Summer is time to train for the slopes

Are you an athlete who doesn’t start training for snow season until October? Do you hit the slopes only to find yourself desperately trying to catch up to your friends? Are you forced to stop mid-run because you’re totally out of breath and have to rest your burning leg muscles?

If you want to be ready to snowride from the first moment you get off the lift, whether on skis or a snowboard, summer is the time to start training. It takes more than four months to hone your body for the precision moves required of a snow athlete. Skimming through the trees or taking a steep black diamond run takes more than muscles. You must target specific muscles, while working on quick eyes, quick feet and quick reflexes.

One of the best training moves you can make is walking backwards on a slightly elevated treadmill. This makes you move ‘downhill,’ while forcing pressure on the front of your feet. It builds your calves, which are extremely important for having finesse on snow, regardless of what or where you’re snowriding. After several weeks, push up the speed of the treadmill. Keep increasing the speed every few weeks.

While almost every gym has a calf-raise machine, it’s better to use free weights for calves. It improves balance. Put a loaded bar on your shoulders and lift up on tiptoe. Try not to take a stutter-step. Use a light weight until you can be sure-footed with heavier poundage.

But the main thing to work on for snow is the core. Ever seen a picture of Lindsay Vonn’s ripped abs? Ripped! The same with Ted Ligety or Travis Rice. Every movement you make starts with the core. This is what you should work on most frequently.

A ‘balance ball’ is actually the only piece of equipment you need. One of the hardest core exercises is to kneel on a ball that isn’t propped against anything and try to balance on it. Your core will shake and flex as you try to find your balance point. You’ll probably fall off at first. Even if you’re a snowboarder, you can use ski poles to support yourself and help maintain balance on the ball.

Put the ball under your lower abs and do pushups — then work on doing them without using your hands. Lay on the floor with your legs on the ball and do situps. Another core exercise: Sit on the ball, fingers locked behind your head, and bend sideways as far as you can without losing balance. Then lean to the other side. Watch yourself in a mirror, or ask someone else to watch you to make sure you’re bending equally as deeply on each side and not doing more work with your dominant side.

Train your ‘spring’ ability, a necessary part of good snowriding, by jumping forward or bounding up a steep hill. This will build strength in your hamstrings, glutes and lower abs. While most folks think that training only their thighs will get them ready for snow season, that’s not true. One exercise plenty of skiers and snowboarders miss is the variety allowed by the Smith machine. Use it. As you do repeated sets on the machine, use the same kind of front-of-the-foot, bent-ankle pressure you do while snowriding, first on one foot and side, then on the other.

Being a snowrider is demanding. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can start working out in autumn, do a few squats and leg crunches and you’ll be ready for the slopes. The best way to be ready is to start now and build a body that allows you to feel secure carving anywhere — through the trees, over narrow cat tracks, through powder or on icy snow.


Wina Sturgeon is the editor of the online magazine Adventure Sports Weekly