On a low-snow May morning, writer David Rothman decided go skiing, as he often does, for his birthday. But the north-facing gully he routinely relied upon for this endeavor was so soggy and rotten that his hike uphill left his boots caked and himself belly-down in the mud. An ungainly struggle delivered him to the top, and he was able to ski down what little snow was left—"some turns were even good," he writes in his essay about the outing, printed in his book Living the Life: Tales from America's Mountains and Ski Towns. The gist of it matches the general experience so far this season: a little desperate, and a lot of joy at those few good turns.
If you happened to catch that Thursday morning snowstorm that brought several inches to Ski Santa Fe last week, and crowds and palpable joy with them, you know it's been a season in which to celebrate small victories, rather than that year you finally get your turns on Roadrunner dialed to the point you're truly thrilled to show them off. At least so far. We're holding out hope—and it's not entirely unfounded. Meteorologist Joel Gratz, founder of OpenSnow.com, a powderhound-focused weather site, says a "significant storm" will move across the western US around Jan. 19. Just the southern fringe of the storm reaches New Mexico, but Gratz says it could drop a few flakes on Taos and Sipapu. Then the overall trend should set up to bring more snow during the last week of the month.
While we wait, here are some ideas to stay ready, in the spirit, and keep yourself occupied.
Dry land training
Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn was competing for another World Championship medal in Austria in 2013 when a jump landed her in soft snow, her legs buckled, and she tumbled, tearing multiple ligaments in her knee and fracturing her tibial plateau, one of the body's most important weight-bearing bones. The day after she returned to Colorado, she had reconstructive surgery. The day after her surgery, she resumed workouts, using a medicine ball and crunches to keep up her core strength.
In Vonn's book, Strong is the New Beautiful, she writes about building back from that and other injuries that have ended her season, but not her career. She was back in Austria this month, competing in the super-G, having scored enough points to qualify for the Olympics in South Korea.
She packs her book with tips on healthy eating and making exercise a habit, but maybe the most interesting are her high-powered strength-training routines that require little in the way of equipment and do a lot to ramp up your ability to jump into those moguls, if and when they do appear. Think scissor jumps, lateral line hops, squat jumps and mountain climbers.
The US Ski Team lists fun tasks like weighted box squats, overhead medicine ball throws and lateral box jumps as their training go-tos. If you want a program with a thorough roadmap, the Mountain Tactical Institute (mtntactical.com) sells training plans online to build strength and lactate tolerance—also known as that ability to feel the burn and keep skiing anyway.
Learn a new skill
By most standards, it was well past time to call it a day and surrender the slopes to the incoming snowstorm and twilight hour when I decided to strap into telemark skis for the first time. After 25 years as an alpine skier, I still skied almost every weekend, but I went mostly for the scenery, the occasional barside fireplace and time with friends. Skiing was fun, but wasn't my focus.
Then, on a whim, I borrowed a set of telemark skis—the free-heel binding, also known as the ones I'd looked at for years and thought I'd never be able to handle—and hopped on the chairlift for a long easy trail. That one wobbly run was enough to renew my motivation to be a first-chair-to-last-chair skier.
A new discipline gave me a way to explore the finer points of skiing from the ground up again, once again focusing on edge angles and weight placement in ways I hadn't really needed to in years. It's made me a better skier, but this year, it's also keeping those intermediate groomed runs entertaining.
Pick up a new sport
Just maybe not ice climbing. We hear the mountain biking has been great this month. And the newsroom suggestion was napping.
The Enthusiast is a twice-monthly column dedicated to the people in and stories from our outdoor sports community. Elizabeth Miller is a part-time ski instructor at Ski Santa Fe.