Warm up, cool down: Add a routine before and after a day on the mountain for a long, healthy season in the snow
As skiers and snowboarders pray for snow and prepare for another season on the slopes, they are thinking about turns and terrain. Most aren’t focused on what they’re doing before or after hitting the hill to maximize their session — and that’s an oversight that could prove costly.
“We see such a big population of injuries in the wintertime — a lot of injuries and a lot of surgeries,” said Jeff Brown, a certified athletic trainer with Barton Health. “It’s extremely important for staying healthy, not only from one session to the next session — but also for the entire season.”
By making a dynamic warm-up before heading out to the mountain and a recovery session afterward part of a skiing or snowboarding routine, the risk of injury decreases. Here’s what Brown recommends adding to the itinerary surrounding a day on the mountain:
Dynamic warm-up: Get moving, get warm, get loose
At home or in the parking lot, a dynamic warm-up that lasts five to 10 minutes quickly gets the body ready for a skiing or snowboarding session. A warm-up routine will activate muscles and allow for nerves to conduct and fire correctly, helping to produce power for the turns ahead.
“The main idea is to help increase the power output in your legs,” Brown said, “to get the full capacity of power output that you have.”
Start with a minute of cardio — jumping jacks, burpees or body weight squats will all work. Then launch into the following routine (or a variation of your own):
Walking knee to chest, 5 reps per leg
Walking RDL (extend one leg back while reaching both hands to floor), 10 per leg
Walking lunge with rotation, 5 per leg
Slow skier walks (exaggerate skiing motion in walking form), 10 per leg
Ankle circles, 10 clockwise/counterclockwise per foot
Single-leg calf raises, 10 per leg
“The focus of a dynamic warm-up is to go through those sport-specific ranges of motion that you’re going to see out on the slopes and get your body warmed up to handle those movements,” Brown said.
At the top of the slope, simple whole-body movements prior to the first run of the day complete the warm-up routine. These include 25 squats, five lunges with rotation and reach on each leg and five open gate/close gate rotations on each leg (think hurdles) designed to activate the hip flexors.
An active warm-up will get the body warm and prepare it for a day of skiing or snowboarding. Warming up with static stretching will have the opposite effect — so get moving prior to the first run of the day.
Cool down: Stretch, hydrate, refuel
After the time on the mountain is done, complete a ski or snowboard day by properly recovering — even if there wasn’t that much falling involved. Light cardio for five minutes and foam rolling are encouraged, but for those who are too wiped out a sequence of seven stretches will help do the trick.
Try three sets of 30 seconds each of the following static stretches: wall calf stretch, kneeling couch stretch, seated hamstring stretch, figure 4 stretch, lying knee to opposite shoulder stretch, child’s pose and standing quad stretch. If unfamiliar with any of the above stretches, find examples online.
“Static stretching helps with that soreness by flushing lactic acid out of the muscles that’s going to cause you to be sore the next day,” Brown said. “But it’s also going to help keep you healthy and keep your muscles recovering throughout the whole season.”
In terms of hydration, the beverage of choice for most coming off the mountain is a cold one. Brown didn’t discourage kicking back with one, but recommended starting with water to help rehydrate.
“It’s better to cool down with a water and supplement that with a beer,” Brown said. “People don’t realize how much energy and nutrition they’re losing out on the slopes. Hydration and proper nutrition when you get home is key.”
When it comes to nutrition, 30-45 minutes after coming off the mountain is ideal for refueling. Brown said, however, that positive effects can be felt up to two hours later if food isn’t the first priority.
A 3-to-1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein is good for replacing energy lost on the slopes. A quick meal that achieves this — and one that can be packed in the car — is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a piece of fruit and a sports drink.
A chicken breast and salad at home is an option for those who have more time.
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