Saturday, 31 May 2008

Skiing Fitness - Which muscles to use?

With it being the off season for skiers in the Northern Hemisphere, it is a good time to look at training over the summer months. I plan to cover some different aspect of this over the next few posts - and yes, there will be more on unicycles.

The image above shows (roughly) the various muscle areas that are important to skiing. The obvious area is the quadriceps, marked in blue. These are the muscles that most people will think of in connection with skiing. However the quads are not the only, nor even the most, important muscles for skiing. The hamstrings, marked in green, are at least as important and perhaps harder to train effectively. Like most sports the core muscles (abs and back, marked in red) are very important. Finally arm strength has a role to play in high performance skiing.

An all round training programme needs the right balance of speed, strength, endurance and aerobic fitness training, and also needs to suit the type of skiing you do. A bumps specialist will have different needs from a ski mountaineer. In either case though, it is better to start now and build up a good base rather than leaving it until the weeks before the next ski trip.

The next post will cover the leg muscles - quads and hamstrings - what we use them for and how to train them.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Arinsal Closing Weekend Last Month

I am posting another picture from the last weekend in Arinsal, just to illustrate how much snow there is at the end of the season. This was the 12th April on the afternoon after the Ski School Race. Three of us had just skied the chute in the middle of the cliff band, which is pretty much the only couloir in the Arinsal ski area and had been on my list to do for a while.

I would have posted it sooner, but the trip to Chamonix for the second half of April got in the way of posting for a while, and by then I had plenty of ski touring pictures to post as well. Hopefully this will illustrate the point I have made before, that contrary to popular opinion the end of season is still a great time to go skiing.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Martian Skiers?

Firstly I would like to apologise for the length of time since my last post - I have been having some issues with the Blogger platform.

You may have seen Nasa's photographs from the Phoenix lander which touched down on Mars yesterday. Much has been made of the "quilted" patterns in the Martian landscape, and how they may have formed. My first impression though is that, colour aside (and the colour is false anyway), they bear a remarkable resemblance to a bumps run in any ski resort.

Okay, I am not seriously suggesting that Mars is inhabited by snow loving alien skiers, although there are some pretty big mountains over there. Perhaps I have just reached the point where I see something ski related in every news item or photo.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Unicycle update

You may remember I bought a unicyle in Andorra with the aim of improving my skiing fitness. Although I started with the usual burst of enthusiasm of anybody with a new toy, the next snowfall put a bit of a dampener on things by filling the car park where I practised with a couple of feet of fresh white powder (no complaints about that mind you).

Back home in England I have been practising again, and have finally managed to turn the thing, rather than just trying to stay on it whichever way it decided to go.

Here are a couple of photos, just to prove that (at least briefly) I was balanced on it.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Summer Ski Care

Being back in England, most of my skis won't be seeing any use for a while. It seems a good time for a reminder of what needs to be done before putting skis into storage for a while.

Tune the edges as normal ready for the next use, then apply a generous amount of wax and make sure it covers the edges as well as the bases - this will protect them from rust over the summer. Don't scrape and brush as you would normally, but leave the wax on the skis as a protective layer.

Finally, loosen the DIN settings of the bindings until they are as low as they will go - this helps the springs to last longer. However, if you do this MAKE SURE YOU TIGHTEN THEM before you use them again.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Mont Blanc Du Tacul (nearly)

The last trip in Chamonix was planned to be an ascent of Mont Blanc du Tacul - a subsidiary peak of Mont Blanc and a 4000m mountain in its own right. Unfortunately we left it too late booking the cable car and had to get the 9am rather than the 8am lift. Next there was a slow moving queue of people doing the Valleé Blanche on the knife edge ridge out of the top station, so it was after 10 o'clock by the time we actually started the climb up.

We knew that we had to be on the way down by 1pm, as the snow bridges on glaciers lower down would be weakening in the warm weather. In particular an area known as the Salle a Manger* was reported to have several weak snow bridges. We would have to cross these on our descent of the Valleé Blanche after the climb. Unfortunately we were still several hundred vertical metres short of the summit by one, so reluctantly switched crampons for skis and headed down. Near the end of the descent we came across a lake which had formed on the glacier from melting ice. It was a remarkable shade of blue, with black caves visible in the depths below a few floating icebergs. Photos from the day are posted below.

*Salle a Manger is French for Dining room, as this is an area where many people stop to eat their packed lunches, often in unwise places, on the descent. A lot of people seem oblivious to the dangers of glaciers and the high mountain environment, perhaps because the skiing is not too demanding and there are plenty of other people about. However a number of people have been killed on the Valleé Blanche descent this year, often through ignoring their guide's advice. It is quite frightening to see people sitting beneath creaking seracs and loaded avalanche prone slopes, or taking their skis off while wandering about crevasse zones.

The queue on the ridge

Ian on the climb

A lake formed in the glacier on the way down

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Back home

As of late last night, I am back home in England. I have a mountain of gear to unpack, and a mountain of clothes to put through the washing machine. It's already hard to believe I was in Chamonix only yesterday morning.

I am trying to figure out how to get back to the snow as quickly as possible. The main options at the moment are summer skiing on the European glaciers, or South America. Australia/New Zealand are obvious possibilities as well. Really I need to consider where I can train effectively for the Eurotest in November. It is a tough test, but a major step on the way to the full ISTD qualification.

On the blogging front, I plan to get back to providing a mix of skiing advice, photos, reports on my ski related activities and the odd bit of opinion. I have a few more photos from Chamonix to post, a couple of lessons in the pipeline, something on off-season ski care and after that I'll make it up as I go along.

I've had a really great season this year, and have managed to drag it out into almost six months, which is the longest one I've done, and skied in four countries. Thank you to all the people I've skied with and partied with, to everybody who's been reading and especially to those who have taken the time to comment or email.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Aguille Crochues

This time I have some photos from the other side of the Chamonix valley - we hiked to the Aguille Crochues from the Flegere and Index lifts via Lac Blanc. At 2837m it is not a high peak in the region, but it is a peak nontheless and none of my previous tours have taken in an Alpine summit. We were hoping for some spring corn skiing back down, but it was a little late in the day so we had to be content with untracked but heavy snow.

Apologies to those of you who have previously commented positively on the ski tips posts - there will be more of those in the near future. At the moment I'm afraid I've been having too much fun skiing, touring and having an end of season holiday.

The Aguille Crochues on the way up

Ian on the way down

The Aguille Crochues from near the lift station - the peak in the middle of the skyline - we ascended behind the skyline ridge.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Col D'Argentiere

Seeing as I'm on holiday at the moment, here is another post full of photos and not many words. Yesterday we skinned up to the Col D'Argentiere and skied back down. Just under 1000 metres up, and 2500 metres down to the valley.

The first picuture shows our objective - the col on the skyline just right of center

The last push

The view from the top