Spring break is right around the corner, and there’s a good chance that you’re headed to the slopes for some late-season skiing. Be forewarned: Spring snow conditions are harder to predict than the NASDAQ. Powder, slush, ice, and hard pack are all on the menu.
We caught up with all-star physical therapist Francine Bartlett of Jackson, Wyoming, for advice on how to prepare for spring break, what to bring, and how to survive the snow. After all, nobody wants to spend a week in the mountains on crutches.
Before You Go: Cardio and Strength
Bartlett recommends three to four weeks of ski conditioning before your vacation. If you haven’t already, get started now. Your workouts should blend cardiovascular conditioning with resistance training. An easy workout to start with mixes vertical and side-to-side jumps.
Bartlett says: Keep the velocity high. The side-to-side motion should mimic skiing.
Before You Go: Bosu Ball Squats
Squats cannot be overhyped when it comes to building ski fitness. To make squats more interesting, try performing them on a flipped-over BOSU Balance Trainer (BT). Perform them in your ski or snowboard stance with the flat side up. The workout forces your body to stabilize, which strengthens important (but smaller) muscle groups in the hips and knees.
Bartlett says: The rigid flat side up of the BT resembles your skis (or snowboard), the blue side full of air resembles the unstable snow surface and then you have a solid foundation under that, just like with skiing.
What to Bring: Foam Roller
The foam roller is an inexpensive tool that will prolong your ski days. We recommend MELT’s Soft Body Roller, but other models will also work. Stow the roller in your checked luggage, and after each ski day, dedicate 15 minutes to massaging your leg muscles.
Bartlett says: You’re going to need more recovery and stretching than you think.
What to Bring: Opedix KNEE-Tec 2.0 3/4 Tights or Opedix Core-Tec Shorts
Looking for a little something extra to help your knees make it through a long day on the hill? Check out the Opedix KNEE-Tec 2.0 3/4 Tights. Designed in a 3/4 length with ski boots in mind, these tights are a favorite of pros and old-timers alike. Balmy Spring temperatures could, however, tempt you to leave the baselayers at home, but don’t forget your Opedix Core-Tec Shorts. The shorts provide important support to both the hips and lower back, which will make you a more efficient, pain-free skier in the slushy and icy conditions
Bartlett says: Back and hip pain is pretty common, so it’s best to have something to help you with the impact to these areas. The CORE-Tec Shorts do exactly that.
What to Bring: Helmet
Again, it’s probably going to be warm, which could tempt you to strip down to a light jacket and switch out your goggles for sunglasses. We can’t stress this enough: bring your helmet! The variable conditions matched with your fatigued legs are a recipe for crashing. Even the most minor tumble can impact your head.
Bartlett says: We see more head injuries in the Spring. There are more families out there and more people who do not have a high level of ability, college kids partying, etc. Accidents happen even when we're on top of our game, so never let your guard down
While You’re There: Daily Recovery
Don’t flop onto the couch after your ski day; give yourself 20 minutes to recover from your effort. Foam rolling, matched with yoga or a few Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) techniques, are guaranteed to make your legs feel fresher the next morning.
Bartlett says: It’s going to rejuvenate you for tomorrow.
While You’re There: Hydrate
You’re going to be tempted to finish each ski day with a few rounds of beer. That’s OK, but make sure you’re hitting the water as well. Remember, you’re at higher altitude, and the drier air sucks valuable water from your system. Dehydrating an already fatigued muscle is a great way to end your trip early.
Bartlett says: I recommend a hydration supplement. Try DripDrop.
About Francine Barlett:
Francine Barlett is a licensed physical therapist and NATA certified athletic trainer with a Bachelor's Degree in Sports Medicine and Doctorate Degree in Physical Therapy from Central Michigan University and Rocky Mountain University of Healthcare Professionals in Provo, Utah. She is owner of Medicine Wheel Wellness and co-owner of Excel Physical Therapy both located in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Francine specializes in orthopedic and sports physical therapy with an emphasis on the rehabilitation of athletic injuries and return to peak performance.