At our home ski club, the kids’ first ski trip away from parents is to a U14 training camp in Colorado. U14 coach Gerd Reiss and his bread-baking, powder-skiing assistant (USST vet Joan Barthold) somehow manage to wrangle two housefuls of 11- to 13-year-old girls and boys and all their gear halfway across the country and back while keeping their humor intact.

The kids learn to share living space, make their own lunches, load and unload dishwashers, get themselves ready on time and make it through airports and into vans without losing their stuff. Well not much stuff, anyway. It’s a rite of passage, after which the training wheels come off and they’re ready for life on the road as a ski racer.


For anyone needing a little more coursework, and for parents hoping their kids will eat more than ramen, macaroni and cheese and microwave popcorn on the road, and will not break the bank on bacon cheeseburgers, this guide is for you.

In addition to my own experience and observations, I sought current professional advice from U.S. Ski Team road warriors Lila Lapanja and Anna Marno. In their fifth and seventh years on the team, respectively, they have streamlined their systems, and they’ve agreed to share some tips gleaned along the way.

Both Lapanja and Marno emphasize the challenge and importance of good nutrition (Anna teaches cooking classes to younger girls in her club and Lila’s mom has written multiple cookbooks on comfort food), bringing the comforts of home (a favorite pillow is a go) and organization (grab that Sharpie!).

A favorite pillow is a go. USSA photo.


Lapanja’s father is Slovenian, and she’s been traveling to Europe all her life. “I always have a travel-safe candle and matches,” she says. “I need to feed my inner pyro, and matches are great to have as a sterilizer. Candles are a good way to have light if you stay up later than your roommate.”

With the 50-pound bag rule enforced by airlines, you’ve got to be streamlined in your packing. But, a few extras from home can make all the difference. They include:

Favorite pillow or small blanket
Slippers to keep your socks dry. Dry feet can mean everything.
Compact boot dryers. See above.
Favorite tea, or spices and seasonings for cooking
Travel blender like a Magic Bullet or Ninja
Vitamins/supplements including smoothie ingredients (powdered greens, seeds, protein powder etc.)
Emergen-C packets: Take one before you travel
Headphones, iPod, tablet or computer (for movies or video)
Laundry bag and Tide pods
International power plugs (if traveling abroad)
Foam roller or lacrosse ball
Headlamp for late-night reading
Sharpie for labeling everything from those ski socks to your jar of Nutella

Settling In

The Key Decision
Once you’ve found your unit and picked your rooms, find a good hiding place for the key, or determine a good plan for swapping it, and make sure everyone knows the plan. It’s no fun coming back exhausted and being locked out of your condo.

Scope it Out
Before you go to the store, check out the condo and what you have for appliances. Microwaves are a given, but do you have a full fridge and freezer or a tiny hotel one? A blender? (If so, think smoothies!) Crock pot? Outside grill? Washer/dryer? Check the cupboards. Do you have salt and pepper? Basic seasoning? Oil and vinegar? Sugar? These are things you may only need in small quantities and not have to buy. Do your reconnaissance and then…

Make a List!
This is rule No. 1 of shopping, especially when lots of people are involved. Include snacks for at home and on the hill. If you ignore rule No. 1, you’ll spend a lot of money and end up with the aforementioned ramen, macaroni and cheese, microwave popcorn and possibly some beef jerky.

Buddy Up
Find friends for purchasing staples or larger quantities. Bigger sizes are cheaper, so if you can split a bigger box or bag with someone else, you won’t be leaving it all for the cleaning crew, and you won’t have to worry about eating other people’s stuff.


Stocking Up

Marno now moderates her intake of gluten, dairy and processed sugar, but doesn’t cut anything out entirely.“I used to come home from training and eat a grilled cheese, or have a bagel and cream cheese for breakfast,” she says. “It’s easy to eat that way, but there’s so much more.”

Lapanja, meanwhile, grew up on Dad’s risotto and Mom’s meatloaf but has a simple go-to cooking technique. “No matter what type of meal you cook,” she says, “you can never go wrong with olive oil, garlic and a pinch of salt.”

Start with This Shopping List

Eggs: They’re high protein, cheap and always available. Make friends with eggs.
Yogurt: Eat it straight, in smoothies, in overnight oats, for dessert, etc.
Fresh fruit: For snacks
Frozen fruit: For smoothies
Frozen veggies: Put them in that macaroni and cheese, and make your parents happy.
Fresh veggies: Roasted, sautéed or raw. Look at them as health insurance.
Bread: This item is surprisingly often forgotten. Multi-purpose bread such as bagels and English muffins can be used for breakfast, sandwiches or as a pizza base.
Tortillas: It’s always the right time for a quesadilla or breakfast burrito.
Sliced deli meats (reuse the plastic containers to pack and protect your sandwiches)
Sliced or block cheese
Ziploc bags: For sandwiches, trail mix, snacks and your phone on a rainy day.
Nut butter: All-purpose emergency rations on and off the hill
Juice and drinks: Way cheaper in the store than at the lodge.
Butter, oil or fat of choice: another commonly forgotten must have.
Cereal and or oats
Pasta and sauce
Chicken, fish, beef or protein of choice: You can marinate pretty much anything in a good salad dressing and call it a meal.
Milk of choice: almond, oat, cow — whatever.
Chocolate milk: Great for recovery. That’s your line — stick to it.
Killer condiments: Sriracha, great salad dressing, curry paste, taco seasoning, etc. The right stuff can make anything taste good.
Fun stuff: Nutella, hot cocoa, dried fruit, salty snacks, gummy anything. You deserve a little something for not buying all those bacon cheeseburgers.

Killer condiments can make a condo meal. USSA photo.

Create an organized routine

“I leave ski clothes out the night before I train,” says Lapanja, “so when I wake up I can get ready without having to search for anything in the dark.“

Get up early enough to warm-up, wake up and get ready without stress. An hour and a half or more before departure time is good.
Make your bed every day. Or try to. To see why this matters, watch this
Eat a solid breakfast with a good balance of protein, carbs and fat. You need them all!
Make some time every day for yourself. Do homework, read, take a walk, call home.

Shared space etiquette

Keep your stuff organized and contained on your side of the room.
Keep the bathroom clean and your toiletries consolidated.
Keep the kitchen clean and organized; dishes always in dishwasher or put away; take out garbage and replace bag; clear and clean counters, etc.
Noise, chatter, activity, clash of clans — shut it down early so everyone can get the rest he/she needs.
Flush! Except in the middle of the night. Then, use your judgement.
If you get sick be prepared to hibernate, contain your germs and do extreme self care (with medicine, hot baths, hot tea, rest, REST, etc…)

Put it in your day bag

“I keep a jar of almond butter in my bag,” says Marno, “because you can always find an apple or grab one at breakfast. Then you’ll always have an emergency meal.”

Nuts or nut butter for protein anywhere
Energy, granola bars or snacks to stave off hungry anger, or “hanger”
Water with a little electrolytes (honey, salt, lemon, Clif Shot, etc.)
Extra goggles, lenses, gloves, socks, and buckles.
$20 bill just in case
Sunglasses, sunscreen
Duct tape, Allen wrench, Band-Aids, extra lanyard and always…
That Sharpie.

Recipe for Lila’s Champion Chip Classics

(Lila Lapjanja)

Both Anna and Lila know the power of home-baked goods. Bringing some fresh baked cookies or banana bread to someone is a great way to say “thanks” or “hang in there” or “good luck.” (Anna always includes a baking recipe in her cooking classes.) These cookies are said to bring you good luck if you eat them the night before your ski races or at lunch between runs.

1 cup margarine, room temperature
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups brown sugars
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
6 cups unbleached flour
4 cups chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large (at least 13-quart) mixing bowl, whip up margarine, butter, and sugars until fluffy with an electric mixer. Add the eggs, vanilla, and salt and mix well.

Blend the baking soda and baking powder into the flour and tap into the creamed mixture on low speed. Mix until it comes together. Stir in the chocolate chips with a strong wooden spoon.

Line a cookie sheet with baking parchment and scoop the dough with a small (1- to 2-ounce) ice cream scoop or with a large spoon. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, until lightly golden in color with tiny cracks on top of the cookies. Makes about 4 dozen large cookies.