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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.
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.
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. I hope they will 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.