Top Tips for Spring Skiing

Photo of Chicks Guide Angela Hawse spring skiing in Iceland to accompany top 12 spring skiing tips

Angela Hawse, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, carves up some corn—perfect spring skiing conditions in Iceland.

If you love skiing, like me, then refuse to put your skis away when the lifts shut down!

As winter ends and spring begins, the snowpack changes rapidly. During this time there is often a short but exciting period of stability—a window of opportunity for us to get high, climb peaks and ski bigger lines, all with bountiful daylight hours!

The definition of a spring snowpack means that the snow has “transitioned.” It has become a consistent temperature and homogeneous mass from top to bottom.

Here’s a more technical explanation:

In the spring as the sun moves higher in the sky it brings warmer daytime temperatures. This increased daytime warmth reduces the temperature gradient between the surface layer and the ground layer and the snow starts to melt. Eventually, the snow pack transitions to isothermal. This means it’s 32 degrees and wet from top to bottom. Low nighttime temperatures freeze the homogeneous snowpack into a solid, stable mass. Then, during the day, warm temperatures deteriorate the ice bonds and the snow starts to melt and become less stable again.


1. Timing and melt-freeze is everything when it comes to spring skiing.

2. A spring snowpack needs solid, consistent overnight freezes to maintain its integrity.

3. Avalanche hazard continues to exist in the form of wet slab and wet loose avalanches. Even though these are more predictable and avoidable, they can occur on very low-angled terrain and can be extremely destructive. You and your partners should have avalanche training under your belt and be honed in companion rescue skills.

4. Study your local avalanche forecast to know when the snowpack has transitioned. Pay particular attention to conditions on different aspects and elevations. You can have a fully transitioned snowpack on a southern aspect, but full winter conditions on a higher, northern aspect.

5. Travel only when the snow surface is supportable, dry, or frozen. Good turns happen when the snow’s surface warms up just enough to be soft and forgiving but not too slushy. This kind of snow is called corn. Good corn conditions will often present only during a short timeframe.

6. Maximize travel time when the snowpack is frozen solid. Play it safe, get up early and skin by the light of a headlamp or the moon.

7. Pay attention to what’s going on underfoot and be ready to adjust your plan depending on how fast the day warms up, or does not warm up. You may need to wait on top of a summit for the snow to soften into corn (Where else would you rather be?). If the snow gets punchy, get off it quickly. Scoot around to a shady aspect and always have an escape plan.

8. Aspect, aspect, aspect. Think of the mountain like a compass. The sun hits east aspects first, then south, then west. With some experience you can time all day spring skiing by positioning yourself so that if you don’t like the conditions on one aspect you can quickly ski off to another. Carry a compass and know how to use it.

9. Ski crampons are essential. Ski crampons enable you to ascend steep, frozen snow slopes securely and efficiently. Get them, don’t forget them, and always put them on before your skins start loosing traction.

10. Boot crampons that fit your ski boots securely give you access to more options and thus more summits. Boot crampons also offer increased security if the upper reaches of the mountain don’t warm up and you want to climb back down rather than ski icy, exposed pitches.

11. A lightweight ice axe gives you added security in firm, steep conditions. Put the poles away as soon as a slip could become a fall and make sure you have self-arrest skills with your ice axe to back up that plan.

12. Weather telemetry and forecasts are your best friends. Know how to access local remote measures of current and past weather data like temperatures, and use point forecasts to get temperatures at different elevations.

Keep an eye out for future spring and ski mountaineering opportunities with us if you love skiing and want to enjoy your turns as long as there’s snow in the hills. We hope to see you out there!


Co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, IFMGA Mountain Guide


Chicks guides and participants digging a snow pit during a recent avalanche training course.

Chicks guides and participants digging a snow pit during a recent avalanche training course.

Hello friends, old and new!

It’s the middle of March and I’m in Park City, Utah, in the middle of teaching an avalanche course.

I went for a walk this evening and spring filled the air. I walked without a hat or a jacket and I had to slow down and adjust to the warmth step by step. The sun, lingering low in the evening sky, had been strong all day. Earlier in the day, the snow under our skis and shovel blades turned to slush as the solar radiation pushed its way through the surface of the snowpack.

As guides, we at Chicks spend all year in the mountains and each season has its own emotional meaning. For me, winter is especially meaningful because of my love for skiing.

From the weightless bouncing through powder snow, to peaceful walks in snowy woods, to the gratifying effort of climbing a peak on skis and skins, skiing is dear to my heart. I enjoy nothing more than exploring the winter landscape on skis.

For this reason, over the last few years, we’ve expanded our ski program. Our goal, as always, is to share our love of mountain adventures with women, AND support the learning and skills for inspired women to get on the sharp end, to break their own trails.

Our ski program has been an amazing journey. Backcountry hut trips, far-off ski adventures in La Grave, France and Japan, and our avalanche education programs have been really special.

Traveling in the mountains is not easy. Traveling in winter in the mountains is even harder. Sub-zero temps threaten to freeze your fingers solid; fierce winds whip your face; fiery hot sun suddenly puts everything and everyone around you into melt-down mode; deep powder, that’s too deep; and windblown hard sheets of snow.

Winter mountain travel—Backcountry Skiing—has it all.

But here’s what’s really special and amazing: we learn to overcome these challenges together. We persevere in solidarity, keeping our fingers and toes intact, smiling even as we drown in deep powder snow, laughing as we sprint for the shade of the northern aspect. Learning together we stomp right past the fleeting, transitory, and way-too-easy feelings, to find instead a state of satisfaction and contentment. As much as the beautiful mountains teach us, as fun as skiing is, without connection, without face-to-face sharing, without trading our smiles and tears, we’d fall short, yearning for something more.

This is what is truly amazing and special about the Chicks experience: the strong bond that forms in our groups. When the trip ends, we part ways as friends, knowing that we are together, even as we head back home, alone.

So say goodbye to winter, and hello to spring.

It’s still a great time to ski if you’re willing to earn your turns. Read Angela’s Top Tips for Spring Skiing.

And, of course, spring is time for rock climbing! We’re off to Joshua Tree, CA in a few weeks and Indian Creek, UT soon after that.

As much as I’ll miss the lessons of the snow, I look forward to getting schooled in the rules of rock climbing pegmatite dikes and splitter sandstone.

I hope you’ll join us!

Karen Bockel, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, IFMGA Mountain Guide

Trip Report: Subaru Adventure Team Women’s Ice Climbing Clinic Contest

Doing the Crampon Dance. Kelly Clarke, third from left, won the 2017 Subaru Adventure Team Women's Ice Climbing Scholarship @Elaina Arenz

Doing the Crampon Dance with an extraordinary group of women. Kelly Clarke, third from left, won the 2017 Subaru Adventure Team Women’s Ice Climbing Scholarship @Elaina Arenz

Chicks is an extraordinary group of women. Not just the amazing guides and leaders, but everyone that participates in a Chicks clinic has wisdom to impart, strengths to share and courage to elevate themselves and those around them. I recently had the opportunity to participate in the life changing experience of a Chicks with Picks ice climbing clinic through a generous scholarship from the Subaru Adventure Team.


Itseems a bit dramatic to use the term ‘life-changing,’ but with the Chicks program focused on giving you all around mountaineering, climbing and ice focused skills (or backcountry skiing and avy training in other cases), it’s assured you won’t approach your next outdoor trip the same. Since the clinic, I even hike differently.


This trip still seems quite unreal. I had gone ice climbing for the first time recently with a friend that I had met through a networking group for women climbers in Colorado Springs, belayHER. It was so much fun, but I knew nothing. I wanted to get gear to ice climb, but I had no idea where to start. I wanted to have more confidence, and an understanding of the basic skills, but it seemed like an insurmountable task. I am forever grateful to my friend for being a solid climber that I trusted as a leader. But often with adventure sports you can’t just trust your one friend’s opinion when looking to get to a place where you’re building knowledge and working to gain independence in that sport.


I had heard about the Subaru Adventure Team because they sponsor an event at my climbing gym. Just when I had been bitten hard by the bug to want to ice climb, they announced a contest giving away a women’s ice climbing scholarship. I dropped everything and submitted an entry right away. The premise was that you uploaded a picture and then asked your friends to vote for it. So I did that. Some of the other entries had an insane amount of votes right away, and I had resigned myself to thinking that while it looked like an amazing opportunity, it would not be for me. My sister saw it differently. She thought the contest was awesome, and really wanted me to have this opportunity to pursue ice climbing. She sent the link out to everyone in the company she works for. “Vote for my sister!” Then my friends started sharing the link on social media. Then friends of friends, people I have never met, started sharing the link. My campaign to solicit votes grew beyond anything I thought was remotely possible. And somehow I won.


I still didn’t really believe that I had won, even as I drove from Colorado Springs to Ouray. I was fully prepared to turn around and head home when I arrived, because there would have been a misunderstanding or it just wasn’t real. Not so. I arrived at the Secret Garden B&B, the main meeting spot for the weekend, and was welcomed with warmth, kindness and stoke for the weekend ahead.


We discussed our goals for the weekend and Dawn Glanc explained what to expect, how to dress and how to plan for the days ahead. I was awarded the prize package that was a part of the contest – an awesome Osprey backpack that I will now use year round for all different types of adventures, and coveted Black Diamond crampons and Black Diamond ice tools!! It still didn’t feel real, because it was just too good to be true.


After the intros, we got set up with demo gear. This was one of the invaluable parts of the weekend (Really, all aspects were invaluable). Gear is expensive, and it’s hard to know what you want with no baseline. For example, I’ve wanted to get a Patagonia puffy, but wasn’t sure what style would meet my needs so I never got one. Well, after getting to try one in an active outdoor situation, I now know exactly what I want. I was able to use a pair of Scarpa boots all weekend, and now I am sure of what size I want to get so that I have solid kicks and warm feet. My feet are always cold, and those boots kept them toasty all weekend. They were surprisingly light and didn’t feel awkward to hike in at all. And I was definitely swayed to get a particular pair of Outdoor Research gloves. I could go on. But it was great to leave at the end of the weekend having a clearer idea and general confidence for what I want to purchase as I become the self-sufficient climber that Chicks with Picks taught me to be.


Post gear grab, we had the most amazing meal. But then Sarah Sharpe at The Secret Garden continued to outdo herself each meal thereafter. Every detail is well thought out, and the entire weekend you feel like you’re getting nothing but the best that Ouray has to offer.


After dinner, we headed back to our accomodations at the Victorian Inn. There I thought about the tips we reviewed earlier and worked on smartly packing my Osprey pack with everything I would need for the next day. Grabber warmers? Thank you, and check! Extra layers packed in plastic bags in case things got wet (including five additional pairs of gloves). Check! A week’s worth of snacks that weren’t needed, because delicious lunches from Artisan Bakery in town were provided. Check! I packed much lighter on Sunday. I watched some YouTube videos on how to attach ice axes to an Osprey pack. Then I went through the generous sponsor bag with items from Petzl, Gu, Rock and Ice, ect. Things I will use and all from brands that I love! There was even a Sterling sling that will pair nicely with my favorite climbing accessory, the Sterling HollowBlock. Seriously, we haven’t even started and this has already been the coolest weekend.


Day One – South Park


For the first climbing day, we all met in The Vic’s parking lot and headed to the park. It was ridiculously close to where we were staying. Elaina Arenz was my guide for the weekend, but our group joined forces with Anna Keeling’s group, and it worked extremely well to combine forces. It made for more climbing opportunities, more belay buddies and learning from two experts! We headed to South Park in Ouray Ice Park for our first climbs, and on the way Anna talked about hiking strategies and how good footwork translates across to climbing. It always amazes me when people who are among the best at what they do are able to break things down to teach people with minimal experience. Both Anna and Elaina are great at this.


When we got to the trailhead for the South Park area, we reviewed the art of securing crampons. I still need to work on this, but I am also glad Elaina went over the process with me the night before. We worked on walking in crampons, up and down slopes. Again, Anna broke down the form in a way that gave us small aspects to think about and practice. While that was going on, Elaina was setting up routes for us. Before we headed down to the canyon, we took a short hike along the anchors and talked about ‘good, better, and best’ practices for setting anchors. Elaina was using full Sterling ropes with a simple yet redundant system. Some people were using thin cordlette that made me nervous to step over in crampons and over-complicated systems. Elaina obviously had the most rock solid anchors, but it was really helpful to break down the different variations we saw.


In the canyon, Anna and Elaina demonstrated the basics for what we would be doing. We practiced swinging ice axes and kicking in crampons on ground level. My form still needs a lot of work, but practicing this before climbing helps a ton, because when you get on a wall of ice it’s harder to think about good form. After a bit of practice, it was time to get to climbing!


We started with some less steep routes and then worked on steeper routes towards the end of the day. Sarah Moore, Amanda Hankinson and Jo Coulter adapted quickly and were even trying mixed routes by the end of the day. With the mention of Jo, I have to say that she had the coolest helmet in South Park that day – the Grivel Stealth. Amy Swanson seemed to pick up the techniques right away. Jamie Lin had only been to a climbing gym a couple of times and absolutely slayed the first day out ice climbing.


I had trouble keeping my heels down on climbs, but I got a lot of tips that I will continue to work on. It was great to get some experience on the ice, but it was also great to be able to watch other people climb. It was really cool to watch Anna and Elaina each climb a route. And after getting instruction from Anna and Elaina, it was easy to pick up on what other climbers in the canyon were doing wrong. On the whole, our group looked pretty great in comparison.


At the end of the day we headed back down the icy canyon. Both Amy and I took the ice slide down one steep portion, on accident. No one was hurt. We both laughed at ourselves and then remembered to keep in mind the tips Anna had bestowed earlier.


We met at The Secret Garden for another incredible home cooked meal by Sarah, a recap of the day and a breakdown of all the different gear options in ice climbing by the legendary Kitty Calhoun. This was another invaluable addition to the weekend. We learned the pros and cons of different ice tools, crampons, boots, clothes, nutrition, ect. Inevitably I decided my next pair of crampons would be Black Diamond Sabretooths and I was definitely going to get a bunch of Gu Summit Tea for later outings. Also, I am lusting after a set of Grivel ice axes for when I start delving into mixed climbing.


Day Two – Scottish Gullies


On the second day we walked up Box Canyon Road from The Vic to climb in the Lower Bridge/Scottish Gullies area. Again, we combined groups and Elaina set up the ropes while Anna coached us on the short but steep approach, but not without an adorable facetime between Amy and her daughter first. “Mama, don’t get hurt!” Quick aside: I love seeing moms doing adventurous things to better themselves and I love kids seeing their moms doing rad things. Go Amy!


This canyon had a river running through it and planks set up to get to the belay spots and climbs. It was gorgeous. I may have found these planks more daunting than the climbs to start, but by the end of the day I was traversing them with no problem, thanks to Anna’s attention and coaching.


The climbs in this canyon were a little taller and a little more advanced than the previous day. Sue Browning had a stellar day. She took a fall at one point and impressed me with how she overcame that challenge and kept climbing. Sue hadn’t been climbing in something like ten years, but you would never know it by how she climbed over the weekend. Sarah Rickel had a complete breakthrough day. All her past Chicks clinics came together and she found a new confidence in her climbing. It was awesome to see. It was also great to belay her on a few of these climbs!


By the end of the day, Jo, S’Moore and Amanda were trying more technical mixed climbs. Rickel, Jamie and I were practicing climbing with no axes or just one axe to work on better footwork.


Some had to leave early, but after the day of climbing we headed back to The Secret Garden for more delightful food, and to recap the weekend. We had a round table where we discussed our biggest take-away, then our guide would say what they thought we got out of the clinic. For me, I was really excited to learn the foundations for good form in ice climbing. I’ve by no means perfected it, but I know what to think about and what to work on every time I head out. It was really cool to hear about the other, more advanced groups that Dawn Glanc and Lindsay Hamm took out. Aimee, Diane, Gina, Nicole, Mary and Victoria worked on more advanced skills and even had their first lead climbs! I aspire to be like Diane some day, who has taken pretty much every clinic Chicks has offered in the past year and has transformed into a really confident and independent climber in a short amount of time.


It was great to meet everyone that participated in the 2018 Jiffy clinic. I look forward to coming back to another clinic when I am ready to take my ice climbing to the next level. I want to extend a huge thank you to Chicks Climbing and Skiing, The Subaru Adventure Team, Osprey and Black Diamond for letting me have such an unreal experience – and for supporting each other in a way that raises the climbing community. I’ve already been able to take my new skills and gear out on some climbs closer to home in Cheyenne Canyon and Hully Gully, and I can’t wait to get back to Ouray. Hope to see you all out on the ice soon!



Spring is in the Air and I’m Dreaming of Winter

Dawn Glanc, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, ice-climbing, Second Gully, Silverton, Co

Dawn Glanc, co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, on the prowl for spring-time ice with a wild-child smile, Second Gully, Silverton, Co. ©Pat Ormond

March is my favourite month.

It’s still winter. The skiing and ice climbing are at their best. My desire to get out and play is childlike and wild.

Yet, I feel winter slipping away. The stronger sun is trying to help spring arrive.

Ice climbing season is ending in front of my eyes.

As the ice melts, I continue to feel the need to climb it. The sun warms my face, and I also feel the need for spring.

It is a weird dichotomy. Some call it March Madness. I want my first love, which is ice. I also want the ease of sport climbing—to be comfortable in only one layer of long underwear. A tank top would be too much, too fast.

They say March “comes in like a lion, and out like a lamb.”

For me, this means it’s the month to hunt down and tackle the last of winter, then gambol about on some sunny, spring rock.

I urge you to take on the last of winter. Roar and rope up, or click in, before the magical winter wonderland melts away.

At the same time I urge you to get ready for rock climbing. Go to the gym during the week and follow the Chicks: 8-Week Rock Climbing Training Program outlined below.

Bluebird rock climbing days will be here soon enough and if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself dreaming of winter.

If you’re not like me, and, instead you think I’m mad for wanting winter to stick around, the good news is, it won’t. Spring is in the air!

I hope to see you all on the rock this season!

A Love Letter to Grabber Warmer’s Zim’s Max Freeze

Zim's Max Freeze

Zim’s Max Freeze

Muscle love

It may come as a shock to many, but as a guide, I get very little time to climb.

Yes, I’m outside all day. BUT most of my time is spent standing and belaying so that my guests get maximum climbing time.

This schedule means that when it’s MY TIME to climb or train, I go overboard.

During the busy season, I’m not quite a weekend warrior as I only get one or two days off a month; I’m more of a month-end or once-a-month warrior. As a result, I take on an amplified warrior mentality and pursue objectives that I should have trained for, but did not.

Straight off the belaying-and-standing-around-all-month couch I find the pump sets in and stays for longer periods of time. Then, over-activity on the back of under-activity lingers as desperate muscle soreness.

This is where Zim’s Max Freeze comes in. I’ve been using this topical muscle cream from Grabber as a go-to to support MY CLIMBING TIME this winter.

Thinking about it, Grabber is a particularly intimate partner. All day, Grabber Warmers cosy up in my pockets and keep me warm. All night, Zim’s roll-on soothes my aches and pains and helps prevent muscle cramps after long, hard days.

From freeze to thaw, from night to day, Grabber is there.

Thank you Grabber! For years and years, you’ve helped thousands of women get into ice climbing and over their FOC (Fear of Cold).

Now, when Chicks work really hard on the ice and rock and snow, then suffer from TMF (Too Much Fun), you freeze our muscle pains away. You’re the best!

Big hugs from all of us at Chicks.

A Love Letter to My Osprey Variant

Chicks participant crossing a mountain stream wearing an Osprey Variant backpack

High ho, a climbing we will go. Stream crossing on a Chicks trip to Mount Hood @Karen Bockel

The one pack to rule them all.

Ok, I’ll admit it: I have about ten backpacks. They hang neatly on hooks in the garage. Or, I should say, the gearage!

Some of my packs are highly specific to certain activities. For example my Osprey Kamber 40 ABS airbag is for skiing. My Osprey Mutant 28 is for sport climbing.

BUT, if I had to choose one pack, JUST ONE, for the rest of my life, to travel, to climb, to ski, to mountaineer, even for backpacking, it would be the Osprey Variant.

It’s truly the Queen mother of packs.

The Variant excels in practicality. I love practicality! Well-thought out details are exciting. Extra bells and whistles are a turn off.

The Variant is a technical backpack designed for multi-use. Which is amazing! Since I’m always on a different mountain mission: from weeklong backcountry ski hut trips; to guiding in the Ouray Ice Park; to climbing the Grand Teton.

Variant’s very Cool design features:

  • Removable hip belt and top lid, so I can ditch some weight for long days.
  • Contoured hip belt and gear loops, which works well for climbing, especially scrambling when I might want to clip gear directly to the loops.
  • Easily accessible and durable front pocket to store my sharp crampons.
  • Rope fits under the lid, held securely with a compression strap.
  • Further compression straps make sure all my stuff is safe and snug.
  • State of the art ice tool attachments hold any oddly shaped, modern ice tools like few packs can.
  • Side straps hold skis in a comfortable A-frame carrying system that allows access to the lid’s contents AND ability to stuff extra layers in the front pocket without taking the skis off—These are important features when booting up a long slope for a spring ski descent!
  • All zippers are easy to open with my gloves on.
  • Durable materials make it tough. I’ve crawled up chimneys with it. I’ve wrestled through dense brush with it–Hey! If that’s what you’ve got to do to get to a climb, that’s what you’ve got to do! I’ve hauled it with the 3-point attachment system.

What else can I say, but ‘Thank you, Osprey’!

The multi-use Variant backpack takes many abuses and lives multiple long lives.

This pack is technically ready for multi-adventure—a true leader among packs.

Chicks Training: 8-Week Basic Rock Climbing Training Program (First 4 Weeks)

Carolyn Parker climbing in the Sandia Mountains

Carolyn Parker, founder Ripple Effect Training, gamboling on sunny rock, Sandia Mountains, NM ©

For Gals looking to fit training into a busy work/life schedule

Over the years I’ve taught hundreds of women to climb.

By far, their most common “fear,” or concern, is: “I’m not strong enough.”

The truth is no climber was strong for climbing when they started.

Climbing makes you strong. Anyway, not being a “thug” can be an advantage because it forces you to learn good technique, which will get you further than strength any day.

So, practice! Get some good coaching to learn great technique, and then add some strength and you’ll be off to a fantastic start.

Following is a weekly schedule. After that each day is broken down with more specific suggestions, including details for a basic strength-training workout.

If you’re a new climber, avoid climbing on back-to-back days unless you must for scheduling reasons. The following schedule is “ideal” but move days around, as you need, for the “reality” of life.

Most gals need to work on flexibility. Try to squeeze in a yoga class and do a little on your own.

Keep a climbing journal. Track the difficulty and style of the routes you climb: i.e. steep or technical. This way you will remember where you started. It’s easy to lose perspective because there’s always someone better.

8-Week Rock Climbing Training Program

Weekly Schedule:

Monday – Yoga or Active Recovery

Tuesday – Climb

Wednesday – Aerobic + Yoga

Thursday – Climb

Friday – Rest

Saturday – Climb (Outside, if possible)

Sunday – Strength Training + Aerobic


Let your muscles recover from the busy weekend.

Yoga or Active Recovery: 45 – 60 min easy walk, jog, bike, hike or other. Stay aerobic which means easy conversational pace, the kind of pace where you and a BFF could sort out a plan for world peace.



Warm up—pick an easy route for you—you shouldn’t get pumped, or not very pumped. Let’s say, for you, that’s 5.7.

Then try this grouping with a total of 7 – 8 routes:

1 x 5.7

2 x 5.8

2 x 5.9

1 – 2 x 5.10

1 x 5.8 (cool down)

The hardest route, or peak difficulty, in this case 5.10, is a climb or grade where you have to hang to figure it out. In other words the route SHOULD take you more than one try. At first, pick routes that are your style. Do not move on because you couldn’t do a route.

Instead, use the route as a teacher. Work the moves, memorize them, and then complete the route. This may take more than one day. That’s ok. You are building the strength to climb at this grade. Once you complete your “training project” pick a few new routes to accomplish.

Note: start at and attempt whatever grade is appropriate for you, easier or harder.

The goal over the 8 weeks is to complete as many routes that are hard for you (routes that force you to fall or hang) AND increase the number of attempts you make on routes of that difficulty.

The key is to consider both goals. If your projects are too difficult, you’ll have many attempts but no completions. If they are too easy, you’ll have lots of completions, but no attempts.

Balancing these two goals, you will learn technique and build strength/endurance at the same time. If a route is too hard, technique falls apart. If it is too easy, you won’t have the opportunity to use new movements.

By the end of the Chicks 8-Week Rock Climbing Training program your gym session may now look like this:

1 x 5.8

1 x 5.9

2 x 5.10

1 x 5.10+

1 x 5.10-

1 x 5.9

1 x 5.8


Climbing well isn’t all about climbing. You also need a well-developed aerobic capacity to manage recovery while in motion.

60 – 90 minutes hike, bike, ski, run. Stay aerobic the entire time. Again, this means conversational pace but a tad faster than world peace pace. More like how your man can’t seem to hit the toilet when he’s taking a pee pace.



Same as Tuesday.


Rest Day. This is the hardest day for some. Yes…do it. Actually, rest (:


Head outside. Nothing beats a day outdoors with friends doing the very thing that you are training for. Top rope or lead as many pitches as you can. You should have a huge smile on your face at the end of the day.

If you can’t get outdoors, follow Tuesday’s suggestion for an indoor progression.



Basic workout #1, the first four weeks

2 x 8 Shoulder opener

2 x 5 Push-ups

2 x 8 Sit-ups

2 x 30 secs dumbbell push press/30 secs overhead hold

3 x 8 air squats


1 x 8 assisted pull-up

Rest 60 secs


5 x

3 – 4 x Pull-ups using the least assistance that allows for full range of motion and good form.

10 x Anchored Supine Leg Raises


5 x

5 x Bent Over Row – standing

10 x Weighted Windshield Wiper (5 per side)


3 x

30 sec dip hold

30 sec plank

30 sec rest

Cool Down for 10:00 minutes easy cardio again, foam roller, stretching.

Stay tuned for the next Chicks Training article and the second 4 weeks of the Program.

Intro to Ski Mountaineering in La Grave, France

Get The Goods in La Grave, France

Intro to Ski Mountaineering

Click on any of the photos below for more information on Intro to Ski Mountaineering in La Grave. All photos are from a Chicks trip with Erin Smart in 2017.

skinning up. Ski mountaineering in la Grave

Working for The goods. Skinning up a slope in La Grave, France.


Rapelling. Ski Mountaineering.

Rappelling into couloir, La Grave.


ski mountaineering in La Grave

Chicks pause for a photo at the top of a couloir way above La Grave.


ski mountaineering in La Gave France

Too much fun! Look at that smile. Look closely, you can see tracks WAY down there.


ski mountaineering in La Grave, France

Making turns far above La Grave. See ya! Definitely want to be ya!

La Grave snow report. Click the screen shot below to see an updated forecast…

La Grave Snow Report

La Grave Snow Report

A Love Letter to My Patagonia Micro Puff

Kitty Calhoun out testing Patagonia's new Micro Puff Jacket on a recent ski tour in Colorado's San Juan Mountains.

Kitty Calhoun out testing Patagonia’s new Micro Puff Jacket on a recent ski tour in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains.

I never thought when I was learning to ski at age 6 where my skis would take me.

How many memories my gear and clothes would hold?

I remember my Dad helping me into a garage-sale jacket and putting mittens on my tiny, frozen hands.

There’s the short, tailored sweater with yellow and blue stripes that I wore as a teenager—a tool to attract boys.

When I started winter climbing, I gave up fashion for the function of baggy wool: a brown, plaid button-down, army trousers, and Dachstein mitts.

Back then we all wore wool because it kept us insulated from the cold even when it was wet.

Kitty Calhoun skiing the East Face of Teewinot , Grand Teton National Park, 1982, in her fashion backwards Army Surplus wool knickers and sweater.

Kitty Calhoun skiing the East Face of Teewinot , Grand Teton National Park, 1982, in her fashion backwards Army Surplus wool knickers and sweater.

The problem was the smell of sweaty, wet wool is distinctive. And, inevitably, before the end of a long day, an ice storm would blow in and I’d be caked—further insulated with a thick layer of snow and ice!

After college new fabrics became available. To save money, I made my own waterproof anorak but splurged on a Patagonia fleece.

Living out of my Subaru, I didn’t have many clothes. I wore this fleece day and night for eight years. I loved it because it didn’t stink when it got wet. It was also softer, and dried faster than wool.

Kitty Calhoun at 14, 158 feet on the Summit of Mt Sneffles, Co, 1982, wearing her homemade anorak and wool gloves.

Kitty Calhoun at 14, 158 feet on the Summit of Mt Sneffles, Co, 1982, wearing her homemade anorak and wool gloves.

Over the years I have tested many different insulating jackets.

Always, the challenge is to find a material that insulates by trapping heat but also breathes. A material that “breathes” means that it allows moisture vapor to move away from your body and your next-to-skin, wicking, base layer.


For a decade, Patagonia worked to answer the problem that when down gets wet it looses its heat-trapping loft, but synthetics are never as warm and compressible.

The Micro Puff is the answer. It’s a synthetic jacket made with a unique patterning construction that works to prevent down-like filaments from shifting.

The result is the best warmth to weight ration of any jacket Patagonia has ever created. That is saying a lot!


The Micro Puff is not a belay jacket.

The Micro Puff is designed to be part of a layering system, which Patagonia developed in the 1970’s:

  1. Next-to-skin wicking layer
  2. Insulating layer
  3. Wind, water resistant/proof shell


 We couldn’t be more proud to have Patagonia as the title sponsor for Chicks Climbing and Skiing.

We look forward to new adventures in jackets of higher performing materials partnered with a company whose mission includes “using business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”

Try out Patagonia’s revolutionary layering system at our clinics.

Tracks Less Travelled; First Steps to Backcountry Skiing

back country skiers follow a skin track

Winter wonderland, skiing in mellow backcountry terrain

Walking on skis through snow-covered woods is my favorite winter exercise.

As much as I love carving up a sleeping powder bowl with perfect turns, skiing in avalanche terrain requires more preparation, planning, and partners.

Backcountry skiing is as much about skiing the steep and deep as it is about getting into the peace and quiet of the winter wonderland. It’s about leaving behind the shouts and bustle of the ice park, the constant whir and clink of running lifts.

In the backcountry, I find space to rejuvenate, to reflect, and to breathe deeply.

If you’re just getting started, you should know that there is plenty of mellow backcountry terrain. There are many places where you can avoid avalanche terrain altogether and just learn about walking through snow-covered woods.

Get the Gear

A lightweight set-up is key for enjoying tracks away from the crowds. Good enough is perfect, but err on the side of light.


Lighter is better, and in the 90-105 mm range underfoot.


Comfortable is better, with a wide range for walking.


I recommend tech bindings, which allow free heels for climbing and locked heels for the way back down.


They should fit so that the metal edge of your ski is exposed on both sides, nothing more, nothing less.


You MUST have rescue gear whether you are in avalanche terrain or not. A shovel, beacon and probe come with me on ALL my ski adventures.

Start Small and Simple

Getting used to your gear will take a little time. But that’s ok because it’s fun!

Choose a groomed cross country ski trail or a snow-packed, low-angle backroad to make your first tracks. Without leaving civilization too far behind, you can focus on learning key movements:


Let your skins glide over the snow.


Practice going from skin mode, to ski mode, and back again. It’s much harder to make this transition in deep snow, steep terrain and wind. Run through the process a few times in the parking lot, or in your living room!


Make sure you understand features like heel risers.

Where is it Safe? Make a Plan

Things look different in winter. Even very familiar summer hiking areas can become confusing when covered in snow. Remember that summer trails are made for summer travel i.e. when there’s no avalanche hazard.


  • Before you leave the trailhead look for major landmarks to orient yourself.
  • Use a GPS app on your smart phone to help figure out the terrain.
  • Always bring a paper map along for backup.


Chart a course that is well separated from any steep slopes. Small, rolling hills with trees, or the foothills, are a good place to start.


  • Inquire at the local backcountry store for places to go.
  • Purchase and read a guidebook.


I don’t always remember the ski runs I did, but I always remember my partners—friends who skied with me.

A partner is a great backup if you’re just figuring everything out. Even better is an experienced friend willing to mentor you.

Going alone is ok, too. I do it all the time. But be sure to give yourself even bigger margins for error:

  • Don’t even get close to avalanche terrain.
  • Tell someone where you’re going.
  • Stick to well-travelled paths that will easily lead you back to your car.

Bonus Tip:

Rent gear from a local Backcountry ski store. This way you can try out the equipment and narrow down the endless choices.

Buying Online?

I have bought boots online, but, in general, it’s best to try them on.

You can find Rescue Gear as a set online for the best deals.

Bonus Video: