OVERVIEW

Alpine skiing is a complex sport that requires high levels of technical skill and physical fitness to counteract the internal and external forces placed on the body during a run. Development of a high level of overall physical fitness and athleticism is critical to becoming competitive at the international level

Skiers need to be active year-round through participation in complementary sports to develop the standard of athleticism and physical fitness required to be successful in ski racing. 

The physical demands of ski racing require aerobic endurance, stamina, strength, power, agility, balance and coordination. These physical skills should be developed starting at a young age and progress through to the lifelong enjoyment of skiing and sports. 

A physically fit skier may be able to better tolerate the physical demands of skiing without failure or injury. All physical skills can and should be developed throughout a skier's career beginning with mastering the fundamental movement skills at the Gliding Start stage.

KEY FITNESS COMPONENTS
 

Ski racing consists of several disciplines which vary in duration, the number of changes in direction, type of terrain, type of snow surface, jumps and course sets. 

At each stage of development, physical fitness is paramount. By the time ski racers enter into the Train to Race and Race to Win stages, they must have a high level of physical fitness to tolerate the 130 - 150 days of training and competition required to become the best. 

The length of a single run as described by Gilgien, M. et al., 2018 helps to show some of the differences between the different disciplines: 

  • Slalom races average 52 seconds with an average and maximal speed of 54 km/h.
  • Giant slalom races average 77 seconds and average/maximal speed of 65/85 km/h.
  • Super G races average 93 seconds with an average/maximal speed of 86/110 km/h.
  • Downhills average 121 seconds with average/maximal speeds of 94/150 km/h 

Improvements in slope preparation, ski equipment, course design and the near-perfect execution of skiing skill required to be the best on race day need ski racers of all ages to be in top physical shape to withstand the ground reaction forces placed on the body during alpine, para-alpine and ski cross training and competition. Ground reaction force can vary between disciplines. In slalom, when the ski racer performs a short-arc turn, lasting about 0.8 of a second, there is a sharp increase in maximal ground reaction force reaching about four times their body weight. In giant slalom turns lasting about 1.4 seconds in length result in maximal ground reaction forces approximately 3.2 times the ski racers body weight (Gilgien, M et al., 2018). In Super G and downhill, the turns last about 2.3 seconds resulting in a  smooth increase in ground reaction force peaking at 2.6 times body weight similar to the ground reaction force felt in downhill. In Super G, about 20% of the run is spent tucking without turn versus DH where approximately 45% of the time is spent tucking (Gilgien, M. et al., 2018). 

All around training programs that enhance movement mechanics, improve functional abilities and increase muscle strength can be an effective strategy for the reduction of sport-related injuries in young ski racers (Lloyd et al., 2016). Participation in strength training throughout all stages of development not only strengthens the muscles and connective tissues it can make ski racer more capable of sustaining higher external forces, which can reduce the chances of soft-tissue injury (Lloyd et al., 2016). 

Ski racers focus on training strength and core stability, power, aerobic and anaerobic endurance, agility, balance, coordination (motor skills) and mobility. The training plans for ski racers are adjusted to meet individual needs and requirements. For example, a speed specialist (DH/SG) will focus more on training endurance and strength versus a technical specialist (SL/GS) that focuses on the development of quickness and power (Gilgien, M. et al., 2018). Adjustments to training plans for injured or return to snow racers occurs in collaboration with a sports medicine professional. 

Participating in complementary sports is an excellent supplement to the sport specific training completed on snow and in the gym. 

Required physical fitness capacities for alpine skiing include:

  • Muscular strength (maximal strength, strength endurance, and stability). 
  • Power
  • Energy Systems (aerobic and anaerobic capacity)
  • Balance 
  • Coordination
  • Movement Competencies (mobility)
A brief description of how to best prepare physically fit ski racers for success at the international levels of ski racing can be found in each stage:

Physical Training for Para-Alpine

Much like the development of a long term plan for skiing, the same must be looked at for the physical aspect of a participant or athlete. For the Para-Athlete we must make certain considerations based on the physical impairment of the individual. It is necessary to realize that due to the nature of differences between each athlete’s needs, every aspect of the program will be considered on an individual basis. Training does not differ from an able-bodied regimen, however extra considerations should be taken into account for each category.

Visually Impaired

Goals: develop proprioceptive awareness and balance to increase confidence in spatial moving, if possible, increase chemistry and communication with a guide.

Considerations:

  • Not usually any physical restrictions, no modifications on testing procedures.
  • Need to educate and progress through bodyweight movements to movements with external objects and object manipulation.
  • Landing and jumping progressions can help to build spatial awareness, which can increase balance and coordination.
  • Outdoor conditioning workouts will most often require a guide with experience.

Sitting

Goals: Develop and improve sitting positioning, balance, core strength, scapular, rotator cuff and potentially hip stabilizers.

Considerations:

SAFETY: gain awareness of their ASIA (American Spinal Injury Association) status and lesion level. Gain a clear understanding of their current function (both sensation and motor) prior to starting a program.
  • Orthostatic hypertension: gradually change positions.
  • Autonomic dysreflexia (T6 and above): ensure they have used the washroom prior to their workouts and there are no bladder infections, restrictive clothes or other potentially noxious stimuli present.
  •  Respiratory function: do they need an assisted cough.
  • Caution with overtraining as this will affect their ability to carry out activities of daily living.
  • May need more help than normal with the movement of themselves and equipment around the weight room or training area
  • Be aware of areas without feeling and rubbing, pressure points during certain movements.

Standing

Goals: Address muscular imbalances that may occur. Engage and encourage proper movement patterns, but understand that they may not be perfect.

SAFETY: If working with an amputee, ensure that skin care is managed, particularly if training in a hot environment.
  • Understand the differences in the range of motion, strength and optimal positioning with each athlete.
  • All of the facets of training (strength, power, agility, etc.) can be trained, however, they all may look different between athletes and possibly within an athlete (i.e. left and right sides).
  • Some athletes (eg. Cerebral Palsy or stroke) may need different movements for each side of their body, don’t neglect the less functioning side.

It is imperative that the coaching staff and integrated support staff (IST) communicate and are aware of each athlete’s functional status, technical levels and abilities. This will allow for better flow and alignment of physical, tactical, mental and technical development to create the best possible environment for maximal overall growth.

PHYSICAL FITNESS TESTING

The goal with the Alpine Canada Fitness Testing protocol is to implement a system-wide standardized testing protocol to ensure Canadian skiers are developing ski specific physical fitness abilities as they progress through the athlete development pathway while tracking the progression of the skiers. 

Testing Protocol

The purpose of physical fitness testing is to identify strengths and weaknesses of individual skiers. The tests included were chosen based on their simplicity, validity, and accessibility for all ski racing performance levels from local ski clubs to the respective national team programs. 

Measurement of a skier's physical attributes allows coaches and physical trainers to recognize trends and manage an athletes fitness training regime to match the skiing requirements for the level in which they are participating.

The testing protocol was developed in partnership with Alpine Canada, Alberta Alpine Ski Team, BC Alpine Ski Team, Ontario Alpine Ski Team, Quebec Alpine Ski Team, Canadian Sport Institute Calgary. 

 

PDF: Alpine Canada Physical Fitness Testing Protocol 2016

 

Movement Competencies

Targets for Overhead Squat with Dowel

 

Age Male Female
14 - 16 2 to 3  2 to 3 
17 - 18 2 to 3  2 to 3 
19 - 20 2 to 3  2 to 3 

 

Targets for Single Leg Full Squat

 

Age Male Female
14 - 16 2 to 3  2 to 3 
17 - 18 2 to 3  2 to 3 
19 - 20 2 to 3  2 to 3 

Lower Body Power

Targets for Standing Long Jump

Record Male: Sam Mulligan 3.20m

Record Female: Stef Fleckenstein 2.53m

Age Male Female
14 - 16 1.9 to 2.3m 1.6 to 2.0m
17 - 18 2.4 to 2.6m 2.0 to 2.2m
19 - 20 2.8 to 3.1m 2.3 to 2.6m

 

Targets for Penta Jump

 

Age Male Female
14 - 16 9.7 to 11.5m 8.2 to 9.7m
17 - 18 11.8 to 13.1m 11.2 to 10.9m
19 - 20 13.4 to 15.5m 11.5 to 13.1m

Upper Body Strength

Targets for Pull Up Test

Record Male: Jack Crawford 14 repetitions

Record Female: Erin Mielzynski 15 repetitions

Age Male Female
14 - 16 4 to 6 reps 2 to 4 reps
17 - 18 6 to 8 reps 3 to 5 reps
19 - 20 8 to 10 reps 4 to 6 reps

Agility & Anaerobic Capacity

Targets for Hex Jump Test

 

Age Male Female
14 - 16 23.0 to 20.1 sec 23.0 to 20.5 sec
17 -18 22.0 to 19.7 sec 22.0 to 19.7 sec
19 - 20 21.0 to 19.0 sec 21.0 to 19.3 sec

 

 

Targets for 90-seconds Box Jump Test

Record Male: Travis Dawson 117 repetitions

Record Female: Kelsey Serwa 94 repetitions

Age Male Female
14 - 16 80 to 100 reps 67 to 89 reps
17 - 18 94 to 106 reps 78 to 92 reps
19 - 20 100 to 110 reps 84 to 94 reps

Aerobic Fitness

Targets for Australian Sports 20m Beep Test

Record Male: Cam Barnes 13-12 (level-shuttle)

Record Female: Alison Forsythe 12-12 (level-shuttle)

Age Male Female
14 - 16 10-1 to 12-2 (level-shuttle) 9-5 to 11-6 (level-shuttle)
17 - 18 11-4 to 13-7 (level-shuttle) 10-6 to 12-7 (level-shuttle)
19 - 20 11-6 to 13-10 (level-shuttle) 11-1 to 13-2 (level-shuttle)