With lift tickets climbing into the $100-plus stratosphere, bowing out early because you can’t turn anymore not only hurts the ego but the pocketbook too.
Lapping runs requires a mix of power and fitness, says Tom Smith, a personal trainer and former strength and conditioning coach for Alpine Canada. For off-season training, he prescribes a constantly changing mix of exercises that, “increase the overall athleticism in addition to developing strength, aerobic and anaerobic systems.”
He says skiers and boarders need strong muscles to carve and power through bumps and powder. Aerobic capacity helps with the start-and-stop nature of downhill (and from keeling over in the higher altitudes). And overall endurance will keep you going until the last chair.
The impressive booty of pro skiers should hint at the importance of lower body training. “In terms of strengthening and injury prevention,” Smith says, “it is crucial to include hamstring and squatting work in your routine.” More subtle, but equally vital, is a strong core. The muscles of the trunk (lower back, abs, obliques) control balance and separation, two key ingredients to strong turning.
Aerobic & Anaerobic
Why: The two types of cardiovascular fitness are usually mutually exclusive—most workouts train one or the other—but sustained bouts of intervals can train both aerobic and anaerobic performance and mimic skiing’s on and off efforts.
What: Biking or running, inside or out. Warm up for 10 minutes at an easy pace. Set a one-minute repeating timer and alternate one minute going as hard as you can with one minute of very easy recovery. Continue for 20 to 30 minutes. If you don’t have a timer, count telephone poles: run hard for a set number of poles and rest for the same number.
How: Jumping Tabata
Why: Leaping, hopping and bounding builds the explosive strength you need to make tight turns, ski the steeps and navigate moguls. A Tabata workout mixes short bursts of hard effort with even shorter rests, teaching your body to process lactic acid while building dynamic strength. Together they’ll kick your butt and build huge leg strength.
What: Set a timer for four minutes of repeating intervals of 20 seconds and 10 seconds. After warming up, find something you can easily hop onto—a box, stair, log, rock or retaining wall. Start the timer. For 20 seconds, leap repeatedly up and down. Rest for 10 seconds. Continue. After four minutes, rest for two minutes and do it again with a different type of jump. Try two legged jumps, lateral jumps, step ups—left leg up, right leg up and then down with both—even one-legged hops.
How: Exercise Ball Hamstring Curls
Why: These hammer both the hamstrings and the lower core, teaching the muscles to work together while strengthening both. The exercise ball adds instability.
What: Lie on your back with your feet on the top of an exercise ball and legs straight. Lift your hips; the only body part touching the ground should be your shoulders and head. Pull the ball towards your butt by bending your knees and keeping your hips high. Try three sets of 20 repetitions.
How: Farmer & Waiter Walks
Why: Holding something heavy in one hand—either at your side or shoulder height—while walking activates the stabilizing muscles of the core. These are the same ones you use to keep the upper body stable while swinging your lower body back and forth in a ski turn.
What: For the Farmer Walk, hold a heavy dumbbell or kettle bell (25 to 40 pounds) at your side, like you would a pail of water. For the Waiter Walk, hold a slightly lighter dumbbell or kettle bell (10 to 25 pounds) at shoulder height, like you’re carrying drinks through a crowd. Start with the Farmer Walk with the weight in your right hand. Walk 20 metres out and back, focusing on keeping your body as straight and neutral as possible. Switch hands, repeat. Now do the same for the Waiter Walk.
The Lower back
Why: “Giant Slalom Back” is the name for the lower back tightness that nags many skiers after the first couple of days on the slopes. It comes from skiing slightly hunched over, like you’re supposed to. It’s hard to prevent, but working on plank endurance helps.
What: Get into a pushup position and then hold it for 30 seconds. Take a 10-second break and repeat. When three 30-second planks get easy, add some dynamism. In a plank, with a wider hands and leg position, lift a hand and hold it for a five count. Return to a normal plank and lift a different limb (legs and arms) for five more.