▶️ Little Did I Know: Secret to loving winter is having the right gear for it

For the first time in several years, we are staring down an El Niño winter. But what does that really mean? As a former Alaskan, what is more important is to love winter no matter what the forecast is.

Full confession: I used to hate winter, but now I don’t. Because all you really have to do it prepare for it. 

“So, we have two different stone grinders … That’s our pre grind for Nordic. It’s actually our Finnish grind for Alpine, but it’s our pre-grind for Nordic.” said Chris Costigan from the Powderhouse in Bend. “We have the only combination of a certain diamond and stone in the country in this machine.”

I’ve generally been too lazy or too cheap to get my skies tuned up every year. But that changes this year.  Time to turn my comfortably-worn skis into high performance machines. And with the recent addition of Olympic cross-country skier Don Simoneau to their staff, I’m going for the gold. Or not.

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RELATED: Local shop helps you make custom skis, snowboards with your own two hands

“Not all grinds are created equal. So what do you do after the ski comes off that machine, it’s flat and this is just my final pass. It takes a single pass to put the structure that I want onto the ski on it. And it’s pretty simple-ish,” Costigan said. “This is a pretty complex little computer program here. I’ve got tons of different grinds that are programed into it.

Ski grinder


“We cool our water, which I don’t think anybody else in Oregon is doing, and that helps with keeping the water temperatures low. We’re essentially grinding on plastic when the temperature comes up in the water bath, they essentially start smearing plastic. So we want to be able to cut plastic and to do that to keep the water cold.”

And speaking of cold, there is no bad weather — just wrong clothing choices before you get outside.

“In this type of climate, function over fashion. Where a lot of times you want to look cool, but it’s so much more about being warm and being dry,” said winter gear adviser Jacklyn Walles. 

Here are some of her key tips.


“Base layers are really important. It’s what’s touching your skin, what makes you feel comfortable and warm. A puffy layer on top of that, which really locks in the heat for me. And then I think the most important thing is going to be your, you know, your outer layers. I like to go with a hard shell. It’s both really dry and it protects you from the wind.


“Feet are, for me anyways, a big one. Once my feet start getting cold, I’m going into the lodge.”


“Glove-wise, making sure you have like a waterproof glove is really important. And then I double layer my gloves.

Don’t forget your neck

“And then a neckie. A lot of people think that just because you have your helmet and goggles on in your jacket, that you’re fully protected. But usually it leaves this like layer from your neck to your nose that gets really cold. So any type of baklava, a neck warmer that you can kind of just put your face in, it’s really nice for while you’re riding down or while you’re on the chairlift.

“Choosing gear that keeps you warm and dry makes the whole experience a lot more enjoyable.”

Jacklyn belongs to a group called “Girl, Get After It.” Its mission statement is “Empowering women to make new friends and try new things.” You can find their website at girlgetafterit.com.

Winter gear layers

What does El Niño mean for Central Oregon?

I thought it was time to check in on an old friend for the answer to that question.

“To be honest, El Niño is one of those catch-all blame games when it comes to the weather community. It’s an oscillation that’s out in the Pacific Ocean and we measure with a huge array of buoys that go from the coastline of the Americas to the Philippines,” said Central Oregon Daily Chief Metorologist Dorrell Wenninger.

“What it really means for us is that moisture stream is going to be further to the south and we’re actually going to see near or above normal temperature. So, it’s not going to change too much of how much precipitation we’re going to get, rather what type of precipitation. Instead of being way above normal, we’re going to be near or below normal when it comes to precipitation.

RELATED: Little Did I Know: La Niña three-peat

“But on the flip side of that, when it comes to El Niño versus La Niña or neutral years, even, all it takes is one or two systems that are really strong or the lack of one or two strong systems to put us into a super active, atypical El Nino year. So really, it’s still a coin flip. But if you’re asking me to throw out a forecast, I’m going to say warmer than normal and less snow in the mountains.”

When it comes to the winter forecast, I’m going to tell you the same thing I tell you every winter. Whether it snows a lot or a little. Learning to love winter truly changed my life and could change yours, too.

Send your Little Did I Know story ideas to littledidiknow@centraloregondaily.com.


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