Which is the most dangerous of all skiing and snowboarding runs?
“It’s the last run of the day,” said Josh Waltier, director of athletic training for Apple Physical Therapy. “You’re already fatigued. Not everybody in the group is always at the same level, and the one who is the most fatigued is most likely to get hurt.”
The most common injury in skiing, or at least the most talked about, Waltier said, is the torn anterior cruciate ligament. A skier tumbles with his feet locked into a pair of skis and suddenly there’s more torque on his knees than his body can handle.
“The more expert skier you become, the tighter your bindings,” Waltier said. “So there are a ton of ACL injuries and that’s probably not going to change.”
So how can you give yourself the best chance to save those knees?
“The best way is proper conditioning,” Waltier said.
Here are some tips for giving yourself the best chance of staying healthy this season:
1. SPORT-SPECIFIC TRAINING
“A football player’s training is specific to their sport,” Waltier said. “Why shouldn’t skiers?”
Waltier said “sports specific” training exercises simulate the position and movements of your sport.
Consider the most popular and most recommended (including several times in this column) of all ski training exercises: the wall sit.
Simply act as if you are taking a seat in an invisible chair against a wall. Soon your legs will start burning. A few weeks of this and you’ll definitely notice your legs are getting stronger.
“Why is this such a popular exercise?” Waltier said. “Well, it’s easy. There are walls everywhere. You can time yourself and see yourself getting better.
“But are you really squatting for two minutes when you are skiing?”
Instead of just holding this position, Waltier suggests squatting up and down and moving from side to side to simulate skiing or front to back like a snowboarder.
When determining how long to do these exercises, consider how long you need to ski a typical run.
Planning to do some freestyle skiing? Try doing box jumps, Waltier said.
2. AEROBIC TRAINING
Maybe downhill skiing doesn’t seem like as much of an aerobic sport as its Nordic cousin, but aerobic training is still important. There’s good reason almost every Olympic skier logs thousands of miles each year on a bicycle.
“Aerobic conditioning is important because it will help you maintain the cardiac output necessary to exert yourself at high altitudes,” Waltier said.
Waltier recommends cycling, running, an elliptical machine or participating in exercise classes at a gym.
3. BALANCE AND AGILITY
From steeps and powder to neatly groomed trails or moguls, a day on the slopes can throw a lot at you. Good balance and agility is necessary to handle these variables. Waltier recommends jumping rope and single leg hops.
He also suggests flipping over a BOSU (a piece of exercise equipment shaped like a half ball and a name that stands for BOth Sides Up) and work to maintain your balance while marching or doing squats. Just trying to stand on the inverted BOSU can help improve balance.
4. EXPLOSIVENESS AND STRENGTH
Waltier said sport-specific exercises such as box jumps, deep squatting rotational jumps and standing broad jumps will build strength and explosiveness that “will separate the experts from the beginners.”
These exercises can be especially beneficial for those planning to spend a lot of time in the terrain park.
Stretching is an exercise many people are quick to abbreviate or skip altogether. Waltier said he sees this regularly in his line of work and these bad habits are an excellent way to get hurt. Especially if you’re hitting the slopes after a week of being confined to an office chair.
“Flexibility is important when skiing so that your muscles and joints can handle the various positions you need them to be in,” Waltier said.
Skiers and snowboarders should spend time each day stretching their hip flexors, quadriceps, hamstrings, low back and shoulders. Waltier said to hold each stretch for at least 30 second and repeat them twice.
And don’t skimp on stretching.
“They need to be performed multiple times a day to achieve the most improvement,” Waltier said.
Not only can you stretch during your favorite TV program, you can even do it while you’re waiting for friends on the slopes or standing in the lift line.
In the lift line, simply slide one leg forward and the other back to stretch the hip flexor, Waltier said. You won’t even slow down the lift line.
And it might just give you the flexibility you need to emerge unscathed from the day’s final run.