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For serious skiers conditioning is an essential part of an overall ski training program. Not only will it allow athletes to perform at a superior level, it’s an important preventative measure to protect joints and connective tissue from injury.
From a sporting perspective (as opposed to a leisure activity), skiing events can be broadly grouped into one of five categories:
• Cross country skiing
• Downhill or alpine skiing
• Freestyle skiing
• Nordic combined
• Ski jumping
while obviously not skiing, is now an Olympic sport and is covered in this section of the website.
Each discipline places their own unique and specific demands on the body; elite freestyle skiers typically having a very different physiological profile compared to cross country skiers for example.
Cross Country Skiing
Elite cross country skiers rank among the top endurance athletes in the world for aerobic power (VO2max) (2,3). Aerobic capacity as well as onset of blood lactate accumulation can be used to predict success in this group of skiers (1,2,3).
Traditionally, endurance athletes and their coaches have opted for lower intensity and higher volume programs throughout the training year, with as little as 10% of training above the lactate threshold (3). However, it may be that a reduction in volume and an increase in high quality work can boost performance even in elite-level skiers (4). Even maximal strength training can improve work economy (5) and overall performance if converted to muscular endurance (6).
The fitness profiles of alpine skiers differs significantly to their cross country counterparts. A great reliance is placed on anaerobic metabolism – power, power endurance and muscular strength (7). Even though moderate to high values for aerobic power are recorded in elite downhill skiers (8), this may be due to their training rather than a direct result of competing (7,9). Alpine skiers must be able to react quickly to changes in terrain and the course outline requiring agility, balance and co-ordination (6).
Downhill skiing forces the athlete into a crouched position placing significant strain on the knees. Not surprisingly, elite skiers have strong legs when measured during isometric and isokinetic leg extensions (8). Leg strength is also a predictor in downhill and giant slalom events (7).
In this section of the website you will find articles and sample training programs for skiing. A range of disciplines will be covered from snowboarding to cross country – all with reference to the latest research.
1) Larsson P, Olofsson P, Jakobsson E, Burlin L, Henriksson-Larsen K. Physiological predictors of performance in cross-country skiing from treadmill tests in male and female subjects. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2002 Dec;12(6):347-53
2) Rusko HK. Development of aerobic power in relation to age and training in cross-country skiers. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1992 Sep;24(9):1040-7
3) Ingjer F. Development of maximal oxygen uptake in young elite male cross-country skiers: a longitudinal study. J Sports Sci. 1992 Feb;10(1):49-63
4) Gaskill SE, Serfass RC, Bacharach DW, Kelly JM. Responses to training in cross-country skiers. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Vol. 31, No. 8, pp. 1211-1217, 1999
5) Hoff J, Helgerud J, Wisloff U. Maximal strength training improves work economy in trained female cross-country skiers. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 Jun;31(6):870-7
6) Bompa TO. Periodization training for sports. 1999, Champaign: IL, Human Kinetics
7) Andersen RE, Montgomery DL. Physiology of Alpine skiing. Sports Med. 1988 Oct;6(4):210-21
8) Neumayr G, Hoertnagl H, Pfister R, Koller A, Eibl G, Raas E. Physical and physiological factors associated with success in professional alpine skiing. Int J Sports Med. 2003 Nov;24(8):571-5
9) Saibene F, Cortili G, Gavazzi P, Magistri P. Energy sources in alpine skiing (giant slalom). Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1985;53(4):312-6