Skiing, there’s nothing else like it. At Arapaho Basin’s early season opening on October 14,  skiers and snowboarders flocked to be among Colorado’s first to schuss the mountain for the 2017-2018 ski season. Lift lines trailing half way up the slopes didn’t deter the fun and smiles had by all.

Skiing is unique. It defies emulation in environments other than its birthplace amidst snowy mountain peaks. The thrill of sliding down cold, slippery, variable tilted surfaces, making direction changes while locked onto a moving platform is unparalleled outside the snow sport world. Learning to ski and snowboard requires that one skis and snowboards. Yet there is a way to prepare for enjoyment of both early snow and a successful, healthy ski and snowboard season.

Veteran enthusiasts refer to it as “dry land training”. It can be accomplished either outside or in your favorite gym. Ripple Effect Training in Carbondale, CO and Whitefish, MT’s Whitefish Wave are a couple of my favorites. Aspen Skiing Company offers year round fitness introductory classes as a benefit to its employees through its Mind Body Spirit wellness program. Click here to learn more.

Whether training in nature’s outdoor gym or indoor training facilities, it behooves skiers and snowboarders to incorporate fitness elements focusing on the development of movement patterns related to skiing in order to ready your mind and body to slide gleefully down the slopes.

The foundation of ski fitness is aerobic and anaerobic conditioning which prepare your heart and lungs to transport nutrients and oxygen to your muscles during an extended activity, and develop the body’s resilience to oxygen and fuel debt. As you build your aerobic and anaerobic capacities, resistance training is added. Resistance, or strength training, strengthens key skiing muscle groups, specifically your core and leg muscles. Plyometric exercise, i.e., short, explosive exercises such as jumping over boxes or even a crack on the sidewalk, develops muscular power and agility, and is akin to anaerobic training as well.

Next, and from my perspective which can always use more attention, is Propioneuromuscular Facilitation, (PNF), in other words, the body’s ability to know where it is in space by establishing neuropathways between muscles and joints. This is a key aspect of balance, in addition to our vestibular and visual balancing mechanisms, and one which we tend to use less and less of as we “grow-up.” When was the last time you slid across a kitchen floor, somersaulted down a grassy hillside or dared to bound over stepping stones crossing a rushing creek? In adult life we stop moving in planes other than fore/aft. Our movements are frequently limited to walking and running forward and sometimes backwards, and sitting down and standing up in a vertical plane. Fortunately, proprioception is easily trainable and you experience a quick return on your investment in this area.

Finally, stretching is a key fitness element to ski conditioning. Stretching a warm core and limbs after exercise creates and maintains a range of option which is key to extending and tipping your legs to carve a turn and absorb the moguls.

Is there one exercise that addresses all ski fitness elements? No. However, the beauty of ski conditioning classes or a customized ski fitness program created by your trainer is that all of the training elements intended to develop movement patterns specific to skiing are choreographed into a workout session that is feasible to schedule within lives busy with work family and community. And what can be more fun than readying for your favorite winter sport by training with your friends?  See you on the slopes!

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