by our fabulous flourish of yellows, golds, orange and rust–but also by the majesty of our mountains, magnificent peaks which appear even more awe-inspiring as the low-lying autumnal sun casts its brilliant light on our dramatic panoramas.

I gobbled up an eyeful of this magnificence yesterday when my boyfriend and I embarked on a hike to Lower Blue Lake off of Dallas Creek Road, situated beneath Mt. Sneffels, one of the area’s most iconic Fourteeners, measuring 14,150-feet in elevation. This is God’s–and also Ralph Lauren’s Ranch–country, made accessible to all thanks to an easement by Ralph. It also takes a sturdy, vehicle to handle the bumpy half-hour drive into the trailhead and a strong will and steady athleticism to hike the 3.3-mile ascent up to dazzling Lower Blue Lake. I’m proudly sporting the blisters today that I earned from  yesterday’s effort; there’s no doubt that it was my best hike of the season.

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Garden Love

Nina's Garden

Nina’s Garden

I’ve been feeling much love these past days. It’s a different sort of love. It’s a love shared around a theme:  gardening. This is rather new to me, since I’ve never been much of a gardener. I love visiting beautiful gardens and receiving a bouquet of flowers counts as one of my greatest joys in life, but getting down and dirty with the soil has never been my forté. Now, however, I’m much more enthusiastic, perhaps it’s because this year I decided to add vegetables and herbs to my potted plants. This year I yearn to see the fruits of my efforts and I’m crossing my fingers for an abundant harvest of tomatoes, peppers, basil, melon, pumpkins and more. As I sit at my desk, I’m sending love to all my little plants with the hope that they will defy the challenges of living at over 9,500 feet and that somehow they will miraculously thrive.

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Talking Wild with Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Looking Down at Crater Lake During Her Trek on the PCT

Cheryl Looking Down at Crater Lake During Her Trek on the PCT

I consider a movie to be good when I find myself thinking about it the next day. My barometer is the same for a book although with most good reads I find myself thinking about them while I’m reading them as well as in the days or weeks after I finish them. That’s been the case with Wild:  From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed, a superbly crafted memoir that dazzles your senses every step of the way. Her story moved me so much that I plan to read it again, something I never do. Although why wouldn’t I? From beginning to end, I was gripped by this powerful tale of transformation, this raw account of one woman’s life-changing journey both literally and figuratively. Plus, as I learned in Wild, Cheryl often reads books more than once, so I’m eager to crack hers second time around.

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Embracing Colorado Wilderness with Over the Hill Outfitters

The Great Colorado Outdoors:  Where Life is Best Viewed from a Horse

The Great Colorado Outdoors: Where Life is Best Experienced from a Horse

Spring has finally sprung—full-on—here in Colorado and despite the fact that it snowed about ten days ago, this week the thermometer has been registering summertime temps. Roadways over the highest mountain passes are being plowed for passage and outfitters of all sorts are preparing for the influx of summer visitors. There’s still some snow to be cleared from the steep mountain trails, however, with the warmth of our southwestern Colorado sun, all our glorious wilderness will soon be open to locals and vacationers alike.

My fellow ski instructor buddies have taken up their summer posts as guides, landscapers or in my case, as a full-time writer, to name a few. Mother nature and all of us fortunate enough to live in this beautiful country are transitioning nicely into summer. At the end of ski season, I sat down with Dennis Huis, a top ski instructor at Telluride Ski & Snowboard School, to hear about his flip side, the job he’s been doing every summer for about as long as he’s been in ski school world.

Dennis talks about his work as a guide on pack trips with Over the Hill Outfitters in Durango, Colorado in my Travel Fun interview below. Click on the play button  to listen to what he has to say about life on the trail. People from all over the world learn about the true definition of “getting away from it all” on these five-day horse trips into the Weminuche Wilderness, the largest wilderness area in Colorado which encompasses a significant part of the rugged San Juan Mountains, some of the most spectacular peaks in the United States.

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Reflections on My Ten Years as a Ski Instructor

Celebrating My Tenth Anniversary with Ski School Top Dogs

Celebrating My Tenth Anniversary with Ski School Top Dogs

As I ease back into my writer’s life, I’ve been considering my other life:  that of a Telluride Ski & Snowboard School instructor. The mountain closed just over two weeks ago and I again turned in my uniform with a big sigh of relief. I’m always grateful when I finish the season without having had an injured student or client on my watch. And I’m always relieved when I wind up unscathed myself (except for a variety of aches and pains and gross fatigue). I’m grateful that this has been the case for the past ten seasons:  My sterling record of safety has remained intact.

That’s not to say I don’t challenge my charges and sure, I’ve had some tricky moments of over-terraining just like all the other instructors on our mountain and elsewhere. But fortunately, everyone has come “back to the barn” safe and sound and seemingly happy from their ski experience with me.

But way beyond my actual job as a ski instructor, I can’t help pondering what this newly adopted profession means to me, especially after a decade of working day after day on the mountain with children and adults beneath sunny skies, bitter cold, balmy weather and blustery snowstorms. It has made me a better person; it has made me more whole. I was never very athletic and the physicality of this job has given me strength and confidence that spills over to other areas of my life. I have embraced the notion of self empowerment through sports, a concept that I came to know late in life, one of the themes of my travel memoir/love story A Tour of the Heart:  A Seductive Cycling Trip Through France.

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KOTO Fundraising: Fun and Great Giveaways

KOTO Radio:  The Soul of Telluride, Colorado

KOTO Radio: The Soul of Telluride, Colorado

Join me today, Thursday, March 20,  A LITTLE EARLIER at about 6:20 pm (through 7pm) in Telluride, Colorado and within the outlying area and on the internet for my Travel Fun talk radio show. This will be a special live show for KOTO fundraising featuring a variety of movers and shakers from Telluride’s hospitality/tourism world. I will be giving away lots of great premiums including lodging stays, restaurant and retail gift certificates, books and even ski lift tickets in exchange for a donation to KOTO.

KOTO is a local NPR station and one of the few entirely community supported radio stations in the country. Please consider making a contribution to KOTO, so that we can keep community radio alive and well in America. That’s also a way of showing your support for Travel Fun!  Please email me from my Contacts Page with your pledge or donation. Many of my Travel Fun interviews are posted on this blog as podcasts here.

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