Quest for strength |

Quest for strength

Veronica Whitney

Robert Gosiewski, a ski racer with Ski and Snowboard Club Vail.

Using the KT 1000, a knee ligament arthrometer, McCaslin, who works at the Howard Head Sports Medicine Center in Vail, measures the stretch of Gosiewski’s Anterior-Cruciate Ligament (or ACL).

This was good news for the 17-year-old because healthy knees are essential to ski racing.

In another area of the sports medicine center, Kaitlin Rapson, 17, a snowboarder from Vail, who also trains with Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, struggles to stretch a sport cord (tight rubber cord) with her leg.

“With the resistance we’re trying to detect quad strength and see how much endurance they have,” says Steve Stalzer, a physical trainer with Howard Head Sports Medicine Center. “This is a tough exercise to do unless you’re trained.”

No kidding. Rapson sights as she tries to finish her three-minutes of cord stretching.

As a kick off for the season, 25 skiers and snowboarders from the club were put through an extensive assessment of strength, balance, agility, core stability and knee stability.

“Together, Ski and Snowboard Club Vail and Howard Head Sports Medicine Center are offering world class performance enhancement training to local athletes,” Stalzer says.

Ski and Snowboard Club Vail recently named Howard Head Sports Medicine Center the official rehabilitation and performance enhancement center for the athletes of the club.

“With their help, we’ll be able to isolate certain areas that could improve their performance,” says Ethan Beck, head women ski coach with Ski and Snowboard Club Vail.

Testing was designed by the therapists of Howard Head Sports Medicine who collaborated with trainers from the U.S. Ski Team to create a comprehensive functional examination.

“With these tests, we’re able to identify which areas each athlete has to work on,” Stalzer adds. “When the assessments are done, we’ll give each athlete a training program to improve their strength in the areas they need to.”

During the assessments last Tuesday and Thursday, each athlete performed 14 exercises. Exercises were chosen to assess a combination of strength, balance, agility, and core stability, Stalzer explains.

“Strong core and legs are essential to the sport (skiing and snowboarding) because they increase performance and help avoid injuries,” he adds.

Training results

The strength tests come after five months of intense training, Beck says. Skiers at Ski and Snowboard Club Vail started their five-days a week conditioning training in July. In the fall, athletes train six days a week.

“With a high caliber skier you need this amount of training,” Beck adds.

“All disciplines in skiing require strength and agility.”

Single leg squats and single leg lateral step downs were used to assess quadriceps and lower extremity strength. Athletes then performed lateral agility, forward running and backward running exercises with a sport cord Core stability was tested by having athletes perform several exercises while maintaining good trunk control and a neutral spine. After demonstrating proper trunk control with basic exercises, athletes used an exercise ball for more advanced exercises. Bridging with feet on a ball, push-ups using the ball and leg lifts with feet on the ball were all used to test back and core strength.

“The hardest one was the Dyna Disk,” says Andrew Bowden, a 15-year-old of South Dakota, who is training with Ski and Snowboard Club Vail for some months.

To test balance, athletes balanced on a Dyna Disc (a slightly inflated ball) while touching five markers on the ground in a semi circle in front of them. This five-point-reach exercise is a U.S. Ski Team test.

“In skiing, you create a lot of centrifugal forces that require strength to deal with,” Beck says. “If you’re not strong enough, your technique suffers.”

Therapists at Howard Head Sport Medicine Center offer world-class physical and occupational therapy to residents and visitors of Eagle and Summit counties. Therapists specialize in sports medicine, back and neck pain, hand injuries, injury prevention, pilates and occupational health.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at

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