ON THE SNOW: Stability, Conditioning & Injury Prevention

As this year’s ski season approaches it is important to be in the best physical shape to tackle the slopes. Skiing or snowboarding are whole body activities that require a combination of stability, strength and cardiovascular fitness. Here are a few tips how to reduce your risk of injury and maximize your time on the slopes.

Common Injuries:

The most common injuries associated when on the mountain are around the knees, lower back and shoulders. Knee and shoulder injuries are largely as a result of a traumatic event – crashing. Crashes can result in strains or tears of the ligaments and musculature which support the knee and shoulder joints. However, lower back injuries tend to be the result of overuse – fatigue and poor core stabilization results in increased movement of the trunk, leading to muscle imbalances and increased stress on the spine.

Pilates for Injury prevention:

While you might think that crashes on the mountain are at times unavoidable there is actually a lot you can do to minimize you risk of injury. While skill and luck are both factors in staying upright, training for strength and stability will help you get the best performance out of your body, whether that’s attacking each run, exploring some back-country territory or simply keeping you out there a few hours longer.

Muscle balance:

Skiing is a dynamic activity; your body has to adjust to sometimes subtle and at other time’s drastic changes in momentum, terrain and body direction. During this process the muscles responsible for supporting the knee are contracting and relaxing in a co-coordinated manner to respond to your environment. Strengthening of the hamstrings is particularly important to provide balance in this quad-dominant activity and provide support to the ligaments of the knee. Exercises that emphasize the adductors (muscles that bring your leg towards your body’s midline) can help a skier’s recovery from catching an edge and keep the skies under the body. Furthermore exercises which focus on the abductors and VMO improve stability and position of the patella, while the constantly changing distribution of weight between legs makes addressing strength imbalances between your left and right legs of paramount importance!

Protecting your back:

The best skiers are able to maintain a stable trunk; keeping their centre of mass over their skies maintaining their balance and letting their hips and legs do all the work. Deconditioning and poor recruitment of your abdominal muscles can make this very difficult which leads to increased movement of the upper body, increased energy expenditure and less efficient ski technique. Training these muscles appropriately so as to mimic the demands of skiing will allow you to get the most out of your body and maximize your time on the mountain