Route Finder: Skimo cross-training when winter turns to summer
June 1, 2017
Well that was an interesting ski season.
Don't get me wrong — it's still going in some places, but we are transitioning to summer once again. I just had the good fortune of a long Memorial Day weekend rock climbing with my kids. We camped and even used the summer sleeping bags, and we also fished the rivers. We roasted marshmallows and gazed at the stars once the fire went out, and it was nice having a crescent moon and dark skies to see the stars in all their glory. I enjoy these days of summer play, watching the boys progress up the grade scale for climbing. I've heard it often and I'll repeat it now: Winters bring you here, but summers keep you here.
This summer is shaping up no differently than the rest: play hard and work harder so we can play even harder when the snow falls again in a few short months. For me, this means writing, construction, art, catching up on paperwork and, hopefully, cooking. This is time for being a grown-up after all the hedonism of skiing in the winter and spring.
Road trip dreams, summer goals
It seemed like I worked more than I wanted to this past winter, so I went on a road trip to blow off some steam. The road was a great place to hit the reset button and decompress. Time behind the wheel provided the opportunity to ponder life's directions, time to consider what needed to be done next. The road is a place for dreams, but it's also a place to figure out the steps you need to take to transform your dreams into goals and then reality.
Some might dream of getting that bike-packing trip done. Others might dream of climbing a 5.12, or hiking the distance of the Gore Range Trail or Colorado Trail. Setting goals drives us forward and it's really cool to watch your kids start to set goals for themselves. As a dad, I need to figure out a way of enabling them — of giving them the best chance for success.
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Personally, I want to get back into climbing form. I stopped climbing for many years after a very serious accident on Hallet Peak back in 2000 — there's nothing like getting a Flight for Life ride out of Rocky Mountain National Park to serve as a wake-up call — but facing that fear is an important step in growing my mountain craft and becoming a better ski mountaineer.
Cross-train through summer
Summer is time for cross-training. It's so important to keep the body sharp for the mountains, no matter what the activity.
Biking is probably the best for skiing because it's low impact and uses similar movements with forward-facing body position. Speeding through a descent on Summit County's twisting singletrack gives you the thrill you've been craving since winter. It keeps your fast-twitch muscles toned, and pedaling uphills is great for maintaining your cardio through the dry season. When the snow finally flies again, the skin track won't be quite as painful.
Climbing is like vertical yoga or vertical gymnastics. The core strength it develops helps keep your body strong and your balance fine-tuned. Upper-body strength doesn't seem to be the main focus for skiers and snowboarders, but whole-body fitness can help you succeed in the winter. And you don't have to be built like a tank to succeed in climbing. Look at women who are climbing at the same level as men, all the way up to 5.15 routes. Rope skills are an essential component of ski mountaineering, so having those summer tools in your arsenal keeps your rope skills ready for ski season.
Hiking and trail running
I have a love-hate relationship with hiking and trail running. I love to get up into the hills, but my knees just can't take the downhills. Moving downhill is for skiing — running downhill just exacerbates my multiple knee issues with such high impact on the body. But, it is really cool to see the zones you ski in the winter without their cover of snow, and if you like to leave the ground it can really help see what your landing zones are like: Are there rocks in the landing? Is it filled with brush and snares?
Backpacking can be a liberating experience and the deeper zones of Summit County, like the Gore Range, call out to the adventurous. A high-mountain lake teeming with fish makes for a beautiful home away from home — the mountains forms jagged walls, giving you a room with a view. Backpacking is a fine work out as well. Carrying a heavy pack up long approaches is like doing squats all day, but sleeping on the dirt is good for the soul.
Other sports, such as kayaking and fishing, are also great. We focus so much of our lives on frozen water that it's fun to play in it when in liquid form. The sound of the river soothes the soul and kayaking comes with that "flow state" of a great powder day — face shots of a different sort.
Summertime in the mountains keeps us here, when it seems like there are fewer people in the county (although traffic at the Eisenhower Tunnel on Fourth of July might call that concept into question). After a winter of mayhem, it's time to transition from white therapy to green therapy. We've earned the tranquility of summer.
Fritz Sperry is a skier, author, photographer and artist who has skied extensively in the Colorado backcountry. He's the author of: "Makingturns in the Tenmile-Mosquito Range," and "Makingturns in Colorado's Front Range, Vol. 1," both available from his company, Giterdun Publishing.
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