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"SKIING IS A SLIDING SPORT":
Skiing is a demanding physical activity that requires use of all one's body's parts--muscles, skeleton, connectors, and organs like heart, lungs in strenuous ways. Even the brain is involved. To ensure the highest level of success and the lowest level of injury, conditioning of our bodies is a must. Even before that, however, an evaluation of our readiness for a conditioning program is wise. Your medical doctor can do that. Some may wish to also consult a personal trainer for an on-going program tailored to specific goals.
Stretching exercises are a focus of many expert skiers. Stretching lengthens muscles and allows joints to flex with a greater range of motion, providing more options for positions of arms and legs to control skis. Many skiers stretch mornings and evenings and again before a ski run. Research has not shown that stretching reduces the rate of injury among skiers, but it certainly does increase the feeling of athleticism and general well-being and may thereby affect ski performance. Stretching of thighs and calves, twisting of spines and necks, and tilting of torso over legs all seem to improve readiness for skiing for many. Especially beginners should stretch before a ski trip, for falling and especially getting up after a fall require flexibility.
Balance is key in skiing. Balance is partly muscular and partly learned. Ways to enhance it for skiing are to strengthen leg, abdominal, and lower back muscles and to stand on one foot. Try putting on a sock while standing on one foot, for instance, or tying a shoe in the same position. And then do the other side.
There are some balance training devices. One is a balance board, which is a board of a few feet length that rests on a cylinder of about a foot diameter. The underside of the board has a runner that fits into a slot routed into the cylinder. You stand on the board with the runner in the slot, feet spread, and tip alternately to each side while the board runs over the cylinder. An advanced form uses a roller that is elliptical. See Tognar Toolworks: exits for these.
Another balance training device is the Dynadisk: exits, a flattish-oval air cushion on which one stands, one foot at a time and does various bending maneuvers to touch the floor. It has other exercise applications as well.
A large ball is also used for exercising. And there are many pieces of apparatus such as running machines, one that allows side-to-side hops, and more.
Core strength: In order to balance and re-balance while skiing, some part of us must remain stable. The legs are busy doing things, of course, so stability must come from the upper body and especially from the muscles around the pelvis, abdomen, and lower back. With a strong core, then, one can move body parts around this area and better stay balanced.
Aerobic capacity: An efficient skier on moderate terrain does not necessarily need to breathe hard, although if in a higher altitude than used to some extra breathing is likely. A learning skier, however, will work harder as efficient technique is learned and skiers who ski bumps long-distance will surely want to have strong aerobic capacity.
Body Mass Standards: The Boy Scouts of America has developed a chart suggesting body mass standards for strenuous activities, to be applied only in addition to an examination and advice from a medical professional. The chart is not age-specific.
Persons who have weights above those recommended in the chart may be compromised in skiing simply because their muscles are more involved in holding their mass and less available for balancing actions. Persons with lesser weights may not have adequate muscle mass to balance well. And even those who lie within the recommended weights may have too high a proportion of fat compared to muscle or may have muscles that are not toned.
Vail Resorts Slope Employees Fitness Test: As said earlier, there’s no question that skiing can be a demanding sport. Of course, one does not have to ski all day and every day of the winter or even of a ski trip. But if you want to maximize your effective and enjoyable ski time, an exercise program will likely help. But how much? To help answer this question, consider the program of Vail Resorts for its on-mountain personnel. At the start of the 2011-2012 winter, Vail Resorts instituted a "Fit to Ride" test for all employees who ski or snowboard. This included all ski instructors and ski patrolmen. The test was again required for them in the 2012-2013 winter and was made more demanding for 2013-2014. Fitness elements that must be passed include standards for core strength, flexibility, balance, lifting, agility, and aerobics. In 2015, however, the program was canceled. Yet elements of the test still count towards one's skiing prowess; to see the test and evaluate how you would do in that test, see "Vail Resorts Fitness Test" on this website. As always, medical advice should be sought before undertaking any exercise program. Depending on your own physical attributes and the way you ski, this program may be too little for you.
Ski with your feet: A recent inquiry came from a lady who had a lesson with an instructor who “took my ski poles away”. The lady wanted to learn using her poles; after all, good skiers use them. So she was looking for a new instructor. One would guess she was relying on her ski poles to stop (doesn’t work unless barely moving) rather than learning to use her legs and feet where her skis were. With ski poles, newer skiers are often drawn into wanting to use hands and arms first, a normal human pattern. But without ski poles, they begin to find their feet, down where the skis are, and reduce the slack in the system. (The quip is maybe we should put the skis on our hands and ski upside down.) Thus , to progress, most skiers must develop a new instinct of leg and foot motion. So the advice to the lady was that her instructor was advocating the correct training method. We never heard from her again! She would apparently rather attempt to learn some other way than the way instructors have found that works.
But what exercises might help train the legs and feet before a ski trip? There are fancy exercise machines with which one hops across a curving bar from one side to the other. Likewise, hopping on the floor in a quadrant or side-to-side fashion would seem to help. Just standing in balance on one leg at a time, perhaps bobbing while doing so, must also be useful. Try it while putting on your socks. Do you have a favorite way to train the feet? Probably just strengthening the foot and lower leg muscles going up and down stairs would be useful. Spirited dancing would seem to help. Or pick up some marbles with your toes. And swivel the foot at the ankle joint without moving the leg to develop agility. Although our feet are held firmly inside stiff ski boots when we ski we can still apply pressure to the boot from the inside to create forces that help position the skis. With increased foot and ankle strength and awareness, maybe an instructor would not suggest taking away those precious ski poles! Most learners would like this, and so would most instructors.
Also see That First Skiing Lesson in this skiing web manual, especially the paragraph "Consider the legs" which explores the phenomenon of right-leggedness and left-leggedness and how that affects skiing as well as how to reduce the effects of a too-dominant leg.
Following are links to exercise resources:
Skiing exercises: exits: details of exercises to get into shape for skiing.