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Ski Fit? Preparing for the Slopes

Off-Piste skiing is a highly physical activity which needs preparation both from a muscular & cardio-vascular point of view

What makes skiing so much fun is that it can only be enjoyed at certain times of the year, however, as many have experienced, skiing reminds us that we have muscles that we had no idea existed. Most skiers only ski a few times a year which is not sufficient frequency to keep our bodies conditioned for it. Preparing ahead for a ski holiday can make the difference between an incredible pleasurable experience versus a painful one. If you would rather not spend your week’s holiday manoeuvring the resort on crutches it is important to prepare your body for the rigour of skiing, no matter how competent a skier one is. All skiers want to ski all day long but without preparing your body for the physical demands of the sport you will be at risk of injury; when a skier is tired accidents are more likely to occur.

Developing a Fitness Programme

Downhill skiing and snowboarding are power sports that require: endurance, balance, flexibility, agility, and leg and corestrength. Fortunately there are a variety of programmes available to skiers hoping to get match fit. For those that don’t already have a regular fitness programme it is recommended that an exercise plan is implemented at least 6 weeks prior to hitting the slopes. For those already involved in an exercise programme it might need to be tweaked to ensure it is appropriate for skiing.This will enable you to be physically conditioned to spend your days skiing in a safer and more enjoyable way. Most ski companies now offer ski preparation programmes or advice; it is worth sourcing one with varyingprogrammes dependent on current fitness levels. For those that find a DVD easier to follow there are several websites that present online programmes that are easy to grasp.The fact that so many companies focus on ski fitness clarify the correlation that it can have a marked effect on enjoyment on the slopes. Ski conditioning programmes are becoming more extensive; they now include ‘Pre Ski’ and ‘After Ski’ elements to reduce injury and discomfort after a hard days skiing.

The Emergence of Cross-Country Skiing

An ever increasingly popular ski activity is cross-country (also known as nordic) skiing; offering the freedom to explore the peace and tranquillity of the alpine countryside escaping the busy slopes, queues, lifts and resorts. Most resorts offer a good variety of trails ranging in length and difficulty. Some resorts offer red and black runs to give experienced cross-country skiers a bit more of a challenge. The advantages to this type of skiing is that it is easier to master and competes as one of the best all over body workouts compared to downhill sking and snowboarding. Overall fitness preparation needs to focus on activities that primarily strengthen the upper body (rowing, swimming) combined with those working the lower body muscles (cycling, brisk walking). What’s more, there is considerably less risk associated with the sport compared to other downhill skiing. A better option for those that are already carrying injuries from previous activities and wish to minimse the toll that the sport exerts on the body.

Keeping Safe and Injury-Free

To ensure that the maximum is gained from a skiing holiday there are some general tips that will help in preparation. Although not yet compulsory it is strongly recommended that, regardless of how experience a skier, a helmet is worn; studies have concluded that helmets reduce the risk of a serious head injury by as much as 60 percent. Invest in a hydration pack; even if you don’t feel thirsty, joints and muscles need water to sustain flexibility and stamina. Skiing puts the body through sustained intense physical exercise over a period of days which it is often not used to and this can put strains on the body. Maximise energy with sports nutrition capsules or drinks which not only increase verve but muscle performance also. It is important to be conservative about length of time skiing, pushing past fatigue is the most common cause of injury and pickpistes that are appropriate to skiing ability. Ensure that the appropriate ski insurance has been purchased; whether you are snowboarding, downhill skiing or cross country skiing it is wise to check with the insurance company on the level and type of cover, this is particularly important for off-piste skiers.