Ski racing is the next step for many recreational skiers who have already mastered the basics. If you want to learn how to take your skiing up a notch, beat a personal record, or engage in some healthy competition, read on.
Anyone who has ever learned something new—so, really, every human ever—knows that the process is not always lineal. Maybe for a while you notice improvement after each practice and then, suddenly, you hit a plateau where you just can’t seem to advance.
If you’re a recreational skier who wants to hone your skills and practice ski racing, it’s helpful to know some tips for effective training. That way, if you find yourself in a rut, you’ll know what to try instead of letting frustration get the best of you.
Take ski racing lessons
In our last blog post, we covered the benefits of ski lessons for beginners. But don’t think that classes are only for first-timers; there are plenty of intermediate courses aimed at ensuring continued progress and preparing students to safely tackle slopes of any difficulty.
Individual classes are a good option for people eager to improve their ski racing skills as quickly as possible with the help of one-on-one attention from a professional. Of course, they tend to be more expensive than group lessons.
Group classes are a more affordable option that can still help you boost your ski racing abilities much faster than you’d be able to on your own. Plus, you can make friends with people who have similar skill levels—future racing competitors!
One more thing: to make the most of your class, make sure you have everything you need before heading out to the slopes. In this blog post, we went over essential ski and snowboard gear.
Do targeted workouts for ski racing
Skiing is a high-intensity sport which requires exertion from practically every muscle in your body at one point or another. However, certain muscle groups are key, and making a special effort to strengthen those will help you increase your endurance on the slopes.
Abs and other core muscles
Your core muscles work to stabilize your body while you pick up speed, so having a strong core is an advantage for people interested in ski racing. Planks (including side planks) are good exercises to have in your repertoire, and you might also consider going to a Pilates class or watching tutorials online for more ideas for strengthening your core.
The gluteus maximus
The butt, the booty… whatever you want to call it, it comes into play a lot when you’re skiing. To strengthen this large muscle, you can do squats, lunges, or go for a run (why not all three?).
The hamstrings are the three major muscles at the back of your thigh. If you wake up after a day of skiing with very sore legs, that means you’d probably benefit from working out your hamstrings more often. Exercises you can try include the reverse plank, the basic bridge, and the single-leg bridge. While you’re at it, don’t forget the front of your thighs (quadriceps)!
Stretch before and after
You want to be as limber as possible on the slopes. Stretching before ski racing can improve your performance and, more importantly, help prevent injury. Fitness experts recommend doing dynamic stretches (stretches that involve near-constant movement) before exercising and static stretches (which involve holding a pose) afterwards.
Perfect your turns
Think that this tip doesn’t apply to intermediate and advanced skiers? As cliché as it sounds, the truth is that there’s always room for improvement. If you want to improve your ski racing, we recommend that you master wide turns. You might not need them all the time if you generally ski narrow runs, but when you do need them, having the skill sure comes in handy.
Practice wide turns by swiveling your skis with your legs as you maintain a solid, centered posture. It’s a good idea to crouch down a bit to help you keep your balance.
Improve your carving
As you probably already know, parallel skiing and carving are two popular ways to turn while skiing. The first method requires your skis to remain flat on the snow, while the second technique involves turning your skis so that the edges cut into the snow.
The method you should choose depends on your skill level and the state of the terrain. But if you’re interested in ski racing and still haven’t learned how to carve, we recommend you do so, since it’s the most quick and efficient way to turn in skis.
Inspect the race course
If you’re new to ski racing, you should know that one of the most important safety tips (which will also improve your performance) is to do an inspection of the course before you start skiing. Pay attention to the snow conditions, the location of the gates, and any special areas such as jumps or blind turns. Then visualize the course to prepare yourself mentally for the race.
Work on your start technique
After lots of practice, having already inspected the race course and done your dynamic stretches, you’ll find yourself at the start gate, ready for action. But which technique will you use for takeoff?
Every second counts in a ski race, which is why there are different start techniques aimed at taking just a second off your time. There’s the “step out,” the “push start,” the “jump start”… only you can decide which one works best for you, so we recommend trying a few out and deciding on one before the day of the race.
From the whole team at Vertical Challenge, be safe and happy racing!