Lake Tahoe shops offer a tips to prepare you for first chair
Sliding down a snow-covered mountainside on metal edges isn’t always the most intuitive pursuit. Neither is making sure all of your gear is ready to perform from Thanksgiving through Spring Break. Two pairs of socks should keep your feet extra warm, right? Don’t count on it. How about a hand warmer slipped inside a boot to keep your toes toasty? Only if you want what is essentially a bag of rocks floating around your boot an hour later.
With the first significant storm of the season in the books, several South Shore ski shops offered tips this week for making early season turns. Most of the advice centered around the seemingly obvious — do what makes you comfortable.
“You make things comfortable, people want to do it,” said John Whisnant, a sports technician at Tahoe Sports Ltd. “You make it uncomfortable, people will do anything to avoid it.”
In the mountains during the winter months, staying comfortable often comes down to staying dry.
“If it’s wet, it’s cold; if it’s dry, it’s warm,” Whisnant said of keeping temperatures up.
One of the most common ways people sabotage their swelter is by wearing cotton next to the skin. Once the “Fabric Of Our Lives” gets wet, it stays wet and gets cold. Polypropylene or wool base layers are key to keeping moisture and, therefore, the cold away from the skin, according several shop employees.
Whisnant recommended wearing high-quality thermals for a day on the slopes. Doubled-over seams provide an added layer of comfort that you’re not going to find in a cheap base layer, Whisnant said. Those synthetic or wool base layers don’t always have to be particularly cumbersome to be effective.
“Thick is not necessarily better,” Whisnant added.
The same is true when it comes to socks. While a nice, thick pair of socks seems like a no-brainer in ski or snowboard boots, a thick sock can actually prevent moisture from being wicked away from the skin, leading to a colder experience. Two pairs of socks can have the same effect, with the second layer keeping moisture closer to your skin.
If you need a second pair of socks to get a comfortable fit in a ski or snowboard boot, it’s probably time to get a different pair of boots, said Dan Butler, manager at Shoreline of Tahoe.
“Boots are pretty much the biggest thing,” he said about having the right equipment.
A tight boot, especially when it’s new, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as both ski and snowboard boots tend to get looser as the linings pack out, Butler said. Boots are also a piece of equipment where one size doesn’t fit all, and it helps to have a professional opinion.
“There’s not really any stupid questions. A lot of stuff is preference,” Butler said.
The “stay dry to stay warm” axiom also holds true when it comes to outerwear.
Although your jacket and snow pants could probably use a wash after the season, don’t just throw them in the washing machine with regular detergent, which can damage a manufacturer’s water-repellent finish, Whisnant recommended. When used in combination, products like Nikwax’s Tech Wash and TX.Direct Wash-In will clean your waterproof and water-resistant gear without damaging the finish. He said he’s been using the products on one jacket since 1992, and it’s still performing well.
Another item you may think is performing like new, but is actually broken, is a helmet. Most helmets are only designed to take one impact and should be replaced if you take a good fall. Some manufacturers offer factory testing or buy-back programs to insure that helmets on the slopes are still functioning properly, Whisnant said.
Even if you don’t take a fall, helmets tend to only be good for about five years, he added. “Polystyrene doesn’t last forever.”
A good board wax every eight to 12 hours of use will also help keep a set of skis or snowboard in good shape and working consistently, Whisnant said. Ted Moorhead, operations and marketing manager for Powder House Ski & Board, agreed, recommending a good wax and tune to start the season.
“That way it’s dialed; it’s consistent right at the start of the season,” he said. “So much of it is just consistency and comfort.”
For bargain shoppers, between now and Thanksgiving is a good time to look for deals on gear, Moorhead explained. Buying used equipment and past-years models are great ways to save a couple bucks on ski equipment.
When it comes down to it, making sure you have the right gear for a day on the slopes is a critical first step to having a good time at elevation.
“It doesn’t matter how you get down the hill,” Butler said. “It’s how much fun you’re having.”