Why You Need a Pre-game Routine for Backcountry Skiing

Having a pre-game routine gets you ready for what you’re about to do.

When I played basketball, I got made fun of for being superstitious. I always got ready the same way. I put different parts of my uniform in the same order. Then I put my left sock on, my right sock on, my left shoe, and finally my right shoe. I always started with the left first. Looking back on it, there was no superstition, I just enjoyed a routine. This was my basketball pre-game routine. I do the exact same thing for backcountry skiing.

I have a routine. I have a certain way to start the day in order to set myself up for success.

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  1. I like to gather my gear together the night before, so I don’t worry about it in the morning.

  2. I make sure my skis and poles are strapped together, so I don’t forget one or the other.

  3. I always put my skins in my pack. Some people like to put them on the skis before you leave the house. It is very convenient, but I’ve been told that it’s bad for both the bases of skis and the glue of your skins to be on skis for an extended period of time. So, I make sure to wait for the trailhead to put them on.  

  4. I gather my pack and gear. Checking to make sure I have my three kits: first aid kit, repair kit, and rescue kit.  

  5. I set out my shell and whatever extra insulation I may need, depending on conditions. I like to leave all of this in a big pile by the door. I actually pack it all in the morning to be sure I have everything.

  6. I always make sure my boots are in the house so they aren’t frozen the next morning from sitting in the cold.

  7. The next day (day of skiing), I like to wake up in time to eat a nice breakfast.  It’s good to remember that food is fuel. What you put in your body at the start of the day is what gets you to the top.  

  8. While I’m eating, I check the CAIC forecast, and look at a map of the area I’m going to ski.

  9. Before getting in the car, I always run through a checklist with the group I am skiing with. Does everybody have a beacon, shovel, probe? What about skis and skins? It is always a bummer if somebody forgets boots too.  

  10. On the way to the trailhead, I like to mentally prepare for skiing - thinking about the uphill and the challenge that it will be. I consider the weather conditions and mentally prepare for them. I talk through the group dynamics in my head. I also set goals for the day.


Now, when I get to the trailhead, I am ready to ski!

Backcountry Skiing Buena Vista Mountain Adventures
Backcountry Skiing Buena Vista Mountain Adventures

If you have a good routine you can improve your chances of having a great day in the backcountry. It can help you not forget an essential piece of gear, and get your mind ready for the challenge that awaits. It doesn’t need to be as detailed as my routine, but I highly suggest setting a standard in place for yourself! Every time I ski, I still have a routine. I start with the left boot first...

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