Tag Archives: Boulder

Skiing on a budget with kids in Colorado

If you’re looking for a great deal for skiing, then a little preparation is in order. Think it out early, and you’ll save lots. Leave it to the last minute, and you’ll be paying for it – literally. As a grad student mum with extremely limited funds, I have got hold of some great deals, and I wanted to share some resources with you.

The Colorado Gems Card. For a $10 initial outlay per card, you get a whole range of discounts and free ski days at various resorts across Colorado. The card pays for itself after the first one or two times of use – for example, at Eldora it will get the holder $10 off the price of a child’s lift ticket (normally $39 a day), and $15 off an adult ticket (normally $65 a day). (One per person, per card, per day.) The processing takes a week or two, so get it early to make good use of it.

The Colorado Passport gives your 5th grader three FREE days of skiing at over 20 resorts in Colorado, and four days for 6th graders. It’s a really great way to get some good savings across numerous resorts, from Eldora to Aspen. The Colorado Passport is FREE for 5th graders, and $99 for 6th graders. It’s well worth the investment for the 6th grader – look at how much the lift tickets would cost you at the resort you’re most likely to go to, and you’ll see what an impact having the card makes. You need to have a picture of your child to process, and online is the fastest way of doing the application. The site says it takes about 2-3 weeks for processing, but I did it two days ago, and it’s already on its way. Important: You do not have to be a resident of Colorado to get this passport – if you know your family will ski Colorado at any time this season, it’s a great one to get for your 5th or 6th grader!

colorado vail resort pass The School of Shred gives your 5th and 6th graders four FREE days of skiing at all the    Vail Resort properties. There is no charge for this card at all, for either grade – just take   evidence of enrolment to the pass office at any of the included resorts, and they’ll sort   you out with all of it done on the spot. (You can feasibly do this on the day you arrive  to ski.)

Additionally, you can get discount lift tickets through local supermarkets such as King   Soopers (you need to go there, not able to buy online). There the tickets this season      will save you around 5-10% off the ticket office price. Not a massive saving, but    everything helps and this is one option for those who find themselves considering  skiing the day prior to heading up the mountain.

Ski rentals are expensive on the mountain. If you plan it well, you can rent in town for  a cheaper rate. Just be prepared to pick up the afternoon of the day prior to your ski  day, and return either the same day, or early the day after you shred. For the front  range, Boulder Ski Deals is my rental location of choice, with rentals from just $10 a  day for kids skis and even better deals for everyone as the season gets older. You can also  try Crystal Ski Shop and the rentskis.com site. All these have deals for group rates, and extended rentals. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. 🙂

Food and beverages are expensive (and are kind of like airplane food in quality) on the mountain, so if at all possible, take your own lunch and snacks. The best skiing seems to happen in the mornings, with everyone winding down after lunch, so don’t think you need to take a heap of food with you – a sandwich, some juice/water and snacks is fine. Remember your chapstick and sunscreen (irritating to be so prepared and then have to buy them on the mountain).

And one final note: Please, rent a helmet. You can get helmets for $10 a day anywhere (in town or on the mountain). In fact, some resorts will charge $10 for the first rental and only $8 for the subsequent ones. We’re all about saving money, but medical expenses are far more than $10. It doesn’t matter how fast you go, if you’re learning, if it’s your first time, or if you’re seasoned – if you want to keep your head and what it has in it, protect it. Helmets keep your head warm, look good, and if you don’t wear one, you’ll be the odd one out on the slopes.

Hopefully this will give you a great start to getting out with your kids on the slopes in Colorado – have fun!

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Thank you bus girl, happy holidays

Sometimes something in your daily routine can remind you of how connected we can be.

This semester I’ve caught the bus to campus on monday afternoons, on my way to my Human Computer Interaction class. When you catch the bus on a regular basis at a regular time, you’re quite often joined by a few others who have the same schedule.

And so I was joined on Mondays by a beautiful young girl – I’m guessing she was about 10 or 11. She was always on the bus already when I got on, and rode past my stop. But every time she was there, she made me smile.

This wonderful young lady was equipped with a CD player. And big headphones. She had a penchant for the Spice Girls.

How do I know?

She sang at the top of her lungs, along with the CD that nobody else could hear. Some people pretended not to hear her. Others grinned and went on with their newspapers. But most people really enjoyed listening to this singing that had absolutely no tune, and no back beat to drum out the bum notes. Everyone was grinning. With her, not at her.

On my last Monday of class, our nightingale was there. And this time the bus driver (who wasn’t the same person every time), kept turning his head to look at the young girl. I wasn’t sure if he was going to ask her to stop – she was really making quite a bit of noise. I couldn’t read his expression when he turned his head.

But after a couple of miles, he turned, looked at her, and began to click his fingers along with the beat.

We couldn’t hear the same music as the girl. But we all left the bus with her song, and were reminded to feel free in finding our own.

Happy Holidays.

Airlines don’t understand mums and marketing

There’s something magical about arriving at the airport with all your luggage and just two of your kids for the upcoming 28 hours of travel between countries, and reaching the check-in counter to find out every bag comes in just under the 23kg weight limit. Score.

And there’s something even more special about being handed your boarding passes and passports, turning around and seeing the 11yr old has just decked the 9yr old, and he is laying on the floor groaning loudly, holding one leg to an audience of passengers who are surely thinking ‘Oh My God, I hope they’re not sitting next to us.’

5 minutes in, 27 hours, 55 minutes to go.

How to make a flight a dreaded experience

We flew back to the US yesterday on United Airlines. Apart from the following treasured moments, we arrived safely:

a. Wholly inedible ‘food’ which really was probably the worst I’ve ever had on the long haul part, and food that’s more expensive than eating at Spago for the domestic route. (And far less tasty. Yes, I’ve eaten at Spago. Once. It was wonderful. I’m classy. I am. Stop laughing.)

b. Lack of in-seat entertainment which is very entertaining for my spoilt kids who were expecting personal movies and tv, yet had to watch tv shows like Desperate Housewives on the screens in the aisles instead. (I do remember my own childhood flights to the UK when there was just one movie for the whole flight, and the headphones never worked. I tried telling them that but they didn’t care and then they got more annoyed. They did manage very well in the end. But I digress).

c. Being checked into three seats on the US domestic part of the journey which were single seats in equidistant, very distant seats which I find very difficult to believe was accidental because we checked into the domestic flight, getting boarding passes an entire day before (see earlier part about children punching each other). There is no way there weren’t three seats together when I checked in. Mind you, I was easily trumped by a poor woman with five kids under five, who had all been seated all over the plane. That’s just completely stupid. I was momentarily tempted to tell the attendant not to bother reseating the kids, but just to reseat this other mother and myself somewhere and bring us a bottle of bubbly.

d. The lack of real assistance for a woman with four children travelling alone, whose 3yr old would NOT stop screaming for about 3 hours in the last quarter of the long haul flight. She was forced to stay in her seat with that kid because she couldn’t leave the others. I knew that. I’ve got lots of kids and have usually travelled alone with them. One kid will cry, or take a particular liking to the novelty of the plane’s bathroom and insist they have to go constantly, or need something from the one bag in the overhead bin. It’s a drama. Something simple could have made her journey easier. Such as a flight attendant saying, “what can I do to help?” instead of ignoring her.

Sidebar: I’ll never forget the Qantas flight Jed and I took while I was still nursing Charlie, about 6 years ago. The dinner came, and there was no way I could cut it up – my arm was indisposed with nursing child. I said to leave it with Jed and I’d get to it later. The Qantas attendant decided that was okay and she’d do it if I preferred, but how about if she cut the dinner up, and just left the dinner and a fork (rather than the whole tray), and then I could manage it while it was still hot? She was awesome. I remember that still. Six years later. I even remember what the flight attendant looked like. That’s good branding.

Market your flights to mums

This is a trip that costs about $US1000 a seat return – minimum. There are a couple of hundred people on the plane, who’ve all paid at least that amount. This is not a bus. People are tired, stressed and emotional. Being an attendant on these flights is hard work. But it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a flight attendant go beyond the most basic of service effort and everyone’s flight would have been better if that kid had stopped screaming.

On our trip over another woman was left standing in the queue with her three kids. The flight had been delayed. It was 2am. The smallest kid was asleep. She had carry-on luggage. She was really struggling. And the attendants all ignored her.

Yes, I helped her as I could, and Charlie even offered too. If an 9yr old gets it, why don’t the airlines?

When we finally boarded that flight, the ground staff said the standard “how are you?” I said “good, and you?” His reply was “tired.”

Well stuff you.

My reply? “At least you’re getting paid.” I should have added ‘and don’t have to sit on the plane for the next 16 hours with kids, and haven’t just had a 3 hours flight to get here, and then waited 9 hours for this delayed one.’

Sheesh. I wonder who’s more precious? My kids completely expecting video on demand in their seats, or these airline staff who seem to think we owe them something more than the price of a ticket.

Instead of focusing on leg room, loyalty programs and discount prices, it would be great to see an airline focus on really going beyond the call of duty to make your flight the best you’ve ever had. If an airline marketed to mothers, they’d see these women are the decision makers, who travel with their families (more ticket sales), and to be honest, it’s the simple things like offering a pair of hands when needed that will make a mother like you more.

Or maybe that’s just too hard. Too much to ask.

How to create a stir – write about women in startups

I’m writing for the online news site, Examiner.com as the Boulder Startup Examiner.

Why? Am I insane? Don’t I have enough to do?

I felt compelled to do it. Boulder is a wonderful town, with a fantastic tech community of people. It’s a really big community, for a small town. It’s exciting, vibrant and smart. It’s full of incredible people. And they’re all doing their own thing.

We’re all working with a similar environment. We see lots of familiar people every week, and there are lots of tech events focused on the community. But we have different lives, experiences and industries. There are lots of people here I’ve never met – and when many of those people are ones I’ve heard of and I know have heard of me in our ‘small’ community, that’s disappointing. We have a wealth of things to draw on that don’t get any focus, simply because there’s no professional journalism covering it.

So that’s what I’m trying to do with my Examiner role. I’m treating it as I would a professional journalistic venture. It’s not personal (that’s what my blog’s for). It’s actual journalism. The way I used to do it. It’s amazing how you never forget. And I’m really enjoying it.

I’m putting together a plan of writing one article a week on five different topic areas. (Let’s see how my time management works with that!) Today’s topic area was Women in Tech. I’ll be writing on that once a week. And today’s story relates to how women who work in Boulder startups simply don’t seem to have the same networking opportunities the men of Boulder do. A pretty self-evident post, I thought. I got to interview some wonderful women (another bonus of working on Examiner is chatting with local startups I’ve never run across, or have only met briefly!). I said to Tara and Grace I wanted to focus on women in Boulder startups. It wasn’t their idea, it was mine. And they came to the party. We had a lovely chat over coffee last week. I recorded the chat, and I wrote the piece.

It seems to have hit a bit of a nerve with some people in various elements of social media, and I couldn’t be happier. I believe the article is respectful of Boulder, the community and both men and women. If you read beyond the headline (as any journalism school will explain, the headline is just the foothold into the story) you get a balanced view of women in startups here in Boulder.

I invite you to read the article yourself, and leave a comment. I now know I’ll definitely be covering women in startups in Boulder every week. Because it’s a great topic, obviously close to my heart. And nobody else covers it.

Focusing on founders – the Founder Institute

There are numerous seed and incubator programs in operation, all geared towards getting startups on their feet, funded and on their way. Most of these programs have a similar framework. Startups pitch an idea, and the program decides which are the best investments for their time and money. The incubator then works with that handful of startups and focuses on helping them get going over a few weeks or months, with varying amounts of money, visiting mentors, speakers etc. In return they get a piece of the startup’s pie.

Incubators are a prized involvement for a startup so the application process is highly competitive. For example, in 2009, Boulder-based Techstars’ third year, they received 527 applications from all over the world. The program then had the daunting task of whittling it down by about 90%.

A new type of program entered the fray this year. Silicon Valley-based The Founder Institute, headed by Adeo Ressi, launched The Funded, an incubator which features interaction with a range of mentors, all geared towards helping get startups off the ground. However, the Funded has a different perspective than most others.FI logo

You’re more than welcome to go through the program in detail if you follow the earlier link, but to me the key aspect is that The Funded’s program focuses on the founders themselves, not just one startup idea that they have. Looking at most successful entrepreneurs today, many of them have ideas that ultimately didn’t work out – but The Founder Institute believes that one failure doesn’t automatically make them a bad selection for an incubator. Instead, focusing on working with people who have all the particular founder qualities necessary to build great companies is far more likely to produce dividends.

The Founder Institute invited people to complete an application outlining themselves and their startup idea (like the other incubators do). But after that, those applicants deemed to have the most promising/fitting qualities were invited to undertake a 5-part test. As a result, there are startups in all sorts of different areas, at all stages of development. The test we each sat was produced by the Founder Institute in collaboration with other specialists – the idea is to gain a quantifiable reflection of those who are most likely to ‘make it’ based on their personality and IQ traits (of course, much of the results of this will not be apparent for a while yet – we have to launch ourselves to see the outcomes).

FI vision logo

Undertaking the test was a real adventure.

Each of our three founders was invited to take the test. It was delivered online, parts of it were timed, and one whole section was on vocabulary. It reminded me a lot of a cross between an IQ test and the GRE exam. There was even some math (shudder) – and questions that looked like they could have needed to include math but didn’t (IQ). It took about 1.5 hours to get through it all, and we sat it independently (I did mine at 6am before the kids got up. Jed did his that evening after I’d gone to bed.)

The funniest part was that scribetribe’s founders had a phone conference to talk about various things the evening after we’d all done the test. It was done and over. But Jed, Daz and I were still talking about the questions. “What did you put for this?” “Oh, I ran out of time in that section.” Littered with shared laughter, there was a really serious, telling side of us all in our focus on having done the best we possibly could. It really showed to me how there are little aspects to our personalities which complement each other’s, help us work really well together, and at the same time amplify each other’s particular strengths. It was very interesting to see how competitive Jed and I can be with each other (but he cares more than I. I would never repeatedly point out that I got a question right that he didn’t. Even though I did ;)) Just as you would in high school, we worked out the answers to the few questions we could remember and reflected on our (well… my) agony in not being able to make sense of others.

At the end of it all, all three of us were accepted into the program, which has just 75 founders for 2009, its inaugural year. All the founders are broken into smaller working groups to work on each week’s assignments, to discuss and brainstorm – it’s fabulous because all three of us are in different working groups, and are contributing and receiving complementary information in those smaller brainstorms. We also, of course, all work together one day a week, have classes with mentors focused on particular areas from ideation to accounting to marketing.

Even funnier than the test? The fact that after each of us had our first working group meeting, I said to Jed, “my group voted me president.” Jed replied, “so did mine.”

We are each thrilled to be part of the Funded – it’s providing each of us with things we need to really make an incredible company together. And with our focus, energy and excitement, Scribetribe’s alpha launch at the end of this summer is going to be phenomenal.

The Startup Kid

Running a startup isn’t easy on anyone.

The glorious trails of successful entrepreneurs are littered with the scars of broken relationships and bitter resentment of cold dinners and missed birthday parties.

It takes a special kind of relationship to weather the storms of startup life.

At Darling Harbour, Sydney.

At Darling Harbour, Sydney.

It takes a special kind of kid too. A kid who will understand that daddy or mummy can’t make it to every school function. That we can’t afford summer camp.

It takes a special kid who will say okay through his tears as he’s torn from his Australian home, his dogs, his school friends, because he knows that what we’re working on isn’t a normal sort of job like his friends’ parents have.

This week we have begun graduation celebrations for Harry as he completes year 5. I got to make a dedication to him the other day at school, as did all the other parents in his class to their kids.In typical startup style, I did this one alone because Jed’s in Silicon Valley at the moment. The Kleenex was really getting passed around that circle.

Why so much Kleenex? It was his teacher’s fault really. She got us to close our eyes and think of when we were having our child, their infancy, and years in elementary school. And then open our eyes and take our turns to speak from the heart to our child in front of everyone (you could pass if you wanted to, but nobody did – this is Boulder, after all ;)).

Now, I cry at the drop of a hat. I can’t walk into that darned school without automatically tearing up it seems (sigh). But for this dedication, while others were a bit of a mess, I hardly cried at all.

And while it surprised me at the time, I know why.

Harry is an incredible kid. He was made for the startup life. I won’t be a bit surprised if he ends up living it himself. (Good grief, I hope he scores a partner as well as his dad did ;)). Harry’s adaptability is remarkable. Many kids would have resented the move to the US, and that would have been understandable. Not Harry, even though he misses Australia very much.

Harry's idea of cleaning up his room

Harry's idea of cleaning up his room

He’s no angel though. He has a cheeky side and he’s a daredevil. I was told of his decision to ride a waterfall while hiking, stopping just short of a massive drop – nearly giving everyone watching a heart attack. And we will never forget him barrelling down Eldora mountain on a snowboard without a single turn and nearly hitting a bus in the car park – grinning afterwards.

Everyone who knows us as a family will agree that Harry is the one who most wears his heart on his sleeve. He hugs everyone. Repeatedly.

He is honest and open. But he can’t sleep if he’s feeling bad about something – he has to get up and talk it through. And he has a strength of character and self-belief which overcomes every obstacle. He’s never said “I’ve had enough.”  He just keeps going. It’s that tenacity that is so inspiring and awesome.

And I can’t cry about that. I can’t cry about changes at all – for Harry the world is his oyster, and he’s loving the adventure. He doesn’t care that much about stuff he hasn’t accomplished yet – he’s just going to keep trying. And he’s not concerned about being the best at everything. He just wants to give it a go.

Last week his performance on drums at the big 5th grade concert that combined musicians from 3 schools was incredible. He was on time with every beat. He enjoyed it. And he’s such an individual, he wore his lucky hat too 😉

I can’t wait to see what he tries his hand at, and surprises us with, in Middle School. They’re gonna be lucky to have him. As are we.

Congratulations, Harry. We’re so proud of you, and grateful for all you give back to us every single day.

Why my family loves Boulder

I never dreamed I’d live anywhere other than Sydney, Australia.

When you’ve got a good job, a house you’re constantly doing ‘something’ to, kids, dogs, routine… the last thing you think of is moving. Anywhere. Least of all to a country you’ve never been to before. But then I came home from work one day and Jed told me his start-up dreams weren’t done with itechne. He had a bigger one. To go to the US and launch what was to become scribetribe.us.

And I said okay, we’ll Skype and email.

But he had a different plan. He convinced me to take (another) chance.

We packed up and moved to Boulder, Colorado in August 2008.

Now, lots of people have written about the great things Boulder has to offer in terms of nightlife, culture, the outdoors and the tech scene. And it’s all true and fantastic. I am loving being a part of all of those things. But above everything else, I’m a *proud* mum. And Boulder is an amazing place to raise kids.

Harry and Charlie are aged 8 and 11 and have come to Boulder with us. They have swapped their Sydney private school blazers and ties, frenetic life-by-the-clock, mum out teaching three nights a week, no friends within walking distance, and a home where they weren’t allowed to play out the front due to the traffic – for this:

september-2008-002 A lifestyle that is similar to that I remember as a kid. One I thought you couldn’t give your kids any more, because “times have changed.”

They’d never seen snow before we moved to Boulder. Here they love it. december-2008-004

On top of all that, the (public) school they go to has the best educators I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. They have been wonderful in helping my kids move to not only a new home, but a place where feet and inches, and American history are completely different for them. They’ve made the transtition incredibly smoothly – and it’s largely due to the school. (I’ve already celebrated Bear Creek Elementary in an earlier post.)

For me? The start-up widow? I’ve swapped a lifestyle where the drive to work each day took an hour of fume-laden highways, teaching in this college at Granville:

granville-tafe-007

For being a part of the University of Colorado, which is slightly more attractive.

uni-of-colorado1

And on top of everything else, my husband is throwing himself into his life’s dream. He’s happily working on seemingly endless adrenaline, at all hours. But he tries to take a run each day and instead of it being beside a road where it’s simply not safe after a certain hour, it’s up around NCAR where deer graze.

So I guess the thing is, when you think you’re settled and couldn’t think of moving, think again. A bit of unsettling could be the best thing you do for your family. Especially if Boulder is where you end up. If you’re in tech and thinking about moving to Boulder, get in touch with the guys at Boulder.me.

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