Don’t let tired, shaky legs cut your time on the slopes short! We’ll show you how to Get Fit for Heli Skiing. It’s never too soon to start a heli ski exercise program and train your muscles for the next ski and snowboard season. Cruise down the slope smoothly maintaining balance and a perfect form thanks to your strong quads and core. Plus, getting fit for the ski season will help you burn off some excess quarantine weight and boost your mood!
Preparing for Heli Skiing
It is important to start training a couple of months ahead of your first heli-skiing trip. As Bellevue-based physical therapist, Dr. Sam Van Gorder stated in her REI article you should start training about 6-8 weeks prior to the start of a ski season. Of course, this is the minimum time requirement, and a good rule of thumb is sooner you start training – the better.
Numerous benefits of pre-season heli skiing training will motivate you to make it a part of your routine. Most importantly, regular training will decrease your chance of getting a ski injury. According to Gear Junkie, regular exercise decreases the risk of “tearing an ACL”, which is a common injury during skiing. In addition, strong muscles help you to keep your balance and agility in challenging conditions. Let’s face it – that’s way more fun than trying to dig yourself out of powder every few meters. Helicopter skiing, especially, requires an ability to run down the untouched terrain with no or very few rest stops. Regular training will allow you to ski more vertical and extend those magic moments of cruising down the slope to the maximum. Plus, you will not only look great on the slope but also in a hot tub after a ski day!
The right stretching routine should be part of your pre-season ski workout and also done before and after your time each day on the slopes. Hip flexors stretch and hamstring stretches help prevent knee injuries and allow for a wider range of motion. Upper body stretches, such as pectoral stretch, open your chest and release upper body tension. Professional physical therapist, Nicole Haas, recommends holding the stretches at least for half a minute, or until you start feeling the tension slowly releasing. Hass further recommends stretching at least once a day to maintain a wide range of motion and then after an intense day on a ski hill. (Before each day on the slopes, Northern Escape offers a complimentary morning stretch class for guests.)
Now, let’s get down to business! With the cross-training exercises and the recommended pre-heli-skiing workout, you will prepare your body ahead of time and enjoy your skiing adventure even more.
The cross-training exercises target major muscle groups heavily used during heli skiing and heli boarding. Professional athletes often adapt these workouts to train for a variety of sports like tennis, basketball and volleyball.
Plyometric Exercises – Commonly referred to as “plyo” or “jump training,” Plyometric exercises help increase your muscle speed and strength. These might include hopping on one leg, jump squats and jumping over objects (or onto a box, step, or bench). They are explosive, non-aerobic exercises that help to fine tune your muscle responses.
Interval Training Exercises – In these exercises you alternate between high intensity and low-intensity workouts; the low-intensity exercises are for your recovery period. Interval training helps to improve your overall fitness level and might include sprinting, running, biking or rowing exercises.
Weight Training Exercises – Also known as “strength training,” working with free weights helps to create lean muscle tissue, improving your endurance, strength and size of your muscles. To get fit for heli skiing and heli boarding, training your quads and abs is important, but you also must strengthen the opposing muscles, your lower back and hamstrings. Using free weights helps to improve your range of motion and balance – a big part of helicopter skiing and boarding.
Flexibility Exercises – Stretching and yoga exercises improve the range of motion in your muscles and joints and help to minimize injury. For more information about flexibility exercises, check out the “Ski Stretches” section.
Recommended Heli Ski Workout
With these three simple leg workouts, you can improve your stamina, lower your risk of injury, get your legs ready and ensure that you get the most out of every day on the hill. You can easily incorporate them into your regular workout. Ideally, you should combine these exercises with a regular cardio session using a stationary bike, stairmaster, elliptical trainer or treadmill.
Warming up before any kind of workout (including skiing or snowboarding) helps to prevent muscle injury and fatigue. You should allocate at least ten minutes for the warm up. By the end of it, you should have moderately increased heart rate and you should be slightly sweating but not out of breath. Some simple warm-ups include running on the spot or skipping a rope.
- 3 sets of 6 reps on each side
- Working your thighs, hamstrings and glutes, this exercise will help you to carve up the slopes without those first day shaky legs.
- Start from a basic stance with your legs shoulder-width apart.
- Step to the front in a long stride making sure to keep your back upright.
- Slowly lower your back knee towards the floor (don’t touch the floor).
- At the same time create a 90-degree angle with your front knee (do not go past your toes with your knee).
- Return to starting position and switch sides
- 3 sets of 12 reps
- This exercise simulates your up-and-down leg movement when riding deep powder; get used to the burn now and build up a tolerance to extend your time on the slopes.
- Grab 2 or 3 large pillows and hug them in your arms as tight as possible (this engages your core muscles) Can also be done using a weighted barbell.
- Keep your shoulders back and shift your weight onto your heels
- Bend at the knees down to 90 degrees keeping your back as straight as possible
- Stand back up, initiating with your glutes by tightening your buttocks rather than just using your thighs
- 3 sets of 10 reps on each side
- It happens to the best of us, you’ve caught a ski in the snow and as you recover you have to balance on one ski to prevent a wipeout. Improve your balance now and avoid landing in the snow later.
- Start from a basic stance with your legs shoulder-width apart
- Standing on your left leg, keep your right leg straight while lifting it to the side
- Bring your leg back down until your foot almost touches the floor
- Repeat these steps 10 times then switch legs
Tip: Are you too busy to do a dedicated workout? These exercises can easily be integrated into your daily routine. Heading to the kitchen for a snack? Lunge your way there! Making the bed? Grab those pillows and squat! Just standing there while you brush your teeth? Why not work on your leg recovery!
A Premium Small Group Heli Skiing Experience
Since 2004 Northern Escape Heli Skiing has operated small group heli skiing in Northern BC’s Skeena Mountains, near Terrace, BC. Our boutique heli experience, new Mountain Lodge, snowcat skiing backup and big mountain, deep powder skiing attracts riders from around the world. Our lodges are easily accessed from Vancouver via Terrace Airport. For more information, contact us or see our booking page.