Back in December, you clicked “confirm purchase” for an all-inclusive ski vacation to Crested Butte, CO, and now you’re just 10 days away from carving turns on frontside cruisers, tackling the Colorado mountains’ famed backside steeps, and—Mother Nature willing—cutting first tracks through virgin Rocky Mountain powder. (Warren Miller, watch out.)
There’s a hitch. Though you may have visions of powder stashes and leg-busting bumps dancing in your head, chances are that at this point in the season, you’re not in good enough shape to handle them—unless, say, your name is Bode Miller. The good news: whether you’re headed to Crested Butte or one of the 400+ other ski areas in the United States, you still have time to get ready to rock the slopes.
“It’s definitely possible to ‘cram for the test’ in a short period of time,” explains US national snowboard team member Justin Reiter, who’s based in Crested Butte and has competed around the world. “Just remember not to push too hard and get adequate rest leading up to your trip. If your body’s not accustomed to the stress of hard workouts, you risk hurting yourself or getting sick.”
Simply adding a few new moves to your existing workout now can make the difference between a great day on the slopes and having to call it quits early, says Robin Barnes, a ski instructor and staff trainer at California's Heavenly Ski Resort. Skiing and snowboarding involve frequent, short bursts of high-intensity aerobic demand, so your path to fast fitness involves incorporating intervals into your training. Start with a 20-minute workout that toggles between high- and moderate-intensity efforts for 2 to 3 minutes at a time. Work your way up to 60 minutes as you start to feel stronger.
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Reiter recommends circuit training, where intense workout periods replicate a run down the slope, and the recovery period is the time you spend on the chairlift. Start with a 5-minute warmup run followed by a 1-minute front plank. Then begin the circuit with a 30- to 60-second wall sit, followed by 10 push ups, 10 squats, 10 renegade rows, 10 squat jumps, and 20 walking lunges. Finally run or walk at an easy pace for 5 minutes before repeating the circuit four more times.
Jane Rynbrandt, an expert coach at Carmichael Training Systems in Colorado Springs, suggests adding balance training to your workouts. “Sit on a Swiss ball instead of the weight bench when you do shoulder presses. Do walking lunges instead of staying in the same spot. Do single-leg squats instead of both legs.” Rynbrandt also recommends adding jumping and plyometric exercises such as jump squats, box jumps, and lateral jumps.
After you’re done at the gym, pay close attention to your diet, says Tom Holland, an exercise physiologist and author of Beat the Gym: Personal Trainer Secrets without the Personal Trainer Price Tag. “Eat like an athlete if you expect your body to perform like one,” he says. “Before your trip, focus on eating lean protein and quality complex carbohydrates like whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables to ensure your tank is filled with high-octane fuel. Also make sure to mix in fruits, veggies, and lots of water.” Begin hydrating for your trip at least two days prior, and on your travel day consume water whenever possible.
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Once you’ve arrived and have settled in at your resort, wake up your muscles with an easy core workout and a walk or jog, suggests Reiter. “Traveling causes inflammation throughout the body,” he explains. ”That hinders your muscles’ ability to contract, thus increasing the potential for injury.” Light exercise will help flush away that inflammation. One suggestion: Walk up the mountain in the moonlight to see a side of the resort that others don’t see.
Finally, before you head out to ski or snowboard, don’t forget to stretch, says Rob Sulaver, a Peak Performance trainer and an avid snowboarder. (Search: Best stretches to start your workout) “Pay particular attention to your groin, hip flexors, and neck,” he says. “Once you get on the slopes, use the first few runs to warm up the body, and do the same after lunch. And remember that most injuries occur later in the day when you are tired. If you’re feeling shaky, take a break for a few runs to rest.”
The first day of your trip is also the perfect time to take a ski lesson and brush up on your skills. “We’re all excited to get out and hit the slopes, but don’t overdo it,” says Barnes. “An instructor can help you get your feet back under you.” Plus, he’ll know exactly where to find the secret powder stashes.