Jack Copeland knows about warm-up runs. So does John Armstrong.
For 10 years Copeland was the director of the Mammoth Mountain Ski School before moving to the fourth floor as an executive. Armstrong was director of the Mammoth Mountain Ski Team, and holds a certificate from the École Du Ski Francais – about as high ranking as any ski school in the world.
“Warm-up runs are very important for getting the blood going and for the connective tissues in your body,” Copeland said.
“You have to learn about the day,” Armstrong said.
Warm-up runs are important also for getting the feel of that day’s snow conditions, the wind, the weather and the light conditions.
The warm-up run is, however, anathema for the skiers and snowboarders in a hurry, Copeland said. Those might be the skiers or snowboarders who have just made the long trip from the Southland the night before and who now just wants to ATTACK!
“The people who are most at risk are really good skiers,” he said. “And the ski school really makes a living around people who make too demanding a run to start."
For most people, who are intermediate skiers and riders, the opening run of the day is kind of automatic, Copeland said. But every skier and rider should take a warm-up, unless the powder is just too good to ignore.
The key is to get the feel of the snow, make short turns and long turns. Make sure your equipment fits properly. Take your time.
“Find a run that’s out of the way and quiet in the early morning,” Armstrong said.
“I like to warm up on St. Anton and Terry’s Run. You need to warm up, to get the timing right, to seal the ski and rediscover your balance.”
Copeland’s recommendations for good warm-up runs, out of Little Eagle, Canyon and Main Lodges, are as follows:
Little Eagle: Pumpkin is a good run. It’s a beginner run, sure, but it’s nice and long. Good for one-ski balance training as well as for testing your legs and your wax. Bridges is another fine run, almost hidden among the trees but also featuring ankle-to thigh-deep powder on snow days on either side of the groomed middle. Very nice.
Canyon Lodge: The main gateway to Mammoth Mountain, Canyon has a plethora of very excellent warm-up runs. Copeland recommends Swell and Hully Gully, off Chair 8.
Off Chair 4/Roller Coaster and Chair 16/Canyon Express, Copeland recommends Swell, Hully Gully, Roller Coaster and Downhill.
Main Lodge: Before attacking the main runs out of Main Lodge, such as Broadway, Copeland has several recommendations. “You can’t go wrong with Forest Trail as a warm-up,” he said. “And Mambo is a perfectly good warm-up run."
Another warm-up option out of Main Lodge is to exit the top of the lift and head straight to St. Anton and follow it back to the start of Chair 1/Broadway Express à la Armstrong.
The trick is to do it, in spite of your desire to get right at the day-long attack.
If there are doubters, just watch the Mammoth Mountain Ski Team as its athletes head out to the hill every day.
They may be doing some balance work on Sesame Street. They may be practicing long and short turns on the most ridiculously easy slopes on the ski hill.
But the main thing is that they are warming up.
They know it’s important.