Healthy Tahoe: Preparing our bodies for winter sports |

Healthy Tahoe: Preparing our bodies for winter sports

Justin Dorn, PT. / Barton Health

Winter is fast approaching, leading many of us to think about getting back to skiing and snowboarding in the season ahead. As we dust off our gear, now is the time to do some basic physical maintenance to prepare our bodies for returning to the slopes. 

We see a variety of winter injuries at the Center for Orthopedics and Wellness every year. This includes common lower extremity injuries such as knee sprains and overuse pathologies like tendonitis and bursitis. In order to avoid these or other injuries, some pre-season training is the best medicine.

A personalized and well-rounded training program is always best. Everyone is different, and one aspect of exercise or stretching alone is not the answer. Often, an overlooked part of a solid pre-season program is agility and speed-based work. This helps us be prepared to respond to a quick maneuver in the snow, and help us be faster and more agile when gliding through the trees. Jumping and landing mechanics can be an important addition here.

Strengthening is the basis for your preparation, including core stability, hip conditioning, as well as quad and hamstring endurance training for making turns on those long runs. Strengthening should include some eccentric based training like various speeds of squats or lunging with focus being on the lowering portion. Isometric loading exercises like wall sits can be beneficial as well.

Preparing for the season by getting in a little cardio conditioning, including some high-intensity, short duration bursts followed by passive rests. Eventually progressing to high resistance cardio for continuous intervals will help condition the legs for long powder runs this winter.

Maintaining or improving our flexibility is also important, so don’t forget to stretch. Work on your spinal mobility helps to keep you strong and balanced at all times on your gear. Yoga and Pilates are great ways to incorporate stretching and movement into your winter preparation regimen.

Lastly, don’t forget about restoration. It is key to maintain your soft tissue health. We all get sore from training and being out on the hill, so take time to work your muscles on a foam roller or mobilization ball.

In addition, passive recovery like cold tub or ice and compression can be a huge asset after a long day in the backcountry or at a ski resort. Try to avoid heat or hot tub for the first 24 hours after a big day.

A solid pre-season training program can greatly increase your chances of enjoying the winter season, without any bumps in the road.

At the Barton Center for Orthopedics & Wellness, our performance trainers work with the community to provide personalized programs that help them enjoy their favorite winter activities and avoid injuries. We are wishing you a great season ahead.

Justin Dorn, DPT, is a Physical Therapist with Barton Health’s Integrated Rehabilitation Department. For more information on personalized rehabilitation and performance training programs at the Barton Center for Orthopedics & Wellness, visit

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