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Being at peak fitness

The fear of making an idiot out of yourself is the biggest turn-off for most skiers. By making sure you’re at your peak fitness, you can make sure you make the most out of your skiing holiday, instead of finding that you are too physically exhausted to get out of bed four days into your trip. Even if you’re a skiing beginner, doing the same manoeuvres over and over again for six or seven hours a day at high altitude for an entire week can be exhausting. The only way to make sure you have the energy – both physical and mental – to fully enjoy the experience is to get in shape long before you hit the slopes.

You don’t have to be at professional athlete standard before you go on your holiday, but the fitter your body is, the less the chance of injury. For this, make sure you include stamina and endurance training, strength and flexibility and ski-specific exercises into your workout routine before you go.

  • The most important points that your body needs to be strong at include quad and gluteal muscles, as these are the main stability and power muscles used during skiing. These can be trained with exercises such as lunges, split squats, step ups, deep squats and cycling.

 

  • The lateral hip muscles also require strengthening before you go on your trip. There are no sports that rely on the external hip rotation movement as much as skiing does so the importance of training these muscles cannot be underestimated. Lie on your side with your hips and knees in a skiing position. Keep your ankles together and your hips steady as you lift your top knee, you should feel the muscle working in the outside of your bum. Repeat 30 times and then practice the same movement standing so you can use the benefits when skiing.

 

  • Your body will work super efficiently if you build up your stamina to cardiovascular exercise. Carry out circuit or interval training to help burn fat, and make you lighter on the slopes, but also to improve the length of time you can endure the sport for. Try going for a 20 or 25 minute run without stopping – if you find yourself out of breath, make sure that you slow down but don’t stop in order to keep you stamina up. If running isn’t your thing, try fast walking for an hour, or cycling on varying difficulty levels for 30 minutes

 

  • If you have a disability you can also adapt a fitness routine into your lifestyle for before you hit the slopes. For those with mobility issues, common sports-related injuries such as shoulder pain and tendonitis can happen if you over-do it. Whilst shoulder injuries are common in certain sports such as basketball and baseball, they are also common to the everyday wheelchair user so extra caution should be exercised when undertaking a fitness regime.
    Wheelchair users should perform stretches to strengthen their body whilst focusing on the upper back and shoulders, as when these are strong, the shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands will show greater power, endurance and efficiency as well as reducing any chance of injury – this will help your control and accuracy when navigating the adaptive equipment.

 

Choosing the right piste

One of the best things about skiing and snowboarding is that you can alter the level of ability with experience and/or training, which makes the sports so unique and interesting.

When you first arrive at your resort, you’ll be eager to start right away and see how many of the runs you can tackle. However, bear in mind that a slow advancement of the slopes is the best way to explore safely. Trying to tackle a run which is too steep or too difficult for you when you aren’t ready or experienced enough to handle it can be dangerous.

Ski runs are categorised into different colours based on their difficulty. In both Europe and America, green is used to designate learner slopes which have a lesser gradient and are appropriate for those who are just starting out. These are also good to practice techniques if you’re not yet confident enough for a steeper slope. Make sure you move on from the green slopes pretty quickly though, it can get boring and not challenging yourself with the next level can leave you not developing your skill. Blue slopes are the next level, and are usually suitable for beginners and lower intermediates. Red slopes only exist in Europe and are for the upper intermediates, but the American equivalent is the black run (which can be confusing for European skiers as the black runs in Europe mean ‘expert’ level). The equivalent of a European black run is marked as a double black run in America, and orange and yellow runs are for the more advanced and expert level skiers.

Runs aren’t always marked on their gradient, but also the variety of challenges and difficulties that skiers have to face whilst on the slope. Mogul fields occur regularly on some slopes. Moguls are a series of bumps formed on a trail from the skiers pushing the snow into mounds or piles as they execute short-radius turns. Navigating through moguls is the mark of a skiers control and can be really tricky. Narrower runs also require you to employ different skills, with slopes that pass through dense forests offer a different perspective and experience to those that are located on mountain faces, which are more exposed.

Weather conditions also play a huge part in the experience of a run or slope. The difficulty of a run can be altered depending on the weather. Slopes that are very exposed are likely to become icy and more dangerous when the winds pick up and blow the powder snow away. Alternatively, forest trails tend to be more sheltered and will therefore be a lot softer as they are guarded from the strong winds.

Winter Travel Packing Tips

Clothing

  • Layer up: Bring plenty of layers to wear throughout the day to insulate and keep warm. Something like a vest top or t-shirt under a long sleeved t-shirt underneath a jumper or fleece (bear in mind wool tends to be bulky and therefore harder to pack), fitted under an insulated waterproof jacket. You can always add or remove layers of clothing as you go between in and outdoors.
  • Hat: You lose the majority of your body heat through your head, so covering it up can really help keep you warm. Make sure your hat covers your ears and is made of thin, modern materials which pack lightly, but also provide maximum warmth.
  • Gloves: You no longer have to pack the heaviest, woolliest gloves you can find in order to keep yourself warm. Modern insulating materials mean that you can pack light and still remain cosy. Waterproof ones are the best as they hold up in even the worst weather and the thin, tight material makes them easy to carry.
  • Shoes: Your shoes will be your heaviest item, unless you’re bringing your own equipment, but they’re really important as your feet are buried in the snow the majority of the time and so cope with the majority of the wet and the cold. Good, dark, weatherproof winter boots are ideal for the climate and should last you season after season.
  • Polarised sunglasses: The low winter sun can be really rough on your eyes, as it’s lower and closer to your point of vision and with the reflective snowy surroundings, being able to see can become a problem when out on the slopes or even just driving.
  • Swimwear: Some resorts may have pools, hot tubs or saunas to relax in after a long day on the slopes.
  • Sunscreen: Despite it not being warm, windburn or sunburn off the reflective snow and ice can damage your skin to the same extent laying out by the pool can.

Before You Go

  • Check the travel alerts from the FCO of the country you intend on visiting. Follow @FCOtravel on Twitter to get the latest travel updates and advice.
  • Find out where the nearest embassy will be.
  • Sort out travel insurance – insurancewith provide cover for customers with pre-existing medical conditions, allowing you to go on holiday without having to pay excessive premiums.
  • If you’re travelling within the European Economic Area, get a free EHIC (European Health Insurance card) for free or subsidised emergency medical attention. However, you still need full travel insurance, as the EHIC won’t cover costs such as delayed departure, cancellation or repatriation costs.
  • Check with your doctor whether you’ll need any vaccinations before you travel.
  • Make sure you’ve got the correct visas for the country you intend to visit.
  • Most importantly, check your passport is valid at the time you intend to travel – it takes up to six weeks to apply for or renew a passport, so checking well in advance might save time later on.
  • Tell friends and family where you’re travelling to and leave them your contact details, travel insurance policy details and your itinerary as this will make it easy for them in case of an emergency.
  • Make sure you have enough money to cover emergencies.
  • If you intend on driving abroad, make sure your licence is current and valid. Make sure you’re aware of the driving laws in the country you intend on visiting.
  • Sort out your hand luggage.
  • Check with your airline for flight delays.
  • Keep all tickets, visas, foreign exchange and passports safely in a travel belt or bag and keep these with you at all times.
  • Check your house is safe before you leave – check all switches are off, water is turned off to prevent pipes from freezing and securely lock all windows and doors.
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