“If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.”Warren Miller
The world is on hold these days with the recent news about the COVID-19 virus. Reality is, we’re living in different times. The pandemic has made us all take a step back and look at what’s truly important in our lives.
Thinking about all the negative and getting caught up in the news is only one side affect. It’s perhaps a opportune time to review the method we work and the way we help our family, friends, and neighbours. It’s difficult or even preposterous to think about any thing other than our priorities. Today’s media is bombarding us with the ugly truth but one thing we can all do is think about the positive and ‘what could be’.
What a great time to Reset for next ski season
Despite everything that’s going on in the world, this may be an opportunity to pause and reset. Why should we be thinking about next ski season when all around us is changing like never before? This pause does allow us to reset and assemble some plans for the future.
We’re always thinking about skiing
It’s funny, no matter what time of year, no matter what circumstance exists in the world or our lives, some of us are always thinking about skiing. We love to ski, ski with friends, ski at new resorts, and challenge ourselves to capture the first tracks on the slopes. There’s nothing like being the first up the chairlift, standing at the top of the run that no one has touched yet. Skiing on a perfectly groomed trail or bouncing through the billowy powder and just letting it rip is truly a thrill and a JOY.
Imagining a perfect ski season
So, one thing that could really help us enjoy that ski season so much more is to actually picture what next season could be. Imagining a perfect ski season can set us up for success. Picture the number of days we’ll be on the slope, where we want to ski, the lifestyle we’ll experience, the friends we’ll ski with, the lessons and sessions we’ll take to improve our skiing. Imagining all of it can actually manifest a great season.
What can we do TODAY?
Ok, we know we’re anxious to set ourselves up for success next ski season, but first things first. Let’s close down this season.
“Pack ‘er up”
There’s nothing worse than getting excited about the ski season just weeks before it all begins but then discover that we’re missing vital pieces or components to our ski equipment or clothing.
So, here’s a quick checklist for wrapping up our season:
Tune & store our equipment:
Yup, that’s right. Imagine trying to get our equipment all tuned up at our favourite ski shop a week before the snow flies. The ski shops are so busy just before the snow arrives that we may not get our skis in time. SO, we have two choices: send them to our favourite ski shop now (April) to get tuned or tune them ourself. Either way, we’ll be ready ahead of everyone else. (Future blogs on ski tuning)
There we are, the car is packed the night before, the kids are ready to go in the morning, we arrive at the ski resort, purchased our lift tickets, and we’re getting dressed in the chalet when we discover:
“I thought you brought my gloves? No, I thought YOU brought your gloves! Wait a minute, where are my goggles? Well, it’s only minus “brrrr” and flurries drifting across the slope…. We don’t need no stinkin’ goggles.” You’re there to have fun with your ski family or buds. Don’t let this be you!Frustrated Winter Chauffeur
Reviewing a quick checklist is a great way to see what we’re missing NOW and give ourselves plenty of time to order or shop while the lines are short and the selection is good.
Inventory Check List
- Ski Pant(s)
- Neck Tube
- Long Johns
- Ski Socks (lots)
- Apres Ski Wear
- Skis / Bindings
- Power Straps
- Ski Lock
- Ski Tuning Kit
- Ski Rack
- Boot Bag
- Velcro Ski Straps
- Boot Warmers
- Sun Block (Snik)
- Baseball Cap
- CELL PHONE
Don’t leave home without it
Imagine next ski season
Ok, now that we believe we’ve got a handle on wrapping up our season, it’s time to imagine what next season could really look like. Life gets busy, especially during the early ski season so why not paint a picture today so we can relax during the actual ski season. Starting early in this process usually provides us enough time to have a plan and be organized.
“Blue bird day skiing with family and friends… what could be better?Andrew E
Thinking about how many days; holiday location(s); how to improve our skiing; or how many family and friends we want to help along the way can be useful. It’s helpful to ‘imagine’ what the perfect ski season could turn out to be. Skiing fresh powder with a buddy, racing once a weekend and achieving your personal best, or helping a friend discover skiing for the very first time, it’s all a visual to create ahead of time.
Get out there and share your Joy of Skiing.Ontario, Canada
A sampling set of goals for the perfect ski season:
“Help 6 other skiers achieve their goals ~ Improve my own skiing ~ Take lessons twice per week with my designated instructor/coach ~ Ski 60 days ~ (Some ski instructors ski 100 days in one season; average North American skis 7 days in a season) ~ Ski top to bottom of “ZigZag” at Mont Tremblant at expert speed ~ and the list goes on… “A member of the Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance (CSIA)
Off Season Training
“It’s what we do today that’s going to make us become what we’ve always wanted to be when we can no longer help it.Andrew E
Ok, now that we’ve got a handle on imagining the perfect season, it’s time to consider what to do in the ‘off-season’. We have a few choices: A) do nothing to prepare (hmmm?); B) cycle a little bit to keep active (sure); or C) really prepare ourselves physically and mentally to have the best season ever.
We’ve all been there – coming home after our first day on the slopes and falling asleep in our spaghetti dinner because we were so exhausted. Waking up the next morning and wondering how we’re going to get out of bed because we’re screaming – “why can’t we move our legs?”
Actually we’ve heard other expressions screeched out near the morning office water coolers that aren’t as politically correct… “Sweet J…!”
There are many aspects of preparing ourself for the ski season and perhaps the important areas fall into the categories of physical and mental preparation.
It goes without saying, physical fitness gives us more agility, stamina, strength, power, and flexibility. Imagine not having these attributes and trying to pull off something as simple as turning our feet or more elaborately hitting the gates in a Giant Slalom race.
“The harder we work, the luckier we get”
There are literally thousands of workout routines, methods, approaches, instructors, coaches, and Apps to help us in our skiing journey. We must choose specifically what works for us. We could setup a chat with our ski buddies to find out what they’re doing. Consult with someone we feel is doing well with their ski season and chat them up about what they’re doing to stay in shape, be mentally prepared and organized for the season.
Considering some of the following options might make it easier to follow a plan:
- Downloading our favourite fitness APP may help
- (SkiFit, Freeletics, P90X).
- Joining a Gym usually gets sustainable results without having to reinvent the wheel.
- Hiring a trainer is probably the most concentrated and time saving method if the price fits into the budget.
No matter which route we take, it must be easy to follow, easy to remain consistent, and overall – must be FUN ! If we’re not doing it for fun or achievement, then “what the___?”
Build Strength, speed, agility, flexibility and endurance
No matter what, we can always see someone on the slopes that’s a little overweight with that beer belly who can still rip up the slope, but aside from that freak of nature, improved physical fitness has a huge impact if not a direct correlation to our improved skiing ability. Skiing is a strenuous sport that puts tremendous strain on our muscles, bones, and ligaments. Everything is working from our legs, back, arms, and core muscles. Improving our overall fitness will not only improve our skiing ability, but our enjoyment, endurance, ability to get out of trouble quickly, and of course, our recover. Not being in shape can not only hinder us, it can hurt us.
Protect ourselves against injury
It’s obviously important to warm up our muscles. Coming up what works for us might include jogging, jumping, jumping jacks, walking briskly or biking.
There we are, carving down a slope on a perfect day and all of a sudden, some yeti flies out of the bushes and cuts us off where we have to pull a superman manoeuvre to quickly avoid plowing into the side of this traffic-challenged individual. Our quick-twitch muscle fibres jump into action and tell our body to move quickly and lengthen our leg onto a stronger edge to shorten the turn radius. “Ouch, that hurt.” If we’re not properly preparing our body for these unavoidable slope collisions, we can really hurt ourselves.
Some of the best approaches to protecting ourselves against injury is warming up the muscles and stretching. Remembering to warm up the muscles and joints prior to stretching is important. Warmed up and relaxed muscles is better for stretching.
Muscle preparation can insulate us against the demands of skiing. Preventing injury such as pulled muscles, torn ligaments, or worse – broken bones is critical. Our muscles protect our skeleton and hold us ‘together’. As this season came to an abrupt stop, it’s a perfect time of year start our off-season plan. Warming up the muscle and the joints around the muscle is great preparation in the off-season and during the ski season.
Remember when we saw the skiers from days gone by that would swing their arms before a race, or twist their body before skiing down the slope? It’s all about protecting ourself against injury.
No stretchie, no workie !
There are several different types of stretching that can aid us in avoiding Mr. reckless Yeti. Keeping it simple will go a long way. Understanding the types of stretching and where to use them can help us greatly before and during the season. Generally speaking, there are two types of stretching that will help our summer and winter: Dynamic and Static. It’s important for us to have some knowledge in this because they are applied at different times: Stretching to warm up and stretching to cool down.
Dynamic (Warm Up)
Now Dynamic is stretching the muscle through a range of movement. We do this as a warm-up by a swinging or bouncing movement which extends the range of motion and flexibility. One form of dynamic stretching is called Ballistic. Ballistic stretching is a stretching through momentum by rapid swinging and bouncing movement to force the body past the normal range of movement. We see skiers at the beginning of their day swinging their legs back and forth kicking high in front and high in the back… Please practice “social distancing” during this leg-swinging maneuver to avoid teeth smashing results to your fellow skier.
Fig1-2-3. Professional Ski Instructor Anik Gaumond demonstrates a dynamic warmup from Trunk Rotation to standup leg swing. Anik is a Certified Level 4 ski instructor with the Canadian Ski Instructor’s Alliance )
There is a smoother version of stretching called dynamic which is a much more civil and smoother method of stretching for us skiers. We simply apply a slower, smoother version of the ballistic stretching which diminishes the risk of injury during the warm up stretch.
One form of stretching a specific muscle or muscle group is called active isolated. It works by contracting the opposing muscle group, which forces the stretched muscle group to relax. (Fig 4)
In addition to these dynamic stretches, there’s a stretch referred to as resistance & loaded stretching. Used to contract and lengthen the muscle at the same time, it strengthens and stretches simultaneously. (Fig 5)
- Suggested Skier Warmups:
- Leg swings
- Trunk rotations
- Touch toes
- High knees
- Tuck jumps
- Jumping jacks
- Arm circles
- More suggestions:
- Lunge forward
- Lunge lateral
- Mountain climbers
- Lunge & kick ups
- Touch & hop
Static (Cool Down)
Static (self) Stretching is generally used after the activity as a cool down. It’s a static (non moving) stretch where we place our body in position where the muscle is being stretched under tension.
Static (self) non-active = where we stretch the targeted muscle group and relax the contracting muscle at the same time. (Fig 6 & 7)
Static active (self) = involves using only the strength of the opposing muscles to generate a stretch within the targeted muscle group. It’s tough, but holding that position for 20 seconds will allow the muscle under tension to stretch. The contraction of the opposing muscles helps to relax the stretched muscles. The contracting muscle is known as the antagonist and the opposing muscle being stretched is known as the agonist.
Static passive (assisted) = Stretching is more assisted by an apparatus or other person. Smooth movement to gain great range of movement can be beneficial (someone else is doing the work).
One form of this is called Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (aka: PNF or what we like to call, “the guy at the physio place”). It is also excellent for targeting specific muscle groups and, as well as increasing flexibility (and range of movement), it also improves muscular strength
Similar to PNF, Isometric stretching is where the contractions are held for a longer period of time. This pre-contraction stretching as it’s called requires less work and more participation from a partner or piece of equipment.
“Ahhhhh” or is it “Owwww”? Either way, it’s a great cool down gift for our muscles.
There are many different forms of this PNF stretching and sometimes it is referred to as “contract-relax stretching” or “hold-relax stretching.” Another form of this PNF technique is named “post isometric relaxation (PIR).” Basically, the partner stretches the muscle so it’s under tension, and then the individual contracts the stretched muscle for 5-6 seconds while the partner prevents movement. After that, a controlled partner applies a stretch to the muscle for 30 seconds.
Isometric (assisted) stretching is similar to PNF but the contractions are held for a longer period of time. It is also excellent for targeting specific muscle groups and, as well as increasing flexibility (and range of movement), it also improves muscular strength. Fig 8
— Again, consult that ‘physio guy” on this one.
- In any case, the smart thing to do here is to consult a professional trainer before jumping into our stretching regime.
- Suggested Skier Cool downs:
- Calf muscle
- Side lunge for groin
- Hip exterior rotator / gluteus
- Hip interior rotator / gluteus
- Trunk twist/hold
- skier stretch
Strength, Speed, Power
“Hey Mario, do you know how fast you were going?”
Unlike our front line police officers letting us know that speed is bad, skiers tend to like speed as long as it is IN CONTROL. Strength, Speed, Power could each be a category of their own. Power training typically involves exercises which apply the maximum amount of force as fast as possible; on the basis that strength + speed = power. Jumping with weights or throwing weights are two examples of power training exercises.
“We have the ability to make him better than he was. Better, Stronger, Faster…”(Steve Austin – The 6 Million Dollar Man) – Oscar Goldman
Agility can be perceived as the ability to quickly avert a situation at will. There we are skiing down a groomed run in Whistler, British Columbia Canada and all is well until we descend over a lip and low and behold, it’s a mogul field. Quick cat-like reflexes and agile quick twitch muscles are going to enable you to adapt to that slope quickly and smoothly.
Endurance or cardiovascular capacity is that ability to last while exerting. An interesting reference for endurance is a book by David Goggins: “You Can’t Hurt Me”
What about muscle memory or movement?
Developing the proper ski technique takes many days on and off the slope to master. It’s an artform and we don’t want to lose it. Correct alignment for every movement is crucial. By working on our physical fitness during the off season, we can select certain ski-specific training that mimics skiing and trains our body.
Improve our balance and coordination
It’s actually very possible to improve our coordination through off-season or dry land training. Emphasizing only strength and conditioning would be a mistake if it didn’t include a combination of balance and coordination tactics. Balance beam, bosu ball, tight-rope walking, box jump, running, trail running, roller blading, racket sports, ladder-drills, and obstacle courses are all great ways to improve our balance and coordination.
Here our demonstrator illustrates isometric lateral lunges (Fig 9-11)
Improving balance in the gym. (Fig 12-14)
Sometimes we’re standing at the top of a mogul run or an icy pitch (we call it “loud powder” in the East) and many folks might have that doubt creep into their thoughts. It’s happened to the best of us. What can we do to insulate ourselves from this negative mindset? What tools and methodologies can we setup in order to be confident, assured, and positive enough to conquer anything?
Here’s 3 easy ways in which we can create that mental toughness. We can research and read certain publications about mental training. Just go to your local or online books store to see the latest. Books about visualization can help tremendously. Hiring a personal coach or mentor who’s attained the level of skiing you hope for can help. In today’s world, it’s always a good idea to join specific online social media group for collaboration and support in your skiing endeavours. Join an actual ski resort and enroll in their ski programs. As an alternative, there are many travelling snow schools out there. “We call them a drinking club with a skiing problem.” Now is the time to begin investigating these options so we’re all set for next season.
See ya on the slopes
Remember, when the first winter storm comes rolling in next season, being organized and prepared mentally and physically will make all the difference in the world.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”Roman philosopher: Seneca
- References used for this article:
Posted by Andrew E on April 6, 2020 (Living in Canada with 30 years of experience in the ski industry. Voted Canadian Ski Instructor’s Alliance Course Conductor of the Year in 2004 & 2012) View more posts
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What an entertaining and informative read! Makes me want to get back into ski season and carve some turns on the slopes!