News & Events

Train now for ski season

Eric Pitcher, P.T.

Fall is officially here in the Northern Arizona high country. The aspen leaves have changed from green to gold, and those golden hues are quickly fading to the barren white trunks which will wait patiently for spring.

But first, let us enjoy the winter that is soon to be upon us – the cold nights and mild sun-filled days which we are graced with during the dark months of the year. Many of us hope the winter months are filled with knee-deep powder! As you dream of nearby ski resorts or plan a trip to the backcountry, make sure your body is prepared to meet the demands of your wintertime playground.

Alpine skiing and snowboarding demand balance, coordination and stamina. As the “fun factor” goes up, so does the chance for injury. Getting your body in shape for the start of the season will only enhance your enjoyment of the slopes, making it a season to remember.
Here are a few tips that should help all of you who have vertical dreams for the winter:

1. Start an aerobic conditioning program now: Running, biking, in-line skating, fast-paced hiking…just about any of these will do. Why? Long days on the slopes will tire you out. When you become tired you are more prone to injury. Better conditioning means less chance of getting tired and less chance of getting injured.

2. Start an anaerobic training program: Train your fast-working muscles for the kind of work they will do on the trails by doing five or more minutes of high-intensity speed and plyometric (repeated rapid stretching and contracting of muscles such as jumping and rebounding) drills to increase muscle power. Favorite drills include shuttle runs and skipping/bounding/hopping/lateral movement. a. Shuttle runs: Find an open area 40 to 60 feet long. Sprint back and forth between the lines as fast as possible. Repeat this drill at top speed for one minute, take a brief rest then repeat again.
b. Skipping/bounding/hopping/sliding drills: Using the same distance as shuttle runs, skip/bound/hop/lateral slide as high and as far as you can, making six to 10 passes for each exercise. Take a brief pause between each different maneuver.

3. Train the large muscles in your legs for strength and endurance: Throw on a heavy backpack and climb high, steep and fast for about five minutes. If you can’t get onto a trail to do this, try flights of stairs, a stair-stepper or an elevated treadmill. 

4. Train your core: Integration of your lower body with your upper body through your hip, trunk and shoulder musculature is paramount to your success and safety. Fitness ball training is an excellent idea, but so are exercises like diagonal lifts and chops which also are known lumberjacks.

5. Train for balance: Challenge your balance by walking on a balance beam or lines on the floor, do single-leg balance drills and single-leg squats while standing on a dyna-disc or towels. Try these drills both barefoot and with your ski/snowboard boots on.

Think of your legs as the engine and suspension for your body (the machine). If your legs are tired and the suspension is shot, then your chassis (your back) ends up having a very rough ride and will take a beating. If you can tune your legs to perform more efficiently, you can take far more enjoyable rides on your skiing odometer. These exercises can be adjusted in intensity for the type of skiing you do and can apply to everyone, from beginner to seasoned expert.

For additional training ideas, contact Eric Pitcher, P.T., C.S.C.S., Sports Medicine Center of Northern Arizona at Flagstaff Medical Center at 928 773-2125.