Ethics and ambition, 2014
Posted by sibylle in books, films, photography, skiing, women, Colorado, California (Tuesday November 11, 2014 at 11:05 am)

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Shelf  Road, a favorite winter climbing area
I’ve spoken at Professor Paul Strom’s class, The Ethics of Ambition, for many years. In 2013, I discussed the dilemma of would-be guided Everest climbers, who pass by dying climbers on their way up and down the mountain. I also discussed sponsorship, and climbers who perform death-defying (and in some cases, deadly) stunts to please their sponsors and their audience. One report  by Deutsche Welle “uncovers the background stories of several deaths associated with Red Bull’s publicity stunts”

in 2011, I delved further into sponsorship and the pressure it can place on climbers (and any professional in extreme sports, such as base jumping, surfing, free skiing, and others.)
This year, for the first time since I’ve spoken at this class, we discussed a personal ambition of my own. The first consequence ( for this class, of my ambition):  the students wrote the answer to their homework question, and were ready to post it, before I got around to posting my annual ethics post. And why? Because I was rock climbing at Shelf Road (photo above) in pursuit of my current ambition.

In the past year, I conceived the idea of trying to climb Yosemite’s El Capitan within 24 hours. Many climbers have done this, so it’s nothing that special — but I would be the oldest woman to ever climb it in a day. Perhaps even the oldest person , if it takes me long enough to accomplish!

So why this goal, why now, and what ethical constraints are involved?

As to why climb El Capitan,  I’ve always loved climbing this rock face, since becoming part of the first female team to climb it. I’ve wanted to climb el Capitan since then, and was able to climb it two more times while I was still a student. Since then, I haven’t been able to climb El Capitan due to various constraints - job, career, and then I became a mother. While I continued to rock climb recreationally, I was not able to commit the amount of time and energy necessary to climb it within 24 hours.

Last spring, I was in Yosemite for a month, practicing the first third of El Capitan.  In 2015, I plan to return to Yosemite and work on the route for another month of two. When my son was young, I could not leave home that long. and, even though he’s been in college the past four years, in 2012 and 2013, I was taking care of my extremely ill mother, who lied in the Bay Area. I could climb for the weekend, but not for weeks on end.

So, in the past years, I’d given up my ambition to take care of my son, and then my parents.  The ethical constraint was clear: postpone my goals, or abandon my family. I chose to take care of my family, and climb El Capitan later. Perhaps waiting paid off: this spring, the American alpine Club awarded me a ‘Live Your Dream‘ grant to attempt this climb.

Why now? My son graduated from college in May, 2014; both of my parents have passed away, and my job as a ski instructor at Beaver Creek Resorts allows me to take the summer to climb. For the first timein decades, I have the time to go to Yosemite for a month or so without abandoning other responsibilities.

I’ve asked the students to discuss similar ethical dilemmas that they may have faced in their lives. for instance, perhaps a  high school athlete had to choose between his sport, and academics. Or someone had to choose between attending a college that offered the best education, versus staying closer to home and family.

We all make choices in our life that affect others, and those decisions and  ambitions can cause ethical conflicts.

What gets publicity are the famous athletes (and artists, politicians, and  others in the media) whose decisions affect not only their only lives, but the lives of many.

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El Capitan, Yosemite

Mikaela Shiffrin wins again !
Posted by sibylle in skiing, women, Europe, Colorado (Tuesday January 14, 2014 at 3:28 pm)


Shiffrin demonstrates her winning technique

Photo from Denver Post

Mikaela Shiffrin, 18-year old ski racing phenom from Vail, Colorado, won the Flachau slalom decisively, beating her opponents by almost a second in a race in which hundredths of a second often separate rival skiers.

After her first run, she was ahead by 0.9 seconds, an almost unbeatable advantage. Her second run was not as fast as the first, but she still beat the runner ups, Frida Hansdotter, by 0.83sec, and Maria Pietilae-Holmner by 1.14 seconds.

This leaves Shiffrin, current slalom world champion and winner of last year’s World Cup crystal globe in slalom, in a dominant position for the upcoming Olympics.

Watch the video  of her first run, which the Austrian commentator describes as her skiing with “perfect technique” and ends by saying after her first run, that “the race is really over”.

The Austrian commentator notes her stable upper body,a nd describes her skiing as resembling a “graceful waltz”, but a very fast waltz!

For my ski students, note how her upper body faces downhill and is very calm and stable, while her legs turn under her .. very fast!

Shiffrin has won six of the last 10 slalom races, which gives her the  lead  in the World Cup rankings with 402 points ahead of Hansdotter with 258 points - a nice position to be in just before the Sochi  Olympics.

Beaver Creek World Cup GS races
Posted by sibylle in skiing, Colorado (Saturday December 1, 2012 at 9:06 pm)

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View of the Beaver Creek finish area

We sat in the first row of bleachers, which gave us a good view of the bottom section of the race course, and of the large-screen video of the races.

The first racer,  Stephan Keppler, crashed and slid  a long distance into the B-net - not the most auspicious  start.

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Keppler’s crash on the screen

Keppler limped away from his crash. The next few racers completed the course, with last year’s overall WC champion, Marcel Hirscher, skiing conservatively after seeing Keppler’s crash.

Then, skiing 10th, Max Franz crashed — and was knocked unconscious, and brought down by ski patrol.

Depsite the two wipeouts, Matteo Marsaglia, skiing 12th, only two runs after Franz’s crash, went all out. He said that “I tried to push  … I had nothing to lose.”

Hirscher, reigning World champion,  whose best event is the GS (to come Sunday) did not ski as aggressively- risking all– and came in over 2 seconds behind Marsaglia.

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close-up of crash - does not look fun

Video of the crash on YouTube - he’s trying to slow down, after he falls, while sliding down the course.
One of my colleagues at Beaver Creek, a race coach, commented that 17 racers out is almost 25% of the field and indicates that something might have been wrong. 

I’m curious to hear if they conclude that there was a problem with the course. Other conditions were ideal –  blue sky, sunshine, good visibility, good surface.

Read more here:
Avalanche-prone snowpack in Colorado and west
Posted by sibylle in skiing, Colorado, Canada and PNW (Tuesday February 21, 2012 at 5:40 pm)


Snowpack during winter 2012 is much less than normal, but avalanche danger is as high, or higher than, ever.

Four skiers recently died in avalanches in the Cascades, a ski patroller from Keystone was killed near Wolf Creek Pass,    and another near Telluride. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center  warns of considerable avalanche danger.

This year has seen the following avalanche deaths:

Colorado - 6

Utah - 3

Montana - 3

Wyoming - 1

Washington - 4

Canada - 4

It’s not quite as bad as in Europe, which has suffered from mega-cold and snow this winter. One avalanche near Kosovo killed 10 people after it buried an entire house.

I survived an avalanche in  Europe when I was little - maybe 6 or 7. My father had taken his family and some friends on a backcountry ski tour. Suddenly, my mother was screaming my name. the next thing I knew, I was buried to my neck, with only my head sticking out of the snow.

I couldn’t move my arms, or legs. I could still breathe, since my head was sticking out above the snow - which saved my life two ways - I  could breathe, and someone found me.

One of our friends was only partially buried, andwas able to free himself. After that he dug out another of our group, and eventually they got us all free. No one died int hat avalanche, but the memory of my mother’s screams, and of being buried int he snow, completely immobilized, has never left me.

I track ski (classic cross country), and ski alpine at resorts, but rarely ski backcountry since moving to Colorado. We used to do lots of ski tours when I lived in California, with its wet, heavy snow  resulting in a  more stable snowpack, but I’ve really reduced the amount of backcountry skiing since moving to Colorado.

This winter, I’ve taken up ski racing (in gates), partly at my son’s urging, and am finding it’s really, really fun. I’m not good at it ( in fact, I’m lousy) - but it keeps my alive.
Perhaps it’s a good winter for finding other thrills,a nd wait on the backcountry until next year. Or wait for the Sierra in spring.


Maple Canyon - changing the Stripes
Posted by sibylle in skiing, women, Colorado (Monday November 28, 2011 at 1:48 pm)

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Megan signing the summit register

Ski training, running, and hikes
Posted by sibylle in skiing, women, Colorado (Monday November 21, 2011 at 9:38 am)

The time of year has come when I divide my time between climbing on the last few warm days, skiing after a big snowfall, and training in the gym.


In Vail’s back bowl looking toward Gore Range

My training the past 10 days consisted of:

rock climb at climbing gym

rest day

weight lift, gym


ski 5 hours: Loveland demo days - try new skis


hike uphill / jog about 1 hour

hike uphill / jog 2 hours

weight lift, gym

hike / jog about 1 hour

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Arapahoe Basin looking toward East Wall

I “hike/jog”  the trail behind my house, Ptarmigan trail, which goes from 9,300′ to the summit at 12,498′. I walk the steep parts, and run the flatter parts and some of the less steep downhill.

The gym workouts consist of basic weight training with the addition of a few ski-specific exercises, involving jumping, lateral agility movement (more jumping!),  core strengthening exercises such as crunches, push ups, or plank,  balance training, and quad strengthening exercises.

Unlike Lindsey Vonn, who  trains 6 - 8 hours daily,  I’m i the gym between 1 - 2 hours. But then, I work as a ski instructor, and she’s a World Champion and Olympic Medalist.

However, for all my ski students, especially the ones from lower altitudes (most of you!), I recommend at least a few days weekly of aerobic exercise, and a few days of strength training.

It’ll make your ski vacation so much more fun, if you can ski all day without being tired halfway through the day, and if your legs aren’t burning after the first few runs.

Today’s a gym day, so I’ll be off to warm up on the exercise bike, and then do my push press,  dumb bell rows, leg press, lat pulls, tricep extension, crunches, and push ups.

When my son Tristan arrives for winter break, I’ll add squats ( I like him to spot me for squats initally, to make sure that my form is correct ) and dead lifts.

Enjoy your workouts!

A-Basin Enduro, Imperial challenge - Summit’s adventure races
Posted by sibylle in skiing, women, Colorado (Saturday April 16, 2011 at 9:32 am)

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Snow-bike competitor in Enduro and ski racers riding Pali

Jamie Ober and Ollie Holmes again won the 22nd annual Enduro with 71 runs, one lap short of their record 72 laps.

Tom Fricke and Leon Littlebird of the SnowShow at Krystal 93  had speculated that this year, Jamie and Ollie might set a new record because of the excellent snow conditions.

We skied the Basin that day, and in the morning, blue sky, sunshine, and no wind made for ideal conditions. However,  later that afternoon the wind picked up and  visibility decreased as a storm blew in — all of which would contribute to slower speeds on the slopes.

Ian Borgeson and  Dylan Walczyk placed second with 70 laps, while Wendy Fisher and Johnny Biggers of Crested Butte placed 3rd with 66 laps. Fisher, a former member of the U.S. ski team, and Olympic competitor, won two Extreme Freeskiing World titles.

 Fisher, who skis at Crested Butte, has long encouraged women skiing harder. I’d like to see a team of fisher and two time World Extreme skiing champion  Kim Reichhelm competing in next year’s Enduro!

The #1 women’s team,  Erika Hall and Becs Hodgetts completed 65 laps, while the #1 snowboard team, James Ashley and Shaun Maruna rode 62 laps.

The guys riding the lift in front of us,  bibs #4, are Will Stevenson and Ryan Anthon, who completed 64 laps - so they’re right in among  the top competitors.

Arapahoe Basin Enduro April 13, 2011
Posted by sibylle in skiing, Colorado (Wednesday April 13, 2011 at 9:13 pm)

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Competitors coming down the final stretch to the Pali lift line

Today, A-Basin hosted its 22nd annual Enduro race. Skiers and riders run laps on the Pali face — all double black or extreme runs — from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. and team that completes the most laps is the winner.

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Team # 4 rode the chair in front of us

Only 40 teams are allowed to race, and racers from previous years get priority.

When my housemate raced the Enduro, he got in as a replacement racer in an already registered  team of two, one of whom was injured.

The record, held by Jamie Ober and Ollie Holmes, is 72 laps.

That’s 72 laps on step, narrow bumps and trees!

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A boarder racing the Enduro

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Pali looked smooth and fast this morning

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Racers got good light, good snow, and good weather

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Racers near the top of Pali face

Riesch wins World Cup title over Vonn after FIS cancels final two races
Posted by sibylle in skiing, women, Germany, Switzerland, Europe, Colorado (Saturday March 19, 2011 at 11:54 am)

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Riesch wins WC title, narrowly beating Vonn

Getty images
Germany’s Maria Riesch won the skiing overall World Cup title, beating Lindsey Vonn,  after the FIS canceled the final two  races that were to be held in Lenzerheide, Switzerland at the “World Cup Final”.

Vonn won the WC overall title the past three years and was within three points of Riesch. Vonn said she felt devastated at not being able to defend her WC title when the  two races were canceled.

Officials canceled both the men’s and women’s giant slalom and super-G races due to weather: rain and warm weather had eroded most of the base on the race course.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) had packed four men’s and women’s races plus a one day team event into only five days, making it likely that one day of poor weather would result in cancellation of more than one race.

US head coach Alex Hoedelmoser said that the FIS should not have called off the race in the morning, but made more effort to put on a race.

Vonn said that the FIS should allow races to be rescheduled in bad weather.

I agree with Vonn, that the FIS could allow one extra days at each venue to make up any race postponed due to weather.

Ted Ligety won gold in the Beaver Creek WC  GS in December 2010, but the downhill race was canceled on Friday before the GS.
The super-G in Lenzerheide  starts at 6,852 feet and ends at 4,957 feet, lower than Denver, Colorado and much, much lower than ski areas in the Rockies. The base elevation of Keystone, where I teach skiing, lies at 9,300 feet, with the top at 12,200 feet.

Beaver Creek, site of World Cup races in December,  goes from 7, 400 feet to 11,440 feet.

Vail and Beaver Creek will host the alpine skiing World Championships  in  2015; let’s hope all the races will be run!

Screw shoes for hiking and running on snow or ice
Posted by sibylle in ice, Germany, Switzerland, Europe, Colorado, Idaho, Canada and PNW (Thursday February 24, 2011 at 11:14 am)


My running shoes with screws added for traction

Two years ago, my son made me  “screw shoes” for Christmas (when he asked what I wanted, I said that I wanted  “screw shoes”). I hike in these even in snow, by using gaiters over the show and a vapor barrier inside the shoe. This can be a fancy vapor barrier liner sock, as made by several suppliers, or as simple as a plastic bag. I use grocery bags over my socks, which keeps my feet dry and warm down to zero degrees.

You can also turn hiking boots into screw shoes, and simply remove the screws in spring. I like running on snowy trails, so I use running shoes.

I’ve had the above pair of screw shoes for two years now, and they’ve held up well. Use a relatively new running shoe, with a thick sole, and make sure the screws are short (about 3/8 inch), so as to not feel them

Other outdoor hikers prefer the Yaktrax,  or the Kahtoola MICROspikes work with a heavier hiking boot, but I like traveling light and fast.

Matt Carpenter, 17-time winner of Pikes Peak ascents and marathons,  describes how to make a screw shoe on his website.

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