To round up the series of articles on ski fitness, I want to sumarize the last few posts, but also to discuss the relevance of other sports and activities.
Apologies for the lack of pictures in this longish post - I will post some more soon.
The important muscles for skiing are obviously the leg muscles - the quadriceps group but also the hamstrings, the core muscles of the abdominals and back, and also to an extent the arm muscles.
Three areas of importance are cardivascular (aerobic) endurance, strength and flexibility. For a typical recreational skier wanting to ski all day without getting too tired the first is the most relevant. As the performance level increases strength and flexibility become more important. Flexibility allows the body to make the necessary shapes more easily and is developed through streching programmes - remember to do stretches after other exercises as static stretches before exercise can increase the chance of injury.
Strength training allows the body to effectively manage the forces that build up in high performance skiing. A wide range of muscles come into play, so the best training will use free weights to develop more muscles. To perform at your highest level on skis will require some effort spent on strength and flexibility training.
Exercises such as running, cycling or team sports will develop cardiovascular fitness and help with muscular endurance. Some form of aerobic exercise like this should be used as part of any programme. However they will not build a lot of strength in the skiing muscles (i.e. you can still expect some aches after the first day or two back on skis). Swimming can be good as it develops a wide range of muscles in an impact free way. In fact most sports will have a positive effect on skiing ability. For most people, simply keeping fit and active is the best preparation, accepting the odd first day aches as just a part of skiing. If your skiing holiday is your only exercise for the year (and we see plenty in this category in the ski school) then it will be really hard work, and not as fun as it could be.
A few sessions on an artificial slope in the off season can help keep the skiing muscles in trim, particularly in the run up to the holiday. Those of you who are luccky enough to live near the mountains and ski at weekends probably have far fewer problems than those who do their winter's skiing in one week away.