I have always been an early riser. Even on workdays I am usually awake and up around 5:00 AM. This is even the case when in the winter months when the sun does not come up until after 6:30 in the northeast.
My habits play well into my winter passion of skiing. For the best day long experience you have to get going early. The reasons for this are numerous and here are my reasons for getting up early on a ski or riding day. The trick is to stay ahead of the crowd.
Before you leave- By getting up early you can take your time before you leave. I use this opportunity to double check that I have everything. I take the time to make and pack a nutritious lunch. I double check the conditions at the mountain I am going to. I often even print out a trail report of what is open, and what trails are recently groomed. I can pack the car without rushing around and leaving things home Have you even left home without something very important like you gloves goggles, or coat?
One the road- By getting going early you can often beat the traffic and drive at a reasonable and safe speed. It seems that I have seen many people who live closer to the mountain than I pulled over by a police officer for what might be speeding. Leaving 30 minutes earlier might save you a ticket, and get you to the mountain safely and in a more pleasant frame of mind.
Parking- Between my skis, poles, boots, helmet, and everything I bring with me I bet I carry about 60 pounds. This all has to make it from the car to the lodge. Getting to the mountain early affords you the opportunity to get an up front parking spot. Look at the parking lot at the end of a busy day. Someone had to carry all of their equipment from their car and SUV that are a long way from the lift or in perimeter parking lot. In addition to the energy exerted carrying all of the equip, think of the time spent on doing so.
Room in the lodge- Trying to get ready in a crowded lodge is a real challenge. Bumping elbows with a bunch of strangers all of whom are trying to do the same thing you are isn’t a good way to start the day. By getting in the lodge early, you can take your time. There is more room. You can meet and talk to the other people who are also there early. They value many of the same things you do. With fewer people in the lodge you can ensure that you have everything you need. You can pack those things you don’t need away so you can find them at the end of the day. You can also double check to ensure that you have everything you need for the day. I was in the lift line earlier this year when I heard a follow skier remark that she had to go back into the lodge because she left her goggles behind.
First on the lift- The smallest lift lines are at the beginning and the end of the day. I always try to get as far away from the base lodge by 9:15, before the crowds start. Getting on the lift when it opens, or shortly thereafter, often means a shorter walk because the lift corrals are not established yet. We can often walk right up and get on. If it’s cold I prefer riding in a gondola to standing in a line.
First tracks and corduroy- It goes without saying that there’s not too many better experiences than cutting your own tracks in fresh snow. It does not take long after opening for all of it to be gone. If you are first in line you might get a few runs in before it’s all marked up. This is also the best time to take advantage of the grooming which was done the night before. Corduroy is not powder, but it is much better than skiing or riding on what had been scraped off by others. It’s usually all gone be 10:00!
Early lunch- The key is to get in and out early. We usually always eat lunch no later than 11:30. Heck we’ve been up since before 5:30 so it’s time to eat anyway and besides the crowds are often thick with those who got up late. An early lunch enables us to beat the lodge lunch crowd. If you have to buy something, there is still a selection. Getting out by 12:00 is good because the masses are getting off the hill for lunch. The lift lines at 12:00 will be mush shorter than they will be at 1:00.
Early finish- If you have followed this game plan you might be ready to quit by 2:30 to 3:00. Conditions have usually waned by then. In the early winter the sun is much lower by this time making is more difficult to see with the long shadows.
Ease of departure- If you start early and enjoy a full day of skiing or riding you can get back inside and again beat the crowd. You will have more room to change and pack your things away. If you are not rushed you will be less likely to leave something behind. It’s easier to find your things when there are less people around you. You will also have a better experience leaving to. Remember that close to the lodge parking spot you got earlier in the day? Well it will seem even closer at the end of the day. You will not experience any traffic jams getting out of the lot either. Closer to spring you might even be able to drive home in the daylight for at least a while.
If you get up and out early you will undoubtedly have a better day skiing or riding.