Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tomgirl’s Picks of the Week: March 30, 2010

People and media too good not to share. Enjoy!


Inn the Kitchen is a fun site for foodies who love to travel. Recipes, and all things food by innkeeper Rachelle.

Stephanie Pearson is a fine Twitter friend of Tomgirl Tours. I love her writing - she's a freelance writer, contributing editor to Outside, and Outside online’s “Gear Girl” columnist. Like myself, she is also a travel and outdoor enthusiast who loves writing about her exploration and outdoor gear. She writes one heck of a good blog with lots of good information for those who love to be comfortable in the outdoors - yeah, that's us - the Tomgirls! Look where Stephanie is headed ... a 2010 expedition to Mount Everest!

Interesting People

Sally Ride was the first American woman to travel in space on the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. She was mission specialist on STS-7, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on June 18, 1983. The crew deployed satellites for Canada and Indonesia; operated the Canadian-built robot arm to perform the first deployment and retrieval with the Shuttle Pallet Satellite; and conducted the first formation flying of the shuttle with a free-flying satellite. Mission duration was 147 hours before landing on a lakebed runway at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on June 24, 1983. Amazing - this is a travel adventurer of the ultimate kind! Recently, Ride, 58, spoke to Reuters after appearing at a round-table discussion in Boston on gender equity and educating girls in the areas of math, science and engineering.

From Tomgirl Tours

Looking forward to Tomgirl Tours next radio interview on Big Blend radio… this time, tune in to Vacation Station to hear all about New Hampshire.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tomgirl’s Picks of the Week: March 23, 2010

Clearly, we love to explore so, since we aren’t out exploring the great outdoors at the moment, we’ve been doing some armchair exploring online. Here are some great new (and old) discoveries we’d like to share…


Kelley Vick is a travel writer whose articles cover everything from specific destinations to insight on subjects like travel and your health.

A Road Retraveled is a great video resource for those days when you need a travel fix, but are stuck at the computer!


We adore all our host hotels, but the blend of luxury accommodations, culinary exploration, gorgeous scenery and adventure opportunities make the Essex in Vermont extra special!

From Tomgirl Tours

If you missed Tomgirl’s Lori Carr’s expert insights into Vermont on Big Blend, you can still listen to her radio interview here, and read her article here. Don’t miss it!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Live and Learn: Best Practices to Acclimate to New Ski Gear

I’m going to start right off by saying that getting accustomed to brand new and different ski gear can be challenging! The challenge was not only physical, but mental, as well. The concentration required to master new gear, while improving performance, was more than I expected! During the first half day with my new gear, I felt that I had lost most of the performance I gained over the past year, which can be frustrating if you are competitive (you will see my unhappy face on the gondola as I contemplated how to get used to my new precision skis!)

Let’s start with the Dalbello Aspire 75 boots. These boots are just incredible both on and off the slopes. As I mentioned in an earlier post, they are insanely comfortable and the fit is precise because you can tune them yourself.The heel inserts were not enough to get forward the way I wanted to, so I used the ramp angle inclinator to adjust heel angle with help from the ski shop. I think it made a difference in terms of energy to align myself, but it was difficult to tell because I skied mostly black diamonds on day two at Loon versus easier slopes the day before at Brettonwoods.

The boots were warm and comfy 100% of the time, and they fit my leg and calf perfectly. The skiing comfort with this boot is second to none – perfect fit, totally warm and soft inside – unbelievable! The walking release in the back of the boot was fantastic too and I was able to walk around the lodge with the flexibility of a winter snow boot – so very nice! The release helped with getting my boots on and off too. I just LOVE these boots and would highly recommend them beyond any boot I’ve experienced!

Getting acclimated to my new skis was a bit of a different story… challenging right from the beginning. First, I wasn’t used to the incredible edging that provided for some quick cutting and turning and it caught me off guard. After a few spills, I started to acclimate to it. Although my expert skier friend, Russ, suggested some tuning at the ski shop to smooth them out, I decided to wait it out and see what happened. Because the Atomics Seven Heaven 76 skis are designed for women and the bindings were mounted slightly forward, I didn’t need to lean forward as much any more. I did lean forward out of habit but realized after a few runs that I needed to relax into the ski more naturally and let it do the work versus me pushing performance. That made a big difference – okay, I’m staring to feel good about this gear now on day two - I’m starting to like it. I was with two advanced skiers and one advanced boarder on day two so it was all about the black diamonds. I confess that after two hours straight of that, I headed for the lodge absolutely exhausted. Let me say that I don’t think I would have had the energy with my old gear to push that hard for that long. The new gear made all the difference – very sweet.

A word on the XLT9 bindings. These white bindings look fantastic and are durable and highly functional especially when set correctly by the great guys at ski shop. I loved the secure feeling and easy step in and release out when getting in and out of them.

My observations:

1. With new gear, you will most likely lose some of your performance initially but it will come back quickly once you acclimate. You will improve even more as you practice on the slope.

2. Expect to adjust your gear or the way you are skiing. If it’s the first time you are using your new equipment and it may need to be modified to work with your personal physique, ski style and your preferences. Don’t be afraid to head to the ski shop with an understanding of what is happening to you on the slope. It’s important to pay attention to what is happening to you out there so you can describe it and they can assist you. Examples include:

Ø Falling due to sharp edge. Slow down, be patient and acclimate to your new gear until you get the feel for it or get the edges smoothed down.

Ø Overtired from just a few runs. Leaning forward when you don’t need to or overworking the run unnecessarily will exhaust you quickly, especially if you are on steep slopes and black diamonds – it’s more work and effort! Let the ski do the work, relax into the run and don’t over think it. Get back onto the blue and greens for a little while if you need to.

Ø Skis popping off to soon or not soon enough when you fall. Get your bindings adjusted. If they are popping to soon, the binding is adjusted to a beginner level versus an intermediate. If they don’t pop soon enough, they are set to intermediate and need to be set back to beginner if that is your preference. Head to the shop and get the binding adjusted.

3. Be patient. It takes a little time to acclimate to new gear in general and especially when the slope conditions are changing from hard packed and groomed in the morning to softer powered and then to mashed potatoes in the afternoon. Sometimes it’s the slope condition, fatigue or your attitude versus the new equipment. Take it from an impatient skier: time and practice works wonders in getting to know our gear on the slope.

I did complain a few times when my performance slipped, and even threatened to return my skis! As we rode the lift up the mountain, my friend Margo looked at me and then at my skis and said, “you can’t return those skis, they are just too gorgeous. Look at how they glitter and shine in the sun. They are beautiful.” I had to laugh at how function, comfort and style comes into play for women on the slopes – although not always in the same order!

I very happy with my ski gear selection last week and plan to keep all of my equipment. I look forward to wrapping up the season with a few more trips up north to break them in properly this year!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tomgirl’s Picks of the Week: March 9, 2010

Maybe it's the onset of spring (at last!) here in New England, but we're in a Vermont state of mind this week...

People and Places

Shelburne Farms is a scenic celebration of both agriculture and New England’s history. A working farm and National Historic Landmark, this gorgeous spot with a mission: to cultivate a conservation ethic. The center includes walking trails, a children’s farmyard, an inn, a restaurant, and, of course, working farmhouse.

Northern Lights Rock and Ice at the Essex (home base for our Green Mountains Escape), is a great spot to challenge yourself and have a blast. Features include and outdoor rock and ice climbing walls and rock climbing pinnacle and dual 450 ft zip wires. Best of all, they have adventure activities for any fitness (or courage!) level.


The Adventure Life gorgeous, fabulous site featuring gear, photos, destination information, and even the weather! An informative must-read for the adventure junkie.

Vagabondish "The Travelzine for Today’s Vagabond". From what to pack and what to read, to gorgeous photos and travel news. Love!

From Tomgirl Tours

If our people and places have you, like us, aching for the next trip to Vermont, join us for an upcoming Green Mountains Escape getaway. We have four dates for this tour in 2010, the next being May 2-5. Hope to see you then!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tips to help women make the most of their ski experiences

Experts may already know this, but for the women who are recreational/vacation skiers, here is something you may not know: there is a big (and important!) difference between men’s and women’s skis, bindings and boots. So much so that it is worth not only taking the time to understand the difference, but also the investment in purchasing your own gear that is designed for women. The time and money you put in will make your ski adventures much more pleasant, I promise!

It’s important to take the time to research before making an investment like this because you will be using this gear for years. The type of skis, bindings and boots you purchase will depend on your ski level, skiing goals, terrain and, importantly, gender. I’ve been hitting the slopes (and researching) myself lately, so here’s some helpful insight…

First, it’s a good idea to demo equipment if possible (but, I realize, that can be difficult… Renting a specific pair of skis and boots at a ski shop or lodge can be next to impossible). Personally, I couldn’t find the brands I wanted to demo. So, instead, my approach was to thoroughly investigate and then buy them directly. (In another post, I’ll let you know how my ski purchase worked out on the mountain!)

After spending several weeks online and at various ski shops, I choose the Atomic Seventh Heaven 76 ski (157 cm length) with XTL9 bindings and Dalbello Aspire 75 boots. My skiing level is intermediate (moving toward advanced) and my goals are: increased speed and better cutting and turning. Here is what I learned and experienced…

Ski Boots

I start with boots because they are the most important part of the package. I researched and tried on 5 different brands of boots, including Atomic, Nordica, Salomon, Lang and Dalbello. Each manufacturer has their own concept of how a boot is made and what they focus on in terms of fit, function (ski level and skier goals), comfort and style.

While all boots had great features, I choose the Dalbello Aspire 75s. This women’s ski boot is for the intermediate to low-advanced skier. The boot was incredible from the moment I put it on my feet. Hard shell material on the outside with the most soft, plush boot lining I’ve ever felt on the inside. It is insanely comfortable! Low cuff hinges allow the boot to fit comfortably around varying leg/calf shapes and sizes (no more pain or bruising!); tapered heels with an added heel lift (or use the ramp angle inclinator to adjust heel angle) allows me to lean forward naturally versus constantly aligning myself forward for more controlled, faster skiing while using less energy; four adjustable aluminum buckles enable fine tuning and a seriously accurate fit. There is also a flip hinge on the back of the boot for easier walking in the lodge (yeah!) Ladies, these are seriously stylish boots – shiny black with gold and white scrolling around the outside – very sweet! Check out this Aspire 75 boot video.

Skis and Bindings

It’s hard to judge ski and binding performance in the shop so I recommend a lot of investigation and talking to the experts in ski shops. I got varying opinions but ultimately pieced it together on the following information... First, you must purchase women’s skis because they are designed specifically to balance the fact that women have less muscle and strength than men. Women’s ski bindings are mounted slightly further forward on the skis, which enables us to have the forward lean necessary for controlled skiing (which men have naturally on their skis). This is so important, not only for control, but so we don’t expend unnecessary energy and tire too fast (when you are tired, you fall more often). Having the correct skis for women also provides us better speed and turning. If you want to know more about women’s skis, check out this video for details.

While I looked at different brands of women’s skis and did my own research, I found the staff at ski shops most helpful. They were informed and focused on three factors; my current skiing level (intermediate); my skiing goals (faster speed and better turning and cutting); and the type of terrain I skied on (hard, packed powder on mostly groomed Northeast terrain). It was pretty simple after that. We talked about quality of the brand, ski shapes, ski length, pricing and that I wanted something to coordinate with my new Dalbello boots (they didn’t care so much about that, but I did!) I choose the Atomic Seventh Heaven 76 skis with XTL9 bindings (their recommendation) 157 cm. Check them out here.

These skis are for intermediate to low expert; have a strong edge hold for great cutting and turning; a little longer length for speed; and torsion flex control sectors, which adapt to specific terrain. The perfect ski for my level, goals and terrain. That worked out nicely based on my goals and I cannot wait to try them out!

A word about ski poles – you need them! Buy a basic pole that is the correct size. To determine your size; flip the pole upside down, grab it just below the basket and be sure that it’s at the same height as your bent elbow. Pretty straight forward.

Getting the right ski gear makes all the different in your overall ski experience—from performance to safety to comfort… not to mention how you will feel afterward!

Ski package pricing can range anywhere from $700 (on the low side) to several thousand. But, again, it is worth the investment. My best advice: compare, shop sales and shop at the end of the season for best prices!

Finally, as I mentioned in an earlier post… do not, by any means, forget your helmet!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tomgirl’s Picks of the Week: March 2, 2010

And the theme of the week is… shopping! Tomgirls love adventure but (we’re girls, afterall!), we also love a good shopping expedition. While each Tomgirl Tour features breath-taking adventure, there is a reason why shopping is a top vacation activity, so our tours also feature opportunities to explore the best local shopping destinations. Here are a few of our favorites from (of course!) our Tomgirl tours….

St. John Sojourn: What's the best accent to days in the sun, exploring the exhilarating adventure to be found in St. John? Shopping in Cruz Bay!

White Mountains Adventure: When we are done with our zipline and indoor sky-diving, we unwind at Settlers Green outlets... all the bargain-hunting fun you expect from a fabulous outlet shopping experience!

Green Mountains Escape: While this tour features Segways, hot air balloons and culinary delights (among other adventures), we love the time we spend browsing and shopping at the Church St. Marketplace.

Red Rock Rendezvous: Sedona has so much to offer, it isn't easy to fit all the adventure into one week. But, we do! And we manage to take a break to shop, too!


Not shopping related, but we adore Wanderlust magazine, and think you will, too. The appeal of this U.K. based publication is best summarized by its tagline: The magazine for people with a passion for travel. Love!