We pull our skis out of the car or locker and heave them onto our shoulders and off to the first chair we go. Right there, with the delightful anticipation of wind in our faces, we have potentially opened ourselves up to risk of injury. When our muscles are cold and we’re doing a rather routine activity – carrying skis – we may not pay attention to the mechanics involved. The spine is fragile and deserves our respect when we put an asymmetrical load on it first thing in the morning.
The best thing to do if you want to put your skis over your shoulder, is to tighten your core muscles when you heave them up there, and as you walk with them to the lodge and chairlift. Be conscientious of keeping the posture erect, and that your shoulders and hips are in a symmetrical alignment. Abdominal and back musculature strength and awareness will allow. If you are wearing a backpack, this load on your spine has increased and your attention to posture is that much more important. Treat your back well, so that your day is not interrupted by the nuisance of pain or stiffness.
Once you’re up on the mountain and ogling the views of the lake, take the time to ski one or two runs at a slower than normal speed to allow for the physiological changes to take place in your body that prepare you for the day ripping turns on your favorite runs. Your heart will begin to pump blood a bit faster to supply the muscles with the increased demand for blood, your body temperature will begin to increase, and your joints will get lubricated. Cold muscles, like a dry rubber band, are less pliable. Warmed up, blood rich muscles will perform better. If you skip the warm up, and demand too much of your muscles too fast, lactic acid may result and you’ll have to cut your day short because of muscle soreness.
On powder days, it’s so hard to take your time for the first couple of runs (I know, I’ve been there.) Those days are special. Epic. Exuberant. In anticipation of the hard-charging you’re going to do, do some basic warm up exercises at home or in the lodge before the chair opens (more stretching tips here.) If your knees are healthy, do some leg extensions on the chair ride to begin to get blood into your thighs. You can also do some spinal rotations while sitting on the chairlift – and lucky you, you’ll get to soak in the views.
Skiing at Heavenly is just way too much fun to let little muscle tweaks get in the way. Take care of your body and take the time to warm up when you first get to the slopes. Our top-notch instructors can also share some warm up ideas and dial in some technique issues that can also make a big difference for you.
Get out there and be sure to say hello when you see me out ripping around!
Heavenly Ski and Ride School and PSIA National Alpine Team member