Chris Davenport never stops skiing — seriously. He once skied all of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks in a single year and he’s one of only a handful of people to ever ski off Mount Everest. There’s a decent chance that he’s bombing some untracked backcountry peak as you read this. You, on the other hand, have been sitting in an office chair (and not even one of those fancy, ergonomic ones) all spring, summer, and fall.
But, if you’re like millions of American families that plan to take a ski or snowboard vacation this winter, you need to get into some approximation of shape before you land in Denver, Salt Lake City, or the base area of Killington. So, what does Davenport recommend you do? “If you’re a true skier, it’s a lifelong commitment,” he says. “That means trying to be an athlete. Nobody should be trying to get off their butt after 7 months.”
Yes, nobody should be, but if you are …
Walk (Or Jog) Before You Can Ski
“Once you get off the snow and into springtime, start biking, running or hiking,” says Davenport, who recommends you do all those things that know-it-all cardiologist has been on you about: Shorter, intense workouts, stay active, and have a good diet. If you’re not doing any of this yet, you may need some remedial health advice.
How To Do Aerobics
Getting winded from going up an escalator is a bad sign (if you’re in an elevator, even worse). Before you do anything crazy physical like skiing, you need to ramp up that aerobic exercise. The more oxygen your body can take in, the better off you’re going to be at altitude. Davenport uses interval training when he’s on his mountain bike to simulate those stop-start-stop bursts while skiing. First, he’ll ride easy, then work up to a sprint, then go back to easy. “You’re not going to be skiing hard for an hour,” he says. “You always have these breaks on the chairlift. So get that heart rate up, let that lactic acid flush out of your system, and do it again.”
Solidify Your Trunk
Besides conditioning your lungs, there’s that important second part: Being able to move. Core workouts are necessary to strengthen the abs but don’t forget about your trunk there Groot (that would be legs, glutes, and hips). “I hike up a mountain with 5 gallons of water in my backpack, pour it out at the top, and come back down,” says Davenport, who says that having less weight to come back down with is less stressful on your body.
Exercises To Work Out Your Lower Half
- Abs and Lower Back: “I’ll use a weighted ball to do crunches and situps. Then I’ll throw it off the wall and catch it again for a more dynamic workout.”
- Kettlebell High-Pull
- Plyometric Workout
Change Your Altitude
Hydration is key to acclimatizing. That means when you touch down in Denver, the first stop isn’t The Buckhorn Exchange for a triple bourbon and side of elk. Instead, try drinking 2 to 3 quarts of water a day.
“I like to carry water with me when I’m skiing,” says Davenport, “And a lot of people don’t do that. I use a soft plastic Vapur water bottle. It easily fits in your jacket. They’re soft and square, so if you fall it won’t jab you in the ribs, and you can hydrate on the chairlift.” If you also want to carry a flask for warmth, no judgments.
Once You’re On The Mountain
Jet skiing, water skiing, even skee ball — all not great substitutes for actual skiing , so make those first runs count. “One of the things I’ll do when the mountain opens is go out with a plan. It’s not just riding the lift and ski for skiing’s sake. I’m going to do every black run. I’m going to ride every chairlift. Maybe I’ll use a tracking app like Epic Mix.”
- Intermediate: Try to ski 10,000 vertical feet a day (a very good day on the slopes).
- Advanced: 20,000 vertical feet a day, “Or every blue run in a 4-hour window.”
- World Record Holder: Steph Jagger who skied 4,161,823 feet in a year (or about 13,873 a day. Just in case you think you can’t do it.)
Image: Chris Davenport
It’s Not Just Up And Down
Resort mountain skiing is usually easy: Lift takes you up, gravity takes you down. But to get to some more interesting terrain, you may need to do a bit of walking. Whether it’s boot packing — putting your skis on your back and taking the snow stairs — or traversing sideways across open slopes, you’ll want to get a bit of practice.
“Those are things that trip people up,” says Davenport “Anyone can get off a lift and go down. When you have to traverse, that’s when I see them overheating,” says Davenport. “It’s not just about having a good body position and being able to carve.”
One of the best exercises to build that lateral coordination: Cross-country skiing. You know you have a neighbor with a NordicTrack in their basement. Get up on that!