It’s easy to imagine that the U.S. freestyle ski team would be sick of skiing by now and welcoming time off for a few months of summer. But, no! Three days a week—Friday, Saturday and Sunday—they are up at Snowbird, which is still open (with excellent morning snow), training on a mogul course set under the Little Cloud chair.
According to U.S. team head moguls coach Scott Rawles, if you ski or snowboard, you should also be using these late snow conditions to train for next season. “The more time you can be out on the hill, the better you’ll be next year, because you won’t lose your touch and your feel for being on a snowboard or skis,” he says.
Conditions are so good in the mountains that Snowbasin has just re-opened for weekend snowriding for as long as the snow lasts. But even if you’ve hung it up for the summer, you can—and should—still keep training. Whether you like making fast turns, riding park features or getting air above the pipe, Rawles knows how to keep your body in shape for the snow.
He says, “The way to get to your most promising level is [working out on] dry land. I would say any sort of training for acrobatic sports is good. You can even do 360s in your living room.”
Aside from giving your core a hard workout, air-awareness training will make you better at any sport where your feet slide on a slippery surface, improving balance as well as strength. Rawles suggests doing the 360s by picking a spot on the wall, shutting your eyes and making the jump, then seeing how close you came to landing in front of the spot you selected. At the same time, notice how this kind of dry-land jump works your abs, obliques, spinal erectors and glutes. It may take some practice before you can sense exactly how much force to use to make a complete circle; you can even start with 180s (half a circle). Once you’ve become good at 360s in both directions, start working on 540s (a circle and a half). Remember to always come down with knees and ankles flexed to absorb the impact of landing.
Rawles also suggests using a local swimming pool for the same kind of training used by the freestyle team at Park City’s Olympic Park, practicing twists and turns, and even flips: “You can go off a diving board or even off the edge of the pool. Be creative with what resources you have. If you’re really serious about improving, go to a gymnastics center. We do a lot of gymnastic stuff.”
He advises doing things that you like, because that will prevent your training from becoming a chore. Some workouts may add extra unknowns to your conditioning program. Freestyle team athletes practice standing on exercise balls and doing squats on “bosu balls,” the half-ball with a flat platform on one side. They also work with “speed ladders,” available at most sporting-goods stores. These rope ladders allow you to practice fast stepping; you can use side steps or one-legged hops to build speed and endurance—in other words, power that will make you a better and more balanced athlete regardless of your sport.
These exercises will work just as well for snowboarders as for skiers, and also for mountain bikers and even climbers. The point is to work your body in ways that push it and to not confine your gym conditioning to static up-and-down, back-and-forth weight lifting, or just a treadmill or spin bike. Your body will adapt to any exercise you consistently do, and thus stop progressing. Don’t think of “working out” as just using your aerobic system or just using your muscles.
Rawles says, “The most important things are that you keep mixing it up and doing stuff that you enjoy. The more you can push yourself into different areas of training, the more you will instinctively learn about balance. Whether you’re skiing, mountain biking or pushing yourself in the gym, the great athletes can do it all.”