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Active Outdoors: Five things to do before the start of ski season

  • Okemo December. Not every trail is open, but the ones that are often have great snow in December. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • Sunday River December 2016. The day may have been gray, but the snow at Sunday River was deep and white last December. (Tim Jones/EasternSlopes.com photo)

  • For some, deep powder Cat skiing at Auberge Chic-Chac in Murdochville, Quebec, is what dreams are made of. Tim Jones / EasternSlopes.com


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Yeah, yeah, I know ... it was 80 last weekend. Too hot for summer; much too hot for fall. And it’s probably too warm as you are reading this.

Despite this, ski season is almost upon us. A number of resorts have pressure-tested their snowmaking systems and are just waiting for the first stretch of cold nights to light up and turn some trails white.

Long-range weather forecasts are predicting colder and snowier than average for the Northeast this winter. Of course these predictions are, overall, about as trustworthy as telemarketers who ignore the “Do Not Call” list. But with no real El Nino or La Nina to screw things up, we should at least have some cold weather.

I predict that one or more ski areas (Sunday River in Maine and Killington in Vermont are likely candidates) will be turning lifts daily by Nov. 11. Feel free to pelt me with snowballs if I’m wrong.

Anyway, I’m planning on skiing by mid-November and I suggest you plan for that, too. Here are five things to think about while you wait for white:

Get in (better) shape!

There’s no doubt about it. The stronger your legs and core are, the more you’ll enjoy your first turns of the season. While there’s nothing I know that perfectly prepares you for ski season, you can do yourself a lot of good by exercising now.

If you go to the gym, spend some extra time on squats, ab machines and stretching. But if you really want to do it right, go out and climb up and down a steep hill. Foliage season is the perfect excuse. Intervals of fast-slow, fast-slow will do you more good than a steady slow pace. Riding a real bike is better training than spinning, because you use the same collateral muscles to maintain balance while biking that you do while skiing.

But the real truth is: any exercise is better than no exercise, so start now with whatever you can do. Your quads will thank you for it the first time you hit snow.

Save some serious money

All of the best deals on season passes are gone by now, but you can still save. You can also save yourself some serious coin by looking for other deals now. Lots of areas are selling blocks of tickets at significant savings. You can typically get a block of three tickets for less than you’d pay for two (sometimes for one) if you walked up to a ticket window on a winter weekend. You can also invest in a frequent skier card at your favorite resort, or research smaller areas with lower ticket prices that will give your family as much fun as the big guys. In any case, moving now will let you ski more for less.

Check your gear

Start with your boots. If they don’t fit right, you’ll never get the most out of your skiing days. There’s still time to buy new boots or get some basic fitting work done on your old ones. You won’t believe how much custom footbeds will change the fit and feel of your boots. You’ll ski better, guaranteed.

All skis turn better and give you more control (especially on hard, early-season snow) if they are sharpened and waxed. Go for the full tune-up – your skis will thank you for it.

Modern bindings are better than ever, but you still need to make sure they are adjusted correctly for your boots, your weight and your skiing ability. Talk with your tech about how you really ski. He may suggest dialing down your release setting for safety if you aren’t a hard-charger. Conversely, most binding charts seem to think that you ski less hard as you get older. For some of us, that simply isn’t true.

Plan your first outing before Christmas

Seriously, way too many people wait until the Christmas-New Year holiday week for their first ski outing. But the slopes are crowded then, and prices are high. Christmas is on a Saturday this year. My advice, give yourself an early Christmas present and get out on the slopes in the week before Christmas. People are getting ready for the holiday and don’t have time to ski. But ski areas are also getting ready for the holiday week coming, so you are likely to find lots and lots of snow being made and groomed.

Christmas is on a Saturday this year ... that’s a good day to ski, too.

Embrace an adventure

Even if you ski everyday at someplace you love, you deserve at least one great ski adventure a year. Because my schedule is reasonably flexible, I like to plan early and have everything ready to go when weather conditions look right.

Last year, as most areas in New England were winding down a so-so season, my buddy David and I headed for Auberge Chic-Chac in Murdochville, Quebec, smack in the middle of the Gaspe Peninsula and found snow deeper than I’d seen in many years. On our second morning there, it started snowing hard and was still snowing when we left. We had one great day of skiing on the local T-bar hill (Mont Miller), the best skiing you’ll ever find for a $25 lift ticket. We spent the next three days Cat skiing on Mont York in knee-to-waist-to neck-deep powder. Each day was as good as any ski days I’ve ever had in the east.

Go. Try it. It’s like skiing the west or Europe without the plane fight (that was a typo, but since it so accurately describes the airline experience these days, I’m leaving it). I’m going back again in March if I possibly can.

Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy!

(Tim Jones is the Executive Editor of the online magazine EasternSlopes.com and writes about outdoor sports and travel. Email: timjones@easternslopes.com.)