Preparation for the Ski Season

Itís that time of year again where the weather is getting colder and the snow is soon on its way. For a lot of us winter enthusiasts this is a welcome change in season and the skis and boards are coming out. Most ski bums are eager to get on the slopes as soon as possible to get their first turns of the year in, but easily forget that they have not been using various muscle groups or motor patterns for the last 7 Ė 8 months which could potentially lead to an injury and a short season. Skiing is a high-activity sport, and if you want to make the most of it, you need to invest a little time and forethought into getting ready for the season. You may be asking yourself: How do I prepare for this season, and stay injury and pain fre

From an injury prevention stand point, anyone who is preparing for a sporting activity or event should be properly assessed and screened by a physiotherapist and/or strength coach prior to any new activity. The information collected will help guide your strength program and expose any current limitations and mechanical dysfunctions you may have. This sets the foundation of any good strength and conditioning program. Re-assessments should be conducted periodically to make sure the program is working and imbalances donít occur from the sport itself.

When beginning a high intense snow sport such as skiing it's important to build a strong base of aerobic fitness. This will allow you to be on the hill longer and reduce your chance of injury due to fatigue. At the same time, skiing is an anaerobic activity, which means it requires short, intense bursts of energy interspersed with rest periods.

The incorporation of running, biking or inline skating in the summer months will help build aerobic capacity needed to reduce the effects of fatigue while on the hill. The typical prescription for aerobic exercise is 2 Ė 3 times per week and typically lasting 30 Ė 90 minutes of continuous work. Not everyone will be able to start with this recommendation, so build up slowly.

As the fall months come around, gears shift to more anaerobic activity such as sprinting, stair running, hill running and mountain biking. This is to start training your energy systems and muscle fibres to become more efficient in transitioning from low intensity to high intensity skiing and terrain.

A proper warm up is crucial before any sport to prepare and lengthen tissues, activate the nervous system and increase muscle activity. In the gym we use the foam roller to work out any knots in tight tissue and increase circulation to the major muscle groups. Followed by is a series of movements that open the hips, shoulders and lengthens the spine. We also encourage crawling and balance exercises to engage the core and improve body awareness. On the hill, go through some squat and lunge patterns to warm up the hips and knees and some leg swings to increase muscle activity.

When selecting exercises you should look at what the main muscle groups and joints that are dominant with the sport.

  • Skiing involves tremendous strength in the hips, legs and core. Using variations of squatting, lunging and deadlifting for the lower extremities can be excellent choices for developing strength, as they focus on multi joint movements and activate all the major muscle groups. Emphasis should be equally distributed to double leg and single leg strength exercises, both build strength but single leg work builds balance and stability in the joints.
  • Upper body work is important to help maintain an upright position and counterbalance the lower body movements.
  • Core and trunk exercises can't be emphasized enough. Proper posture and spinal alignment is imperative for continual performance and injury prevention. Exercises that encourage stability in the trunk such as planks, push ups, crawling and pulling variations all promote stability in the trunk. The big lifts mentioned above are great core strength exercises as they require tremendous tension to stabilize the spine.
  • Balance training on narrow, unstable or uneven surfaces such as boss balls, foam pads and wobble boards will improve proprioception and joint awareness thus reducing the risk of injury.
  • Power training such as plyometrics, olympic lifts and kettle bell swings are incredible for producing full body strength, power and quickness but are highly complex and should be taught by a qualified professional who is versed in teaching and demonstrating the exercises.

If you haven't started your preseason training now, itís never too late to get started! This article was meant to be helpful when designing and choosing exercises for training to prepare for your upcoming ski season. Remember everyone is built a little different, have old injuries and have different habitual postures. What may work for one individual may not for the next and a good program cannot be built online or read in a magazine. If you are truly passionate about skiing or any sport for that matter, get assessed by a qualified professional and get set on the correct path for you.

"As in any alpine region, the weather is changeable, protection questionable, route-finding bewildering, rockfall frequent and descents tedious. In short, it's everything you could ever ask for." -- from the Canadian Alpine Journal, 1


Article written by:

Tom Swales, PT

MPT, ATC, CSCS, CAFCI, MCT

Senior Therapist at Concept of Movement