Training to ride more powder

By Rogier on 2 September 2021 · 1

Cycling is ideal for working on your condition and provides good muscle building
Cycling is ideal for working on your condition and provides good muscle building

The first snow clouds will scatter the magical white gold over the mountains again in a few weeks. This means that the stoke will be very high, especially after last winter (let's forget that quickly). Even before the first ski areas open, some of us will be back on skis looking for powder. It goes without saying that a good condition is an important basis for some good ski touring. But even if you use the lift to get to the powder you make freeriding more fun, safer and you can make the fun last longer if you are in good condition. Of course everyone has their own way of training. But I would like to take you along on how I physically prepare myself for a season of 'riding pow'.

Better trained is safer freeriding

Being fit on the slopes is already important to be able to ski safely for a day. But off-piste, a good condition is also a matter of safety as far as I'm concerned. Because you are on your own and with your group (with the avalanche trinity and self-reliance), it is also important that if things go wrong you have enough strength and condition to be able to offer help. But it goes on to say that someone who is sufficiently trained will be less likely to incur injuries, be less fatigued and therefore make better choices. The always dangerous group processes are also less likely to get out of control if you are less fatigue. Simply put, a (conditionally) strong freerider is less likely to get injured and less likely to have accidents.

Tip: It is better to exercise for twenty minutes three times a week than for one hour once a week.

Training (exercising) should be fun

There is only one way to build up a good (basic) condition and that is by exercising regularly. If you really want to enjoy sporty skiing and want to make full days in the snow, exercising 2-3 times a week is really recommended. It is even better if you are looking for more movement in your lifestyle. So leave the car as much as possible, opt for the stairs instead of the elevator and so on. But you will definitely have to train to get a strong body, and the only way to do that is by choosing sports that you enjoy. And where you enjoy going to. Otherwise you won't last. And also, rather a sport that you train less specifically for off-piste skiing but that you can maintain without any problems than the perfect winter sports training that you stop after a month. For a basic condition, just good exercise is of the utmost importance.

Do sports that you enjoy and that you can sustain (sport climbing provides very good core stability)
Do sports that you enjoy and that you can sustain (sport climbing provides very good core stability)

Building basic fitness:

  • Exercise for 20-30 minutes daily. You can easily incorporate this into your lifestyle. Take the car less often, take the stairs, walk around.
  • Once you have a basic condition, 2-3 times a week in addition to the daily exercise 1-2 hours is ideal. Cycling, running, etc.
  • If you go ski touring, it is wise to add at least one endurance training of at least 2-3 hours every week (racing bikes are ideal for this as far as I'm concerned).

Building basic condition on the racing bike

Personally, I train my basic fitness on the racing bike. I think the muscles building on the bike is better suited to skiing than, for example, running. Cycling is also less prone to injury than running. It is also possible to complete longer training sessions. If you don't feel like sitting on the road bike, mountain biking is also a great way to train.

If you're planning to go ski touring, you really need to get in shape
If you're planning to go ski touring, you really need to get in shape

Endurance training for ski touring

If you also plan to go ski touring, it is important to do enough endurance training as well. A ski tour is at least about three to four hours of climbing, and if you really start on big tours you will be on the road for a whole day. And after that you still have to ski or board down (which you also need to have enough energy for). So if you are planning to tour, it is important to also do real endurance training. It's even better if you can also incorporate some vertical in your workouts. A few rounds of two to four hours every week and every now and then a nice trip of five to six hours is a nice (and realistic) goal to be well prepared for a few nice ski touring trips. If you don't like cycling, you can also think of longer trail runs. Or hikes in unpaved terrain, the latter because it is also less prone to injury.

Tip: No time? I notice that an hour of cycling during my lunch break, or just after or before my daily work, makes me more efficient and a more pleasant person. By putting time into sports I regain health and efficiency. In other words: make time for it, you will win it back!

Mountain biking in technical terrain is a perfect ski training
Mountain biking in technical terrain is a perfect ski training

Train your reaction speed

The basic condition is now here. But winter sports are not just about fitness and strength. It is also reaction speed. For this I take the mountain bike and I look for trails that are as technical as possible. Because as far as I'm concerned, that really feels like winter sports. You are constantly estimating speed and distance and you have to make the right choices quickly. You train your whole body on technical courses. In addition, this sport is also very good for your balance. Also very important when freeriding. An absolute must. If you don't feel like getting on your bike (you already read it, I'm a real bike fan when there's no snow) then you can go trail running. Preferably in technical terrain. Run up stairs and look for steep descents. All this to train reaction speed, balance and condition.

Stretching and exercises

Above I am mainly talking about fitness training, which in principle is always the basis for winter sports. But after that, don't forget the specific workouts. Strength training to properly train all muscle groups is of great importance. Remember, again just as a general build up:

  • Sit-ups: your abs and torso are very important in winter sports. Strong abdominal muscles also reduce the risk of back pain.
  • Squads: results in strong thighs and ankles: exactly what you need for winter sports
  • Push-ups: Push-ups provide strong arms and a strong torso.
  • Planking: planking (basic, one arm one leg) provides strong trunk stability which is very important during freeriding.
  • Also think about training on balance balls (such a disc-like shape or such a large half ball) for strong ankles and for balance. On these balls you can do squats and various balance and strength exercises, whether or not on one leg.
  • Then make sure you stretch enough. All this to stay flexible and to keep the risk of injuries as low as possible. All these exercises are easy to do at home, without expensive aids (a balance ball costs about twenty euros) and only take you a few minutes a day, and provides hours of extra freeride fun, and it greatly reduces the risk of injuries! If you have no idea how to perform these exercises properly, book some lessons with a trainer. That's fun and worth it (and a good motivator).

Longer workouts are important if you plan to go ski touring
Longer workouts are important if you plan to go ski touring

But, winter is coming, the weather is bad

One of the drawbacks to training for the winter is that the bad weather is coming in, and the days are also getting shorter. Well, you can always keep exercising regardless of the weather, but those short days sometimes make it more difficult if you have a busy job. You can opt for gyms and other indoor facilities. But if you are a little flexible, the weather is always that bad. And, if you are an avid cyclist like me, you can opt for a bike trainer for winter and bad weather, and together with programs like Zwift, training is easy and fun.

In my opinion, the most important thing you can get out of this blog is the importance of sports and exercise to have a good basic condition to have more fun (and safety) while freeriding. I am very curious if, and if so, how you train for freeriding.


  • pharris
    pharris op 22 September 2021 · 13:44
    agree on all aspects of this.


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