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Culture » Get Out

Early-Season Ski Tips

Tips For The First Tracks: Where and how to run when snow has barely begun.



Anyone who knows the Wasatch Front ski areas knows that Brighton has the best early season snow—but at the moment, that isn’t saying much. The most recent storm dropped only piddling amounts of snow. Nearly all the snow is man-made and icy, with aggressive crystals that make for rough riding. The only other resort open is Solitude, which is more than 500 feet farther down the canyon and has even less snow.

So, is it worth heading up to the mountains? Are you kidding? Of course it is!

You’re back on snow. The ticket is nearly half-price. The boxes and rails of Brighton’s terrain park are so low-down right now that it’s easy to learn how to ride a box without much risk of falling. You can practice now, and amaze your buds later in the season.

But there are things other than snow conditions that can make your first day back a sucky experience—like boots that are killing your feet or getting your gear so badly dinged on rocks that it’s going to need an expensive base weld. Here’s how to free yourself from the bad and have only the glorious good on your first day back.

First, start getting ready at least a week in advance. Check out all of your gear. If you haven’t waxed your bases, get them waxed so they will slide easily on grippy man-made snow, because man-made is mostly what you’ll get for the next little while. Check out all your zips and snaps. Does your favorite jacket have a zipper that doesn’t slide easily, or always gets jammed on the lining? Is there a rip or hole in your gloves? Take them to an outdoor store like Kirkham’s, where they do excellent repairs for a reasonable price. Do your goggles or shades need to be cleaned? Do that simple task before you get to the slopes.

For skiers, here’s a tip that may be the most important one of all: start your “get ready” week by putting on your boots for an hour or so at home. Do it every day. Walk around in the boots. You’ve probably still got your beach feet now, so get them used to being squished in tight boots before you’re heading up the lift, and that first day back won’t be ruined by feet in agony.

Here’s another tip that I actually feel kind of guilty writing about. In the early season, it’s a given that you’re going to scratch up your edges and bases. So don’t use your own gear; rent it from a shop. It costs less to rent than to have your own gear repaired. If you’re going off the main runs, and the shop offers rental insurance, get it. Tip the tech when you return it; he’s the one who will have to repair the damage. But before taking rental gear out of the shop, ask for a wax job because rental gear usually isn’t well-waxed. They’ll usually do it on their own stuff for free.

On your first run, don’t have more balls than brains. You may be in great shape, but you haven’t been on snow for over half a year. Let your body get used to the moves before you open it up for speed or jumps. Take that first run slowly to check things out; you want to see where there’s a half-hidden rock, a tree stump or other dangerous obstacle rather than finding out the hard way.

There’s a glorious joy on that first day back that overpowers even thin cover and limited open runs. You may not feel it until you get off the lift. It led this writer to a mantra that answers the question, “Should I hit the slopes this early?” It’s this realization: “If the ground is white and the lifts are running, don’t bitch.”