Gimme A Break
Read any book on training or “how to” article in Outside magazine, Runners World, etc. and you will likely come across an article about the importance of rest days. The articles will stress that not only is rest important for letting your body heal and your motivation build, but also that you get as much from your off days as you do from your on days. Despite the fact that you are actually doing nothing, your muscles are building and you’re preventing overuse injuries and avoiding mental burnout. The problem with this theory is that how does one take a rest day, when you love skiing and it seems to snow every damn day?
I’ve written about the fleeting nature of winter ad nauseam but here I go again. Winters in New England are fickle; while it would seem that the three feet of snow we just got will last until June, the truth is that all it takes is a little rain and a couple of warm days to destroy a few storms worth of snow. Powder days in the Northeast are few and far between, so you must be ready to go when the opportunity presents itself, no matter how many days in a row you’ve been at it. Lately I have been at it a lot. It would seem that I am in a cycle of: wake up early, pack ski stuff, leave for the destination of the day, skin laps, go to work, hang ski stuff up to dry, go to sleep, repeat. This schedule is perfect for maximizing a few storm days, but not sustainable for an entire winter. Having been on this schedule for the last few weeks, I can attest that it is starting to take its toll.
From a skier’s point of view, February has been fantastic. We’ve gotten a lot of snow and it has stayed fairly cold, which has helped to preserve the snow and amazing ski conditions. Not only have we gotten a lot of snow but it has snowed consistently throughout the month, meaning there have been freshies almost everyday. Mix into the equation a few secret stashes and a good idea of where to find fresh snow even a few days after a storm and I have been skiing powder all month. The arrival of winter has been a blessing as the local backcountry has opened up, right before February school vacation and a blackout of my season pass to Wachusett.
The negative to all of this snow is that I am tired. My legs are sore, my body is fatigued, and mentally I could use a day where I just stayed in bed. Add in that most of the runs I have taken the past few weeks have been earned by skinning and the physical toll is increased. I just can’t allow myself a rest day when conditions are so good, no matter how tired I get. Most people are lucky to get one powder day a season and I’ve had more powder days in a row than I can even count. More so, each day seems to be more epic than the one preceding it as the snow stacks up. Runs that are pose a risk to skis and body are now mellow runs, and favorite runs at times have so much snow in them that you are skiing in the tree boughs you normally ski under.
I know I will be grateful for the runs I’ve gotten when I’m rereading Powder on the deck and dreaming about skiing in July. When winter finally goes away, I will forget the struggle to pull myself from bed, the leaden feeling in my legs as they warm up on the first uphill of the day, and the damp feeling of pulling on gloves that just didn’t have quite enough time to dry out all the way overnight. Instead, I will remember the great runs, the fresh pow, and the weightless feeling of skiing deep snow. For the time being I will “suffer” through exhaustion–as much as one “suffers” powder skiing–and worry about catching up on my rest when winter decides to take a break itself.