I suspect for some people, this article could be more aptly named “Ski Trip Survival”. Ski and snowboarding require a lot from your body. It is true that you have help getting up the hill, but that doesn’t mean gravity is doing all of the work for you, no matter what your non-skier friends might say. In fact gravity is the reason you need to be strong and fit to ski: You are battling against it! Unless you want to achieve terminal velocity that is. Racers may like that, but just about everyone else tends to prefer staying within highway speed limits. And of course the racers need even more from their legs and core to control that ridiculous speed!
Ski trips pose an interesting dilemma for most skiers because the realization that this is a physical activity that requires being fit tends to happen 1-2 weeks before the trip. Not a whole lot of time to prepare. Something is almost always better than nothing, so if this is you, even a few workouts is a good idea. Then focus on these 6 simple tips that you can do while on the actual trip to significantly increase your enjoyment factor.
1. Warm-up before you ski. It really does help. Really. There are a number of ways you can warm-up. Many years ago, I used to do a couple of sun salutations in my condo right before heading out to the hill. Now I do a ski-specific dynamic warm-up on the hill before my first run (or sometimes after my first run). I have embedded a copy of the dynamic warm-up video below. It is based on specific muscle and joint movements that will help prepare your body for the day ahead. The entire dynamic warm-up takes about 5 minutes, and can be done on-snow, in your boots. Watch the video below for full details.
Here is summary of the movements. Do 5 of each and hold each movement for a few seconds:
a. Pectoral stretch (use the ski poles to give yourself a good stretch)
b. Lower trapezius activation (think Y to W, and focus on the muscles between your shoulder blades)
c. Thoracic spine rotation stretch
d. Front to back leg swings (don’t try to get too high! This is just to get your hips moving)
e. Rotational leg swings (with toes always pointing away from you throughout)
f. Hip flexor activation (engage the core, lift the leg and then hold)
g. Glute medius activation (this one is dedicated to your ACL. Don’t skimp on this! think about pushing your leg into your ski pole. You should feel it in the outer part of your buttocks)
h. Lunge with lateral reach (reaching out to the side of your front knee)
i. Lateral squat with hip rotation (when you squat, think to the side and butt back)
2. Stay hydrated. People often forget about this: You’re all bundled up in your ski suit, and you’re probably cold, you may not realize that you are actually sweating on your way down. Be sure to replenish that liquid. This is even more important if you’re skiing somewhere at a higher elevation, as you will dehydrate more quickly. Consider having water with lunch, and put a small water bottle in your pocket to sip while on the lift. Having soup for or with lunch is also a great hydration option.
3. Fuel your muscles when you get home from the ski hill. This can be just about anything, from a meal, to a smoothie (make sure it has carbohydrates as well as protein), or something as simple as a glass of chocolate milk. If you are someone who enjoys Après-Ski as much as skiing, just fuel up a bit in between. It does not have to be a huge amount, but even a little bit of nourishment for the muscles will help.
4. Foam roll! This is an amazing little tool. There are travel sized ones, that are only about a foot long, and they should easily fit in your ski bag. In fact depending on your bag, even a full size one might fit. You can pick one up at most fitness and running stores. They are worth it. Not sure how or what to roll? Check out my foam roll guide here. Another option that works well, and is smaller for travel is called “the stick” or a “Tiger Tail”. These are pretty good alternatives. Try to get the same areas that are shown in The Foam Rolling Guide above, although it will be tough to get at the lats and thoracic spine.
5. Enjoy the hot tub. The hot tub can help relax your muscles and work out some of the junk that accumulates over the day. I would suggest not spending too much time in them, as they can further dehydrate you, and if you are sensitive to chemicals, you should avoid them. Also avoid them if you have any medical condition for which they are not advised. A cold plunge would be even better. Most ski resorts do not offer a cold bath, but if you are using an outdoor hot tub, there is probably some snow nearby, so you could be a Finn for the day and alternate the hot tub with some time in the snow (actually I believe the Finns prefer the Sauna to the hot tub, but you get the point). Don’t try this if you have a heart condition.
6. Spend a day mid-week exploring the town or enjoying the spa. Most people are far too ambitious and buy lift passes for every day of their trip. Unless you are in phenomenal shape, this is not a good idea. I know you’re excited to be there, and skiing or boarding is the reason you are there, so you want to be on the snow. Remember that enthusiasm can only take you so far. You will enjoy the days you are on snow much more if you give your body a day off. Remember that most ski resorts offer spa services, so your day off can still be a great vacation day. Picture it: sleep in a bit, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, read for a while by the fire, get a massage, oh – lunch time already? Then head off to explore village, maybe buy some souvenirs. It’s probably naptime by now. Wake up and try some foam rolling and a few gentle stretches, and then its probably time for the hot tub and a nice dinner. Get to bed early, and you’ll be ready to enjoy the next couple of days much more than if you had skied right through.