Ski and snowboard training starts before the snow falls

Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2001

When Mother Nature backed off her threat of an early snowfall, it gave ski and snowboard enthusiasts a little extra time to get into shape for the season.

Getting one's "ski legs" can be even a bigger obstacle than icy moguls, trees or hidden rocks and stumps that can be found on the ski hill.

However, with some insightful planning, motivated skiers and snowboarders can make the first few days of skiing more enjoyable and less painful with a well-planned preseason training program.

A ski training routine should be an ongoing, year-round program. But typically, most skiers and snowboarders wait until the last minute, if at all, to engage in a training program.

The North American Ski Training Center, based out of Truckee, Calif., is a multi-day, total-immersion, performance ski school for avid alpine and backcountry skiers. NASTC provides a ski conditioning program based on dry land exercises that can be used by anyone.

Chris Fellows, the Director of the NASTC and a member of the National Demo Team for the Professional Ski Instructors of America, said proper ski conditioning is one of the best ways to avoid injury during the ski season.

"The skiers who are in better shape avoid injuries more," Fellows said by phone from the NASTC clinic in Whistler, British Columbia, "After people get hurt, they have to go through all the exercises to get better. Preseason training is like preventive maintenance. It really cuts down on the risk of injury."

Fellows said novice skiers can cut down on the learning curve of skiing and snowboarding by being in better shape.

"The people that are in shape are the ones who are making bigger strides. Its fundamental to skiing," Fellows said.

In conjunction with the NASTC, Fellows put together the Five Principles of Preseason Ski Training, a guideline for getting back into skiing shape with as little trouble as possible.

Flexibility: The first component of preseason ski training is flexibility. Starting a good stretching program now will give skiers and snowboarders more mobility and lessen the chance of injury. Areas of focus include hip flexors, hamstrings, trunk flexibility and calves.

"Make sure you're flexible," Fellows said. "At the center, we have stretching sessions every morning. Hip flexors are really important."

Balance and Coordination: Staying upright while skiing and snowboarding makes for a much more enjoyable day than falling down a lot. Many exercises can improve balance and coordination including jumping rope and stair hoping, especially with one leg.

"Skiing is a balance sport," Fellows said. "One-footed dips are good drills as well as working with bongo boards or dryland balls."

Strength: Another cornerstone to good skiing and snowboarding is strength. Strength training helps athleticism as well as prevents injury. Skiers should focus mostly on the quadriceps without neglecting hamstrings. Snowboarders should also work their legs plus shoulder strength to help cushion falls.

"Strength is power," Fellows said. "Get into the gym. Squats and deadlifts are good for core strength."

Speed: The ability to make quick turns is not only stylistic, but can also save a skier or snowboarder in tight spots and moguls. Try jumping from side to side while keeping your head and torso still or jumping rope.

"Jumping rope is really good for foot speed as well as lateral jumps and jumping over boxes," Fellows said.

Endurance: If skiing all day long is your thing, endurance should be a big factor in preseason training. Running is an obvious choice to improve endurance, but the NASTC suggests varying workouts from low to high intensity.

"The best way is to find an activity you enjoy doing," Fellows said. "If you enjoy swimming, get into the pool. If you like biking, running, basketball, racquetball or tennis, do that. It's all about getting an endurance base."

Matt Carter, a personal trainer at Juneau Racquet Club, agrees ski training is very important and gives a reason why skiers and snowboarders must find alternate means to stay in shape.

"In every other sport you can train doing that sport. In skiing you can't," Carter said. "Everyone starts from different spots. You just have to judge what point you are at and become more active from there."

Carter was also a six-time Junior Olympic skier and an All-American at Albertson College of Idaho where he graduated in 1999.

The components of flexibility, balance and coordination, strength, speed and endurance should be a part of every skiers' and snowboarders' preseason training regime, experts said. If every component is addressed properly, the early ski season should be more enjoyable and significantly less painful.

Jeff Kasper can be reached at

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