Sunday, February 28, 2010

Vail Names Ski Run After Lindsey

In honor of its hometown hero, Vail has renamed an expert run Lindsey's. As of Feb. 28, the sign on the former International trail on the front side of Vail Mountain will bear the name of the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in Downhill. (Though she also added a bronze for the Super G, her gold medal in her favorite discipline is what she cherishs most.)

Wow! What an honor!

This trail is a good choice. It is the site of the women's speed events during the World Alpine Championships in 1989 and 1999, and its primo location emphasizes how highly Vail regards its resident champion. Lindsey Vonn was actually born in Minnesota, but calls Vail her home since moving there in the late 90s to train for her career. Vonn and her husband Thomas live at the chi-chi Arabelle, a Rock Resort, at Vail Square when they're in town.

"We could not be prouder of Lindsey and her success at the Olympic Games. She truly embodies the Vail spirit with her perseverance in the face of adversity, dedication and hard work, and commitment to excellence—both on and off the snow," said Vail Resorts' Chairman and CEO Rob Katz.

If you're a Lindsey fan, follow her on You'll learn a lot about the champ, certainly a fantastic role model for women athletes everywhere.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Paralympian Sarah Inducted into U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame

Sara Will loves to ski. When she became paralyzed in a skiing accident in 1988, she didn't turn her back on the sport. Instead, she picked up a book on adaptive skiing by Hal O'Leary and started to train under him at Winter Park. Within three years she won gold medals in the downhill and Super G at the 1992 Paralympic Games. In total, she's won 12 medals. She started an adaptive skiing program in Vail with a colleague, Chris Waddell. Her accomplishments earned her a place in the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame in 2004, and on April 9, 2010, she was inducted into the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame in Beaver Creek. Sara lives in Edwards, in the Vail Valley of Colorado. Congratulations, Sara!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ski Clothing Pioneer Obermeyer Still Going Strong at 90

Klaus Obermeyer, founder and president of Sport Obermeyer, has a 100-watt smile and a successful business to match. For a long time, he's been a leader in the ski clothing biz. Here he is with me and a fellow journalist from New Jersey, Martin Griff, ( at the SIA Snow Show in Denver recently.

The 90-year-old skis every day in Aspen, his home since 1947 when he immigrated to the U.S. from Bavaria looking for a job as an aeronautical engineer. Instead, he found an opening as a ski instructor, falling back on a sport he knew and loved since first skiing on homemade skis crafted from runners of a wooden crate at age three.

When he arrived at the tiny ski hamlet, it was almost deserted. “There was snow on the ground like I had never seen except maybe at 3,000 meters in the Alps,” he said over breakfast at The Wienerstube in Aspen. “When I put my ski down, flakes flew like feathers, it was so dry. It snowed almost every night with the sun shining in the day — a paradise for skiers, but there were no people here!”

Undaunted, he joined his friend, Austrian racer Friedel Pfeifer, Pete Seibert (who would later discover Vail) and four others who made up the first ski school in Aspen. He lived at the Jerome Hotel, skating on skis through the streets to the mountain. He remembers being followed by packs of barking dogs that were left behind by miners. “There were more dogs than people in those days,” he said.

The single-chair number one lift from the base to midway had just been completed. The second lift was a rebuilt mining tramway that dripped grease on riders so frequently that the ski company obligingly pickup up dry cleaning tabs. To ward off the cold, Obermeyer wore a “long city coat” for the 15-minute ride to midway, and then sent it back down while he skied two and a half minutes to the bottom and rode up again sans coat. “I had one warm ride and one cold one,” he laughed.

Eager to earn his $10-a-day pay, he scoured the slopes for students. He found that people were reluctant to commit to lessons because “they froze like hell.” Ski clothing then consisted of long underwear, a sweater and unlined shell and pants, hardly enough to keep warm in the best of conditions. To keep his classes filled and students happy, he began making down parkas for them after fashioning the first one from his goose-down comforter he brought from Europe. Later, he built machines and made the first quilted parka out of shavings from the floor of a textile factory in Munich.

Severe sunburn was another problem in the high-altitude of Aspen. “People came here in February and March for a 14-day vacation and left after two days because they sunburned so badly,” he said. So he and Pfiefer concocted Sportana, “the first suntan lotion that really worked.” To foil the sun even further, he helped develop mirrored sunglasses with a French manufacturer using vaporized metal to block the sun’s UV rays.

No idea escaped Klaus Obermeyer. His turtlenecks were the world’s first with elasticized collars and shoulders. He was the innovator of a dual layer ski boot with a soft, warm liner inside a strong rigid shell. The list goes on and on.

“There was a lot of opportunity then,” he said modestly. “There was no supply because there was really no market. So it was easy to become a supplier with very little money.” Soon dealers heard about his products at the same time the sport exploded, and demand was created. It was a classic moment of being in the right place at the right time.

Today, after scores of awards honoring the clothing pioneer and his company, the innovation continues with fabrics made from bamboo and recycled materials. “We try to step lightly on the planet,” he said.

Monday, February 1, 2010

New Slope Fashions Revealed at Snow Show in Denver

I previewed fashions for the 2010-11 ski season at the annual Snow Industries America (SIA) Snow Show in Denver Jan. 28-31, 2010. Remember the neon color craze of the 80s? It's baaaaack! Though not as blinding bright as that bygone era, snow clothes for next season will be vibrant—lime green, orange, sky blue, red—but softer and easier on the eyes. Contrasting that will be lots of gray in both men's and women's styles with black as an accent color. Metallics will shine, and jackets and hats with faux (and real) fur trim will keep you warm. No longer just black, snow pants come in photo-print patterns and colors. Silhouettes range from baggy to body-forming, but not too hugging. Though the 80s retro colors are back, the one-piece suits are not. Everything is jacket and pants. Base layers are so cute they can be worn as tops with jeans and moon boots, another throwback to the past. Tecnica has them in black patent. (Photos by Steve Crecelius, courtesy of Visit Denver.)