How Pilates Helps Skiers and Snowboarders

I just returned from a Holiday vacation to Aspen Colorado. My husband, daughter and myself have snowboarded every year for the past 13 years and we love to try out new places and basically spend time as a family on the hills. It’s become a Holiday tradition.

This year we took on Vail, Beaver Creek and Aspen. There wasn’t much snow to begin with, but there were enough runs open to keep us busy during our short stay. As with any winter sport, you need to be in shape to face the cold, to stay outdoors and to be able to last the day. Let’s face it, I’m in my forties and I never know what to expect from one year to another. I must say, this year I was pleasantly surprised and quite pleased with my strength and stamina and I have to attribute it to Pilates.

Why Pilates?

Pilates is all about building the core. The core is not, as some would think, about your abs. Your core is as big as a wetsuit, starting from your shoulders to your hips encompassing the whole front and back of your torso. So how do you build the core? In the Pilates world, we start by addressing the inner unit muscles first, these are your multifidus, pelvic floor, diaphragm and transverse abdomimus muscles (taken from Body Harmonics Core Integrity workshop - Once you have turned on this dynamic quartet, you then engage the larger superficial muscles that surround it so that any movement you make stems from the inner unit (aka powerhouse). Pilates challenges the deep abdominal muscles to support the core. This creates a strong, flexible, resilient structure. By doing so, it makes your winter activities such as snowboarding or skiing much easier to perform. ‘Most skiers and snowboarders overtax their big muscles because they haven’t learned how to use their core muscles,’ says Caroline Lalive, Olympic downhill racer.

By carrying out a Pilates program, you are guaranteed to benefit from:

  • Balance

  • Posture

  • Stability

  • Agility

  • Core strength

  • Endurance

  • Reduced risk of injury by having toned muscles and especially mobility in the joints.

But how does it help with skiing or boarding?

Pilates improves flexibility, agility and range of motion, and is a safe form of movement making it optimal for snowboarders and skiers as a form of exercise to do all year round to get ready for the slopes when winter time hits.

Pilates is a revolutionary full body conditioning program that eliminates contra-indicated movements while emphasizing core stability and peripheral mobility. It strengthens muscles from the inside out. It transforms the way the body looks, feels, and performs. Most exercises require movement of the spine, whether it be by flexion, extension, side-bending or rotation and in skiing and snowboarding, all 4 motions of the spine are present and required.

Skiing and boarding also place great demands on the lower body, which can lead to overuse injuries. In order to complete a turn, there must be adequate strength in the core, buttocks, lower back and legs. The most obvious place for such injuries is the legs, and especially the thighs and ankles. I, personally have never seen such emphasis on strengthening ankles and wrists as in the Pilates method.

Pilates trains multiple muscle groups at once in continuous movements with fluidity. By developing proper technique, you can actually re-train your body to move in safer, more efficient ways – which is invaluable for injury prevention on the slopes.  No other method is so gentle to the body, yet so challenging and stimulating.

Bottom line: if you haven’t tried Pilates before, maybe you should give it a try, especially if you’re thinking of hitting the slopes this year. We’ve been hit by a truly Canadian winter so far so take advantage of it and get into the studio and then get out there!