There are a lot of things I love about fall, but giving my skis their first wax of the season sits near the top of the list (right below cranberry sauce and desert bouldering). It’s not that I love moving my kitchen furniture to make space for the work bench, covering everything in drop cloths, and permeating the room with hydrocarbon dust. I don’t. But there’s something meditative about the process—brushing, heating, melting, scraping. It’s a signal that I’m one step closer to sliding on snow. No matter how you like to get outside in the cold months, you probably have your own preparation ritual, whether it’s washing puffies or re-waterproofing winter hikers. It’s a chance to reflect, get stoked, and set goals and expectations.
This fall we have a lot to reflect on. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to rethink how we spend time outside. We’ve added a new piece of gear—a mask—to our adventure kits. Some have picked up new sports altogether; over the summer, sales of bikes and camping equipment skyrocketed as cooped-up Americans searched for ways to get out of the house and have fun safely, away from crowds. As I write this letter, communities around the country are waiting to find out how ski resorts will safely operate this winter, which means more change is likely on the horizon.
Maybe that’s why I’m looking forward to my first ski-waxing session more than ever, and why I’m excited for you to sit down with this issue of the Winter Buyer’s Guide, which includes our recommendations for everything from fun, hard-charging skis and goggles that quickly adapt to shifting light to winter-ready bikes and running shoes for all surfaces. Because in the face of such upheaval, rituals are a source of comfort. And when it comes to the outdoors, the best ritual I can think of is kitting up to play in the cold and snow.