Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The Thrill and Joy of Skiing-Guidelines and Tips
Every year for two weeks (usually in January or February), the husband and I visit Colorado for skiing and winter fun. As a daughter of a Norwegian ski champion, skiing is literally in my blood! My dad taught me to ski when I was a kid and I am lucky that I continue to have the opportunity to enjoy the sport.
When I first set out on my skis, I was trying so hard not to fall and remember what my dad told me. Despite my futile efforts, I still fell and there were several times I wanted to quit! Being the stubborn mule I am, I refused to give up and thus, I kept trying. After some time, I found myself letting go of the "rules" and the 'proper way' to place my skis, and before I knew it; I was actually skiing well. Skiing became fun.
So, if you fellow skiers out there and for those of you who want to learn but never have, here are some tips and must-dos.
1. If you have never skied before, take lessons. If you prefer a group or private one-on-one setting, lessons will help you in so many ways. Think of the lessons as an investment: the more knowledgeable you are, the more you will enjoy skiing for a lifetime. The lessons are like building blocks that will help form the backbone of your skill-set. I DO NOT recommend anyone going out with friends or family who want to take them down a ski run without any understanding of what to do! You CAN get seriously hurt, if not worse!! Start slow and learn how to ski correctly. Even the pros can get hurt.
2. If you have skied before and/or if you have not skied in a long time, take an intermediate or refresher course! Again, you can do this in a group or private setting. I have been skiing for over 20 years and occasionally I will take a refresher too! Not only do I build confidence, I learn things that improve my skiing. Last year, I learned how to carve down an expert trail (black diamond) and let me tell you, it was work! When I was younger, the skis were straight and I now have a new set of shaped skis. Talk about a HUGE difference!
3. Do not ski outside of your knowledge and confidence! Again, you can get hurt! Skiing is about enjoyment. It's not the Olympics.
4. If you are skiing with friends and/or family, always have a cell phone or a two-way radio in case you get separated or lost. Garmin makes a wonderful radio that clips onto your jacket or backpack. It also has weather information channels and a GPS.
5. Follow the rules of the ski resort/mountain. They are there to keep you and others safe.
6. Have a map of the ski trails at all times and study the map for the best routes that meet your skill level. The map will also be helpful if you get lost.
7. If you ski often, be sure to take your skis to your nearest ski shop for annual adjustments. Do this before your trip if you plan to bring your own skis. The rates for ski maintenance in resort towns can be high. Getting your skis adjusted or "tuned up" can prevent your ski bindings (the place where the ski boot "clicks" onto your ski) from becoming loose. Imagine if you were skiing and your ski boot separated from your binding! Not good!
Also, make sure the bottom of the skis get re-waxed during routine care and maintenance. Re-waxing will make skis glide better and if you have skied over bare rock or ice patches during the previous season, a new coat of wax and compound will smooth out any rough edges or chips. If your skis are rough, they can catch and drag which can cause injury.
8. If you plan to rent skis, ask the pros in the shop. They are there to help you! Also, do not feel like you have to 'fudge' about your skiing abilities. None of us have to be like be Lindsey Vonn! Let them know about your proper skiing level and what type of skiing you are comfortable with.
For instance, I am 5'3 and weight 127 pounds. I am an intermediate skier who prefers an average skiing style (i.e. I can go faster or slow but not lightning speed). Therefore, I am best-suited to a pair of 152 centimeter length skis with a moderate release setting ski binding. However, the husband, i.e. the expert, fear-nothing crazy man has a pair of 184 centimeter skis with a high release setting. Again, ask the pros!
9. When it comes to ski clothing, be sure to dress in layers! Layers keep you warm and you can remove layers if you get hot (especially during the warmer, late-winter/early spring months). Always wear a base layer like body-skimming 'long-johns' or a lyrca blend top and leggings.
The modern base layers look and feel like slightly looser-fitting Spanx or shapewear. Base layers need to fit like a second-skin but they should not be restricting. Turtlenecks, cotton or poly-blend go great under wool sweaters or fleece tops. Ski sweaters or fleece tops should fit nicely and not be bulky. Remember always to account for movement! Ski jackets should be insulated and WATERPROOF! Do not buy anything labeled "water resistant." This means water can eventually soak in after a while. The key words you need to look for when it comes to ski jackets and ski pants are waterproof, insulated, 'Thinsulate,' and wind-resistant. Again, ski jackets and pants should fit nicely but not be bulky.
When you go to buy ski jackets and pants, try to wear a sweater and even leggings to get a 'real-life scenario' fit. There is nothing worse than a jacket or pair of ski pants that are too tight! For example, in 2005 I went skiing for my annual trip. I weighed 155 pounds and I accidentally bought a pair of ski pants that were a size 8! They were on a hanger labeled 12 and like a dummy, I did not try them on until the husband and I were in Colorado. They were tight but I could still zip them up and button them. Well, when I fell a few times, the button popped off and the zipper came flying down! I nearly lost my pants at least three times!
10. Even though skiing is a winter sport, the sun WILL get you, especially when it's reflected off the white snow! Therefore, wear at least 30 SPF sunblock and lip block. Even on days the clouds seem more prevalent, the sun, especially at high altitudes, will burn. I wear ROC SPF 30 sunblock moisturizer and NYC Color powder foundation in SPF 12.
11. Due to the heat of the body counteracting with the cold air, you will need anti-fogging ski goggles with UVB protection. I have tried to wear my 50s vintage cat eye sunglasses but I usually find that I have to keep them at the condo and wear my Roxy goggles instead. Sure, I do not look and feel vintage-fabulous but it sure beats being blinded by condensation on my lenses.
12. When it comes to ski gloves, you will need an insulator and a waterproof shell. Many gloves are now made with both features. Make sure gloves have a proper fit and dexterity! You need to be able to move your fingers and also be able to grip your ski poles. If your hands are prone to getting cold no matter how advanced the glove technology, you can buy chargeable, heated gloves. These are amazing and I have a pair. I wore them for the first time in January and they allowed me to stay out longer! You can also buy air-activated heat packs that go between the glove insulator/liner and the shell. Most packs last about 4-8 hours but they take about 20 minutes to warm up.
13. If you plan to visit a ski town or resort that is over 7,000 feet above sea level, you need to account for the fact there is less oxygen. If you are already active, increase your cardio workouts weeks (at least a month) before your departure date. If you are not active, try walking or biking to build your lung capacity. Many people experience "high altitude sickness." You can read about it here:
Also, please note that when you are at high altitude, you need to drink lots of water! Get plenty of rest, especially after activity and limit alcohol! The very first time I visited Breckenridge, Colorado (elevation 9,600 feet) in 1996, I had two beers during my first night and I felt I had an entire six-pack! This symptom does subside after a couple of days but due to the dryness of the high altitude air, be sure to drink lots of water for the entire length of your stay.
14. If you plan to bring skis on board an airplane, please note that most airlines will charge you an "oversize baggage" fee. However, if you fly first class, the airlines will usually waive this cost. Airlines have their fees listed on their websites.
15. When it comes to skiing, just enjoy yourself! Do not fight falling, drop your poles when you fall, have a sense of humor, and smile! It can only get better!