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Training for the Ski Season

11/4/16 by James Dziezynski

Early ski season; it is the best of times and the worst of times. The first flakes, the promise of months of powder, dreams of long days on the slopes, and cozy nights in front of a fire fall squarely into the “best of times”. The worst of times? How about half-buried branches, thin snowpack, oodles of rocks, and oh yes, those knees of yours that haven’t done squat (pun intended) since last spring. Getting injured before the actual arrival of winter is a major bummer—which is why it is a very good idea to get yourself in a state of winter fitness before shredding the gnar (or swooshing the slopes, as the less radical would say).

Fitness First

There are a lot of different exercises you can do before the flakes fly to prepare for the upcoming season.
    Han Vi Pham Thị
There are a lot of different exercises you can do before the flakes fly to prepare for the upcoming season. Han Vi Pham Thị

Restoring your knees, ankles, core, and hips back into winter shape won’t take much time for those who have stayed active throughout the year. Building ski/snowboard specific strength and flexibility for 2 - 4 weeks prior to hitting the slopes will help with injury prevention.

Many gyms offer ski season fitness classes, though you don’t need to be part of a gym to develop a solid exercise routine. Squats of all sorts are obvious winners, with more advanced exercises like one-legged squats and squat jumps serving up a good burn. Plyometrics such as speed-skater style side-to-side hops, box jumps, lunges, and alternating lunge hops are perfect for building power and flexibility. One note: with any explosive exercise, take it easy if you haven’t been particularly active. Lower-intensity options will help you ease you into these exercises.

Equally as important to overall ski fitness is developing a strong core and back. Planks will help you tremble your way to a sturdier midsection. Superman flexes, yoga ball crunches, and back extensions (those face-down reverse sit-ups you do on a bench) all give strength and balance to muscles that often don’t get used much in day-to-day life.

Rounding out a solid ski fitness routine is working with weights—or at least, heavy things. Medicine ball tosses (throw in the air and catch) are effective ways to boost several muscle groups, while traditional dumbbell lifts and leg press exercises are nice complements to your overall routine.

Remember to work on stretching at the start and end of your routine. The legs and hips are somewhat obvious muscle groups to keep limber, but don’t neglect shoulder and neck stretches—unless you plan on not falling the entire season.

It’s What’s On the Outside That Counts

Getting outside for a workout in cooler temps is motivating. Try yoga atop a 14er, like these folks in CO.
Getting outside for a workout in cooler temps is motivating. Try yoga atop a 14er, like these folks in CO. Zach Dischner

Gym and home workouts are fine, but getting outdoors is a nice change of pace for fitness routines, especially in cooler weather. Good ol’ hill sprints are a fine way to develop explosive strength. If your knees are up for it, a controlled jog down those same steep hills will double your efficiency and beef up your quads. General cardio, from jogging to cycling, is all good, but be vigilant to stretch before and after—cycling in particular can have the unfortunate effect of making your hamstrings as tight as piano wire. Burpies (ugh), suicide sprints, and low-bar hops (jumping side to side over a stationary bar) do well to mimic the kind of endurance power you’ll need on long ski runs.

When exercising in colder temps, make sure to wear layers that wick away sweat—going from hot to cold can happen with startling efficiency on chilly days. If you know you’ll be going for a robust cardio workout, light to medium weight long-sleeve tops and lightweight bottoms will let you diffuse heat while providing enough warmth for a moving body.

Take It Easy There, Charlie

No need to get crazy by dropping in on lines like this one in Silverton, CO during your first week back out.
No need to get crazy by dropping in on lines like this one in Silverton, CO during your first week back out. Zach Dischner

Jumping back onto the slopes brings back all those sensations that make skiing and snowboarding so addicting. But like so many other sports, a six-month layoff means you’ll be a little bit rusty. Use your first few days out to reacquaint yourself with everything from the bite of your edges to making sure your boots still fit. Not only will you ease back into your old skills, you may just give yourself a (somewhat) acceptable excuse to pick up that new board or pair of skis.

The more preparation you do in the weeks before the lifts open, the better your chances to avoid injury and fatigue. Even a 10 - 20 minute daily routine of squats, side-to-side jumps, planks, and lunges can give you a noticeable improvement in strength and agility. The bottom line is that for those who plan to improve each year, getting off to a good start will get you started the right way for a long and exciting ski season. And once you’re back in your old form, it’s all downhill from there.

Originally written by RootsRated for Marmot.