Whether you’re lucky enough to be touring in the mountains or making the most of daily outdoor exercise in the UK with some running, we’re making the most of the lockdown so we’re fit and ready for the slopes to open!
We’ve teamed up with the wonderful Jo Pollard, a Physiotherapist based in Val d’Isere and Tignes who specialises in ski and snowboard injuries and injury prevention. Jo is currently busy working with the New Zealand women’s World Cup racing team, so we’re thrilled that she’s put together some top tips for activation before you head out running or touring. If you’d like any more info or some personalised advise, get in touch with Jo at https://jopollardphysio.com/
With the lockdown continuing in many places, a lot more people have taken to running recently. And those of us who are lucky to live in the mountains are hitting the touring hard.
After hearing some grumbles from clients/friends, I have put together a few pre mountain or pre-running activation tips. There are of course many exercises and things you could/should/would do, but here are 5 exercises that should take no longer than 5 minutes (unless you’re enjoying them and want to do more 🙂 )
They are a quick combo of release work and activation to try and encourage the often lazy muscle groups to get going and try to dampen down/switch off some of the overactive ones.
This is, of course, different in people, but the trends are often overactive, tight hip flexors and tensor fascia latae (TFL) (especially when touring long periods with extra weight on your feet). And sometimes lazy/under-active gluteal muscles. Try spending 30sec-60secs with foam rolling/trigger point ball releasing the tighter muscle groups, then about the same amount of time ‘waking up’ or ‘activating’ the glut and stability muscles (i.e core and feet muscles).
Here are 5 exercises that should take no longer than 5 minutes…
1) TFL or Hip Flexor Release
Here a small massage trigger ball is ideal, but a tennis or golf ball etc will do. Depending on where you find the ‘spot’ place the ball against the wall and lean your weight into it. If trying to target the TFL (the small triangular shape ‘meaty’ bit muscle just over/infront of the hip joint) place the ball here. To target more the hip flexor at the front, you can lie stomach down and place the ball just below the pelvis (ASIS) and hip. At first it may feel quite uncomfortable, but try to breathe slow and deep, and the discomfort should ease and release.
2) Foam Roller Release
So not the most comfortable thing to try and release, but try and ‘roll’ up and down the whole length of the outer leg (top of hip all the way to the knee). Try and keep your core engaged and reap the extra benefit of getting your core going too! If you really struggle with upper body strength, you can place the roller against the wall (at different heights along your outer leg) – then lean all your body weight into it.
Move the roller along the leg.
3) Glute Activation 1
If you have some theraband that is ideal, but if not you can still connect and focus on activating your gluts without. Start either stood up or as I am here with a slight forward lean (but keeping spine neutral and core engaged). Keep the static leg soft and aligned over your second and third toes. Take the moving leg out sideways, and slightly behind. Try to not let the toes turn out and open up – this gives your hip flexors more chance of firing when the aim is to get the gluteus medius working (i.e your pelvic stabiliser).
4) Glute Activation 2
Here we are trying to get the glut max firing, one of the main hip extensors which will help you propel forwards with power and efficiency in both touring and running. Start again lined up, with a slight forward lean, but core engaged and spine neutral. Try not to let the pelvis twist, or allow the lower spine to give into extension, allowing the lower back muscles to over dominante the movement. It also helps to keep the moving leg relatively straight, to not allow the hamstrings to kick in too much. If you’re familiar with pilates this movement is a little bit like single leg kick. To really make sure the gluts are the prime mover, think to do a mini ‘butt’ squeeze first before moving into extension.
5a) Runners Reach
a): Try reaching forwards and down, keeping your static leg soft, but relatively straight. Watch the pelvis doesn’t open up and you keep your core switched on.
5b) Runners reach
b): from the position above, using your core bring your back leg up in front to a balanced single leg position. Try to use opposite arm to leg, to mimic a running type action that your brain is familiar with. If you really want to challenge yourself and get your balance system going, try with your eyes closed!!
As mentioned above, these exercises are in no way prescriptive and ‘one size fits all’. But they are a good starting point. The release work is also very good post run or tour – try working a little longer and combining with some stretches. Have an experiment with the massage ball.
For me personally I get pretty tight in my upper back and shoulders from where I previously broke my back, and where carrying a heavy ABS bag leaves me quite sore. So I try and get the massage ball into those spots.
Have fun, stay fit and healthy 🙂 And of course get in touch if you are looking for more specific advice.
In Dec ’19 we were contacted by Juliana Gansl from ultimate-ski.com. She was coming to Europe to ski Val d’Isere, Val Thorens and Chamonix.
TDCski was delighted to have her sign up for a few off-piste backcountry guiding sessions so that we could get the chance to show her around what we already know to be the brilliant skiing on offer in Val d’Isere and Tignes.
After landing in Lyon, I got my rental car and started the 2.5-hour
drive to Val d’Isere at the eastern end of the Vanoise National Park.
Several Brits I met described Val d’Isere as a “chocolate box town,”
meaning it’s wonderfully picturesque. They were right.
The main street is lined with ski stores, bakeries, restaurants and bars. Some of the side streets are located next to the base area, making everything centrally located and easily accessible. Val d’Isere, combined with its neighbouring resort, Tignes, make up one of the largest ski regions in France – the Espace Killy I purchased a 6-day pass with access to both resorts for USD $290 (including insurance for $2 per day, which would come in handy in case of an emergency). I also pre-booked two off-piste group guided days with The Development Centre (TDC), so that I could explore more challenging terrain and get the most out of the Espace Killy.
Pro-Tip: for skiers used to North American resorts – where mostly all trails, trees and bowls are considered in-bounds and therefore avalanche controlled, patrolled and marked – in Europe, plenty of lift-accessible terrain isn’t avalanche controlled, patrolled or marked. Make sure to familiarize yourself with Europe’s piste and off-piste definitions to avoid ending up in potentially life-threatening situations. Local piste maps are clear, but if in any doubt check your understanding on arrival.
My guides, Steve Angus and Rich Jones, were both professional, easy to communicate with, and extremely knowledgeable about the area. I happened to ski with them on two of the cloudier days, and they did an excellent job of finding untouched powder runs unaffected by the wind. Most importantly, I felt incredibly safe in their care, and would highly recommend them both.
Pro Tip: ensure you have a good low-light lens when skiing in Europe as most resorts are above the tree line, which means that visibility will always be poor when it’s cloudy.
As a solo traveler, I made a sincere effort to talk to strangers and say yes to as much as possible. My first afternoon after skiing I stopped into Chez Jules and the owner and I ended up taking shots of Génépy – an aperitif native to the region – in honor of sharing the same first name. On my second day, I started chatting with a group of young French skiers on the gondola and ended up skiing the entire day with them – including stopping for a delicious lunch at La Fruitiere and then for champagne and dessert at the infamous La Folie Douce next door. While walking around town another night, I befriended a group of lads from Manchester, UK, and met them the next several afternoons at CocoRico to dance on tables and drink caramel flavored Polish vodka.
In Val d’Isere my AirBnB apartment was in a small building located on Rue du Cachay in Rond Point des Pistes, next to the central bus round-about. It was a one-minute walk to the Solaise and Olympique lifts, 30 seconds to the CocoRico, and 5 minutes to the main street (just walk across the ski trail). The apartment luckily included a free, covered parking spot. I highly recommend staying in this area if options are available.
When my seventh day came, I was truly sad to have to leave Val
d’Isere – I would have been perfectly happy spending my entire trip in
The Espace Killy – but the Three Valleys was up next.
What’s the difference? Is there a difference between Ski Lessons and Ski Coaching?
At the start of every season, we do the rounds, meeting all the new staff in the ski shops, in the chalets etc. Lots of them know us from previous years but every year there are new faces. So, once again our job is to explain what it is that we do at TDCski, how are we different?
What is it that TDCski does that is different?
So I tell a story about a conversation that took place on a chairlift, that maybe did or didn’t actually happen. Whether it happened is not the point, the story helps answer our question. The conversation is between me, an instructor, and a random friendly holidaymaker who has overheard my conversation, in English, with my client that day. It goes like this…
“Excuse me, are you a Ski Instructor?”
“Yes I am.”
“I want to get better….but I don’t want to go to ski school.”
And that is it! Right there, that conversation convinced me and my like-minded colleagues to set up TDCski.
Here was a skier on a chairlift, with an obvious aspiration to improve but to them, the thought of going to “ski school” was just not going to cut it. They wanted to take the skills they already had and they wanted to ski the mountain, be challenged and achieve new heights in their performance.
For them, the idea of Ski School came with connotations of standing in line and skiing one by one to be told what they were doing wrong. Where’s the fun in that?
The funny thing is that a lot of “Ski Lessons”, run by good instructors, don’t have those negative aspects to them, but that remains the perception!
Giles, Paul, Phil and myself (founding four), talked about this and we realised that we already ran our ski lessons in a way that facilitated improvement and challenged the students. We used the tools that we had all learnt with BASI (British Association of Snowsport Instructors) and we made sure that our students really got to improve their performance. It was not just about technical issues, there were tactical and psychological approaches too (plus a few others but let’s not get too geeky!). We would keep students moving, we would give what were perceived as “tips” and we would set the environment to allow our students to practice and apply them. We kept things simple, but precise. People liked it, it was safe, fun, positive, challenging. People improved, did lots of skiing and had a good time. People described it as Ski Coaching!!!!
Turns out our Ski Lessons were in fact Ski Coaching, or at least that was the perception.
So what did we do? Well in 2002 we stripped away all the words that implied those old, ski school connotations. At TDC – The Development Centre – there were no more instructors, we were coaches; there were no more lessons, there were sessions and clinics; we weren’t a Ski School, we were a training and Development Centre.
…turns out that nobody searches for “ski coaching” not even people who want it!
This is still our ethos today, but with the advent of the internet it turns out that nobody searches for “ski coaching” not even people who want it! So all the old school words had to come back in especially on the website. But still to this day, we call our-selves coaches and we run clinics.
The difference between “Ski Lesson” and “Ski Coaching” is at the heart of everything that we do.
by Colin Tanner – Ski Coach!
Paul, Giles, Colin and Phil started The Development Centre in Val d’Isere 2002 www.tdcski.com
7 night holiday & 5 day ski clinic – package price £949 pp – saving £276
We are passionate about helping people really improve their skiing in an enjoyable and relaxed environment. Our Clinics are adapted to fit the goals of the group and the conditions on the day.
CONFIDENCE CLINIC (on request) – for strong green run skiers…improve and consolidate on the basics of ski technique, learn to make easy flowing turns in control
DISCOVERY CLINIC (on request)
– for strong blue run skiers…discover more of the mountain, make
skiing easy, learn how to ski more challenging terrain, increase your
speed whilst maintaining control, learn to carve
– for strong red run skiers…improve your technique, take on steeper
slopes, ski more runs with greater confidence, take on different snow
types to develop your performance
DEVELOPMENT PLUS CLINIC –
for strong red run /ok black run skiers…use the skills you already
have to take on more varied slopes, start to learn the basics of skiing
bumps and skiing off the piste
CHALLENGES CLINIC – for strong black run skiers…take on new goals in the bumps, on the steeps, in difficult snow, on the piste; challenge yourself – there are always ways to get better…
INTRO TO SKI TOURING – for skiers with some off piste experience, no touring experience required. Ski Touring is called “Ski Randonnée” in French, and it requires some specialist equipment. The first essential is ski touring bindings that lift at the heel when walking uphill but lockdown when you are ready to descend. You will also need skins that are fitted to the base of your skis when climbing. Skins prevent the skis from sliding backwards but allow the skis to slide forwards.
Except for the hard-core ski tourers, most skiers spend a lot of the time on the pistes. To make the most of your time on the pistes you need equipment in first rate order. Then allow the skis to do what they are designed to do. With rockered skis, fat waists and twin tips, it is easy to forget that carving skis revolutionized skiing and piste skiing is where that happens best.
Can your tools handle the power?
Some of the best feelings in skiing are found on the pistes. The power of a carve turn can be incredible, and generates up to 4G in force. Any ski can carve a turn, but to maximise the experience you need a ski which can handle the power. Dynastar’s WC Master series have serious pedigree, coming from their race factory and the Speedzone series make the carve turn easier to achieve.
Are your skis sharp?
The key to carving is tilting the skis over and balancing against the forces generated by the turn. The more you can tilt (and stay in balance) the greater the forces will be. In order for the skis to grip when tilted over on firm pistes the skis need to be in good condition. Sharp edges and a smooth base is essential to build confidence in your ability to tilt over. Get your skis serviced before heading to the alps and at the minimum take a diamond edge tool to keep the skis in great condition whilst you are out there.
If you want to turn tighter in a carve, tilt over more and allow the skis to move further away from the body. Balance through the outside ski and tilt both skis the same amount. High speeds are the result of carve turns so only practice when and where it is safe to do so. You’ll definitely need goggles (not glasses) to stop your eyes from watering and a helmet completes the racer ready look.
As with everything in skiing, deliberate practice in a suitable environment will see you improve your performance, and carving is still one of the great unused techniques in skiing. For more help book yourself some lessons on your next trip.
Giles Lewis is an ambassador for Dynastar skis and Lange boots. He is a ski Instructor with the development centre, who operate in val d’isère Tignes and the Three Valleys, France. He is a trainer and examiner of Instructors for BASI and a member of the British Demo team.
OK, “surviving” might be a bit strong, but keeping warm on the slopes in the middle of winter can be a challenge. As well as the main clothing like jackets and trousers, there are other things that can make a big difference for people who struggle to stay warm:
Extremities get cold first. It is what the body does to protect itself from cold. So, if your hands or feet get cold, it might not be down to the gloves or boots, but because you haven’t got enough layers on. Wear good thermals, and if your hands and feet are still cold, wear another jumper.
Helmet and Hat
Helmets can expose the neck to cold mountain air. Neck warmers, thin balaclavas or multipurpose tubes keep you toasty warm. Like scarves, but better.
Get your feet out
Particularly for skiers: if your feet have been cold and numb for more than an hour, you need to warm them up. Get inside, take off the boots and get the feet warm again. This will allow you to ski again afterwards, rather than developing serious cold injuries.
Dry your boots
Damp or wet boots are bad news. You need to dry your boots overnight, so if the hotel or apartment doesn’t have specific boot heaters, you need to make your own arrangements. Portable boot dryers work really well and are easier than balancing boots on radiators.
Giles Lewis is an ambassador for Dynastar skis and Lange boots. He is a ski Instructor with the development centre, who operate in val d’isere Tignes and the Three Valleys, France. He is a trainer and examiner of Instructors for BASI and a member of the British Demo team.
Autumn arrives in the northern hemisphere and this means one thing: it’s nearly time to go sliding around on the snow! The anticipation is really exciting, but nothing beats those moments when you’re doing it, enjoying the mountains in the best way we know how. Here at the development centre we’ve been sharing our passion for skiing since 2002 and we’re pumped up for the coming season. These are some of the things that we’re looking forwards to the most –
Heading down a freshly groomed piste allows you to feel how smoothly and precisely you are skiing. Less interference from the snow, it’s about enjoying your best turns.
Feel of the carve
Make like a racer, feel the forces driving the turn and appreciate what modern skis can do on the piste. The deeper you go, the bigger the rush.
It’s not the size that counts.
Jumps of any size are exhilarating, whether in the park or in the backcountry, jumping is one of those things some people (us) never quite grow out of.
The Quiet of the Powder
Sometimes, after some deep powder turns,the only noise is your own breathing
We love skiing for ourselves , but we also love it when we can share our passion, knowledge and enthusiasm with others. We love making a real difference to people’s
The Development Centre run ski schools in Val d’Isere, Tignes and the Three Valleys. Our team of highly qualified, experienced and motivated instructors are there to help you to achieve your goals, whatever they might be.