September 14, 2016
Pep Fujas demonstrates how preseason training on a Bosu ball helps prep your core and balance for skiing bumpy terrain in variable conditions.
By Drew Petersen @drewpeterski
For skiers and snowboarders throughout the Northern Hemisphere, fall is the season of anticipation—complete with movie premieres, early season snowfall, and drooling over new gear. But fall is also the last chance to tune up your body before ski season hits. Sure, you’ve been biking, hiking, maybe even rock climbing all summer; however, it is time to switch things up, pick up the intensity, and work out with ski season as the main focus.
BCA pro athletes and industry icons Dash Longe and Pep Fujas choose to prepare for winter at Burn, a fitness studio centered around circuit, TRX, and pilates training, in Salt Lake City, where they both live at the foot of the Wasatch mountains. Stephanie Willey, a skier herself, started Burn in 2012 on the simple premise of boosting the intensity from other gyms in the area. Walker Willey, Stephanie Willey’s husband, a fellow trainer at Burn, and a former Freeskiing World Tour competitor, saw the importance in working out in the gym as it helped his own skiing, and is now helping others realize it as well.
“People are doing bigger, more intense tricks. They’re skiing and snowboarding faster, bigger lines and I think your body needs to be equipped to handle that,” says Walker. “If your body’s not in shape for it, there’s a really good chance you’re going to hurt yourself and you’re not going to be able to perform at the level you want to.”
For backcountry skiers, the demand for a body that can perform well when tired is especially paramount. After setting a boot pack or finishing a long approach, you need to be able to trust that your body can still perform on the descent and keep you safe.
On the two premises of boosting performance level on snow and avoiding injury, Dash Longe and several other professional skiers helped Stephanie and Walker start a specific snow conditioning class at Burn in 2014. Pep Fujas joined the program last year, and now both Dash and Pep are regulars; they rarely, if ever, miss a class and constantly inspire others around them to push through the pain in order to prepare for winter.
“I was bad about exercising preseason for a long time when I was younger,” admits Dash. “I started doing a preseason routine like four or five years ago and really getting more into it. With this class especially, I’ve noticed a huge difference. It’s really important.”
When you’re skiing, your movements constantly vary: you have to rotate, change which leg has more weight, and take impact. The class is designed to replicate these demands better than traditional fitness classes, weight lifting, or other sports like trail running or mountain biking, all while keeping safe and focusing on good form. Burn’s snow conditioning class achieves a great full body workout, through circuit training and new exercises every class.
“My favorite part is the way that I feel after the class is over. I mean, in the beginning you just feel exhausted, but there’s this sense of accomplishment when you complete something that’s really challenging for you physically,” says Pep. “When I walk out of here, my clothes are fully drenched.”
Even if you don’t live in Salt Lake City, you can replicate the Burn workouts that Dash and Pep both swear by. Below is a list of the key focuses in the class and a sample of exercises that hit them best. Incorporate them into your workout, search for a similar gym near you, or prepare for ski season in your own manner. “No matter what, get out and exercise first and foremost,” as Dash says. “If you can get your cardio up for an hour and try to differentiate between some muscle groups, that’s great.”
BCA PRESEASON TRAINING ROUTINE
Full mobility is essential for the variety of positions that your body must be in while skiing or snowboarding. A pistol squat is a great way to test and expand the mobility of your hips, knees, and ankles. To perform the squat, extend one leg in front of you, and squat your weight into the heel of your planted leg. Go as low as you can and keep your weight in your heel. To make it harder, drop the TRX straps. Do one minute per leg.
Core strength is the key to stability when you hit the mountain, and is often overlooked. Incorporate a variety of plank variations into your workout to light up your entire core. Pictured here is a two-point plank. Start in a normal plank position with a wide base for your legs. Extend your left arm and right leg and hold the position for a minute. Switch to the other side for the next minute.
Also pictured is a side plank called thread-the-needle. Start in a normal side plank, putting your right hand on the floor. Extend your left arm upwards, and then rotate your hips and shoulders to put your left hand all the way underneath your body. The rotational motion will engage more of your core and light up your obliques.
Balance — Squat, Overhead Press on Bosu Ball
Several of your exercises should incorporate balance in some form. For this reason, a Bosu ball is a great tool. For this exercise, place your feet at shoulder width, squat deep, and when you extend your legs, also extend your arms into an overhead press. Be sure to engage your core throughout. To make it easier, stand on the ball side, and to make it harder, stand on the flat side, as pictured.
Hamstrings — Hamstring Bridges
Quadriceps strength is often the focus for many people when preparing for skiing, but this needs to be balanced effectively with hamstring and glute strength. For the hamstring bridge, place one heel in a TRX strap, extend the other leg straight up, and then use your hamstring to thrust your hips off the floor, while your shoulders stay put. If you don’t have a TRX, just place your foot on the ground.
Unilateral Exercises — Liberty Lunge
Several of the exercises in the routines at Burn are unilateral, meaning that you work one side of your body at a time. The purpose for such is that when you’re on the hill, you have to constantly transfer weight and use the strength in your legs at different levels. For a liberty lunge, hold a kettle bell directly over your right shoulder. Keep the right foot planted and step backwards with your left leg. Stepping backwards for the lunge will protect your knees better than stepping forward. When in the lunge, the shin of your planted leg should be perpendicular to the floor. Repeat the exercise for one minute and then switch to the other side for the next minute.
Full Body — Slam Ball
Many of your exercises should give you a full body workout, because after all when you’re on the hill, your entire body is moving and needs to be able to withstand impact. For this exercise, keep your feet planted at shoulder width. Extend a slam ball overhead with both hands, twist with your core, and throw it to the floor as hard as you can. Pick it up, press overhead, and do the same on the other side. Keep the intensity high for at least one minute.
Cardio Bursts — Mountain Climbers
It’s no secret that cardio is key for skiers and snowboarders. In between circuits of these other exercises, keep the intensity and your heart rate up with an exercise like mountain climbers. Start in a plank position and then run your legs up under your chest and back to their original position, one at a time. Pick up the speed and feel your heart rate go through the roof.
Drew Petersen is a passionate skier, writer, eater of burritos, and BCA pro athlete. He grew up at Arapahoe Basin in Colorado, and has since moved westward to Salt Lake City and the Wasatch mountains to ski the notorious powder at Alta and to study marketing at the University of Utah. His writing has also been featured in Powder Magazine and on Powder.com. For more, follow Drew on Instagram at @drewpeterski or online at drewpeterski.com.