“Live to ski” is a quote attributed to deceased Jackson Hole ski mountaineer and backcountry advocate Steve Romeo. While I love skiing, and probably prioritize it more in my life than I should, I am not capable of living solely to ski. Perhaps live, then ski should be my motto. Sadly, student loans, a place to live, long-term financial security, and a desire for some of the nicer things life provides has pushed me into seeking gainful employment. While Steve and his disciples would often eschew the purchase of a season pass, an unreliable snowpack, living a good distance from the mountains, and the desire to make some easy runs on the groomers has me ponying up for a pass at the local hill on a yearly basis.
While I truly don’t “live to ski,” I try pretty damn hard to squeeze as much skiing into the season as I can and can attest to another belief of Steve’s: “there are only two seasons: winter, and waiting for winter.” New England winters are fickle and I want to make sure I squeeze every once out of it before we are once again waiting for winter. With winter here (boy has it been here, with a string of zero-degree days), I’ve found myself working hard to maximize my time on snow, but finding time to ski between working, commuting, and home life is not easy. While I often try to convince myself to hit up the local hill for some night skiing on the way home, truth be told the cold, the crowds, and the fact that by the end of the day I am simply tired leaves me driving past the mountain more often than not.
The most effective solution so far has been to start the practice of dawn patrol: get up early, get to the mountain before they begin operations, and skin a few laps before work. While I am not exactly scoring pristine backcountry runs, there is something to be said about how peaceful the ski resort is before it opens (a peace that is occasionally broken up by a groomer or snowmobile). Most important, the hill provides a quick and easy place to get a workout, and some skiing in before work (a fact that is becoming more apparent as I see more and more people out before the mountain opens). I am happy to trade a little of the solitude for some like-minded company in the morning, even if that company is wearing a skin-suit and blowing past me on the uphill…and the downhill.
In my opinion, the hardest part about partaking in dawn patrol is the actual act of getting out of bed. Let’s face it, it is cold and dark outside, and warm (and still dark) inside. Upon waking up, a normal person’s first instinct isn’t to get suited up and go outside but rather to hunker under the covers, hit the snooze button, and sneak in as much extra sleep as possible. I have no secret on how to counteract the black hole that is bed, and often I waste precious minutes in the morning having an internal debate regarding my desire to get outside and ski. More often than not, knowing that in the end I will be happy I got up–and disappointed if I don’t–is my motivating factor. If that doesn’t motivate me, the idea of sneaking a ski day and bragging to my friends and co-workers will occasionally help pry me from bed.
In the end, I don’t think there has been a day yet were I was disappointed I woke up and went skiing (including the day that ended with ten stitches). The weariness of sleep quickly gives way and, once you get moving, the cold is promptly forgotten. Once you start moving uphill it is easy to forget how early it is, and upon initiating the first turn downhill the gratification can be overwhelming. While there may be a bunch of tips and tricks to make getting up a little easier (*I will give you mine at the bottom), the truth is that skiing is the great motivator and while I may not “live to ski,” I certainly love to ski and that is all the inspiration I need.
*The one thing that has made the biggest difference to me and has made dawn patrols significantly easier is to get as much prepared the night before as possible. The closer you can get to rolling out of bed and heading to the mountain, the easier things become. Click the link below for a fun/inspirational video from the Black Diamond crew.