Vail Daily column: Get ready for ski season |

Vail Daily column: Get ready for ski season

Ryan W. Richards
Make It Count

As another summer season comes to an end, the snow guns will be firing up soon. It appears we may see colder temperatures this week, and the truly hardcore among us are dreaming of Arapahoe Basin’s opening. Ski conditioning season is well underway for those who participate in this early season ritual.

Ski conditioning is by and large a fitness program that uses specific exercises in a circuit fashion that prepares you for the demands that you experience on snow. I advocate ski conditioning because the demands experienced during skiing are much different than what is experienced during summer activities.

Hiking and cycling require a low displacement of muscular force for a much longer duration of time. Skiing on the other hand, places a higher demand on muscular exertion for much shorter periods of time than experienced during traditional endurance activities. Interval or circuit training works well to help alleviate the burn most out-of-shape skiers experience during the first few weeks each season. However, too much emphasis is often placed on fitness while neglecting other, more important considerations for a successful winter. Let’s talk about those other things.


The most important consideration is to purchase the right ski boots. Please see a qualified boot-fitter. Every boot-fitter in the valley will tell you that they are the best, most qualified expert in the state. Maybe they are. I suspect that most are adequate and only a few are truly great. In my opinion, there is a gentleman named Dano Bruno and there’s everyone else. He’s around town somewhere. Ask around, find him. He is worth the money.

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First, most adequate boot-fitters will ask you several questions upon intake. How you ski, your skill level, how many days you ski, etc. The true giveaway question they will, or won’t ask is how much you weigh. Regardless of skill level, a heavier skier will need a stiffer boot than a lighter skier. Your ski boot doesn’t know or care how rad you are on the hill. It understands how much force you can apply to the boot to successfully keep your body weight where it needs to be. A 250 pound beginner may need a race boot, yet a 130 pound male expert may be more suited to a women’s boot.

Also, a good boot-fitter will find a shell that resembles the closest shape of your foot; without the liner in the boot, your toes should graze the front of the boot while not being able to fit more than 1 to 1.5 fingers behind your heel and the heel of the boot. With the liner in the boot, and an ultra-thin ski sock on, place the boot on and slam your heel on the ground while pulling up on the liner. Once your heel is securely snug, buckle the second buckle to the top, the top buckle, the power strap, and close the lower two buckles lightly, in that order. The boot should feel very tight, but not painful. Your initial reaction will be that the boot is too tight. A ski boot can always be punched, stretched or grinded to allow for more room. However, if the boots are too big, they’re too big.

Lastly, you need a custom foot bed to properly align your foot and help with force transmission. That’s it. While there are reputable shops around, there are other shops that are a complete racket. If someone tells you that you need a fancy foam-injected liner, or custom this or custom that — walk away. Again, just find Dano and don’t ask questions.


Next, buy skis that will excel in the conditions you mostly ski, not the conditions you would like to ski. These buyers’ guides that come out every year are mostly silly; the narrow “all mountain” eastern skis that are reviewed are often as wide as a 2-by-4. Listen, there is nothing wrong with fat skis. However, even here at Vail and Beaver Creek, a ski that is mid-80s underfoot will shine 90 percent of the days. Even skis that are high 60s to low 70s underfoot will provide a thrilling ride most days because of the precision they offer for turn performance. Just know that while those 100 something underfoot boards are fun, offer great stability in powder and are mostly versatile — something narrower is often more applicable on most days.


Finally, for goodness sakes take a lesson. Whether you hire an instructor, take a group lesson or find a ski mentor, listen to those who understand the fundamentals of ski technique. Vail and Beaver Creek offer the best in class for ski instruction. I also recommend looking up Harald Harb, a ski shop owner in Dumont. Harald runs camps out of Arapahoe Basin and Monarch. Harald’s teaching system has simplified the learning process and offers a way to develop excellent technique. Lessons will save you a lot of time down the road. Have a great winter, and be safe out there!

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.

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