Skiing with poorly fitting boots is like riding a bike without a seat. You’ll probably get to your destination, but it’s not an enjoyable experience.
In 2003 I built my Colnago Dream Plus road bike. I found Chris King headsets from a velo swap, the frame from an Ebay seller in the UK, Reynolds Ouzo Carbon forks, Campagnolo drive train, and Vittoria Open Corsa CX tires on Mavic rims. The bicycle is a work of ridable art. I still feel joy every time I take it on the road. Of all that went in to it, the most important selections I made were for the saddle, handlebars, and cycling shoes with Surefoot insoles – the points where my body touches the equipment.
Boots – There Are So Many Choices
I have skied in boots from several different makers – Raichle, Salomon, Rossignol, Tecnica, Atomic, Nordica, and Lange – and I gained insight to how my boots affect my body position and my technique. For instance, the boot’s ramp angle could be causing my heel to be too high or my toes to be too high, or the boot cuff could lean too far forward or be too upright.
Body position, ankle flex, and a neutral stance
Here is an exercise you can do at home with your existing boots, or in the boot shop when trying them on, or on the snow with your skis on. It’s one of several exercises I use to assess how the skier and their equipment are working together.
Boots with too much forward lean will put you ahead of the centerline, and boots that are too upright will sit your hips behind centerline. If you already have boots you like that don’t put you in proper alignment, adjustments can possibly be made by the boot fitter using toe or heel lifts, boot sole grinds, or cuff adjustments, but it is best to buy boots that align properly for your body.
Buying the Right Boots
My students and friends often ask how to select which boots to buy and I’m happy to give guidance when it comes to such an important decision. I recommend narrowing your choices to a few different boots, based on a few questions:
What is your height and weight, skill level, fitness level, and type of ski?
What type of terrain do you like to ski and what type of snow do you encounter most?
Different people with the same dimensions may have different requirements of the boot.
The Shell and the Liner
If you are able, find a professional boot fitter (I trust Surefoot) and with their help, try on your different options and follow these steps. You might find this approach unconventional but it will get you the best fit. Try on three sizes: Your usual size, one boot-shell-size smaller and one boot-shell-size larger (e.g., Sizes 25, 24, 26). In each size, check for which one fits your midfoot the best. Choose this size and work from there.
Next, is to take a “shell-fit” measurement by placing your foot in the shell of the boot with the liner removed and check for spacing between your foot and the shell for the length, and ankle placement. This will confirm that the make and model is a good fit for your anatomy. Lastly, check the forefoot width to make certain that it is not too tight or too loose in the toebox. Common widths in men’s boots are 97mm, 100mm, or 102mm. Your boot fitter can then adjust the width and length by punching and grinding the shell. In addition, injectable or heat moldable liners will help fill the inconsistencies between your foot and the shell of the boot. A stock boot liner with a solid midfoot fit may be all you need, however, I have a custom foam liner made to ensure my foot has the best possible fit, my ankle flexes properly, and my achilles and heel feel supported.
Orthotics and Insoles
A good insole or orthotic fills the gaps, gives your foot support, and places your ankle in a neutral position. This allows your leg to stack efficiently so that it is moving in alignment with the boot and ski. Proper alignment at the bottom* will allow the rest of your body to have the most versatility, range of motion, and will reduce fatigue. (*This is one of the meanings behind the name of the book: Skiing: from the Bottom Up.) When your foot is out of alignment, you are forced to make adjustments - in your ankles, knees, hips and spine - which are inefficient and sometimes lead to injury or pain. When your body is properly aligned and stacked and you ask it to move a certain way, it will; you won’t have to be making conscious adjustments to compensate for your misalignment.
Novice and intermediate skiers should have a softer flexing boot. A newer skier makes extraneous movements to stay in balance. If the boot is flexible it allows the energy to be absorbed rather than being fully transmitted to the ski and snow. As the skier becomes more skilled, the movements become more accurate and purposeful. A stiffer boot then transmits these movements along the edge of the ski to the snow more quickly and powerfully. A more flexible boot will absorb the pressure of moguls and off-piste terrain. A stiffer boot will require the skier to absorb the uneven terrain in the ankle, knee, hips, spine, and muscular system.
Boot Flex Numbers
It is important to note that there is no industry norm for boot flex. The current rating goes up to 150 for the stiffest race boots. Each manufacturer has its own standard, meaning a 120 flex in one brand may not be the same stiffness as a 120 flex in another brand, although they would be close. Finding the correct fit is primary, and forward flex is next. A final note, a boot will stiffen as the weather gets colder. The boot that you are flexing in the shop will be stiffer when you ski it on the hill. And a boot in January will be stiffer than the same boot for spring skiing in April.
My Current Boot Quiver
Having multiple boots is not required, but I have quite a collection going. I have three pair of Surefoot custom boots. One for backcountry, another for teaching on very cold days (it has a slightly wider toe box and is softer flexing), and the third pair with a “one-finger” high performance fit for teaching and for my days off. They all have a Lange shell with Surefoot X4 Pro or X5 Pro foam liners, Surefoot insoles, and a Thermic bootheater element under the ball of my foot.
I love the feeling of getting fitted and walking out to the shop with new shiny boots, almost as much as skiing them. Boots are the most important piece of gear I use, and I will invest more in boots than any other item. After you purchase new boots, you may find that they need a brief break in period to allow your feet to get use to the new fit. If you are new to orthotics it may take some time to get a good feel for them as well. The benefit of buying from a good bootfitter is that you can bring the boot back into the shop for on-going adjustments. If the adjustments don’t seem like they are working, it may be your technique. But not to worry, that is what upcoming blog posts and my upcoming book, Skiing: From the Bottom Up, will address.
How did my ski life start? Well, as many great endeavors begin, it was a woman, well actually an 18-year-old woman. Her name was Cindy Russell and she was beautiful. I was 18 too, and with nearly two seasons of self-taught snowboarding experience, I wasn’t ready for what I was about to get myself into. My snowboard instruction consisted of some pictures in Powder Magazine, and a segment in a Warren Miller Movie. The equipment in 1986 was pretty basic. I had Sorel work boots that I strapped in to the Burton Elite 150 snowboard. This was as techie as snowboarding had become in those early days.
It didn’t matter if I was riding alone or with a few of my skiing friends. What I knew was that sliding on water - frozen or liquid - was the best thing in the world. I started surfing when I was 11 and I thought that was the most bitchin’ thing ever. And then I found the freedom and friction-less glide of a seemingly endless wave. I couldn’t get enough, and I still can’t.
On weekends during the winter and spring, I drove my truck up to the Southern California mountains early every Saturday morning. I would “couch surf” in the nights and snowboard for those two days. Then the opportunity came to ask out the most beautiful girl I knew. I worked up the nerve to ask Cindy if she would go up to Big Bear Lake with me. She said, “Yes”!! And I was thrilled.
We left our town of Dana Point at 5 am and arrived laughing and smiling a couple hours later at 7:15. The weather that day was incredible with cool blue skies and 10 inches of fresh powder. My skills were going to be on display and the conditions were great. Cindy and I flirted and took powder laps one after the other until we skied out to the eastern boundary of the small ski area.
The boundary run ended on a cat track that was pancake flat and exposed to the midday sun. The snow had transformed into 10 inches of glue. I had never experienced this snow condition until right then when I flew into it at about 25 mph. My snowboard slowed immediately to zero as my upper body maintained its speed into a downward arc. When I emerged I was without gloves, goggles, my hat, and one Sorel. Cindy skied up to me, kindly retrieving my clothing and thanking me for the snow test in untracked conditions. This was not at all how I envisioned removing my clothing for the first time around Cindy.
As we pushed out of the seemingly never-ending flat run, I tried several ways to gain momentum, all of which ended in frustration and an increasing amount of sweat drenching my shirt under my jacket. When we finally came to a semi-groomed flat section I was exhausted. In capitulation, I made a request of Cindy that took my 18-year-old ego down several notches. I asked, “Cindy, can you pull me?” UGGGGGH, I couldn’t believe what I was saying as I thought to myself, ‘Jon, you were so cool, UNTIL NOW.’ Cindy extended her ski pole and began to skate with me in tow. This is when I decided that I was going to trade in my snowboard for skis.
In the lodge that afternoon, the trade was made. My transformation from snowboarder to skier was initiated. I was now the owner of 185 cm White Fischer RC4 skis and Raichle RE3 rear-entry boots. For the next three years, I would spend my college weekends becoming a Southern California skier.
This is an excerpt from Jon's forthcoming book Skiing: From the Bottom Up. Send your feedback and follow along here for weekly posts with stories and ski lessons from Jon's nearly three decades of experience.
Join Jon for the 2018 Zelement Club JaPOW ski and ride trip to Myoko, Japan. January 28 - February 4.
Private Lessons with Jon are available through Copper Mountain Ski School from mid-November to mid-April. Call +1.970.968.3023 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your lesson now. Read more about lessons with Jon on our Colorado page.
“We have a serious Coconut situation going on here!” she said to me as I began writing this book. You see, the book Skiing: From the Bottom Up (working title) is beginning to take shape at sunset while I overlook the Indian Ocean in Bali. I’ve been teaching the sport of skiing since the age of 23 and I planning to teach it for many years into the future. I absolutely love it! I chase the winter season differently. I now split my time between the state of Colorado for the winter, and Bali during the Southern Hemisphere “winter”. This perfect mix allows me to stoke my fire with the contrast of the two distinct environments. The story within this book has been writing itself for decades, but it took the tropical temperatures for the messages to blossom.
The idea for this book came to me during an online workshop for aspiring authors hosted by our friend Carl Massy at The Practice. Halfway through the session, I stopped listening (Sharon was engaged and taking great notes) and within 7 minutes I mind-mapped the outline of the book. As I write, I will share some of the content on the blog each week from now until mid-February and I’d love to hear your comments and feedback. You will join me on daily adventures in the life of a ski instructor – at 8 am Instructor Clinics and 4:30 Instructor Technical Sessions, to the backroom of the boot shop (Are you ready Surefoot crew?), and down memory lane recounting how the sport has evolved since I started teaching in 1992 – learning lessons to improve your skiing along the way.
In February, I will begin shooting and editing videos that will be companions to the blog and eventually the book. You will be applying your new skills on your first run after reading the book and you can take the instructional videos on the mountain with you. Powder, moguls, carving, skidding, speed and line control, breaking through the intermediate and advanced ruts, and developing Intuitive Jedi skiing skills.
I will do my best to make this experience incredible and fun for all those who read and follow and contribute. I have had such wonderful coaches and colleagues along my journey and I have also been blessed with many incredibly kind and generous students over the years who have supported my ski-teaching habit. Soon I will launch a GoFundMe account to raise the money to fund this project. The funds will be used for copywriting, editing, publishing, design, and video production. As a backer, you will have access to advanced copies of the book, first editions, on-mountain meet and greet ski sessions, 2-day Masterclass sessions, and a Signature 1-week Zelement Club vacation. And everyone who supports at any level will be recognized in the book credits.
I am honored to embark on this journey with you. As we go through process, I will post certain sections and other related content on the blog. I am excited to hear your feedback to make this book even better.
It’s time to build this from the Bottom Up.
Love and Gratitude,
Join us for JaPOW: A special week of coaching and teaching skiing in the famous powder of Japan | January 28-February 5, 2018.
Private Lessons with Jon are available through Copper Mountain Ski School from mid-November to mid-April. Call +1.970.968.3023 or email email@example.com to book your lesson. Read more about lessons with Jon on our Colorado page.
We were invited by this beautiful couple to their impromptu wedding ceremony. After a year in Bali, they were moving back to Europe.
At the request of the bride, Jon drove back home, loaded his guitar and amp on to his motorbike, and arrived again, this time as their wedding singer.
After the ceremony we learned that they have been married many times - to each other!! How many people do you know that have thought to treat marriage this way? Each time they live in a new place, they have a love ceremony to include all their new friends in their union.
It was an inspiring evening that got a group of former strangers discussing how we could be more kind and loving in our own relationships. See the good in each other, work together, and encourage each other. As we like to say, "One plus one equals three". Are you feeling this in your relationship? What can you do to make it even better?
And we drank wine 🍾🥂
#ChooseLove #ZelementHappiness #LivinLocal #BeZelemental #spreadthelove
"The rules do not always apply, think outside the box."
#2 Leadership Principle of Velinda Stevens 1952-2017 #N407VS 🚁
Read our stories inspired by other leadership principles of Velinda:
#1 Find Joy in Every Day
#5 Be Generous
Generosity comes in so many different flavors. How are you generous?
With your time?
With your money?
With your listening?
With your kind words and encouragement?
::Sometimes we think we don't have 'enough' to be generous::
This would be a good time to think about how you can be more generous with YOURSELF.
In what ways are you criticizing yourself - telling yourself you aren't ______ enough? (Fill in the blank.)
In what ways are you holding yourself back from what you really want to have, do, or be?
::Sometimes we think we don't have 'enough' to be generous::
Ketut & Wayan have huge hearts. When we sit down at their warung they bring baskets of complimentary snacks that get refilled before they are even empty. They watch our stuff while we are in the ocean. They let us pay them 'next time' when we don't have enough money with us. They greet all our friends with a smile and open arms. They stay late so we can enjoy conversations by the ocean in the moonlight. When we leave they fill our hands with snacks to take home.
Many Balinese have relatively little when it comes to money, education, access to stable housing and plumbing, yet they act generously.
So, when will you have 'enough' to see yourself as generous? 💖
#BeZelemental #LivinLocal #ZelementHappiness
- #5 Leadership Principle of Velinda Stevens, 1952-2017 #N407VS
Read my thoughts on Velinda's #1 and #2 Leadership Principles ~Find Joy in Every Day~ and ~The Rules Don't Always Apply. Think Outside the Box.~
When I teach a ski lesson, I always like to incorporate some element of Adventure that will expand the comfort zone of the skier and help them grow. In this exercise of trust it is important to have a syntax in which the skier and I can communicate, and I call this the Zones of Comfort and Fear.
I first shared this with my students in 1992 and since then incorporated lessons from many people and genres, most notably from John Phillips at Aspen Mountain in the mid-90s, and breathing techniques from Hatha Yoga I learned at Yoga Teacher Training in Bali.
Having this common language
1) Allows the skier to identify their own thresholds and notice their progression through the Zones,
2) Allows the skier to feel more comfortable describing to me their mental and emotional states, and
3) Allows me to communicate a gameplan for the lesson and provide clear feedback.
The Zones are unique to each individual.
They are not directly correlated to ski run labels of green, blue, and black – there are many more factors influencing the Zones including skier ability, past experience, crowds, effects of altitude, sleep quality, mental state, terrain (powder, ice, moguls), and time of day (visibility, fatigue).
These Zones are not fixed nor precisely measurable. For example, an intermediate mogul run that is identified as a Yellow Zone activity eventually becomes a Green Zone activity after the skier gets comfortable with it. Also, when a student is standing above a run and looking in, the “fear of the unknown” can be quite strong. Once the skier “takes action”, there will usually be a 0.5 to 1 Zone increase in comfort level.
Zone 1: The Green Zone
The student will feel very comfortable this Zone. Internal and external threats are perceived to be at a minimum.
This is the point to add to the student’s knowledge base. Combine “learned” and “activity” knowledge by explaining and demonstrating new movements then running exercises & drills in this Zone. Remember that “a sailing ship is safe in a harbor, but that is not where sailing ships were meant to be sailed.” Bring your students to the next Zone to work on expanding their Green Zone.
Zone 2: Optimal Performance Zone
The OP Zone. The student will naturally have a heightened level of awareness and mental acuity due to adrenaline and endorphins, and might express joy and happiness and some hoots and hollers.
The Optimal Performance Zone is created when the student experiences the stress/arousal of applying their knowledge and developed skill in a new and slightly more challenging environment.
I enjoy spending time with my student in this Zone. It offers the potential to make the most progress toward their goals and we can ski in terrain which is interesting to them. When we pace the lesson properly we can stay in the OP Zone for an extended period of time and the Green-OP Zone and OP-Yellow Zone thresholds expand as the student’s skills develop.
In this Zone, I coach to “anchor” feelings, emotional states, and performance cues, e.g.,“What are you seeing?” “Which muscles are firing?” “What thoughts do you have?”, etc.
Zone 3: The Yellow Zone
The Thrill Zone. Some of my students refer to this as the “I Might Pee My Pants” Zone (the *other* reason it is called the Yellow Zone).
In their Yellow Zone, the student will experience a heightened state of stimulation perhaps described as shortness of breath, feeling a bit scared or nervous, or show a tendency to speed up speech and movements or to become quiet.
Different responses in this Zone can be generally classified as either fight or flight.
Fighters either will perform well in this Zone, or they might be mentally committed to being there yet show limited proficiency of skills that they were able to perform well in the OP/Green Zones.
Flighters would prefer to finish the lesson segment and go back to their Green Zone.
As an instructor, it is important to notice both types of response as well as how the skier performs in this Zone. Applaud ALL results in this Zone and do not criticize at this moment. Sharing what I observed in their performance is generally well received (E.g., “When we ski in to this terrain I saw there is an up-unweighting/extension movement at the beginning of the turn rather than the absorption/flexion movement we have been developing.”)
A skilled instructor will determine whether to eventually move back to the Green or OP Zone to work on skills or to coach the student to perform in this Zone by encouragement, focus on the activity, and/or anchoring of the experience. This applies to both fighters and flighters.
Both the student and instructor would be best served not to spend an extended length of time in the Thrill Zone all at once. Much like the driver who keeps their car in 2nd gear at high RPM for an extended period time, excessive wear can occur.
Zone 4: The Orange Zone
Some exposure to this Zone is important for the skier to grow. An instructor or coach can help manage the student’s heightened anxiety level, which is inherent within this Zone. The instructor’s presence, words of encouragement, tactical advice, and reminder of goals/incentives can all be beneficial to the learner. In fact, this is an important reason top athletes hire coaches - they help the athlete focus when their world is “spinning”.
A skier can be here for a little time, but extended exposure to this mental state will start to see significant performance deterioration. Think of this as the beginning of the Red Line in a car, or an anaerobic in workout. Make sure to choose terrain where the skier may decompress back to a “safer” Zone quickly, if necessary.
A skilled coach can move the skier between the OP-Yellow-Orange Zones several times throughout a lesson which will expand these Zones outward. A guided tour into this Orange Zone can aid the student in developing a better understanding of movements and tactics, and their relevance on other areas of the mountain. The terrain or situation which was once Orange, can become Yellow, or even Green with a few guided journeys into that environment.
Celebrate the effort and the completion of the task no matter the performance in this Zone. This can be the peak of an Adventure lesson. Most skiers are not training for the Olympics nor a major performance. However, wisely guiding a student in to the Orange Zone can help a skier rapidly expand their vision, ability, and application of skills. This Zone often provides fantastic stories for student to share with friends and family during après-ski!
Zone 5: The Red Zone
The Danger Zone. This is a No-Go Zone.
Performance will decline rapidly as levels of anxiety and discomfort rise. Sometimes lessons go here without the intent of the student or instructor. We call this “Over Terraining”. The student may have an intense flight or freeze reaction. It is important to realize this Red Zone may be encountered on the beginner hill, intermediate, or advanced slopes. The Red Zone is a reflection of the student’s mind-space, not merely a trail designation.
If you do find yourself in a Red Zone experience, go to a Green Zone run or the lodge to decompress as soon as possible. Then you can build back toward the OP Zone.
Even though this article is specifically related to performance skiing, our surfing friends in Bali can immediately apply the terminology when they read it before we paddle out together. I applied this Zones model to my own sports of Motorcycle Racing, Surfing, Track, and Cross-Country growing up and I invite you to adapt it to any sport or activity you are learning or teaching.
About the Co-Author:
Jonathan Lawson, aka Jonnie Law, has taught more than 30,000 hours of lessons to skiers and instructors. In the 22 years since becoming a Level 3 Certified Professional, he has learned from some of the best minds in the ski teaching world and integrated their lessons into his own skiing and teaching. Jon has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Ski Instructors in North America and in 2011 he was a finalist for Colorado Ski Instructor of the Year. He and his partner live in Bali and Colorado running their Adventure Travel & Lifestyle Coaching business called Zelement Club. To book a lesson with Jon visit www.ZelementClub.com.
Zelement Club prioritizes positive community contributions
Changing the existing state of things isn’t necessarily bad, but transforming a village into a city isn’t necessarily progress. Does the progress serve the community or humanity? From the perspective of whom? It may benefit some, but it may degrade the greater community and culture. And it may be difficult to see this in the moment. When we set up our Clubhouse in a foreign community, we desire to not add strain to the existing infrastructure.
Zelement Club prioritizes positive community contributions and minimizing negative impacts to a community. It is vital for us support community projects and wages. If there is an opportunity to create excess personal financial profit at the cost of the well-being of the local community we will forego the excess profit.
When we select a location for our ClubHouse we will use these operating principles as our guide:
• We will purchase food, goods, and services from locals rather than foreign companies when we have comparable choices
• We will not intentionally impede the ability of the locals to afford their current lifestyle.
• Rent from locals, rather than buying if buying will contribute to inflation and eventually an affordability crisis for the locals. For example, buying and developing land for appreciation well above what locals can afford is in opposition to our beliefs as individuals and as a company.
So come be a part of something good in this world!
Guest Post from Jonnie Law, co-founder of Zelement Club.
I bought new ski boots two years in a row. Why did I do this after not getting a new pair for 12 years? Last year I even bought new boots AND "custom" footbeds. I learned it makes a big difference when you go to a shop that specializes in boots and the staff has a lot of knowledge from training and experience.
Just before Christmas last year I visited a well-known Colorado ski shop and I selected a more advanced boot that would catch up to my ability advances from the last 12 years and help me to continue to progress. Taking it out on the mountain felt so great after those worn out boots. Soon I felt my feet swimming in these boots. I'd go to make a turn and my foot would roll in the boot, making it really difficult to set an edge.
After months of micro-adjustments, tweaks, and new insoles, I went to the pros at Surefoot Copper Mountain. My new Lange RX 110 LVs are stiffer (110 vs. 95 flex) but the improvement in response and control comes also from the fact that I have custom molded insoles and liners. It's like these boots are an extension of my legs. My feet don't move around in them at all so when my brain says turn, my skis turn. And they are still incredibly comfortable - the most comfortable ski boots I've been in for walking or skiing, by far.
John and the staff at Surefoot Copper will take the time to ask about what is going on with your current set up, what you are looking to change and improve, and give you options in your price range. The process for me started with a computerized foot scan (which, as a bonus, feels like a gentle acupressure foot massage) followed by the molding of the liners (which also felt pretty therapeutic). The whole process took less than an hour and I had plenty of interesting people to chat with.
I've had my new beauties for a few weeks now and people here on vacation have asked me, "I only ski one or two weeks a year, is it worth it?" I say absolutely! You have limited time to enjoy this activity so comfortable boots that fit perfectly and keep you warm help you get the most out of the investment you make in a ski trip. And they will save you time - no need to go back to the hotel to change your shoes - you will even be comfortable at après ski dancing on the bar!
If you want to get some tips from the pros on your boots and your turns come ski with us in Colorado or Japan this season.
My friend Emily flew in this weekend to get boots and John and the crew made another happy customer. Here are some photos of the process. We'll be rockin' the same boots in Japan 2018 Jan 28-Feb 4. Come join us. www.zelementclub.com/japan
We subscribe to the daily email from www.theflightdeal.com. It arrives around noon Pacific Time every day and takes about 15 seconds to scan on my phone. We also get daily emails from www.secretflying.com. Here's what I'm looking for to find a good deal to Bali.
We also use Google Flights to search around and see what is out there, and boy have we found some great deals!
Anything under $1000 roundtrip from most major US airports and on reputable carriers, I consider to be a very good deal.
Here are some rules to know before you buy your flight. This is how it currently works for US Passport holders, I’m not sure about other passports. When you check in for the first segment of your flight, the ticket agent will ask when you are leaving Indonesia and possibly will ask to see confirmation. I've never had them do more than glance at a printout I had with my itinerary.
Speaking of passports, did you know that your passport must be valid for at least 6 more months after your arrival date in Bali and have at least 2 completely blank pages? Read more about entry and exit criteria here.
Trip Insurance: Do you ever feel nervous to pass up the trip insurance because of how they present it when you are buying your flights? We have read the fine print on these offers and suggest that you do too. What we have found is that they vary quite a bit in coverage and we like this policy from World Nomads. They have been very easy to work with when we had to make a claim.
Your checked baggage policy will depend on the the airline operating the first leg of your journey. Knowing this could save you hundreds of dollars if you plan to bring oversized items like golf clubs or surfboards.
Sometimes the cheap fares involve an overnight at an airport. To determine if this is worth it, I reference www.SleepingInAirports.net.
Do you have other tips for finding good flight deals? Let us know in the comments.
When I was working at my first career in a big corporation I would always read articles like this one in FastCompany that talked about the benefits of taking more vacation. I wished that all of my managers would read these and I daydreamed that our organization would change the culture to help me not feel guilty about using my paid time off.
"Don't they get it that this trip is actually a good thing for my productivity? If I don't take this vacation it's actually bad for my health!!" were some of the thoughts I had as a person that felt I didn't have control of my own time. When I did take a vacation I experienced the clarity of mind, confidence, and creativity that the articles talked about. The work culture never changed but I did. It was in a true moment of clarity after gliding down a ski slope at 40 mph in Colorado that I decided to quit my job and follow my dream. The culmination of all these vacations is called Zelement Club.
This big change was years in the making and I'm not saying that you will quit your job when you travel with me. You have your own dreams and your own visions of happiness and your own barriers that are keeping you from creating that happy life.
Zelement Club is a place where the seemingly impossible becomes possible, if you are open to it. We play, we try new things, we learn new skills and enjoy the process. It's a place to reconnect with your inner child and shed the rules and justifications we have made up that prevent us from living the life we truly want. At the Zelement ClubHouse you meet others who have changed their lives and some who are just getting the inspiration to get started. Wherever you are in this process you are welcome as long as you have a positive attitude. All of our adventures revolve around activities like skiing, snowboarding, surfing, mountain biking, golf, or yoga.
I understand very well the time and energy demands of a career so I thought of how I can help you relax from the time you book. We know our locations really well and get you dialed in so you feel like a local.
The Zelement ClubHouse will be in Copper Mountain, Colorado this winter with a one week only appearance in Myoko, Japan in February. After the lifts close and the snow starts melting we will be in Bali from May through October. As I write it is dumping powder at Copper Mountain.
Have a great weekend!
Originally published 11/13/2015 on LinkedIn
Planning a diving trip in the crystal clear waters surrounding some islands near Bali this week made me think of a post I wrote last year on instagram.
I have always been terrified of the idea of scuba diving. Something about fear of not being in total control... Anyway, last week when I was walking by all the dive shops in the Gili Islands I realized I was no longer afraid to try diving since total control is a total impossibility. So this past weekend in Ko Tao I went for it, completely unafraid...until I got underwater and panicked because apparently I always breathe through my nose and this mouth breathing thing wasn't working for me. Even in this state I was not going to give up. I was already in love with diving from the small taste of it I had gotten swimming from the boat to the bay where we did our training. And I was laughing at myself. I had a really good instructor who made sure I could take all the time I needed to pass all my tests. I couldn't have asked for a better group of people than the crew at Alvaro Diving. Watch out underwater world, I'm a certified Open Water Diver!
One of my favorite things about travel is food. I love trying new things and I love food made with love. Also I usually eat way too much of it because it is so good and I think, "I'm only here for a short time, I need to eat as much of this as I possibly can, while I can." (Japanese mountain potato is an exception).
I wasn't always this way, I was a very picky eater until college when I finally started venturing outside my food groups of pizza, chips and salsa, and grilled chicken. So I can relate to people when they are hesitant to travel to new countries because they are not sure if they can find enough food they like.
Bali has nearly endless option so for the adventurous eater and also for the person who wants to find meals like they would have back home. And the best part is you can eat at a fraction of the price we are used to paying in America, Australia, Europe, and parts of Asia.
New cafes are opening all the time here - many of them set overlooking the beach or a peaceful rice field. There are so many reasons to come to Bali but if you come for no other reason, come to eat like a king!
It didn't take me long to get back in the swing of this solo travel thing and start collecting stories. The sights of the Golden Circle were pretty neat but the best part was the personal tour I received afterwards.
A woman in my small tour group of 10 was highly recommending I have the whale for my one dinner here. When I told her I'd had it in Japan, our driver chimed in, "Here it is different and much better. The fat on the steak melts in your mouth." This sounded good to me. So when we reached our last stop of the tour, I asked him to drop me off in downtown Reykjavik Whale- near a place where I can get a good whale dinner. He took this as an opportunity to offer some Icelandic hospitality and after he confirmed I was traveling alone, invited me out to dinner. I sat at my window seat in the middle of the bus as we dropped off the other guests at their downtown hotels (with a quick detour to Bjork's house) thinking how do I always get myself in to these situations.
We had to return the bus to the depot on the outskirts of the city before getting in my guide's personal vehicle, a black Hummer H2 that he uses for off-road tours. He hesitated to turn on the car and rather turned to me and said, "I've been trying to think of a way to say this that won't make you uncomfortable..." (I immediately felt uncomfortable.) "…but I can't. Would you like to go to the thermal bath with me?" This was the number one item on my Iceland to do list that I didn't think I was going to get around to so I was excited about this. Then he proceeded to talk about how we barely knew each other and it might be awkward getting naked and going in the pools together. Well, yeah, now it felt awkward.
The geothermal bath is a year-round cultural practice. Many people traditionally go to start their day or wind down after work. There is a strict showering process that takes place in gender-segregated locker rooms, with attendants suggesting more soap if they catch one not washing enough* A friendly attendant stopped me before the shower and asked my name. I told her and she said, "Oh, I am looking for someone named Brenda. I thought that might be you."
Outside the locker room my guide was waiting for me and we walked in the cold afternoon air to the beginner 40*C pool. After some 45 minutes of pool hopping and some chitchat he admitted he wasn't sure what my name was but thought it might be Brenda.
I took another shower and was relieved to get my clothes back on and be heading to a restaurant for a more traditional evening of getting to know a new travel friend. That's when Bjorn dropped the next bomb on me. "I'm glad you were agreeable to my crazy idea. Because it might not be my last." WHAT?! "If you are willing, I'd like to cook you dinner. I have some very good whale meat at home." No one had ever said THAT to me before. I asked if he was a good cook. He said yes.
Back in the car on the way to the suburbs I was thinking how nice it is that he welcomes solo travelers to his home and that he probably gets to meet a lot of people this way. It was just then that he said, "I want you to know I've never done this before. I just enjoyed our conversation earlier and wanted to get a chance to continue it." Oh jeez.
Bjorn prepared a very nice dinner of whale steak, cod, and potatoes, paired with a Spanish red wine. We shared travel stories at the beautiful dining table in the atrium by the garden until it was time for me to get to the airport for my 2 am flight. He was so kind to treat me to all these experiences and a lift to the airport. Honestly I never expected anything like this and I am thankful for all the kind souls traveling brings in to my life.
*Anyone that has ever lived with me or traveled with me knows that I enjoy a good shower so no, this did not happen to me. Since the showers are wide open and fully nude, I did witness this happen to two other women.
I preplanned most of this stopover because it was so short and because I was arriving so late. The hotel I found must have been one of those internet misprints - it cost 98¢ in a land where a bunk in a 14-bed mixed dorm hostel room was going for an average of $50 a night. Yes, the room here at Cabin Hotel is very small. And the twin beds are about 33% narrower than usual. And I can hear my neighbor snoring like at my campsite in Yosemite. But the value is on point. This tiny private room comes with its own tiny private bath, the reception is open 24 hours and took less than 30 seconds to check me in. All this is wonderful when I arrive at midnight at an airport that is over 45 minutes from Reykjavik city center. I booked a transfer ahead of time on the Grayline bus which got me here in relative comfort for about $18. I considered sleeping in the airport to save money and just going to the Blue Lagoon at 8 am but the reviews on www.sleepinginairports.net indicated that it would be a rough night with sarcastic, kicking security guards. Either way would have made for a good story but, when I made a rookie mistake of booking three red-eyes in a row to start my 2+ month trip, I went with the potentially more comfortable option. Tomorrow I will enjoy my complimentary breakfast and do some work using the free lobby wifi while I wait for my Golden Circle tour bus to collect me for a 9 hour tour of natural beauty in the 50* rainy, windy weather. Thanks to Casey and Jess for loaning me a very cozy Burlington sweatshirt on my brunch layover in Boston this morning.
Sharon and Jon live the life of their dreams. Zelement Club is their way of inviting others to join them in this adventure.