By R. Scott Rappold
It's that special time of year in Colorado.
The Broncos are playing again. The aspens in the high country are starting to turn. There's a chill in the air that whispers a promise of the coming of Colorado's best season.
Winter is coming.
But skiers and snowboarders shouldn't just sit around and wait for the snow to fall. You want to be ready - physically, mentally, financially - for Opening Day, which in Colorado can be any time between mid-October and mid-November, depending on the weather.
In that vein, here are ten things every skier or snowboarder should be doing now.
Do a gear inventory
It's probably been five months or longer since you last had your ski gear out, and nobody wants to discover they're missing a crucial piece of equipment the night before the first ski trip.
Check your helmet for dents. Check your gloves for tears. Make sure your face mask still fits. Decide if you can get another winter out of your goggles or if they're too scratched up.
Try on your base layers, your snow pants and jackets. Walk around the driveway in your boots.
Give your ski or snowboard bases and edges an inspection. It's a good idea to get them professionally tuned and waxed once a year. Why not now, before everyone else has the same idea?
Any gear you need will be much cheaper and more available now, as opposed to when the season has actually started.
Hit the gym
If you try to go straight from the sofa to the ski trail, you're going to be exhausted before the bar even opens. So now is a great time to start reminding those leg muscles of their winter job. Squats, lunges and weight machines will help get them back into ski shape.
But skiing isn't just about leg muscles. Controlling speed down a hill and making turns is a full-body workout. Running, biking, hiking - they're all ideal for getting you into shape for the cardiovascular demands ahead. Try running downhill to get your quads, calves and hamstrings ready for the labors of controlling your speed.
Get some altitude adjustment
If you're lucky enough to live in Colorado, then there is an ideal opportunity for you to get acclimated to exerting yourself at 11,000 feet above sea level: Get up in the mountains.
Whether it's a day trip leaf-peeping, a brisk fall camping trip or just a simple stroll in the mountains, your body adjusts to the thin air of the Rockies better the more time you spend there. And besides, even without the snow, the mountains are still gorgeous.
Buy your ski pass
This might seem like a no-brainer, but a surprising number of people wait until the season has actually started to think about buying a pass, something that could cost you a lot of extra money. Most pass prices go up after summer and again as the season approaches, so plan ahead if you haven't already bought one.
And if money is a little short or you just aren't ready to commit to a season pass, order a Colorado GEMS card from Colorado Ski Country USA, which offers two-for-one deals or two 30-percent-off lift tickets at 11 resorts. https://www.coloradoski.com/store/gems-card-2019-2020
Check your tires
What good is it if you're in great physical shape with a pass in hand and brand new skis on the rack if you're in a ditch instead of on the slopes?
Getting to the slopes on the snowiest days can be a challenge, so make sure you're ready. A four-wheel-drive vehicle with snow tires is the best bet, but not everyone can afford a new car just for winter. Putting snow tires on your passenger car will help, or you should at least ensure your tires have three-sixteenths of an inch of tread. It's also a good idea to carry tire chains or cables so you can quickly get some traction in those tough spots.
Another good reason to check your tires or upgrade to snow tires: When the Colorado Department of Transportation enacts the passenger vehicle traction law during storms, you can get a hefty fine for causing a tie-up.
Start saving sick days at work
Because it's nice to be a weekend warrior, but the law of averages says more storms will fall on weekdays. Give yourself the flexibility to take a snow day from work when "powder fever" strikes.
Get season-long rentals for the kids
Given the high cost of ski and snowboard gear, what parent wants to buy new sets every year for your growing kids? Many rental shops offer season-long rentals, but you need to get them early as shops limit the number of such rentals and they're usually long gone once the lifts actually start running.
Sign up for the 5th and 6th Grade Passports
Who says there's nothing free in the ski industry?
The Colorado Ski Country USA 5th Grade Passport will give your kids three free days at 22 Colorado ski areas, and if they've never skied they can get a free lesson too.
The 6th Grade Passport offers four days at the same ski areas for $110, less than the cost of a single lift ticket at many resorts.
These programs can fill early so if your kids are the right age, apply now! https://www.coloradoski.com/passport
Book lodging now if you're planning an overnight trip around a holiday
As a powder addict, I never plan a ski trip more than 72 hours in advance, but for many skiers and families, spending Christmas or New Year's or MLK Day in the mountains is a time-honored tradition. Book your lodging sooner rather than later for the best rates and availability.
Watch a ski movie
If all this prepping for winter hasn't gotten you excited, maybe a ski movie will? You can catch the latest films by heavyweights like Warren Miller Entertainment in theaters each fall around Colorado, or you can find some classics on the Internet, streaming services or at your local library. No, it probably won't make you a better or more prepared skier on Opening Day, but you just might be a little more stoked for it.
R. Scott Rappold is a journalist with more than 20 years of experience, including 10 at The Colorado Springs Gazette, where he wrote about skiing, hiking, camping and all the things that make Colorado great. He is now a full-time ski bum who writes when he needs money for beer or lift tickets. He lives in Colorado's beautiful San Luis Valley. Read more of Scott's stories here.