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Culture » Get Out

Get in Snow-Ready Shape

Prepare now for skiing and snowboarding



Oh, no! Early snow and freezing temps have given you a reality check: Many Wasatch Front resorts will be opening in about three weeks, and you’re not yet in shape!

It bites when you have to keep stopping during that first glorious run because you’re gasping for breath and your thighs are burning too much to go on. Can you do anything about it at this late date?

Yes, according to Shannon Mulder, who’s the fitness program director for the University of Utah’s department of exercise & sport science. “Skiing and snowboarding are dynamic sports that involve muscular strength and endurance, balance and flexibility,” she says. When it comes to even one workout for snow season, she says, “There is a ‘dose response’ effect. One workout gives anyone a response, but it’s the continuation of those workouts that begin to promote the growth of muscular strength.”

Mulder is a firm believer is sport-specific exercise. If you’re training for snowriding, you should be targeting the muscles used in skiing and snowboarding, using the same positions and forces used in those sports. Because the core is so important in all forms of snowriding, she suggests sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair whenever you sit for long periods. Your core will be working continuously to stabilize the ball, which also helps develop better balance. To get an increased training effect from the ball, Mulder says, “You can do seated leg extensions and leg raises at your desk. Rotate the torso [as well].”

Snowriding involves a shift of weight from side to side with precise timing for good turns. To develop the balance needed for this weight shift in early season (often crud) snow, Mulder suggests the Bosu ball, which is half an exercise ball fixed on a firm platform. You can work out on either side: Balance on the ball side with the platform on the floor, or go for more difficulty in balancing on the platform with the ball on the floor. The more inflated the Bosu ball is, the harder the challenge of balancing. Once you’ve got the balance down, practice jumping from left foot to right foot to simulate the weight shift used on snow.

Elevate the challenge by doing squats on the Bosu. Raise it even more by holding dumbbells while doing squats, but start slowly until you learn the balance involved.

Biking is a good snowriding simulation. “Cycling can be cardio or strength. For strength, if outside, climb a hill. Indoors, use a higher resistance load to output more power. This recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers, which gives more strength and power,” Mulder says.

For those who have no knee, back or hip problems, and are basically fit, she recommends an advanced exercise: the jumping-jack squat. To do it, squat and then spring up, doing a jumping jack and raising your arms in the air as high as you can. Land with a “soft” knee, absorb the compression and come back down in a squat.

But an essential thing to remember is that you’re not going to make up for a summer of sloth in three weeks. If you work out so hard that you clinically overtrain, tiring your muscles down to a cellular level, that’s as bad as not training at all. Don’t use resistance on the same muscles every day, or even every other day. Give muscles time to recuperate from every workout.

Remember that aerobic fitness is also part of snowriding, especially because of the higher altitude. Run, do an aerobics class or do some fast, flat bike pedaling to get your heart rate up at least once a day, and you’ll be in better shape to hit the slopes once the snow starts stacking up.