Skiing is a seasonal sport. Unless you have a private jet and can easily toggle between hemispheres, you probably only hop on your skis or snowboard for a few brief months out of the year, followed by an unpleasantly long stretch away from the snow. So, as we approach the 2023-2024 winter season, your skiing skills might be a bit rusty. We’ve put together a set of tips to help you prepare for your first runs of the season.
Before hitting the slopes, make sure your ski gear is in good shape. This includes checking your skis or snowboard for any damage, ensuring your boots still fit correctly, and tuning up your edges and waxing your skis. Local ski shops can also perform a safety check of your bindings if you bring your boots with you for the tune-up. They’ll check that the tension is still set correctly for your weight, height, and skiing style, and that the bindings are performing to spec.
Seasoned skiers and snowboarders know that layering is the key to a comfortable day on the slopes. In the Mid-Atlantic, we can have a wide range of winter weather, from frigid cold temperatures to pouring rain. To stay warm and dry, start with a moisture-wicking base layer, then add an insulating layer like fleece. A waterproof and windproof shell make an ideal outer layer. A good pair of ski pants will keep your legs dry. And don’t forget a good pair of gloves, a helmet, and UV-protected sunglasses or goggles.
They say skiing is like riding a bike: that once you learn it, you’ll remember the skills forever. While that’s true, those skills can atrophy a bit during the warm months. If it’s been awhile since you were last on the slopes, consider taking a refresher course. Even experienced skiers can benefit from a lesson at the start of the season to brush up on their skills. You’ll find excellent ski schools at all Mid-Atlantic ski areas, with relatively inexpensive group lessons.
Choose trails and slopes that match your skiing ability level. Your first run of the season is not the time to challenge yourself. Start on a few easy trails to regain your “ski legs,” then slowly venture onto more advanced terrain as the muscle memory re-establishes itself.
While the Mid-Atlantic region isn’t as arid as out west, it’s still easy to get dehydrated while skiing. The cold can deceptively mask sweat loss. So stay hydrated and keep your energy levels up by packing small, nutritious snacks.
While you might be itching to feel the wind beneath your sails — or at least against your face, as you fly down the slopes — remember to always observe safety rules, and to ski cautiously, in case other people you’re sharing the slopes with don’t. You can review safety guidelines from the Eastern Division of the National Ski Patrol here.
Before packing the car, check the weather forecast, remembering that temperatures can often be 10 degrees cooler at Mid-Atlantic ski areas than in the city or ‘burbs. While you don’t need to worry about avalanches in the Mid-Atlantic (at least, not typically!), roads can be dicey heading to the resorts at times, and if freezing rain is in the forecast, even if you make it to the slopes, you might not want to ski on them. Also check directly with the ski area you plan to visit before making a trip, particularly in the early season: operating schedules can change with little notice.
Unless you’re trying to achieve that classic raccoon-look burned onto your face, don’t forget the high SPF sunscreen and lip balm. Even though most of your skin is covered up while skiing or snowboarding, the parts that aren’t can burn surprisingly quickly from the winter sun and all those rays reflecting off the bright white slopes.
When you ski or snowboard, you use muscles that you don’t typically use on a day-to-day basis. So if you’re skiing or snowboarding for the first time in the season, you’ll likely feel a bit sore the next day. Don’t overdo it; listen to your body and don’t let fatigue lead you to make mistakes or get injured. Take breaks when you need them and know that there’s always another day to ski. It’s best to end your day before you get tired. This is particularly true in the Mid-Atlantic, where many trips are day trips, requiring a long drive home after a full day of skiing.
It’s hard not to have a big smile on your face each time you make your first runs of the season. Enjoy your time on the slopes, and share your experience with other readers in the DCSki Forum. Did we forget any good early-season tips? Feel free to share your own in the comments below.
M. Scott Smith is the founder and Editor of DCSki. Scott loves outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, kayaking, skiing, and mountain biking. He is an avid photographer and writer.
HA! The Raccoon Boy is backward.
Pale where he should be red and vice versa.
Someone is playing with AI?