Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tricks to maximize skiing time (aka fun time)

Skimountaineering racing has put a whole new perspective on how I go ski touring for recreation or for training. When I did my first race, the Dogtooth Dash, with my normal alpine touring setup, I focussed on quick changeovers. Many of the skills I practiced in that Dogtooth Dash I apply to my normal touring. It's all about being comfortable on the long climb (which takes up ~90% of the time), feeling energized on the descent, and going faster and longer (faster to the top = nobody stealing your line, longer = more skiing).  Or you can wake up later = get more sleep for skiing the same objective. Less time spent transitioning on that 45 degree slope with sketchy snow you are bailing on (or under cornices or seracs) =  less chance of death. We spend so much energy and thought limiting exposure objective hazards, but people are fine taking twice as long to change from uphill to downhill mode.

-Taking skins off without taking the skis off. I like to lock my heel down, lift my leg up to grab the tail of the skin and rip while kicking the leg back. You can even put your skins inside your jacket! If you aren't as coordinated and have to remove your skis, leave at least 1 ski on so you don't wallow down in the snow and possibly ice up the toe tech inserts.

-Boots: If I'm not going to ski something gnarly, I usually don't bother to do up the powerstraps. To change form ski to tour mode, I just open the top 2 buckles (leaving the buckle on the rung), flip the walk mode lever and I'm ready to rock. With TLT5's or F1's (with no powerstrap) it takes just 1 motion! I'll use the removable tongues and powerstrap on bigger/stiffer skis.

-Clothing:  I like to ski down in the same gear that I climb up in. That saves a bunch of time at the top and bottom, but requires something breathable and relatively windproof. Cycling windbreakers work well, as does the Polartec PowerShield jacket I have been using. When it gets real cold and windy, I bring out the full on shell. I find most people overdress when they are rolling out and have to stop to shed a layer 10mins into the tour. I tour up using a thin fleece liner glove, and throw on some glove shells at the top for the descent. I don't mind leaving the sunglasses I climbed up in on for the descent.

-Hydration: Another time sapping buzz kill is stopping to dig into a pack for water, which may or may not be frozen. I like to put my waterbottle on an inside pocket of my PowerShield layer. Quick access, and my body heat keeps it from freezing, and I can add snow to the water bottle if I need more.

-Gear: Okay, so while racing has turned me into a little bit of a weight weenie, I think there is a place for fun skis out there. BUT there are so many fun options out there that are lightweight.

-Rando racing has taught me to skin well, and prevent my skins from slipping. Sliding backwards saps your energy, and if you are using tailless skins you have to worry about skin failure. Make sure skins are cut correctly, showing just enough edge so you have good grip on steep climbs and on sidehills. If you can't skin up a crusty slope to save your life, use ski crampons! Or you can have fun missing out on awesome spring skiing.

-Trailhead transitions: I like to have my bag packed when I leave the house and I am suited up in the car. With my powershield layer, I can wear it comfortably in a large temperature range, so I am ready to go right from the car, just need to put my boots on, skins on, thin liner gloves on, beacon on, GPS on, and GO! (well wait for my buddies to get ready)

Slow transitions can be a buzz kill if there is another group coming up and wanting to drop into that fresh line you have been eyeing, if you are trying to get out of dangerous terrain and limit objective hazard, or you are trying to move quickly as you have a long day and need to get onto a slope before conditions change. Or you have an anxious Peter waiting to drop in, who has to wait for his buddies to get ready in case he gets into some trouble. Just another good skill to let you ski more vertical in the same amount of time.

Any other tips? Am I taking this way to seriously?

1 comment:

  1. Newbies totally keen to read your tips! Thanks, from the edmonton local endurance legend, ha!