Summit County instructors offer insight on easing into the exertion of ski season |

Summit County instructors offer insight on easing into the exertion of ski season

A skier carves a fresh turn on the slopes at Copper Mountain. Pro instructors recommend easing into the season gradually and not skiing too aggressively on day one.
Tripp Fay / Copper Mountain |

The ski season is more than a month old, but many of us are just starting to sharpen the skis and head for the hills. Before you hit the slopes, a refresher course on freshies might be in order.

The Summit Daily recently sat down with Copper Mountain ski school manager Joe Quarantillo and took a run with longtime instructor and PSIA trainer Jonathan Lawson to get a few tips on getting back on the mountain.

“Best case scenario you’re conditioning year-round,” Quarantillo said, explaining that ideally people should prepare for ski season before taking to the snow. “Stretching and yoga are going to be your friends when it comes to skiing. I stretch every opportunity I have.”

For the rest of us, the quadriceps and hip flexor muscles will scream out in pain initially once we begin putting in full days of skiing and riding.

“Don’t get too technical on day one. Don’t over-focus on technique.”
Jonathan Lawson
ski instructor

The best solution in that case is simply to ease into the season and bring back the muscle memory slowly.

Quarantillo suggested ski-specific stretches and core-strengthening workouts in addition to any regular exercises.

“Your season should begin at home. Practice standing on one foot, break out the bike — go to the gym.”

Whether you are a diehard gym rat or more of a casual hiker/biker, when taking to the hill for the first time this season, both Quarantillo and Lawson stressed going easy.

“First day, you want to bring down your speed to about 50 percent,” Quarantillo said.

“Don’t get too technical on day one. Don’t over-focus on technique,” Lawson added, while riding up the American Flyer chair at Copper for an afternoon run.

Just go, he said. “Focus on how your body’s doing. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just take inventory of where you are starting the season.”

The two snow pros offered up some tips on early-season safety, because the last thing any of us want is to end our season in November strapped onto a ski patrol sled.

“Avoiding injury comes with knowing your boundaries,” Quarantillo said. “If it’s the beginning of the season and you’re feeling fatigued, take a break.”

Injuries often happen when skiers or snowboarders overdo it, either skiing too hard, too long or jumping into more difficult terrain too soon.

“Be aware of conditions especially in the afternoon,” Lawson added.

With limited terrain early season, open runs get a lot of traffic. And with afternoon shade they can become icy.

“Look for the loose snow,” he said, suggesting the edges of the slope or other places people may have ignored.

Quarantillo stressed focusing on proper stance and staying out of the “back seat” — that is, sitting back too far on the skis.

“An ineffective stance is going to add to fatigue the most,” he said. “Being in the back seat leads to a lot of fatigue.”

And with fatigue the likelihood of injury increases.

“Recognize fatigue is happening and take a break,” he said.

Finally, the best advice: Should skiers find themselves on the verge of falling, it’s often better to just to go with it and not try to recover.

“If you’re falling, it might be best to give in to the fall,” Quarantillo said.

The risk of injury tends to increase when a skier or snowboarder twists or turns in an unnatural way in an attempt stay upright.

With those tips in mind, the two instructors also reminded skiers and snowboarders to be aware of others, especially in early season with less terrain for crowds to spread out on.

There’s no question that skiing is a dangerous sport but knowing one’s limitations and remembering to exercise caution will substantially lower the risk of injury.

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