Five Habits of Highly Effective Skiers

By Andrew McLean


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Originally published in Backcountry Magazine
 Aug 2005

Growing up, Mean Old Mom never gave us a choice on how to spend our winter weekends.  It was skiing both Saturday and Sunday, leaving the house at 7:00:00am and driving home after the last lift shut down.  While she did this under the pretense of teaching skiing, the real education was in teaching her offspring how to be Highly Effective Skiers and forsake all else for the cause.  More than six-pack abs or buns-of-steel, planning and perseverance are the best ways to improve your skiing and get more turns. 

1)  Adventure Begins at Home.
The only thing more fleeting than powder is time, and itís worth making the most of both of them. The earlier you can plan a day of skiing, the more certain it is to happen.  Start days, not hours, ahead of time, make a plan in a single phone call and stick to it.  Pick a time and place to meet, even if the destination is undecided.  By doing this, skiing becomes a priority and youíll have already made plans when you get an invitation to the neighborís baby shower.  ďOh!  Iíd love to, but weíve already made plans.Ē  Easy, eh? 

Picking a likeminded partner who isnít prone to bailing out or indecision is also critical.  A touring partner should also be a partner in crime when it comes to backing up each others skiing alibiís, providing peer pressure to show up on time, and staying motivated.

2) Eight Days a Week
The easiest way to get more out of the day is to start earlier and finish later, with earlier being key.  The hardest part about an early start is just getting out of bed, so youíll want to do everything possible to ease the pain.  Pack up the night before, have all your gear ready to go, make a lunch, and do anything else that helps you run on autopilot in the morning.

Once you are out, work on an all day mindset by adjusting your pace for the long haul and staying well fed.  Stash snack food in your pockets and graze constantly. 

3) Packrats
The Law of Luggage states that the amount of gear you carry will expand to fill whatever pack you have.  The easiest way to reduce your pack weight and bulk is to use a smaller pack and thus avoid packrat temptations.  Make a point of routinely going through your pack with a critical eye and culling out items you donít use.  Every little gram adds up and necessity breeds invention when it comes to making do in the field. 

4) Pack Strategically
Ideally, you should be able to go through a day without taking your pack off.  Pace yourself to avoid the sweat/freeze cycle and dress dynamically with layers that you can vent.  Look for outer garments with large pockets and store often used things like hats, gloves and skins in them. Organize your packís contents into stuff sacks that are easy to leave out if need be and keep smaller items grouped together.

5) Choose the High Ground
When it comes to picking a place to ski, try to find one with multiple aspects and angles that allows a variety of options.  Think about terrain in terms of thematic circuits, such as powder, corn, high danger havens, storm day areas or low visibility.  Keeping your options open will ensure that you can stay out longer.

Using your grey matter to enjoy more white matter is a no-brainer.  Thereís nothing to buy and it works far better than a bee pollen protein shake for pumping out more vertical.  Not only that, itís fully endorsed by the mothers of America as the best way to get out and stay out for a full day of turning.

Copyright - Andrew McLean Back to Writings Index