Waikato Big Mountain Skier, Matt Sweet, at only 17, has skied competitively for years – both alpine downhill skiing (gates and skier-cross) and free-skiing (park, pipe and Big Mountain). With the start of another season, he shares five tips for junior skiers who want to take their skiing to the next level.
1) It’s the muscles you can’t see that matter!
Skiing in any discipline works your quadriceps (front of your thighs) and these get really strong with skiing. But the muscles that matter for training are your hamstrings. They are the opposite muscles to quads. The best exercise I do both for my ‘hammy’s’ and for my balance is to stand on one leg with the other leg extended behind me, and then whilst balancing, I reach down and pick up a heavy object off the floor.
2) Get aerobically fit.
While skiing is a great maintainer of fitness it does not build aerobic (endurance) fitness very well. At least 6 weeks out from each ski season, I concentrate on my cardio base. This helps me get the most enjoyment out of whatever skiing discipline I’m in at the start of the season.
3) Look after knees.
I’ve seen so many of my mates have to give up skiing because their knees can’t handle it any more. With any type of skiing, you must treat your knees with care. Last season I discovered a fantastic exercise which trains the VMO (Vastus Medialis Obliqus). I learned that this tiny muscle helps to keep my knee stable when I compete in Big Mountain. Basically you kneel on both knees, then holding something to steady yourself, lean back and HOLD for 20-30 seconds. If you turn your toes inwards as you lean back, you hit the VMO.
4) Use the right equipment for your ability and your discipline.
You will have the most fun with your skiing when using equipment which suits your abilities and preferences, so choose skis based on the type of skiing you do most of (carver skis for people who mostly ski groomers, all-terrain mountain skis for those who ski off piste.
5) Your muscles remember movement.
Like any sport, Skiing is built on muscle memory, so warm up runs focusing on the most recent thing you have learnt at the start of the day and especially the start of the season will help progress your improvement more quickly. This includes going back to the basics at the start of the season.
Have fun on the slopes.