By Xan Marshland, FOW

Whistler, BC. Photo: Whistler Blackcomb

"Better bring your ski gear!" FOW Paul Greenwood joked as we made plans to meet up during my Fall pilgrimage to his neck of the woods in Coastal BC.

Paul wasn't far off. I sit here in Squamish with an evening rainstorm outside my window as I warm up after a few hours in the dark, damp woods. The calendar says that this Wednesday was the first day of Fall. From her display of rain, fog, and falling leaves outside, it seems that Mother Nature agrees.

Squamish, BC. Photo: Xan Marshland (@xanmarshland)

Shoulder season is by nature, a time of transition. How you transition your own mind and body is up to you. For me, Fall typically means squeezing a few more bike rides in before my activity of choice changes. I become less focused on sending it and more dedicated to spending as much time as I can breathing in the cold air. The meditative state provoked by a long ride atunes my mind to the near future. In my imagination, the stretch of damp brown earth in front of me becomes white. A packed dirt booter morphs into a wind lip. My tires’ side knobs become steel edges. Every drift becomes a slarve.

Beyond the flow state they provoke - and perhaps training balance and reaction speed - I don't consider bikes to be the perfect cross training tool for backcountry skiing. They’re fantastic for endurance and base fitness, but they don’t typically activate the same muscle groups needed for skinning. Though it’s not my personal favorite activity, I vow to put a more effort into late season trail running when I’m back home in the Wasatch. This shoulder season strategy probably draws comparison to a college student cramming at 2am before a final, but hey, anything to maximize descending speed and enjoyment. 

Xan and Alex Andrews enjoy some after work corners. It's not powder, but for many of us, surfing dirt serves as a stand-in for human powered backcountry travel before winter sets in. Wasatch Range, UT. Photo: Ben Fleming (@benjamintfleming)

My mind wanders further, and my attention drifts to my friends, near and far. In the various mountain ranges they call home, old ski buddies, family, and the greater backcountry community are all beginning the transition into their favorite season. Skins are getting cut, skis are getting waxed, and avalanche equipment is getting checked over. Shoutout to anyone running through beacon drills in their backyard. I smile, knowing that we’ll meet again soon on the skin track.

Our community of FOWs is getting ready as well, each in their own way, fitting of their personality and approach to the mountains. Checking in with the crew back at home, I hear of a variety of approaches:

Melissa Gill:

My favorite cross training activities are pilates and yoga! Hands down the best combination of movement for my body to prepare me for ski season. I specifically practice (and teach) at RockSteady Bodyworks studio in Holladay, Utah. They offer two types of pilates: reformer and mat pilates. Both of these movement styles are super helpful in creating strong intrinsic strength so that I can climb mountains with proper body mechanics. 

Melissa Gill at Rocksteady Bodyworks. Holladay, UT. Photo: Tommy Chandler (@tommychandler)

And yoga is so crucial for me. My body gains muscle quickly, and with that, gets really tight and tense. My yoga practice allows for me to gain strength without compromising healthy tissues and facial lines.

My meditation practice has evolved a lot this past summer and I am really looking forward to seeing how it influences the way I move this winter. I now have a regular sitting practice along with a walking practice - both of which provide me with insight into how I listen to or ignore my body. My meditation practive has shown me the many ways I override pain, strain, or signals from my body, and then I’m able to tune into the impact. I can only begin to wonder how influential this will be for me when I’m skinning and skiing in avalanche terrain. 

Melissa and crew. Holladay, UT. Photo: Keith Fearnow (@fearnowka)

Paul Greenwood:

Preseason is all about aerobic base training around town while also promoting recovery of the body and mind. Time spent in the gym and hiking uphill is supplemented by self care, adequate rest, nutrition and family time.

Trail running in spectacular Squamish. FOW: Paul Greenwood // Trail buddy: Rowdy // Photo: Eric Carter (@skiericcarter)

Pep Fujas:

My training regimen is about balance, stability and endurance, combining strength, flexibility and mental focus.  With little time to spare between work, school and family, my garage has become my dojo.

Pep exudes focus and intention. Salt Lake City, UT. Photo: Pep Fujas (@pepfujas)

Matt Sterbenz:

I consider myself a rehabilitating cyclist and an exemplary student of gym class. I refrain from the ideology of training as I feel that’s creating disconnect from my lifestyle. I’m always building strength and revitalizing health in anticipation for my next adventure, big or small. Nothing worse than showing up to conquer an objective and feeling physically defeated in the process. Variables like health and fitness can be defined and achieved through lifestyle structure. Always learning, building and healing.

Loving every moment. Wasatch Range, UT. FOW: Matt Sterbenz // Photo: TJ Bottom (@tjbottom)

With cool air in our lungs and shortening daylight, it’s time to get prepared for the best season of the year. Make this season your best yet with an FOW-curated ski kit or a personalized, expert recommendation from our Ski Finder.