Lessons Learned: Last Skier Standing
Updated: May 16, 2022
This February I participated in Last Skier Standing 2021. I had a blast, managed to raise $1500 for a few great causes, and even learned a few things along the way. So here is my list of big takeaways from the event.
Every year is unique
Whether it’s added mileage on the way up, conditions on the ski down, or weather — no two years of this event are the same. Not to mention the difference year to year in the background of the competitors, the growing field size, or the “general vibe” of the event. If you have memorized last year’s splits on Strava that’s great, but be prepared to throw it all out the window when you show up to the race.
Patience, patience, patience
Pace yourself. Go slower than you think. If you start sweating, breathing too hard to hold a conversation, or are passing everyone on the uphill you are DEFINITELY going too fast. This is not a race- it’s a slog. Future you is going to seriously hate current you for wasting any sweet, glorious energy.
Play to your strengths
Some people can keep a blazing uphill pace without their heart rate leaving zone 2, some are comfortable nuking it down a skied-out mogul field and others can transition from uphill to downhill in less than a minute. Whatever your strength is- embrace it. At some point, it will probably be the only thing keeping you going.
Know (and listen to) your body
This really can only be learned over time, but knowing what your body needs when you are cold, tired, and in the beginning stages of delirium is key. For some this is caffeine, cheese puffs or oysters, but for most it’s a meal plan consisting of carbs and sugar. If you don’t carefully listen to your body and properly predict what it may need on the next lap, you may just end up puking in a snowbank (speaking from experience here).
Find a chatty friend
Going up and down the same trail for hours on end is monotonous. And monotony means more time to think about how much happier you be in a warm bed. Find a chatty friend on the uphill and let them talk your ear off. The distraction will make the time pass a tiny bit faster.
A good crew is priceless
Coming down to some friendly faces holding food and hydration is great. Not having to put on your own skins, portion out your electrolytes or find your clean change your socks is life-changing. These are the people that matter most and will keep you physically and mentally capable (though even the godliest support crew won't keep you sane).
Tactics, technique, and gear ARE NOT everything
Sure, a good plan, light gear, and a pair of well-conditioned ski quads will get you far. But so will a good attitude, grit, and the will to continue. Heck, if there are a few things this year taught us it’s that voile straps can be a long-term solution and to never doubt a man in a raccoon suit.
You can almost always do “one more” lap
Only call it quits on the uphill- chances are once you are on your skis and moving you will finish the lap. Rinse & repeat. Commonly, people quit well before their true limit. Think of it as a challenge to see how miserable you can really get. Will this tactic make you less miserable? no. Will it get you a few more laps? probably.
There’s always next year
Here’s the thing- everyone DNF’s. Maybe the day didn’t go the way you wanted, or maybe you seriously surprised yourself. Either way, there will always be a herd of crazies lining up for that sweet DNF next year. So whether you are planning on registering for suffering, playing the admirable role of support crew, or just tailgating at the bottom to watch- this is an event worth getting excited for.