SNOWMASS VILLAGE - We have much to do getting prepared for a new ski season: equipment organization, getting in ski shape, the anticipation of first turns, what kind of winter weather conditions we are going to have, what is new on the mountain and in town.
Evaluating the winter outlook for a ski season is a tough proposition with all the external local and worldly events. You say you're not quite jazzed for skiing yet? Very understandable when you look outside and see green instead of white on the ground. We are sporting less than half the amount of snow we had last season and are off to a very sketchy start. This might not be a fluke like some suggested at the end of last season. Most of us get the skiing juices flowing just after Halloween, but it is tough to be enthusiastic with temperatures in the mid-40s and no snow in sight. Thankfully, we had snowmaking to get us open. I guess some skiing is better than no skiing. We will see what the future deals us.
Winter will happen, it will snow, and people will go skiing at some point.
Once again some changes have been made both on and off the slopes. Many will be glad to hear that Cafe Suzanne's was bulldozed and a new bold, contemporary-looking restaurant has been completed at the top of the gondola. You can't miss it when you exit the gondola. Space for up to 300 people, a bar, deck and separate space for kids ski school will be treated to a variety of food stations. Elk Camp Restaurant can now be utilized during the summer months for special events and evening dining. In addition to a new eatery on that side, we have 230 acres of new gladed, black-diamond skiing for your powder pleasure accessible from the top of Long Shot on Burnt Mountain. Snowmass now has the capability to make snow beyond Dec. 31 with the purchase of water rights from the dinosaur boneyard, Ziegler Reservoir, and looks like we will need this new addition sooner than later.
You will notice there have been some changes to the Mall area. Silvertree/Wildwood Hotel has been renovated and we now have the Westin and Wildwood Snowmass. Relocated hotel restaurant, game center and new shops have taken root in the complex, along with new shopping at Patagonia, North Face, Starbucks and the Ranger Station replacing Goodfellows Pizza on the Mall. The Mall is back in business ...
Getting jazzed to rip is checking and upgrading your equipment. Check your edges for burrs and rust. Check your boots for mice, throw away the old pair of socks you've skied in for who knows how long and restock your pockets with new sunscreen, lip balm, a clean neck gator, hand warmers and snacks. You will need sharp edges as long as we are limited to man-made snow. Get your skis tuned if you
didn't at the end of last season and apply the suitable wax for the type of snow. Why magnify first-day jitters with poorly tuned and outdated skis?
I would hold off breaking out the new rockered powder skis for a while. Better choice is a good carving ski, which will be the tool of the day till Mother Nature provides some freshies.
Early season is a great time to break in new boots. Ski boots with more than 300 days or four years old are obsolete. Technology is changing not only with ski design but boots also. Warmer, more comfortable and technically sound ... what more could you ask for? Give yourself the tools to have a good first day; it could set the stage for the rest of your season.
We all experience first-run jitters along with unstable flashes; you may tip over. Getting your ski legs back, getting back in touch with the sensations of sliding and pinpointing a balanced stance - a basic athletic ready position - should be your primary goal. Developing a functional balanced stance is vital to getting your season, vacation or holiday, sabbatical or religious experience off to a solid start. Taking a lesson, before old habits are reinforced, is a splendid way to get your confidence back.
Take it easy! You don't have to get a whole season into one day. Warm up and stretch out those unused ski muscles. Your muscles and reaction time are not honed like they were at last season's end. Repairing body parts is expensive, and everyone should have insurance before skiing. Be aware it's early and the pack is thin, there are boney areas and some snags out there. Ask a pro if you don't know where the best skiing is. My advice is to stay on the man-made for a few days or until we get a significant snowpack. Unfortunately we do not have much choice in the matter.
Keep in mind you are at over 8,000 feet; take it easy the first day. Altitude sickness can get you down and ruin your second day of skiing. Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate; it's dry, you should be drinking water.
It's your responsibility to ski safe. With the limited terrain available you need to be especially diligent of safety. The snow is hard and fast and there are reckless skiers out there. Wear a helmet. Refresh your memory by reading the Skier Safety Code. Protect yourself and others; you're not the only person out there.
I know it is hard to get jazzed to ski when it's brown not white, but get out there early and enjoy the new season on what trails we have open, the fresh pristine mountain air, the fantastic views and your first days on snow. Shop small. See you next run.
Don Jewkes is a 36-year certified PSIA-RM level 3 Teaching Professional, Head Skis area rep, local resident and owner of Jewkes Custom Painting.