Monthly Archives: February 2014

Thoreau, Dillard, and Nature Classics

I’ve vowed to read more nature classics in 2014, and I recently put out a call on Facebook to solicit recommendations. I also checked out booklists, such as The Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment’s “Top Ten Books of Nature Writing.” I marked off ones I’ve already read and narrowed down my list to the following:

Berry, Wendell. Art of the Commonplace.
Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring.
Ehrlich, Gretel. The Solace of Open Spaces.
Griffin, Susan. Woman and Nature.
Leopold, Aldo. Sand County Almanac.
Muir, John. Nature Writings.
Snyder, Gary. Practice of the Wild.
Stegner, Wallace. Beyond the Hundredth Meridian.
Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass.
Williams, Terry Tempest. Refuge.
Literary Criticism: Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism.
A Book on Craft: Murray, John. Writing About Nature.
Optional/Extras: Olson, Sigurd. (title suggestions??); Wilson, E.O. The Diversity of Life.

I’m currently reading Leaves of Grass, and I’ll be back here to offer progress updates as I read my way through this list.

I left off two books that I consider absolute must-reads for anyone wanting to read more in the nature classics category (because I’ve already read them multiple times): Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. If you want to read more nature classics, I’d suggest starting with these and exploring the boards I created about them on Learnist:

“The Importance of Thoreau’s ‘Walden’”


“Nature Classics: ‘Pilgrim at Tinker Creek’ by Annie Dillard”


I’m still looking for a Sigurd Olson title recommendation, so if you have a suggestion or ideas for even more nature classics recommendations, please leave a comment!

Skiing Triple Digits: Days 26-30, Ski Girls Rock!

I spent Days 26-30 of my Skiing Triple Digits Quest at Vail, teaching skiing with the Ski Girls Rock program inspired by Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn. I spent my first days as a ski instructor laughing, learning new jokes from middle-school girls, and skiing through bumps and trees. Here are a few details and photos from these five inspired days:

Day 26: Tuesday, December 24

day 26

Today was my first official day as a ski instructor at Vail. I taught a small group of young skiers with the Ski Girls Rock program and had a great day! I love Vail during the holidays…town feels festive, trees sparkling with lights.

Day 27: Wednesday, December 25

day 27

More Ski Girls Rock teaching…great day skiing bumps and trees. Merry Christmas!

Day 28: Thursday, December 26

day 28

Another day of Ski Girls Rock. The season is shaping up well, snow dripping like frosting from the Northwoods trees.

Day 29: Friday, December 27

day 29

Skied again with my Ski Girls Rock crew. We cruised through Shangri-La glade and played with our shadows on the Teacup Express.

Day 30: Saturday, December 28

day 30

Final day with my Ski Girls Rock skiers. Happy in work, life, love.

Want more backstory?
Read about the quest here:

Skiing Triple Digits: The Quest

Skiing Triple Digits: Days 20-25, Pizza Level I

As a newbie ski instructor, I completed a ton of training early in December, and at some point, they (“they,” being Vail Resorts) just had to let me put on a blue uniform and go for it out there on my own. During Days 20-25 of my Skiing Triple Digits Quest, I audited two lessons and got to try out my teaching technique, and I also passed a three-day Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA, or “pizza”) Level I Certification Exam. Here’s how it all shook down:

Day 20: Friday, December 13
Vail, First Day in Blue

day 20

Today, I audited a class and got to practice teaching a group of kids how to use ski poles. I worked with another instructor, Calen, but I also got to get out there in a blue uniform, which is kind of weird when people come up to you and ask random questions like…where’s the nearest groomed black run?…or…where’s lost and found? Just because I have on a uniform now doesn’t mean that I necessarily know these things any better now than I did seven seasons ago when I arrived in Vail, but now I’m supposed to know. Er, still figuring it out.

Day 21: Monday, December 16
Vail, Follow-up New Hire Training

day 21

I was reunited today with my crew for a final day of training. Laughs and smiles on the gondola…I really love these people!

Day 22: Tuesday, December 17
Vail, PSIA Level I Certification Exam

day 22

Today, I spent all day at an indoor training session (snooze) for the first day of a three-day PSIA Level I Certification Exam. We watched and listened as the speaker flipped through a PowerPoint presentation. When it was time to go, I bolted out of there and got in touch with my gal-pal Tammy, who met me when she got off work for a full-moon skin up Arrowhead. The skiing down wasn’t great…but it was better than being indoors all day long!

Day 23: Wednesday, December 18
Vail, PSIA Level I Certification Exam

day 23

Today was the second day of the three-day Level I Cert, and we all got to hang out with our trainer and examiner, Dave, who normally works at Beaver Creek. Even though it could be nerve wracking to get evaluated in front of peers on ski maneuvers, teaching technique, and skier analysis, Dave made the process less intimidating…and even fun.

Day 24: Thursday, December 19
Vail, PSIA Level I Certification Exam

day 24

Today was the final day of our Level I Certification Exam, and I passed! Whoo hoo! New knowledge, a bit of professionalism, and a slight raise were my rewards. By the end of the three days, I felt like I’d really gotten to know everyone in my group, and we all had fun going through the process together.

Day 25: Friday, December 20
Vail, New Hire Audit

day 25

Today, I completed my final audit requirement, which meant that I was officially ready to teach as a ski instructor at Vail. I skied with Christy’s class and helped as needed. Overall, the training and certification process was a positive one. I had lots of fun, met a bunch of new people, and learned a ton in the process. Plus, working with kids (and adults who act like kids) is super refreshing. This is the type of work environment where it’s ok to laugh, ok to have a passion for skiing, and ok to end the day with a snow angel.

Want more backstory?
Read about the quest here:
Skiing Triple Digits: The Quest

Adventure Dogs and Winter Walking Tips

Since I’m on a quest to ski triple digits this season, I’ve obviously been skiing a lot. But I’ve been writing a lot, too. And one of my favorite things about having a home office is that I get to hang out with my love-dog, Kai. He’s a supercool boxer-lab mix with amazing brindle tiger stripes:


He naps on the floor while I get my writing work done, and then when I get freaked out about sitting at my desk for long stretches, we go outside and go on walks together in the snow. I also take him cross-country skiing with me on the railroad tracks just across the street.

These adventures have inspired two Learnist boards I created with other dog lovers in mind. First of all, going on dog walks in the cold weather is better if you have good gear, so check out this board to learn more:

“Winter Dog Walking Tips and Gear”

dog walk

Finally, if you’ve been wanting to get an adventurous four-legged friend, then you’ll want to check out which types of dogs are good outdoor companions. I’m super happy having Kai around, and even though he’s not the best in deep backcountry powder, he’s still pretty cool sleeping on my office floor while I write.

“Adventure Pups: Dog Breeds for Outdoors Lovers”

adventure pups

To see more of my Learnist boards focused on adventure, outdoors, nature, and sports, click here.

Skiing Triple Digits: Days 16-19, Mountain Meltdowns

I continued with the Triple Digits Quest throughout December, feeling strong and happy to be outside as snow continued to cover the mountain. Vail felt like a calm place these weekdays, but as I skied by myself or with training groups, I knew that things would become busy and crowded when the Christmas holiday hit. So I just enjoyed the relatively quiet atmosphere…while it lasted. Here’s the breakdown for days 16-19:

Day 16: Sunday, December 8

day 16

Moguls are pretty much my nemesis, but I decided that I want to finally rock them this season (if possible). So today I went out and skied by myself, doing laps on Chair 11 (Prima, Pronto) and doing a few runs down Whistle Pig. By the end of the day, bumps were still pretty much my nemesis.

Day 17: Tuesday, December 10
Vail, Level II Training Camp

Today was the first day of a three-day training camp. I don’t totally know why it’s called a camp, because we weren’t huddled up in tents at night, nor were we roasting marshmallows around an open fire. No, that would have been way more fun.

day 17

Instead, we skied in preparation for the Level II PSIA Certification Exam, which I hope to go through (and pass) in April. I showed up without my ski gear since I thought that we’d geek out on some indoor movement analysis, but everyone else somehow came prepared. So after I went home and got my ski gear, I met the group at lunch, after which we proceeded to do some really nerdy things on skis, like ski wedges and basic parallel turns. I was so frustrated with myself for not even being able to do these things correctly that I cried underneath my goggles while on the lift. Not a massively uplifting day ski-wise.

Day 18: Wednesday, December 11
Vail, Level II Training Camp

day 18

Today, I continued to ski with the Level II Training Camp group, but the sun was out, and the mountain felt a bit more charmed than it did on the previous day. John, our trainer, proved to be a pretty quirky guy, but he was amazing in identifying what I’m doing (wrong) when I’m skiing and in being able to offer suggestions for improvement. I only had a little meltdown on the lift again today and cried–briefly–underneath my goggles. But I bounced back quickly, trying to rally myself to re-believe that I love skiing and that I do it because it’s fun–not because I have the inherent desire to carve the perfect turn. To be honest, skiing really crappy turns can be fun, too.

Day 19: Thursday, December 12
Vail, Level II Training Camp

day 19

Today was the final day of our Level II Training Camp. By the end of the day, I felt like I’d bonded with the people in my group, and I enjoyed going through the process. Only one guy drove me nuts by offering me (unsolicited) feedback every time we stopped, and by the end of the day, I felt like skiing a huge wave of hockey stop spray straight into his face. I mean, it’s enough to get constructive/critical feedback from the trainer for three days straight. We worked up to skiing bumps at the end of the day, and after the three days were over, I felt like I’d survived a trying situation. So maybe it was like alpine camping, after all. As one of my Chamonix-mountain-guide friends likes to say: “It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun, right Traci?” Right.

Want more backstory?
Read about the quest here:
Skiing Triple Digits: The Quest