Early season telemark skiing

by Douglas Mock

My body's gettin' stronger
But this mind, it's growin' weak
As these legs, they are a-itchin'
To git climbin' up those peaks
In my deepest soul I'm achin'
Man, for pow, for my fat skis
But this crazy autumn season
Got me on my bended knees
—"Those Shoulder Season Blues" (traditional)

If you're the sort of tele-kook whose pre-season training occasionally breaks up the dumbbell lunges and squat jumps with a little stretching in the yoga room, you've inevitably listened to some skinny girl in tight pants expound upon "transitions."

"Times like these," that girl will tell you with a big smile and flouncing ponytail, "Can be
very challenging for us yogis! The days are getting shorter—gosh, it's dark before work's even over!—but it's, like, still warm outside? And the trees don't have leaves anymore, but there isn't any snow! Times like these—in yoga, we call them transitions—well, transitions can be really challenging for maintaining your high-frequency vibrational energy field. It's like you wanna be there, but here you are here!"

Totally, babe. Here you are here. Where it's not snowing.

Autumn certainly presents challenging questions for the telemark skier: Just how accurate are those Farmer's Almanac forecasts? What does a "weak La Nina" mean for my mountains again? Were my boots feeling a little worn out by the end of mountaineering season last year, or were my legs just tired? What color jacket is gonna look best with the X Pro II filter? If I buy a plane ticket to Whistler now while it's cheap, can I be sure it'll snow in the first week of February?

Since there's never been a binding as incredible as the Bishop BMF-R and BMF-3, why haven't I pulled the trigger yet? It's enough to make you feel a little crazy, bro. And thus you end up doing crazy things.

The year's first snow finally arrives in the second week of October, and out come the rock skis.

But at least it got the heart pumping.
Except now you're asking yourself, "Did it get the heart pumping too much? Have I been
training hard enough? Are my buddies gonna crush me in the skin track, leave me so far behind I'll have to find new, slower buddies? OMG am I gonna be downgraded?! How can I up my aerobic fitness fast???"

Oh, how those voices gnaw at you. Suck you deeper into autumn's insanity. Compound
those freeheelin', shoulder season blues. Force you to make seriously silly choices in the name of skiing.

You are flailing. You are ridiculous. But then, in the first week of November, it snows again. When your buddy calls, you play it cool.

"Yeah man, I dunno, I guess we can head up there and hit some rocks, slide on some fast
grass. It'll be good to get a little cold air into the lungs." Out in the garage, you burn some wax onto the fat skis. You even put them into the truck, you know, just in case. At the top of The Pass, Hey! It almost kinda looks like winter up here!

The next day, some hill up north opens for the season with 350% of average for
November. Face shot pics all over the place. Bastards.


So you head back to the gym. Tele-lunges with the bar on your shoulders. Box jumps with 180's on and off. Transfers, one leg to the other, on the Bosu balls. You even put some big socks over your shoes, slide around on that ice-skating-board thing in ninety-second sprints. You try not to puke, eyes on the prize: "All this stupid exercise will let me ski more powder. So much more. The most powder ever." You do crunches til you can't sit up again.

Then you head back to the yoga room.

"The most important thing we can do, in this time of transition, is to be present to what
we have, to where we are right now. Sure, we can focus on the future, on what we want to
happen, on where we'd like to be, but if we give away the time we're actually inhabiting, well, how can we be ready for the future when it finally arrives?"

Phone rings the next morning. "Bro! Did you see the webcams?!"

"Uhhh...what time is it?" Between December and May, you'll be waking up pretty much
every single morning before the sun's up to go skiing. Part of your effort to be present to
autumn's bounty is enjoying sleeping in.
"Well get your ass going! We're all gonna meet at The Pass in an hour!"
You hang up, gather your wits, decide it's time.
You call the yoga teacher: "Hey, um, you busy? Wanna come touring?"

And wouldn't you know, it could almost totally be winter today.


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