5 ways to get in shape for ski and snowboard season

For many mountain enthusiasts, summer and fall are as active a time as winter. Mountain biking, climbing, hiking and other outdoor activities are a great way to stay fit in the off-season. However, with winter fast approaching, it is essential for any skier or snowboarder to start thinking about how they can maximize performance and enjoy their days on the slopes with winter-specific training.

While there is no replacement for putting the time in on the mountain, there are surefire ways to prepare for the deep and steep this season, from specific exercises to diet tweaks.

Ride your bike everywhere

Biking is an environmentally friendly and surefire way to get your legs into shape for ski season. Photo: Picjumbo

While heading to the hills for the occasional mountain bike ride is both thrilling and a great way to stay in shape, your legs will really come alive when you ditch the car and take your bike everywhere instead. Biking not only builds leg and core muscles that will benefit you while skiing and snowboarding, but it is also great cardio, meaning that when the powder turns on, you can enjoy fresh turns all day.

Many outdoor athletes are runners; however, the movement your legs make while biking more closely emulates the power and recovery phases that take place while skiing and snowboarding, which makes it the ultimate way to fine-tune your legs preseason.

Eat like an athlete

Food is fuel, so make sure to include lots of whole foods in your diet this fall. Photo: Picjumbo

There is a reason why nutrition has become such a hot-button issue in the outdoor-sports world: It’s an important way of optimizing performance. While everyone’s body is different, and adjusting your diet for your specific goals and body type is critical, there are a few basic rules almost every athlete follows.

Eat whole, unprocessed foods, stay away from refined sugar and avoid foods high in empty carbs. Skip the pizza and donuts and make your own meals; not only will your body thank you, but your wallet will as well.

Prioritize strength

A strong core will lead to longer days on the slopes and can help aid injury prevention. Photo: Creative Commons

While becoming a hulking meathead isn’t usually a top priority for skiers and snowboarders, ignoring strength training is a mistake that can often lead to underwhelming performance and injury. Think of your legs and core as the building blocks for being a good rider: Trying to construct a house on a weak foundation is never a good idea.

While there is an endurance aspect to skiing and snowboarding, there is also an explosive element, as most riders tend to perform in high-intensity bursts. Find a coach who can develop a program for you, as proper technique and a quality routine are as important as the on-snow gains you’ll achieve with strength training.

Stretch often

Mobility and recovery are essential elements to longevity in the mountains. Make sure to include dynamic and static stretching in your daily routine. Photo: Picjumbo

Mobility work should be part of your daily routine, but it is important to understand the difference between static and dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching increases mobility and can help reduce injury by using repetitive movement to stretch the muscle and warm up the joints and muscles. Dynamic stretches that mimic the movement of the activity you are participating in are most effective.

Static stretching — what people traditionally picture — is where a specific position is held for 30 to 60 seconds at the point of tension. Best performed post-workout, it is a great recovery tool that will help you ride back-to-back days when the snow is good.

Sleep like a log

Adequate sleep is linked to a number of serious health factors and is essential for winter athletes looking to recover from long days of riding. Photo: Picjumbo

In the United States, we have an unhealthy obsession with productivity and technology. Somewhere along the line, we decided to prioritize that over quality sleep.

However, research shows that is a huge mistake, especially for athletes who count on good sleep for recovery. While many people function on six hours of sleep or fewer, the study demonstrates that poor-quality or insufficient sleep can lead to a myriad of health problems, including increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

For winter athletes, quality sleep will have a threefold benefit: It will help in recovery, increase performance and aid in mental focus, ensuring that you make smart and safe decisions when enjoying the mountains. Turn off your digital devices, black out your windows and head to bed early to optimize your time on snow.

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