The Making of A Ski Trainer

Meet John Cole, elite strength and conditioning coach.
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John "JC" Cole, Director of the Minturn Fitness Center

John "JC" Cole has worked with the top athletes in skiing and knows what it takes to prep the body for on-hill performance. 

John “JC” Cole is a world-class strength and conditioning trainer for big names like Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn. As director of human performance at Ski and Snowboard Club Vail and the director of Minturn Fitness Center, he knows how to prepare skiers to compete at their best. But he also has worked with other pros, including NFL and race-car champions, gleaning insights into preparing a wide range of athletes for optimal performance.

“When I was a young coach, I was awestruck [by the pros] to a certain extent, but the more I worked with them, the more I realized that they are truly focused on balancing success with being normal human beings...I think the biggest takeaway is that we are not training them too differently than we train our junior clients or our general public clients. Yes, they make their living in sports and it's their job to be athletes, but [we could] be taking cues from their strategies,” Cole says.

Essentials for performance, he says, such as “Good sleep and rest, nutrition, active lifestyles, and training for injury prevention, apply to all of us regardless of age, activity level, interests and goals. We are the same in many ways so respect the pro athlete, but realize that they are humans and you are too.”

Read more: Five Ski Vacation To-Dos to Avoid Injury

Cole dove into strength and conditioning when he got tired of seeing too many athletes getting hurt. He first gained experience as an on-hill and strength-and-conditioning coach for the U.S. Paralympic Team in 2002. “It really challenged me and was extremely rewarding to work with these great athletes. Honestly, it put the hook in me and made me realize that new vision and ideas were possible,” he says. “Coming from an ‘on-hill’ coaching background, I was pretty sure that if I dug into this, I could find systems that could work for the individual athletes and their strengths and weaknesses.”

Get access to Cole's step-by-step, comprehensive 8-week training plan to pinpoint your weaknesses and build up strength to prevent injuries this ski season by enrolling in SKI Magazine and AIM AdventureU's new online course Ski Injury Prevention

Since he learned to ski on the Colby College towrope in Waterville, Maine when he was five, the beauty of the mountains and mountain air has held a special place in his heart. He skis over 80 days a year and lives with his two sons and wife in Vail, Colorado. “I love the mountain...It has something for everyone. Challenging steeps, awesome wide open groomers, incredible bump runs, and truly tremendous tree skiing. But mostly I love the people that make up the year-round community,” Cole says.

With many credentials, including Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with Distinction, he practices what he preaches and encourages his staff to work out every day that they can. “I also ask our trainers to run through the workouts that they design themselves. This way, they can feel the flow of the workout and understand if the stressors fit in the right sequence with each other,” he says.

Read more: Five Fitness Tools for Skiers

He hits the gym, too. His favorite exercises? Single leg deadlifts and rear-foot elevated single leg squats. “They truly target the glute-ham-quad complex and build stamina and balance that is key to success in skiing,” Cole says. 

Single-Leg Deadlifts with Weight

The single-leg deadlift is a great exercise to work the often overlooked backside muscles critical for skiing. 

“I also love the Wattbike workouts that our Endurance Sports Coach Miles Gentry builds. They are full leg-crushing workouts that put you in the pain cave.”

Learn JC’s best workouts and injury prevention tips for skiing your strongest in SKI Magazine’s Injury Prevention online course

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