Sunday, October 20, 2013


Early Season Skiing

Arapahoe Basin, Colorado

With Colorado open for business and Canada about to follow suit, it’s time to think about early season skiing. Arapahoe Basin was the first to open, followed by Loveland and Wolf Creek, and both Nakiska and Mt Norquay in Alberta are primed for action around Halloween.

Granted it’s not the same as high season skiing with the promise of plentiful powder but first tracks on snow for the whole winter can be just as exhilarating. Everything is a first, from taking that initial chairlift, to igniting those thigh muscles, to having a beer and nachos in the bar afterwards.

It’s been a long break for most people who generally stop skiing some time in late April. Hopefully they have continued with gym workouts and sporty pursuits in order to be ready for skiing or riding. But if not, it’s not too late: try the latest ski fitness programs at your local YMCA or check apps or websites for free programs such as Fitness Blender or NetFit. The latest buzzword at Golds is “functional fitness” whereby programs are developed to suit the proposed activity exactly. So check out their personal training tips for skiing or snowboarding.

Getting on the slopes early season is also a great way to build up fitness and stamina gradually after the lazy languor of summer. I’ve always skied Sunshine, Mount Norquay and Lake Louise on opening weekends and it’s been invigorating to put an end to the blandness of shoulder season and get into gear for the winter.

Of course, most years, only a few runs will be open at the start and snow may be sketchy – don’t take new skis – but it’s still such a thrill to manipulate your way down, with a heady mix of adrenaline, muscle heat and cold air, in that gorgeous mountainscape surrounded by fellow addicts.

Even if you’re not anticipating skiing yet, now is a good time to get your gear in order. Check your equipment which may need tuning; get your boots out and make sure your socks are intact – nothing worse than holey socks first day back. Try on ski clothes which could need replacing or washing – don’t use fabric softener as it reduces waterproofing. Find your gloves (check for holes) and stock up on toe and hand warmers – cheapest when bought in bulk from Costco, Walmart, Sam’s Club or Amazon in advance of the season. Book your trips and plan ski passes now to take advantage of early season packages.

Maybe this is the year to invest in heated gloves – mine are by Therm-ic and they make everyone jealous when they notice the battery lights. When skiing in Canada or Colorado, I’ve had many people – while defrosting their frigid digits in the lodge - ask to photograph them so they can remember the brand! 

My first tracks this season are going to be on December 5 at the Big 3 in Alberta, Canada. Where are yours going to be?

Some Upcoming Opening Dates:

Nakiska – Oct 26
Keystone – Nov 1
Copper Mountain – Nov 1
Breckenridge – Nov 8
Marmot Basin – Nov 8
Lake Louise - Nov 8
Sunshine Village – Nov 8
Vail – Nov 22
Heavenly – Nov 22
Kirkwood – Nov 22
Northstar – Nov 22
Sun Peaks – Nov 23
Beaver Creek – Nov 27
Crested Butte – Nov 27
Silver Star – Nov 28
Big White – Nov 28
Jackson Hole – Nov 28
Aspen Snowmass – Nov 28
Canyons Resort – Nov 29
Mt Norquay – Nov 29
Revelstoke - Nov. 29
Fernie – Nov 30
Panorama – Dec 6
Whitewater – Dec 6
Castle Mountain – Dec 13
Kicking Horse – Dec 13
Kimberley – Dec 14
Red Mountain – Dec 14

If your favourite ski hill isn't here, let me know the proposed opening date and I'll include it next week. Happy Skiing!

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