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Mountain Mama: Expectant and empowered

Mountain mama: Emily Palm.

Our erstwhile ski columnist Emily Palm muses on impending motherhood

By Emily Palm
I think La Niña this year is a pregnant lady, hormones raging and roaring: “If I don’t get to ski, then NOBODY gets to ski.”

Oh wait, that’s me when I feel like Ursula in her final scene in The Little Mermaid.

Lest I out myself as a petty, selfish person, I should clarify that represents only one of the many moments of being “with child.” I’d like to think most of the time I emanate a content maternal glow. As with everything, the truth must lie somewhere in between.

For something that has happened 7 billion times in the last century, pregnancy sure feels unique when it happens to you. Continue reading

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Skiing: Hitchhiking, avalanches & karma on Loveland Pass

Loveland Pass remains a concern for avalanche pros, as very few skiers and riders carry search and rescue gear in the popular side-country area

More big slides are expected in the Colorado backcountry. PHOTO BY MATT KRANE.

Editor’s note: This essay was first published on Emily Palm’s website, Em’s Vagaries. Check it out for more good stuff! Forest Service snow rangers and experts with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center surveyed users a few years ago and found that only one in three people had any safety gear.

By Emily Palm

Last week I snuck up the hill to do some mid-week skiing. Driving from Golden to A-Basin over Loveland Pass means encountering skiers and boarders hitching their way back up after a run down the main gully. Loveland Pass is a very popular and accessible backcountry route. All good stuff.

Here lies the rub: Not one hitchhiker we’ve ever given a ride to at Loveland Pass has any avalanche gear. It’s always the same reasoning, “Well here you don’t need it.” (As long as you stay on the main trail, some add.)

While that may be true (if one stays on the main trail; those without gear that decide to hike up are playing burial roulette), I have two qualms surrounding that argument. First, we’re in a major avalanche cycle, with the possibility of seeing avalanches bigger than we’ve seen in decades. (Check out these crazy pics!) Continue reading

Steep Shots: Skiers, riders should be friends

Emily Palm

We’re all sliding down the same mountain

By Emily Palm

While riding the chairlift earlier this season we witnessed a rather unbecoming display from a skier. After a rider biffed it and fell board over teakettle, a skier whizzed by yelling, “Dumbass.” Albeit funny, ‘twas not kind.

Seeing such poor snowboarder-skier relations led me to thinking. Sure, I dislike getting cut off on the way up to the mountain by Honda Civics with grenade stickers. True, when I smell cigarette smoke in the lift line it tends to be a troglodyte with super-baggy pants. And yes, having fresh powder scraped off the mountain by inexperienced boarders grinds my gears. But maybe it’s not just the snowboarders keeping relations tense, a notion that should have been previously obvious.

My gripes certainly do not apply to all snowboarders, for it’s only the 90 percent that make the 10 percent look bad.

I jest; in fact, I’ve heard resort executives acknowledge that snowboarding saved the snowsports industry back in the 1990’s. Continue reading

Steep Shots: Ski touring on the Hinsdale Haute Route

Alpine touring the San Juans

The Colorado Trail Memorial Yurt is part of the Hinsdale Haute Route. Click on the photo to see more images at the Steep Shots Facebook page.

By Emily Palm

Worrying if I put enough sunscreen on that small patch of skin beneath the nose, I stop for a moment to reapply yet another layer of Dermatone and tighten my ski boots. The snow glare reflects brighter than the sun and the wind whips up from behind.  I imagine it propels me as we skin up the ridge. My compadres and I are spending a long weekend exploring the Hinsdale Haute Route, sleeping three nights in the highest yurt system in Colorado.

Weekend warriors that we are, we hightailed it out of town last Thursday to spend the night at the Super Eight in Gunnison, helping maximize the daylight. Four people in a room coupled with an easy early start at the trail-head an hour away in Lake City, Colo., make this $20 per person very well spent.

For a paltry $9 each, our group opted for the system’s “Sherpa Service” to deliver a snowmobile’s load of food and beverages to the two yurts we stayed at. (A service, which, at mile 10 on day two, we would gladly have paid much more for — though my cheapo ways probably would have dictated my declination beforehand were it more.) Continue reading

Steep shots: Skin away from the crowds

Ski columnist Emily Palm skins Keystone's back bowls.

In-bounds adventures at Keystone

By Emily Palm

Ah, spring skiing: Muscles warmed up for the season, bluebird skies, pleasant weather, and tourists careening at you from all angles atop iced-up slopes.

Quick side note: I do not begrudge out-of-towners unacquainted with mountain culture and lacking ski skills (commonly called “gapers”), for they subsidize my inbound skiing.

At the end of the season, I’m not sure the resorts break even from my packed sandwiches, backpack beverages and me. Furthermore, isn’t it healthy for Americans to break out of their comfort zones? Isn’t compassion toward such folks on the slope good karma for when we’re out in other realms bumbling through as a newbie? I digress, but suffice it to say, “Love thy gaper.”

Now back to the topic at hand. To enjoy the aforementioned benefits and escape the latter, get thee to the backcountry or up to non-lift-served inbound areas. Continue reading

Steep Shots: The family that skis together …

Bonding with the bro


By Emily Palm

When fresh tracks beckon, I usually encourage interpersonal allegiances to fall by the wayside.

Wait for others when there are freshies to be found? No way José. “No family on a powder day,” however, sounds a bit harsh, even when said in Spanglish.

So it went last weekend with my brother, Garrett, visiting from Brooklyn. He caught the schussing bug last year when he came out to experience a slice of the skiing life. The rest of my family knows what a major role skiing holds for my husband and I, but Garrett is the only one who has actually seen it.

While my siblings and I excelled in the newspaper, choir and theater rooms, no one ever marveled at the grace and athleticism of the Palm kids. Hailing from Oregon and California, we went on a handful of trips to Mt. Hood and Mt. Bachelor over the years. None of us ever graduated beyond the green slopes, except for me when I went to college and skiing changed my life. Continue reading

Steep shots: Fancy newness at the SIA snow show

Our ski correspondent scours the SIA snow show for knee pads

Part of Patagonia's new line on display at the SIA Snow Show in Denver last week

By Emily Palm

It has become rather popular for people to testify about their nerdiness in a way that actually makes them sound cool.

“I’m such a dork because I have every album Widespread Panic ever made,” or “Man, we completely geeked out in the backcountry hucking cliffs all day.”

With the aforementioned in mind, let me tell you that I am the real deal. On our indoor soccer team, I’m the one who says things like, “My that goalie is spry.” It might come as no surprise, then, that I did not dork out over the latest gear at last weekend’s SnowSports Industries America (SIA) trade show. Nope, it was actually the coolest event I’ve attended in a while.When it comes to new gear, I tend to feel lucky that my skis are modern in the sense they were made in the last five years. I purchased virtually all my ski clothing at thrift stores, yard sales or, if I splurged, the clearance rack. I maintain high style with duct taped custom mending. After all, isn’t that still far more advanced than what our early 20th-century brethren skied with? Continue reading

Steep shots: Skiing confidence helps in other parts of life

Emily Palm is back in the saddle with a new column about on-mountain confidence.

By Emily Palm

Last Sunday after the coldest (and first) chairlift ride of the day  at Arapahoe Basin, I caught an edge and found myself skidding down the icy top of Pallavicini’s cornice. I’d never slid so far before self-arresting, catching myself just before the drop into The Spine.

Despite intellectually knowing that falling is an integral part of trying and that my tumble was low-consequence (had I not caught myself, I most likely would have slid to a non-icy spot to more easily stop), it certainly shook my confidence first thing. Rebuilding the assurance necessary to charge down the hill, drop that knee, and have fun playing with the mountain got me thinking about the vital role confidence holds in skiing.

To clarify, confidence is not recklessness. Sometimes the latter mingles with bravado and muddies our perceptions of what it means to extend beyond our comfort zones. Rather, self-assurance in our abilities — and taking calculated risks that lead toward growth — is what I’m talking about here. In this regard, skiing changed my life, as lessons learned on the slopes can’t help but transfer to daily existence. Continue reading

Steep shots: Teching out the slopes

Ski writer Emily Palm highlights some useful smart phone ski apps.

Taking some smart phone ski apps on a test run

By Emily Palm

Last week I hopped on the fancy phone bandwagon by graduating from the classic flip style to a smart Droid. Along with being able to check e-mail and work on Google documents on the lift (the ultimate cubicle), the navigational features were alluring from the get-go. What I didn’t expect was the abundance of apps surrounding the wide world of skiing.

I’ve found some that I think are especially cool and useful.

Ski Report — Mittens-down my favorite day-to-day ski app. Instantly see a list of base depth and 24-hour snowfall from your chosen locations. Click on a resort to find more info, including snowfall of past four days, current weather, and up-to-date snow cams. All for price of free. Continue reading

Steep Shots: The right stuff takes the right fuel

Ski writer Emily Palm fuels up for a day at Keystone in this week's edition of Steep Shots.

Tips on maintaining your slope stoke all day long

By Emily Palm

Last week before heading up for a day dedicated to Keystone’s Outback, I ate my usual breakfast of multigrain toast and almond butter. Come noon, after a morning of looping through the trees below Outer Limits and skating the flat runout back to the lift on shoddily waxed skis (make sure you really scrape the excess wax off, I did not), I realized my body was cruising to bonk.

Luckily I had one of those Nature Valley Granola Bars they pass out at the base of the ski resorts in my pack (unluckily, it had been there for a couple years and well past the “Enjoy By” date). Usually I try to bring a string cheese stick for a snack, but had forgotten that morning.

This led me to thinking about the optimal pre-ski breakfast, so I consulted my good friend Stefania Kozial, a registered dietician in Denver.

“Your breakfast of almond butter on toast was actually a good start, but maybe it wasn’t enough,” she said, noting that the almond butter contains some good fat and the multigrain toast has complex carbohydrates. Fats take longer for your body to break down, thus providing a longer-term fuel source and the fiber from the toast leaves you feeling fuller longer. She recommended adding some more carbohydrates. Continue reading


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