Writer Stephen Krcmar has held season passes to ski areas including Big Sky, Killington, Sunday River, and other resorts. He currently calls Mammoth Lakes, Calif., his home. He offers these guidelines for families and travelers preparing for their first ski trip of the year.
1. When driving, slow down. It’s safer and more fuel efficient. Mountain roads are among the most dangerous places people drive. Be careful out there
2. Get those boards ready. Get a ski or board wax at a local shop before leaving home. If you just got your board or skis tuned, make sure the edges are tuned or detuned to your preference.
3. Water. It’s easy to forget about drinking enough water in the winter. But hydration is your friend. It’s dry in the mountains. Keep sipping on the water when you’re on your way and while you’re in the mountains to reduce your chances of the dreaded dehydration headache. Staying hydrated is also known to combat altitude sickness.
4. Snow chains. Carry chains or run the risk of having to buy them for top dollar. If you really wanna geek out and impress your friends, know how to put them on fast. (Translation: it’s a lot easier to learn how to install them in your garage than by the side of the road, at night, on the edge of highway traffic as a storm pounds.)
5. Electrolytes. For helping with hydration, electrolytes are your friend. They are also the quickest way to negate the adverse affects of one glass too many. And if sports drinks are too sweet for you, try some sugar-free electrolyte tablets from the likes of Nuun or ZYM.
6. Aspirin. When heading to altitude, a little aspirin does the body good. Its blood thinning properties can help you adjust to higher altitudes at ski areas. Be sure to have some on hand for your first few days at a resort.
7. Moderation. Apres ski is fun. But watch the beer and wine, and don’t drink too much — at least until you acclimate. Alcohol + altitude can equal you seriously bumming in the morning!
8. First chair means more turns. Sure, you’re on vacation. But there’s no experience like early morning turns. And it ensures that you’ll get some great runs and maybe even see some wildlife (other than ski racers, that is). Even the most crowded areas are typically quiet for the first one to two hours of the day.
9. Ease back into it in the park. Even if you were going big at the end of last season, it doesn’t mean you should pick up where you left off.
10. Lift tickets. If you’re sure you’re going to ski a fixed number of days, buy in advance — many ski areas offer a discount if you commit a few days ahead. But check the weather report first. If a storm comes in and the lifts are shut down, you may head home with an unused lift ticket, out of luck.