My favorite way to start prepping to ski down mountains?
Why, running & hiking up them, of course!
My current favorite is a 12 mile loop starting at the AT/LT/Catamount parking lot on Route 4 on the Mendon side of the pass around the backside of Pico toward Killington Peak and then down through the resort to Snowshed.
6 miles up; 6 miles down.
The thick canopy and plentiful streams on the ascent keep you cool so that you can push yourself on your training goals.
You thought I just stared at the view while tripping out the whole time? That all I do is listen to the mountain and go where it sends me without a care in the world?
While feeling the mountain is primarily what I do while out on the trail, I am ALWAYS focused on being a better, smoother and more efficient skier. No turn is ever without thought, without direct movement and without constant analysis.
Dryland training adventures are the same.
1. Quick Feet.
So important in both skiing lift service and backcountry, being able to quickly move your feet makes a huge difference in your ability to react to anything that might come your way. You need the independent foot action from hiking and trail running in order to make quick adjustments to your skiing. On the trail there are no repetitive movements as no step is ever the same. This means that your body has to constantly make those tiny little adjustments at every single point of each step.
My strides are never unidirectional, something I learned from watching Vespi hike all those years ago. Your feet must move where and when the mountain wants them to - not where you think they should go.
2. Foot-Eye Coordination.
You first have to be able to notice all the roots and rocks in order to avoid them. If you don't, you trip and fall. It's as simple as that. The faster I can hike/run in the summer months, the faster I know I'll be able to ski through the trees (and avoid trail collisions) this coming winter. I know I want to avoid skewering myself when I'm deep in the woods and I want to make sure that this connection stays vibrant and strong all year long.
3. Hamstring Strength.
Especially coming out of a hamstring graft, I am very quickly realizing how important this muscle is! I have noticed that I still have difficulty activating my hamstring when stepping or leaping over hurdle type objects, such as downed trees or even getting on the motorcycle. Also, instead of focusing on my quad while on the ascent, I try to pull out of my upper hamstring. This will help me this coming winter in two ways: I'll be able to skin up a LOT faster and be stronger when pulling my legs in at the end of each turn.
4. Leash Work
Like Vespi before him, Coop travels on lead while we are in the woods and at the resort. While I trust him to not meander off and listen to verbal commands, I feel that it is much safer for both of us and more respectful to others if we are physically connected rather than yelling commands and disrupting the experience of others. It also means that Coop stays behind me at all times, that I meet strangers first and I am the alpha. Finally, Vespi and now Coop stay within six feet of me anyways so why not have them leashed? We work hard at hiking as one. He sets the pace from behind and I get the best workout.
5. Ankle, Shin & Calf Strength.
Since every step is at a different angle, your ankles will be so strong that you won't NEED four buckle ski boots with a 130 flex to manipulate your skis. Your ankles, shins and calves will be strong enough to hold your body both laterally and fore & aft in stead of relying on the plastic. This is one of the reasons that the BF and I can ski in little AT boots - although he gets his muscles from playing the kick drum and high hat pedals rather than hiking.
6. Mountain Knowledge
After all these years with my feet in the dirt at Killington, I feel as if I know all the little idiosyncratic details of the mountain herself. I dig my toes into different types of dirt, I notice different plant life and different angles of the mountain herself. Once the snow covers the land, I feel like I have a better understanding of what lies beneath, the base of the structure and therefore, have a better knowledge of where the best snow will hold, how it will lie and what time of day it will be prime sun or cold. It's a respect issue for me. If skiing is a dance and the mountain is your partner, then I want to make sure I know absolutely everything about her.
7. Capital Improvements
I'm just plain nosy sometimes and want to see what's going on. How else was I to know that the South Ridge Triple had been stolen ... or where they have hidden random snowmaking pipes in order to bring water from one side of the resort to the other? Our guys work so hard out there and I am so proud and appreciative of all their hard work. It is so neat to come around a corner and see that the bullwheel from the Snowdon Quad had arrived at the top of South Ridge and watch the guys working on the top tower - all without violating the hard hat area or ducking under any closed trail signs.
There really is nothing I love more than spending an afternoon wandering around in the mountains, breathing the cool mountain area and being embraced by the earth herself.
I feel stronger for it, both physically and mentally.
I can't wait to do it again today.
and every day for the rest of my life.
May You Find the Spirit of the Mountains Within You,