With the passing of the autumn equinox last weekend, ski season is right around the corner. As T.J. Burke romantically asks Robin Hand in Aspen Extreme, “Smell that? Winter’s coming.” With that said, long days of shredding the local hill or touring your favorite zone don't happen magically. If you want to stay healthy and start the season fresh–rather than hobbling along after the first few days of skiing hard–then getting into some sort of pre-season training is worthwhile. Being in good ski shape is also a great way to become a better ski partner and to avoid injuries. Sorry, 12-ounce curls don’t count. The below pieces of gear will get you there, either outside or at a local ski fitness class, and can make those first few ski days a little less sore and a lot more enjoyable.
Dynafit's trail runners always fit my narrow foot well, and their Pomoca soles (the same company that makes climbing skins) keep me on my feet rather than my rear-end while scampering over loose rocks. After several seasons in Dynafit's Feline Superlight, the Speed MTN GTX seemed like a natural upgrade. The Gore-Tex membrane kept me dry while encountering pockets of snowmelt and water in the spring. The toe and heel bumpers help when I inevitably stub my toe on rocks, and their lightweight feel is much appreciated. It's a burly but light shoe for the mountains, perfect for a trail runs that will get you ready for ski touring season. At first the shoe is a little stiff, but feels more nimble after being broken in. Also available in women’s.
The Abisko Trail T-shirt from Fjallraven is ideal for your ski fitness gym class or navigating the trails. Its blend of lyocell and wool feels extremely light and is very breathable—wicking away sweat with ease. The addition of wool also makes it super comfortable, so you'll most likely wear it the rest of the day following your workout. It has a longer cut so can accommodate wearing a pack, though runs a little small. Size up for a looser but still athletic fit. Also available in women’s.
It may sound sadistic, but hiking as fast as you can up your mountain with recycled milk gallons filled with water is an incredibly efficient way to get strong for the ski season. Last autumn, I did it consistently; then dumped the water at the top of the trail and ran down. The Deuter Rise 34+ can easily accommodate this training nonsense, and then crush it during the ski season. The top-loader design with adjustable lid has slick attachments for ice tools, a snow saw in the avalanche tool pocket, and a diagonal ski-carry system that stows away easily. The back panel has a foam pad and zippers to easily stash things while on the uptrack.
While it has cooled off a bit, there is no doubt that in this age of global warming, bursts of summer-like temperatures are going to reappear. To combat those warmer temperatures during long miles on the bike–invaluable for fitness–the Inferno Bib from Castelli has you covered. The non-transparent mesh fabric kept me cool when the thermometer hit 90 degrees, and the Progetto X2 Air Seat pad was super comfortable on the saddle. The compressive fit is unmistakably Italian, so size up if you're in between sizes, and embrace the Euroness since you'll be fitter come winter for that extra bootpack or skin while your friends are dragging and bringing up the rear.