October is a damned month, when the single track is ripe but all forces conspire to distract a fellow with the prospect of skiing. Highly-produced ski films, like Christmas decorations, come earlier every year, and the internet is abuzz with atmospheric predictions and ski porn live-streamed from South America.
I’ll admit, I am excited to go skiing, but with a trip to Japan scheduled for the middle of December, the feeling isn’t too pressing. There’s just no getting around the beautiful fall leaves and crip, clear days that make anything but skiing seem deeply appealing. I managed to work in day of turns-all-year quality skiing last week, so the piper has been paid for now.
Still, that’s not to say that I’m not preparing for the season. Two international trips and a wedding make it unlikely that I’ll be doing much racing this year, but I still want to come into the season fit and ready to go fast.
As a quick post for today, I’ve compiled, for me and for you, a list of ways to prepare for the season. Enjoy!
Joe Howdyshell, coaching sponsor for the US Skimo team, talks about the engine and the transmission. The engine, your aerobic fitness, will translate well into skiing, but your transmission is sport specific. That means that to prepare for the season, we need to keep our engine that we’ve built over the summer while reintroducing ski-specific fitness.
I recommend listening to Cripple Creek BC’s interview with Joe, which you can find here:
If you’re anything like me, you tend to neglect the daily maintenance of your body. I have a hard time making myself stretch, do yoga, do physical therapy, or hit the gym to do important prehab. The shoulder season is a great time to reconsider your approach to taking care of yourself; when the weather is poor and there’s no sport calling out to you, spend that time working on your mobility and self maintenance instead.
Recently, I read the Athlete’s Guide to Recovery by Sage Rountree. He offers a thorough catalog of methods and approaches to improving recovery, which we all know is a more important phase of training than the work itself, even if we don’t behave that way. It’s worth a look, from Amazon or your local library. I didn’t learn a lot of new techniques or ideas, but spending concerted hours thinking about recovery was helpful of itself.
I’m also spending time doing some Yin yoga to loosen up my hips and back, and I’ve been poking around in John Vonhof’s classic Fixing Your Feet, working on taking care of my feet before they’re callused, blistered, and crying out for help.
Of course, my favorite book for improving mobility remains Becoming a Supple Leopard. I can’t recommend it enough.
You don’t want to hit the trailhead after the first real storm only to discover that your skins are welded together, your bindings are caked with last spring’s mud, and your skis have bases drier than the Mongolian desert. Be sure to take a look over the following pieces of critical gear.
- Skis: Any base defects are filled/welded, the summer rust is wiped off the edges, residual spring dirt is removed (topsheets too), and bases have at least some wax on them. This is also a good time to check your tips for any delamination and repair with epoxy before that gets worse.
- Skins: Chill them in the fridge and then separate when cold. Check for major contaminants which can be removed (pine needles) and for areas without glue. Reapply glue where needed, especially around the edges or tails. Inspect the plush: is this the year to finally replace them? Check the tip and tail attachments for fraying that could mean impending failure.
- Bindings: For tech bindings, at least keep them clean and somewhat lubricated with a quick spray of WD40. Check toe and heel pins for bending, cracking, or play. Bonus points for taking the heel piece off the post for cleaning and regreasing.
- Boots: Are they dry and not disgusting? Check that the toe and heel fittings are clean and tight to the boot. Tighten any hardware holding on buckles, and wiggle the boot laterally to check for excessive play in cuff rivets which could require replacement.
- Beacon: Hopefully you removed the batteries in the spring. Check for any acid in the battery compartment, stick new batteries in there, and boot the beacon to ensure there are no error codes. If you can, take the beacon to a shop that sells your brand and have them check the beacon for frequency drift.
- Airbag pack: Check that cylinders are full or the battery is charged. Discharge the pack somewhere with good clearance and check that the bag is intact. Repack it like your parachute and recharge the pack.
- Miscellany: Are your goggles too scratched to use? Do your adjustable poles lock effectively? Do you know where your sunscreen/glopstopper/scraper/gloves have gone? Do you have half-eaten bars from last May glued to the inside of your pack or jacket?
Of course, one of the bests ways to make a season even better is to finally get on the wagon of lightweight gear. If this is the year when you decide to stop joking around, take a look at Skimo.co for the best selection of lightweight gear anywhere in the USA. If you’re starting from scratch, using one of their package deals will save you a bunch of money that you can use on doughnuts and beer.
Pray for snow, and go ride your mountain bike!