With a ski season stretching from mid-October and well into the spring, Colorado has one of the longest ski seasons in the country. Now that Labor Day has passed, fall is quickly turning into winter with temperatures dropping, snowfall in the high country and snowmaking has begun at some resorts. Don't get caught unprepared for opening day; follow these tips to get ready for ski season.
1. Find Your Ticket to Ride
This is where research will really pay off. The spectrum of lift products is wide and resorts have evolved their offerings in creative ways, giving consumers the freedom of choice and the ability to find a product that suits their exact needs. Here are three important questions to ask yourself:
- Decide how often you'll ski. Every day? A couple times a week? Only on the weekends? Only on weekdays? One or two weeks in the winter? There's likely a pass product for the exact times you'll be on the snow.
- Figure out where you are going to ski. With so many resorts in Colorado, it's worth visiting as many as possible. Maybe you'll have a home resort that you'll ski or ride regularly along with some side trips to explore different resorts.
- Decide what your pass budget is and get the best value by purchasing early. Research the various passes being offered, maybe get a couple different pass products to use throughout the season. Follow your favorite resorts on social media to get access to flash deals and special discounts.
Passes Not to Pass Up
The Colorado Gold Pass is considered the brass ring of ski passes. This pass says you are committed and in a long term relationship with skiing and riding. You take the freedom and fun the pass brings seriously and are dedicated to the resorts of Colorado Ski Country USA. The Colorado Gold Pass is accepted at 22 Colorado resorts, is fully transferrable, and is useable every day of the season.
A resort season pass demonstrates commitment but with an opportunity to wander. Most days will be used at the primary resort where the pass works. But many resort season passes offer reciprocation with other resorts in Colorado, neighboring states and in some cases other countries.
The Colorado Gems Card is good for people who ski in pairs and who like to get the most bang for their buck. The Gems Card will allow you to explore the state's 11 Gems resorts. At $25, the Gems card allows the cardholder to purchase two-for-one lift tickets or receive 30 percent off an adult lift ticket twice a season at each Gems resort, essentially paying for itself after one use.
Four-packs are perfect for the dabbler. They are great for those looking to get a taste of skiing or riding but aren't ready to fully commit to a season pass. Four-packs are usually flexible on which days they can be used, and you can buy as many four packs as you want, essentially customizing a season pass to suite your needs.
Daily lift tickets are the standard lift option for vacationers, out of town guests and sometimes first timers. The key here is to purchase them in advance and online. If you're enrolling in ski school, check to see if your lesson includes the lift ticket. Also note that kids under five or six years old ski for free at most resorts. Adults over 65 receive a discount at most resorts and in some cases are free. Military members can also receive discounts.
A Word to the Wise
Avoid walking up to the ticket window on the day you want to ski and purchasing a lift ticket. That would be like walking up to the airline ticket counter with suitcase in hand and purchasing a plane ticket.
2. Get Your Gear in Order
There are advantages to renting or owning your equipment. While purchasing is on the rise, equipment technology evolves quickly and owning can put you out of date faster than the snow melts. Renting relieves the hassle of transporting equipment and can keep your gear up to date, but you lose the customization owning brings. Maybe consider a seasonal equipment lease before buying, especially with kids. Make your first purchase used or demo equipment to confirm your commitment to the activity. Also, when buying new, start with last seasons unused gear.
No matter what hardgoods you choose to slide on; skis or snowboard, above all else, make sure they are well tuned; including waxed and sharpened, at the beginning of the season. Early season can mean hardpack snow and a cold surface which can effect hardgood performance.
Rust on the edges looks ugly but isn't something to stress over, but look for missing chunks of metal from the edge, dull points, and any instance where the edge has detached from the base. Do yourself a favor and take your boards in for a tune before your first day (unless you're so prepared you had them tuned and layered up with storage wax at the end of last season).
It's no fun to stick to the snow while others fly by, which can be caused by a lack of wax. When you get your edges tuned, you can pay for a wax at the same time. Or, if you have an iron, two stools (to hold up your boards) and a plastic scraper (available at ski and sports stores throughout the country), you can learn to wax yourself. There are different waxes for different temperatures, so get the expert opinion on opening day wax at the shop before you buy wax.
Newsflash: Ski boots don't need to hurt to perform. With today's heat-moldable liners and malleable plastics that can be warmed, punched out, and molded (and then cool into rock-hard plastic shells), a person can dial in the best fit with the help of an expert boot fitter and have a season of warm, comfortable feet without sacrificing performance. In certain ski towns, ski boot fitters have god-like status and the wait to get in to them can be long. Endure the wait. It's worth it.
If you're still on the fence about buying or renting, cut your losses and invest in a good pair of excellent fitting boots. The technology doesn't change as quickly as other hardgoods and they're easier to travel with than a full set of hardgoods. Your boots will work with demo bindings found on a wide range of board rentals.
A Word on Headgear
Goggles and helmets work together as one unit. Try them on together to be sure there isn't a gap and save yourself from a sunburn stripe on your forehead. The fit should be snug like two pieces of a puzzle.
Like FifthAvenue fashions, skiwear styles come and go. The most important thing to have ready for ski season is outerwear that is water proof or water resistant. And maybe wash that neck gator from last season.
3. Gather Your Mind and Body
The distinct connection between the mind and body is intensified when skiing or riding a mountain in the winter. Preparing your body and mind will help you enjoy the season in many ways.
You don't hear of people running a marathon without training and skiing should be no different. Use the summer and fall months to get yourself in ski season shape. Cardio workouts will build endurance against higher elevations, and strengthening workouts will keep you going on the long runs.
1.) Alternate Lunge
Stand with your feet slightly more than hip-width apart, toes facing ahead. Bend your right knee and lean into it while straightening the left leg. Touch your left hand to your right foot, then stand up, bring your feet together, and step left. Repeat the sequence. Do this 10 times on each side.
Up the burn: Once you've warmed up, do two more sets of 10, but speed up the transition from leg to leg.
2.) One-legged balance
Balance on one leg while lifting the other knee to your chest. Flex your feet and hold for two counts. Then, without touching your elevated foot to the floor, lower your knee and raise your foot behind you, reaching for it with your hand. Raise your other hand above your head. Do both legs five times.
Up the burn: Stand on your toes.
3.) Frog jumps
Assume an athletic position: knees flexed, chest up, butt down, hands hanging at your legs. Squat down and then leap into the air, using your arms to propel you. Land quietly on your heels, hinging at the knees and hips to absorb the impact. Do this 20 times, rest, then do 20 more.
Up the burn: Build a stack of books or magazines as an obstacle to jump over.
4.) Standing lunges
Stand tall with feet together, then step back with one foot. Raise your hands over your head and lower the back knee to the floor. While in the lunge position, lean forward and touch your hands to the ground in front of you. Lift up and bring feet back together. Do 10 on each leg.
Up the burn: Do these walking, and concentrate on slowly lowering into and rising out of the lunge.
5.) Bicycle crunches
Lie on your back with your feet extended in front of you, put your hands behind your head and slightly raise both feet off the floor. Bring one knee to your chest and bring the opposite elbow to that knee. Then slowly extend the leg and repeat the sequence with the opposite arm and leg. Do one set of this complete core exercise until you cant continue with good form.
Up the burn: Build up to doing sets of 100+ repetitions with controlled movement and good form.
Obviously this is just a start. But spending your days on the slopes requires a strong core and solid leg muscles. Priming them now means more endurance on that first powder day. Lastly, the only thing left to do to be prepared for ski season, do your #snowdance.