In spite of a couple of early season snowfalls, autumn lingers this year. Returning Indian Summer afternoons compel me to seek the coolness of the river, or the shade of a mountain trail. Yet, the quality of daylight is shifting. The shadows lengthen and the hours of daylight diminish inexorably. The residual summer heat blends with the cast of winter shadows – and chilly nights.  Black bears strip fruit laden branches off the trees consuming 20,000 to 30,000 calories per day in preparation for a winter fast. I begin to feel that Mother Nature plans to don a luxurious coat of snow early this winter, and wear it late into next spring. In other words, a cold, snowy winter is on its way.

How could I predict this on my own?  Because I am Nature Smart.

“Nature Smart” is a term Harvard Professor Howard Gardner coined in 1993 when he proposed a human paradigm of Multiple Intelligence’s. According to Dr. Gardner, humans embody at least eight intelligences, each one distinguished by its own “brain language”. They are:  Linguistic, Logical/Mathematical, Spatial/Visual, Body/Kinesthetic, Musical, Interpersonal and Intrapersonal intelligence.

Nature Smart people are in tune with the natural world, observe changes in their environment and are able to categorize and sort the characteristics of their surroundings. Nature Smart primarily processes the signals we receive from our environment so we may operate successfully within it.

Gardner’s concept of Multiple Intelligences resonated with me immediately, and Natural Intelligence, in particular, made sense. Through my lifetime I have recognized the subtle change of season from summer to fall announced by the energetic pulsing of cumulous clouds over the peaks ensconcing the Flathead Valley located in northwest Montana. By mid – August a storm would prevail, which managed to always catch me off guard with its placid approach from the southwest during a gorgeous afternoon. The tempest would forever conclude that particular summer and usher The Flathead into autumn. And I, being a skier, launched into my fall ski conditioning.

Now that it is Fall, perhaps, you too, have begun your “dry land training”, focusing on core, butt and leg strength, balance and agility. Maybe you are the type of skier and rider who stays fit all year long, and you are simply transitioning from your summer “cardiovascular sports” like running, cycling and soccer, to weight training, plyometrics and yoga. Your workouts may take place in the mountains, or a rural environment–where nature’s moods are more obvious.  Keying in on the nuances of the great outdoors, and becoming aware of your responses to them – from donning a hoodie in the cooler mornings, to watching your shadow lengthen on a fall afternoon stroll, to falling asleep a bit earlier in the evening as night approaches – will also prepare you for your days of skiing and snowboarding the slopes of AspenSnowmass this winter.

And when winter finally comes, experience—fully—the exquisite sensations.  Feel the sprays of snow licking your cheeks, and the sensuous flow of your body skiing and riding a perfectly groomed slope. Enjoy the adrenaline rush of the first few turns down steep double black terrain cushioned with powder. Listen to the growl of your skis/snowboards slicing firmly packed runs that demand technical accountability to our equipment.

Nature Smart is a key to self – awareness. It guides us to being present within the natural environment. So, along with conditioning your body, train your mind to pay attention to nature’s cues, and your spirit to appreciate the world around you. This ability will enhance your skiing and riding experience, and maximize the pleasure of your days the rest of the year!