Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Thoughts On A Ski Season

Mieke and I were blessed with an incredible end of season ski trip with her family to Valmeinier in the French Alps. In fact, it was this trip that set our season in motion six months ago and led to the creation of liefstyle. When the trip was scheduled we decided that the one thing we would do was be ready. Ready for 6 straight days of all-out skiing in the Alps and make the most of this incredible opportunity.
Pre-season we started the workouts and we started researching the gear. First came the ski boots. We went for the top of the line Salomons. Looking back, this was probably the best money we spent all season. Good gear pays off!
After the boots, I'd have to say that baselayers and good socks are the most important gear. It's next to your skin all day and you alternate between sweating and freezing constantly, so you've got to have materials that can keep the water moving away from your skin. (Go for the Capilene baselayers and the Smartwool socks.) Now, you can't underestimate the importance of the outerwear. When Mieke bought me my Kjus ski jacket at Century 21 it was a kind of watershed moment when I started taking myself more seriously as a skier. Gear does not make you a good skier, but it damn sure will make you better. The increased comfort and mobility of the jacket definitely upped my game. And I felt a bit bad ass in it, which didn't hurt.
Back to the training, the great irony of being a non-professional skier is that most of ski season is spent not actually skiing but thinking and fantasizing about skiing. Nothing compares to the joyous hours on the mountain, but the season is most definitely made off of the slopes. One day a week is not enough to make a winter.
The workouts were big. We started reading Ski Magazine and we discovered all of these amazing exercises that we could do to train our bodies for the Valmeinier trip. Generally, being one day a week skiers we spent about as much time in the gym as we did actually carving and shredding on the slopes. (About 5-6 hours.)
There are so many moments - our first day of the season a Windham, New Year's Day at Hunter Mountain 15 below zero, our first double black day, our best morning of the season when we did 15 runs before lunch, two days of paradise at Black Butte and Hoodoo, training Barbara and our epic two days at Okemo and of course Valmeinier. There are hundreds of pictures and stories, but what seems right to share at this moment, the end of ski season, the beginning of spring, is a few things that we've learned over the course of this amazing winter:

- Have a workout partner if possible.
- You ski better at the end of the season.
- Wear capilene to travel and to ski.
- Make a gear checklist and use it to pack for your ski trips.
- Get out on the mountain early.
- No matter how much or how hard you train, no exercise can match the intensity of actual skiing.

- Blow the water back out of the Camelbak tube or it will freeze in sub-freezing weather
.
- Base lodges have the best French Fries! (We call them Mountain Fries.)

- Skiing with a helmet is awesome.

- Take group lessons. They are much cheaper and rarely crowded.

- What scares you on day 1 will be your favorite run on day 10.

Best of:

Best Money Spent
- Good ski boots

Best Value
- Fur-lined crocs tied with on-sale Patagonia baselayers

Best Alpine Tradition
- Hot chocolate with rum

Best Protection
- Ski Helmets tied with Mieke's Scott two-layer mittens

Best Fun
- Skiing with the whole family!

Best Feeling
- Fresh Powder

Best Apres Ski
- Genepi shots at 1800 meters elevation tied with Deschutes local brews in Sisters, Oregon

Best View
- Anything on a sunny day from the top of a mountain

Best Soundtrack - Check out the tunes on the movie Higher Ground by Warren Miller
Best Moment
- This one, all season long, this one

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