Skiing in slush – top tips from instructors

With the current spell of warm weather across the alps, the slopes are becoming softer. Love it or hate it, warmer spring temperatures will result in slushy pistes, especially lower down. Personally, I love skiing in slush, although it took a little while to start to enjoy it. Initially I did not have the right technique and found it hard work, but I now find powering through the slush great fun.

Top tips to help skiing in slush

Skiing in spring snow

If you don’t have the most efficient technique or good levels of ski fitness, skiing slush can feel heavy and tiresome.

Injuries in Slush

When skiing in slush, our leg muscles work a lot harder and there is a high chance that you may aggravate any pre-existing injury.  This can be a particular problem if you have long-standing knee or back problems. In slushy spring conditions overuse injuries are also more common, particularly to the patella-femoral (knee) joint.

There is also a slightly higher risk of injuries to ligaments of the knee, including strains and tears to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) (See our recent two part blog series for ways you can reduce the risk of ACL injury). Calf strains are also another possible injury from a ‘plant and ride’.  This is where the ski’s get stuck in a bank of snow, bindings don’t release and the skier continues over the top.

To help reduce the risk of injuries in the slush, listen to your body.  If you are feeling tired, take a rest. At the end of the season, skiers are often tired but keen to push on to make the most of the snow while the lifts are still open. Use rest time to rehydrate, refuel and recover.  Fatigue is probably the largest cause of why injuries occur in slushy conditions and the ACL is often the unwilling victim.

Good strength and neuromuscular control of the legs and core is also essential to help reduce the risk of injury.  A strong core will help limit excessive movement of the upper body when being thrown around in variable conditions.  Good balance and proprioception is necessary to help recovery and prevent falls.

knee exercises for degenerative meniscal tear

Proprioceptive training on a bosu ball

Practicing your balance is probably the best way to help reduce the risk of injuries in slush.  However, it is important that you make this training dynamic, variable and progressive. You can start by practicing static balance on an uneven surface such as a bosu ball (as shown in the picture).  A pillow or cushion will do if you don’t have access to similar equipment.
To further challenge this, try and juggle a tennis ball or take hold of a medicine ball and pass it around your body.  Trying to regain your balance when you move outside of your base of support is great training to help to sharpen your righting reactions. This is important in reducing the risk of falls when you are thrown around in variable conditions.

As previously mentioned, it is also important to perform balance practice dynamically, as skiing is never about just standing on one leg!

Star excursions are are great starting point. If possible, draw a large eight prong star with a piece of chalk on your patio or in your garage.  Stand on one leg in the middle of this and reach your other leg as far down the first prong as your can.  Repeat this all the way round each of the eight prongs. Reach as far as you can to challenge the supporting leg.  You can then swap sides. Introduce a wobble cushion under the supporting leg to make it a lot harder.

Other ideas for improving dynamic balance include:

  • Hop to deep land.  Hold the landing for 5 seconds.
  • Travelling hop and hold.  As above but vary the direction that you hop in to include forwards and backwards, side to side and diagonally.
  • slack lining

If your legs are felling particularly tired, stick to easier pistes, take regular breaks and book a massage to help accelerate recovery. If you combine good ski fitness and balance with good technique, you will significantly help to reduce your risk of injury.

There are more ideas for prehab in the second part of our blog on reducing the risk of ACL injuries in skiers.

To help you get the most out of spring time skiing, we have asked some fantastic ski instructors for their top tips on skiing slush:

Sally Lee-Duffy, The Snow Institute, Morzine and Les Gets

Change your turn shape, i.e. don’t turn as much. Make the turn more open and rounded as the slush offers more resistance and slows you down.  You need more speed to get through it, not less.

Tim Jackson, Torico Performance Skiing, Les Gets and Morzine

Slush provides more resistance which naturally slows you down.  Firstly, increase your speed.  Secondly, rounded turns no pushed, release curve earlier to maintain flow.  Thirdly, soften your legs to absorb the irregular conditions underfoot! Be light on your feet.

Lena Hauritus-Neilson, The Development Centre, Val d’Isere

Point your ski’s and go.  Power through and keep momentum.  Ideally do medium rounded turns.

Rupert Tildesley, Mountain Masters, Val d’Isere

Make sure the ski goes forwards along its length through the slush.  Try not to pivot it assuming it will slides sideways (it probably won’t).

Xavier Raguin, Mono2Ski, Val d’Isere

Use your weight to push through the snow and use your speed.

Pamela Nardin, Oxygene Ski School, Val d’Isere

Don’t be too rough otherwise you will get stuck and fall.  Keep your legs active to turn the ski’s.

Clare Burns, Val d’Isere

Stay centered and distribute your weight over the whole of your foot. Use speed and momentum to power through it.

Thank you to everyone that has let me pick their brains.  These are extremely useful tips which will hopefully help people improve their techniques and reduce the risk of injuries occurring when skiing in slush.

Disclaimer:We do not recommend that you introduce these exercises without consulting a physiotherapist if you have any current injuries or back issues. We do recommend seeking advise from a healthcare or fitness professional when starting new exercises.

The purpose of this blog, is to provide general information and educational material relating to physiotherapy and injury management. ‘ALP’ has made every effort to provide you with correct, up-to-date information. In using this blog, you agree that information is provided ‘as is, as available’, without warranty and that you use the information at your own risk. We recommend that you seek advise from a fitness or healthcare professional if you require further advice relating to exercise or medical issues.

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How to reduce the risk of ACL injuries in skiers. Part 2

This post may contain affiliate links which means that if you click through to a product or service and then buy it, I receive a small commission. There is no additional charge to you.

In Part 1 of how to reduce the risk of ACL injuries in skiers we introduced the principals behind ACL injury reduction strategies.  We looked at what the ACL is and what it does.  We also looked at the most common mechanisms that cause an ACL tear in skiers, along with risk factors for injury.

In ‘how to reduce the risk of ACL injuries in skiers: Part 2’ we will be looking at different physical components along with exercises and ideas for training .  Whilst reading this blog, it is important to remember that there is no ‘one size fits all’.  Everyone will be at a different starting point and have different strengths, weaknesses and needs.

Do you remember that in part 1 I mentioned the chap that ruptured his ACL skiing into a tree?  Well, as I said before, no amount of training will prevent some unfortunate accidents occurring.  However, training in a smart way for your skiing gives you the very best chance of staying injury free.

Ideally, you want to start to incorporate the following suggestions into your training program 2 – 4 times a week for 6 – 8 weeks before you hit the slopes.  If you are skiing all season, you can continue with most of these exercises.  However,  you will need to strike a delicate balance between making the exercises progressive whilst not fatiguing yourself before you ski.

Biomechanical positioning and alignment

Being ‘well-stacked’ on your skeleton will put you in a much stronger skiing position. This means that you will use your bones to lever from and therefore you will use less muscular energy.  This will make skiing more efficient and thus reduce the risk of fatigue related injuries.

An example of not being ‘well-stacked’ is in skiers who demonstrate an ‘A-frame’ or knocked-kneed position. This can affect skiers at all levels and can put a lot of strain through the knee joint.  This can also inadvertently make this ACL more vulnerable.

A-frame skier

An example of an ‘A’-Frame )or knock-kneed skier

The ‘A’-frame position may occur due to numerous reason and it is not always easy (or always possible) to correct.  It may arise due to a problem with boot set up or foot position, it may be an inherent position of the hips or a weakness in the gluteal muscles, specifically the gluteus medius.

Regardless of the cause, when you are skiing, if your knee is dropping inwards (‘A’-frame) then the ACL is potentially under extra strain. This position may cause an element of friction of the ACL against a bony notch and over time this may fray and weaken. Imagine a rope that is constantly under tension and rubbing against a rock. All the little fibres will begin to split and the rope frays.  If your ACL is weakened in this manner and trauma then occurs, the chances of the ACL rupturing are a lot higher.

If this position sounds like something that you may be dealing with, an assessment to work out why is highly recommended. In the meantime, many people benefit from strengthening their gluteals and you can try the suggestions below.

Alignment Squats

To check on your alignment stand in front of a mirror. Perform a single leg squat and watch the position of your knee. The middle of your knee should be directly over your 2nd and 3rd toes. If your knee falls inwards then you may need to work on your alignment.

Sometimes, just having awareness of a how to correct a squat is enough to improve it.  If you’ve noticed that your knee drops in during a single leg squat, repeat the movement whilst holding onto something for support.  Now, see if you can squat with your knee in a more optimal position.  You do not need to go very deep to start with but as the position improves you can increase the depth of your squat.

If you can correct this (and not everyone can), then over time, practice and repetition will help you to develop a better movement pattern.  To challenge yourself further stand on an uneven surface such as a wobble cushion or bosu ball.

ACL injuries in skiers

Good alignment in a single leg squat

Monster walk

The monster walk is a great dynamic exercise to get your hips and gluts working.  Place a taught length of strong theraband around your knees, ankles or forefeet.  The further down, the harder it will be – or place band around both your knees and your feet!  Bend your knees so you are in a ‘mini’ squat and side step across a room or along a corridor.  Then repeat in the opposite direction.  Continue this until your hips feel fatigued.  You can vary the depth of your squat but try not to over flex at the waist.

monster walk

Monster walk with theraband resistance

Neuromuscular and proprioceptive factors

Neuromuscular control refers to the transfer of information from nerves to muscles. In other words it is the subconscious connection between the body and the brain. It incorporates balance, strength, reflex responses and functional movement control.  We will break this down further into plyometrics, sports specific drills, strength and flexibility.

Neuromuscular training can help with muscle recruitment. If a skier is well trained they will have better strength and power to produce particular movements. Good neuromuscular control helps to generate joint movement, at the right motion, in the correct alignment at the right time. This has to be discipline specific. For example someone training for bumps will need a different program to a giant slalom skier.

Because neuromuscular training is so person specific, it is best to contact a sports physiotherapist or fitness trainer in order to have a program tailored to your individual needs.

Proprioception refers to the combination of balance, coordination and agility in order to enhance joint position and joint motion. Obviously, the better your balance, the less chance you have of falling and injuring yourself.

You can do a simple test yourself to see if you have good proprioception and balance. Ensure that you are in a safe environment. Start by standing on one leg and maintain this position for at least 20 seconds without wobbling. If this is easy repeat this with your eyes closed.  Again try and stay in a steady position for 20 seconds.  If this is hard to do, then you will need to practice further.  However, if this is easy you will need to challenge yourself with more difficult and more dynamic drills.

Skiing is not a static sport and you will need to practice fairly high level dynamic balance drills to really help make a difference.  You can incorporate single leg squats, wobble boards and wobble cushions into your training.  Lateral or side to side dynamic balance drills are particularly beneficial for skiers.

An example would be side to side touches.  Stand on one leg and reach out to touch the ground to one side of you.  Return upright and remain on one leg, then reach out to touch the ground the other side.  Vary the distance that you reach each side and vary the speed with which you perform the exercise.

Lateral touches

Side to side touches

Plyometrics and Sports Specific Skills

Plyometrics or re-bound training is exercise that is designed to produce fast, powerful movements. Good plyometrics is essential for helping joints to absorb shock. In skiers this is ideal for those that ski in the park, freestyle skiers, variable terrain and bumps where there is generally more impact than on the pistes.  Good plyometric and rebound ability can help the knee joint absorb stresses in such a way as to not stress the ACL.

Plyometric training should be sports specific. Within skiing it should be discipline specific. For example, bumps skiers will need to practice different drills to slalom skiers.

Side to side jumps

A starting point for slalom skiers would be side to side jumps with feet hip width apart (ski distance). Aim to produce a fast rhythmic jump.  You can perform this on the spot, or travel forwards whilst rebounding side to side.  Introduce a small bench to jump over for a further challenge.  Progress to performing this drill on one leg.

Tuck jumps

For bumps training, practising tuck jumps will help with fast hip and knee motion. When practicing tuck jumps think about how you perform them. Symmetrical legs, a tight tuck and a good knee bend on landing will all help to improve plyometric performance.  You will also need to avoid breaking at the waist.  Keep your torso upright as you draw your knees up to your chest.

Muscular strength and recruitment patterns

If you are not physically fit and fatigue sets in then positioning and alignment may falter, which will increase the strain on the ACL and increase the risk of falling. The stronger you are, the better your joints will be able to withstand stresses. Commonly, skiers are very strong in certain muscle groups and weaker in others.

Typically, skiers have very strong quadriceps muscles and much weaker hamstrings. In order for the ACL to work in an optimal position and to avoid an uneven tug of war between these two groups of muscles the hamstrings must be trained. There is also a reflex arc between the hamstrings and the ACL.  The hamstrings help to reinforce the ACL and therefore it is essential that they are strong in skiers.

Two of the main roles of the hamstring muscles are to extend the hip and flex the knee.  When training the hamstrings it is important to work on both aspects.

There are numerous exercises that you can do to strengthen your hamstrings including:

  • Hamstring curls
  • Deadlift variations
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Bridging
  • Nordic hamstrings

I will write about specific hamstring training in a future blog.  However, when you are training your hamstrings, think about doing a variety of different exercises.  Change the resistance and the intensity so that you are doing higher repetitions with lower weights for endurance, and low repetitions with high weights for strength gains.

Flexibility and mobility

Good flexibility and mobility allows the joints to move freely in order to meet the demands of skiing. If joints are restricted it may lead to resistance to movements and inefficient skiing.

Good flexibility of your quadriceps (the muscles at the front of your thigh) is particularly important with regards to the ACL . If the quadriceps muscles are extremely tight they can put a yank through the shin bone which causes an anterior shear force of the knee. Under this stress the ACL is at much more risk of injury.

The jury is still out regarding the science of stretching.  Research is still needed to ascertain when and how often to stretch for the most benefit.  However, I would still recommend stretching for recovery after sports and exercise.

You can stretch your quadriceps in a number of ways, but always make sure that you are warm before you start stretching. The most common way to stretch the quadriceps is to stand on one leg and take hold of your foot or ankle and draw you foot up to your buttock. Take this as far as comfortable. You should feel tension in the front of your thigh but not pain. Make sure you hold this for at least 30 seconds.

You can also stretch you quadriceps dynamically before you ski. To do this step forward on one leg and kick the heel of your opposite leg up to your buttock. Repeat on the opposite side.

In Summary

There is limited evidence for programmes designed to reduce the risk of ACL injuries in skiers.  A lot of my recommendations are based on applying the principals of injury reduction programmes from other sports to the biomechanics of skiing.

For all of the above components to ACL injury risk reduction it is recommended that you seek professional advice from a physiotherapist or trainer. Training is person specific and what works for one individual may be different to the next. If you have had previous leg injuries or if you are currently recovering from injury then it is best to seek professional advise before trying any of the exercises mentioned.

To summarise, for the huge physical, mental, emotional and economic costs it is well worth implementing ACL strategies into pre-season training. Make sure you have good flexibility, especially in your quadriceps, ensure you hamstrings are strong and make sure that you have optimal lower limb alignment.

References:

  • Ettlinger CF, Johnson RJ, Shealy JE. A method to help reduce the risk of serious knee sprains incurred in Alpine skiing. Am J Sports Med. 1995;23:531-537
  • Pujol N, Rousseaux Blanchi MP, Chambat P. The Incidence of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries Among Competitive Alpine Skiers. A 25 year Investigation. Am J Sports Med 2007;35(7): 1070 – 1074

       

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ACL injuries in skiers

How to reduce the risk of ACL injuries in skiers. Part 1

This post may contain affiliate links which means that if you click through to a product or service and then buy it, I receive a small commission. There is no additional charge to you.

Years ago, I wrote an article for a British ski magazine on how to reduce the risk of ACL injuries in skiers.  I had some great feedback, bar one lovely gentleman! He emailed me to ask “are you implying that had I done all your exercises I wouldn’t have ruptured my ACL when I skied into a tree”!  To my credit, I answered him very politely.

Can you prevent ACL injuries?

Just in case you were wondering, it is not possible to completely prevent ACL injuries from occurring.  In fact, injury prevention is not completely possible in any sport and anyone who claims otherwise is talking codswallop!  However, there is plenty of research to support the fact that by implementing certain training regimes the risk of sport specific injuries and injury patterns can be reduced.  I know that I have inaccurately used the word ‘prevention’ when discussing ways of reducing the risk of injuries occurring in the past.  However, as my practice has evolved and my understanding of research has improved I try to select my choice of language more carefully.

Because reducing the risk of ACL injuries is such a large topic, I have decided to publish the blog in two parts.  Part 1 aims to look at what the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is and how it functions.  We will identify risk factors and injury mechanisms in skiers. Following this we will explore ways of how you can decrease the risk of an ACL injury when you are skiing.

Part 2 will talk more about the physical factors associated with ACL injury.  It will explore ways that you can train to decrease the risk of injury.  There will be lots of examples of ski specific exercises that you can perform at home.

This blog is applicable to skiers of all levels and abilities. Information regarding ACL injuries is also extremely important for ski instructors.  This is from both a personal point of view and professionally in terms of teaching.

The impact of ACL injuries

ACL disruption is problematic to skiers of all levels, both physically and psychologically. An ACL rupture has a substantial impact on ability to work and earnings, quality of life and day-to-day function. Unfortunately, if you rupture your ACL you may need surgery.  This is usually followed by up to nine months of rehabilitation.

One study carried out over 25 years looked at the incidence of ACL injuries in elite French national team skiers between 1980 and 2005. The data collected showed that more than 28 % of female skiers and 27% of the male skiers sustained at least one ACL injury from a skiing accident. This means that more than a quarter of these competitive skiers suffered an ACL injury! This highlights the need to reinforce the importance of ACL injury reduction strategies.

ACL disruption makes up a large portion of ski injuries. It is every skiers worst nightmare. They fall, they hear a pop, there is a moment of agonising pain and when they try to stand up their knee gives way.  The following signs and symptoms may occur with an ACL rupture:

  • You may hear or feel a pop or snap
  • There is acute pain but this may only last for a short duration
  • The knee swells within a few hours
  • The knee feels very unstable and may give way.

What is the ACL?

ACL stands for the Anterior Cruciate Ligament.

Ligaments connect bone to bone. The ACL is one of the four main stabilising ligaments of the knee. It starts from the front of the tibia (the shin bone) and twists up and backwards to join the femur (the thigh bone).

The anterior cruciate ligament

The ACL

What does the ACL do?

The ACL prevents the shin bone (tibia) moving excessively forward on the thigh bone (femur). This helps to stabilise the knee and allows the joint to bear loads correctly.

How is the ACL injured in skiers?

The ACL is made of tough, fibrous tissue. However trauma to the knee can cause it to tear or rupture.

Twisting, pivoting and strenuous landing movements can all affect the ACL. The following are well recognised mechanisms of ACL injury in skiers.

1- Forward Twisting Fall

A forward twisting fall may account for more than half of all ACL injuries in recreational skiers.

A valgus-external rotation force occurs when catching an edge of the ski when executing turns. This means that the knee bends inwards and twists outwards.

2 – The Phantom Foot Mechanism

This is basically a backwards twisting fall.  It can occur to the leg of the downhill ski during a sudden loss of balance or control. Phantom Foot injuries occur when a skier is off-balance to the rear with their hips below their knees. The downhill knee is subjected to internal rotation (twisting) and bending forces. As a result there is a combination of a strong quadriceps contraction applying an excessive force to the shin bone along with the lower leg stuck in a rigid ski boot in a binding that fails to release.  The strain from this type of fall has to be taken up somewhere and it is usually the ACL which suffers.

This can occur if trying to get up while still moving after a fall, recovering from an off-balance landing, or attempting to sit down after losing control.

3 – The Boot Induced Mechanism

This tends to occur on heavy impact and hard landings when the skier becomes off-balance to the rear. The ski continues to move forward while the pressure of the boot against the back of the leg increases. At the same time, the muscles of the skier’s leg automatically contract to hold the leg in a fully extended position. The leg is unable to absorb the jarring impact and the back of the boot drives the tibia out from under the femur, thereby tearing the ACL.

4 – Collision Mechanism

This occurs when a skier is hit from behind on the lower leg. The impact forces the shin bone forward which causes damage to the ACL.

5 – Catching an edge at high-speed

The inside edge of the front of the ski becomes impacted under snow. The involved limb begins to draw away from the body and rotate outwards while the skiers momentum carries him/her forward. This usually occurs skiing at high velocity in poor conditions.

What should you do if you suspect that you have an ACL tear?

Firstly, seek medical advice. A doctor will usually perform an x-ray on your knee to ensure that there is no bony damage associated with the injury. However, an x-ray will not show an ACL rupture. For this you need an MRI scan, but even a scan cannot always be 100 % reliable.

A doctor or physiotherapist can carry out a series of manual tests to see if they think an ACL injury has occurred. Managing the swelling is extremely important. You can use the POLICE acronym.

Protection. To prevent further damage and to allow the knee to rest to encourage healing you will need to protect the joint.  This is especially true if it is giving way. A knee brace and crutches may be given to you when your injury initially occurs.

Optimal Load. This means starting early rehabilitation so that you can maintain as much strength through the knee as possible.

Ice. Wrap some ice in a cloth. Place it over your swollen knee for 10 – 15 minutes at a time. You can repeat this every couple of hours.

Compression. Tubigrip or an adhesive bandage works well.

Elevation. The higher the better!

ACL injuries in skiers

Manual testing of the ACL

Having a good understanding of your injury will greatly help you manage on the road to recovery. The sooner that you see a physiotherapist and begin rehabilitation, the better the long-term prognosis. It is essential to learn how to maintain muscle strength and regain range of movement as soon as possible.

What next?

ACL surgery is a whole new topic in itself. Not everyone will need an operation. However, in the majority of cases if you are keen to return to skiing, surgery may be advised. However, there are many cases where surgery has been avoided by intensive rehabilitation. Whether or not you should have surgery or manage your knee conservatively is best discussed with you doctor, physiotherapist and surgeon.

There is no evidence to support the need for immediate surgery after an ACL rupture. It is usually preferable to let the swelling settle before operating and this can often take 6 to 8 weeks.

Risk factors for an ACL injury in skiers:

  • Environment – poor visibility and difficult conditions and poor safety awareness.
  • Gender. In some sports, due to anatomical and hormonal factors females are at higher risk than men. However, in skiers this is under debate.  It has been suggested that in recreational skiers, women are more at risk.  However, in competitive skiers, the number of ACL injuries is similar in men and women.
  • Foot position. If you have a tendency to over pronate (feet roll inwards) your knee-joint may be under a lot more strain.  This may put your ACL in a vulnerable position. Good boot fit and accurate orthotics are essential.
  • Inaccurate equipment set up, especially din settings. If your bindings don’t release in a fall then the chances of the ACL rupturing are a lot higher.  It is extremely important not to exaggerate or under-estimate your level of skiing (or your weight) when you are having your equipment fitted.
  • Poor strength and fitness levels.
  • Decreased agility and flexibility.
  • Poor proprioception, balance and coordination.
  • Poor biomechanics and alignment leading to structural vulnerability
  • Muscle imbalances leading to inefficiency and fatigue

ACL Injury Reduction Strategies

There is more and more evidence emerging stating that ACL injury reduction programmes are effective and should be implemented into high risk sports.  However, it is evident that little of this research has been carried out with skiers.  Nonetheless, many of the strategies that have been put into practice in other sports can be applied to skiers in a sports specific manner.

A study in the United States implemented a training programme which focused on awareness and education in skiers.  Strategies included avoiding high-risk behaviour and positioning, recognising potentially dangerous skiing situations and responding quickly to unfavourable conditions. They found that using this program reduced the rate of serious knee injuries in skiers by 62% (Ettlinger et al. 1995).

How to help reduce the risk of an ACL injury?

In this blog we will start to introduce ways of reducing the risk of ACL injuries.  In part 2 we will delve further into strategies that recent research has shown reduces the risk of ACL injury in high risk sports. It is a multifaceted approach that incorporates a number of approaches that work in combination to minimise the risk of injury occurring.

Education and Awareness

As mentioned earlier, education and awareness of ACL injuries and how they occur can largely decrease the chances of them happening. It is important for skiers, especially instructors to recognise and convey the risk of potentially dangerous situations.

Even having an understanding of how to fall in the safest manner can dramatically decrease the chances of rupturing your ACL. When falling, to reduce twisting forces through the knee try to bring your arms forward with your hands over the skis and keep your feet together.  If you can remember to do this, I am impressed!  Despite supporting these recommendations, I know that I would struggle to remember these principles if I was tumbling!

It is also important to avoid attempting to get up while still moving after a fall and to avoid attempting to sit down after losing control. If you do fall, keep your knees bent. Don’t try to stand up until you have completely stopped sliding.

Follow us on instagram or facebook to be made aware of when we publish part 2. Here we will look further at biomechanical factors and how to train to reduce the risk of ACL injury.

* References: Ettlinger CF, Johnson RJ, Shealy JE. A method to help reduce the risk of serious knee sprains incurred in Alpine skiing. Am J Sports Med. 1995;23:531-537
* Pujol N, Rousseaux Blanchi MP, Chambat P. The Incidence of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries Among Competitive Alpine Skiers. A 25 year Investigation. Am J Sports Med 2007;35(7): 1070 – 1074
* Ruedl G, Webhofer M, Linortner I, et al. ACL injury mechanisms and related factors in male and female carving skiers: a retrospective study. Int J Sports Med. 2011;32(10):801-6.
* Shimokochi Y, Ambegaonkar JP, Meyer EG, Lee SY, Shultz SJ. Changing sagittal plane body position during single leg landings influences the risk of non-contact anterior cruciate ligament injury. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2013 Apr;21(4):888-97.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog is to provide general information and educational material relating to exercise, physiotherapy and injury management. ALP has made every effort to provide you with correct, up-to-date information. In using this blog, you agree that information is provided ‘as is, as available’, without warranty and that you use the information at your own risk. We recommend that you seek advice from a fitness or healthcare professional if you require further advice relating to exercise or medical issues.

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Half term skiing

Half term skiing: how to survive the madness!

Sharing the magic of the mountains with your children is a special way to make long lasting special memories.  Think sunny days, fresh air and great food.  Picture rosy-cheeked children with a healthy glow from being active in the great outdoors.  Imagine roaring fires, cosy chalets and good wine.  Fast forward to what can be the reality for many…….a hugely expensive holiday, overtired difficult children and harassed parents.  However, its worth it – I promise! And there are many ways that you can prepare.  Read on to learn more about half term skiing: how to survive the madness!

Half term is the most popular time for families to ski.  However, UK and french school holidays often coincide so the resorts and pistes are extremely busy over February half term.  Tour operators and hotels are usually completely booked up, holiday home owners flock to their chalets and apartments are full.   Busy resorts can lead to logistical challenges with transport, parking, eating and booking services.  I have complied my top tips to help you to minimise stress when skiing at half term.

Skiing at half term. Tips to avoid the crowds.

Half term skiing: how to survive the madness

Top Tips for half term skiing

Travelling

Start by preparing well for your journey to the moutains.  Airports are notoriously busy at February half term time.  Be prepared for queues (both in the airports and on the roads). Make sure that you have plenty of snacks and activities for children.  Think about what you are wearing to travel. All too often, people wear bulky clothing and ski jackets which can be restrictive and too warm.  Try and wear layers that can be easily removed so that you don’t overheat en route.

If you’re travelling with young children, keep a change of clothes accessible (for all of you). Think spillages, accidents and travel sickness on windy mountain roads.  Also, keep a packet of baby wipes and tissues handy.

If you arrive in a resort feeling harassed after a difficult journey, it can take a while to get back on track.  I wrote more about this in a previous blog on why skiing brings out the best and worst in people.

Ski lessons

For school holiday periods, book ski lessons at least six months before your trip (a year if possible).  Finding a free ski instructor in half term is near impossible.

Leave early to get to lessons so you don’t have a panic if it takes you longer to get to the meeting point you anticipated.

Half term skiing: how to survive the madness

Book ski lessons well in advance of half term

Ski and board equipment

Prebook ski and snow boarding equipment to avoid a last minute rush when you arrive in resort.  Many companies offer a delivery service where they will bring the skis and boards straight to your door, for example Door Step Skis in Morzine and Snowberry in Val d’Isere. This hugely takes the stress out of ski and board hire.  No more traipsing to the shop and queueing for kit.

Buy a lift pass on line, order it through your tour operator or buy it the day you arrive.  You don’t want to spend ages queueing for a lift pass the first day that you want to hit the slopes.

Restaurants and meals

Book evening restaurants well in advance to avoid disappointment. Ideally book before you arrive in the resort.

If the weather is warm enough, consider a picnic lunch.  This will save you money and help you avoid queues in busy mountain restaurants.  It is so easy to grab a baguette and some ham or cheese.  You could also consider packing some sandwich bags in your luggage.

If you are self catering, take the stress out of cooking each night and order a few meals in. There are a growing number of companies that now offer a food delivery service. An example of a company delivering fresh meals to your door in Morzine is Chez Michelle and across the french alps is Huski.

Safety

During February half term the pistes are extremely busy.  I would strongly recommend teaching your children about piste safety and the skiers highway code.

We covered many aspects of snow sports safety in our blog on skiing out of control.

Attire

Be prepared for all weather.  February can be freezing cold or very warm.  Dress yourselves and your children appropriately.  Once again, think about wearing layers that can be easily added or removed rather than bulky tops.

Pack at least two pairs of gloves per child for your holiday.  For young children put the gloves on an elastic or velcro strap to reduce the chance of loosing one! Having a spare pair will also help if the children have been building snowman. No one wants to put on wet soggy gloves and the cold can be dangerous for little fingers.

Think about the little things that will make getting out the chalet easier the next morning.  Ensure that all wet clothing is hung out to dry and don’t leave your ski boots in the cold over night. They will be very stiff and difficult to get on the next day.

Timing

Getting yourselves and children dressed and out of the house in full ski gear can be a huge palaver if you are not used to it! Plan the time that you need to leave the chalet and start getting your outdoor gear on at least 15 minutes before you are due to leave.  Trust me, it can take this long to wrestle little ones into their salopettes and ski boots.

Unless you have to plan your timing around lessons, leave early to get the first lifts.  An early start means that the queues won’t have had much time to build and you can head away towards quieter pistes straight away.

Think about what time you will eat your lunch.  Between midday and 2pm the pistes are usually much quieter so this can be a great time to ski and board to avoid the crowds.

Preparation

If you are physically in discomfort from poor fitting equipment, aches and pains or injuries then stress levels are likely to run higher.   Be fit to ski, pace yourselves and think about recovery after skiing.  Wear suncream and dress according to the weather. Ensure good fitting equipment that is adjusted to your specific needs and ability.

You may be on holiday, but avoid the temptation to keep children up too late.  Over tired children can lead to meltdowns and therefore frazzled parents.  Also bear in mind that the altitude, exercise and cold temperatures can tire all of us out more than usual! A ski trip is not like a summer holiday where you can sleep off late nights next to the pool the following day.

If you have very young children or babies, have a look at our blog on skiing with a baby for tips and ideas on how to make this as easy and fuss free as possible.

Childcare

If you need a nanny or babysitter during half term you will need to book this months in advance.  Also, consider if you will need a lunch club (if available) with ski school or creche facilities during your trip.  The earlier you book, the less likely that you are to miss out.

Resort workers

Finally, if you are working in a resort for a season, use this time to maximise your income.  Avoid the slopes when they are packed and increase your hours to benefit your earnings if possible.  This may not be an option if you are working in a chalet, however sometimes you can bank over time hours which you can then use during a quieter period.

Take the trip!

So to sum up, take the trip!  It is well worth it and an alpine experience with your family will undoubtably be special. The better you can plan, the more enjoyment you will have.

 

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Are you out of control?

I am making a sweeping generalisation when I presume that if you are reading this you are more likely to be an inherently sensible person who is keen to learn.  Chances are, this is also how you ski or board, therefore you are less likely to be out of control and this blog is not aimed at you.  However, please please please direct this blog towards people you know who do not give any thought to the rules of the pistes.  In fact, so many people do not even know that there is a skiers highway code!

I am about to go on a rant. I have seen too many collisions and dangerous situations that are easily avoidable over the years. At best, people walk away from the collisions a bit shaken.  At worse, they can be fatal!

In my job, I hear about collisions on the pistes day in and day out.  9 times out of 10, the injuries that I see have occurred to someone that has been the victim of someone else’s carelessness.

Most collisions are avoidable.

I send my 5 year old to ski school twice a week. She absolutely loves skiing but I get a little nervous each time I send her off up the mountain.  I trust the instructor that she skis with and I trust her to be sensible (within a 5 years olds scope of awareness).  However, I don’t trust the people around her.  I don’t trust the skiers and boarders that come hurtling down the runs with very little awareness of the people around them. It is always a huge relief when she gets back safely after each lesson.

On all types of pistes there are people of mixed abilities, travelling at various speeds in varying directions. Skiing and boarding are free sports; you can travel where you want at whatever pace you like. Skiing is liberating, but this freedom should not mean that you do not show respect for others on the mountain.

As I continue my rant, I’d like to point out that I’m not saying that you shouldn’t challenge yourself. You need to challenge yourself to improve, however there are ways of doing this safely.  Challenging yourself does not mean hurtling down a piste out of control.

DO NOT SKI OR BOARD OUT OF CONTROL OR BEYOND YOUR LIMITS. 

In Europe, our pistes are not patrolled like they are in North America.  It is our responsibility to act responsibly! It is our responsibility to teach our children the rules of the road (pistes in this case).  In no particular order, my top tips for skiing safely are:

1 – Make sure that you are skiing or boarding in control.

Can you stick to the line that you have picked to ski or safely change direction to accommodate other skiers or snowboarders?  Have you chosen a safe route? Are you able stop fairly quickly? Can you control your speed?  Are you able to quickly react to avoid the unpredictable nervous beginner skiing below you?

If you are not able to answer a big fat yes to all of the above questions, then you need to check yourself or book a lesson!

2 – Make sure you do not ski or board beyond your limits.

As I’ve previously mentioned, we need to challenge ourselves to progress and improve.  However, there are ways of doing this safely.

I had a client a few weeks ago who presented with injuries that meant he couldn’t ski.  How did the injuries occur? He had one ski lesson in a snow dome before hitting the pistes. After a few successful green runs, he tried his luck on a blue run.  His luck ran out!  I think this was a good thing as he was clearly out of control and therefore he did not only put himself at risk but he significantly put other people at risk.

If you are skiing with a group of mixed abilities, do not put yourself under pressure to keep up with the fastest and the most skilled.  Equally, if you are the stronger skier in the group, do not put pressure on others to keep up with you.

3 – Use ski tracker apps with caution.

In 2012, there was a tragic death in Val d’Isère.  A young man lost control when skiing at speed and crashed into a snow canon.  The impact killed him.  It has been suggested that he was trying to reach top speeds on a ski tracker app.

However, it is not just the youngsters looking for speed thrills. Today, my neighbour told me about a group of lawyers in their 40’s and 50’s who were trying to beat each others speeds by recording their skiing on a tracker app.  I really hope they were on empty pistes where they were putting no one but themselves at risk.

4 – Do not ski after a boozy lunch or when you are seriously hungover.

Would you drive a car over the limit? I don’t think so, therefore don’t do it on the pistes.

5 – Know the skiers code of conduct.

The FIS code of conduct is a list of rules on the pistes, which form the basis of your legal rights and responsibilities as a snow sports participant.  The rules are aimed at reducing the risk of injury on the slopes.  They explain which skier has right of way, rules of overtaking, stopping on the piste and our duty should an accident occur.

If you are not familiar with the FIS code of conduct, it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with them before skiing or boarding. Often they are printed on the back of a piste map and they are readily availiable online.

6 – When you stop on a piste, think about where is safe to do so.

Do not stop in the middle of the piste and do not stop just over a ridge where you can’t be seen.  Move to the sides of the piste.  Seriously, this is not rocket science, but seems to be a bit too much to grasp for many people!

Skiers blocking the piste

Skiers and snowboarders spread across the piste instead of stopping at the sides!

7- Teach kids when and how to manoeuvre safely.

Children may not have the safety awareness that we, as adults should have. It is our responsibility to teach them how to use a ski area safely.

Show children where it is safe to stop. Teach them to check for other skiers before starting skiing again.  Teach them to check before joining a piste if skiing outside of piste markers. And teach them to respect those skiing around them, particularly the downhill skiers.

Kids need to learn about ski safety too

Teach kids about ski safety

8 – Rest when you are fatigued.

If you are exhausted and aching take a rest or have a day off.  If your legs feeling heavy you will not have as much control over your skiing.  This can make it more difficult to make quick manoeuvres or to stop suddenly.  Falls and decreased control are also more likely when you are fatigued.

9 – Respect beginner pistes.

Beginners are often nervous and have less control over their skiing.  Having intermediate skiers careering past them at speed does nothing for their confidence.  Beginners are unlikely to be able to manoeuvre quickly if another skier crosses their path. They are also more prone to falls if they startle from someone skiing very close to them. Beginners also may make unpredictable turns, so slow down on beginner pistes.

10 – Check uphill before you head off.

This is a basic safety rule but so often overlooked.  Checking for on-coming traffic (skiers and boarders) sounds obvious………I’ll say no more!

Also, check the coast is clear if you are nipping on and off the piste or at a junction where runs converge.

11 – Adapt your skiing and boarding for the terrain and weather conditions.

If you are on narrow or icy pistes, slow down.  If the slopes are very busy, allow for this.  Pick your route and be prepared for people making unpredictable turns in front of you.

12- Minimise distractions

This can include using a mobile phone or listening to music whilst skiing or boarding.  Wearing headphones to listen to music may mean that you do not hear a skier or boarder close to you, reducing awareness and increasing the risk of collisions.  Use a Go pro mounted on a helmet to take footage on the pistes, rather than skiing along holding your mobile phone or a selfie stick.

13 – Pay attention to the skiers and boarders in front of you.

They have right of way.  At times, the downhill skier may be unpredictable. Allow for this.  Don’t assume to know their route. Children especially may make unexpected turns.  If you choose to overtake the downhill skier, avoid passing too close.

14 – Bravado.

It does not impress me when I hear that someone has managed to get down a red run on their second day skiing! It does not impress me when I hear that someone managed to learn to ski without lessons.  Anyone can clip into a pair of skis and try to stay balanced.  However, controlling the skis takes time, skill and practice.  I am impressed when people ski with skill, not with their egos!

When I hear about people challenging themselves to get down steep runs that are clearly beyond their limits or to keep up with more experienced skiers it either worries me or angers me!  Yes, I know that ski lessons are expensive but there is a reason for this.  In France (and in many other countries), ski instructors have spent tens of thousands of pounds to become qualified .  Top level ski instructing (required in France) is equivalent to a University degree.  These guys and gals know their stuff and they will teach you to ski in control.  You get so much from lessons, whatever your level.  So if you want to challenge yourself and improve, learn from the experts.

You may read this and think blimey, what a kill joy! That is not the aim of my rant at all.  Skiing is more fun when it is done in control.  Being a mountain mum has heightened my radar for crazy skiing and boarding.   Being a physiotherapist means that I often see the consequences of collisions (although the serious injuries bypass me and go straight to the medical centre or hospital).

It is really really important to be aware of these rules and safety tips.  If you manage a team of chalet staff, please share this blog and educate them.  If you are on a group holiday make sure that everyone is informed. And if you have children, help them understand safety rules as soon as they put their first skis on. Have the knowledge to stay safe and show respect for other skiers.  Please don’t be reckless.  And please, please, please think about your slope etiquette to help to avoid injury or even a tragedy from happening.

You can book lessons in Morzine, Les Gets and Avoriaz through ALP.

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Top tips to help when you ski on ice.

Blue skies and sunny days in the mountains…..what more could you want? Er – a bit more snow please! Whilst the french alps had a good start to the season, warmer temperatures, rain and lots of skiers over the Christmas and New Year periods have left the slopes a bit scratchy in parts, especially in lower resorts.

Today I skied with my 5 year old daughter and my mother. Skiing with both a small child and an older lady on busy and icy pistes made me nervous.  Ha – my mum will kill me for writing that.  My mum is a keen skier and far from elderly, however she does suffer from osteoporosis.  This really brought home to me the fact that a fall on hard packed pistes would be very unforgiving, and in my mums case could very likely lead to a broken bone.  This is a risk my mum has decided to take as she has no intention of giving up skiing.  However, I certainly picked my routes today to avoid the ice as much as possible.   

Skiing on ice

Top tips for skiing on ice

Hard icy pistes can influence injury patterns in skiers.  Whilst there may be less knee ligament injuries, which are particularly prevalent after a heavy snow fall, when it is icy we see more impact injuries that can affect the pelvis, back and shoulders.  We also see a rise in general knee problems and an exacerbation of pre-existing conditions.  These are usually easily treatable and a physiotherapist can usually help you understand and manage your injury or pain. 

Tips for skiing on ice

Top tips to help you ski on ice

Skiing on icy snow can be scary.  It requires skill and precision.  I asked some fantastic ski instructors what their top tips are when skiing skiing on the ice?

Gavin Paley The Snow Institute, Morzine, Avoriaz and Les Gets

Stay balanced over the middle of your feet, with a slightly wider stance than normal.  Look ahead and make the middle of your turn through the softer snow that has been scraped aside by other skiers. Turn your feet slowly and avoid harsh movements. 

Elaine Bunyan Elaines Elite Coaching, Val d’Isere, Tignes, Ste Foy, La Rosiere, La Plagne and Les Arcs

Don’t panic and keep your speed to a minimum.  Stay over the downhill ski (don’t lean into the hill) so your hips are down the hill.  Don’t try to ski but rather slide over it until you find a piece of softer snow to break.  Turn on the softer snow, slide and survive! If its too icy avoid that piste and stay within your limits.  Drink lots of hot chocolate.

Wayne Watson Alpine Experience, Val d’Isère

On ice use a controlled side slip with feet well apart. Over edging and fighting is a recipe for disaster. 

Caroline Barley Ultimate Snowsports, Val d’Isère & Tignes

On an icy slope go with it, stay balanced, twist and slide.  Don’t try to force the ski to grip because it won’t – go with it.  Be on top of the ski.

Lara De Agostini  Platinum Ski School, Val d’Isère 

Use your body as a spring and bend the three main joints evenly (hips, ankles and knees).

Rich Murray New Generation

Relax and understand the limitations of your equipment. A lot of skis will not grip on ice, so relax and go with it and be ready to grip when they will. Racers make their skis much sharper, a tourist ski isn’t designed to grip the same way.

Alan Okrafo-Smart Mountain Masters, Val d’Isère

When skiing on hard packed, icy snow keep the turns small so you don’t pick up too much speed. Try to blend the turning of the skis, the edging of the skis and the weight transfer as smoothly and progressively as possible form turn to turn.

Steve Ricketts BASS

Stand centrally on your skis to survive the ice.  Face downhill to keep your weight on the lower ski to travel with the ski.  If you are on your uphill ski you are more likely to have your feet swept from beneath you.

Liam Luke TDC Ski, Val d’Isere

Go with it, stay balanced and turn in the soft stuff.

Max Kratter Oxygene Ski School, Val d’Isere 

Move your body facing down the hill and keep your weight on the downhill ski.  Let it go!

Thank you to everyone that has let me pick their brains.  There are some very useful tips which will hopefully help to prevent injuries occurring. 

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Skiing brings out the best and worst in people

Why skiing brings out the best and worst in people?

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Skiing brings out the best and worst in people! Thats quite a bold statement to make. But why do I think this? Well, skiing can be addictive, there is no doubt about that. But it’s not for everyone. In the years that I have spent living in and around ski resorts, I have regularly witnessed both ends of the spectrum.

For most people, the first time in the mountains is a magical experience, especially during the winter months when there is snow on the ground. The glistening soft white stuff transforms the Alps into a winter wonderland and even when you have lived in the mountains for a long time, you can’t help but marvel at the beauty.

Often, the scenery in itself can have a calming effect on people.   Couple this with a cosy chalet, good food and wine and you have a recipe for a perfect holiday.

Beautiful snowy mountains

Stunning views in the mountains

Unfortunately, this is not always the case.   For some people, being out of their comfort zone and in completely unfamiliar territory can have the opposite effect.  All too often, I see snotty nosed children sobbing uncontrollably because they don’t want to go to ski school and harassed parents fed up with their clinginess.

So here are a few tips to make the transition to ski school easier.

1 – Breakfast

Make sure your little one has had a good breakfast, ideally more than they usually eat at home. A hungry child is an unhappy child.

2 – Clothing

Make sure your child is dressed properly and appropriately for the conditions. Please don’t cut corners with children’s ski clothing. There are plenty of warm, waterproof options available. There is nothing more miserable than a cold child and it can be dangerous. Layers can be taken off if they are warm. My daughter often wears a balaclava, which is very thin to fit under her helmet such as these:

She has a good pair of gloves and we layer her clothes according to the temperature. I would highly recommend using mittens for children, as these tend to keep little hands much warmer. I particularly like having a central zip as I find that this makes putting gloves on and off much easier on younger children.  Our daughter has a pair of Roxy mittens and she has yet to complain of cold hands.

   

Your chalet should be able to provide you with a daily forecast to help you decide how to layer. Keep an eye on the humidity and the wind chill as well as the temperature.

Dress children appropriately

Dress children appropriately

3 – Don’t rush

Leave plenty of time to get to ski school. If you, as parents feel rushed, this will rub off on the children. Try and keep calm and positive.  If you have any concerns, contact the ski school in advance, rather than in front of the children on the slopes.  Be reassured that all instructors are CRB checked and regularly up-date their safe guarding children certificates.

4- Snacks

Pop a snack and some money for a hot chocolate in your child’s pocket. For my eldest daughter, the hot chocolate stop is still the highlight of going to ski school.

Hot chocolate stop

Hot Chocolate stop

5- Tiredness.

It may be tempting to keep your children up late on holiday, but you will pay for it the next day.  Altitude has a big impact on our sleep, which I will talk about in a future blog. Don’t be surprised if your children are having vivid dreams and talking in their sleep a lot. Again, this is down to the altitude.

6 – Preparation

Prepare your children for ski school. Put a positive spin on what they will be doing. Let them know that it will be exciting and that they will be making new friends.  When booking ski school, make sure that you pick the right level for your child, even if this means separating siblings. If a child is too good for a group they will be bored. If they aren’t good enough, they will struggle to keep up. Chat with the ski school about all the available options before booking.

AIM  LEARN  PERSERVERE

But it’s not just the children who struggle. Miserable, short-tempered adults are not an uncommon sight! If you arrive in resort on the wrong foot, it can take a few days to get back on track. If you have had a long and difficult transfer, with an early start, bad weather, travel sickness and a bad airport experience, stress levels can understandably run high. Sometimes these factors are outside of our control, but when travelling try and prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

The fear factor can also bring out the worst in people (although, equally the opposite is true).  Often people are nervous outside of their comfort zones.  Novice skiers especially may be particularly nervous. They may be scared that they can’t control their skis, frightened of collisions with other skiers (see our blog on avoiding collisions), unsure of how to get on and off chair lifts and worried about their children.  It is no surprise that some people are fraught with tension.

So, consider the following:

1- Have a lesson before your holiday

If you have never skied before, have a couple of lessons at a snow zone before you head to the mountains. Getting used to the feel of clumpy ski boots, carrying your skis and learning how to put your skis on can be challenging at first. Master the basics by learning before hand.

Ski lessons for everyone

Ski lessons are recommended for all ages and abilities

2 – Food for fuel

Make sure you have also had a good breakfast and have healthy snacks handy. ‘Hanger’ is real. Altitude and cold temperatures greatly increase our appetites and calorific demand. Try and have a healthy snack (protein based) as soon as you come off the hill, as this will help with muscle repair and recovery.

3- Booze?

Avoid hangovers. Is anyone happy with a hangover?

4 – Skiing beyond your limits

Avoid pushing your spouse out of their limits. We’ve all seen it. The loving husband (sorry to be sexist but more often than not it is this way round), keen to show his beginner wife around the mountains. However, he has not thought this through. An icy blue slope to a beginner can feel like a challenging black run. Tears will flow, frustrations will develop and harsh words will be said!  We’ve all seen it; a skier sat down at the side of a run refusing to go any further! This is a sure fire way to put someone off skiing for life. It is also a surefire way to put a dent in your relationship.  If you value your relationship, even just a tiny bit, leave the teaching and guiding to the professionals.

5 – Pain and injuries

Don’t ski if you are in pain. If your ski boots hurt, change them. If you have an injury, seek advice from a physiotherapist.

6 – Lack of fitness

If you are unfit, skiing can become hard work. Thighs will burn, knees may ache and calf muscles will cramp.  Ideally, you want to stay fit year round and 6 – 8 weeks before hitting the slopes you should make your fitness training more ski specific (ski fitness warrants a whole blog in itself which will follow).

If you are struggling with fitness on the slopes and aren’t already doing so, consider having a ski lesson.  Improving your technique can greatly reduce the strain on your muscles.  Pace yourself, especially at the beginning of the week. Treat yourself to a massage mid way through the week to help ease your sore muscles.

7 – Hydration

This applies to children as much as adults. When you are working hard in high, dry climates, you will be loosing fluid through exercise as well as through breathing. Make sure you take on enough fluid to replace this.  You will need to drink more in the mountains than you do at home.

The beautiful mountains

We love to ski!

If you come across someone having a bad time on the slopes, a little support and encouragement can go a long way. Of course, a bad run or a bad day does not mean that the whole holiday will be miserable.  Sometimes, reflecting back at the end of the day can help us learn what to change to make skiing unforgettable for the right reasons!

So how does skiing bringing out the best in people? Skiing may not be for everyone, but there are definitely more lovers than haters. Look around you on the slopes. Most people will have a big smile on their faces. And look in the restaurants and bars during lunch or après ski. A hearty meal and a few vin chauds is enough to make anyone happy!

The majority of people who are nervous on the slopes have the opposite response to that which I have described above. Determination to learn a new skill or to develop technique can be greatly rewarding.  Pushing yourself a little outside of your comfort zone can go a long way. Once the adrenalin starts pumping and skill starts to develop, skiing gives you a feeling of elation like no other.

Fresh air, fresh powder, exercise and endorphins are a recipe for happiness.  Skiing is liberating, fun and exhilarating.  So enjoy the ALPine playground and make some memories.  If skiing really isn’t for you, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy in the mountains.

The saying in the ski community is that ‘there are no friends on a powder day‘!  I’ll leave this to you to decide if this is bringing out the best or worst in people!

Skiing fun

Skiing = happiness

 

 

 

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Speed test training?

Are you struggling to pass your Eurotest?

Are you struggling to pass your Eurotest?  Are you having excellent coaching but can’t quite cut the mustard? I want to give you ideas and things to think about with your training and preparation.

I am not a ski racer.

I am not a ski instructor.

I am not a psychologist.

But I am a physiotherapist who has spent over a decade working in the ski industry.  I also have a unique perspective on the Eurotest.  I am married to a ski instructor who had to retake his speed test time and time again.  Watching him train all autumn, spend a fortune driving to various Eurotests all around Europe and not succeed multiple times was soul destroying.

There were many things in his journey to become a ski instructor in France that were set against him.  He didn’t start skiing until his late teens.  He never raced.  As a stagiere he focused on his clients rather than his training.  He spent a lot of time in the gym but also a lot of time at the bar!

We were starting to look into relocating to a country that didn’t require the Eurotest to teach skiing.  At this point my husband was already in his 40s.  Age was definitely against him.  As were our finances!  But before we made any major life changing decisions he decided to change how he trained.  He changed his focus, he changed his mind set and the night before his final Eurotest I told him he was going to be a dad………it turns out that was the motivation he needed!

I am by no means going to make any technical racing suggestions.  The on hill training is best left to the experts.  I am going to discuss what you could consider changing off the hill.  However, this needs to be a gradual process and I do not recommend making big changes if a race is coming up in the near future.

Are you struggling to pass your Eurotest? Read on for tips for ski racers.

1 – Change how you train for your Eurotest

  • Are you unable to knock seconds off your training despite spending hours in the gym?
  • Are you giving yourself enough recovery time?
  • Have you had the same gym routine for weeks, months or even years?
  • Are you forgetting to regularly progress your exercises to challenge yourself?

If so, its time for a revamp.  Everyone has individual needs, so I cannot tell you how to train in this blog.  What I can do is suggest that you cover the following in your off hill fitness training:

Cardiovasular fitness

Mix this up.  Don’t just spend hours jogging on the treadmill or sitting on a bike.  Think about introducing interval training, longer runs / cycles, shorter sprints and hill sprints.

Weight training

Strength training for skiers

Using Kettlebells is one option for strength training for skiers

Again, look at how you are training.  Obviously, skiers need to focus a lot on their legs but don’t neglect your upper body.  Some key points to think about include:

  • your alignment when you are squatting / leg pressing
  • using heavy weights / high resistance to improve strength
  • using lighter weights / low resistance to improve endurance
  • vary the machines and equipment that you use.  Don’t just gravitate to the machines that you enjoy.  Challenge yourself with new exercises and equipment
  • when and where possible, have a personal trainer check your posture and positioning to ensure safe management.  Also, use a trainer to help develop a progressive program.
  • Keep a training diary so you can monitor your progress over time

Core stability training 

A strong core, means a stable platform to work from.  With the high speeds, acceleration forces and changes in centre of mass needed for ski racing this is of great importance.

My favourite way to train the core is through pilates.  Try a class, you’ll be surprised how much it can work you.  Many of my skiing friends have said to me that they have tried pilates before and find it boring.  My answer; find a different instructor who will inspire and challenge you!

Core stability training with pilates exercises for skiers.

Core stability training for skiers. The plank!

 

Flexibility and mobility training

You need a good range of movement in your joints to allow for the extreme positions that are required from racing.  You also need good flexibility to help prevent injuries and to give you a buffer when you fall.  For example, to achieve good lateral separation you need to have good mobility in your hips and good flexibility in the muscles in your back, sides and thighs.  Without this, your technique may suffer and your may find that your back starts to ache.

There is still a huge debate in the medical and fitness industries about the benefits of stretching, stretching for recovery, stretching to increase muscle length and stretching to warm up.  However, current research suggests that a dynamic warm up may help before exercise, e.g. not static stretches (which may actually be detrimental if done before exercise).

After exercise, I do recommend static stretching.  Ski racers should focus on their thigh muscles, calf muscles, hip flexors and back muscles.  Don’t over look mobility of the upper back and shoulders which can become stiff.  A foam roller can be great tool for both mobility and self massage.

Proprioceptive and balance training

You need excellent balance and writing reactions to help you recover from potential falls.  You can train this.  You can improve your balance.  But don’t just train your static balance, for example by standing still on one leg.  If you are racing, you need to challenge your dynamic balance as this is more important when you are flying down a mountain.

What do I mean by dynamic balance?  I mean trying to maintain equilibrium whilst in motion.  Some ideas include:

  • stand on one leg and touch the ground either side of you.  Gradually increase how far you reach away from your body and how quickly you do this.
  • perform a travelling hop (hop forwards) and after the third hop pause on one leg and maintain your balance.

Some of my favourite adjuncts to balance training are

  • a bosu ball
  • slack line

Balance and propriocpetive training for skiers

Balance training for skiers using a bosu ball and a medicine ball.

Plyometric and agility training 

I have saved the best to last.  This is so so so important for ski racers and is often missed out of training programs.  You need to practice explosive, powerful movements to help propel yourself through the gates, whilst working with and against huge lateral forces.

What is plyometric training?  Think rebound training.  Think jumping, hopping, skipping, fast feet and explosive movements.  Think hurdles and squat thrusts.  Think box jumps and burpees.  You can do this with or without resistance but start gradually and build up as you get faster and stronger.  If you have a pre-existing injury, go easy or avoid plyometric exercises until you have medical advice.

2 – Change your mindset

So much of the Eurotest is dependant on the weather, the conditions and your race number.  And even more is related to your state of mind, your nerves and your confidence.   If you have already tried and not succeeded before, self doubt may already be creeping in.  So its time for a change.  Positive affirmations and mental imagery can work wonders.  But for those of you who are giving yourselves a particularly tough time, consider speaking to a sports psychologist who can help develop a mindset plan with you.  Don’t underestimate the effect that not succeeding with the Eurotest can have on your mental heatlh.

3 – Change your pre-race preparation

Do you arrive at the Eurotest a few days before to ski the course or do you rock up last minute?  Do you wake up early to start preparing mentally and physically or do you stay in bed as long as you can on race day?  Do you go alone to focus or do you spend time relaxing or brainstorming the course with friends? What do you eat, both the night before and the morning of the Eurotest?  Is this food that you are used to eating when you are training?  Have you got snacks for race day?

The questions above are not set to give right or wrong answers.  They are there to help you think about what is the best pre-race preparation for you.

4 – Stop drinking

I don’t mean just the night before, I mean weeks, if not months before your race.  Alcohol affects our performance.  Dehydration is well known to have a negative affect on our performance.   Put the champagne on ice until its time to celebrate.

5 – Nutrition

Nutrition is important throughout your training, for recovery and for race day.  Ensure that you have a good balance of proteins, carbohydrates and fats in your diet.  Consider what you eat for recovery after a hard session.  Ideally, eat something that is high in carbohydrates and protein within 20 minutes of training (whether on or off the hill).  Think about foods that work well as anti inflammatories, for times that your muscles are particularly sore and tired.  I love adding tumeric to soups and smoothies for this purpose and ginger has also been shown to reduce inflammation.  Beetroot juice and tart cherry juice are trending at the moment as research has shown that they can enhance recovery.

6 – Recovery

Many factors that help recovery such as stretching and your diet have been mentioned above. However, the one thing that I haven’t mentioned is rest.  Rest is crucial when you are training hard, both physically and mentally.  Get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of water (especially when training at altitude) and don’t train everyday.

 

Disclaimer:
The purpose of this blog is to provide general information and educational material relating to exercise, physiotherapy and injury management. Alpine lifestyle and performance has made every effort to provide you with correct, up-to-date information. In using this blog, you agree that information is provided ‘as is, as available’, without warranty and that you use the information at your own risk. We recommend that you seek advice from a fitness or healthcare professional if you require further advice relating to exercise or medical issues.

 

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