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Get in snow shape, Eagle County

Attendees at the Westin's ski conditioning classes can expect to work out using slacklines, kettlebells and Bosu balls, which are pictured here.
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Where to go

Dogma Athletica — Dogma’s six-week program starts Oct. 14. Classes of up to eight participants meet twice a week for cardio work, agility and speed work, plus unlimited access to Dogma Athletica’s cycling, yoga classes and gym. Former ski patroller Brendan Finneran leads these individualized classes and provides participants with a training plan for the season. It is $210 for members and $295 for non-members. Call 970-688-4433; http://www.dogmaathletica.com.

The Westin — The Westin Riverfront Athletic Club debuts Ski Conditioning Mikaela’s Way. The six-week program started Monday and lets participants in on Mikaela’s training regimen, mixing in elements such as slacklining, balance exercises and kettlebells. Classes are free for members and $15 per class for non-members. Choose from five different class times each week. Call 970-790-3020; http://www.spaanjali.com/club.html.

Vail Cascade — For six weeks beginning Oct. 13, ski conditioning classes will provide progressive circuit-style training that incorporates TRX, plyometrics, the FitWall and more. Choose from five classes each week. The program starts at $99 for members and $199 for non-members or drop-ins are $10 for members and $30 for non-members. Call 970-476-7400; http://www.vailcascade.com.

Vail Vitality Center — Olympic Ski and Snowboard Conditioning uses techniques from Olympic athletes to help recreational athletes of all levels learn about nutrition and gain better agility, movement and strength designed to help you avoid injury on the mountain. John Cole, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail human performance director, teaches the small-group classes, which are at 6 a.m., 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays beginning Oct. 13, with a free open house seminar on Thursday at 6 p.m. Cost is $250 for members and $350 for non-members. Call 970-476-7960; http://www.vailvitalitycenter.com.

Avon Rec Center — Classes started Oct. 2. They take place every Tuesday and Thursday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. and go through Nov. 20. Classes are $3 for members and $3 plus the day fee for non-members. Thursday a free functional movement screening through Ascent Physical Therapy will take place. Call 970-748-4060; http://www.avon.org.

Allegria Spa — Up at Beaver Creek, winter sports conditioning classes started Monday. The classes will be held Mondays and Tuesdays at 5:15 p.m., Thursdays at 12:15 p.m. and Saturdays at 10 a.m. Call 970-827-4933; http://www.allegriaspa.com.

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Steal the moves

Side plank: Dogma Athletica’s Brendan Finneran says the side plank builds lateral core strength, posture and body awareness. Start off on your left forearm with your left hip on the ground and your flexed feet stacked on top of one another. Slowly raise the hips off the floor by engaging the left oblique muscles and pressing down on the knife-edge side of your left foot. Think about elevating the hips by reaching your top right hand straight up to the ceiling. Hold for 30 seconds each side.

Lateral leap: Start with your weight on one leg and leap laterally to land on the other leg. Once you control the landing, quickly jump back onto the other side. Start with what you’re comfortable with, but focus on jumping far and high, and changing directions quickly. Start with intervals of 20 seconds and work up. Westin trainer Jeff Draper says the exercise is great for strength, balance and teaching the body to absorb impact.

Squat progression: Jeff Morgan, of the Vail Vitality Center, said squats that target the glutes and hip muscles help skiers gain power, strength and stamina, taking pressure off your quads. Stand in a squat stance with a two-by-four under your heels. Hold a weight in both hands (a weight that you can control for high reps) and lower into the squat, concentrating on activating your glute muscles. Repeat for 20 to 30 reps.

EAGLE COUNTY — No one can say for sure that we’ll have an epic snow year or predict how many inches of powder will stack up this winter. But you can make sure of one thing — that your body is ready for whatever winter decides to bring us.

Ski conditioning programs — usually six-week group classes that take participants through cardio, plyometrics and muscle-building exercises — have long been a rite of passage in the Vail area. Enthusiastic skiers and snowboarders take the to the gyms to whip themselves into snow shape and secondarily to get pumped up for winter.

The newest wave of ski conditioning classes builds on the success of local ski celebrities, such as Olympic slalom gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin, while others put additional emphasis on the getting pumped up part. After-parties and giveaways make the workouts social events, too — sort of a pep rally for the upcoming season.



We chatted with a number of trainers in the Vail Valley to gather their ski conditioning secrets and to talk about what participants can expect at the gyms this fall.



Train like A Pro

The Eagle-Vail teen skiing sensation has her own workout video. No really — Mikaela Shiffrin will be featured in weekly videocasts at The Westin Riverfront Athletic Club. Shiffrin has been training with a new strength and conditioning coach the past season, doing unconventional gym work that includes walking on slacklines, jumping from exercise ball to exercise ball and other core stability exercises.

The Westin brings some of Shiffrin’s training methods to the public with this year’s ski conditioning program. Each class starts with a video from the Olympian, and the ensuing exercises will be based off the video.



“We’ll definitely be doing some work on the new slacklines, and some exercises will involve kettlebells and Bosu balls,” said Westin trainer Jeff Draper. “They will be unique to what a gold medalist uses to get ready for her season. It’s a new and fresh approach with exercises that people might have never done before.”

Expect the regimen to be challenging and unique — Shiffrin herself admitted that the exercises weren’t easy to do at the beginning, but said that after doing them for a few weeks, she saw a world of difference.

Training for real-world skiing

Dogma Athletica trainer Brendan Finneran says a common mistake people make when training for ski season is failing to train the whole body or jumping straight from summer activities to winter sports.

“A common misconception is that skiing is a quad-dominated sport, and people don’t take into account the fact that any force has a pull,” he said “You have to make your hamstrings and glutes are strong, too. Not having those fired up can lead to injuries in the early season.”

Finneran, a former ski patroller, will lead Dogma’s six-week program this October, and he said he hopes the small class sizes will allow participants to focus on form. During the six weeks, he’ll help participants carve out a training plan beyond the twice-a-week classes.

Training techniques have changed in the past decade, he said, and recreational skiers can now benefit from new philosophies and exercises.

“Ten years ago, training was coming just from the people who competed in downhill,” he said. “People did a lot of Olympic-style lifts to gain strength. Now that there are so many more people out there, competing in park, moguls and freeskiing, there’s a lot more emphasis on instability training, which is done on an unstable surface. Also, it’s not about how much weight you can move. It’s about the ability to balance with a load over a high number of reps.”

Draper said that at modern ski conditioning programs, you won’t see much of the old-school wall sits. These day’s it’s more about dynamic movements, he said.

“There are a lot of training methodologies that have been used in the past that have been great in their own right, but they don’t always cross directly to the mountain,” he said. “Now we do explosive lateral movements, teach the body to absorb impact with jumping and plyometrics. We look to work on agility, balance and strength.”

Filling in the fitness gaps

Maybe you’ve been hiking or biking hard all summer, and you feel like you’re in pretty good shape to jump right into skiing. It’s a dangerous mistake, trainers said.

Finneran points out that you use distinctly different muscles and movements is skiing, and your body isn’t used to it at first. Add in the fact that skiing is a high-speed sport, and your risk of getting injured in much greater, he said.

Draper cautions that even if you are extremely fit for a particular summer sport, you should still start with the basics for ski training.

“Even if you’re in great physical condition for biking, for example, that’s for biking,” said Draper. “With skiing you have to start at the basics and progress. You’ll have imbalances that have arisen from your previous training, whatever that is, which might not bode so well for ski season. Cyclists, for example, need to focus on lateral movement, which you don’t have much of on a bike.”

That’s the approach that the Aria Athletic Club at the Vail Cascade Resort & Spa is taking. Their six-week program focuses on an upward progression of fitness, incorporating different activities such as the FitWall studio, TRX bands and yoga practice for cooldown.

“This year it’s going to be less about just getting in shape for winter and more about the journey of getting in shape,” said Aria Athletic Director Dan Timm. “People will experience the camaraderie of the group environment, and the weeks will be a progression.”

The Cascade will also try to incorporate some of the apres atmosphere of ski season, with a kick-off party, closing party and giveaways at every class that include everything from goggles to skis to two-night hotel stays.

“The evening classes are great just to feel the energy,” said Timm. “It’s about getting the locals together.”

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and mwong@vaildaily.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.


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