We can't wait for ski season each year & avidly anticipate the slopes opening & the lifts starting to turn. There's nothing like being in pain on or after the first day of skiing though & that's something we really try to avoid.
Each year before the ski season, we do ski conditioning classes for 6-8 weeks beforehand to get ourselves in shape for skiing. Somehow there's no other sport which uses all the same muscles as skiing, so we find we really have to do ski specific exercises to help our bodies get ready.
The ski conditioning helps us get ski fit, but also helps prevent injury & can really help improve your skiing. If your ski muscles are not too fatigued, you will have better posture & form & be more able to fly down those slopes (not literally we hope!)
Here are some of the things we do in our classes to get ready for skiing. See if there's a ski conditioning class near you or if not hit the gym or use some basic equipment at home to get similar effects.
As with any exercise always warm up before you start & of course again at the end of your workout. Gentle stretches, whether these be static or dynamic, are really important to get your body warmed up at the beginning and stretched out at the end after you've worked out.
You can also do some slow cardio to start getting your heart rate up. Use a stationary bike or do some steps up & down on a step, gradually building up speed, but not going too fast at this stage.
Squats & lunges are ideal exercises for building leg strength for skiing. Start slowly with a short set or two of each & gradually build up to more & more reps with less breaks. Squats can be in the centre up & down, then with some pulses. You can then add some side to side squats which simulate some skiing movements. As you get stronger you can even do them on a fit disks (inflated wobbly disks) to make it a little harder.
Snowboarders can do squats on the floor with a jump turning 180 degrees, pushing off from both legs to simulate some of your potential moves in the terrain park.
With lunges do forward & back & then "clock" lunges in different directions to strengthen different parts. Weight can be added as you progess. Note your knees shouldn't go beyond your toes, make sure you protect your knees.
Balance is clearly critical when you're skiing! Help to improve your balance by starting off with easy balances & gradually progressing to harder balances. We use a bosu ball (inflatable half ball) or half foam rollers to start off with. Start balancing on 2 legs, tighten your core to help you stay stable. Then you can turn your head from left to right to throw you off a bit & keep trying to balance.
Progress to one legged balance (on the floor or on the foam roller / bosu if you're comfortable) & if you get really good close your eyes which makes it even harder. Progressions from there can include single leg squats on the ball / foam rollers including moving the free leg in a clock fashion to challenge your balance even more.
Core strength is really a huge part of balancing above. If you have strong stomach muscles & tighten them it will help you balance in all sorts of situations. We all get stuck in the back seat from time to time when we're skiing, which can lead to falls & potentially injuries. If you have a strong core you can use it to pull you back into the correct skiing position & avoid those falls. There are so many ways to strengthen your core - pilates is great, including roll-ups, 100s & planks or you could do push-ups & crunches.
Having good agility helps make those fast ski turns, especially if you're a mogul skier. Use a step to go up & over gradually building up speed & duration. Start by doing short bursts with good breaks & progress to doing longer sets with shorter breaks. Jumps are also good for this up & down on the spot, side to side, plus forwards & backwards.
If you have something suitable in the gym, put a grid or agility ladder on the floor & jump or run in & out of the grid squares. Another great agility exercise is "mountain climbers" - set up in a push up position & bring your right knee to your chest with your back foot on the ground behind you & quickly switch & repeat.
Progress to "burpees" - begin standing, bring your hands to the floor in front of your feet & jump your feet into a plank position, do a push up (ability allowing) & then jump your feet back to your hands & do a squat jump. Repeat!
Cardio is of course good for us whatever exercise we're doing. At altitude with the thinner air, catching our breath can be more difficult, so it's always helpful to do some cardio to help train your heart before you go skiing. Cardio can of course be running, biking, swimming, rowing etc. or it can be as simple as a brisk walk.
If you want to do something simple at home, jumping jacks are great or use a skipping rope. Alternatively you can use your skipping rope or just a line on the floor to run over quickly backwards & forwards or do "fast feet" which we call a football run, where you run in places as fast as you can.
Always stretch after any workout of course, but stretch before & after skiing too. Give your muscles a chance to recover & cool down after skiing to help alleviate sore muscles the next day. Give yourself some time each day to hold those stretches for more than just the few seconds (which is tempting to do), to get maximim benefit.
Quads, hamstrings, calves, achilles are all important to stretch, as are arms, shoulders, biceps & triceps especially if you're a skier planting your poles.
We hope these tips will help you get ready for skiing, so that you & your family can enjoy your ski holiday to its fullest....
We live in the USA, know the ski resorts & accommodation and visit them regularly.
We can give you expert advice and save you time & effort finding the right USA ski holiday for you.
Helen & Rob Brown
UK Tel 01223 655642
US Tel 303 482 1961
This article is provided for educational & entertainment purposes only & is not to be interpreted as a recommended course of action or medical advice. As with any fitness program / exercise regime consult your doctor before trying any workout to discuss what is right for you. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop & consult your healthcare professional.