by Risa Wyatt, photos courtesy of Dino Vournas
Face shots one day, goggle tans the next… That’s what NASJA members and their guests experienced at the annual meeting held April 11 to 15 at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows in North Lake Tahoe.
The conference marked new beginnings for NASJA. It was the initial meeting after the restructuring of NASJA into a single national organization. And for the first time, NASJA held its annual get-together in conjunction with the Snowsport History Celebration by the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, offering the opportunity to mingle with ski icons, including long-time NASJA member Doug Pfeiffer and his wife, Ginny.
“Something wonderful happens when you have people who love skiing together in one place,” summed up Richie Silver of Connecticut.
Good omens—in the form of fat snowflakes—descended from the skies starting from the opening reception at The Loft Bar at Le Chamois. By the next morning, six- to eight inches of freshies blanketed the slopes, shifting to bluebird skies for four days of explorations at Squaw and Alpine.
NASJA-ites made the most of spring-skiing conditions thanks to the insiders’ knowledge of the Squaw Alpine hosts: Liesl Hepburn, public relations director; and Sam Kieckhefer, public relations coordinator. They knew exactly the right lines to take down the Sun Bowl off of Headwall, or when snow had softened enough to lap Alpine Bowl. Complimentary ski rentals gave everyone the right gear for playing in both powder and afternoon meltdown.
“It’s an experts’ playground,” said Kevin Gaslor from Quebec, who attended his first NASJA conference. “Everything you looked for in skiing when you were a kid, you can find at Squaw.” Skiing Alpine for her first time, Emily Summers, senior communications manager at Deer Valley Resort, slowed down to admire the views. “It’s a revelation,” she said. “You can ski practically every place you see.”
The on-mountain explorations allowed NASJA participants to see improvements at the now-twinned mountains owned by Alterra Mountain Company. For the 2017-18 season, Squaw debuted its $1.8 million renovation of High Camp, where attendees lunched at Granite Bistro, the new gourmet restaurant at 8,200 feet. Another afternoon, Liesl and Sam hosted lunch on the deck at the newly upgraded Alpine Meadows Lodge. Sunglasses stayed on but jackets came off for balmy basking.
Professional development figured into the après-ski as much as the local microbrews. Michael Reitzell, president of Ski California, talked about the organization’s new mountain safety guide. Have you ever heard of Ski Wings (nylon air scoops attached to ski poles that create a flying sensation) or Tinkle Tabs (which kept one-piece ski suits from falling into the potty)? No surprise: they were among dozens of Bygone Gizmos—failed ski innovations—recalled at a presentation by Jeff Blumenfeld.
At the NASJA Annual Meeting, president Iseult Devlin announced plans for the inaugural 2018 Northeast Winter Weather Summit, which NASJA will present from December 2 to 4 at Stratton Mountain, Vermont. “The goal is to develop ongoing dialogue with meteorologists and to consider the important role they play in winter tourism,” she said. Devlin also unveiled the new NASJA website (nasja.org), updated for eye-appeal and easy use.
Hosted by the former NASJA West, the farewell breakfast at PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn featured Seth Masia, president of the International Ski History Association, who explained how to use the ISHA database to research articles. Several NASJA-ites were elated to learn that their early ski articles live on, online for next-generation journalists and historians.
Four days of snow frolic. In warm April sunshine. With long-time colleagues, new media friends, and childhood ski idols. It reminded everyone about why they fell in love with skiing in the first place.