A world-renowned ski town like Jackson Hole, Wyoming, demands the presence of a knowledgeable and skillful physical therapist. Francine Barlett is exactly that. One of Jackson’s top PTs, Francine works year round to keep some of the world’s top skiers and snowboarders performing at their best.
We recently sat down with Francine to get her thoughts on what to do, what not to do, and what you need to know as you dive into pre-season training.
O: What should every skier or snowboarder know when they start preparing for the season ahead?
FB: One of the most important things to know about pre-season training is that it should include a multi-disciplinary approach: strength, balance, flexibility, stability and cardio-vascular health all must be addressed. Focusing on any one and neglecting the others can lead to compensations that may ultimately result in injury once you hit the slopes.
O: What can a good pre-season training regimen do for your skiing or snowboarding?
FB: It may seem simple, but it creates better on-mountain performance, improved efficiency and decreased susceptibility to injury. I would be hard pressed to find one person living here in Jackson who wouldn’t want all those things.
O: Does it really make that big of a difference once you hit the slopes?
FB: Sport specific training is ideal, meaning you need to ski more to become a better skier; however, coming into the season with a good multi-disciplinary training approach builds a solid foundation of stamina. Knowing that you’ve put in time and effort training, and you have the stamina to prove it, translates into the confidence you need to stick landings, arc turns, or do whatever it is you do on the slopes. The best part is that that confidence will only continue to build throughout the season.
O: What specific body parts might a skier or snowboarder want to focus on strengthening?
FB: Everything! Seriously, don't leave anything out. You need strong legs, a strong core and yes, strong arms. It’s all about building a solid kinetic chain. The thing that I often see getting neglected the most is attention to strengthening the deep pelvic floor muscles. You need to remember the "core" is not only abs and back muscles.
O: Speaking of the “core,” how important is building core strength and stability for skiers and snowboarders?
FB: It is absolutely essential for performance, efficiency and injury prevention. The name “core” says it all. An apple is not an apple without its core and we are no different.
O: How do you recommend skiers blend strength, cardio and flexibility training?
FB: Finding a good ski fitness class that isn't over crowded and includes a blend of those three focuses is a great asset for performance improvement and injury prevention. The instructor's background is extremely important. Look for a trainer or therapist who has a pro-skier, ski instructor, or racer background so they can give you the best exercises for technique on and off the slopes while incorporating mindfulness for injury prevention. If your strength or ski fitness program is lacking a component, supplement with classes like yoga for flexibility or whatever specifically addresses what may be missing.
O: Are there any exercises skiers want to avoid when training during the pre-season?
FB: Avoid anything that causes pain! I also avoid specific types of sports specific training. If an activity doesn’t resemble a component of skiing or snowboarding (balance, stability, core-strength, jumping/landing, etc.) then you may not be benefitting from it.
O: Every skier fears knee injuries above all others, how can preseason training help prevent them?
FB: Pre-season training helps prevent knee injuries by creating a pool of information for your neurological system so you body isn't "shocked" when faced with stress caused by fatigue, loss of balance and weakness. You are preparing yourself for the challenges skiing places on the body so you can be out there pushing your limits safely while having fun, versus struggling trying to keep up with your friends who spent the fall putting in the time to condition properly and are wearing their Opedix.
Francine Bartlett is a licensed physical therapist and NATA certified athletic trainer with a Bachelor's Degree in Sports Medicine and Master's Degree in Physical Therapy from Central Michigan University. She was awarded her Doctorate in Physical Therapy specializing in Healthcare Administration and Practice Management through Rocky Mountain University of Healthcare Professionals in Provo, Utah. She is co-owner of Excel Physical Therapy, a private orthopedic practice, and owner of Studio X, a rehab fitness studio, both located in Jackson, Wyoming. Francine specializes in orthopedic and sports physical therapy with an emphasis on the rehabilitation of athletic injuries and return to peak performance.
Photos taken at Sopris CrossFit in Carbondale, Colorado.