Tune Up Your Skiing
Reintroduce yourself to the snow now, and get ready for a great season on the slopes
After a monthslong break from the slopes, get primed for the new season with some advice from a professional ski instructor. Maybe you skipped the snow all of last season or are recovering from an injury. Whether you are a newbie or crusty veteran, spending time with a pro can help ease a little rust.
Tom Kirlin, Crotched Mountain ski and snowboard school manager, likes to remind skiers and riders that even Bode Miller and Mikaela Shiffrin have coaches.
He usually takes a few folks out for their first turns of the season as sort of a tune-up and confidence builder.
“If a skier or rider was working on a specific skill last season, it is a great idea for them to go out with an instructor to make sure no bad habits were developed during the off-season,” he says.
But even before reaching the outdoor corduroy carpet, doing some indoor activities is beneficial.
Nate Waterhouse, Attitash Mountain Resort and Wildcat Mountain ski and snowboard director, preaches the gospel of stretching.
“For skiers and riders who are a bit rusty, I recommend they begin a whole-body stretching routine that includes stretches for their back, hips and legs,” he says.
John Pawlak, Pats Peak snowsports school director, suggests exercises like toe touches, lunges and squats. If you haven’t been doing much, physically light activities like walking, cycling and jogging for small 5- to 10-minute intervals return energetic dividends.
Doug Daniels has been involved with ski instruction and training instructors for more than 25 years. He know the season’s first runs can produce everything from a little nervous energy to full-on anxiety. The Mount Sunapee skier services senior manager has a novel approach: Put on your ski boots for about 10 minutes at least three times before your first day. Walk in them. Flex in them.
“[That] reminds your feet what ski boots feel like,” he says.
Of course, checking and tuning your gear is essential before that first day. So is taking it easy.
“Mentally begin to focus on your pace,” says Pawlak. “First day should be based on low intensity. If you are a blue square [intermediate] skier or rider, stay on greens [beginner] the first half-hour to hour. Build slowly from there.”
Daniels suggests focusing on slow body movements at first, as turning takes priority over carving at the season’s onset.
“A great drill to reintroduce yourself to snow and get you ready for the early season is making short turns with a very flat ski,” he says. “Let the ski slide on the snow and try to keep your upper body over your feet so that you keep up with your skis. This drill gives you the most control in the tightest spaces and sets you up for success on the side of the trail where all the good snow ends up.”
A ski pro can also break those flaws that can emerge over the years.
“An instructor will see this and help correct it. Our instructors are really good at movement analysis and can spot these bad habits early in the season,” says Kirlin.
Instructors provide feedback and encouragement. But it’s also up to the skier and rider to practice. Pawlak says to go over two or three points of the lesson with your instructor.
“Then maybe find a chair ride or coffee break to jot down the pointers,” he says. “Then practice on a good snow-conditioned trail with a light pitch.”
Not only should skiers practice early on, but they should also be honest about their strengths, weaknesses and goals.
“Be willing to talk about your concerns with the instructor,” says Waterhouse. “They are there to help you get the most out of your time on the hill. They can help with your skills and build confidence to allow you to push beyond things that may be holding you back.”
Waterhouse sees a partnership between the instructor and student. It’s most effective when both sides communicate openly about those goals and how to reach them.
“As you get more comfortable, the goals will change and so will the instructors guidance,” he says. “The best skiers and riders continue to develop, and using an instructor or coach is a great way to help you reach those goals or push past barriers.”
So take those first early steps to make the best of the upcoming ski season — and beyond.
Covid Class of 2021-22
Tailgating culture will continue at New Hampshire ski areas now in a second Covid-19 season. When it comes to safety, Ski NH Executive Director Jessyca Keeler says there is likely to be a degree of variation from one resort to the next, and things could change over the course of the season depending on what happens with the pandemic.
Last season, social distancing ruled with skiers and riders advised to boot up in their vehicles, wear masks, and, at some resorts, make reservations. The result was cleaner and less-cluttered base lodges. Once again, skiers are advised to “know before you go,” so check resort websites and SkiNH.com.
“While it remains to be determined whether some or all areas will continue to require people to boot up at their car, many people last year found the fun in doing so by turning the act into a sort of tailgating experience,” says Keeler.
Vail Resorts, which includes the Granite State’s Attitash Mountain, Crotched Mountain, Mount Sunapee and Wildcat Mountain, will require mask-wearing indoors. Mountain access reservations are history, and guests are encouraged to continue using the Tock app to reserve dining time.
Loon Mountain Resort will continue to limit day tickets and require mask use indoors and in outside areas where social distancing isn’t possible.
With tips culled from resorts, tailgating brought festive and functional elements to the experience, with skiers bringing lawn chairs, step stools, towels, blankets and small rugs to boot up. Skiers also did so at home, if practical, or kept boots near a heater in the vehicle. Hand warmers in boots proved effective.
Though many took snack breaks or picnicked at the car, food can always be brought back from the ski area cafeteria to the vehicle. Download your resort’s app and order from there. Bring trash bags just in case.
Most importantly, be safe and have fun.