Creating a strength and fitness foundation for a stellar ski winter begins in the off-season.
My off-season definition: the remaining days of a year that are unfortunately spent off the skis, where an unhealthy amount of potentially productive time is spent day-dreaming about accumulating snow and ripping skins and making those sweet S-turns which elicit oohs and ahhhs from our powder-caked throats as we descend what is sure to be a line worthy of a diary entry that night by the crackling fire-light.
So, let’s break down the off-season and pre-season techniques for developing strength and fitness that will allow you to drop the hammer, and drop your friends in the process.
A legitimate summer or fall strength training program is recommended, if not mandatory. For example, joining a gym like Ripple Effect Training out of Carbondale, CO.. The emphasis should be on creating a functional strength and mobility foundation that will keep you strong, supple and injury resistant. Working in a small group setting with a low instructor-to-student ratio helps with keeping you honest, consistent and accountable. Once or twice a week is all that is needed to elevate the strength levels to an all time high.
If joining a gym is out of the question, consider investing in a few pieces of equipment so you can get in your workout at home on your own time. I recommend a pull-up bar or climbing hang-board, a kettle bell or two (master the kettle bell swing and you will master life), gymnastic rings, and a slack-line (great for balance and developing those stabilizer muscles).
Work on the essential muscle groups, namely the core, hips and glute areas to build a strong foundation for all-day touring. Create a circuit of exercises that touch on the aforementioned muscle groups, something like a minute on, a minute rest, and cycle through the circuit two or three times for a proper burn and resultant adaptation.
Cardio should be developed in conjunction with strength. There are plenty of not-quite-as-fun-as-skiing activities to take up during the off-season for building that aerobic base. Trail-running, mountain or road biking, or my new personal favorite, bike-packing, are all wonderful options for creating a fitness foundation.
Building an aerobic base begins with easy, slower efforts, with the goal being to keep the heart rate at a comfortable level. If you can’t hold a conversation while you’re getting after it, you are likely going too hard for much real benefit occur (indeed, this is one of the great mistakes of self coached training). The slow and steady methodology is essential in adapting your body to fat-burning, the essential prerequisite for all-day ski tours.
Other beneficial adaptations that occur during the base-building phase include increased stroke volume of your heart, and increased mitochondrial and capillary density. All just fancy words and phrases that can be summed up in a simple sentence: keep moving and playing in the mountains, no matter the season, the reason being to become a better, stronger version of yourself.
I work at Cripple Creek Backcountry in the WildSnow home town of Carbondale. At the shop we had the chance to sit down with uphill skiing training guru Joe Howdyshell. Check the Totally Deep Podcast we did with him, for a closer and perhaps irreverent look at pre-season training.
(WildSnow guest blogger Paul Hamilton is the nicest guys you’ll ever meet — and will transform you into a mound of snow caked quivering protoplasm if you want a race. He and his partner Paul Scott Simmons won the Grand Traverse, Colorado 2015. Last winter he and friends skied the Hardrock 100 mile race route. He can podium in nearly anything endurance related if he puts his mind and legs into it, but seems to be more interested in bicycle packing these days. That is, until winter hits. We should also mention that WildSnow.com recommends heavy logging work as core strengthening, and invite anyone who needs a workout to show up for some round tossing at WildSnow Field HQ over coming weeks. More, if you’re a local don’t forgot Cripple Creek’s season opener party tomorrow, Saturday October 15 at their Carbondale shop, FREE BBQ. This post is sponsored content, done in partnership with Cripple Creek. We’re experimenting with this instead of banner advertising. Should be interesting. Ever onward!)