If the pandemic ski year taught us anything, it’s that nothing gets in the way of loving and savoring our sport.
In what may have been one of the toughest winters in modern history, the ski industry thrived. We adapted to booting up in the lot (something I’ll oft do now even when not required), noshing outside in the cold and from food trucks (new choices!) and learning to take what comes as it comes.
The world was a varied condition mogul run, and we nailed it.
That means, as we cross into what we hope is a pretty much pandemic-rules free (or at least relaxed season), we’re queued up for success.
To “Colbert” this winter season to come, we’ve got to ask: Best season? Or: Best season evahhhhhh? I choose the latter.
If you’ve not prepped for this season yet, not to worry. While Killington has lifts spinning as of this week, the rest of the east – and the west for that matter – is just getting toward opening day. That means it’s time to plan our season, take those readying steps and most of all, get amped to carve some great turns in amazing places.
Because I’m as excited about this winter of freedom as I could be about, say, a wedding; I’ve decided to treat it just that way.
Join me and choose your own special “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Blue,” to make the 21-22 ski season absolutely that best evahhhhh.
Something Old: Make plans to return to one of your old favorites, even the first spot you may have ever skied at.
What’s great about something old? Memories top the list. It’s amazing how quickly they flood back to you out there. I was recently cruising down Big Dipper at Black Mountain, New Hampshire (https://www.blackmt.com). As the sun danced off the perfectly groomed trail, I remembered a freestyle competition there in the mid-1970s; back when I jumped for medals.
I stopped at the turn on the trail where a big house used to always have deck parties going on and shared that story with my ski buddies. All day, more memories popped, like back in the day when the Norris farm’s sheep used to wander some of the trails there. Wild and cool.
But it’s not just about memories. If you’ve never skied an historic area before, this is the year. Plan ahead and then read up on the history of the mountain. The back stories not only come alive as you ski the hill, they add to the coolness of your day.
My first something old: Sugarloaf, Maine. It’s been too long.
Something new: No more travel restrictions, more flexible work choices (work from home equals, after all, work from your housing at your ski area of choice, right?) mean this is the year to head someplace new.
New does not have to be a distant, hard-to-reach life goal place (although that’s totally great to do this year as well). Find the ski area that you’ve yet to experience and make it happen.
If you tend toward bigger hills, check out a small one or two. If you’ve long skied smaller spots, head to the big peaks for a new thrill. Be brave and journey to where you usually do not go. You’ll find new special spots, views, vibe and fun.
To amp up the new, this is the time of year to ponder new gear. Demos will be out at most resorts (and the ski shops near them as well as near your home). Try out new skis or boards, and if it’s been a minute since you’ve done that, consider partnering those demos with a lesson.
Often, new gear can mean a little tweak in your carving and overall skiing and riding technique. Finding new gear that fits the way you like to ski is a worthy journey. Take it this season: and take your time. When you find the skis that click for you, you’ll know.
My first something new: Schweitzer, Idaho. I’ve been meaning to get there. Now is the time.
Something borrowed: For goodness sake, no. Do not borrow your friend’s old and scraggly ski boots. Or your great aunt’s old duct-taped ski gloves, now that we mention it.
But there is something valuable to “borrow” when out skiing and riding: the tips, perceptions and lessons of others.
For this, ask a friend who loves a certain ski area to give you a full day there. Ask them to show you how to ski that mountain well, what to eat when you break for lunch and how to après best. There’s nothing better than insider information, and ski and ride lovers love to let you borrow their passion in this way.
Hire a guide/pro for a day of skiing and lessons wherever you may head. This may looks pricey, but I say it has nearly priceless value. Ski guides/instructors don’t just help you ski and ride better; they also share all their secret stashes, stories and tips for the area as a whole.
Latch on to a long-timer and you’ll borrow their passion and then take some home to keep for your next visit.
My something borrowed: I plan on using a guide/instructor to take on Big Sky, Montana. So many nooks and crannies to find.
Something Blue: I hereby use the power invested in me by the ski gods to gift each of you with a blue sky ski day. (I don’t really have that power, but if I did, I would). Be ready this winter and save a vacation day or mental health day and when you wake up to a blue sky, light wind and cold-enough weather, cancel all plans, toss your gear in the car and head to the slopes for the day.
Surprise blue sky days – particularly on a weekday when areas are quieter and you don’t usually expect to get a ski day—are magical. Even the smallest hill feels epic on a day like that. So be ready.
Watch the forecast and scope out a possible day. Work toward a schedule that’s easy to change that day (or cancel!) and, should the weather fall the way you hope it does, throw responsibility to the wind and grab that day for yourself.
Tell your boss I said you could. And don’t forget the sunscreen. Although, goggle tans are fun too.
It’s not a wedding, but it’s a celebration centered on white; the white snow we love to carve down. Here’s to the new season – may it truly be the best evahhhh.
My something blue day? I’ll never tell until it happens.