Vail athletes prepare for ski season
Ryan Summerlin October 12, 2012
VAIL, Colorado – Sports teams must prepare. Every sport has a certain level of fitness that one must maintain in the off-season in order to see improvement during the season. Skiing and snowboarding are no different. Ski season, and winter in general, has that uncanny habit of sneaking up on us. One day it’s cycling season and the next there’s 2 feet of snow. Staying active during the off-season is absolutely paramount for performing well during the ski season. Different forms of snowsports require different training programs. Whether it’s freestyle, alpine, or snowboarding there are certain exercises that will maximize your preparation for that falling white stuff that we all love so much. While most see the dry-land training season primarily as fall, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail has programs that begin training when the mountain closes. However, most training programs begin in the middle of August. The five programs that Ski and Snowboard Club Vail offer are Nordic, alpine, freestyle (moguls), snowboard, and freeski (backcountry, halfpipe and slopestyle). Although the principal of sliding down frozen rain on either two planks of wood or one is fairly simple, we all know there is more that goes in to it. The same is true for winter preparation. Here is how Ski and Snowboard Club Vail goes about different ways of training for different disciplines of the sport. Nordic skiersNordic skiing is all about fitness and endurance. Nordic skiers must maintain incredible fitness throughout the off-season in order to excel during the season. It comes as no surprise that Ski and Snowboard Club Vail’s Nordic athletes train six days a week (sometimes even twice a day). SSCV athlete Christian Shanley is a Vail Valley local that described what it takes to prepare for the winter.”Right now we are focusing a lot on big interval sessions,” he said. “This helps us get our minds back in the race mentality. On Monday and Thursday mornings we are in the gym at 6:30 lifting. Six days a week we either run, bike, or “bound” in the afternoon. Bounding is essentially speed hiking with ski poles. Our bike rides are usually two to three hours long in the afternoon, and our longer runs are around two to three hours.”The level of fitness these athletes maintain is impressive to say the least. Nordic skiers should maintain strong aerobic fitness by running, hiking and biking during the off-season.Alpine skiersAlpine skiers rely heavily on gravity (pun intended). SSCV Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Jake Wurth discussed why it is so important for alpine skiers to put on muscle during dry-land training.”Alpine skiers train differently than Nordic skiers due to the sheer nature of the sport. These kids are relying on their weight and their strength to get them down the hill as quickly as possible. The more muscle mass they have the better,” Wurth said. Agility and core exercises play a role in conditioning, but the majority of the preparation comes from strength and power lifting for the legs. Alpine skiers have to be able to quickly distribute their weight in order to maximize their turns and their time.”We focus a lot of time on power, isometric power and muscle endurance,” Wurth said.Some great alpine skiing exercises are single leg squats, walking downhill with weights, wall sits and high angle hiking. Freestyle skiers:The newly hired Freestyle Program Director John Dowling sheds some light on what it takes to get in shape if you are planning on skiing moguls this winter.”Every discipline has its overall strength and conditioning programs,” Dowling said. “To be a strong freestyle skier you must be quick. We focus a lot of our time at SSCV on speed, and agility. We also train numerous lateral movement exercises that resemble mogul skiing.”Trampoline training and air awareness are hugely important when it comes to preparing for the season.”For now we train on the trampolines at the SSCV Clubhouse in Golden Peak to prepare for the winter,” he said.SSCV and Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy are just finishing up developing a state of the art trampoline facility at the Academy’s campus. This will help students and athletes hone their air awareness in a safe manner before the season starts. Dowling discusses the importance of cross training with other sports that use lateral movements such as soccer and tennis.”Competitive skiers should be involved in many sports,” Dowling said. “The mental aspect of mogul skiing is huge. Mogul skiers should partake in mental strengthening programs such as yoga or martial arts.”SnowboardersStaying active and balanced is a great piece of advice given by Ski and Snowboard Club Vail coach Elijah Teter. Teter has had years of snowboard coaching experience and has seen it all.”Whether it is going to the gymnastics facility, skate park, going for a hike or a run, it all helps prepare for the winter,” Teter said. “We encourage the kids to stay active and mix it up outside of our training program.”A typical week of training with the snowboard program includes soccer, boxing, basketball, cross fitness drills, stretching, and weight lifting.”It is important when training for snowboarding to simulate activities that prepare you for anything,” Teter said. “We try to do a bit of everything with the kids to keep it fun and keep them in shape. We also spend a lot of time on the trampoline to develop air awareness and comfort.”Snowboarders should focus their time working out in ways that keeps them versatile and prepared for anything. Snowboarders should spend time doing CrossFit exercises, skating, and establishing air awareness. FreeskiersThere are numerous factors that go in to preparing for freeskiing. Freeski Coach Peter O’Brien explains a bit about the training aspects of the freeski department.”We have a lot of areas we need to focus on so we need to be well rounded to mitigate the injuries that sometimes come with the sport,” O’Brien said.Twice a week the kids jump on the trampoline to establish air awareness. Twice a week the kids that are 15 years and older are in the gym lifting and working on high intensity circuit workouts. Those that are younger than 15 spend this time doing aerobic workouts. Once a week the team does yoga lead by two qualified yoga instructors that happen to be parents of the some of the athletes. Establishing leg strength, stretching, and making sure to get on a trampoline are the recommendations given by freeski coaches to get prepared for the winter. Whether you’re planning on ripping up some moguls, charging past some slalom gates, or even dropping in to a half pipe this season, winter is almost here and it is sure to be a good one. Now is the time to get in shape for it. Michael Suleiman is marketing and communications manager for Ski and Snowboard Club Vail.