Champaign, IL—Although skiers use terrain or skiing aggression to describe their skiing style and label themselves a black-diamond skier, a cruiser, or an all-mountain skier, instructor Chris Fellows says skiers should instead concentrate on physical attributes or limitations. “Understanding the physical components that make up a skier's fitness profile will speed up the improvement process and help pinpoint the areas of development for the fastest results,” says Fellows.
In his book, Total Skiing (Human Kinetics, 2010), Fellows breaks down the four types of skiers, helping skiers identify what type they are and create an individualized training program for developing weak areas in their skiing arsenals.
“Building a program that addresses all aspects is paramount for achieving maximum performance,” Fellows stresses. “A well-balanced program incorporates the exercises and drills that fill in the holes identified in a skier's profile. The approach is truly customized, not one size fits all.”
Optimal skiers exhibit ideal functional movements and keen body awareness in all planes of movement. They react to terrain changes with body adjustments and refined agility skills. These skiers can pick up new skills quickly and are rarely sidelined with injuries. “As soon as fatigue sets in, most skiers compensate, straining their connective tissue,” Fellows says. “Optimal skiers can withstand longer outings to ingrain high-quality movements and can practice for longer periods because of good overall alignment, mobility, and strength.”
Overpowered skiers are fit and use good mobility and stability to deal with terrain challenges.
They often use the big muscles that can generate fast, ballistic movements in order to ski well. “Overpowered skiers are powerful to the point of being blocky,” Fellows explains. “Their muscular and tight bodies can be explosive while turning, but they lack a full and effective range of motion.” They lack joint mobility, especially in the hips, as well as fluid core movement and finessed leg movement. “Although they have a good overall stance, when flexion and extension are required, their range of motion is limited,” Fellows adds.
Underpowered skiers have good mobility and core stability but lack overall fitness, causing them to get tossed around by building forces in the turn. “They also lack the endurance needed for longer, sustained runs,” Fellows explains. “Their technique is affected by their inability to deal with the physical demands of dynamic skiing.” Underpowered skiers look nimble and agile on their skis, sometimes resulting in too much range and the inability to hold on to the dramatic angles they create. “They can absorb varied terrain deeply when they are fresh, but they tire quickly and must rely on the stability of the hard, plastic shell of the boot or the tail of the ski.”
Underskilled skiers show great ability in the blocks of functional movement and fitness, but they lack technical and tactical skill. “Skiing is a sport that requires repetition of movement patterns, and underskilled skiers have not gone through all the paces yet,” Fellows says. “They have a good base of functional performance, but they are weak in the skills department.” Underskilled skiers look athletic when standing over the skis and can make quick changes to technique and tactics because their bodies can withstand the continuous attempts to get it right. “They stay fresh longer and can operate at peak performance for several hours. Their weak link is their lack of fundamental skills and inability to apply them to specific situations,” Fellows adds.
According to Fellows, identifying a profile allows skiers to simplify the training process and address total athletic performance, not just technique or equipment. In Total Skiing he offers drills and training programs for each type of skier that can be done both on and off the slopes.
“A prescribed at-home series of exercises and drills for mobility, stability, aerobic capacity, agility, and power will deliver big paybacks in performance and will increase the fun factor on the slopes.”
For more information, see Total Skiing.