Gearing Up For Winter
As the days grow shorter and the temperatures drop, late fall is a quiet time for outdoor pursuits. Inside is a different matter. With winter on its way, excitement is building, and the mind and home of a backcountry skier is a hive of activity. There is much to do in preparation as the first flakes fall and the mountains take on their mantle of snow. Building the log pile. Cutting, hauling and stacking wood for the stove is the major outdoor activity for this time of year. And it’s hard work. After two days I am tired and sore. No need to hit the gym this week!
Preparing the quiver. Skis, boots and bindings for every possible scenario need to be selected and prepared. The workhorses of my quiver are a pair of mid-fat skis for deep mid-winter powder days and a slimmer but stiffer pair for spring ski mountaineering activities. Both will be equipped with AT bindings. Other equipment includes selection of appropriate packs, small for day tours, larger for hut trips, etc. All need to be filled with emergency and other supplies. Everything must be ready to go at a moment’s notice in case of (fingers crossed) an early season snowfall. Stoking the flame within. This happens naturally and requires no effort. As ski magazines arrive in the mail, ski movies show on the big screen, and ski swap banners hang across Main Street, anticipation of the season to come rises to a feverish pitch. Discussions with friends are dominated by reminiscence of last winter’s epic days and plans for the upcoming season. Brushing up on avalanche skills. Dusty books are pulled from the shelf and stacked on the coffee table for re-reading. Refreshing the memory on backcountry travel techniques and avalanche assessment is especially important.
Predicting and affecting the weather. This is by far the most important activity of the late fall. Long range forecasts from the Weather Service to Farmers Almanac are assessed. Significant internet discussion occurs on signs that could indicate a big winter. La Nina or El Nino? Extra woolly caterpillars or a proliferation of spiders in the home? (Yes. I have seen that!). Good signs are celebrated; bad signs are dismissed and ignored. And to ensure that nothing is left to chance almost every skier will undertake some activity to encourage Ullr, the Norse God of Snow, to perform to the best of his ability. Burning skis, throwing parties and any manner of activities take place that affect the depth of the winter snowpack. Now is the time to pray for snow.