The white stuff

Whether you’re skiing the old-fashioned way with parallel skis, snowboarding or cross-country skiing, the effect on your body is the same. It’s hard physical work. ”Skiing can be a very physically demanding sport, requiring good cardiovascular and all-round muscular fitness, to allow you to ski for up to six to eight hours a day,” says Dr Ian Gillam, accredited exercise physiologist and industry development officer for Exercise and Sports Science Australia.

What happens to your body

One of the first things you’ll notice about a professional skier or your instructor (other than their skier’s tan) is their super-toned legs. ”Skiing requires strong thigh (quadriceps and adductor muscles), calf and buttock muscles to control your skis while turning, and absorb the bumps (or moguls) in the snow,” he says. ”Strong quadriceps muscles also provide muscular support to the knee joint to protect it against injury in the event of a fall. Strong abdominal and back muscles are important to maintain the correct alignment of the trunk and upper body while skiing.” Novices will find it particularly demanding as they learn correct techniques. They may also find that their arms and shoulders ache as they walk up the beginners’ slope before learning how to use a ski-lift.

Skiing has big cardiovascular benefits. ”When you ski your heart rate increases, pumping the blood quicker around your body,” Gillam says.

”This increases the amount of nutrients and oxygen to your tissues, as well as helps your body dispose of waste in a more efficient manner.” Skiing, or indeed any activity which elevates your heart rate, means your muscles use more oxygen and blood, which in turn produces more capillaries, allowing your muscles to expand.

”This is why you burn up so many calories when skiing. You need to ensure you eat enough to fuel your activities,” he says.

How to prepare for your ski trip

All that balancing, twisting and falling is hard work on your body, so it’s important to strengthen your body before you hit the slopes.

”Whether it’s a short or long ski holiday, your fitness basic preparations would be the same,” physiotherapist Paul Marshall says.

Marshall recommends endurance training such as running, cycling and swimming, for 30 minutes to an hour three to five times a week. ”You need to begin at least six weeks before heading off on your holiday.”

If you’re not fit enough to last for hours on the slopes, you’ll be more likely to fall or injure yourself. ”As you flag, muscles become tighter and lactic acid builds up,” he says. ”With repeated runs, and skiing on consecutive days, your risk of muscle strain would also significantly increase.”

Leg strength is important. ”You can do these at home,” Marshall says.

”Try squats, lunges, hamstring curls, calf raises or wall sits.

”To strengthen arms, do some light weights with your arms and some planks to strengthen your core.”

Avoiding injury

American College of Sports Medicine statistics show 75 per cent to 85 per cent of skiing injuries are caused from falling, and you’re twice as likely to injure your lower limbs than upper body.

”Make sure that you warm up and cool down before and after skiing, including after taking prolonged breaks. Most importantly, listen to your body. If pain persists, or gets worse, stop skiing and seek some treatment or advice. Follow the standard procedure to treat minor sprains and strains: rest, ice, compression, elevation,” Marshall says. ”Research has clearly shown that tired, unfit skiers are more likely to fall and sustain an injury that those who are well-conditioned,” Gillam says. ”The incidence of falls is also greater at the end of the day when skiers are fatigued, so trying to do the last run of the day when you are already tired may not be such a good idea.”

Safety first

Try before you buy. Hire good-quality ski clothing, which should include some waterproof ski pants (you will spend a lot of time sitting in snow), waterproof parka, gloves and hat. Quality sunglasses are also essential. Hire your skis, boots and poles on the mountain as you’ll be able to swap or get adjustments more easily.

”Ski boots must fit well; too tight and they will be very uncomfortable, crush your feet and potentially cause numbness in the toes. Boots that are too loose will reduce the ‘connectivity’ of the boot to the ski, resulting in a loss of edge control of the skis,” Gillam says. Lessons are vital to learn the skills that will make skiing safer and enjoyable.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.