Thinking of taking a break over summer? Think again. The next few months are all about training body and mind so you can hit the slopes even harder next winter – here’s how you can make a jump start on your winter training
Words Simon Ashton
So this year’s European winter season has drawn to a close. As the marmots pop out from their winter hibernation and the pistes turn back into high mountain pastures you know summer is on its way, but it’s never too early to start getting ready for next season’s snowfall.
Regular readers of Fall-Line may remember that I snapped my Achilles tendon two years ago. I was back on skis last winter, but it’s only this season, after a proper summer of exercise, that I realise how far I’d fallen below my normal fitness levels post-accident. Skiing with my friend Dean, who I think is the most naturally gifted skier I’ve ever met, I was faster than him for the first couple of days of our recent trip together.
Of course, the natural order began to reassert itself and he was soon out-skiing me, but I’d had him for a while. Although there’s no substitute for skiing to get the appropriate level of fitness, it was the hard hours in the gym that got me ready, especially for the hikes to the untouched powder, or back to resort when a particularly sweet run had left us in the middle of nowhere.
The secret training aide – Bosu ball
I’d asked my gym trainer to change my routine, which was heavily biased to the aerobic, and put together some exercises that would prepare me for thigh-burning lines. After showing them some videos and explaining how I fatigued, they suggested the use of a Bosu ball. Essentially, half a fitness ball stuck on to a big plastic plate, this rather strange looking contraption can be used either way up, and is an amazing tool to help build lactate tolerance and develop quick ski movements. After all, if it’s good enough for alpine ski racer Mikaela Schiffrin then it’s good enough for me…
The main exercises I use it for are lateral hops – which are great for leg lean and power – single and double leg squats using both the flat and round sides of the Bosu, and a thigh-burning exercise in a low squat wobbling it from side to side. I can’t explain what a revelation it was to use the Bosu, and how much it improved my ski preparation.
Now enlightened, I’m going to spend all summer beefing up my thighs so I can cut a foot-deep trench with every turn. My legs will be like big hams! Fancy joining me? If so, there are a heap of Bosu ball ski conditioning videos online to inspire you.
Mix it up
Of course, don’t limit it to the Bosu ball; get on your mountain or road bike to build stamina, surfing for balance and agility (as well as a lot of fun) – and don’t neglect that all-important core.
Of course, summer can be a fantastic time to build skills and confidence too. If you’re keen to get into those out-of-the-way places that might require you to rope in, then get in your local climbing gym. Not only will this improve your climbing skills, but it will develop agility and strength. You’ll also dial in those knot and belaying skills. If nothing else it will increase your confidence working at height. I recently skied with someone who was struck with vertigo as we negotiated a pitch with a little bit of exposure. It was a real struggle getting down. Perhaps if he’d had the opportunity to do a little bit of climbing he may not have found it so difficult.
Developing these skills gives you options for escape when you get into difficulty, but will also allow you to access some sweet, sweet lines. I’m a firm believer in lifetime learning. Every year I spend a few days refreshing with a coach, and also a few hours training in a snowdome concentrating on technique. Snowdomes and dry ski slopes are a fantastic place to hone skills.
So get on a weekend course at your local slope. If you can stretch to the time and cost, book a course on one of the glaciers too. Race train, performance train, mogul train – do something to get you out of that rut and to give you confidence to tackle those bigger lines.
Now is also the time to start compiling your wish-list for those new skis, boots, or über-lightweight shell you’ve been dreaming of. As soon as all the shiny new gear lands at your local shop this autumn you want to be ready. In the meantime, make sure your old equipment is sorted and properly put into bed for the summer. Take your batteries out of your transceiver – you don’t want to discover next winter that they have disintegrated and trashed it. Service your skis, or get them serviced. I make sure mine are sharpened and waxed, ready for when December rolls around. I also leave them un-scraped so they are nicely protected, especially the edges, against rust. Another bonus to getting your skis serviced at this time of the year is that the technicians have had a long winter to practice and hone their technique on somebody else’s skis.
If you wait for the start of next winter your planks will join the million other skis that have just been dropped into the store, and you might get the new boy/girl servicing them. Check your other equipment for breaks and tears (loosening seams on gloves is a classic), so that you can obtain parts or get them fixed in plenty of time.
Above all, don’t think of summer as a break, but a time to prepare. There is work to do, people. Bring on next winter.
More things you can do this summer to prepare for first snow: