Cliff Grassmick
Joanne Yankovich, center, works with a heavy bag during a ski conditioning class at the Alpine Training Center in Boulder on Wednesday night.


Here are a few places that offer ski conditioning:

Alpine Training Center:

Boulder Sports Performance:


The ski bug might not have bitten you yet. But it’s not too early to get the bug to train.

“Now’s the time that you want to be really ramping up the training as far as the conditioning portion for skiing,” said Tony Stafford, of Boulder Sports Performance.

Stafford, like many other trainers around town, is now offering ski-specific conditioning that’s designed to get you off to a solid start to the season in November.

“Early season is all about feeling good, getting some good turns, having good agility,” said Erin Carson, general manager and fitness director for RallySport. And you can do that if you start training now, she said.

RallySport’s ski conditioning classes start on Oct. 18.

“When we get into December is when it gets really fun,” she added. “Because that’s when we start getting really aggressive with training.”

But if you don’t have the base, that December training won’t be so fun.

Summer shape

Even if you’re in good shape from running or cycling all summer, skiing puts different demands on the body.

“Right now, we’re looking at stability” in our conditioning classes, Carson said. “So we’re looking at imbalances that happened in the summer from running or cycling.”

Carson said that early on in ski conditioning classes, trainers work on joint stability, partly to prep for plyometric training in November.

“Last week, I had my veteran athletes run through my ski pre-test, and they all came out pretty sore,” said Connie Sciolino, head coach and owner of the Alpine Training Center.

“The main reason is skiing involves eccentric motion.”

Eccentric motion lengthens the muscle under tension, Sciolino said.

“Skiing is an eccentric-controlled sport,” said Carson, of RallySport. “It really is about controlling your body weight in that lowering stage, and that’s a big demand for your quads.”

That’s why even if you’ve been running or cycling all summer, you’re often still sore the first time you go skiing, Carson said. It’s a different action.

“The landing in running is the eccentric phase of running,” Carson said. “And skiing is like having a very long phase of landing.”

More than legs

For the ATC’s ski conditioning, Sciolino likes to get people moving in new ways.

“So much of what we do in the summer months, running or cycling, is all in one plane,” Sciolino said. “Skiing is in a lot of planes. And that’s where a lot of people get hurt — outside of their comfort zone.”

Sciolino said she has athletes do hopscotch, jump over sand bags — anything to increase body awareness and agility, and get people moving in other planes. She also focuses on flexibility for injury prevention.

“I work a lot of mobility into the lifts,” she said. “We do a lot of hip mobility to keep the lower back loose, the hamstrings loose.”

But ski conditioning isn’t all about the legs.

“With skiing, the core is the base for your movement in your legs,” Stafford said. “And when I say core, I mean not only the abdominal muscles, but also your lower back.”

All movement comes from your core, said Carson.

“It’s the essence of movement, it really is. And somebody who has a beautiful flexible core will experience way higher levels of performance.”

Endurance of all kinds

Stafford said he often hears skiers complain that by afternoon, they’re done, exhausted. So he tries to help skiers develop an endurance base.

To fight fatigue — and injury, since so many ski accidents and thus injuries occur in the afternoon, when the skier is tired — Stafford has clients do a lot of body-weight exercises, rather than using weights, and a lot of repetitive motion, to develop the skier’s lactic-acid threshold. For example, instead of telling people, do 20 reps, he’ll say, do lunges for five minutes.

“You want to get stronger, but you want to be able to maintain a high output over a long period of time,” he said.

But as a frequent marathoner and marathon pacer, Stafford knows that getting through a long day of exercise is about more than just being physically prepared. So he trains clients for mental toughness, too.

“People get tired, they get fatigued muscularly,” he said. “You lose your focus, and when you lose your focus, you tend to get injured. So when we do endurance training, we do mental training.”

Learning how to deal with the fatigue is part of his conditioning classes — so there’s a mental training component.

“That’s why we do the lactic-acid training, where you have that burn,” he said. “You know that burning’s going to be there, you know it’s going to hurt. How do you overcome it?”

It takes practice, he said. And it’s not easy at first. But you learn to deal with it, and it becomes manageable.

“It’s only for a short period of time, and then I’m going to be stronger, physically and mentally.”

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