Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kimpton Poker Night

So Kimpton Hotels called. Could we do a poker night for 60 women? (God yes Kimpton, where have you been all my life? This is What We Do.) Attendees would be members of their InTouch Loyalty group and the poker evening would be a thank-you event. So InTouch members would have a fun, inspiring experience and also get to do a little networking & friend-making with each other. In the lovely Hotel Monoco in Union Square of course.

Some of the women might be advanced players, some will be complete beginners. Yes, yes; we're good at this. Hand-value cheat sheets, tables by ability, $300 in starter chips, check. Yes, yes, we explain the sequence of play, the blind, the double-blind, the flop, the river. (Please...don't be so impressed. One poker class and you'll have it.) Yes, this will be no limit Texas Hold'em.

Q: But, I thought you were a sports company? Poker, really?
A: Let me just say that we've been teaching poker since before ESPN figured out it was a sport. And since our whole brand is about accelerated skill development for busy people - why not apply that to poker too?

But back to Kimpton. Fortunately for me, this concept is the brainchild of Aileen De Luna. Aside from having one of the more romantic last names since the Renaissance, Aileen is a new transplant to Kimpton HQ, having recently moved from their Washington DC location. The woman has vision; and she's also a delight to work with, which is an unusual combination.

So Poker Palooza is a go! 5 tables at various levels. The women might be getting up & down; there will also be a drink mixologist and hand massages. Strategies for how to track each woman's chips if she chooses to get up and socialize around the room. We'll start w/ $5 & $10 blinds (initial betting levels) and go over the mechanics of play at each table, appropriate for each level.

We pull in 5 very different and amazing female poker instructors. My favorite ringer, Janice Kim, is the first recruit. Not only does she look great on paper (Vegas competitor who also happens to be a Korean Go Master), she's also a delight in person. She's been with Adventurous Sports for years now.

Then Sue Barrows, who used to run her own card room; Julie Chendes HR professional, Sue Irwin speaker & life coach, and finally Eileen Milligan who has a large poker table in her home living room as a permanent fixture. All great communicators, teachers and motivators who have been playing and winning for years in tournaments, card rooms and casinos.
(below are each of their Adventurous Sports Bios)

Julie warms up the crowd with a 10-min Intro covering hand values (explaining we have cheat sheets at every table place)

the basic concept of assessing your hand and folding frequently (all those hands in green? fold!) , and why being female is definitely an advantage, Then everyone hits the tables.

Q: Why is being female an advantage at poker?
A: Well, once you get over the initial discomfort of being The Only Woman at the Table (which you will usually be), you can use the men's surprise and natural inclination to underestimate you to your advantage. You're bluffing just by showing up. They'll be so distracted by the fact that you're there at all, that you'll have the advantage in assessing their positions and enjoying their inaccurate assessment of you and your cards.

The women pick their tables, while choosing another cocktail and getting another buffet round. The Kimpton chef has made an Amazing Kale Salad - oh my. Seriously. I did not know I was willing to eat kale and I had thirds it was so scrumptious. I've been promised the recipe by Stacy, their delightful PR head and strategist of the Kimpton women's Intouch program. That woman (on the right) can charm a crowd let me tell you.

And...the play goes on for two hours. People are transfixed. They're into it. Table departures are measured in nano-seconds to get a quick drink, as no one wants to miss a hand. The Kimpton folks are surprised, though I am not. I've seen it every time over the years. The fun of learning poker - or learning new strategies - just completely pulls people in. And the energy at each table makes the time fly.

Kimpton was very smart to set up prizes for each table winner and a Grand Prize winner. So 5 women went home with free nights at a Kimpton Hotel and restaurant meals at the Grand Cafe (steak tartare all around!)

And the hotel GM is so happy with the results that he wants Women's Poker Palooza at all the Kimpton's around the country. Newfound Poker savvy, lots of winnings, fab cockails and scrumptious kale salad; I'd call that a good night.

Friday, February 10, 2012

NIght of Lights 2011

Mammoth's annual Night of Lights is a fantastic festival that takes place every year during the weekend before Christmas to celebrate the holiday season.

Every year at this time we take a 4-6 day trip with my family, our friends, and our two dogs. Even though the snow wasn't at it's best this year (last year I was stranded at SFO because of snow storms) we could tell they had been working hard on making snow and opening up as many runs as possible.

Night of Lights takes place on Saturday at the base of Canyon Lodge and begins around 5:30 PM. So its just enough time to head back to your condo/hotel, shower, eat, and head back to the hill for a night of fun.
Make sure to dress warmly!

All of the action is out side in front of the slopes; huge bon fire, music, and tons of people. The night begins with the Damon Castillo Band, followed by a firework show, and torchlight parade. Later, just to keep the night going, is the main concert. The band chosen this year was The Naked + Famous (an up and coming Indie Rock band from New Zealand.)

If you're still thinking about the cold, not to worry there are other options that may sooth your worry. For a premium viewing spot in the warmth of the giant VIP tent, you can purchase a VIP ticket (starting price $35 per person) prior to the show. (My parents are convinced that this is the best way to spend the night, and we will be testing it out next year.) However, for a cheaper way to stay inside, The Canyon Lodge is open all night, with drinks, food, and plenty of spots to view the show. If you get there early you can get yourself a nice spot against the window with a warm first row view.

(left; my parents by the bon fire)

Night of Lights never disappoints, and it is most definitely a weekend to mark on your calendar. The name to this entry is a link to Mammoth's Web site and the Night of Lights page.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Research Trip to Mammoth Mountain

So Mammoth called. Would our clients be interested in special group pricing for high-end accommodations at their mountain? Answer: Yes. Yes I would think so...but we're not exactly Mammoth-savvy. So they set up a trip and rolled out the red carpet. Actually they didn't - I told them I wanted to experience every little logistic and first impression that our clients would. That I did and it was pretty wonderful. I have to say, my threshold for inconvenience and poor planning is pretty low; like our clients, I'm always busy and need services to work easily, people to be kind and extremely knowledgeable, and experiences to be fun and inspiring. I have to say, Mammoth was all of those things.

2:05-3:05pm SFO (or SJC) to MMH. Mammoth Mountain here I come. Where is Mammoth? Tactically, Mammoth is a 1-hr flight and 10-minute shuttle - super easy. You're in the air for all of 33 minutes. Financially, Mammoth is $132 round trip (inc. taxes, etc.) and geographically, it's still pretty close.

Why go to Mammoth? It's got the most snow of any resort in California. And for $435-$535 a person for our Special Trips on March 9-11 or 18-21, you'll get air, lifts & nice accommodations to access all this:
• Over 3,100 vertical feet
• Over 3,500 skiable acres
• Over 150 named trails, 46 with snowmaking
• Top elevation: 11,053 feet
• Base elevation: 7,953 feet
• Average snowfall: 400 inches
• 28 lifts (includes 9 high speed quads, 2 high speed six-packs and 3 high speed gondolas)
• Terrain: 15% expert, 20% advanced, 40% intermediate, 25% beginner

• Interactive Trail Map: http://www.mammothmountain.com/MountainActivities/MountainInformation/

How easy is it to get there, really?

I brought one roll-away suitcase and my "personal bag" which was actually a large canvas bag holding my snowboard boots, computer and purse...I could have packed some snow gear in there as well. (United flights out of SFO allow 1 carry-on and 1 personal item at no extra cost.) Your 1st checked bag is $25 - but here's the secret: that "one checked bag" can actually be 1 snowboard or up to 2 pairs of skis and associated equipment (in 1 bag) PLUS an additional boot bag. (Both bags are considered 1 checked piece). If you're traveling as a 2-some, and want to save a little coin, you can usually fit two sets of gear into this one bag (as long as its under 50lbs). I am stunned that an airline has actually made this easy & inexpensive; go United. You can always demo the latest & greatest; full ski/board rental packages are available at the mountain from $37-$72 per day.

As I boarded the plane, they kindly informed me that my rollaway was just a hair too wide for that particular plane and "tagged" it for me (french for no-cost checking) I picked it up on the tarmac as exited the jetway. Talk about hassle free!

Touch down in Mammoth Mountain Lakes 1 hour after take-off from SFO, all of 33 minutes in the air. (Look at that jet against the mountains...and one guy sadly headed out who can't stay for the big snow dump due in 2 days.) My bag is there for me and four minutes later I'm on the free shuttle headed to the resort.

The Village Lodge (where you'll stay)
In less than 15 minutes, I'm at the front desk of the Village Lodge, and handed keys to the 1-bedroom condo where I'm greeted with wine, lift tickets and a white Mammoth ski hat, courtesy of my great Mammoth hosts Gunther & Knud.

Beautiful front lobby at The Village Lodge

My host, Gunther, at the top of Mammoth Mountain

The condo looks wonderful, with a fireplace and one of those great big ottomans that hold massive appetizers or a selection of tired feet.

The kitchen is surprisingly well stocked and plenty big enough to cook a dinner, should you decide to eat in. (Mammoth has a Safeway less than a 10 minute shuttle ride from the Village and smaller general store called the Busy Bee right there in the Village.)

The bedroom isn't huge, but it's plenty big and manages to squeeze in enough storage for clothes & ski gear.

What's in The Village?
After such an arduous flight (!), I have plenty of energy to explore and even check out a couple of equipment rental places (yes, there are several). They're so friendly and easy; what a piece of cake. I decide to go for the full Demo Rental, as I have an old beginner board and I need to start experiencing other options; I might even buy the Demo if I love it. Not recalling my binding placement, I show Mr Rental a camera pic of my bindings and he's on it. (Thanks to the Endless Slope, I'm a pretty descent switch rider and feel strongly about not messing that up with inconsistent bindings.) I rent a GNU B-nice, explaining my level, goals, weight and that I like light, light, light please. (I have to say, I have a hard time engendering a lot of respect from most rental people. If I hear...one more time... "are you linking turns?" after explaining that I'm starting to ride expert runs, I will start throwing equipment.) The Mammoth rental people are completely cool and super capable. They set me up beautifully.

That evening, I'm hosted at Side Door wine bar by Knud Svendsen (pronounced Ka Newt), the VP of Sales and Revenue Management. He's been in hospitality for ages and has great stories to tell about managing hotels in Miami during the Scarface years and finally ending up at Mammoth, commuting to Reno where his family lives. We discuss ways to share this unknown gem of Mammoth Mountain with the Bay Area population. Mammoth continues to invest significantly in their lifts, terrain, lodging properties and restaurant amenities, as well as road and utility infrastructure. Their approach to the Bay Area at this point is simple relationship building and grass-roots programming. So if you're reading this, and have suggestions - please post!
That night, it's a simple dinner of fajitias and margarita at Gomez's, followed by a long deep sleep.

The next morning we meet Knud at Starbucks for oatmeal & coffee, to begin our tour of Mammoth. The 3 main lodge areas are Village Lodge, Mammoth Mountain Inn, and Juniper Springs Resort; plus the Tamarack Lodge and Resort with its Nordic skiing center. Our Special March trips include the Village Lodge & Mammoth Mountain Inn. Each property has its own unique appeal and all have their own restaurants, rentals and ski school facilities. The Village Lodge (where I'm staying...where you might stay) is the newest of the four properties and offers great amenities, with lots of restaurants and nightlife to choose from.

And the newest of the new is the hip Hyde bar; they offer a full menu and cater to families early in the evening then roll up the carpet before the dj’s arrive to keep everyone dancing late.

The Village Lodge is not quite steps from the snow, but rather a short staircase to the Village Gondola which transports you directly to Canyon Lodge. After the last run of the day you can take the Gondola back to the Village or try the new Village “ski-back trail” and ski all the way to your front door.

Mammoth Mountain Inn (where you might also stay)

Mammoth Mountain Inn offers more traditional hotel accommodations than the luxury condos at the Village Lodge

but with a large, great looking breakfast buffet room and light-filled bar overlooking the mountain.

Mammoth Mountain Inn has childcare services and is right across the street from the Gondola and a couple of Express chairs, so it appeals to families with its convenience, but also provides an upscale feel. It's also across the street from the race center, so the Yodeler bar is a good place to run into adrenaline junkies with aggressive training schedules, an enormous amount of equipment, and strong thighs.

Juniper Springs

The 3rd of the slopeside "local" properties is Juniper Springs Resort, at Eagle Lodge/Chair 15.

This property appeals to families and the more leisurely crowd offering great access to the mountain, and spectacular views without the high-energy vibe of the Village.

Like the Village Lodge, Juniper Springs Resort is all condos for all sizes of groups, and offers a large outdoor area with firepit, two BBQs and several pools.

At the Eagle Lodge, the open dining & bar area is a bit less refined, but with everything from ticket sales, sports store, restaurant and kids-care area under one room, it's a pretty efficient operation

Tamarak Lodge

The last lodging and recreation area we saw was the most unique. Built in 1924, the Main Lodge and 35 surrounding cabins are complimented by the amazing Lakefront Restaurant. This is the home of Nordic skiing, snow shoeing, lots of summer mountain biking, fishing, and of course a fabulous restaurant (do make a reservation - it's that special...yet completely unpretentious). At the Tamarak Lodge, there are individual rooms, as well as small and large cabins available for rent for a group get-away or Board retreat.

And if you'd like to Tube, they have a lovely little area near Tamarak Lodge for that, complete with bonfires and the required hot libations.

But ENOUGH about the amenities - what about the MOUNTAIN?! Yes - we got the full reality there as well. We arrived on Wednesday afternoon, before the big dump Thursday night. This was perfect really, because we got to see both sides of Mammoth's performance. Pre-dump, we found that Mammoth is pretty aggressive on the snow-making and the snow looks pretty good and lasts well due to the elevation. This is what we found Thursday morning, before Mammoth got any snowfall this season at all.

Also handy if you need a big halfpipe....

After the big snowfall, we had plenty to work with, and I also got to witness how the lift team knocks themselves out to get lifts open even in the very snowy conditions we had on Friday.

Couldn't be happier - it was 3 fantastic days at a resort I encourage everyone to try. Here I am masking my sadness at heading home...but thinking about the next trip already.

What about the Snow?!
So important this season. Since Mammoth's base elevation (8,909') is about the same as Squaw's top (8900') and higher than NorthStar's top (8,610), they do get more snow more frequently. And they get it earlier and later. Their season is typically Nov 7 - July 4th. (those fantastic flights run Dec to April though...so you'll need to do the 6 hour drive for summer skiing). Also because they're higher, the snow tends to be lighter and last longer.

Personally, I'm also thinking about an April trip when all their demo gear goes on sale for 1/2 price. (Remember when people would "pay" for their European trips by buying their Mercedes in Germany...it's soooort of like that.) Half price on high-end gear for your bindings, boots, skis/board could save you about $400. But I digress.

I'm Ready - Sign me UP
Here are the details on our TWO trips - we do need a total of 20-25 people on each trip to get this great pricing. So we'll be taking reservations for any size group (although 2-somes and 4-somes are best as prices are for 4 in each condo). And your card will not be charged until our group size is confirmed.

Special Mammoth Trips

$435-$535 (per person)
Inc. air, lifts, accommodations at the luxurious Village Lodge

Trip Dates:
• March 9-11: Fri-Sun, 2 days & nights
• March 18-21: Wed-Fri, 3 days & nights

1-bedroom or studio condos
With fireplace, kitchen and dining room. Enjoy heated pool, 5 hot tubs, direct gondola access, in the heart of the Village.

Travel to this Conde Naste Top 50 Resort in a 1-hour flight & 10-min shuttle

*Minimum 10 rooms or 25 people required per trip.
4 people per Studio or 1BR condo.
Reservations & deposit completed 10-days prior.
Airfare self-reserved or via Mammoth 800#.
(Lower price rooms in Mammoth Mtn Inn also available.)
adventurous.com 415-397-7678

the FAQ
1. Can we do 2 to a condo instead of 4? Yes, the price does change, so drop us an email at info@adventurous.com and we'll email your price options for various accomodations.

2. We have kids, does the price change? Yes, lift tickets are less so your price is less. Just email info@adventurous.com and we'll respond with your pricing.

3. We have miles on United, can we use them? Yes, we don't actually make the flight reservations since it's so simple to make them on www.united.com (SFO or SJC -->MMH). We've included the flight cost in the total price so you can see your whole trip cost, but Adventurous Sports will only be charging one price for the lifts & accommodations.

4. Can we arrive earlier or stay later? Yes, the group-scenario is only to secure this special pricing. You can add nights & lift days as you wish. We can make those arrangements for you.

A World Champion's Ski Deck

January 4th, 2012

Bob Howard's ski deck is For Sale. This is 3-time World Freestyle Champion Bob Howard (who also credits ski deck training for that status). The deck is a beast, and I mean that in the very best way. It's total length is 92' (including the extended top deck & carpet runout) and 12' wide. Instructors can even stand on these big side wings right next to their students, as Kris Buttenberg does here (Right) in coaching ski instructor Barbara Barry.

And what a legacy - this deck has been around the country demoing trick skiing for Volvo tours, welcomed a new President and served clients up in Marin at a huge center that included 3 trampolines. Tight seam stitching, beautiful carpet and completely mobile, I'm in love.

Of course, in its current incarnation it's too big for the Studio and we'd need to get a new variable speed motor. But here's my chance to drive up to Reno and take her for a ride. 4 hrs, 10 min later, I pull up. And she's a beauty. I can't wait to get on! I scurry to get my boots on and approach the deck. But it's at a temporary location here, so no easy stairs to get up on The Beast.

I hesitate and Bob just grabs me and lifts me up onto the deck. I put my board on as elegantly as possible.

One, Two, Three GO! That's how Bob lets you know he going to start it up and you better be steady & ready. This deck doesn't have a variable-speed motor, which we'd install if we brought it to San Francisco. So that baby goes from OFF to ON HIGH.

I get to try both skiing and boarding, although not as aggressively as I'd hoped. Honestly, I was planning to be impressive - flying all over the deck, maybe a few 360s. Seriously, I am capable of that. But it was not to be - I had to be Cautious & Careful. Since I didn't want to go flying off the deck onto the...driveway it was on at the time. And there's no back bar yet, so fly off I would, as apparently the pros who use this deck to practice regularly do.

And since the front bar wasn't set up, Bob steadies me with ski poles. Bob claims he is impressed with my stamina as I'm skiing forever. (Well, what else was he going to say? He couldn't exactly compliment my technique, I was so worried about flying off. And worried I would have to explain breaking a leg on an Endless Slope - now how would that look?)

But even with all the caution, it was just super fun. You could float up to the top and take several turns down. So freeing to have all that room. Maybe it was that stunning blue sky and sunny Reno day in January, but I was hooked.
Now it's time to work on the specs and try to squeeze it into my San Francisco Studio. Wish me luck!