The right skiing technique: preparing for your (first) lesson

Have you just planned your next, or very first, skiing trip? Exciting, isn’t it? Whether you prefer to elegantly slide through powder snow, dash down the slopes at 60 km/h or simply enjoy a magnificent mountainous panoramic view while discovering a new winter sport, skiing is always fun! What is more, skiing is also great for your health: not only does skiing greatly benefit the cardiovascular system, the movements you do while sliding down the slopes also train all of your muscles, tendons and ligaments.

  • Always one step ahead

    Two skiers enjoying a sunny day on a mountain.
    Not only is skiing fun, it’s also great for your health!

    Training your body prior to leaving for the winter holidays has numerous advantages. The risk of having sore muscles, for example, is much lower if you prepare properly. Furthermore, the risk of injuries is also significantly lower with strengthened muscles as the body is better prepared for physical strain.

    Preparing yourself, and ultimately your body, for skiing is also a great way to avoid what is commonly referred to as the “third day syndrome”. This phenomenon occurs when signs of muscle exhaustion, usually showing on the third day of skiing, are not taken seriously and thus may lead to injuries. Try and take the necessary precautions and get physically ready for skiing as this will allow you to slide down the slopes even more smoothly.

    In most cases, it’s beginners who tend to underestimate the sporty requirements. Since skiing requires the use of different muscle groups than the ones usually used for everyday-life activities, it is highly recommended to train your own stamina and muscle strength prior to your (first) skiing lesson.

    As exhausting as this preparation may sound, it really isn’t that difficult. In fact, there’s no need to follow a complex training plan or anything of the sort: even easy exercises can make a big difference! In the following blog article, exercises to train your balance, muscle strength and flexibility will be thoroughly explained as to help you prepare for your next skiing holidays.

    CheckYeti Tip: Doctors and experts recommend starting to exercise 3 months prior to the beginning of your ski trip. You can, of course, always start at a later point, but the sooner you start preparing the better!

    Stamina: your days of being out of breath are over

    A cyclist is enjoying a sunny day in the mountains.
    Cycling is a great way to improve your stamina

    Having good stamina is a basic requirement for skiing. The team at CheckYeti has great news for you: improving one’s stamina is actually not that difficult. You can start by taking the stairs rather than the lift, when you go to work, for example. However, in order to really improve your stamina for skiing, classic endurance sports like swimming, jogging, inline skating or cycling are ideal.

    For training, it is recommended to exercise in 30- to 60-minute sessions, depending on the chosen sport, 2 to 3 times a week.

    CheckYeti Tip: Hiking is also a perfect exercise when preparing for a ski trip. Apart from strengthening your muscles, tendons and ligaments, hiking also greatly stimulates your cardiovascular system.

    Improving your stability, coordination and balance

    Apart from endurance, physical stability, coordination and balance are just as important for skiing. Skiing not only implies sliding down long slopes but also to overcome little obstacles in the snow.

    No need to worry: improving your sense of balance and your reactivity is quite easy as well. Integrating small balance exercises into your everyday life is not complicated at all. While brushing your teeth, for example, try standing on one foot and keeping your balance. As soon as you’ve mastered the art of one-foot-teeth-brushing, here are some other exercises you should try out to improve your stability, coordination and balance.

    Balance: standing scale

    The standing scale is an exercise which trains your balance and torso stability. For this exercise, stand with your feet at hip width. Inhale and lift your arms almost completely extended to the level of your shoulders. Bend your upper body forwards and extend your right leg until it’s at a 90° angle to your left leg. Keep in mind that for the standing-scale exercise, your arms, head, neck, spine and the extended leg are supposed to form a straight line that’s parallel to the floor. Try holding this position for 3 to 4 seconds and go back to the starting position before switching to the other leg. This exercise should be repeated 15 times per leg.

    Stability: pendulum jumps

    Pendulum jumps are a great way to train your body stability and leg axis. Start by putting your hands on your hip and slightly angle one leg to the side. Picture a straight line next to you, starting on the ground, next to the leg you’re standing on. Proceed to jump back and forth over that straight line while always landing on the same foot. Try not to wiggle too much after jumping, but to stabilize your body. This exercise should be repeated 10 times per leg.

    Coordination: one-leg stand

    Stand on one leg and try to extend the other leg to the front, as to form a 90° angle to your body. Try holding this position for a while before putting the leg back down and switching to the other one. You can easily upgrade this exercise by putting a folded towel under your foot and closing your eyes. This exercise should be repeated 2 to 3 times per leg. Try holding the position for 20 to 30 seconds each time.

    CheckYeti Tip: It’s easier to keep your balance if you fix a certain point in the distance.

    Strengthening your muscles

    Good stamina and a trained sense of balance are important basic assets for skiing. However, in order to avoid having sore muscles after your first day on the slopes, you should also train your muscular system. Small exercises that can easily be done throughout your day, in the evenings while watching television, for example, can make a huge difference.

    Overview of the most important muscles:

    Muscle groupfunction when skiing
    ThighsYour thigh muscles are the most used muscles when skiing. The basic skiing position already requires you to slightly bend your knees. Depending on the style and ground (e.g. bumps, irregularities), the skiing position can shift to a squatting position. For this reason, well-trained thigh muscles are essential for descents, for avoiding injuries to the knees and preventing muscle and ligament tears.
    After thighs, buttock muscles are the next most strained muscle group as those muscles are used every time your legs extend and bend while skiing - which happens constantly.
    Your torso plays an important role when it comes to body stability. Most turns are initiated through movements coming from your torso. What is more, a well-trained torso can better support the spine and thus lowers the risk of injury.
    Even though the arms are not as strained as the legs when skiing, strong arms help to better handle your skiing sticks. Furthermore, strong arm (and shoulder) muscles can better react to and resist a fall.

    Here are a few good exercises to train the most important muscles for skiing:

    Leg muscles: squats

    The classic squat is considered to be THE best exercise to train your leg and buttock muscles. Squats also help improve your sense of balance and can do wonders to your body stability which is important if you want to avoid injuries to the knees.

    For the starting position, put your feet at shoulder width. Bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground. It’s very important that your knees don’t move too far to the front – above your toes would be too far. If you can’t avoid your knees from being over your toes in the squatting position, then you have to move your hip, or rather your weight, further to the back. Once you’ve gone down and have bent your knees, extend your legs and go back into the starting position. Try doing 3 sets of 20 squats per set.

    When doing sumo squats, your legs are further apart which requires more thigh muscles.
    The so-called sumo squat strengthens your inner thighs even more than standard squats

    CheckYeti Tip: Think standard squats are too easy? Then try sumo squats! The only difference between those two squatting types is that the feet stand further apart for sumo squats. The squat is hence bigger and trains your inner thighs more intensely.

    Leg muscles: wall squats

    Doing wall squats consists of holding a sitting position against a wall.
    Wall squats are the perfect exercise to get used to the skiing downhill position

    As the name suggests, this position requires you to squat against a wall. For this exercise, try being in a sitting position against a wall for as long as you can. To achieve good results, try to position your knees and legs in a way that they stand in a 90° angle to each other. Hold it for as long as you can and stand back up. Try repeating this exercise 2 to 4 times with a short break in between each wall squat.

    Torso and leg muscles: lunges

    A lunge is a simple exercise that strengthens your thigh and torso muscles as well as your balance.

    It’s important to go as low as possible without touching the ground when doing lunges.
    Apart from strengthening your thigh muscles, lunges are also great for your buttock muscles

    To start, stand up straight with your feet at hip width. Then, take one big step forward. Stay in this position and lower your hip until both your knees are at a 90° angle. Your back leg should now almost be touching the ground. Watch out that your front knee should align with your front ankle and not go over your toes. In order to properly strengthen your torso, try to keep your upper body as straight as possible without leaning forward. 4 sets of 20 lunges per set are recommended.

    Torso muscles: planks

    Having a strong torso is not only important for skiing, it’s also the base to having a healthy physique. On the slopes, you’ll need strong abdominal and back muscles when doing turns which is why these muscles groups shouldn’t be neglected in your training.

    Planking is a great exercise to strengthen all your body muscles.
    A plank is THE best exercise to train your whole body

    The starting position for planking is simple: lie on your belly and face the floor. To start the exercise, place your forearms on the ground with your elbows aligned below your shoulders and lift your hip up. For this exercise, only your forearms and toes should be touching the floor. Your head, hip and legs should be aligned in a straight line. Your hip shouldn’t be too high, nor too low. Try holding this position for 60 seconds before going back to the starting position.

    Upper body: reverse push-ups

    Even though skiing implies more action for your torso and legs, you should also try to strengthen your arms. Descents that require a lot of skiing stick usage will strain your arms a lot.

    Reverse push-ups are a great way to make your upper arms stronger.
    Reverse push-ups is a great and effective way to strengthen your upper arms

    For this exercise’s starting position, lie on your back and look up. Bend your arms and place the palm of your hands next to your shoulders. Extend your arms and position your palms, facing forwards, under your shoulders, and push your hip up. Your body should form a straight line for this exercise. Lower your body a bit by bending your arms (your buttock should not touch the ground) and go back up by extending your arms. Repeat this exercise for 3 sets with 15 reverse push-ups per set.

    The art of stretching

    Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon that warm-up and stretching exercises are skipped during training. Especially when you’re training for skiing, it’s very important that your hip and legs are flexible. Nowadays, as people tend to sit at their desks on their computers over a long period, the hip muscles and joints are particularly compromised. As people tend to move less, muscles around the hip and legs are often very tense. When skiing, however, these muscles should ideally be flexible and relaxed.

    Short and easy stretching exercises can be integrated into your everyday life completely trouble-free. One good option for stretching your thigh muscles is the following: before going to bed, stand on one leg and pull your other leg up to your buttock. Hold this position for a few seconds. Normally, you should feel a light stretch in your thigh. Switch to the other leg once you’re done.

    CheckYeti Tip: Apart from standard stretching exercises, sports like yoga and pilates are highly recommended for training your flexibility and muscles.


    Laetitia de CheckYeti

    Whether I’m describing a beautiful ski area or telling you all about the right skiing techniques, writing articles always makes me want to leave for a new adventure, and I hope reading them has the same effect on you!