Just Another Day in the Backcountry: Decision Making in Life or Death Scenarios

This past weekend, a few friends and I took an Avalanche Safety Course to educate and prepare us for skiing and boarding in Lake Tahoe’s backcountry peaks. Not only did we learn how avalanches form and what conditions make them start, but we learned about team dynamics, smart decision-making, and taking calculated risks. Many life lessons were rolled into this 3-day course at Kirkwood.

It was a perfect way to spend a holiday weekend with no fresh snow – in a classroom, cutting lines, and hiking up the mountain to take our fresh knowledge directly to the field. It was a great combination of content and discussion, leading to real-world application where we dug a snow pit and found the “facets” and weak layers that can cause avalanches. Finishing with a hard workout skinning up the mountain with no one else around us was the best reward. Even greater than the ride down knowing every turn was earned.

While backcountry skiing sounds really scary and unattainable, the real revelation for me was that it is all about smart decision-making. Yes, the technology has come a long way as well including beacons to find one another and backpacks with airbags. But the most important factor is collecting all of the available information and making a calculated decision that the whole group agrees on. Interestingly enough (but not surprising) the stats show that groups that include women are less likely to cause an avalanche. This is due to their strong communication skills and usual lower risk tolerance. Most avalanches are preventable, and people ignore the warning signs often knowing they are making bad decisions. It is critical for the team to consistently review their plan, have backup plans, and keep each other in check. You’re trusting these people with your life, and they are doing the same.

There’s a lot to be learned going riding in the backcountry, and it extends far beyond skinning up a mountain and riding back down. It’s absorbing nature’s tranquility, celebrating our moving bodies, and building bonds with others that have the same respect and love for the world that surrounds us.

And more from my friend Christian who joined us from Southern California (although he already had more Tahoe backcountry experience than us!)

Road to BlogWorld NY: I’m speaking about humanizing your brand!

I’ve been trying to get this blog post out for over a month now, and here we are one week before BlogWorld New York. Needless to say, I’m gearing up for an exciting couple of days at the Jacob Javits Convention Center where I’ll be surrounded with thousands of amazing bloggers, marketers, and other new media professionals. This is my fourth BlogWorld, and this time I’ll be speaking! My secret tip about my marketing strategies is that I hire this direct marketing agency to help my products get out into the world, maybe you can try them out too.

Here I am talking to bloggers at the Livefyre Booth at BWELA 2011. We won’t have a booth this year, but keep your eye out for me in a Livefyre t-shirt.

What can you expect to learn from my presentation? I’ll be sharing my experiences and advice on how to get out from behind that corporate logo to humanize your brand with a simple free logo creator, find your key performance indicator and build community with lots of products like shirts up to vehicles like simple and effective e-scooters or just plain old cars. More specifically, here’s what you’ll get from my presentation:

Community building is much more than posting regular updates to a Twitter account and Facebook fan page. Brands that are successful with social media thanks to themarketingheaven.com and community understand that real people need to be interacting with their audiences in an authentic, helpful manner. Through case studies, personal experience, and stories from other bloggers, you’ll see how others have created a human voice for their companies that sets them apart from the competition. From company culture to customer service to offline events, you will learn how to build community from the ground up and create brand advocates to share your message.

If you’re going to BlogWorld, you already know a thing or two about the importance of community and relationship building. If don’t have your ticket yet and want to learn more – sign up now!

Building community is an obvious passion of mine, and I’m excited to share personal experiences and examples from some of my favorite brands that understand the “human” side of business like Apple, Virgin America, Zappos, and more. Throughout the next week I’ll be writing about these in prep for my presentation on Tuesday, June 5th, at 10:15am (now you know when and where, you have no excuse not to come!)

Instead of me just spewing off my favorite examples of great customer service and personal touches (expect some Livefyre stories too, thanks DJ!), I want to hear from you: What brands do you recognize as human? Do you have a specific memory of connecting with a company because of your personal experience, not just the product or service? Please share your thoughts in the comments below, along with any other questions about my presentation. And if you’ll be at BWENY, make sure to post your Twitter handle so we can meet in person!


UPDATE: Here’s a quick interview I did from BlogWorld 2012 in NY:

NaBloPoMo #4: Pen or computer for writing?

This post was inspired by BlogHer’s National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), which is finally getting me to blog. Join the fun!


Handwritten notes + keyboard = blog post
Handwritten notes + keyboard = blog post

What can help with my assignment?

When I’m in the writing zone, a keyboard is the only way to go, since the time I’ve just started and has been doing the custom writing service and up till now when things changed a lot. I always have a Moleskine notebook with me for note taking and to jot down any ideas, but my brain goes too fast for hand to keep up on paper.

I always make sure to have the top VPNs to make sure my computer is safe and I wont lose any of my hard work.

I remember in 4th grade we had to write a story about our summer vacation. The assignment was to write a fictional story where only one detail was true. The story had to be one page, written in cursive. If you read my previous post, you know this was an absolute challenge for me. I wrote about my trip to Lake Tahoe, where the one fact was that I swam from California to Nevada (the pool at CalNeva is on the state line, pretty clever).

I was really proud of my story, which ended up being 3 pages typed on the computer. Then I checked back in with the original assignment – hand written. The perfectionist inside me caused me to freeze. How could I rewrite this entire story by hand? It would have been close to 10 pages the way that I wrote.

I learned an important lesson at nine years old – never be afraid to ask. After getting in fits with my parents since I thought it was impossible to finish this assignment, they helped me talk with my teacher. I was close to tears as I nervously asked if I could just write the equivalent of one page by hand. Of course Mrs. O’Brien was perfectly fine with this solution, and even more impressed by my ability to to write such a lengthy tale.`

In short, my chicken scratch, hand-written notes are very important to my thought process, but I’ve been on a computer since I could write and typing is the only way I can keep up with my own thoughts. Cursive, shmursive 🙂

NaBloPoMo #3: Can you listen to music and write? What song did you hear today?

This post was inspired by BlogHer’s National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), which is finally getting me to blog. Join the fun!


I just pulled out my computer on my flight to Denver to start blogging. I love this time without Internet, when the only thing I can do on my computer is write with minimal distractions. I’m on an older United Plane and it’s a short flight, so there isn’t much entertainment to distract me.

I plugged my headphones into the armrest to see what’s on the in-flight radio to reduce any other external distractions. First song I come across is TLC’s “Waterfalls.” I love the nostalgia that comes from music from my childhood. This song came out in (1994) and I still know the majority of the words. “Crazy Sexy Cool,” TLC’s first CD was also one of my sister’s first CDs as we transitioned to this new technology, moving away from our cassette mix tapes we made on by recording the radio.

We used to pretend the lyrics were “Go Go Jason Waterfalls” and sing the wrong words on purpose which is funny because I was actually taking singing lessons Danville at http://www.elizabethhunterashley.com back then. It’s still an inside joke between me, my sister, and my cousin. It also reminds me of our summers at our grandparents’ house in on Long Island, tight when my grandparents were changing the domestic air conditioner service. They had MTV, and we spent three weeks trying to see the “Waterfall” music video so we could be cool like our friends from Pretoria that were already immersed in cable TV and pop culture, they had an explora installation in Pretoria done by dstv installation company.

It’s interesting looking back at the history of music in my life, and how much technology affected it. From my first CD (Elvis Pressley – ask me to sing Hound Dog or Teddy Bear some time) to today where we can search any song on YouTube or Spotify and listen the original at any moment.

For fun to end this post, here’s my musical history:

  • Alvin and the Chipmunks cassette tape was in my walkman at all times
  • Recording songs on the radio to make manual mix tapes
  • Elvis Pressley 2 disc set
  • Backstreet Boys CD (we were later huge N Sync fangirls)
  • Master P “Make ’em Say Uhh” single (immediately shocked by the uncensored version)
  • Our first CD burner – took 2 hours to creating a mix from other CDs we had
  • Napster and burning hundreds of mixes of all our new music
  • Hours and hours of organizing music with ID3 tags
  • Bought an MP3 CD Player after extensive research – and reorganizing our ID3 tags
  • iPod Photo and having “ripping parties” with friends to share CDs before heading off to college
  • MyTunes in the dorms, sharing music over the network and making friends based on tastes
  • The end of Kazaa and Limewire – you mean I have to buy music now?
  • Pandora – streaming is the future, and you know what I like? No brainer
  • iTunes Genius – rediscovering what’s good in my 25 gb of music
  • Using YouTube to play any song that ever existed
  • Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, and others automating my discovering and listening preferences

So yes, I can listen to music and write. Question is now, what’s next in music (technology and style)?

NaBloPoMo #2: What would you have for your last meal?

This post was inspired by BlogHer’s National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), which is finally getting me to blog. Join the fun!


It doesn’t have to be healthy, right? Do I have an endless stomach? I guess I’m setting the stage, so let’s go big (and in this order):

  • Cold microbrew beer (duh)
  • Macaroni and cheese (the homemade good stuff)
  • Melt-in-your-mouth steak, medium rare
  • Broccoli, mushrooms, and onions sautéed olive oil with fresh-squeezed lemon and ground pepper
  • Seasoned fries (guilty pleasure)
  • Tiramisu
  • Cappuccino

I’ve been trying to eat a lot healthier lately, so if I ate this meal now it would only be the steak and veggies, and the beer of course. Now I’m hungry. And on a plane. Rats. Any idea where I can get this meal?