As the leaves fall and beautiful October colors fill the mountains, those of us who love skiing know that the wait for snow is almost over. It can be hard to picture cold, snowy vistas with the last lingering warmth of summer keeping the hills dry, but when winter comes - it comes suddenly! Being prepared for winter is essential if you're going to get the most out of it, so here are five actionable steps you can take to get ready for the cold season.
1. Get Reading
How much your skills and knowledge can fade in the 7 or 8 months between ski seasons is surprising. Things that are second nature by the end of April can feel strangely foreign when you get back on snow at the start of next winter. Many of those skills can only be refreshed by actually going skiing, but you can actually do a surprising amount of skill refreshment just by reading some of the books you (if you're anything like me) devoured when trying to get into skiing.
Pick a book about first aid, avalanche science, ski technique - anything, really - off the shelf and get reading. Even if you know the content, getting your brain back into ski mode is beneficial. Part of the battle at the start of the season is thinking like a skier again, and re-reading books you learned from in the past is a great way to get back into the zone.
If you've re-read all your old books, get some new ones and further build your knowledge!
2. Check Your Gear
At the end of the ski season, it can be easy to ponder the long summer ahead and figure that you'll find time to maintain and fix all your gear, but somehow, the day never quite comes around. With winter beckoning, catch up on that long-overdue day and sort your gear out. Does your pack have any holes in it? Are your skis waxed and all the buckles on your boots securely bolted down? Does your avalanche beacon have new batteries? Get repairing!
Starting out on the first day of the season with clean, maintained, and neat gear is a surefire way of getting winter off to a good start. Your mindset is greatly affected by subtle changes, so pulling into the parking lot with your gear in order will set you up far better than frantically pulling together the same worn-out old gear and spending the first day of the season dealing with equipment issues.
Ski fitness is so unique that you can only really hone it by skiing, but you can get a good headstart on the process by doing some off-season training. Feeling fit and ready for the physical challenge of skiing is something you can work on long before the snow starts to fall.
Without wishing to state the obvious, your legs and core are the most critical body parts to focus on. Strength training is key to ski performance, so do plenty of squats, deadlifts, and explosive jumping movements in conjunction with single-leg movements, which develop stability and help prevent injury. Cycling, running, and hiking are also excellent ways to develop pre-season fitness.
The detail of what you do is insignificant - just doing more exercise, emphasizing lower limb strength and stability is key. If you feel like running, go running. Want to lift some weights? Go for it. Just get moving and start engaging your body ahead of a long season.
4. Plan Ahead
With work, family, and all the other commitments we have in life, getting ski trips to happen is tricky. With that in mind, getting trips into the calendar as early as possible maximizes their chances of happening. The combination of the right partners, safe avalanche conditions, and suitable weather don't often come together, and getting them all lined up at short notice is all but impossible. If you want to do a big ski trip this winter, contact your ski partners, discuss the trip, and book the dates! The trips that end up happening are the trips you plan for.
One key element of planning is actually coming up with realistic plans. I know people who always claim they'll do that big ski trip next year, but next year never comes. If your life is organized such that you can't go away for more than a few days, don't vainly hope that you'll somehow manage to pull off a two-week trip - be realistic about what your life commitments, fitness and skill level will allow you do, and get it organized well in advance.
5. Be Patient
It's exhilarating when ski season rolls around, and you are suddenly unleashed on the snow you've been dreaming of. The overwhelming temptation is to jump straight on your skis and start ripping, but easing into the season is a far better idea.
Early-season snowpacks are shallow, and the chances of hitting a rock or some other object buried beneath the surface are never higher than in November and December. Don't just rip into the first nice-looking slope you see; let the snowpack thicken out and wait until those rocks are buried before trying to ski over them.
Taking it easy early on also pays dividends later in the season, when you've gradually built fitness and skill-sharpness and - by the time you want to get serious - you're confident and ready to roll.
As if the winter psyche wasn't already high enough, check this out for even more inspiration!