Start your fitness plan for the winter now
Summer: it’s bad enough that your next proper skiing holiday is half a year away. But there’s the added torture of knowing that each day you spend kicking your heels in the park, your specialised skiing muscles will be wasting away.
What can you do about it? Well, you can embark on a ski fitness programme for starters. More than anything – technique, equipment, attitude – it’s a lack of fitness that holds skiers back when they hit the slopes, and you’re not going to remedy that fact with couple of jogs in the week before you fly to the Alps. Now’s the time to acquire good habits, and build your strength and stamina. So get your bike out of the shed, go running, join a gym, or find a decent local pool.
Ski fitness coach Dave Smith, who has worked with the British Alpine Ski Team and British Skicross Team, suggests a programme that combines aerobic work with gym sessions and interval training. For the aerobic exercise, he suggests regular runs, “because the impact of running is the best preparation you can give your body for the knocks and vibration of skiing.”
Smith also suggests taking up a martial art, to improve balance and coordination, as well as plenty of outdoor work, such as mountain biking, hill walking and even climbing “to mix things up a little – otherwise your regime is going to get really stale.”
When it comes to exercises aimed at specific skiing muscles, our ski fitness guide is the place to go. It features not just circuit training, but stretching and warm-down exercises too. Remember, if you struggle to find time for exercise, start weekly fitness diary. Each Sunday, make a realistic plan about what to do when – and stick to it.
Get your own training machine
If you want to splash out, then buy yourself the Skier’s Edge – a weird and wonderful machine developed by the US ski team to simulate the action of skiing. It’s marketed in the UK by ex-ski racer and Ski Sunday presenter Graham Bell, and is part of the British team’s fitness programme.
You can try one out in some ski shops and in selected private gyms and ski clubs. For example, Skiplex Reading and Skiplex Chiswick both run courses combining slope technique with a session on the Skier’s Edge, whilst Glide and Slide in Otley, Yorkshire has demo sessions. If you want to buy your own – be warned – they don’t come cheap. There are three models with prices starting at around £900 up to £2,000 – although you might be able to find one on eBay for considerably less.
Another great way to train in the summer – which is cheaper and small, so easier to store, is the SkiA Sweetspot Trainer. It’s a dry-land trainer which you use while wearing ski boots, and it helps your balance. It’s also a good way of practising pivoting and edging skills. Balancing on them is highly dynamic, and they’re fast and fun to use.
Each pack comes with four sizes of balance block, which gives a sense of being balanced on the centre point. The green blocks are easy for anyone – even absolute beginners – to use. The blue and red blocks are progressively smaller, and get significantly harder. The black blocks are very narrow, and designed to be extremely difficult (at least as hard as, say, balancing on a slackline). With training sessions of just a few minutes per day, you can practice and refine your skills. It costs £45 and stockists include Ski Bartlett and Ventura Sports, as well as online at SkiA.
Ski in a Big Fridge
If you only started to ski or snowboard recently, brush up your skills at an artificial slope or snowdome: during the summer there are often big discounts on lessons. Before you go, brush up on the theory with our ski technique tutorials, and check out Darren Turner’s clear, succinct lessons on the Ski School App.
Try to go regularly. “Ideally once a week over the summer months would be great,” says Warren Smith of the Warren Smith Ski Academy. “It’ll keep the muscles firing and the confidence up.”
The Ski Club has a list of dry slopes and real snow slopes – and there’s no doubt the real snow slopes provide the best skiing surface. There are six in the UK: The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead, Chill Factore in Manchester, Snozone in Leeds and Milton Keynes, Snow Factor in Braehead, and The Snow Dome in Tamworth. Taster lessons at Chill Factore start from £27 per adult (£22 per child) for 55 minutes in a group of up to 10 people.
Go to a Glacier
You don’t have to schlep to the southern hemisphere to ski a real mountain in summer. Several glaciers in the Alps are open for skiing for part, or all, of the summer season – and if the weather’s good they can provide a platform for a blissful holiday.
Glacier skiing is a radically different experience from winter skiing. You ski in the morning (wearing suncream with the highest sun protection factor you can lay your hands on), and then devote the afternoon to biking, swimming, playing tennis, skateboarding, trampolining, football, rafting, canyoning, rock-climbing, zorbing…or just lazing in the sun. It’s a relaxing, mellow time.
Bear in mind, however, that the glaciers aren’t enormous, and it’s best to sign up for a summer camp to give the trip some focus. Several Alpine glaciers host busy summer programmes, including AKDMY and Henri Authier, both on the Grande Motte in Tignes, and DA Camps in Les Deux Alpes, with ride and park sessions in the morning and trampolining, mountain biking and beach volleyball in the afternoon. You can also ski on the Theodul Glacier, Zermatt’s summer ski region above Trockener Steg, and in Austria there’s Kaprun, Solden, the Stubai and the Hintertux glaciers.
Warren Smith Ski Academy runs courses on the glacier above Cervinia from the end of June to the beginning of September. Two of our editors have been on one of the week-long summer courses, which is aimed at everyone from intermediates and up. Both loved the mix of work and play on offer.
Buy your new ski gear now
Spring and summer are when last season’s ski equipment and clothing are at their lowest prices: it’s not unusual to find 30-50% off ski jackets, for example, and you’ll often find skis at significant discounts, too. Check out the sales pages at outlets such as Sports Outlet, Snow + Rock, Cotswold Outdoor, and Ellis Brigham for a taste of what’s on offer. You’ll also find great deals on offer in the resorts themselves at this time of year: which adds to the pleasure of a summer-skiing trip on one of the Alpine glaciers.
The one item you shouldn’t buy at this time of year is ski boots. Stocks are low at the end of the season (in fact, they’re low from mid-season onwards) and you may find shops don’t have boots that fit you.
Book your next ski holiday – if you want a peak-season week
The time to book a ski holiday for next New Year’s Eve or February half term is now: before the early-booking deals dry up and while there’s still plenty of choice. This is especially true of February half term – because most schools will break up for the same week in 2014. Tour operators are also reporting a jump in demand for New Year holidays – which is one of the by-products of the memorably snowy ski season of 2012-13.