Getting In Shape For the Ski Season

- December 9, 2011

"So, how DO I prepare for the season, you might ask?"

The first big storm of the year, and it nearly coincided with many local ski area's opening dates. Needless to say, The Snowman was on the scene. 

Although after a solid weekend of destroying moguls, finding the best fresh tracks (which wasn't hard), and digging myself out of hip-deep powder, I realized something:

I'm out of shape.

And if you’re  like me and most of  the people I know who enjoy the winter season for it’s sporty aspects, you didn’t do much in the way of getting ready for the season aside from a fresh wax, a new beanie and maybe a Warren Miller marathon.

Luckily, for those of you who haven’t had the chance to get up to the mountain yet, you still have time to get in shape for the season.  

As anyone who has even gotten as far as walking up to the ticket office knows, snowboarding and skiing are physically demanding sports.  Combine that with high altitudes, freezing temperatures and the possibly perilous nature of the sport and you have a not so tasty recipe for injury.  Not only will being prepared, both physically and mentally, help keep you safe, but makes for a much more enjoyable experience as well.   After all, if you can’t do a back-flip on the ground standing still, it’s not going to be much easier at 30 miles an hour with a board strapped to your feet.

So, how DO I prepare for the season, you might ask?

Easy. Start simply by thinking about the different movements you make while skiing or boarding.  Just thinking about the movements will activate your brain's “memory” of the muscles required to make each move as you have made it thousands of times before.  Have you ever been to the ocean, (or a wave pool) and when you try to lay down to sleep that night, you still feel like you’re bobbing up and down in the waves?  It’s the same concept.  Muscle memory is a HUGE part of snow sports, as with nearly any sport.  When movements (especially powerful ones, as we see in sports), are made repeatedly, our bodies learn the movements and can recall them with ease.  So, think about the moves (as most of us have been doing all summer anyway), and this step will actually prepare your body as well as your mind, which is the most important muscle in the sport.  You can then begin to locate specific muscle groups that are used prominently in your movements. 

For both skiers and snowboarders, a strong core is always ideal.  Concentrate on the areas of the abdominals, obliques, and lower back.  If you’re not a gym member or a personal friend of Chuck Norris, you can always go to the Army standard backup:  Good ‘ol fashioned sit-ups and push-ups.  Any kind of ‘ups’ seem to work well (though pull-ups are most useful for fine tuning the après-ski drinking technique).

Likewise, being able to use your knees to account for the terrain is essential in both sports.  Adequate strength in your quads, hamstrings, calves and shins will greatly improve your skiing or riding as your knees will be able to flex over even the bumpiest of terrain, giving you more control and a safer ride.  Squats and ankle extensions, with or without weights, are a great way to work all of those muscles.

Of course, if you’re looking for a one-stop shop for all your snow sports workout needs, swimming and running are the place to be.  Don’t forget, skiing and snowboarding are endurance sports.  Not only will running and swimming workout nearly all of the sport specific muscles, they also will work your lungs, heart, and your body’s endurance threshold. In addition, swimming is a great way to work out without as much wear and tear on the body.

Fortunately we don't live in Florida (most of us, anyway) and our community is certainly in tune to the needs of skiers and boarders.  Not only can you pick up new gear for the upcoming season at any number of great local sporting goods stores (Santa Fe Mountain Sports is where I go to find all my favorite brands), but you can now enroll in a ski-conditioning class through the Genoveva Chavez Community Center.

For more details check out their Calendar Post:

While there is so much you can do to prepare for the season, don't forget the most important muscle in the sport.  Prepare your brain, and remind yourself to always ski or board within your own limits. And above all...