Vail Daily column: Stick to the time-tested basics |

Vail Daily column: Stick to the time-tested basics

Ryan W. Richards
Make It Count

Last Thursday was the quintessential bluebird ski day. It was sunny and cold, and the snow was still soft and light from previous snowfall the Monday before. The snow must have reignited the stoke from the dry spell the previous two weeks. Skier traffic was above average for a weekday that perpetuated a critical mass of riders in certain bottlenecks and slow zones.

My first run of the morning was unforgettable. I was brutally hit from behind by an eager snowboarder who appeared blissfully disengaged, listening to music as he failed to scan the terrain on his heel edge. I never saw him as he came directly from behind. The dude hit me hard. I double ejected, broke the cuff of my ski boot and thankfully the rest was all green pastures. This all happened in the slow zone. You know, the one that most people disrespect and think it doesn’t apply to them.

This article isn’t exclusively about the ongoing problems we have on the mountain with collisions, poor skill and other acts of God that happen on this natural playground. This article is about the current state of the fitness industry. Our fitness landscape is just like the slow zone on the mountain. There are all walks of life skiing at different skill levels, traveling different speeds in all directions, and some riders are completely oblivious to respecting the basic premise of slowing down and simply making it to the lift unscathed. Our human condition reinforces these problems because we are too impatient and eager; we want the goods right now. People getting injured in the slow zone or sacrificing basic foundational fitness for long-term health be darned. We can’t respect the slow zone because someone else might beat us to the top and get to the stash before we do. Performing basic, time tested exercises isn’t fun and exciting. Corrective exercises are boring, and they don’t immediately support the need to get into skinny jeans by next weekend for the bachelorette party. If you don’t get skinny in time for the party, no one’s going to love you and you’re going to die a lonely miserable death.

We all know a great skier when we see him. As you ride up the chairlift, you may see 20 average skiers, two good skiers and, rarely, one great skier who stands out above the rest. He does it right, and you wonder, “what is the secret to great skiing?” The great skier knows something that every other skier doesn’t. Time tested basic ski techniques practiced over and over again deliver results. Simple, basic maneuvers. Those maneuvers work in powder, crud, bumps and everything in between. A good turn is a good turn, and technique doesn’t change because the snow conditions do. By the way, please don’t tell me that you’re a good skier and then demonstrate that you’re only good on groomers and the backcountry. Hero snow covers a multitude of sins. After all, it’s not that you can’t ski bumps, it’s that you can’t ski and the bumps prove it. Don’t tell me how strong your core is from Pilates class as you injure your back picking up the newspaper from your deck or how you finally managed a two-times-bodyweight deadlift and you can’t even touch your toes.

How many times have you read a fitness ad in the newspaper claiming that their gym offers a variety of 128 different core exercises and 50 different classes to suit your needs? We are impatient and don’t want to bother learning the right way to exercise; novelty and variety appeals to this condition. We can’t even own one pair of skis anymore because companies are making so many different ski designs. These skis help us when the going gets tough. We need at least five pairs for every condition, and ski manufactures exploit this.

The dangers in the slow zone will prevail. There will always be a host of fitness programs, gurus, classes and self-help books that will pull you in all directions. For me, I will stick to the time-tested basics in the gym and hammer these hard. I will continue to ski on my humble, all-mountain skinny skis most of the season. I will continue to impress upon my students in the fitness game that there is no such thing as a quick fix or a 90-day challenge. Time-tested basics performed over the years will keep you in your skinny jeans in the first place and help you achieve skiing greatness. Finally, slow down and be careful out there. There is no hurry to get to the goods. We are here to ski for life, and when we accept that fitness is for life, it puts less stress on us right now to fit into a silly pair of jeans by next weekend.

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.

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