the 100-day season: how to maximize your ski time

WHAT DOES 100 DAYS ON SNOW MEAN TO YOU? Ask a skier or snowboarder what “100 days” means to them and they will undoubtedly get a wistful look in their eyes and give you a confident answer. It is often spoken, even bragged about. It is a token of commitment, an invisible “step up” in a skier’s life. It is transcendence into skiing enlightenment—the mystical “100 day” season. For skiers and snowboarders, sliding downhill on snow 100 days in a season is not only a worthy goal to keep in mind while training, but it’s also a dedication and a willingness to prioritize this particular pursuit in their lives. To ski 100 days, you have to go out skiing more days than not, and you can’t pick and choose the conditions you ski. You have to get up and go ski several days a week, sacrificing most other pursuits in order to reach that triple-digit number. In the following article, we’ll outline how to reach this milestone, from the daily choices you make to the big-picture schedule required.

For context, most people who live in states that are far from any sort of skiing have to take vacation days to do it. Let’s say that the duration of these vacations can vary between five and 10 days. That’s only about 10% completion. Even people who work a 9-to-5 job and live much closer to the mountains likely don’t ski more than a few times a week, on the weekend, or during the occasional “powder policy” day, where some companies offer employees the option to come into work a few hours late if the storm accumulation is over a certain amount. So even the luxury of living close to mountains won’t ensure that you get anywhere close to 100 days in a season. A weekend skier who skies every Saturday and Sunday of an average ski season might notch somewhere around 50 days. That’s why a meticulous and committed approach is necessary to make 100 days a possibility.
There might be conflicting beliefs as to what constitutes a day of skiing. For some, time spent at the mountain may be the determining factor. Others may have an elevation-based ideology. Remember, though, 100 days of skiing in a year is no easy task. For the sake of this article, let’s assume that an official “day” of skiing is when you have at least one downhill run on the snow with your skis or snowboard. This makes it easier for those who have to “sneak” resort or backcountry skiing into their schedule, leveling the playing field while remaining friendly to the “ski every month of the year” crowd who might ski a 100-vertical-foot patch of snow in late July.
One of the most important factors in the 100-day equation is proximity to skiing. It’s unrealistic to think that even the most motivated skier or snowboarder who lives more than 100 miles from the nearest mountain can work, drive, and ski on top of all of the requirements that life requires. Yeah, if you own a mountainside condo or know somebody who lets you use their place, this makes the chase easier. But most people who live long driving distances from the mountain don’t have the luxury, time, or money to travel 100 miles to and from the mountain every week and/or weekend. If this is the case for you, it makes sense to set a more realistic goal for yourself. Anywhere from 25 to 50 days would be an admirable goal, and make no mistake—bagging 25 days of skiing in a year is more than most skiers get!

By far, the easiest way to ski 100 days in a year is to structure your work life around skiing. You could be a professional skier who can travel at the drop of a hat and skis their home resort every day in between. Or you could save up a bunch of money, quit your job, buy a van, and chase storms all winter. More likely than either of those situations is to work a seasonal job at a ski resort or nearby business. Seasonal jobs tend to have odd hours; snowcat drivers, for example, don’t begin their work day until the resort closes down and don’t stop until the sun comes up. Most resort employees have at least a few days a week where they’re off during prime ski hours, allowing them to do a few runs. (Hello, free season pass!) Other seasonal resort jobs include ski technicians, restaurant servers, dishwashers, hotel workers, bartending, and nannying, to name a few.

Working remotely is also another realistic possibility for building your work life around your skiing. Thanks to the digital age, it’s much easier for people like writers, engineers, and graphic designers to work for companies remotely, meaning they can live and work anywhere in the world as long as they hit whatever deadlines are set for them. If you are in a career or job that is conducive for working remotely, do it! You will be happy knowing that the uncrowded, midweek powder day is always worth working until 10 p.m. that same day.
Before you do anything else, make it a clear-cut goal to ski 100 days. Adopt an essentialist mentality. Once you’ve identified that this is something you’d like to accomplish, you will more easily identify the decisions in your life that contribute to your goals and those that don’t. Is extra beer worth it when you hope to get up early for a dawn patrol ski tour? Will you miss out on crucial ski days if you commit to a week-long trip to Hawaii with your college buddies? Make skiing 100 days a priority and your path will become obvious. When the decision between skiing and something else comes up, you will always choose skiing. Perhaps you can keep a ski journal or write it out on a sticky note that you paste to your fridge so you see it all the time. There is power in transferring your goals from your head to a piece of paper.
It’s true that there probably aren’t 100 powder days to be had in an average ski season. So don’t be a snob. Take the good snow with the bad snow. When there has been a clear, cold front for the last week, stick to the groomers. To notch 100 days of skiing on your belt requires that you ski in conditions that are less than ideal. Stick with the course and understand that by doing this, you will appreciate the good days that much more.
If you only skied on the weekends, you’d still have somewhere around 50 more days to go before you hit 100. Trying to go during the week before work might prove difficult since resorts typically don’t open until around 8:30 or 9 a.m. Skiing in the backcountry can alleviate this hiccup. Legend has it that the concept of the “dawn patrol,” where you ski tour before the sun comes up to get a lap in before work, originated in Salt Lake City. Skiing in the morning before work offers a huge advantage in the search for 100. There’s also a certain amount of pride in knowing that by the time that you walked through the doors of your work, you’ve already watched the sun rise from behind a snowy peak and skied while most people slept in.
It’s wise to seek out backcountry ski partners who have a similar goal to you. This ensures that they understand your need to go ski in the icy backcountry while other people have counted the day as a loss and stayed home, cozily watching football. A good ski partnership should be equally motivating and supportive, and it creates a sense of accountability. When you’ve already skied more than 50 days and your body is sore and tired, it can be helpful to have someone kick you in the butt and keep you moving on your journey to 100 days.

If we only subject ourselves to skiing during the heart of the season, when the snowpack is deepest and the snowfall abundant, we miss out on a lot of potential ski days. One approach is to ski as early in the season as you possibly can and stay on the gas pedal until the last days of the season. Most resorts who get early snow will try and open up a few runs in November and early December. Who cares if it’s an easy groomer they had to create by plowing all of the nearby snow–it’s still skiing, baby!

This is especially beneficial to backcountry skiers and snowboarders. With the proper backcountry and avalanche knowledge / gear, skiers and riders can ski the moment the first snow hits in October and extend their season past the closing day at nearby resorts. Safety should always be a consideration, especially in the early and late season when ground hazards are exposed, but maximizing the duration of your ski season is essential. It is also helpful to plan out your season as much as you can. You can typically assume that resorts with consistently good snowfall in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming will be open from sometime in early December until March or April. This can help you calculate based on your work schedule and trips you can take, when you should ski locally and when you should try to tick vacation days at a faraway resort.

One hundred days of skiing is no joke when it comes to taking a toll on your body. Along with preparing your body by training, you have to maintain a conservative mindset. What good is having the motivation to ski before work if you tweak your knee in the second week? Ski within your abilities and keep it mellow when you can. The search for 100 days is a season-long pursuit, and time off to nurse an injury will threaten your chances of making it happen. Maintain your body with proper rest and recovery. Sustained use and overuse can strain your body to the point of injury. Eat well by fueling your body with important nutrients, carbs, good fats, vitamins, and protein. Solid nutrition will encourage muscle growth and recovery. Consider adding yoga and stretching into your routine. Self-care will go a long way to maintain joint and muscle health.

Finally, get enough sleep. Sleep is one of the most important catalysts for recovery. Recent research suggests that the ideal amount of sleep for 99.9% of the population is seven to nine hours. It’s even more important for high-performing athletes, which you need to be to ski 100 days in a season.