Days on the mountain are some of my favourite. I come from a family of weekend warrior skiers, and have many memories connected to ski days. While my parents were first generation downhillers, they spent time as newlyweds living and working in Zermatt Switzerland taking advantage of the ski conditions. I myself started at the tender age of three, and was fortunate to marry someone who also loves skiing. We were even more fortunate to land in Calgary ten years ago so that we could introduce our kids to this sport in the most ideal location.
There’s so much to love about skiing: the crisp air, the occasional whiff of the pine forest, the vistas from the peak, miles and miles of terrain to choose from that’s always changing and evolving depending on the conditions. Skiing satisfies my love for variety and novelty, speed and beauty. And there is nothing else in the world like the tranquility that washes over me experiencing the quiet of a gentle snowfall in the mountains.
Once our kids' skills got to the point where we could start the season out on blue runs and skip the bunny hill, I would find myself lamenting how much time I spent in an office chair. Every year I’d make a mental note to try to do better on pre-season conditioning next year. My “early season legs” would remind me that I couldn’t count on youth and elasticity to launch me into the season. But since my genetics blessed me with a decent amount of in-built strength it never felt like an urgent problem to address, just a bit of a nuisance.
Then last year I wasreally struggling in the early season. I still had the skills to tackle all kinds of terrain but my conditioning completely let me down. My first several days out I had to quit after lunch because I knew that the lack of strength in my legs put me at risk for falls and injuries. Having sustained a serious concussion in 2016 at the hands of a careless snowboarder, I am very aware of how quicklyeverything can change. And I knew missing a half day was better than missing the whole season because I had wrecked myself. But it was humbling to discover my strength no longer matched my skills, and embarrassing to be holding my family back.
After being put to shame last year, I was determined to do better this year, so come September I knew I needed to formulate a plan for getting my strength and conditioning up. But being new to any kind of ski training regime, I didn’t know where to begin other than do a bunch of squats, probably?
Through a series of fortunate circumstances, I met Louis Stack at the end of September, creator of thePro Fitter SkiTrainer and founder of Fitterfirst. From Louis I learned the story of how he created Pro Fitter as a functional tool back in 1985 to rehab his own injuries and get him back on the ski hill as a competitive skier. As someone who has leafed through many editions of Ski Canada Magazine and Ski Magazine since the 80’s, the design certainly looked familiar. Though the trainer itself was familiar, the idea that such a tool would be appropriate forme, a weekend warrior who doesn’t ski more than fifteen days per year, was totally new.
I had always looked at ski trainers as specialized equipment for “serious skiers only” - for racers or freeriders, not me. In the past the idea of investing in a piece of equipment just to train for a part time sport wasn’t something that made sense to me. But after seeing the predicament my poor conditioning put me in last season, I was now doing a new kind of calculation.
Not preparing my over 40 body adequately for the hill could mean forfeiting the considerable investment we’ve made in our seasons passes and potentially my equipment and gear. To say nothing of potential loss of the priceless aspect of a fun outdoor activity that brings my family together and the joy of a beloved pastime. I had a feeling that my introduction to the Pro Fitter was my opportunity to make a change for the better and start this season off right. I said yes to Louis and we began.
Flipping the Pro Fitter over, we adjusted the cord setting to one appropriate for my weight. It was incredibly simple to do, using the instructions in the diagram on the bottom of the trainer. Then with Louis’s encouragement and the help of a Balance Aid I got on. The transition from the first foot on to the second is a bit wobbly, and I was happy for the extra help in balancing for my first try. Once I had both feet on the grippy non-slip pads I felt solid and secure. With Louis’s firm command of “HEAD UP, EYES FORWARD”, I got started with short controlled weight transfers from one foot to another. Sticking with the “Slalom” on the Fundamentals of theExercise Chart, I worked on stabilizing my upper body and mastering rapid weight transfer between my feet. It didn’t take long before I could get a nice rhythm and started to feel it in my calves. Next I bent my knees a bit more to engage my thighs muscles more and get my quads engaged, “This is fun!” I thought.
I’m now using the Pro Fitter regularly and find it easier and easier every time. With the efficiency of this training I’m seeing notable improvements in my strength and endurance with just minutes per session. To make sure I train for my preferred way of skiing - ripping big turns down steep groomers - I now mostly go for the “Giant Slalom” exercise, traveling further to the bumper on each weight shift. And even though I’m doing the same exercises consistently I’m still finding it interesting and fun, in a way that workout circuits have never been for me.
There are still so many exercises I have yet to explore and try out using the Pro Fitter. I probably won’t go for the double black diamond single leg exercises in this lifetime, but that still means I have 16 more to try. With this training I predict the start of this season is going to be alot more fun than last. You’ll probably catch me taking a mid afternoon break but this year it will beby choice and with a beer in hand. The simple but effective design of the Pro Fitter is really impressive - I’m definitely a convert to ski trainer conditioning thanks to Louis and his ingeniously designed machine!
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