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Get Ski Fit Without Setting Foot in the Gym


We once knew a ski bum, who lived up to the full glory of the term. For over 20 years, he skied every day of the winter, regardless of conditions. His pre-season routine had always been to hang out with friends, drink some beer and start skiing as soon as the snow fell. However, he eventually caved to pressure from his friends and magazine who editors insisted he’d enjoy skiing “that much more” if went into the season fit, and he began to train.

He rode his bike. He lifted weights. He flirted with women in their workout gear, and he ran. He pushed and clawed and ran his way up mountains he loved to ski down. Then it happened. Five miles out on a 10-mile loop, he lost focus and twisted his ankle. No fanfare. No ski patrol. He hobbled back to town in his running shorts and busted body. One demolished ankle and one lost season of skiing.

One year later, he resolved to go back to his beer drinking, no training ways. He’s never missed a day of skiing since.

Most of us aren’t so lucky to get by on beer drinking alone. We reap genuine benefit from a early season conditioning. But we may not love the gym.

So today, we present three out-of-the-box training tips that will help prep your body for ski season. In honor of our good friend, the consummate ski bum, they can all be done with beer in hand (…though we’re not necessarily condoning it).

Common sense warning: Know your own body and your capabilities. We present these ideas as fun ways to build ski specific fitness, not as ironclad directions.

1.  Racing downhill with Lindsey and Aksel Lund Svindal (a.k.a. Living room tucks) for strength and endurance. YouTube old downhill races on your computer or watch early season races, like the Birds of Prey at Beaver Creek on the television. As the downhillers take course, drop into a tuck in your living room (ski boots not required).

  • Keep your feet flat on the ground (emulating skis flat on the snow). With flexed knees and ankles bring your back low and parallel to the floor (a.k.a. the slope). Bring your arms and elbows tight to your body with hands roughly in front of your chin, which should be lowered.
  • Hold the tuck position for the entirety of one downhill run. This should last roughly two minutes, depending on the course.
  • Not enough for you? Take one racer off, then tuck along with the next.

2.  Lateral downhill skips for agility. We first learned of this exercise from SKI magazine over a decade ago and it’s still super fun. Basically, any time you’re walking or running downhill, “skip” from foot to foot while bringing your other foot into a corresponding, “parallel” position.

  • Be highly attentive to your knees. Enough said.
  • Holding your core strong and your upper body stable while aiming down the hill, place your right foot on the ground to the outside right of your core. Keep your foot facing forward (and, again, heed your knees). At the same time, bring your left foot and leg in a parallel, corresponding position – though the left foot should not touch the ground.
  • Now, jump or “skip” to the left foot, hold your core stable in the middle and bring your right foot along. The focus is on lateral stability, feeling the inside length of your “outside” foot and the agility of moving both legs independently, but in concert. Try to keep your head level with each skip.
  • This can also be done on a flat floor. Even better: place two mini trampolines side by side and jump laterally from one to the other while keeping your head level and relatively low.
  • Note: This is a fun agility exercise, it is not a direct replication of proper short-turn technique.

3.  UVs for a strong core. To manage the ever-changing terrain underneath our feet when we ski, a strong core is critical. UVs are just co-opting two exercises from Pilates that not only build balanced strength, they also encourage a good stretch afterward.

  • The “U.” Lie on the floor on your stomach, with arms stretched out in front of you. Lift your upper body from the chest up and lift your legs. Be sure to keep your neck and head in easy alignment, not tilted up – as you’ll be tempted to do. Flutter kick your legs and flutter your arms up and down. Go for about 20-30 seconds. Rest repeat.
  • The “V.” This is the classic Pilates 100. Check out this short video from Gaiam, which details the beginner and advanced approaches to the 100.

These exercises can be added to a full training plan that includes more strengthening, more stretching, plyometrics and lots of agility and quick feet. Happy skiing!

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Ode to the Fleece

polar fleece

It becomes an afterthought. You throw it on while you pore over stats and specs for this winter’s ski gear. It’s the layer you wear when you go shopping for your new parka. It’s seen the four corners of the Earth, the inside of your local grocery, innumerable National Parks, and more happy hours than any of us will admit.

It’s your fleece. The only thing more ubiquitous than a fleece jacket (or vest) is the near universal attitude of indifference we have toward them.

For those old enough to remember, there was a time when you peacocked your fleece jacket as the mark of a true outdoorsperson. Things were a little bulkier back then and this may have turned the tide of public opinion for a spell. But in the 2000’s, fleece technology and performance has advanced to the point where we know manufacturers by name (we’re talking to you, Polartec). Top brands tout its inclusion as a premium selling point.

In all likelihood your fleece has been with you longer than any other gear, yet somehow you never tell your friends about it or compare performance characteristics with their own version. What it lacks in sartorial appeal, it more than makes for in functional savoir faire. Think about it, your fleece has:

  1. Been with you on every backpacking trip as a lightweight, multi-tasking layer and superior pillow,
  2. Accompanied you so frequently on your globe-trotting adventures that you’re kicking yourself for not having secured a unique air mileage card for it,
  3. Been permeated with the scent of fire, be it from a campfire, barbeque or the mysterious burn holes it’s acquired from a life of unrequited love and hard knocks,
  4. Received more hugs than any other item of clothing because of the sheer number of days it’s been worn. There’s: the post-expedition bro-hug, the first day of school teary hug, the comforting bad day hug, the haven’t seen an old friend in a long time hug, the proud of you for your accomplishment hug and the “I-don’t-care-I’m-covered-in-dog-hair” hug, and
  5. Been up close and personal to every element Mother Nature and her cohort (i.e. you) have been able to conjure up. Water (rain, river trips, morning surf sessions), earth (mountain biking, gardening), fire (see above), and air (the wind on a sailboat, the crisp breeze when summiting a peak).

Be loud, be proud and make peace with your fleece. It’s here to stay and you know that makes you as happy as a two-year old hearing he can bring his woobie on the road trip. We celebrate the humble fleece – the workhorse of the closet and the backpack and the commuter – with our new, reformulated Nikwax Polar Proof.

With a few ounces in the wash, Polar Proof breathes new life into your fleece. It won’t add weight or change the appearance, but the specialized formulation adds water repellency to an otherwise sponge-like fabric. Polar Proof also maintains the crucial air gap between the knit and the weave that is the essence of the highly breathable, warmth-to-weight comfort of fleece.

Your fleece has been around long enough that some cultures would consider you legally bound by default. But we know you’re bound by love and we want to ensure you have a long, happy future together. We’re Nikwax: it’s what we do.

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Gear Rehab Can Help Flooded Colorado Residents


We knew we were in trouble on Sept. 12, when the rain, which had been falling without break for four days, came down even harder. From my second-story home office, I could hear the nearby creek thunder like a herd of galloping clysdales. The street outside our house morphed into a river with water reaching above the wheels of parked cars. Twitter was going mad with the hashtag #boulderflood, texts were coming in from friends whose apartments and houses flooded, and I, a Colorado native more acclimated to hot and dry weather than monsoon torrents, realized I was in the midst of something far beyond my control.

And then our house flooded, too.

It wasn’t that bad, relatively speaking. I live in southwest Boulder in a split-level ranch, and the flood forced us to rip out drenched carpet from our basement. Our couch got wet. Totally manageable.

Surrounding me, though, was devastation. Houses torn from their foundations by waves of muddy water. People buried under the rubble of their homes or swept from their cars by quick-moving waters.

The death toll from the notorious 100-year-flood that slammed Colorado’s Front Range is holding at six, so far. Thousands of people required helicopter evacuations and may not be allowed to return to their homes in the foothills for weeks because the roads going there are trashed and impassable. The mayhem in and around Boulder promises to linger. The city’s bike paths—which, thankfully, also served as flood mitigation—are closed for safety, and the streets are littered with dried mud and rocks. Important bridges are snapped in two.

The bright side, of course, is the community effort rallying behind those hit the worst. Neighbors are taking in neighbors. People are donating clothing, labor, office space, money, and more to help those in need. We are all digging deep to find reserves of patience, perseverance, and humor.

But sometimes, even funny things don’t seem funny in the aftermath of a flood. I’m thinking specifically about my friend, Kate’s, Gore-Tex jacket, which she has had since 1998, and which has been with her to Canada, Thailand, France, California, Colorado, Wyoming, and countless other destinations. This jacket lived in the basement of her Boulder home and was submerged when her basement flooded.

It really might have been the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” That jacket, already well loved, got it bad. Now it stinks, has an odd texture, and is the last thing you’d want to wear, even in a rainstorm.

But back to that community effort for a moment. Not only are locals helping out. Nationally, people have been offering assistance to those affected by the flood.

One such offer comes from the folks at Nikwax and their “Gear Rehab” program. Granted, this offer was established before the floods. But now there are probably thousands of jackets and gloves and ski pants just like Kate’s. Nikwax wants to make sure my friends and I know we can send in “flooded” gear to Nikwax U.S. headquarters, and they’ll rehab it and send it back to you for free. Check out the details here.

I’ll be the first to say that a stanky jacket is the least of most flood victims’ worries.  But restore that jacket, and there’s one less expense flooded residents have to worry about. That’s really cool. Thanks, Nikwax. Now…about my couch…  —Rachel Walker