Guest Author: Brian Hockenstein
It’s that time of year again and you can almost hear the mountains calling your name. The temperatures are dropping steadily and we’re now waking up to a fresh blanket of snow up top! (Tip #1: Checking the webcams helps you keep an eye on the alpine in real time).
Patience is a virtue however, and there’s a whole bunch of things that need to be checked over and taken care of to ensure a successful return to the slopes. Luckily, The Insider has you covered with this handy dandy checklist to help you on your way to schussing greatness.
Some lucky souls can afford new outerwear every year but the rest of us will be reusing at least some of the previous season’s gear. Think of it as enjoying the value and satisfaction of a well-made piece of clothing. In any case, here are four questions to ask yourself about your old snowsuits:
#1 Does It Still Fit?
Did your waistline expand a little bit too much over the summer? Or maybe you’ve been diligent and managed to knock a few sizes off your waistline. Make sure your gear still fits you in all the right places. You’re gonna want enough room to pull those awesome daffies off without getting your pants all bunched up. Try your ski suit on and jump around a bit.
#2 Is It Clean?
Did you just toss your gear into a wet messy pile on that last day of skiing last year after the epic end-of-season party? (and who could blame you?!) Tossing your gear in the washing machine and then hanging it out to dry will do a decent job but there are some awesome commercial products specifically made for the task that will be a lot gentler on the hyper-tech fabrics of your precious gear. Head to your local outdoor specialty store and see what they have. This is especially important if you’ve spent big money on top of the line gear made from Gore-Tex or a similar fabric. Take care of your gear and it will last a lifetime!
#3 Is It Waterproof?
Another super important step to help your gear live a long and prosperous life is to apply a re-waterproofing solution from time to time. Again, there are many commercial products specifically made for the task and for different fabric types, including wash-in solutions, sprays and more. Check your local shop and see what they recommend. Personally, I’ve found a good wash-in solution works wonders and a twenty dollar bottle will breathe new life into that favourite piece of gear for another long season.
#4 Can I Fix It?
Sometime an old piece of gear just needs a little love to get back into shape for the season. Small tears and gashes can easily be repaired with the right material (or duct tape). Easy and cheap, Gore-Tex patch kits are sold at most specialty shops. Larger tears might need a trip to the seamstress but call around and find someone with experience in repairing outdoor gear. Or give the manufacturer a call, a lot of times they will fix their own gear for a very reasonable price (beware shipping times, get on this early). Sometimes though, you just have to admit it and retire that piece of gear that’s just too far gone. It’s tough but you don’t want to be caught on the peak of a mountain with a jacket that won’t zip up anymore because you were too stubborn to let it go. Trust me!
Oh man, the feeling of bringing home a new set of skis or a snowboard is hard to beat but there is nothing wrong with re-using old gear if you can. You can save a little of your hard-earned cash for more lift tickets or better après and there’s also the benefit of less gear going into landfills to help keep our planet happy. But before you line up for opening day it’s smart to pull that board or skis out of the closet and give them a good once-over.
# 1 What’s Busted? What Can Be Fixed? What Needs to Get Tossed?
Hard goods should last a good long while assuming you’re not hucking 100-foot cliffs or sending Alaskan big lines on the regular. That said it’s important to give everything a good visual get, identify any major problems like core shots, cracks and delaminations so you can determine what can be fixed safely and economically. Any good shop can take care of most issues for a reasonable fee and you’ll be back on your trusted board(s) lickety-split. Most locals keep a pair of less-sentimental early season skis or board around for the weeks before the snowpack really fills in.
#2 Get Your Skis Shined Up
No matter what kind of general shape your gear is in, after a summer of sitting around drying out you’re gonna need to get a tune-up. This will include a base grind to get ‘er all smooth, a nice wax job and an edge sharpening at the very least. The condition of your board base is the single most important thing affecting the quality of your snow sliding experience, so don’t kid yourself and think you can skip this step. Hit up your favourite local shop or check out this Insider video below.
#3 Buckles and Latches and Rivets, Oh My!
You’re also going to want to give all your other hard goods a good examination to make sure any of the small or moving parts are in good working order. Binding straps for snowboarders and boot buckles and latches for skiers are especially important to check. You don’t want to be at the top of that first run of the year and realize your binding won’t do up because of a two-dollar buckle. Again, most small parts can be replaced or ordered in from your local shop. It’s not a bad idea to strap in and bounce around a bit on your front lawn or living room carpet. Who cares what the neighbours or your significant other think, it’s almost winter!
Gear is one thing but none of that matters if you don’t take care of the most important piece of the puzzle, your body. No one can blame you for slacking off a bit in the off-season, who of us hasn’t eaten a whole chocolate cake in one sitting? But if you’re serious about your season and want to maximize those precious first days on the slopes, a little prep work now will go a long way to making the difference between a full day and having to call it quits by noon because you’re too pooched to go on.
You get out what you put in, simple as that. A diet of junk food is going to leave you feeling like awful and low on precious energy while a well-balanced diet will help you feel great and keep you going all day long. Keep it simple. Keep it balanced. Keep it clean. There’s no shortage of dietary advice out there but in general, even a small effort to improve what you eat will make a huge difference.
Exercise can be a real drag but you’ll be thanking yourself if you manage to get some cardio a few times a week in the months leading up to opening day. Trust me, it’s the best thing you can do for yourself and will go far in the long run. What you do is not as important as you just doing it. So pick an activity or three and get your body moving.
In addition to your general “in-shapeness” (that’s the technical term, right?!) it’s important to give your muscles a bit of a head start on the season by getting into a good stretching routine. A quick 5-10 minute routine is a great way to start the day and you’ll notice it once you’re back up on the slopes. Yoga is a great way to get some stretching in – personally I’ve found there are literally thousands of amazing yoga videos online that are absolutely free. If yoga is not your thing then seek out other stretching routines or at the very least a few key stretches that will get your muscles moving. Do it often and you’ll see amazing improvements in a short period of time.
Whistler has no shortage of amazing spas and wellness centres to help limber you up and The Insider has a couple excellent Ski Season Fitness Videos with exercises, stretches and more.
The Other Details
You’ve got your gear, you’ve been eating well and stretching out those hamstrings, what else is there? Well you need a lift ticket and a place to lay your head at the end of each day but the good news is Whistler.com has some pretty sweet Stay & Ski Packages.
And there you have it. As with most things in life, a bit of good preparation beforehand will pay off ten-fold in the long run.
Find out everything you want to know about skiing and snowboarding in whistler at Whistler.com
If your gear looks like this it might be time to hang it up. Just sayin’.