Considering the enormous number of people who ski and snowboard each year, the overall risk of injury is surprisingly low. A recent study showed that on average just over 2 people out of every 1,000 would sustain an injury that requires medical attention. So, should we prepare for ski season?
Though we can’t prevent an incident, we can do our part to reduce the risk. Unsurprisingly, the better our shape and flexibility, the less likely we are to sustain injury. When we maintain a good level of fitness our bodies can endure more than if we don’t; our muscles and tendons stretch instead of tear and our bones bruise rather than break. Tumbles may be inevitable, but the same fall that could have no affect on one person could injure another.
What we can do
A great way to boost our bodies is to increase our cardiovascular fitness. Though skiing and snowboarding are predominantly anaerobic forms of exercise requiring bursts of power and muscular strength for brief periods, a basic level of cardio is still required. Beginners especially will need it, and accomplished skiers will benefit from it when mastering advanced skiing techniques such as moguls, short turns or lengthy downhill stretches.
Investing just 20 minutes a day to increase your heart rate through activities such as jogging, cycling and swimming, will go a long way to give you significantly more energy and potential on the slopes.
While burning thighs are inevitable and unavoidable, they can also stop us in our tracks before a lack of breath does, especially when the pain is in the quadriceps. What we can control though is how soon this soreness appears and forces us to take 5. Training our leg muscles before the season can make the difference between needing to take a break after two minutes or two hours.
The easiest way to target the culprits is wall sits. Requiring no specialized equipment it can even be done in the office. Keep your back straight against the wall with your legs at a 90-degree angle; as your muscles strengthen you can increase the time you hold for accordingly.
On the slopes
Before setting off for some turns, take a few moments to warm up first. Whether you do it in your accommodation, as you walk to the chairlifts or on the snow before you ski – give your muscles time to benefit from increased blood flow and oxygen. Lunges, jumping jacks, circling your arms, and hamstring stretches are great ways to do this.
Other forms of preparation
Preparation is not fitness alone and there are many others ways that we can, and should, prepare ourselves prior to hitting the slopes. Here a few suggestions; if skiing in a group, especially with children, decide on a meeting place in the event of unexpected separation. Have at least one phone per group and the resort’s ski patrol number in the case of emergencies, as well as sufficient insurance to cover all activities. It is essential to choose appropriate gear and terrain for your ability level; spend a few moments familiarising yourself with the resort and equipment.
When choosing to venture off piste or into the backcountry, ensure that you have avalanche equipment and know how to use it, extensive experience skiing safely in backcountry terrain, and a thorough knowledge of the area. If in doubt, hire a certified guide. No matter how early or late you do it, it always pays off to prepare for ski season.
Written by Nadine Robb
Owner/Instructor, Hakuba Ski Concierge – the boutique Hakuba ski school