Endurance Athlete

Sc ientifically Designed Athletes

The Preseason To-do list for the cross-country skier.

For those who live for firm classic tracks, a well-groomed skate deck, and gliding through the woods with friends during a long ski, the heat of summer feels like it drags on forever. Yes, we have filled our time with hikes, Nordic walking, bike rides, paddling, and even some roller skiing, but when it comes down to it, smooth asphalt, glassy water, and flowing single-track will never replace perfect “extra blue” kick or effortless glide on well-waxed skis. When the leaves start to change and the nights get longer, we start watching the weather forecasts for the first frost and betting who will get the earliest snowfall (Alaska has won the 2021 award for the earliest grooming in N. America). While it might feel like the first grooming reports for our local trails are far away, Thanksgiving camps and winter itself will be here in full force before we know it. And just like bears must gorge themselves to fatten up for hibernation, us skiers also have late fall rituals we need to complete for a successful return to sliding on snow. 

Pull out all your skis, boots, and poles.

Step one, pull all your ski gear out of storage and make sure it is all there and in good condition. Grab your skis and scrape off the storage wax and inspect your bases. If you forgot or just didn’t get around to cleaning your bases and putting storage wax on your skis at the end of last season, now is a great time to clean those bases and start to prepare them for the coming season. Consider whether your bases need a fresh stone grind for the season. Then go ahead and put a layer of cold weather wax on your skis to harden the bases and get them ready to receive the first condition specific wax of the season. Additionally, this is a great time to inventory your waxes and make sure you have enough wax for a wide range of temperature and snow conditions for the coming season. Trust us, if you wait to do this until you are rushing to the trailhead for the first time, there is a good chance you will be asking around the parking lot to borrow the kick wax of the day or gliding on slow skis. 

How are your boots? Look them over to make sure the zippers and soles are in good condition. A year of use, walking across the Nordic center parking lot in the spring, and possibly roller skiing over the summer can do a lot of damage to your boots. Are they going to hold up for the entire season this year, did they give you blisters last season, or were your feet cold a lot last year? This is the time to answer these questions and head to your local ski shop to try on new boots when they have plenty of selection. 

Do you have enough poles? If you ended your season like I did with a crash that ended up with a broken pole, you will want to make sure you have enough poles to go skiing on day one of the season. Even if you didn’t break any poles last season, looking over your pole straps, tips/baskets, and the integrity of each pole shaft is important to make sure you are ready to go when you get to the trailhead for the first time. 

Where did you store your ski gloves?

Clothing is not only important to look good out on the trails, but it is also extremely important for functionality, keeping us comfortable and safe while out skiing. As we prepare for the upcoming season, take the time to evaluate the clothing you will be wearing while skiing this season. From base layers to outwear, every article of clothing plays an important role. Think back to last season and the days you felt cold and wished you had an extra layer or something that would wick away sweat better. Make sure you have the proper layers and that all your clothing is in good functional condition. 

Paying extra attention to your gloves and mittens can help prevent an uncomfortable first day on the trails. Gloves and mittens take a lot of wear and tear while cross-country skiing so make sure your gloves don’t have any holes, areas that are overly worn-out, and that you have hand coverings that will keep your hands comfortable in any weather condition that you might find yourself skiing in. Having a pair of thin gloves for warm days as well as mittens or three-finger gloves for colder days will give you the flexibility to ski anytime you want. 

Support the trail systems.

Finally, do you have your trail pass? Showing up for your first day of skiing and not having your current trail pass is not only a hassle but also uncool. Many Nordic centers and trail systems require either a day pass or an annual pass. Pre-purchasing your annual trail pass will help you go straight to snow when you are excited for your first day skiing and helps the Nordic center anticipate what the trail system user demands will be this season. If you ski in a location that does not require a trail pass, take the time to donate to the non-profit organization that grooms and maintains the trails you will be skiing on. 

Hopefully, by the time you have organized your gear and gotten prepared for the ski season, it is time to travel to a Thanksgiving Ski Festival or your local Nordic center has some kilometers groomed up and ready to go. However, if the fall stays warm and dry, keep procrastinating and that will ensure a big storm will come so the rest of us that have our equipment ready will be on the trails soon. 

Posted on: Saturday, October 16th, 2021 at 8:09 am

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