Fitness, strength, agility. In skiing you need all three.
“But most skiers are weak in at least one of those,” says Jimmy Cochran, former U.S. Ski Team member, University of Vermont Ski Team Assistant Coach and Owner of Slopeside Syrup. “Pre-season, the most important thing is to identify it and address it.” Here’s his plan, so you can be your best when you hit the snow. Start now, and do each twice a week for maximum benefit.
1. Skiing is a sprint, and you need to have cardiovascular fitness.
Do this: Run up a mountain, then run down it. If you don’t have a mountain nearby or don’t have the time, run at least 40 yards up a grassy slope, then walk or run down. “The steeper the better,” says Cochran. “Add a weight vest as you get stronger and it gets easier.” Hill repeats raise your anaerobic threshold—how much work you can do before you start producing lactic acid. Start with three sets of two reps, with three minutes between sets. Add weight five pounds at a time, up to 20% of your body weight.
2. On snow, agility is key for responding to changes in terrain.
Do this: Mountain bike. “Mountain biking challenges your strength, more so than road biking, because of its less-predictable cadence and because you have to find a line,” says Cochran. An hour cycling twice a week will strengthen lower back and legs, plus help you react to what’s thrown at you.”
3. Strong skiers can lap the mountain all day, without getting wobbly and potentially injured.
Do this: Cochran is a fan of squats. “Back squats build back strength and leg strength, engaging your butt, quads, hamstrings and back.” Do them with a bar on your shoulders and your chest up. Try three sets of 10 reps, with as much weight as you can manage while keeping your symmetry and fluidity through the motion.
4. To be most efficient on snow you have to have lightning fast reflexes.
Do this: Place a ladder on the ground or lay out a ladder pattern with string or boards. Run a pattern through the boxes, inside and outside, as fast as you can. Try two trips through at least 20 squares. Alternatively, do two sets of 20 box jumps as high as you can, as fast as you can. Intersperse with squat sets for maximum benefit.
5. Staying over your skis keeps your knees in proper alignment.
Do this: “Strengthen your shin muscles, and you’re less likely to get injured,” says Cochran. Using a band wrapped around a table leg, work one foot at a time. First, pull your toes toward you with your foot turned out. Then, pull your toes towards you with your toes turned in. Finally, pull your toes towards you with your foot perpendicular to the ground. Do two sets of 10 reps for each exercise on each foot.
6. The best skiers have exceptional balance and strong quads.
Do this: With a bar on your shoulders or dumbbells in your hands, kneel almost touching your knee to ground. Make it harder by placing your rear foot on a bench. Do three sets of 10 reps.
7. Lower back pain can cut your ski day short.
Do this: Strengthen it with back extensions. Lie on a physio ball face down with your feet against the wall, hands interlaced behind your head. Lift your torso and head as high as you can. Try three sets of 10 reps.
8. Core strength is key to agility on snow and staying in proper position over the tips of your skis.
Do this: Crunches build core strength. Lying on your back on the ground with your knees bent and hands behind your head, curl forward, with shoulders rolled forward mimicking skiing position. Work up to 100 crunches. Then add side crunches, to strengthen obliques.
Keep Coach Cochran’s tips in mind year-round and make every snow season your best ever.
Photo by Dana Allen. Skier: Louise Lintilhac