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Culture » Get Out

Ready to Race

Whether for competition or fun, training to race will improve your performance.


When it comes to extracurricular activities at the resorts—outdoors on the slopes, that is—racing is king. If you hit one of the easy pay courses at Park City Mountain Resort or Snowbasin, you’ll even have to wait in line. Recreational ski racing—whether Nastar, Masters, league or “town” race—gets bigger every year. The basic primal draw of “I can go faster than you” is a great motivator.

But ski racers have to be in a lot better shape than your everyday snowrider. Racing is a sprint-type power sport requiring coordination as well as strength. Using a racer’s workout to get in ski shape will also make you a much better skier. The exercises and training programs used for racing are so specific, they are almost clichés: squat, lunge, deadlift, bench press, triceps and lat pulldown; light weight and many reps at first, fewer reps and heavier weights as the season gets close. But there are many other important parts to the racer’s workout.

Jeff Burrows, director of Colorado’s Winter Park Resort Competition Center, is a sometimes-coach who will be organizing the largest ski race in the world this coming spring. The Nastar Nationals will again be held at Winter Park, with between 1,200-1,400 racers of all ages and abilities, each of whom had to qualify to participate. Utah racers are always among the largest groups at the Nastar Championships.

“You have to train like it matters. The core, butt and thighs are the power points that get you down the hill. The core is key, and anything on a physioball (balance) ball works the core. Flexibility and explosive leg strength are the other key. If you’re not flexible, you can’t use your leg strength optimally. So, you may be strong, but if you’re not flexible, it won’t matter,” says Burrows. Serious racers stretch after every workout. Many do a stretching session even on days they don’t train.

Burrows also advises visualization, another technique used by career racers. “Racing is a timed event, so you have to have that sense of speed. That means thinking about moving fast, going fast, even practicing moving faster,” he says.

One well-known local racer is an inspiration for all rec racers. Bill Skinner is a Masters champion and the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association Masters program coordinator, in charge of the USA Masters. He’s also the head coach of the Intermountain Masters program, based at Park City Mountain Resort. Skinner, in his mid-50s, is also well known for a significant comeback. After slacking off on training for several seasons, his results had sunk down to the middle of the pack. Then, in a race, he suffered a serious leg injury that required surgery.

Skinner quickly saw the light. As a coach who is on the hill every weekday, he realized he had to stay in shape. He started training again. His program put him back on the fast track. Within one season, he’d moved back up the rankings and, at times, was even the fastest racer of the day (mid-50s, remember) Here’s the workout he does three times a week. It takes between an hour to an hour and a half:

“I basically start with the stationary bike. I do 20 minutes of hill climb, get my pulse up to about 130 and keep it there. I then do core training, [starting with] a type of crunch, and do three sets of 20 of those. I then do squats (Note: double his body weight), then machine hamstring, one leg at a time. I also do machines for upper body, biceps, triceps and shoulders. Each workout starts and finishes with 20 minutes on the bike. Then, I stretch,” he says.

If you have questions about his training program, about Masters or about ski racing, call Skinner at the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association at 435-647-2633.