Skiing injuries can ruin your ski holiday. It doesn’t matter if you are a first timer to the snow or seasoned veteran, the Australian ski slopes can be a dangerous place. Most of us don’t get a chance to follow the snow and living the endless winter. It has probably been many months since you have skied or snowboarded. For some of you it may have been a few years or even decades. To get the most out of your ski holiday and to avoid a skiing injury, you need to be ski fit. So here are a few simple ways you can survive your ski holiday and skiing injuries, meaning you can enjoy some extra time on the snow.
Get fit and strong to avoid skiing injuries
So with the start of the ski season just around the corner it’s time to get ski fit. You wouldn’t go on a trail running holiday or cycling holiday without at least doing some running or riding beforehand? Why do we turn up to the slopes and expect our poor bodies to pick up right where we left off last year? The time to start exercising for your ski holiday is right now. I personally find the best pre-ski season exercise is a combination of cycling for endurance/cardiovascular fitness and strength training for the core and stabilizing muscles such as your glutes. What you need to do is specific to your body and skiing ability.
1. General health checkup.
If you haven’t skied in many years or even exercised particularly vigorously for many years, then the first step may be as simple as visiting your GP. Skiing essentially looks like standing, however you are forced to hold a squat position quite strongly. The effect of this is an increase in strain on the heart as it has to pump blood past the contracting muscles. Consequently the body’s blood pressure considerably increases to keep to blood flowing to all the required areas.
This is a normal process, and without this we’d tend to pass out every time we walked up a flight of stairs or trying to pull that particularly well rooted weed out of the garden. For healthy, well-trained hearts, this shouldn’t be an issue. For someone that hasn’t exercised for many years, those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or if you have generally been of poor health, then it is a good idea to get a checkup before starting any exercise program. Even if your ski holiday will mostly involve sitting on a chairlift or drinking schnapps!
2. Are all those muscles and joints still working?
If you have any niggly aches and pains then it is probably a good opportunity to do some rehabilitation so you can properly enjoy your season. At Sport and Spinal Physiotherapy we do a full ski assessment to check relevant muscle length, joint mobility, muscle strength, body control. From there we can prescribe a specific training program relevant to your ski ability and level of strength and fitness. If there is any ongoing knee, hip or back issues particularly that need looking at it is certainly worthwhile getting it assessed and doing some specific rehabilitation. That way you can maximize your time on snow, avoid skiing injuries and not have to cut the day or week short because the mind was willing but the body wasn’t. Get $30 off our full skiing assessment this month!
3. Get ski fit
In terms of exercise, the strength required for a beginner skier is different to an advanced skier. Trying to do a nice smooth beginner turn or snow plow is quite tough on the quadriceps muscles and hip flexors. As your skiing advances the body requirements change. Turns become more parallel, speeds become higher and G forces escalate. Strong quadriceps are still a requirement but as your turns become more dynamic we need to start using a lot more core muscles such as your abdominals, back and obliques. Good gluteal muscle function is very important for knee control. I have discovered in recent years that even good calf strength is useful for initiating and engaging the tip of the ski in the snow.
Longer runs, longer days and longer holidays start to require a certain level of endurance. Inline skating or roller skiing would be perfect for this, but I can’t do either of those with any level of success so riding a bike is my favourite. Some extra time spent on the bike each week will help improve cardiovascular fitness and muscle endurance, and consequently you’ll be able to spend more time on the snow.
Check your gear to avoid skiing injuries
Skiing injuries can occur from incorrect fitting boots, the wrong DIN setting and poorly maintain skis.
4. Check you ski boots
This may sound obvious but if you haven’t skied for a while check that your boots still fit snuggly. Feet change like the rest of the body so if you have lost or put on weight recently, had an ankle injury or just not dusted the boots off for a long time it is worth checking them. A good boot should have even pressure around the foot and ankle like a firm handshake. Pressure points will certainly cause issues once on snow. Too loose and you can’t control the ski very well as you’ll be slipping around inside the boot.
If in doubt visit an experienced boot fitter. If you have your own boots, a custom fitted inner sole that mirrors the shape of your sole will not only make the boot feel better but will help you ski better through better contact with the ski. At Sport and Spinal Physiotherapy we use a heat moldable orthotic device that takes up any space in the arch. This can be ground down such that any angulation of the heel joint or knee joint is adjusted for making for a far more pleasant ski experience.
5. Check your ski bindings
Incorrect DIN settings can be a major cause of skiing injuries.
There are many brands and makes of bindings on the market. For downhill skiing the most common type release the heel upwards and the toes sideways. It is exceptionally important that your bindings fit YOUR boot (not your friend who you borrowed your skis off) and your body type. The correct length for the boot size needs to be chosen as well as DIN setting. DIN stands for Deutsches Institut für Normung which is the German Institute for Standardization (I think, my German is not great but this is what google tells me).
Basically it is the standard scale for release force settings for ski bindings. These will range from person to person depending on height, weight, ski ability. The effects on knees when a binding doesn’t release can be disastrous. If the ski is twist outwards whilst falling the body falls forward there is a large amount of strain on the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee. Consequently if the binding doesn’t release as required you may rupture the ligament, which will generally require surgery and 6-12 months physiotherapy. You can find the correct DIN setting for you here
Remember there may be some adjustment required, and if you aren’t confident in this, then best get down to your local ski store or get the guys at the snow to do it.
6. Check your skis
Obviously there are many types of skis on the market these days. Which ski is best for you very much depends on the type of terrain/snow that you plan on tearing up and what level of skier you are. Assuming that you already have a set of skis, make sure they are in ok condition. Sharp edges really help in Australia with our abundance of bullet proof ice, and unfortunately they don’t stay sharp for long with our equally abundant rocks.
Getting your edges tuned might help avoid an unnecessary and potentially painful fall. Especially when there is ice involved falls can really hurt and cut your ski trip short. If your skis are starting to look a bit “grey” on the base rather than a nice shiny black then it is time for some new wax. With the warmer ski conditions in Australia the snow can become quite sticky in the afternoon. A properly waxed ski should glide over the warmer snow more consistently which will lead to better ski performance and hopefully decreased injury.
Following these simple steps can help you avoid skiing injuries this ski season. Stay tuned for part 2 which will be more focused on things to do during your day skiing to keep yourself healthy. In the meantime if you are interested in a ski assessment call 62624464 to make an appointment.