Athletes, both recreational and competitive, crave results from their craft. These results can range anywhere from simply having more fun to winning a revered tournament. Advancement is achieved through training, dedication and application. The most important element to progression, however, is knowledge and mentorship. So, when seeking advice on how to ski better, the most logical place for me to look was toward the mountains.
That's where I found Keely Kelleher (pictured right). [Photo Credit: Marcus Caston]
A woman born to the mountains of Montana, Keely's skied all over the world, is a 22-year veteran to the sport, spent nine years on the U.S. Ski Team, placed in World Cup competitions, and earned a spot on the 2010 Olympic team. Her accomplishments are vast and her willingness to impart knowledge to others is generous.
Keely's advice on skiing only further proves her accolades. Here are her top tips to take your skiing to the next level.
Cross-training off the slopes, regardless of the season, is key to becoming better on the slopes. It will keep you athletic and dynamic, both strong and fit. Some of the best sports to pursue are the ones that put your body in strange positions—positions that push balance, stimulate your proprioceptors (sensory receptors in your muscles, tendons, joints and ears that detect body position), work your core, and engage the intricate muscles of your ankles and feet. Such sports include: mountain biking (Keely's top suggestion), surfing or paddle boarding, soccer, ultimate Frisbee, dodgeball, slacklining, kayaking and Nordic (cross-country) skiing.
You will be sore getting back on your skis after a hiatus from the sport; this is because skiing requires muscles and body movement that you really can't replicate. The good news is there are certain strength-training exercises that can better prepare you for the slopes and prevent you from getting injured when you do put your skis back on.
One-legged box squats are great for strengthening your legs because they put you in the low, crunched position common to skiing (the position similar to sitting on your bindings). When starting this exercise, drop as low as comfortable and progress into a deeper squat. Once you start getting stronger, add weights to increase the difficulty.
Hamstring development is also crucial because these muscles will protect your ACLs when carving through the snow. Because of this, don't neglect your hamstrings in the weight room; always remember to do hamstring curls when working your legs.
Use Agility Training
Skiing is a creative sport that requires coordination and decision making. This is best demonstrated when choosing a route on the mountain and sticking with it—a decision often made in a matter of seconds. The integration of other sports such as mountain biking, white-water kayaking and rock climbing is once again great for this. These sports help you anticipate terrain changes and force you to choose a route, commit to it, and navigate the consequences.
Another agility exercise is standing one-legged on a physio-ball—the one with a flat, plastic bottom—and having someone throw a tennis ball at you. This will both improve your hand-eye coordination and strengthen the small muscles in your feet.