Friday, July 24, 2015

It's almost time to leave for South America!

The 2015/16 season is officially upon me, and I couldn't be more stoked.

The 2016 PSIA National Alpine Teams Selections are in April of THIS year, they only happen once every four years, so here we go again!

There are several processes, applications and interviews to go through in order to make it to the final on-snow interview, but I'm training as though I'm going to get there.

To that end, last year I spent a huge amount of time working on my mental performance, first in India practicing yoga, and then when I came home with my mental performance coach Thomas Crum ( http://www.aikiworks.com/).

The final product at the end of the 2014/15 ski season, a jumping off point which came out of my work with the incredible Thomas Crum.
I also had the honor to work with Bill Fabrocini, an incredible and world renowned strength coach.

This year, it's all about FITNESS and FEET. Lucky me, I'm headed to South America for TWO MONTHS of training!

I'm honored to report that Strafe Outerwear, Leki, Blizzard, Tecnica, Marker Bindings, SportTube, and Wicked Chile (campervans for ridiculous adventure trips) are helping out by sponsoring me for this adventure, and I am amazed by the support! There's a chance we may even get photos and mini blog updates posted to Outside Online of this ridiculous South American Adventure ... stay tuned for updates on that front!

I plan to share lots of fun pictures and blog posts of this journey, I've never taken a trip like this before, and I'm excited to be living in a van in the snow while getting my feet schooled in the South American Andes. I'm looking forward to seeing my friends and colleagues who travel south every single winter, I can't wait to see their haunts and favorite places.

Ski Touring in Colorado with Kurt this spring.
It took more than gear sponsorship to get the this particular trip going, it also required the generous help of some clients and benefactors, and a slew of friends, family and coaches, to whom I am profoundly grateful.

I can't wait to get back on snow and apply all that I learned with Jonathan Ballou (my technical skiing coach), Josh Fogg (trainer at Aspen/Snowmass) and Kurt Fehrenbach (my intrepid training partner) at the end of the season last year.

This trip should be epic: The plan right now is: I'll be in Portillo with a client skiing in the Camp of the Superstars ( http://www.chrisdavenport.com/videos/#/ski-with-the-superstars-camp) for a week, and then we'll head off on our own on a fun Heli ski trip for a week. Then, my client heads back to the US, and I head to Santiago to pick up the camper van.

From there, I'll drive it down solo to Corralco, ski touring along the way. In Corralco, I'll meet up with Chris Fellows, who is running a NASTC skiing camp ( http://www.skinastc.com/corralco-chile-ski-adventure/). (Check it out there are still some spots open!)

Kurt will be coaching with Chris this SA Winter, so we will hang out in Corralco until the end of the camp, skiing and training.

Then, Kurt and I will hop in the van and head south all the way to Ushuia, at the southernmost tip of Chile!

We'll be ski touring along the way, living in the van and doing our best not to get lost or run out of gas!

We hope to arrive in Ushuia just in time for the International Skiing Congress, ( http://www.interski-2015.org/en/) where we will watch our very own PSIA National Alpine team present, along with teams from skiing nations all around the globe!

Just before the 2012 tryout in Snowbird, Utah. I can't wait to get after it again this year!
After Interski, we'll be in Ushuia for another couple of days, training, and then we head to Punta Arenas where we will drop off our camper van and say hi to some friends of friends.

From there, we'll hop a plane and head back up to Las Lenias where we will train for a few weeks before heading home in the beginning of October.

What a way to start the season! Thanks again to all the companies, friends and family who have generously donated gear, discounted prices, welcomed us with open arms onto their couches and spare bedrooms, sent encouraging emails, and basically just have been super duper supportive!

Adventure on, my friends!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Midlife Crisis, No Convertable

I remember being five years old and walking into my Auntie’s living room, the grown-ups in stylish flowered casuals, the oversized graduated tint on the sunglasses hiding my mother’s entire face, her hair cascading around her slender shoulders like Bridget Bardot. I had no idea that my Aunt lived a life of privilege, and that by proxy, so did I. I knew that her avocado-colored carpet was soft on my feet, that I could lay underneath her glass coffee table, that when the balcony door was open, I could hear the sound of the waves rolling endlessly like a relentless hammer.

I was too young to understand class or separations, all I knew was that this home was magic. It represented everything that formed me as a person, everything I learned about what kind of a person I wanted to be, and everything I knew about who I currently was. It was populated with writers, artists, scientists and military men with the skill of story telling that left you tasting the food in Saigon. What, I wondered, in the world, could Saigon be? Would I ever go there?

At five years old I had no inkling of the alcoholism, drug abuse and divorce, death and depression that was circling, closing in on this family just as it does all others.

It didn’t matter, I couldn’t see it. I could feel, I remember existing like a big living/feeling antenna, and in this house in this place with these people is where I felt my antenna was best and most acutely attuned to receive. In this house, in this place, I was surrounded by characters of ridiculous admiration, I saw them as giants, but not unapproachable ones. I couldn’t see their problems, only their beauty.

To me, it was a magical nest, I don’t remember ever being scolded, other than for forgetting to take the tar off my feet or for being too sandy. I remember running down onto the beach with my cousins, I remember the clink of ice in the grownup’s cocktail glasses, the smell of bourbon, the smell of scotch. I remember the smell of the low wooden gate that separated my aunt’s front lawn, full of succulents and sand, from the beach proper.

The low-slung gate, always latched, and always fighting the upheaval of the ever-shifting beach seemed like a pathetic and unnecessary marker, when the beach was hers, her home, her front yard, the shin-height crooked gate (which must always be closed) a one hundred million extra millisecond obstacle standing between myself and the ocean, the ocean, the ocean.

I remember the mysterious under-the-house storage of water and beach toys that we were allowed to pull out and play with, I remember the jug of turpentine that sat on the steps leading back up to the house. It sat on the step just outside a glassed-in three season room that my Auntie used as a painting studio. I remember pieces of amplifiers and cords tucked into every other small storage place that I probably wasn't supposed to be; my cousins sometimes played music but often built speakers and amplifiers.

I never saw them working, mostly because I never looked for it, I was too busy running down to help with the giant sand mermaid sea sculpture complete with real breasts and luxurious seaweed hair which my irreverent and ridiculously talented mother was casually, yet audaciously building at the water’s edge.

I remember laughter, and ease. I remember long afternoons of sunburns, I remember seeing my mother, beautiful, exotic, her legs impossibly long and tanned, her smile perfect, her laugh throaty and contagious. I remember feeling the security of being hers, of running away but feeling tethered in a way that let me know I was so free. I remember hearing my Aunties say how much they loved my mother, that they wanted to see more of her. I remember resting securely in our bond as a family, I remember feeling that bond wrap around me in a way that made me feel as though the wonder of becoming a person in this world was an unlimited palette for me to play with.

I remember sitting on the steps and rubbing the tar off of the bottoms of my feet with a rag before I went back into the cool of her tiled home, rubbing fast and not well enough, hoping no one would notice. I wanted to hear the sound of the evening, I wanted to sneak a Dr. Pepper, I wanted to shower the sand from the liner of my bathing suit where it had rubbed my bottom raw. I didn’t care about the tar, it was like a badge of honor. I had been on the beach, in the sand, I was marked by it, it loved me so much it came home with me. It would adhere to the soles of your feet like little black stickers.

I remember that I wasn’t supposed to be sandy or wet when I came back into her comfortably elegant home, which was filled with relics from exotic travels abroad, collected over a lifetime of adventuring, writing, and being married to a high-ranking marine who would bring home real things, things that were normal in the far-flung places he had traveled but were nothing but foreign amazements to my opening eyes.

I remember the softness of the layers of the nest of these people, each an intellectual force in their own right, some more scientifically bent, some more artistically bent, all of them incredible at writing, speaking, arguing, singing, thinking, and accepting me. I remember knowing that I would grow into my place among them, and that my own children would too, one day.

I remember hearing one of my cousins say to my mom as I walked out of the room to go play again, “Cathy (that’s what I was called back then) is like a ray of sunshine when she walks in the room. She can’t help it, she doesn’t even know it, but she is so very bright, so full of happiness, and everyone she smiles at feels it.” I remember hearing that and being surprised, I remember feeling my heart fill full, I remember floating down the steps back toward the beach, past doors whose secrets I would never have access to. I was somebody of worth! I had a purpose!

To me, Auntie Whiz’s house was a simple structure of Living Room, Piano, Tiled Hall, Stairs to beach, Scary Door of apartment of People I didn’t Know Well, (this, I think now, is where my Cousin Matt lived, but it was all very spotty to my very young self), the studio where yearnings for painting went on, hours and hours slaved away in the most perfect of creative spaces, giving birth to only the most mediocre work, according to those in the know, whispered.

Hours of  willful voice and skillful technique and will and desire to the unyielding canvas. I loved the smell of the turps, of the linseed, I loved to peek through the window at the accouterment of desire. I loved that my mother admired her drive. "Painting," my mother would say, gravely, "Is the hardest thing you can ever do. She is very brave."

I liked the idea that my aunt had made her way as a writer, this was where her true talent lay. But more than that I loved that she insisted on painting, and painting in oil, regardless of her skill, perhaps out of love, or stubbornness, simply because she loved it.

I remember the scorching patio I had to run across, the oily railroad ties irregularly placed as steps to hold the sand back, and the black gate loosely indicating that the beach began… here.

There was a TV room, but I don’t remember spending much time in there, I preferred to sit next to my Auntie when I was indoors and listen to her tell stories, none of which I can remember.  I do remember sitting next to her and hearing her scratchy, throaty indulgent laugh, and seeing the elegance of her son Chree walk through silently, one eyebrow skeptically raised as he observed our nonsense, a drink, expertly mixed, in his hand. He would go and talk to my sensible older sister, or whatever writer or painter was over for dinner that night. He was a playwright. He knew better than all of us, and yet was an essential part of the silliness, a character anchoring the sea of creativity in critical thought.

I loved my aunt’s long tapered cigarette holder and the way her sons scolded her for smoking. I loved her twinkling naughtiness as she snuck an early cocktail, to me it had all the sense of fun and intrigue and none of the fear or worry about what it meant to begin drinking so early in the day.

I remember skipping down the stairs, those words echoing in my mind, in my heart, “I am a ray of sunshine, when I smile, people feel it.”

Maybe it was like a superpower, but more subtle than that, like leaving tracers behind you that you didn’t know were there. I could be sunlight entering a room. I could lift spirits, I could magically erase sadness, I could bring joy. I remember distinctly feeling that this house, the house on the beach in Emerald Bay, Laguna was the source of this mysterious power, it was the wellspring. And it wasn’t really the house. Because after all, a house is just a house. It was this thick coalesced layering of excellence I was growing up in that was lighting me on fire and making me feel like if I wanted to, I could grow wings, I could be a writer, a painter, and actor, an athlete, a marine biologist, I could be a professional walker-into-a-room-and-smiler, it was my family that made it true.

I am thinking about this today, because while many things changed very dramatically in the next few years; my mom and dad got divorced and I didn’t return to Laguna for twenty years, my father died from a combination of alcoholism and drug abuse which had been invisible to me as a child (he died in the TV room in the house in Emerald Bay while I was away at boarding school in New York ), my mother remarried an aggressive, abusive narcissist who sexually, physically and emotionally tore down myself, my mother and both my sisters for the next twenty six years, alienating the other side of our german catholic family as a result, and so there was suddenly no one, just myself, my mother the slave to her husband, my angry older sister, and our newest edition, my baby half sister, born PL, post laguna, which evaporated as though it had been a myth, a movie shown by the gods as one possibility, and then agonizingly shown to be just a dream, just a drug, as heady as an 11 am cocktail. I fell into a pattern of cutting and smoking and getting arrested, developed an eating disorder, a drug habit, and learned instead of sunshine that I was a worthless whore who could not be trusted, all by the time I turned 14.

But here is the strange thing, the thing I’ve been thinking about all week: no matter the derision and abuse I suffered at the hands of my step father, the longing and loss I held for the utter destruction and loss of my father, my cousins, the woman who had been my sparkling, creative mother, the sudden absence of parents, of the ocean, of the jar of turps, all disappeared with one gesture of the new master of our existence.... no matter the number of times I allowed myself to be raped by
'friends' I didn’t know, boys in a line on a couch or a bench, or under a bush or in a tool shed or under the bleachers, numb and cold and dispatched and as disappeared as the ocean had become to me… because I knew my body did not belong to me, no matter how much I tried to find control by hurting myself with food or sharp instruments, no matter how many times I was told I was stupid, slow, unthinking, always had to learn the hard way, stubborn… no matter what, there was a piece of me that still always heard the faintest echo of my childhood: I am a ray of sunshine.

It kept me alive, that off handed comment, said not even to me but to my mother one normal afternoon on a normal day in a normal life. And it saved me. It stayed beating, the only piece of truth I knew, in the deepest part of me. The nest of my real family, the careful weaving of experience for my first six years had performed some sort of protective cage around the smallest part of me, the stubborn part, and I refused to be diluted.


A lot of me was derailed, destroyed, made to feel worthless, confused and lost. But the most essential piece of me thought, knew, I am a ray of sunshine, that is my true self, I have a purpose, and that is to spread joy. You can’t take that away from me, and one day, one day, I will grow into my potential. It is coming. It is big. It is coming. They told me I was a story teller, they told me I could do it the way they had done it, strangely, not by the rules, but through my own uniqueness. I had believed them.

And as I heal and get on track, I will be who I am capable of being. I will burst out of the paper machee lie that my step father told about me, like sun focused through a magnifying glass, and I will become who I am capable of being. AND THEN, I can begin.

I’m thinking about this today because for the last two years, on and off and more today than other days, I wonder how I can be not there yet.

I’m 43. And a half. Today, again, it’s the middle of off-season, and I have about $426 in my pocket, $400 of which I’ve borrowed. Again. As I walked to my car, I feel the weight of the fact that I haven’t done it yet. That my computer is full to the brink of stories and plays and screen plays and novels, but I can’t put them out to the agent I have, who likes my work very much.

I hear my beautiful yoga teacher, Paul Dallaghan looking very intently into my eyes and saying to me, “you are who you think you are, you are right where you think you are, what you need now is single pointed focus.” I see the giant tattoo on my arm that says “FINISH”, a note that I wrote as I went through the National Alpine Team Tryouts three and a half years ago, the first thing I had publicly committed to finishing, the first time I had stood up and said, hey, SUNSHINE. Here I come, I’m going to do something that I think I can do, no matter how improbable.

And now, for the first time, maybe, I doubt. Just a very little, I doubt my little kernel of self. Its nice that I can be sunny. But I thought I’d be further along by now. I thought I’d have had one of them hit, that the blog would be books, bound and on the shelf, that I would have taken this thing and found my single pointed focus. Lately, I wonder if my creative rationalization, that my insistance on being a writer, artist, athlete, social anthropologist, serial romantic failure, intrepid adventurer will not turn into who I see myself as becoming, because I should have become it already… ten years ago or maybe more.

Should I stop? Should I get real? Does single pointed focus mean giving up questing for truth and buying in to a job that makes me $32k a year instead of $12?

I try to remember that timelines are manufactured, and that things come as they come. I try to remember that I have been working diligently on myself, and that is the true project, and there is no end in sight for that. I wonder if the cousins of yesterday still see the potential they believed in and wonder what the hell I did with it. I wonder if the time has past and I just don't know it. Was there a deadline? Am I tripping along, happily heading toward some evolution that only happens if you are under 40?

I wonder if this is a mid-life crisis. I wonder if this is actually the definition, getting to an age where you think you should be somewhere and realizing you are not there. I have a fairly spectacular life, which I love, the last two years have become more and more like I hoped they would, but I want to keep it up and for that I need to FINISH. 
I need to apply SINGLE POINTED FOCUS to my life’s work, to writing about my life in order to make some sort of income that allows me to not scrabble and scramble to afford bindings for my skis and space camp for my kid.

In the space between my front door and my car, I vacillate between gratitude for what I have learned and been able to accomplish and shame that I don’t have a degree and a bank account like a normal person. I wonder if I was a man if this is the day that I would go out and buy a Lamborgini, even though I have an 11 and a 13 year old and a minivan is more appropriate for their muddy shoes, ski boots and baseball gloves. Our paddle board wouldn’t fit in a Lambo anyway.

I smile at myself as I reach my dented, cracked Subaru, and squeak the door open. What the fuck, if I sold everything, and I mean everything that I own, I couldn’t even buy THIS shitty car again. There’s no mid life-lamborghini for me. Which means, really that there’s no where to go but up. And I don't really want a Lamborghini, although I do miss having a motorcycle. Mostly because I love driving my kids around on it through the traffic in India, because finding our way up Chamundi hill in a pack of motorcycles driven by a Kiwi, a Sweede and a Thai means more to me than knowing I can pay my rent.

As I sit down and reach for the seatbelt I look out across the lawn of someone else’s ranch where I live, where my children run over the sloping lawns filled with dandelions and dip their feet in the frigid ice-melt pond and realize that it takes however long it takes. Maybe it is taking longer because it is. Maybe it doesn’t matter how long it takes as long as I keep learning, growing working toward it.

I know the book won’t finish itself. I know that teaching yoga and practicing, traveling to get my boots fit, trying to be a mom and a writer and a woman all at once leaves precious little time for writing.

But the reality is, I can’t stop writing, I’ve tried. So I breathe as I head out to the yoga studio to teach a class, make sixty bucks, give a massage, make sixty more, put forty of that in my car and head back home to clear my mind on the slack line. There are pockets of single pointed focus.

Someone once told me that my gift was entering a room. To me that turned into writing. I can regret and wonder and anger and rail at myself for my lack, my failure, my loss, I can listen for the ocean when I live in the middle of the mountains, or I can give myself a moment of grace.

I can not turn back the clock and even if I could, what in the world would I do differently? Here I am, now. The life I was handed and the one I made after gave me something to write about. I want to be more than I am, I want to be useful in a broader spectrum, I want my writing to go somewhere other than the black hole of the internet and the pages and pages and pages that litter the discarded hard drives of my life.

The midlife crisis, it appears, is a judgement vibrating off of a society that says if I was worth something, it would have been apparent earlier. Most people of worth have accomplished their import before they are 30, some in their 20s even, whispers the lie in my mind. But I don’t believe in dying young, I don’t believe in edicts that say I should be more, better, finished already. I don’t believe that just because I haven’t yet that I can’t ever. When I get to that point that says I should have by now, and I feel the collective disappointment that I haven't, and the logical progression is to give up, I feel my hackles rise, I feel the pride of my roots, the stubbornness of the creative gene that runs deep in my family and I just can't... I can't let go, give up, or stop. I also don't know if I can find the single pointed focus. I don't know if that means letting go, re-tooling, or just working in ever more focused spurts. But I know that regret gets me no closer.

That’s the one that does it. Just because I haven’t yet doesn’t mean I can’t ever. I can continue to write. I can ask for help. And when the help isn’t helpful, I can’t let that derail me or sink me or make me loose hope or heart. I can get to work, again, focus down again, and see if I can’t find that sunshine, walking around, unashamedly, in the body of 43 year old me. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Rollerblade sponsors Kate!

Man, when I was in my twenties and had just retired from figure skating, there was nothing I liked more than rollerblading around the strand in Venice Beach where I lived. I taught skating out of a little rental shop there and I spent the sunny afternoons jumping trashcans in the skate park and skinning my knees.



Bodhi and I are heading to Koh Samui, Thailand for about two months this summer, and I was a bit worried about my conditioning. But guess what? Rollerblade was at the trade show at the PSIA National Academy, and they have offered me a gear sponsorship! I'm super excited!

It's the 90's all over again. And while I loved jumping trash cans, this time I think I'll keep my feet on the ground and have fun ripping around the rolling pavement on Koh Samui. A bit sandy, a couple of scorpions walking up the road... just like Venice Beach, Baby!

Thanks so much, Rollerblade, I'm looking forward to the new kicks! Bodhi and I will post video from the island!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Finding a Round Line in the Bumps with Josh Fogg

This season I was struggling with bumps. In the past, bumps and steeps have been my favorite thing to ski, and for some reason as I worked on a more aggressive zipper line in the bumps, I lost my reaching round turn.

Suddenly I had no speed control, I was afraid every time I rolled up to a bump line. My heart would start beating super fast, and I fell into a world of stories that said I lacked the skill set to ski what used to be my favorite terrain.

I searched all winter for some tip or help to change my timing, my tactics, to somehow re-access the ability to be playful and free in the bumps. On CLOSING DAY at Aspen Mountain, I had the pleasure of skiing with Josh Fogg, one of the trainers in our ski school at Aspen/Snowmass, and a recent selection to the 2015/16 Rocky Mountain Alpine Team.

In dispair, I stood at the top of Easy Chair, a bump run NOTORIOUS for spiky, cross troughed zipper line bumps. I have never ever skied this short run well from top to bottom, it is fast and difficult and the bumps are enormous. It's not very steep but people ski it with high intensity, so it begins to look like a series of tombstones on the way down. The holes are huge, and with each turn, I think, "I'm supposed to stuff my feet WHERE??"

I turned to Josh and asked him, "Can you show me a round line in here, in Easy Chair?" Josh said yes. He gave me one simple tip: Think of the line as a waterslide. Let the momentum of the finish of one turn exist for the purpose of sending you up the wall to begin the next turn."

I had been searching for the "outside line" all season, but for some reason, I was still losing the downhill ski, I was skiing out of the line after five bumps, I was pushing the tails up the wall rather than driving the smeary ski, or in my attempt to get round, I was getting edgy and accelerating. I was so frustrated, I felt like I would never every figure this out again, it was just gone and I would never give it back.

"Ski it like a waterslide." Josh said, and then proceeded to do just that, top to bottom. A lightbulb went off in my mind, and I followed, for the first time skiing Easy Chair top to bottom with ease and control. I was astonished. The fear went away. The enormous spiky bumps presented opportunity after opportunity to ski like a waterslide. We lapped the run, trying it in Blondie's, and on the back of Bell. Suddenly, I could ski again.

Josh gave to me his time, and energy, it was easy and fun for him to go out and ski, and in this one sort of throw away moment, he handed me hope again.

I was so stoked I asked Josh if I could record it as a ski tip so we could share this fantastic coaching cue with the world, and so I would never forget it again. Kindly, Josh agreed, and the result is the video below, shot on my iPhone that afternoon.

Thanks so much to Josh Fogg, Kurt Fehrenbach, Megan Harvey, and Jonathan Ballou for mentoring me and coaching me all season, I am incredibly grateful for your guidance!!


Finding a Round Line in Bumps with Josh Fogg from kate howe on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Girl at the Grinder: Meet Jackie the Boot-fitter. Part one of a series on Women in Skiing.

Last month, I drove to Park City to ski with a client for a few days. While I was there, I had new boots fit by Master Bootfitter Brent Amsbury, a true magician at his craft. He has been in business for over a decade and his little shop has grown from his garage to a small one-room outfit, to a bustling business called Park City Ski Boot where he outfits much of the Park City ski team as well as instructors, competitors and recreational skiers from all over the world. He has also done something unusual in his industry, he has hired a female bootfitter. And she's fierce, talented, and dedicated. 

Jackie Reis of Park City Ski Boot

Watching Jackie with the customers while I was being foamed myself by Brent, I knew I had to ask how she overcame the obstacles of being mistaken for the “girl that answers the phones” to being respected as a professional bootfitter. She was happy to sit down with me for an hour or two while the feeling came back into my toes.

Kate: Hi there. Why don't we start with you introducing yourself.

Jackie: Okay, so I am Jacqueline Reis.  I go by Jackie. 

Kate: How did you get involved in boot fitting?  Tell me the story.

Jackie: When I was growing up, my dad fit my boots when I was ski racing. and then two years ago, I met bootfitter Matt Schiller at Mount Hood.  I started working for Matt at Mountain Summer Ski Camps, and one of my friends was his intern, so I had already been hanging out at the Atomic house where they worked. Eventually, Matt moved to Park City and was doing a fit night for Park City ski team, and I had also moved to Park City where I was coaching the ski team. I ran into Matt at the fit night, and he asked me if I wanted a part-time job.   Initially I came in to do every-day maintenance; computer cleanup, and then Matt told me that I was going to learn how to punch and grind and start learning the skills. I was kind of part-time on the computer, part-time learning, and then, this year I said, “I want to fit full-time.”

Kate: Did you have interest in boot fitting before you got the part-time job or it was being in the environment really spark your interest in becoming a fitter?

Jackie: It was not something that I actively pursued as a career before I got this job, but I had always had an interest in it.  I had found it fascinating when my dad was doing my fitting.

Kate: So what aspect of what your dad did with you that you found most interesting?

Jackie: Both my parents coached skiers, and I grew up in a very skiing-oriented family. It was nice to have something else that I could connect with my dad, and I thought what he was doing was really cool at that time.  I was 12 or 13, and he was measuring me, looking at my canting and doing all these other things to help me be a better skier.

Kate: Did you have that kind of moment of skiing insight ever with your dad’s fitting where you weren’t skiing as well or to your potential, and then a fit changed the way that you were skiing or matched your skiing, or have you experienced that yourself as a skier, with your dad or with Brent or anybody else?

Jackie: You know, for me, I don’t think that anything as far as canting really did that, but as far as comfort level, especially now with coaching, standing around a lot more, and even as a racer being comfortable, I mean, you are still looking for that high-performance fit, but there is going to be a comfort factor there. It’s a really fine line. You go too far one way or the other, you can make someone unhappy but perform well. I'd like to do both. Comfortable and performing their best.

Kate: When you said you wanted to fit full-time, and then you started to move towards that, what drew you to it?  Why did you want to fit full-time?

Jackie: I became more interested in it last year as I was learning the little skills, and it was really fascinating to me that it is a combination of science and art. I got really into it. I did a clinic with Brent at Wintersteiger BD, Intro to Bootfitting, and a lot of skills were things that Brent and Matt had already taught me, but I learned a lot more at the clinic.

Kate: So, as you move forward in your career, are you interested in continuing boot fitting... 

(Brent walks in)

Kate:  I am sorry, your boss is here. Maybe I should wait to ask this question?

Jackie: Oh, no, that’s fine.  Ha, ha, ha.

Kate: Are you interested in diving further into it?

Jackie: For sure.

Kate: What kind of classes or certifications do you have to take to further your career?  

Jackie: [I learn a lot here as an apprentice.] I think that the skills are a little bit more traditional when they are taught in a clinic. When Brent taught the Winterstieger clinic, he was talking to us about the foot anatomy in pronation, supination, kind of technical terms, but then we do a lot of hands-on, made foot beds, and he showed us and then everybody did one… so I was making foot beds.

Kate: Was that scary?

Jackie at the grinder, shaping foot beds at Park City Ski Boot

Jackie: At first it was really scary.  I was like, “Oh, my God.  Let me out!” I feel like I am getting more comfortable with every fitting.  I feel like I can talk more about the boots and about what the person needs and this is what I am seeing.

Kate: Are you seeing it faster?

Jackie: Yes for sure. Brent and I actually did a fit together on Friday, and it was cool to sit back and listen to him. 

Kate: It’s like standing next to the head coach.

Jackie: Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Kate: Did you have in your journey so far a real A-HA moment where you suddenly understood, you had a shift in your understanding of what you are doing and how it affects the client?  And if so, what was that?

Jackie: Probably the second or third full fit that I did on my own where I went through the whole process from measurement through the foot bed and the final fitting and handed the client their boots and said, “Here you go, go and try them.” I think it was more of a confidence thing than anything else. Even getting feedback from people saying, “Here are your boots.  Go try them.”  They come back in.  They go, “Yeah, this worked great and need a little bit more here…” 

Kate: So let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

Jackie: Okay.

Kate: What is it like to be a chick in the boot-fitting world?

Jackie: Pretty much like being a chick in any other part of the ski industry.  (Laughs.) A lot of guys have a lot of ego, I mean not so much here at Park City Ski Boot, but in the industry in general. I have noticed that with coaching and just dealing with, even male customers who come in look at me and go, “No, I don’t…  Where is Brent?  Where is Matt? I need a male to talk to.”

Kate: Have people said that to you?

Jackie: Not directly, but some are just looking at me and moving on…

Kate: How do you handle that?  What do you do with it?

Jackie: I am not going to lie. It hurts personally. Any person is going to feel that when somebody looks at you and doesn’t know anything about you and just automatically rejects you because you are female. But I don’t really take it too seriously anymore…

Kate: Are you able to cope with it more easily as you go on?

Jackie: Yes, my confidence is growing, and I know what I know and just because they don’t take the time to understand that I know what I’m doing, it is not taking anything away from me.

Kate: I watched it this afternoon.  Right?  The guy was sitting there, and you were like, “Okay, let’s get you fit.”  And he said, “Oh, it’s you!”

Jackie: Yeah.  (Laughs.)

Kate:  And there was this moment, he walked up and sat down, you said, “Right, put your foot here, blah, blah, blah…” and he kind of had to get over it, and then you could get on with the fitting. What does that feel like to you to step into it and sort of be, “I am the boot fitter.”?

Jackie: There is something empowering when you are just kind of like, “Look, I am ready to go…”  I know I feel like I have gotten so used to it because I have been in the ski industry for a couple of years now, and that’s how I grew up, with some really strong female role models.  My mom - clearly she is my biggest role model. It has been “it is what it is.”  I know what I know.  I love skiing, and I am here to promote the sport, so take it as you will.

Kate: It was cool to watch you do it because it seemed to me like rather than talking about it or apologizing or any of the other avenues that you could take, you really just walked across and did your job. And he really kind of had no choice. 

Jackie: I think that’s something, if we don’t really give people the option to be like, “Oh, no…”  And if you are putting out confidence, then they kind of don’t have a choice.


Kate: That sort of goes toward erasing the gender differences, right, in boot fitting?

Jackie: Yes for sure. 

Kate: What might, if any, be an advantage to being a female boot fitter?  Do you think that your gender brings any sort of bonuses?

Jackie: Hmm, I think as far as fitting female clients, that’s a huge thing as far as the comfort level, and you know, like we talked about, like, “Oh my feet, I am so self-conscious,” so there is that, and just…  I think I just bringing another perspective to it. I think if you only have one perspective, then you are only going to get so far.

Kate: When you collaborate with one of the guys in the shop, do you feel like you are able to solve problems by coming from different perspectives? 

Jackie working with a client at Park City Ski Boot
Jackie: Yeah, I think I am still green and I take away a lot more than I have to offer right now, but I learn a lot. And I want to help and if I see things, I will point them out, and I will say, you know, “This looks like a good shape for this punch” or something like that.

Kate: What do you think about the future of women in boot fitting? Do you want to promote other women to come in and joint it? What happens if you find yourself as eventually as an ambassador for ski boot fitting?

Jackie: It would be sweet.

Kate: Would you feel comfortable in that role, encouraging more women?

Jackie: Yeah for sure!

Kate: And what about if they run into issues with, you know, gender in the locker room as it were, what kind of advice would you give to somebody who feels really passionate about boot fitting or how important it is, but feels reticent because of that, what would you say to somebody?

Jackie: You know, I would say, “Stick to your guns and be true to who you are.”

Brent: You know, I have a few things to say. I wish there were more women boot-fitters. Even though it is a somewhat male dominated sport, men don’t have the empathy that women have from their emotional development…

Jackie:     (laughs in agreement)

Brent: And we actually have probably less skiers today…. because we don’t have enough women boot fitters, because we don’t have as much empathy with the misery and the pain of getting equipment setup. And I think also guys would be happier if there were more women boot fitters because their wives would be happier skiers… They would get better boot fittings from someone whom they would trust more to listen to them, and therefore, we don’t have the guys because a lot of guys don’t get as much ski time because their wives…

Jackie: They are unhappy.

Brent: Because they are unhappy and pissed off. “This sport sucks, I am going to Florida.”

Kate and Jackie: (laugh in agreement)

Brent: I think that if there is a way we could promote more women into boot fitting as a legitimate career, it would be a huge boost to the skiing industry…

Kate: Ski industry in general.  I would agree with that and I would have to say too, as we are talking, two things occur to me.  The first thing is that it is interesting to me that Brent can say because women have empathy, but then it is difficult for Jackie as the female boot fitter who is coming up to say, because I can have empathy that a guy can’t have.

Jackie: That’s true.

Kate: And that’s maybe…  I mean that’s pretty typical of women who are in male dominated industries because part of our job is to be tough enough to belong.  Right?

Jackie: Right, that’s for sure.

Kate: But then when Brent was saying that, it makes me think too if you have someone who comes up and really understands what they are doing and also has that empathetic connection…

Brent: Yes.

Kate: How fantastic might she be fitting a high-end male skier because she can understand him that way.  Right?  Or how might that skill set transfer back and forth in your shop where she is welcome and mentored, you know.

Brent: Absolutely.

Kate: You can realize, “Oh, she is connected in a way that this other person isn’t.”  You know, Jackie is learning one skill set and maybe your male boot fitters are learning her empathy.

Brent: I would like to know why women look at boot fitting as maybe something they are not interested in or they don’t think about it.  Maybe they look at it as it’s too physical, yet it’s not. It’s maybe they are fearful of the emotional appearances of ski boot fitting. You know, that it is male dominated, and there is all this tradition that’s been handed down year after year in this industry, but you know it would be great to see those boundaries broken down and all those fears dispelled because we could use change in the ski industry all the way across the board.

Kate: Brent, you are revolutionary in your thinking. Jackie, it sounds like you are in good hands! Good luck to you and thanks for talking to me today!

Thanks to Brent and Jackie for allowing me to interview them. Photos by Brent Amsbury.

Follow Highland's Patrolman and Type 1 Diabetic Mark Yaeger as he solo thru hikes the Appalachian Trail this summer.

Hello everyone! I wanted to update you that my friend Mark Yaeger left TODAY to begin what is sure to become an epic adventure. He will be thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, 2600 miles over 5 1/2 months.

This in and of itself is quite a feat. What makes is all the more exciting is that Mark is overcoming a significant obstacle along the way. Mark has Type 1 Diabetes, and he will be doing this thru-hike solo.

The Appalachian trail, stretching from Georgia to Maine, where Mark will finish at his own front door in Maine.
In Mark's words...


 I’m a 36 year old professional ski patrolman at Aspen Highlands in Colorado. In 2005,  I developed Type 1 diabetes. Along with the known physical complications and constant difficulty in properly managing the disease, it had another effect on me that proved to be even tougher: It diminished, on a fundamental level, my self-confidence and the belief I once had in my ability to persevere and overcome obstacles and challenges. Having grown into young-adulthood healthy and active, I felt as though I was resigned to living within parameters, as I was faced with the reality of daily medication and inconsistent health.

  I've worked hard to improve my health in a demanding lifestyle, and have been slowly rebuilding the confidence to really challenge myself.
  For years, I've had the dream of "thru-hiking" the Appalachian Trail. Having grown up in northern Maine, I wanted to complete the entire trail and finish, literally, at my front door. After 2005, I had all but given up on the idea, but have finally reached a point at which, I feel, I can make it a reality. 

Mark with some of the generously donated Marmott gear.

Mark's story has been picked up by Outside Magazine, and he is being supported with generous donations of gear from Marmott, Black Diamond, Big Agnes, ULA Ultralight Packs, Frio Diabetic Coolers and hundreds of individual donations at his GoFundMe site. Mark is also associate with the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and all the funds that he raises off his GoFundMe site which are above and beyond his expenses will go to help find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes.

You can follow Mark's progress over the next six months right here at Skiing in the Shower, where his Tumblr feed is embedded in the sidebar of this blog. Feel free to leave Mark encouraging notes along the way, or share your own stories of overcoming or living with type 1 Diabetes.

You can also visit Mark's GoFundMe site here: http://www.gofundme.com/markyaegerAT and help donate to his walk and to funding a cure for Type 1 Diabetes.

Bon Voyage, Mark, here's to a lengthy and amazing adventure, we are excited to follow along with you!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Can you get Happier?

There are memes everywhere that say it... "The hardest part is starting." "Just let go of what doesn't seem fair." "Haters gonna hate, we rise above." 
While some of these are funny, and some are inspiring, many of them are just... frustrating. Because they lack one key element. HOW?
How do we follow this advice, how do we weave these old sayings and inspirations into our every day lives? How do I let go and still stay focused and diligent? How can we find our passion, in order to follow it? How can we escape the tyranny of what we "SHOULD" be doing, or even worse, who we "should" be?
I believe the first step in this process is letting go of needing to have a perfect end point. "When I cross my list off, then I will feel happy." "When I have 10,000 (or 10,000,000) in the bank, then I will know I have succeeded and I will be happy."
The problem is not in setting the goal of saving money or getting things done. Let's do that. Let's make a college fund, and send our kids to camp, and finish school and train to stand on the top of the podium at that next bike race. But let's also learn that it is the process of becoming Happier along the way that makes success so sweet, it is not the standing on the podium that makes us truly happy. That happiness is momentary, fleeting, and not grounded in the evolution of ourselves. 
What if in keeping your goal, and dedicating yourself to it, you became a more compassionate, more connected person, who was just happier, along the way? 
Keep your goal. We are a driven society, us humans. We like to compete, to succeed and to measure that success. Just make sure you don't lose yourself in the process by mistaking that Happiness is a destination that comes from your success in achieving your goal. 
So, how to get happier? I could post a meme that says "Its about the journey, not the destination." Which doesn't really help, as there's no instructive quality that tells you that if you use the destination as a signpost so you know which way you are going, and you fall in love with all the steps along the way, you just might be on the path to feeling happier. Not happiest. Not happy. Just happiER.
Want to learn more about the nuances of a happier, more fulfilling daily existence? Come to Happier! A week long retreat on the beautiful island of Koh Samui, Thailand May 30-June 6 for an immersive experience that gives you the tools you need to grow in happiness. 
Want to have Kate come speak at your place of work, or event? Kate delivers inspirational talks that leave the audience with real world tools to take back to the workplace, improving communication, conflict resolution, and performance under pressure, whether on the sporting pitch or in the office.
email katehowe@mac.com for more information.  

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Road to 2016 National Alpine Team Tryouts

Hello friends and family and ski buddies from around the world!

I have just returned from my last ski event of the year, the E1 Selection process. It was an incredible and intense couple of days on snow with some of the top instructors in our division, and I was really happy with my results. (Prepping for Day 2 of examiner selection for the RM Division on-snow. My best event yet, and even better because the team trying out was incredibly strong. )

I was not selected to work as an examiner, but I was happy to go to the tryout and give a strong showing. I'm very very proud of SIX good friends who were selected to the Ed Staff, they were inspirational to ski with and fun to train with. As usual, I'm blown away by the strong sense of community in this sport. 

I'm happy to say that my feedback was that I was close to getting selected, and I received strong support from the selectors to continue on my quest for further selections next year. I have work to do in my skiing, and in order to accomplish that, I need to be stronger, more fit, and have more time on snow.

My training so far is paying off, and in order to continue on that path, my training will only increase in intensity from here!

If you would like to be a part of that quest, please leave an encouraging comment or help by contributing toward covering the overall training expenses from September 2015 to the tryouts in April 2016. 

Follow this link to contribute: http://www.gofundme.com/katesteam2016

Please do not feel obligated to contribute, and know that encouraging words mean just as much to me as helping ease the burden on the major sponsors who have been helping me achieve my goals thus far!

If you have friends or family who would like to be a part of this adventure, please feel free to pass this link along. At this time, I am only sharing it directly by email and from my blog, skiingintheshower.com as opposed to openly on social media.

Thanks very much for your time, energy and for all the support over the last eight years!

Kate Howe

A little more about the journey:
(Candidates and Selectors during the 2012 PSIA National Alpine Team Selection)

As many of you know, since 2006 I have had the dream and trained toward becoming a member of our PSIA National Alpine Instructor Team. 

The first six years of training included taking over a dozen pre requisite clinics, driving all over the West, sleeping in my truck and passing four levels of certification in both the Rocky Mountain and Northern Rocky Mountain division. 

It was only through the generous sponsorship of the ski companies that support  me and many other instructor athletes (Blizzard/Tecnica, POC Helmets and Armor, Leki Poles, Strafe Outerwear, Gibbon Slacklines), and the combination of contributions from individual donors (and one major donor without whose support I would not have been able to recover from major spine surgery and find myself on the snow at the 2012 tryout just six months post surgery.) that I have been able to come as far as I have.

And I'm not alone. This is a journey that hundreds of ski instructors embark on, a journey of at least a decade (that's on the short side.) This is an endeavor of training and dedication that is entirely funded by grass roots efforts, friends and family.  

My feedback at the 2012 National Tryout was "We'd like to hire you. Please try out again next time, and please work on your skiing until then!"

This year, after I returning from India with my family in December of 2014, I had identified areas of weakness that I needed support in in order to overcome some obstacles on the journey. They were overall core strength, explosive strength in the hips and legs, mental performance during clutch situations, and depth of technical understanding.

(Ethan in Mysore, India, demonstrating Pascasana, a second series Ashtanga posture.)

I spent some serious soul searching time deciding if I was physically, mentally, and emotionally capable of training at the level that this kind of commitment demands, and I spent a lot of time talking with my kids and their dad about what this would take. 

I am honored to know that my entire family has a deep faith in me, and is squarely behind me in this persuit. With that go-ahead, the fire was lit, and I committed again to trying out for the 2016 National Team. 

(My amazing family, we support each other in all of our crazy adventures. They taught me to go for it, they stand behind me, and I behind them, every step of the way!)

In order to get my skiing up to par, I hired an elite team of trainers and coaches to work with me physically, mentally, and on my skiing. I am honored that these top coaches have agreed to partner with me on my road to 2016. 

They include strength coach Bill Fabrocini PT, OCS, CSCS, and former physical therapist and strength coach of Olympic Snowboard champions Gretchen Bleiler and Chris Klug. Bill is currently the rehabilitation and conditioning advisor to the Chivas de Gaudalajara professional soccer team n Mexico, and strength coach to professional cyclist Tejay Van Garderen. (Bill Fabrocini at the Aspen Club)

Mental Performance Coach Thomas Crum is an author and presenter in the fields of conflict resolution, peak performance, and stress management. He is known throughout the world for his interactive live presentations and his three best-selling books. Recent clients include the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and the Navy SEALs. (Tom Crum delivering inspiration and strength)

Technical Skiing Coach Jonathan Ballou is a current member of the PSIA National Alpine team, and spends his northern hemisphere winters as the Training Manager for the Ski & Snowboard Schools of Aspen/Snowmass and as an Examiner and Alpine Committee Chair for PSIA-Rocky Mountain Division. In the other winter (deep south), Jonathan works as a trainer for the Rookie Academy and an examiner and education coordinator for the New Zealand Snowsports Instructors Alliance.(Jonathan Ballou doing what he does best.)

Training Partners and mentors Kurt Fehrenbach and Megan Harvey were both members of the PSIA National Alpine Team, examiners in the RM division, and current trainers for the ski schools of Aspen/Snowmass.(the unstopable Megan Harvey, my mentor, friend, and faith fuel cell.)
(Kate and Kurt atop Geissler Peak in 2010, training for the 2012 tryouts)

Master Bootfitter Brent Amsbury is the key link in the chain. I can be as strong, present and ready as possible, but without his incredible skill, I wouldn't be able to make a single turn. (Brent Amsbury, Master Bootfitter)

Each one of these outstanding coaches has agreed to put their name next to mine, standing by me in my persuit of my goal, while they are all striving to achieve their own goals in their own lives. I am incredibly honored to be associated with them, and am amazed at the depth of dedication they have to me. Many of them donate their time to my training and mentorship, and that is a gift that I could never ever repay. 

I have worked this team since January of 2015, and the results in my presentation, preparation, and execution under pressure are incredible. In April of 2015 I went to the Examiner Selection in Vail and had my best showing to date in a high level selection mostly due to working with this incredible coaching staff.

I feel confident that if I can continue to work hard with this coaching staff for the next year, I will be a strong candidate for selection at the 2016 National Alpine Team Selection in Snowbird, Utah, as well as for the 2016 Examiner Hiring selection.

Unfortunately, training at this level for a year is incredibly expensive, not just for me, but for all athletes who aspire to this goal. 

If you are able to contribute to my training fund, in gratitude, I will send you a Kate's Team 2016 T-Shirt or Mug of your choice. 

(it's likely the shirt and mug will have this image on it, or one very similar. Because what could be more awesome than a unicorn that snorts flames, ridden by a bad-ass cat?)

(Details on minimum donation for gifts are at the go fund me site http://www.gofundme.com/katesteam2016

Thank you for your time and energy, and all of the support I have recieved over the years!

If you would like to know more about supporting other instructor athletes and the PSIA National Team in general, please visit: https://www.thesnowpros.org/Interski2015.aspx

Kate Howe