The First Days of the Season

By Keith Liggett

As I sit writing this, bombs go off on the hill. The big bombs can be felt. And quarter-sized snowflakes fall outside window. The day is just starting. I can barely see the snow in the half lit early morning.

I am wondering what to do? Yesterday was the first ski day of the year. In typical do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do fashion I half took my usual advice. When I write about the first day I usually say,
“Find a moderate slope and make a couple runs to rediscover your balance over your feet. For the first couple days stay off the steeper terrain. Don’t jump in. Early season is the time we get hurt.”
No. Not me. I dropped off the lift and headed right for a steep. Bang left and right, yes, I remembered how to ski.

Let’s go.


Brian Pollock image

Then a couple hours in, the light went flat. I launched off a newbie groomer’s unseen leftover berm and said, “Let’s not end the season now. Let’s go home” and packed it in for the day.

It was a great day.

The snow was hard with a little wind sift. It was cloudy. The light got flat.

It was skiing.

It was great.

So today I am thinking of another year when my first skiing was up at Whistler/Blackcomb. The first couple of days of the trip were set up for heli-skiing. I kept trying to ski, ski anyplace, before leaving. Nothing worked out. My first run that year was off the top of some name-forgotten peak 60 klicks north of Whistler. The summit was not much bigger than needed to land the chopper. And the slopes off the summit and off the surrounding peaks appeared Chugash-like. I survived, although for the first few turns I seriously wondered again, “Do you remember how to turn?” I let it go and all went well.

Or on those sunny 4th of July mornings on the summit of Peak 9 at almost 14,000 feet, just a little buzzed, standing looking at a 40-degree plus drop on to corn snow slope and wondering, seriously wondering, “Will I remember how to turn?”

Yeah. It’s all muscle memory. And it’s all good.

I’m looking at the snow out the window thinking, it will be a great day.

But I have deadlines. Like getting this Powder Canada column churned out about the first skiing of the year. And what you do.

That’s simple.

You ski.

To make it easier, you stretch. Stretch before and after. Stretch a couple times every day in between, Touch your toes. Gently reach and feel the back of your calves pull, but not hurt. Twist and try to touch the floor–first on the left side with your right hand, then on the right side with your left hand.

Do some crunches. Do sets. Two, three or four times a day, lie on the floor and do a couple sets of 10 or 15. Lock your hand behind your head and reach for the opposite knee with your elbows. Don’t kill yourself. Simply start in on some basic conditioning.

Last, be active. Park and walk. There is never a parking problem is you want to walk. Ride your bike. Go hiking. Do to the climbing gym. Run up the stairs two at a time when you have a chance. Do the same going down.

Pick up a Bongo Board. See how long you can balance without touching the board to one side or the other. Can you stretch it out and stand with the board all the way to one side and then do the same on the other?

Skiing requires balance in motion. A spin class doesn’t do it. Actually riding uphill and downhill fits the bill. You must build core strength—stomach and back muscles. These are the muscles making the small and large reactions keeping you upright.

The flakes still fall. Straight down. No wind. And I still wonder, what I should do? The mountain opens in an hour. Tomorrow is supposed to be 10cm plus. If I take one morning in the next couple days, which should it be?

Today or tomorrow?

I get up from my desk and walk into the living room. Two large 8-foot wide windows look out to mountains now completely obscured by the falling snow. The tracks of a deer cross the shallow snow pack on the lawn. A deer with purpose, the tracks runs straight and end where the deer stepped on to the road. The tracks are disappearing under the building snow.

And in the end. It is skiing that gets you in shape for skiing. Just skiing.

I guess that’s the answer to the question of the day.

Go skiing.