To-Do: Twenty Crucial Things To Check Off Your Winter Checklist

By Jennifer Sherowski

Ride opposite for the day: The snowboarding equivalent to writing with your left hand (or right, if you’re a lefty), riding opposite-stance is a weird and awesome sensation. And when I say “opposite,” I don’t mean riding fakie; I mean actually switching your bindings around to goofy if you’re regular-stance or vice versa. It’s a whole new thing-both familiar and foreign all at once. It makes the simplest little things like catching air off a bump totally fun and terrifying. It’s like learning all over again-without having to actually suck.

Go heli-boarding: You need to know how it feels to be rushed onto a hectic flying vessel that propels you through the blustery mountain air and drops you off on a lonely ridge to catch sunrise over a sea of white peaks. You should know how it feels to look down and realize that everything in front of you is yours to shred-that roller over there, the tree glade down toward the valley floor, all of it. And you should know how it feels just once to count the number of vertical feet you rode today and have it be over 5,000. No, heli-boarding ain’t cheap-but there’re just certain things in life that you should know about, regardless of cost, right?

Hike all day for one run: You know what they say about things being sweeter when you’ve worked hard for them? It’s true! See how good you feel when you stand for a second at the top of something huge you just climbed up, mop the sweat off your brow, take in the glory of nature for a second, and then strap in and drop. Complete exhilaration.

Ride Mt. Baker in February: The Northwest in February is as close as it gets to heaven. Storm after storm piles up off the Pacific coast and lurks on its laurels until the winds usher it into a brutal march over the Northwestern territories. And really, there’s no place you’d rather be during a big dump than Mt. Baker, Washington. There’re serious steeps, chutes galore, famous cliff drops, pillow lines, and easy hikes to manly stuff. Riding powder is a way of life up there, and if you stick around for a couple days (or weeks), you’ll be inducted into a completely new life of early mornings, secret spots, tired legs, and sweet dreams. It’s up to you.

Experience champagne powder: “Champagne powder” refers to a rare breed of weightless powder commonly found in arid high-altitude climates like in the central Rockies. All the stupid clichà‡s you’ve heard about powder come from riding this stuff. The white room? You get in it when the pow is so light it flies up and over your board and lingers like gunsmoke, completely enveloping your body. Powder snorkels? You need ’em when said cloud of kicked-up blower snow gets into your windpipe and makes you hack out a surprised, joyous little cough. So many variables have to come together exactly right to make this stuff, and the moment they do is a fleeting one. Do not take it for granted.

Do a resort-to-resort run in Europe: This is what makes riding in Europe … well … riding in Europe. The Alps are filled with a network of backcountry runs that take you from resort to resort, town to town, and sometimes even country to country. They take hours and sometimes whole days. You ride past giant looming glaciers and gaping ice caves. You break and chomp on bread and cheese-probably even drink some wine, who knows? And you do all this with a seasoned European guide, of course. It’s a life-changing experience.

Protect your neck: I used to hate neck-gaiters. I probably went a decade without putting one on once, even on the coldest, windiest day. However, last season I discovered scarves. You can wear them loosely to protect your face without strangling yourself-it’s amazing! After a few days of heavy-scarf shredding, I was sold. Windburn? Nah. Frostbite? Doubt it. Sunburn? Minimal. Now I have a gaiter that’s thin and pretty loose-I wear that bitch even on the warm days, ’cause goggle tans went out with the 90s.

Get custofootbeds: Your feet are sacred. Every move they make is important to the act of snowboarding-flex your toes and that’s a heelside turn, et cetera, et cetera. But if you’re slopping around in your boots, all that precious articulation is lost in a big black hole and riding is a lot harder work. Custom footbeds are molded to the exact shape of your foot in a relaxed state, and you’ll be surprised how much this affects performance-the smallest movement of your baby toe translates to a Euro-carve that’d put Peter Bauer himself to shame, or something.

Go snowboarding in the rain: I know it sounds dumb, but hear me out. The conditions that make for rain are also the very same conditions that make for nice, soft, fast-riding slush. Besides, there’s something to be said for a day of shredding with your friends in the miserable weather. The hill is empty-it belongs to your crew. You can be a bunch of spazzes and screw around. It’s bonding!

Buy a decent tuning kit: This isn’t the same thing as that “pride of ownership” crap your dad always lectures you about so that you’ll wash your car. Tuning your snowboard actually affects its performance in a very positive way, and doing it yourself is a good way to get to know your board better. You two are partners in crime, old friends, soul mates. Now act like it.

Skip lunch: Everyone knows that stopping for lunch is a big harpoon in the side of momentum. Even if conditions are epic, it’s so tough to go back out and attack on a full stomach. It’s biological-all the blood’s in your gut helping out your digestion system. So pack some snacks, launch a full-bore assault until you’re too tired even to foot-push through the liftline, and then call it a day. That’s the way to do it.

Ride a resort that you’ve never been to before: The drive to explore is what separates us from … well … normal humans living awful, boring lives. Besides, riding new terrain snaps you out of lazy old patterns and really makes you progress. So take off your home-mountain blinders and see what else is out there.

Take an avalanche course: Even seasoned backcountry riders would be hard-pressed to effectively use their safety equipment in a real-deal emergency. Why? Because it’s super tricky. Don’t let the false confidence of wearing a transceiver and owning a shovel fool you. Take a class and learn about the environment you’re snowboarding in. Practice searching with your beacon and analyzing the snowpack. It won’t be a waste of time.

Snowskate: Rock to fakie the spine your dad made when he plowed the driveway. Do pop-shove-its for hours. Try to air. Get punished on the run-in. Be humbled by the fact that snowboarding is made much easier by bindings. Repeat.

Ride a natural halfpipe: Before snowcats pushed thousands of tons of snow into giant U-forms, before pipe dragons and super-duper pipe dragons, there were only the planet’s natural gullies and ditches available to our shred forefathers. However, I shouldn’t say “only,” because they’re completely awesome in their own right-a sort of banked slalom course with hips and jibs and all manner of natural terrain flying at you at top speed. Yep, the Tahoe City Halfpipe, Dick’s Ditch at Jackson Hole, Canis Lupus at The Canyons-this is where snowboarding began.

Hit a powder jump: Definitely not the same thing as hitting a park kicker, the powder jump drops you into … powder. What does this mean? Try something new and bomb out into fluffy stuff. Or bring something around solid, lean back a little on the landing, and stomp it clean. Riding away from one of those is better than-well, you know …

Go on a shred road trip: The open road does strange things to your head. It makes you think anything’s possible-it’s life affirming. And I know you have some old friend from way back when who lives in Jackson Hole or Breckenridge. Call them up! Then glue yourself to The Weather Channel. When the time is right, steal some of your buddies, hop in the car, and don’t look back.

Keep trying an “impossible” trick until you get it: A huge part of knowing how to do a trick is simply body memory-your body figures out the motion and then your brain saves it to the hard drive. Trying a trick a hundred or a thousand times is, therefore, the surest way to learn it. Ask someone who knows for advice, and then go to work-and be relentless. I promise that after enough tries, you will unlock the mystery.

Drop a cliff: Launching a cliff ain’t nothing like hitting a jump. It’s almost the opposite-negative space instead of positive. Something drops away from underneath you instead of kicking you up into the air. It’s one of the coolest feelings on earth, real weightlessness and a strange, jumbled feeling in your stomach. Plus, you usually can’t see the landing for a few quick seconds before you take off. There’s an element of trust, faith, and genuine courage involved. Now strap in and do it.

Stretch: I know it seems crazy, but your whole body is connected. For instance, the act of snowboarding naturally tightens your hamstrings, which in turns makes your lower back tight, as well as putting you at greater risk for knee injuries. It’s a tangled web, but a few minutes of stretching before and/or after shredding can seriously improve your entire constitution. Here’s the deal: Hold the stretch for at least ten seconds to a position of mild discomfort. Do it every day you ride, or at least three times a week. Doctor’s orders.

ies, hop in the car, and don’t look back.

Keep trying an “impossible” trick until you get it: A huge part of knowing how to do a trick is simply body memory-your body figures out the motion and then your brain saves it to the hard drive. Trying a trick a hundred or a thousand times is, therefore, the surest way to learn it. Ask someone who knows for advice, and then go to work-and be relentless. I promise that after enough tries, you will unlock the mystery.

Drop a cliff: Launching a cliff ain’t nothing like hitting a jump. It’s almost the opposite-negative space instead of positive. Something drops away from underneath you instead of kicking you up into the air. It’s one of the coolest feelings on earth, real weightlessness and a strange, jumbled feeling in your stomach. Plus, you usually can’t see the landing for a few quick seconds before you take off. There’s an element of trust, faith, and genuine courage involved. Now strap in and do it.

Stretch: I know it seems crazy, but your whole body is connected. For instance, the act of snowboarding naturally tightens your hamstrings, which in turns makes your lower back tight, as well as putting you at greater risk for knee injuries. It’s a tangled web, but a few minutes of stretching before and/or after shredding can seriously improve your entire constitution. Here’s the deal: Hold the stretch for at least ten seconds to a position of mild discomfort. Do it every day you ride, or at least three times a week. Doctor’s orders.