Illustration by KEVIN HOWDESHELL / THEBRAVEUNION.COM
Get out and do these five things in March before the snow is gone.
Skiing is a lifetime sport. You can start schussing the slopes as young as two. If you’re Aspen icon Klaus Obermeyer, you’re still riding the white carpet of gravity at the age of 100. Come to think of it, the mountain legend might very well be skiing right now.
The best part is you can also always improve. Whether you’re working on making the perfect carve, mastering ice, powder, bumps, steeps, trees or chutes, or simply trying to put a little more style into each arc as you glide underneath the chair, every run presents a new opportunity to tune up your technique and free your soul.
One of the easiest ways to up your game is to set a few goals. Even this late in the season, making a to-do list of on-snow accomplishments can set you up for a special season. Who knows? Next year you might get invited to Hokkaido, Japan, to wallow in its epic powder, or escape on a fabled hut trip in British Columbia, or watch the death-defying downhill of the Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuehel, Austria.
1. Take a Lesson!
The best skiers are perpetual students of the sport, always searching for new ways to initiate a turn, get onto their inside edge more quickly, and keep their upper body facing downhill. If you were to ask U.S. Ski Team heroes Mikaela Shiffrin or Ted Ligety what they were working on in their own skiing right now, I’m 100 percent certain they would not only give you an immediate answer but also go into some detail on exactly what they are trying to do.
I’ve never understood why so many accomplished skiers are reluctant to spend a day, or at least an afternoon, out on the hill with a pro. All golfers do is talk about lowering their score. Marathon runners obsess over taking another half-minute off each mile. But skiers? Most think they’ve got it all figured out. I get it. When you’re having so much fun, why break it down? Because you can get better. And have even more fun. And if you’re learning to ski backward at a new resort, you can hit up your instructor for insider beta on the area’s best eats and beers.
2. Take a Snow Safety Course
An avalanche safety course should be required for anyone in Colorado who ventures outdoors. Snow is beautiful, intoxicating, and like gossamer to glide through—it can also kill you. Which is exactly why you should go to avalanche.org and register for a Level 1 course (or Level 2 if you have completed Level 1). Simply put, what you learn may save your life.
You should also buy yourself and your best ski buddy an avalanche transceiver and learn how to use it (consider an avalanche air bag, too). Yeah, it’ll cost you a few hundred bucks, but even in-bounds on big snow days, danger still exists, despite the deep expertise of our local ski patrols. This season, there have already been four in-bounds avalanche fatalities (one in California, and three in Idaho). We don’t want you, or any of our friends, to be the fifth.
3. Call In Well
As a kid in school, I never ditched. I was too much of a wuss and I’ll never know how much fun I missed. I’m trying not to make the same mistake as an adult. Like on powder days, for instance—they are the best time ever to take a mental health day for yourself.
Even better, you don’t have to lie about it. Just let your co-workers know you felt too good to come to work. My friend Nicholas Alfieri, a Keystone-based snowboard instructor who is a member of the PSIA-AASI National Team, created a series of “Healthy” stickers because he got tired of people always saying their day was “siiiiick!” Few things feel healthier than checking voicemail after a day of face shots.
4. Avoid I-70
Tired of the rat race that is the Denver to Summit County Shuffle every weekend? Well that makes 2.8 million of us. Unless you’re waking up slopeside, the Saturday morning drive on the Interstate might make knitters out of all of us. At least once this year, head south. Go cat-skiing at Monarch, make the powder pilgrimage to Wolf Creek, or even experience the postcard-perfect ambiance of New Mexico’s Red River or the steeps of Taos. There’s nothing like a couple days realizing just how big Colorado is to remember how good you’ve got it. (Head back to A-Basin, Copper, Vail, and beyond in April when the crowds thin out and the skiing is still sublime.)
5. Go Deep
My mantra this winter: “Play the long game.” Don’t make split decisions. Have the patience to let the difficult things in your life work their own way out. And winter is the long game in Colorado, where even in the summer, snow can fall on the highest peaks. With the way things are going right now, A-Basin might keep the lifts turning until July 4, and good old Aspen might host a few surprise weekends before Memorial Day kicks in.
Keep your skis tuned and your rack on the roof. There’s still plenty of time to work on your skills and find some snow.
—Elevation Outdoors editor-at-large Peter Kray is the author of The God of Skiing. The book has been called “the greatest ski novel of all time.” Don’t believe the hype? You can buy it on Amazon.