Featured photo Pally Learmond | Skier Ingrid Backstrom
Fall Line’s blogger Ingrid Backstrom is a professional big mountain freeskier, The North Face athlete, and mum. After 20 years in the business, she knows a thing or two about prepping for winter.
Last season, I skied 106 days in a row, while juggling work and family obligations with two kids (and a very supportive husband), and a Pro 1 AIARE avalanche certification class. It was logistically challenging, exhausting, and one of the most fun winters I’ve had.
And if I’ve learned anything in 20 years of skiing professionally, it’s that Fall is best spent prepping for winter rather than pining for it. Like a squirrel stashing acorns, every little bit I can put in now is going to really pay off when scoring tasty powder stashes later on.
Here’s a quick list of some of my must-do items; I hope it helps you get ready for your best winter yet!
As a former ski racer who dry-heaved her way through dry-land training workouts every Fall in high school and college, I know it can be intimidating. It’s hard to sift through all of the options to know what’s best, while maintaining motivation, and nothing gets me in ski shape like actual skiing.
However, on the seasons I’ve stayed more active in the Fall, I’ve been able to ski with more stamina and less soreness come December.
I like to do a few strength sessions a week (at home, with some kettlebells and weights), while mixing in mountain biking for fun, plus nightly 10-minute foam roller, stretch and PT sessions for mobility, and also trail running and hiking.
The downhill component of off-road running and hiking, when done safely and ergonomically, has actually given me the best benefits in terms of stimulating the eccentric motions of skiing, so I make sure to get in the mountains on foot whenever possible. The mental benefits of moving on a trail are a total bonus.
One spring I lent out my skis to a friend to try. I clicked into them several months later and took off down a steep groomer at full speed, forgetting that she’d adjusted the bindings to her boot size; I promptly double ejected and yard-saled all over the mountain. Now, I try to at least take out my gear and inspect it all before the mountain opens, just to take stock of what’s there and what needs to be repaired or replaced, waxed or adjusted.
Extra points if I can put my ski boots on make sure they still fit – no joke, my foot size changed with pregnancy, so you never know! I like to look at my beacon, replace the batteries, make sure my skins and avalanche safety gear are in the backpack ready to go, and do a mental run-through of my gear process and checklist.
At the very least, I can usually find some cash or a spare lip balm in a jacket pocket – total score.
Safety / Avalanche awareness
Fall is a great time to sign up for an avalanche class. At the very least, do some practice drills with your gear, get your friends together and train. No excuses! Keep your squirrel parents happy.
As a general rule, don’t take any financial advice from skiers. Here I go anyway: Fall seems like a good time for me to go over my finances and make a budget for the winter, to see where I can make a little wiggle room for a pow-chasing road trip if the opportunity arises.
I consider my season passes to be my most valuable possession every winter – it’s a guarantee of fun, exercise, fresh air and exhilaration. In the past, I’ve done calculations based on how many day tickets I would need to buy to make a pass worth it, but I’ve realised that nearly 90% of the time if I have a pass, I will go; whereas if I have to buy a day ticket, I will find an excuse not to go.
There are lots of early season deals, and places where kids ski free. If you’re on the fence, just do it. Your future self will thank me!
When the first day of snow finally arrives, my stoke levels are through the roof. It’s tempting to get caught up in the froth, sending the show-off kicker under the chair with wild abandon. But I have to remind myself that I’m not in full ski shape yet and most likely neither is the mountain.
Early season conditions exist – barely covered rocks and stumps can be lurking at every turn. I make several runs on-piste to warm up, and sometimes I even do ski drills (don’t tell anyone, it might affect my reputation!). Then I try to stay on the ground for at least 10 full days of skiing before taking any air – that’s my own personal rule for tempering the early season enthusiasm a bit; you do you.
❄ Ingrid is sponsored by The North Face