It's always good to mix things up, and for me, I love mixing things up in the Winter. Mostly, I like having something to actually look forward to come the snowy months. If only we'd start getting some here in the Midwest. However, having a great cross-training plan for the off-season helps me to look forward to those long cold months from December to early March.
This past weekend I was finally able to get out and go skiing. I'd been chomping at the bit to put on my sticks and hit the terrain. My wife and I were going to her parents house for Christmas, and we were there a couple days earlier, so her brother and I decided to go to Chestnut Mountain in Galena, IL. For being a Midwest ski destination, this resort is quite nice. The runs are reasonably long and some qre pretty challenging. Even though they are short. To our surprise, though, nearly all the runs were open despite the fact there was no snow to be found during the whole drive out. Only one run was completely shut down, while a few crossovers were, too. Realistically, we could hit the whole hill.
They were making snow like crazy, so it was almost like we were skiing in a snow storm, but the machines could be heard all over the resort giving out their low grumbling sound. Nothing bad though.
What I love so much about skiing for cross-training, is that it really reminds me a lot of high intensity interval training. That is, if you're going hard. My brother-in-law is a pretty good snowboarder, so we were both taking turns picking runs, challenging each other an coming up with new lines. It was a great time. Each run it seemed like we were going faster and getting more confident.
The runs only last a minute or two, but during those couple minutes, our legs were throbbing from chopping through ice and sliding through 'crud' or a sloshy mix of snow and mush. Man-made snow is nothing like the real thing. However, the amount of energy it takes to be going 30+ mph down a steep run, carving up turns is quite tremendous. Reaching the bottom, your hearth pounding from exhilaration of the snow rushing past you and the chilly air piercing your skin.
A good six hours on the hill, and you'll be burning up a hefty amount of calories. Especially on a day like we had with no lines. We'd hit the run hard, slide right through the chutes where lines are supposed to form, and hop right back on the lift, thinking about our next run.
For skiing especially, I can feel the benefits I'm gaining in my legs, mostly for biking. Some similar motions are used when you drop down into a squat position and carve hard back across the slopes. The amount of power it takes to hold up your frame and stay steady and balanced is awesome. I really felt it the next day.
Now, I don't have the top of the line gear here either, but I must say, some of what I do have is great. But mostly I'd like to give a shout out to a company my brother Jake was enthralled with: Flylow Gear. I got the chance to put on a pair of their snow pants, jacket and gloves, and boy are they amazing. The fit on the pants is truly spot on. Enough leg room to have full mobility, but not so baggy they slow you down when you're scorching the mountain. The jacket is waterproof and windproof. On a 30ºF day, I just threw on a baselayer shirt underneath and was good to go. Coverage is great, and the hood isn't bothersome if you don't want it on, but it also fits perfectly over my helmet for extra coverage on the lifts when it got windy. And their gloves, wow. The Tough Guy gloves are insane. So light and easy to wear, but totally bombproof. No wind getting in, no water seeping through. And they seem to be built to last. And at that price, even getting one solid season out of them is worth it. This gear is where it's at.
I've also got a set of Anon goggles and my brother's Smith Variant helmet. I find it odd that the Smith helmet in Large fits my brother and my head, but a Bern XL helmet doesn't even come close. We've got rather large domes, but it's amazing how much different they size their gear.
For my skis, I've got a pair of Head Mojo Spawn II's. I picked these up 2 years ago for a great price. They're a decent all mountain twin-tip that just get the job done. Not overly fast, pretty easy to initiate a turn, and I've never booted out, even with a relatively narrow underfoot. They're built solid, and for the price, totally worth it.
Coming up this week, my wife and I are leaving on a trip I've been looking forward to for a year now. Unfortunately, under different circumstances. We'll be heading to Utah to ski with a handful of my brother Jake's friends. Jake and I had been planning this trip for some time, and now that I've been able to get a little more money saved and am a bit more stable, this was the year we were going to do it. So the trip will be a little bittersweet, but I'm still looking forward to it like I always have. The whole week will be full of adventures in the Salt Lake City area, skiing in Alta and Snowbird, and exploring places I've never been, seeing all the amazing things Jake saw, and being with the people he loved out West. I plan on taking my cameras out to the hill, so I will have some great photos to share, and hopefully some amazing stories as well.