Skiing and snowboarding can one of the most satisfying holiday experiences; with expansive views, crisp fresh air, comforting night time fires, drinks and hot chocolates, and not to mention a daily thigh, butt and core toning every day without conscious intention of doing so. However, skiing can potentially lead to unexpected injury if you are not sufficiently prepared.
Skiing injuries generally occur through falls, collisions, poorly fitting ski equipment, poorly designed ski bindings which increase torsional (twisting) stress on the knee, fatigue (skiing at the end of the day, and on consecutive days without the necessary prior training), weather conditions affecting core temperature and vision, slippery or icy snow conditions and poor technique. Knee ligament and cartilage injuries are popular; most commonly torn are the medial collateral ligaments (MCL), anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) and the medial meniscus. However, landing on your hands to catch a fall can easily target the wrist and shoulder girldle.
For safety you need to have the strength, muscular endurance, agility, reflex & motor control to be able to maintain the classic parallel squat position and stabilize yourself from sudden disturbances in terrain. Your ski specific training should incorporate eccentric quad strength exercises, plyometric exercises ( eg. box jumps, 1 legged hops, rebounds, push up claps, medicine ball throws), core stability exercises and balance exercises for strengthening your tilting reflex (where the surface you are standing on moves under you, ie. use of BOSU, Bongo boards, Rocker boards, Fitters, Slide mats and Swiss balls), and exercises where strong rotational control of the trunk is required (eg. Medicine ball side catches/throws and cable woodchops).
Sounds too confusing? We’ve put together a program for the generally healthy, fit, injury free ski-lover below. It is recommended to be assessed by your fitness professional before commencing any exercise program for your safety and maximum benefit.
Key Ski Prep Exercises
(these are just some ideas, NOT to be performed in a single workout, and I recommend finding an exercise professional to teach these correctly, rather than describing the technique in detail)
> Squats; single and double leg.
> Cable Woodchop: This exercise is best taught by an experienced trainer.
> Rebounder (mini-tramp) tuck jumps.
> Plyometric Box Jumps.
> BOSU squats; hold weight plates, dumb bells or medicine balls for added resistance. A medicine ball can be thrown (from a partner or trainer) from the side, requiring rotational control through the trunk as you catch the ball.
> BOSU squat jumps; starting with 1 foot in centre of BOSU and other out to the side on the ground, squat down and jump over to the other side continuously for 10 – 30 repetitions.
> BOSU split lunge jumps; starting with 1 foot in centre of BOSU and other straight back taking a wide stance, lunge down then quickly jump to change position of feet (so you are now lunging on the other side). Do this continuously for 10 – 30 repetitions.
> Single leg jumps starting on the floor and landing on the BOSU
> Single leg jumps starting on BOSU and landing on the floor
> Single leg taps off a bench; standing on a press bench and holding a dowel rod or ski pole for support, slowly lower 1 foot off the side of the bench so that your foot taps the ground. Return to the centre and repeat on the other side. Aim for 5 – 10 each side.
> Plyometric Push Up: this is a push up with a little jump, or a clap between push-ups if you can. This is a plyometric drill to train the wrists in preparation for any unexpected falls.
> Supine hip extension – double and single leg.
> Stretching of muscles that are short and tight, and performing guided self-mobilisations for joint restrictions.
Tips to get you Snow Ready
1. Start your ski fitness program at least six to eight weeks before your trip. Target ski-specific muscles. Make sure you get a program that really works the thighs, butt, and core stabilisers. The legs will predominantly be working eccentrically throughout skiing to maintain your squat position and stabilise throughout uneven terrain, so ensure your training incorporates eccentric leg extensor exercises.
2. Keep up the ski lessons on the snow to ensure correct technique.
3. Warm up with some easy runs and stretches before challenging yourself further when out on the slopes.
4. Allow time for rest and refuelling. Schedule in regular drink (high quality water) and food breaks. Watch the quality of food on the mountain! You may want to travel with home-prepared snacks which suit you metabolically (for assistance see a HLC qualified practitioner).
5. Keep in mind that although the slopes are enticingly less crowded at the end of the day, they can potentially be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Monitor your energy levels and focus on maintaining good technique.
6. Aim for 8 hours sleep each night, which is actually hard not to do (you’ll be quite exhausted from a day’s skiing), and avoid late nights of drinking – your neuromuscular system will not provide adequate support the following day and your ski trip could turn fairly expensive medically! Your best bet is bed by 10pm, up by 6am, since physical and psychological repair occur during these critical times.
7. Find good quality and correctly fitting boots, skis, bindings and consider clothing that breathes, conserves heat or cools by evaporation.
8. Have fun!