Ski Tips: Returning to the place of my youth
What I love about skiing is it returns me to the place of my youth. From the moment I step into my boards and push off towards the lift my inner child comes alive.
“What adventures will I find?” “Who will I see or meet on the slopes?” “What magic will the day bring?” All of these thoughts bombard my mind, my heart starts to pump faster, and I become jittery, on the ride up, like a kid in the back seat of the car, “Are we there yet?”
Over the years I’ve had to learn to calm myself down. I refer to the first run as the “morning glide.” It’s simply a run to welcome in the day, feel the chill in the air, and gain a sense of the snow under my skis. It’s a chance to say hello to the day and to my body as I glide down the mountainside. I’m not trying to over glorify the scene, just set the stage for the day.
On the first run of the morning, I like to do the following to set up for a day of great skiing.
Never overthink the first run. It’s a judgment-free run and it’s not about performance. Regardless of the conditions—firm, soft, powder, groomed—the goal is to just glide. While gliding, make big, long, sweeping turns and resist the urge to carve and accelerate. Just feel the day, find a rhythm, and breathe in the morning air.
When it comes to your ski boots, leave them a bit loose to start with. Let your foot work its way into the liner. Keeping the boots slightly loose will also enhance the blood flow to your feet, which will keep them warmer and allow them to be more reactive as the day progresses.
The rule of thumb for boots is to buckle them tighter throughout the day, but don’t over tighten them and cut off circulation. Many people crank their boots up tight and then have to unbuckle them between runs. This is counterproductive. If you’re having trouble getting a comfortable fit, see a boot fitter right away.
The main goal on the morning glide is to wake up your senses. Wave your arms, twist your torso, flex your knees deep in the turns, and extend way up in the transitions. This is your morning stretch, a meditative flowing yoga as you slide down the slope.
Often if I feel stiff or sore in my lower back or maybe my hamstrings are tight, I’ll stop and stretch on the side of the hill, concentrating on the specific areas of the body that are asking for attention. I tend to stop a few more times than normal on the opening run of the day, just to remind myself not to rush and to ensure a good, solid warm-up run.
There’s a lot of pressure, especially on the good snow days, to hurry and grab as much of the fresh snow as possible and I fully understand that. However, I typically resist the temptation and often go in the opposite direction of the “herd” to find my own fresh tracks elsewhere.
I select slopes that have good snow but are wide open so my turns can flow, and I have space to focus on my breathing and movement. If you find yourself trying to keep up with the pack, focus even more on breathing and lengthening the turn as this conserves energy and allows you to lose the vertical, which will allow you to keep up.
The morning glide for me is my time, my pace, and it creates the dynamic that sets up the entire day. It’s as important to me as the first cup of coffee. Often it feels so good I’ll head right back to the top to do it all over again. And as each run gains momentum throughout the day, I start to rev up performance, increase speed, tighten up the turns, set the edges, and let it rip, always chasing the joy of the day.
On the chairlift rides I gaze at the surrounding peaks and let my mind wander, often images of my siblings come into view, or time spent with my dad on the slopes. Yes, from the early morning glide to the late afternoon runs, skiing returns me to the place of my youth and I plan to go back again and again.