First of all, it’s a straight up miracle that we humans can stand up on our relatively tiny feet, no less bomb down the hill with two planks strapped to our feet. So it’s no wonder that after six months off the hill, without our balancing stabilizer muscles dialed, most skiers experience extreme soreness after their first weekend back.
Being balanced on your skis simply uses less muscle to stay upright—which means you’ll be able to ski longer and stronger, without being crippled for a week afterward. According to Ashley Battersby, a former slopestyle skier whose huge tricks require the balance and agility of a mountain goat crossed with a flying squirrel, here are four exercises you can do now to improve your skiing. Battersby, who now instructs yoga (sign up for our online class with her here), recommends holding each pose for five to 15 breaths (or as long as you can). If these exercises aren’t challenging enough, try them with your eyes closed.
This pose stretches your shoulders and upper back, while strengthening your lower body and stabilizer muscles. Start standing straight up, with your hands at your sides and your feet hip-distance apart. Wrap your right arm under your left, with your palms coming back to meet. Elbows should be at shoulder height, and forearms should align in the center line of your body. At the same time, squat down and wrap your right leg over your left, hooking your foot behind your left calf. Lift your elbows and reach your fingertips toward the ceiling, with your forearms remaining perpendicular to the floor. Press your shoulder blades down your back, and keep your hips level. Repeat on the other side.
Standing Pigeon Pose
This is a deep hip opener, which, for skiers and runners, can be tantamount to torture. But stick with it—it will get easier. Stand straight up, with your hands at your sides and your feet hip-distance apart. Shift your weight to your right foot and squat down as you cross your left ankle over your right thigh. Lower down until you find your edge, feeling the stretch in the bent leg’s glutes, inner thigh, and hip. Be sure your standing leg’s knee is pointing straight over your toes, with your knee directly over your ankle (you should be able to see your toes when you look down). Press your palms together in prayer position. Repeat on the other side.
In addition to building balance, tree pose stretches your thighs, groins, torso, and shoulders, and builds strength in the lower body and abdominals. Stand straight up with your hands along your sides and your feet hip-distance apart. Shift your weight to your right foot, and bring your left foot all the way up to your right inner thigh or just below your knee (never on the knee). Keep your hips level, shoulders open, and palms pressed together in prayer position. Lengthen your tailbone and spine, and press equally with your foot and leg against each other. Repeat on the other side.
Airplane Pose (Warrior Three)
This pose strengthens your back, shoulders, hamstrings, and calves, and improves posture and coordination. Start standing straight up, with your hands along your body and your feet hip-distance apart. Step your left foot back, toes pointing to the left side of the room at 45 degrees, as far as you can while being able to keep your heel on the floor. Squat with your right leg, being sure to keep your knee directly above your ankle. With your hips level (consciously bring your left hip forward and right hip back), bring your arms straight up with palms facing in. Keep your shoulder blades down your back and your shoulders away from your ears. Begin to move your body weight into your right foot, launching off the floor with your left. As your left foot rises, your torso sinks, so your body will be in a straight line perpendicular to the floor. Actively press your left hip down so it stays level with your right, and reach your arms and leg toward each respective (opposite) wall.
Developed by SKI magazine and Ashley Battersby, a professional skier who also is a certified yoga instructor, our self-paced online Yoga for Skiers class through AIM Adventure U will increase your flexibility and balance, strengthen your entire body, relieve sore muscles, and prevent injuries. It also will help you reduce daily stress, and boost your confidence on and off the hill. This all-access course focuses on both the mental and physical aspects of training that can benefit everyone on the mountain, from the expert veteran skier to someone just starting the sport. So join us here to make this the best ski season ever!