4 Techniques to Up Your DownhillSkiing Game

By Sarah Tuff Dunn |

Skiing downhill makes a lot of other things seem easy,” says 2018 U.S. Ski Team Olympian Alice Merryweather. “But there’s no feeling like going fast on a pair of skis.”

Skiing demands core and lower-body strength to withstand the forces of gravity, which are amplified by speed and motion. It also requires agility to react quickly to changing terrain, mobility to shift your weight on skis for efficient turns, and confidence to handle potentially scary situations.

One of the biggest pitfalls among amateur skiers, explains Merryweather, is putting too much weight on the inside ski, which throws both skis off balance. Building strong quads and glutes can increase your mobility to place more weight on the outside ski for snappier movements — and fewer falls.

“Squats are always going to help you out,” she says. “Even body-weight squats work great.”

Former World Cup racer and two-time U.S. Olympian skier Doug Lewis agrees that building a strong core and lower body can make a huge difference when it’s time to hit the slopes. Downhill skiing requires swift reaction time, which involves not only mental focus but a body that is able to respond to the landscape. Stability through the midsection, power in the hips, and strong glutes and quads will keep you safe and improve performance, allowing you to handle the dynamic, side-to-side forces inherent to the sport.

In addition to squats, Lewis recommends cardio-and–strength circuits that focus on the lower body and core. Agility and balance training — using such tools as a slackline or an agility ladder — will strengthen the calves, ankles, and feet while building mental acuity.

Getting your body and mind in the game, he notes, will open the door to fully embracing the beauty of this outdoor sport. “The feeling when your adrenaline goes and your body glides,” he says, “it’s awesome.”

Here, Lewis and Merryweather share drills for honing your skiing skills.

Technique Tips

Drill 1: Squats

These are the basic exercises of any skier’s workout. In or out of season, incorporate squats in your day. Do body-weight squats to mobilize your hips and strengthen legs; try mixing in sets of 10 throughout your day. Perform weighted squats in the gym as part of your training, up to three times per week, recommends Merryweather.

  1. Repeat for a total of 10 reps, adding weight as you progress.

(Learn more about squat benefits, variations, and form tips at “Break It Down: The Squat.”)

Drill 2: ELITEAM Circuit

Lewis devised this conditioning circuit to be body-weight only — meaning it can be modified to most fitness levels and performed almost anywhere. Lewis suggests tackling this circuit up to three times a week, alternating 30 seconds of each move with 30 seconds of rest. Perform one to three rounds, resting four minutes between each.

  1. Squat with your back against a wall with hips and knees at 90-degree angles.

Drill 3: Partner Slalom Tucks

Find a partner to ski with, suggests Lewis, and on the chairlift ride up, get in a quad workout by stiffening your legs when you pass the first tower, and then relaxing on the next one, alternating until you reach the top.

As you ski down the hill, the first skier does 20 slalom turns, then stops and stands sideways on the hill in a tuck position until the second skier completes 20 slalom turns to arrive at the same spot. Proceed down the trail in this pattern. This develops the sharp, snappy turns and power positions required for good skiing.

Drill 4: Visualization

You may have seen Olympic racers, at the top of a run, closing their eyes and moving their bodies in place as if they were attacking the course. Recreational skiers can try this, too.

This originally appeared as “Going Downhill Fast” in the December 2018 print issue of Experience Life.

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