Bruchez takes the opposite approach. He used to have big, pie-in-the-sky goals like Smithwick, but he found that he became less flexible about things and borderline-obsessed. This mindset would close him off to other experiences and opportunities. The older he’s gotten, the more he’s adopted a “be present” approach by listening to his mind and body. What does his mind need? Maybe it’s to see a warm and meditative morning sunrise from a nearby peak. Or maybe he needs to go rock climbing to prep and prime his headspace for upcoming winter ski mountaineering objectives. You might find yourself somewhere in the middle of these two approaches to goal-setting. Regardless of whatever it is that motivates you to get out the front door and train, keep it in the back of your mind. For you, this could be to ski 100 days. Or maybe it’s to rip a big line that you’ve been scoping for a few years. Or maybe it’s to try backcountry skiing for the first time. (link)
Smithwick averages about 20 hours a week of “uphill and downhill.” This means that he finds activities that replicate his backcountry skiing endeavors, by making him climb up and down big peaks. He does this through trail running and mountain biking. Of course not everybody lives in the mountains, so however you can find a way to get the heart rate up, do that. Maybe you climb stairs in a tall building and then walk quickly back down, do hill sprints, or run the stairs at your local high school football stadium. Your lungs and heart will thank you when you’re three hours into a backcountry ski tour with plenty of climbing and the downhill to go.
Bruchez has established new routes in and around Chamonix, France, the ski mountaineering capital of the world. He routinely brings ropes and gear into the mountains when he skis, building anchors and rappelling into steep lines. To prep his mind for this, he trad climbs year-round as a mountain guide. The technical skills that he learns, maintains, and refines while climbing is one thing, but he is also experiencing stressful situations, which is something that translates perfectly to the danger of ski mountaineering. It is a sort of meditation that requires being present, controlled breathing, and facing your emotions for high performance.
Another way to prepare your mind for skiing is to meditate (there are a ton of resources online that provide great introductions into the art of meditation). There are different types of meditation, but they all look to achieve the same thing: a heightened awareness of one’s body and surroundings, as well as a disconnection from the chatter that follows us throughout our days. A meditation practice involves focused breathing and sometimes a mantra. Focusing on your breath forces you into the present moment while slowing the heart rate. Meditation techniques can be applied anywhere. They work especially well in the backcountry when you’re standing on top of a steep line with a no-fall zone.