Rather than spending hours upon hours in the gym beating up their bodies with lunges, balance exercises and cross-training, many skiers and riders prefer to get in shape for the season the old-fashioned way — reps on the hill.
Early-season skiing conditions can run the gamut from man-made hard pack to piles of powder, so for those who are already generally fit, getting out on the slopes early can test the full range of mountain muscles, while also getting snow-chasers acclimated to altitude and started on that goggle tan.
“It’s fun to get some runs in,” said Aaron Dickinson, of Boulder, as he rode the lift at Breckenridge on a sunny Wednesday morning. “You get a good workout on the legs for the powder days when it really counts without doing squats at the gym.”
“I feel a little rusty,” said Patrick Dippel, of Fort Collins. “So I’ve got to get ready for good snow. I’m looking forward to midseason.”
Aside from reactivating muscle memory, early-season riding has other advantages. Lift lines are generally short, especially midweek, and though only a fraction of the terrain available locally is open, runs are not overcrowded.
“The traffic is a little less,” said Kaylee Hassick, who made the trek up Interstate 70 to Breck from Denver for the day. “We got some runs in, got the legs ready, and we’re enjoying the weather.”
Although Hassick and Zoya Harmon, of Colorado Springs, are eager for big dumps and tree lines, they were enjoying their November surf. Harmon has five ski days under her belt thus far this season and said the conditions at Arapahoe Basin, Keystone and Breckenridge are “icy in spots,” but there are fewer people on the slopes so you can rack up more runs in a day.
“It’s still warm and sunny and cheerful,” Harmon said.
Breaking personal records
November skiing celebrates the last few warm days of the year, and a few adventurous riders embrace the final moments by donning shorts or even bikini tops to soak up as much sun as possible before legs and midriffs go into hibernation for the winter.
“It’s good to get some turns in,” said Tucker Levis, of Montezuma. “The snow is like spring skiing right now.”
Levis said his nine or 10 ski days so far this season have ranged from warmer weather and corny snow to colder days with a firmer base.
“It’s pretty perfect for this time of year,” he said, indicating the blue skies with intermittent clouds and temperatures hovering in the mid-40s.
Levis said he’s been skiing weekdays and relishing the two-minute lift lines. He spent the past five years in Utah and said he’s psyched for a winter in Colorado and chance to check out what Peak 6 has to offer once it opens. His skiing companion, Tania Reitz, lived in North Carolina before she moved to Fort Collins.
“My record is five days in one season, so I’m pumped to break that,” she said with a laugh.
No matter what your reason for hitting the slopes early, those who cherish the mountains know there’s never a bad reason to go out and link some turns.
“Every day on the mountain is a blessing from God,” Dippel said.