By Karen D. Lorentz
Vermont was well represented at the 38th annual Boston.com Ski & Snowboard Expo at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston Nov. 14-17. The show, which draws thousands of snowsport lovers every year, marks the New England kick-off to the ski season, pumping up attendees with bargains, entertainment, excitement, and fun.
In addition to booths featuring Ski Vermont (the state’s trade association), ski resorts like Killington and Pico, Vermont products like Long Trail Ale, and services like Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, there were guest appearances from Vermont snowsport influencers, including two local snow aficionados.
Olympian Donna Weinbrecht and Ski Diva Wendy Clinch spoke with women visiting Her Turn at The She Shed, a special-interest booth that highlights specific women’s ski slope and apres-ski interests.
Kathy Benharris, originator and curator of the booth along with Grace Goodearl, said the idea was to create an area where women could connect with other women and have conversations about a diverse variety of subjects. To that end there were appearances from a Yogi expert, a beauty expert and snow influencers Weinbrecht and Clinch among others.
In describing her passion for snowsports, Benharris told the Mountain Times, “Playing in the snow keeps you young and smiling … Skiing is the most fun a girl can have with clothes on.” As an advocate of gear designed for women, the décor of The She Shed featured women-specific winter sports products and a host of information that would be helpful to women of all abilities and ages.
Clinch, who lives in Plymouth, is the founder of TheSkiDiva, the leading women’s ski online community made up of thousands of women who come together to talk about anything and everything ski-related.
Asked to comment, Clinch said, “The women’s exhibit at the show was a celebration of women and skiing, and I was happy to be a part of it. Women who ski come in all ages, shapes, sizes, and ability levels, and the visitors to the booth reflected that. Many wanted to talk about gear, or ask about where they could find a good women’s clinic, or just share their own ski experiences. It’s all about getting stoked for the season,” she added.
Clinch was a natural to connect with women since she started the SkiDiva forum in 2006 as “a place to connect with other women who cared as passionately about skiing as I did. The other ski communities were pretty much dominated by men, and I wanted an environment where women could feel comfortable while talking about skiing in a way that they could relate to.
“It was a real treat to be at the booth with Donna Weinbrecht. Donna is a skiing icon and an inspiration to women skiers everywhere. She’s accomplished so much and is so down to earth, and really connects well with people. I loved that she brought her gold medal along and let people try it on. It’s not everyday you see something like that,” Clinch noted.
Asked about her time at the She Shed, Weinbrecht told the Mountain Times, “I talked to women about my women’s camps at Killington — coached by an all-women staff, which creates a socially supportive learning experience.
“I really enjoy my time at the “She Shed” as the idea of empowered women within the industry follows my personal mantra of ‘strength and grace.’ This is something I feel we can not only bring to the hill but indeed incorporate into all aspects of life.
“I had two campers visit me at the shed on Saturday. They wanted to sign up again for this winter and reminded me of a camp they came to a couple of years ago. The temperature was minus 9. Of course there was talk of postponing the event, but as I told the ladies if you go home now, sure you’ll be warm, but if we all go out today we will always have the knowledge that we overcame, skied, had fun and will forever have the experience. I firmly believe that what we do on the hill helps us everywhere we go.
“Of course if the ladies are with their husband/boyfriend, I tell them that I do also run a men and women’s mogul specific camp. So, no excuses,” Weinbrecht added.
Among other show highlights was native Vermonter Doug Lewis’ Eliteam Fitness Challenge, which provides youngsters an interactive fitness arena that puts fun in physical fitness training via an obstacle race course (it’s fun for adults, too).
Lewis, a former World Cup ski racer, World Championship medalist, Olympian and Sugarbush legend, runs Eliteam camps with Kelley Lewis as a program to improve conditioning for young ski racers. He created Eliteam in 1991 as a way to pass on his knowledge and share his passion for sports with future generations.
As Weinbrecht noted, the Ski & Snowboard Expo provides a great platform for snowsport personalities to share their expertise and passion and pump people up for the ski season.
“It’s a great way for me to connect, interact with the public and to share my Olympic gold medal and Olympic experiences. It feels like through the years, I’ve taken thousands of pictures with kids and adults wearing the medal around their necks. It brings back a special memory of when I was a kid running around a ski show getting autographs from Wayne Wong or Billy the Kid, my ski heroes,” Weinbrecht said.
Doug Lewis tells a similar story of having gotten Phil and Steve Mahre’s autographs when they trained at Killington. Lewis went on to race in the Olympics with them and, like Weinbrecht, identifies with joy of “giving back” via the ski show.
The four-day event, a mountain lover’s paradise of all kinds of info, equipment and vacation deals, giveaways, special events, and sports personalities was sponsored by Subaru of New England.