If the past few weeks of snowfall are any indication, and if the models forecasting an El Nino year shape up, the Sierras are in for a good snowboarding season this year! (fingers crossed!) It’s about time, as everybody who lives in California knows we’ve been suffering through a historic 4-year drought.
With optimistic thoughts towards a great season of heavy snowfall and lots of days riding, here are my tips on preparing for the upcoming snowboarding season if you live in Southern California.
1. GET THERE: Now is the time to start thinking about where you want to go for any longer trips and reserve a condo for your group. Be aware that the busiest times in Mammoth are usually MLK Weekend and Presidents Weekend, and if you need to book a vacation rental, get that condo lined up now!
- You should always stay in a place that has a jacuzzi… after a day on the hill a good soaking is the best medicine.
- If you plan to go further than Mammoth, consider looking at alternative destinations such as Whistler, Canada or Vail, Colorado. Both are within an easy 3-4 hour flight from Southern California. Be warned Vail is super expensive! But Whistler in particular has proven to be a reasonably priced and super fun destination in years past.
2. WHAT TO WEAR: My favorite time to buy new snowboarding stuff is at the END of the season… when stores are doing their clearance sales. That said, you can still find deals on snowboard gear right now since it’s holiday shopping time. Aside from the obvious snowboard jacket, pants, and boots, I recommend these must-have pieces of gear before you hit the hill.
- Base Layers. Thin under-layers will provide a non-bulky layer of insulation and will wick sweat away from your skin.
- Fleece vest. I have been wearing the same fleece vest as a layering piece for a good 12 years now! It provides extra warmth to your torso, plus extra pockets to carry stuff. On warmer days, I sometimes just wear the vest over a t-shirt then put on my jacket and i’m good to go.
- Mittens. Not gloves, mittens! With your fingers kept together in the sleeve of the mitten, they stay warmer than in gloves. I have owned a few pairs of these Swany Toaster Mitts because they provide the warmth of mittens with the dexterity of gloves when you need it.
- Good wool socks. Do not buy cheap socks! I recommend splurging on socks, it’s worth it! The comfort of your feet will dictate how your day goes. A good pair of socks will keep you warm but won’t get soggy. Socks made for snowboarding usually have a bit of extra compression or padding in key areas where boots may rub uncomfortably.
- A helmet. Helmets are a must-have! Not only might you fall and hit your own head, but I’m always wary of other people going out-of-control and hitting me. Wearing a helmet is a good protective measure.
3. HOW TO PREPARE: It’s one thing to have the snowboarding gear you need, but is your body ready? Since snowboarding is a challenging sport that uses particular muscles, it can be a real shock to the body your first time on the hill. Here are some ways to prepare:
- Leg exercises: Do tons of squats and lunges. Efficient riding calls for staying in a squat position with knees bent to absorb shocks. You need to be able to ride low; this will also help go really really fast!
- Yoga: Yoga helps snowboarding by improving balance and stability and strengthening your core. It will also help you with flexibility so that you may be less likely to hurt yourself if you fall weird. Finally, many yoga poses call for squat-like moves, which will also help your riding per point #1 above!
- Push-ups and tricep presses: After you strap in your boots, you use your arms a lot to push up from being seated; getting stronger arms will also help.
- Warm up before heading out: if you can, try to warm up a bit and stretch before you hit the hill. This will help reduce your risk of injury.
4. LOCAL FLAIR: I recommend asking around with ski town locals to find good quality restaurants for dinner, but avoid eating in on-mountain lodges when you’re on the hill. IMO, $14 for a bowl of subpar chili is usually not the way to go. Instead, I usually pack a “smooshable” PB&J sandwich or two for a midday lunch boost. Supplement that with a pack of peanut M&Ms and I’m set!
5. FAIR & SQUARE? Snowboarding/skiing is an expensive hobby, so it’s great to find deals on lift tickets whenever possible.
- Check the mountain websites for any advance-purchase discounts. Sometimes you can get a few bucks off if you buy online before your trip, particularly if you are getting a multi-day ticket.
- Costco has deals on ski passes at certain mountains.
- If you’re a “regular” at a given mountain, consider buying a season pass or package such as the Mountain Collective. Do the math to see what makes the most sense for you.
Please share any other snowboarding prep tips that you use, in the comments below. And do a little snow-dance while you’re at it!