So you’ve booked your ski holiday and you have thoroughly stalked the ski resorts social media to check the snow conditions and après ski. But you shouldn’t just be thinking about what to pack or the latest ski equipment to buy, you need to get your body fit for the ski season.
Here at Champneys HQ we know the answer is to prepare your body during the months and weeks leading up to your trip as this will improve your performance and will reduce the chance of injuries.
With the help of some experts we take you through a ski trip countdown you should follow and things you need to consider like exercising certain muscles and even going on relaxing spa breaks ahead of your holiday.
Many experts recommend preparing for the ski season up to a couple of months in advance. Absolute Snow, says, “It’s good to start preparing for your ski/snowboarding holiday two to three months in advance. Skiing and snowboarding really tests muscle strength and stamina so it’s good to get a head start, especially if you don’t exercise on a regular basis.”
Yoga, Pilates and gym classes are a great way to get fit and each one has their benefits for skiers and snowboarders.
Amanda Fryer-Harris, who runs Body Core Pilates, says skiers should always include Pilates as part of their pre and post programme.
She says, “Six weeks gives a person a good foundation to start with & time for the body to respond to the training.
“We need to look at working on strength, mobility & stability, start from the foundations up!! Foot work, those feet and ankles need to be stable and mobile all at the same time. Work on toes first, just get them moving, think Mexican wave from the big toe to little toe (think playing a piano if Mexican wave doesn't work) or imagine picking marbles up with your toes, get the base of your feet working, these things hold the rest of your body up.
“Moving onto outsides of feet (soles of feet face in) then inside of feet (soles of feet face out) this mobilises & strengthens ankles. From there roll sole of foot on a spiky ball or a tennis ball will do! A quarter of the bones in your body are in your feet....”
The Ski Club of Great Britain also recommends going to yoga and Pilates classes to prepare for the ski season, “Yoga and Pilates are a great way to flex and stretch the body in preparation for skiing, in fact most of the world’s top skiers use Yoga related exercises in their warmup routines. Be careful not to over extend and cause yourself an injury before you even hit the slopes, progression is the key to getting flexible! For ski specific workouts and warm ups you can follow Ski Club President Chemmy Alcott’s routines here.”
Ski World, the UK’s largest independent ski operator, agrees that it's important to work your core muscles by doing yoga, “Skiing and snowboarding uses muscles which simply don’t get the same intensive workout in everyday life so if you want to get the most out of a trip to the mountains in winter you should start preparing at least six weeks before your trip.
“There are loads of guides online for getting ‘ski fit’ and the wealth of knowledge can become confusing. Keeping it simple is best. A daily ten minute beginners yoga practice will stretch everything you need to stretch and give you a great start to the day or a de-stressing end to it. Yoga is also great for balance, and by Incorporating some extended standard and side planks you’ll strengthen your core too.
“Ultimately, you don’t need to join a gym to get the most out of a week’s ski holiday. You can use your own bodyweight for resistance to build muscle. For example, single and double leg squats are fantastic for reinforcing knee stability and you can do tricep dips off your lounge sofa. The most important thing is time – don’t expect that a handful of exercises a week before you do much in the way of helping!”
Yoga and Pilates are great for toning and strengthening your muscles, but it is important to do some cardio before your ski trip.
The Ski Club of Great Britain says, “Cardio is also important as you can spend up to 6-7 hours on the slopes each day, the majority of ski injuries happen after 3pm almost certainly with fatigue as a contributing factor. Cycling, running and taking longer walks will help you build up some stamina.”
Absolute Snow agrees, “Another form of low impact exercise is cycling, and this targets your legs. Regular cycling will really help to minimise sore and achy legs after those first couple of days on the slopes.
“Regular cardio and weight sessions are good for general fitness and will help to build stamina. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is also a great way to help build strength and fitness through short intense bursts of energy that work multiple muscle groups. There are tons of HIIT training videos on YouTube that you can follow – they last anywhere between 10 and 30 minutes and they can be done in the comfort of your own home, which is great if you’re not keen to join a gym or just don’t have the time.”
Concentrating on your diet is important all-year round, but in the build-up to a ski holiday it is even more vital.
Absolute Snow says, “A balanced, healthy diet that includes lots of fruit, veg, lean meat and fish is great for preparing you for your holiday. Cutting down alcohol intake is also one the key things that will aid your pre-holiday training. Alcohol is packed with empty calories and will really dehydrate you, which does not help with muscle recovery after a tough training session.”
Gavin Buckingham, Senior Ski Specialist at Ski in Luxury, agrees, “There’s no big secret or magic vegetable that is going to make you an incredible skier.
“A healthy, balanced diet is plenty of preparation. If you already eat well then stick to what you are doing. If not, your upcoming ski trip could be the motivation you need for several weeks with visions of raclette and afternoon tea keeping you on the carrot sticks!
“We’d love to say it’s pretty cold and a layer of insulation from Alpine foods such as fondue or chocolate will help, but we’d be lying. However it could make you go that little bit faster through sheer momentum?!”
James & Kristen Lummis from Brave Ski Mom recommends using resistant bands, also known as Thera bands, to strengthen hips, knees and ankles.
“Skiing and snowboarding require strong hips and knees. Strong hips protect knees, so exercises that build hip strength and flexibility are really good.
“My favourites use a small stretchy band. I place it around my ankles and then walk sideways with the resistance. It’s also good for “skating” forward and back (use an ice skating motion, moving each leg independently).”
There is a large variety of exercises you can add into your daily, or weekly routine, before you go on your ski holiday, but there are some essential ones you need to do.
Rachael Oakes-Ash from Snows Best, the snow travel blog, says imitating the movement of skiing will help you prepare.
She says, “Anything that involves squats, and movements and exercise that mimic the movements of skiing and snowboarding so that you can train the body parts that will be used the most. Hamstring stretches are imperative as we shorten these when skiing or boarding due to the squat stance.”
Nonstop Snow, the home of ski instructor courses and off piste camps, also recommend exercises such as squats, wall sits and lunges.
“Any exercise will provide benefits to your overall health and fitness, however there are a few things that a more suited to getting your body ready for the slopes. Squats, wall sits and lunges will help build your leg strength and get you down those mountains without having to stop. Planking is also a good exercise to strengthen your core, helping with stance and balance and dealing with the ever changing terrain under your skis.”
- Squats: Squats not only strengthen the large muscles in the legs but will also help increase mobility in the lower joints. Rather than adding weights, try to push the endurance. Squat for 30 seconds without stopping, then 1min, then 2min. This means you can keep going for longer down the slopes without having to stop so frequently.
- Lunges: Again a simple exercise going for endurance rather than adding weights, though a kettlebell in each hand works if you want to push yourself.
- Crunches: Pull the muscles below your belly button in towards your spine and then looking between your knees, raise your shoulders off the floor, supporting the head with the hands.
- This really works all of your abs, but keeps the lower ones engaged which are normally forgotten, and “pouch” out during exercise. By having a strong core you will be better able to balance which is vital with the dynamic nature of skiing, especially for those looking to get some serious angles or rock the moguls. This is also important to do every evening after skiing. Just a few sets of reps, it counteracts the skiing position and reduces the stress on your lumbar but recruiting the abs to support it.
Russian Twists are also highly recommended for skiers to try and here you’ll need to sit on the top of your bottom in a ‘V’ shape with your legs in the air and bent, and with your fists locked together. You then rotate and touch the ground either side slowly. This particular exercise will strengthen your obliques or the side of your abs.
Using a Bosu Balance Board is advised by Gavin Buckingham and Rowena Philips, “The most forgotten but probably the most important tool in preparing for your ski holiday is a balance board. The ground under our feet changes constantly, so why does everyone tell you to train on a still surface? Increasing your balancing skills is our Top Tip for getting more out of your ski holiday.”
Getting a massage just before you leave for your ski holiday is highly recommended and a week before your ski trip you can visit one of Champney’s resorts and enjoy our spa treatments and massages.
Gavin Buckingham and Rowena Philips, add, “A few stretches and treatments prior to your departure can be the difference between an afternoon of pure delight or a long afternoon of heavy legs and aching feet.
“A good massage prior to your arrival can loosen up your muscles and make your holiday all the more enjoyable. If you are used to experiencing Champneys massages before you travel then you can top this up with a massage in a number of the luxury chalets that we offer. Also good for the muscles are long soaks in a Jacuzzi or hot tub. Again a number of our chalets offer this.
“A good sports massage prior to travel can really loosen up your muscles and get the most out of your trip.”
Kate Whittaker, who is the founder of MadDogSki.com, an independent website packed with blogs and deals to help you have a better ski holiday, says you shouldn’t neglect your stretches during your ski holiday.
“Don't be tempted to neglect your stretches – these are as important as your cardio and strengthening routines.”
Ski In Luxury’s Gavin Buckingham and Matterhorn Diamonds Ski School’s Rowena Philips also say it is vital that you stretch during your holiday.
“After workouts on your core, lie on your back and move your legs to one side and your upper body to the other, to stretch out your stomach muscles and your back muscles, which will have also been working. Relax into that position, and then make sure you repeat on the other side!
“Another excellent stretch for your back and hamstrings is to lie with your legs up against a wall, and your upper body lying flat on the floor, with your bottom ideally as close to the wall as possible. If you can, try and stay in this position for a few minutes. It’s a great release for your hips, hamstrings and back.
“All these stretches are also excellent after skiing (preferably before the après!) to loosen off the strains the piste pummelling your body has received during the day!”
Brave Ski Mom’s James & Kristen Lummis, says, “Last season, a ski instructor at Keystone Resort in Colorado taught me some on-snow warm ups. These include standing off your skis/board and swinging each leg back and forth to loosen up. Taking just five minutes before starting off down the hill to shake off and stiffness is good for everyone.”
Snows Best’s Rachael Oakes-Ash says reducing the amount of alcohol you drink and drinking lots of water will really benefit you on holiday.
She says, “Try to reduce alcohol intake, it’s easy to get dehydrated at altitude in snow regions so drink lots of water.”
James & Kristen Lummis at Brave Ski Mom, says, “Once one is on holiday, just remember to stay hydrated during the day. Come inside to drink water. Especially at high altitudes, the body needs lots of water. Also, stay fuelled. Eat snacks if you are hungry. A well-fed body will stay warmer and your athletic performance will be better.”
Ski World advises novices to pay particular attention to drinking lots of water and eating good food.
The tour operator adds, “Bear in mind you’ll be spending a week doing something completely different from your daily life – you’ll be burning loads and loads of calories so good food, lots of water and a good amount of sleep are vital if you want to enjoy every day on the mountain.
“Becoming dehydrated in the mountains is quite common so make sure you get in the habit of drinking plenty of water during the day.”
If you’re going on your first ski holiday you will no doubt have lots of questions you want answers to, but here are some great tips to help you prepare.
Brave Ski Mom’s James & Kristen Lummis says it is important to listen to your body and to rest if you need it.
“If you’re tired, take a break. This is a holiday, not an endurance contest. It seems to be that accidents are much more likely to happen when someone is tired.
“So, if you’re not feeling 100%, skip the last run of the day. Each afternoon, take time to relax and do a bit of simple yoga to relax your muscles. Put your feet up by the fire and recharge for the next day. Don’t feel you must ski all day, every day. Enjoy yourself!”
Ski Club of Great Britain recommend novice skiers and snowboarders to take some beginner classes before a ski holiday.
“Visit a snow dome or dry slope for some beginner lessons before you get out to the slopes and you will be able to enjoy much more of the mountain than just the baby slopes, you can find your nearest one here.”