Shape Up to Hit the Slopes

Getting ready to ski or snowboard often consists of trying to remember where you stashed your gear last spring. That approach may get you to the slopes, but it can reduce your enjoyment once you're there.

Skiing and snowboarding use muscles that don't normally do so much work. High altitudes put even more stress on your body. The American Council on Exercise recommends getting in shape prior to the ski season to minimize injuries.

Luckily, a little preparation can go a long way. Talk to your doctor. He or she may recommend exercises that target:

  • The core muscles of your abdomen and lower back

  • Your hip flexors (pelvis, upper legs) and quadriceps (front of the thighs)

  • The hamstrings at the back of your thighs

  • The gluteus muscles in your buttocks

Try the following exercises

  • Do the "wall sit" to work your quadriceps. Put your back against a wall and slide down so you're in a sitting position, with your knees at right angles. Hold that position for one minute (or as long as you can, since this may be tough at first). Then stand and rest for 30 seconds.

  • Walk up and down the stairs for a simple way to work your quadriceps and gluteus.

  • Do crunches or situps, which are great for your core muscles.

Hot tips for cold sports

  • Wear a ski-specific helmet. Helmets can prevent head injuries or make them less serious.

  • Dress in layers. Polypropylene underwear absorbs dampness and dries quickly. Layer with a waterproof or water-resistant jacket.

  • Stretch before you start. Emphasize the leg muscles. If you're snowboarding, also stretch your hips, which rotate more than they do during skiing.

  • On the slopes, make some easy runs or take a refresher class before trying advanced moves.

  • Hydrate as much as you can. Bring a water bottle. But don't drink alcohol before or while you hit the slopes.

  • Know your limits and abilities, and always ski in control.

  • Pace yourself. Allow adequate recovery time. Take breaks every hour or so. Get enough sleep.

  • Find ski boots and bindings that fit well. Take your time and try on several pairs at different shops. Seek help from a good boot fitter.

  • Select socks with care. Thick socks do not equal warmth. Thin socks that draw moisture away will keep you warmer.

  • Use sunscreen and ultraviolet (UV) eye protection. Even on cloudy days, the sun reflects off the snow with great strength.