Ski Math

The tiny dot in the middle of the frame is my son hiking up from a yard sale, in a gale, at the top of Pali Chair. FIVE minutes later he said, “Dad, I’m glad you’re as good a skier as me.” I’d kept my skis during the traverse! They have such short memories.

Our family ski experience is like my Pandemic Predictions => I got a lot wrong.

When I was shelling out for childcare/preschool, skiing struck me as a very expensive way to do a lot of driving, without much cardio.

Not interested.

A friend, with four kids (and a jet), made the observation… “you gotta be able to do something as a family.” Given his role, as the smartest guy I know, we decided to give it a try.


My wife didn’t believe me when I said, in advance, “We’re making a million dollar decision here.”

Frankly, I took it easy on her. The math is daunting…

But wait, there’s more.

Add-in the inflationary effect of surrounding yourself with the largest spenders in our society.

And… have a look around the parking area, with the smell of legal weed wafting across the empty beer cans… Is this an environment where I’d like to leave my teenaged kid unsupervised?

Still… “you gotta be able to do something as a family”.



$175,000 worth of opportunity cost later, I can ski any run, with any member of my family. This makes me happy during a time of year I used to dread.

Total immersion (5 million vertical feet, in three seasons) let me achieve my goal quickly… Something outside, at a high level, with any member of my family.

Unexpectedly worth it… but only after I figured out our family’s cash burn.


I cope with the “demographic” by focusing my energy on seeking to ski like an instructor, with the fitness of a ski patroller. These goals provide structure for my athletic year.

Like much of my outdoor life, my participation is conditional and always one major crash away from ending.

Stay variable.

Developing Child Athletes

Watching their sister compete via Live Feed.

Our oldest (13 soon) started year round swim team at the end of last summer.


In Boulder, it’s not unusual for 8-10 year olds to be doing double workouts, and competing at a high level in multiple sports. We have some very well trained middle schoolers.

My approach is different => we want to leave room so performance will improve all the way from child to adult.

Leave the athlete somewhere to go => improve from 12 to 21 and beyond.

With a motivated kid, this means my role is holding back the pace of progression so the athlete has a better chance to reach their full potential and enjoy the benefits of lifelong exercise.


When To Go Year Round

When the kids were little, we didn’t specialize. Our younger kids still do a wide range of sport. The idea here is to develop a range of skills.

Racing is a skill.

While we didn’t ramp training load, all my kids have been racing fast since they were 5 yo. Summer swim league was the venue.

They love it and are building an invisible edge. Invisible to them but my lack of racing skills was obvious when I started competing as an adult…

  • Intensity tolerance
  • The ability to go way past reasonable, stay there, then go further

This spills into their endurance when it comes to learning capacity.

Summer swim league easily splits into three types of racing… where you’ll crush, about right, where you will be crushed (hopefully not too hard).

Early specialization has the field strength too strong, too early.


Parents

I’m a potted-plant parent and give very little feedback. It helps that I’m clueless when it comes to swimming really fast!

I make no effort to remember their times so I’m genuinely impressed every time they race.

You went so fast!

My main area of input is: (a) encouraging the kids to be nice to the new/slower/different people they come across; and (b) fielding off-the-wall questions about sex and human development. Our daughter is learning a lot (from being tossed in with older kids).

I also make sure we remember every athlete ends up back in the “real world” at the end of their career.


Boys & Men

We were fortunate to replace Uncle Andy with another male swim coach. Having male character models for my son does a lot for his motivation to attend.

JiuJitsu is coming back this week (male coaches) and his swim coach works part-time as a wilderness firefighter.

The cool factor matters to him, and me, when I think back to my own development.

Adventure Novelty Exploring


Indian Peaks Wilderness Area

Ticked the box on my first post-pandemic adventure this past weekend, a little earlier than expected (my second shot is mid-April).

Snow camping.

Why snow camping?

The #1 forward-looking reason is regret minimization.

There’s been a lot of accidental death around me.

The best way to deal with my son’s love of adventure is to teach him everything I know about the outdoors. It’s a fun project and fits my view that “skilled is better than safe.”



What do you remember about your life before COVID?

My main memory is spending a lot of money, time and effort for a life that felt pretty similar to the last 12 months.

The feel, inside me, is very consistent.

My baseline satisfaction is resilient to setbacks, and doesn’t move much with luxury.

Time in nature (with family), writing and teaching are three things that move the needle for me.

So the question I asked myself is “how best to allocate my time and effort going forward?”

Bring back the experiences, and people, that I missed.

Adventure, novelty & exploring => the best experiences of the last 12 months had this in common => so I’ll be aiming for a quick fix every six weeks.

Quick trips, back to my normal life quickly… because I’ve learned that more isn’t better.

I bought myself a monster pack (105L), which lets me carry everything for my partners and removes any temptation for me to pick-up-the-pace on my team.



With people – same game plan.

Who did I miss?

Write a list of the people I didn’t see during the pandemic then do whatever-it-takes to have a quick visit with them.

Spend time, and effort, on connection.


I’ll end with a fun story from the overnight trip.

We started at 6am on Easter Sunday.

By noon, we had skied, skinned and set up camp. Both our feet were shot but there was eight hours until darkness!

What to do?

Hey buddy, let’s go on a water hunt.


First Attempt, nothing

It’s still deep up there

Second Attempt, under a bridge – in a couple weeks there will be water RAGING through here

Just like a pioneer, amigo. Keep digging!

Hey, do you hear water?!

Jackpot when he kicked through the final ice layer.

My son got a huge kick out of using a shovel “for something real.”

Staring at a screen during homeschool… not real.

Nature, water, snow, cold, wind, mountain lion tracks… real.

Let’s bring back the real.


Enjoy 2021

Winter Season Review

Homeboy chilling after a three-hour tour

I want to offer you the best lessons from my winter.

#1 winter lesson right here

This is the first winter, out of the last five, where I haven’t been ill or injured.

It’s not because of the pandemic.

It is because I resisted the urge to ramp training load until something broke.

Do you know the warning signs of doom?

  • Sugar craving
  • Hungry all the time
  • Need for double naps
  • Coffee has no impact
  • Inflamed gums (I’m in big trouble once I get this far)

Back in January, I started doing a bit of “real” training. It didn’t seem like much. I added a bit of tempo.

The session is simple, 2×20 minutes climbing on skins/skis, do it Tuesday/Thursday => 80 minutes of tempo, per week.

I’d feel high all day. For the rest of the winter, I had to remember Iñaki’s advice and resist the urge to add more.

I also had to add an extra 45 minutes of sleep, every single night, to recover (from what seemed like a tiny increase to my weekly load).

If you were injured, despite the pandemic (!), then you need to train yourself to follow Iñaki’s advice.

This habit, of increasing to the breaking point, may be applying more broadly in your life.


…and my son learned how to alpine tour

The BEST thing about amateur athletics is:

If you can learn a lesson, when the stakes are low, then you just might be able to apply it somewhere useful. 😉

  • Humility, Patience, Fortitude => how I raced
  • Consistency => no zeros => apply it to Project “Life”
  • Equanimity => focus on the controllable, leave the rest

Making time to share nature, together

Back in September, I wrote about seeking options during the Pandemic. I planned to swap 95% of my ski budget for a new vehicle, while removing COVID’s ability to screw up my ski season.

Worked out well, I traded-in three vehicles, reduced the target specification, bought my wife a new car and ended up with a 4Runner for myself.

By holding myself back, my financial outcome was better. Not surprising – I’m good with finance.

The surprising part was my ski season.

I will end March with 97 ski sessions and I never hit peak traffic, in the dark, with three kids in the car, during a blizzard…


…and our youngest is linking her turns in the black bumps

Let’s bring it together.

No injury, no illness, ~100 sessions on snow, 2 new cars, family is improving their skills…

…no net financial cost

…no peak-period driving

…during a pandemic

Take time to notice good judgement.

Kids And Mountains

Spending years crafting a desired outcome is something I do better than most.

It’s not just inside my marriage where I seek to influence outcome – I’ve been building a mountaineering partner. Since my son was two years old, he’s loved going uphill.

The “up” has never been a problem. In those early days, it was the “down” where he’d flame out. Back then, I’d never take him further than I could carry him out. We used to negotiate when the shoulder rides would start.

We’re into another hiking season and I wanted to share some ideas about developing your kids.

Last season, I carried everything, all the time. When I tried to get him to help out, the joy of the hike drained out of him. This led to some heavy, heavy days.

Over the winter, I adapted my training program so I could tolerate the loads.

This year, we’re trying something new. To change our view on weight, I’m leading by example and carrying extra water to every summit.

Weight is a privilege. The picture above represents ~25 pounds of privilege. 😉

Seeing me carry, had the desired psychological outcome and he’s been asking me to carry “more.”

Two things are required to earn the right to carry:

  • Beat me to the summit
  • Don’t fall on the way down

The not falling is tougher than it sounds. Our mental cue is “walk like a boss” => wide stance, toes down the mountain, stand tall. It’s easy for a minute.

Less easy for an hour while discussing the finer points of the latest Clone Wars season or estimating Chewbacca’s age.

Dad, Chewie is in every movie, I can’t figure it out…


With lockdown, my full program has become visible to the kids. They noticed that I do a lot of strength training. Two (out of three) asked to join. So they’ve been doing some supplemental work to our hiking program.

I made light sandbags for them. We do burpees, short runs, clean & press, keg lifts… Because their bags are light, they can run circles around me (literally). They get a kick out of being “faster than Dad” and that keeps them coming back for more.

Our youngest (below) is working with an orange dry-bag I filled with clothes. It looks HUGE but doesn’t weigh much. My son had bag envy – his is filled with pea gravel.

Let everyone be strong is a lesson I learned from Scott Molina.

Be sure you let your kids be strong and find their win. It helps build their internal motivation to persist.


As for the program we are:

  • following a gradual, weekly progression
  • doing it locally before considering any travel
  • including a mixture of too easy, just right and challenging routes
  • inserting easy days so we bounce back
  • making sure we get consistent sleep

If you think the above sounds like the approach used by a gold-medal coach then you’d be right. It was taught it to me early in my triathlon career.

I special ordered a black mask from our oldest. Combined with blue-iridium sunglasses, a baseball hat and a hunting knife… we don’t have any problems getting folks to yield on the trail.

Why masks?

Foremost, because America need more people wearing masks. Be the change.

Secondly, because we might be on some crowded routes when the high mountains open up. Get sick later.

Finally, because it’s going to make life above tree-line seem a whole lot easier when we take them off.


Over multi-year time horizons, we have tremendous influence on the direction of our life.

My son is 9 and we can hike any route I want in the Rockies.

Be willing to inconvenience yourself (today) to help the people in your life become what you wish for them (tomorrow).

Fathers and Sons – Mountain Leadership

2019-10-26 12.13.28

An unfortunate reality…

Most educators spend more time with other people’s children than their own.

As a student, and parent, this has worked out very well for me. I’m grateful for our teachers, mentors and coaches.

2019-09-13 14.44.34

Last season, I spent a lot of time in Vail and noticed a gap between Vail Resort’s youtube clips and my actual experience with their first responders. I’ve been considering, “What are the qualities required to lead in the mountains?”

This season, there’s a new boss for Vail. She’s done fantastic work at Beaver Creek and I’m sure her team will sort it out. Everyone looked super-peppy during opening week. Maybe the grumpy guys retired?!

I spent months mentally rehashing my letter to the new boss. Gradually, I turned my “you could be so much more” mojo inwards, towards making myself a better father.

2015-03-18 07.31.56

Since my son could stand up, he’s been passionate about heading uphill. I figured it would take me a decade to get him up to speed. I underestimated the guy and we’ve had a lot of fun over the last year, skiing, camping and hiking.

My son has been eating up The Way of the Warrior Kid. There’s an unexpected overlap between the Code of The Warrior Kid and what he learned at his Buddhist preschool. The code fits with what I’m seeking to achieve in my own life.

2016-09-18-18-01-09

So that got me thinking… rather than figuring out how to fix grumpy ski-patrollers, why don’t we train ourselves to be the change.

  • The best memories of my life (and my son’s) are in the mountains
  • It’s a project we can enjoy for many years
  • It’s a beautiful legacy to leave him
  • It’s local
  • There’s no judges, tournaments, competitions or rankings
  • It provides huge motivation for me to stay in the game

2019-07-16 08.01.59

What would our code look like? Here’s a draft and we can make it our own over the next few years.

  • Fit For Purpose => strong, durable, resilient
  • Skilled => able to get where we need to be, in any conditions
  • Peer, Teacher & Student => learn from the experienced, share our knowledge and work with others
  • Prudent => pause and consider consequences
  • Prepared => we carry extra so we can help others
  • Calm, Humble and Patient => Knowing I need much more of this at home, I will practice it in my favorite environment. These traits are also on my (hotshot) son’s “to do” list.

The lesson here isn’t about the mountains.

The mountains are our story.

The lesson is to pay attention to passion and use childhood interests to create a value system for navigating the world.

Let’s fill the world with positive memories for our children.

How I Watch Sport

2019-11-08 16.19.44It was the family’s first water polo tournament this past weekend.

2019-11-08 12.46.22It’s worth spending time to understand what YOU want from sport. This will let you see if your desires line up with the reality of your sport-of-choice.

I’ve seen enough to decide it’s best if I focus primarily on my kids’ sport.

I have one overriding goal for my kids.

Create an enduring positive association with exercise.

Former athletes, bitter athletes, non-athletes… they can lack the positive association and it costs them.

It is easy to get distracted by winning, skill development, playing time, parent board politics…

Create the positive association!

ax_poloSo, when I watch:

  • Sit passively and try to learn what’s going on => my kids don’t do “my” sports
  • Very little feedback => only positive, given 1-on-1, after they’ve slowed down from the event
  • Be seen in the last third of practice (it’s the only part they remember) => use the first 2/3rds of practice to do something useful => I buy groceries then read a book
  • Phone put away (ideally in airplane mode – warn your spouse you won’t be taking pictures or answering questions)
  • Listen to, and work through, coaches => reinforce a consistent message => you need a team (and school) culture that matches what you teach at home => if your teen tracks into a single sport then her team becomes a key reference point, at an important transitional point in her life
  • Ample healthy snacks afterwards => do not train the “exercise-sugar-reward” cycle, as it will haunt them forever!
  • Drive them with no music, no electronics => create a forum to ask about life issues => no taboo topics, everyone gets to speak (or not speak)

If you’d predicted that I would enjoy doing the above, even three years ago, then I would have said you were high.

The fact that I look forward to these times shows I am incapable of predicting where life will take me!

2019-11-08 17.39.27Take the above together:

  1. Dad is there
  2. Dad’s not on his phone
  3. Dad talks about anything
  4. Food rewards are healthy snacks => strong food
  5. Dad is always happy to see me afterwards

Building these habits was a major pain in the rear.

The phone habit is a tough one!


ax_g_poloI’ll end with a story.

My son is the youngest on the team and he has a concern, he might drown.

Bro, there’s no way you’re going to drown. You’re going to pass out and that’s no big deal.

I’ll Superman into the pool, we’ll pull you out and I’ll stay with you until you wake up.

You can even go back in, if you want.

Thanks Dad.

2019-11-09 16.01.23