Photo of two skiers riding on a chairlift up a mountain.

Snow is just around the corner, and that means it’s almost time to hit the slopes. Here are seven pro tips to help you prepare for the 2023-24 ski and snowboard season.  

1. Gather the essentials 

If you’re new to Colorado, haven’t skied or snowboarded before or simply missed out last season, here are some essentials you’ll want to consider having for the upcoming season. 

  • Helmet. A properly fitted helmet can help prevent concussions and keep your head warm and dry. For extra warmth, throw on a thin hat underneath. 

  • Neck gaiter. Neck covers like gaiters and balaclavas can help keep you warm and comfortable, especially in windy or snowy conditions. 

  • Goggles. Protect your eyes from snow, wind and sun damage by wearing goggles. If you wear glasses, be sure to find a pair that fits over them. Sunglasses can also be a good substitute if it’s not too snowy or windy. 

  • Sunscreen. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you should skip sun protection. Harmful UV rays can penetrate clouds and reflect off the snow, giving you a gnarly goggle tan. Use an SPF of 30 or more on exposed skin areas and reapply every few hours for the best protection. 

  • Water bottle or hydration pack. Skiing and snowboarding can be physically strenuous, especially at higher elevations. Stay hydrated throughout the day by bringing a water bottle or hydration pack. If you don’t have something you can easily carry, set an alarm to remind yourself to take water breaks at rest stops or the gondola. 

  • Layers. Layering your clothing can help you prepare for changing weather. Wear layers that you can remove if the weather warms up or add if it gets chilly. 

  • Synthetic fabrics. Look for waterproof clothing and gear made from synthetic fabrics like polyester (wool is another good option). These fabrics will help keep you dry and won’t retain as much moisture throughout the day. 

  • Gloves. Choose waterproof gloves or mittens designed to keep your hands warm and dry. Good quality gloves that fit well work best to protect your hands and keep you active throughout the day. 

  • Hand or foot warmers. If your socks or gloves get wet and cold, it’s a good idea to have warmers on hand to help keep you warm. Most last a few hours and are easy to carry in your pocket.  

  • Ski pass. If you plan to ski four or more trips this season, investing in a pass can save you money. The two main options in Colorado are Epic Pass and Ikon Pass.  

Missing some winter gear? 

Investing in gear can get expensive. If you’re missing some essentials, see if you can borrow or rent gear instead of buying. The Outdoor Pursuits Equipment Rental Center has a variety of winter equipment available for rent, including avalanche probes and shovels, insulated jackets and pants, snowshoes and more. 

2. Inspect your existing gear 

If you already have gear on hand, it’s important to inspect it each year and make any necessary repairs before you head out of town. Here are a few items to check off your list: 

  • Check your snow pants and jackets for holes, tears or damaged zippers. 

  • Ensure your gloves are all complete sets. 

  • Try on your essential clothing, boots and outerwear to ensure everything still fits and is in good condition. 

  • Test your bindings to ensure they are secure. 

  • Try on your goggles to look for scratches or other issues that may interfere with your line of sight on the mountain. 

In addition to these items, it’s also a good idea to give your skis or board a tune-up. If you’ve never waxed or tuned your skis or board before, don’t worry. Plenty of shops around town offer these services (you can also find service centers at most resorts). 

3. Prepare your body 

There is nothing quite like sore legs, sore feet or fatigue to ruin a good ski day. Preseason conditioning is one of the best ways to prepare your body for ski season and prevent injuries on the slopes. 

  • When should I start? It’s a good idea to begin training at least six to eight weeks before the start of ski season. This will give you enough time to feel the benefits and improve your performance. 

  • What should I train? Skiing and snowboarding require a combination of muscle strength, balance, endurance and cardio. It’s best to incorporate these elements into your workout routine, even if you split them between days. 

  • How often should I train? Try to commit to exercising two or three times each week. 

Important: Remember to modify exercises to fit your own body, ability and level of training. If a specific activity hurts, skip it until you feel better or find other ways to modify it. Finally, move at your own pace. You can always add more reps, weight or time as your training progresses. 

Get ready with small group training 

The Rec Center offers a variety of strength and endurance small group training courses that can help you prepare for ski season. You can choose courses focusing on mobility, strength, flexibility or a total body workout. The instructors are personal trainers who can provide personalized tips and modifications tailored to your abilities and fitness level. 

Explore small group training options

4. Find your crew 

Looking for someone to hit the slopes with? CU Boulder has a variety of clubs and organizations that students can join to get more involved on the mountain. 

Boulder Freeride

This non-profit student organization plans and coordinates trips to a variety of ski resorts throughout the semester.  

 Great for: Skiers and riders of all levels.

 Get connected: Learn more about Boulder Freeride

Backcountry Squatters

This student organization strives to create community and support for women in the outdoors. They provide day trips, clinics, virtual hangouts and more. 

 Great for: Skiers and riders of all levels who identify as women.

​ ​Get connected: Learn more about Backcountry Squatters

Club Sport Teams: Snowboarding & Freeskiing

If you’re looking to train and compete against other skiers or riders, you may want to consider joining one of the sport club teams available at the Rec Center. 

 Great for: Skiers and riders looking to compete against other students and colleges.

​ Get connected: Learn more about Sport Clubs

Backcountry Club

If you are interested in learning how to backcountry ski or already love the sport, look no further than The Backcountry Club at CU.

 Great for: Skiers looking to venture into the backcountry, whether it’s your first time or hundredth time.

​ Get connected: Learn more about the Backcountry Club

5. Explore transit options 

Driving in traffic to and from the slopes can be tiring (we’re looking at you I-70). Avoid the traffic by taking public transportation to and from the mountains with one of these programs: 

CU Boulder Ski Bus

The E-Center’s Ski Bus Program provides ticketed rides to and from ski resorts for CU Boulder students, including Arapahoe Basin, Winter Park, Copper and Eldora. Every bus stops at Williams Village, Kittredge and Farrand Field on campus. Tickets are available for $20 ($10 for HERD members).  

Learn more about the Ski Bus

Snowstang RTD Program

The Colorado Department of Transportation provides shuttle services to and from Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, Copper, Breckenridge and Steamboat Springs throughout the ski season. Tickets are available for $25 to $40 roundtrip. 

Learn more about the Snowstang program

6. Get back to basics 

Learning to ski or snowboard is no easy feat. If you’re new to the sport or are getting back into it after a hiatus, start with easier runs to help you learn and master basic skills and get used to your equipment. Track whether or not you’ve mastered skills like making turns, stopping without your poles (for skiers), getting on and off the lift by yourself and slowing down. 

Once you’ve mastered these skills, you are ready to explore other areas on the mountain. You may need to be willing to get out of your comfort zone, but be sure to keep moderation in mind. If you ride a black diamond run before you’re ready, you may endanger yourself and others. Know your limits on the slopes, stay in bounds and practice controlled movements. 

Keep in mind that chutes, trees and backcountry areas pose additional risks, especially if you aren’t used to these types of terrain. Always go with a partner and keep each other in sight in case you get injured, fall into a tree well or need assistance getting down. 

7. Seek support as needed 

Make the most of your ski season by taking advantage of the resources available on campus. There are various options to help you prepare for the season and overcome potential setbacks.  

Sports medicine

Medical Services has a sports medicine team that can help with acute and chronic injuries related to sports and physical activity. They offer same-day X-rays, on-site physical therapy and work closely with local surgical specialists.

Concussion care

Medical Services has an interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurse practitioners, physical therapists and psychologists to support students with concussions or who have sustained head injuries. 

Physical therapy

Medical Services has a team of certified physical therapists specializing in college health. They can help treat overuse syndromes, posture issues, trauma and athletic injuries to help you make the most of ski season. Consider scheduling an appointment before the season starts to build strength and prevent injuries.  

Personal training

Work with a certified personal trainer to develop a sport-specific training regimen. Training options include personal and partner training as well as adaptive training for all levels and abilities. 

Sports massage

Massage can help to stretch out and manipulate scar tissue to minimize the risk of a repeat injury. It’s also a great way to replenish muscles with improved blood supply for better healing.