Countdown to ski season in Eagle County |

Countdown to ski season in Eagle County

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
CVR ski conditioning KA 10-13-10

VAIL, Colorado – Instructors at the Aria Club’s ski conditioning class don’t just want you to feel the burn, they want you to feel fire, constantly, for an hour and a half straight.

The class is about more than just pain, though, and the people who attend appreciate the workout – at least after it’s over. The best part is that you don’t have to be in tip-top shape to attend – take it from me, someone who hadn’t stepped foot inside the gym for a rather embarrassing amount of time and was able to complete two recent classes without passing out.

The class is designed to get people into shape for the ski season. It about progression and pushing yourself, but it’s also about staying within each person’s own ability level.

The instructors will tell you that it’s not about competing with the person next to you, it’s about competing with yourself.

Xavier McNichols, of West Vail, attended for the first time last week and was impressed.

“I’m a snowboarder, not a skier. I’m trying to strengthen my lower half so I’m not struggling in the powder,” McNichols said. “And I’ll tell you what, at least three of the five segments knocked me on my butt.”

This is for a guy who’s in “pretty good shape for a 35-year-old,” he said, but it wasn’t to the point over over-exertion or exhaustion.

“But still to the point like I was about to fall over,” McNichols joked.

Aria trainer Mike Benedict designed the program with the Aria staff, as well as Ski and Snowboard Club Vail Human Performance Director John Cole. And this year, local celebrity athlete Chris Anthony, who has appeared in about 20 Warren Miller ski films, has joined the staff.

Anthony told the class on opening night that the weeks of training before ski season are the most important weeks of the ski season. It’s what you do now, in preparation, that will make you strong and prevent injuries, he said.

Patti Hyre, an Aria trainer who is teaching ski conditioning there for the 11th straight year, said the Aria staff has been working hard this year to come up with new and different exercises. She said this year there’s a special focus on form, too.

“No matter what level you’re at, you can come and do the whole six weeks,” Hyre said. “It’s really for all levels.”

Darian Smith, 43, attended last year’s class and came back for more this year for one very simple reason – he felt the difference. He didn’t go into last ski season cold turkey because he had been through ski conditioning, he said. He also didn’t have any injuries last season.

“You start (the ski season) with a base core strength,” Smith said. “I noticed a huge difference last year over previous years. I was able to charge it right away and not have any problems.”

There’s plyometrics, core strength, upper body strength, cardiovascular fitness, agility and everything in between at the Aria’s ski conditioning class. And the class is big – an evening class can have as many as 75 people in it at times – but it’s broken up into smaller groups so the training is more personalized. There are also a ton of sponsors, which means giveaways at the end of the class that include everything from personal training gift certificates to supplements to overnight hotel stays.

The real prize, however, is the shape you’ll be in when it’s over. Just don’t expect the class to be easy. You’re going to sweat and you’re going to lose your breath, but it’s all for the greater good.

“It was intense, they push you,” said Sarah Hoffman, who is trying the class for the first time this year. “There’s not a lot of rest time, which is good.”

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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