Richards: Start strength training now for ski, snowboard season (column) |

Richards: Start strength training now for ski, snowboard season (column)

Ryan Richards
Make it Count
Fitness goals for skiers and snowboarders should be to build the ability to maintain positional integrity under duress. This will help keep good posture, especially on tiring poweder days.
Townsend Bessent | Daily file photo

There are many great statements to define fitness, and even more approaches to acquire fitness stardom. The simplest definition of fitness is “the ability to perform a task.”

A clear goal of running a marathon simplifies the training process; running, and progressively increasing the mileage over time delivers results for this specific task. Other sports such as skiing and snowboarding require a different approach because the needs of these individuals are different than runners.

A great fitness definition for skiers is “the ability to maintain positional integrity under duress.” As the fall approaches, here is the first installment to get your body winter ready.


Imagine riding up the chairlift and witnessing a great skier (or snowboarder) flow down the mountain with grace, speed and control. On the other hand, average riders are often out of balance, fighting the snow in a bout of exhaustion.

One of the defining features of great skiing is postural alignment — even under fatigue, great skiers stay balanced. Muscular strength is generally responsible for maintaining balance and alignment. Before discussing the ability to resist fatigue by increasing specific muscular endurance, start building your foundation for the next four to six weeks progressively increasing your strength.

For many reasons, including postural integrity-strength, the most general of fitness qualities must precede endurance, or “conditioning.” Here’s why. Imagine performing 20 squats with a 50 pound sandbag in a typical ski conditioning, circuit class. Comparing two athletes, assume athlete A can squat a maximum of 100 pounds and athlete B can squat a maximum of 200 pounds. During the sandbag exercise, athlete A is performing at 50 percent of his maximum effort; the stronger athlete B is operating at 25 percent of his maximum capacity. Because athlete B is stronger, he’s operating at a lower percentage of his maximum; he will more effectively maintain his posture, form and ultimately endure more easily in the class, or on the hill because of his greater strength.


Here’s how to do it.

Pick two barbell exercises: a lower body and an upper body exercise. The choices are endless: back squats, deadlifts, single leg deadlifts, RDLs, front squats, zercher squats, lunges, presses, rows, jerks, bench presses, etc. Regardless, perform the exact same (two) exercises five days per week.

For the lower body exercise, start with a load you could easily perform 10 repetitions with. For the upper body exercise, start with a load you could perform 15 repetitions with.

Each day, perform the lifts for five sets, of two repetitions. Every day, increase the weight by five pounds. End the cycle when two repetitions feels like a bonafide maximum. At this point, you should be ready for typical ski conditioning classes or other training modalities to prepare you for winter.

Ryan Richards is a fitness professional who has been keeping the Vail Valley strong for over a decade. You can reach him at or 970-401-0720.


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