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How to prevent early- season ski injuries

  • 2 min to read

As the weather turns colder and wetter, the minds of many people in the valley may start to turn from singletrack to deep powder days.

For those itching to start taking runs, those first weeks of the season hold risks as well as the promise of enjoyment.

But even if the slopes are ready, your body may not be.

Dayne Toney is the co-owner and trainer at Targhee Crossfit, one of two gyms in town that offer ski and snow-sports-specific training classes.

She said the class is more sport specific than regular cross-fit courses and will not only focus on leg strength but on the stabilizing muscles that can help prevent injuries.

 “According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the two most prominent injuries from skiing are ACL and MCL tears,” Toney wrote on the TC website.

She also stressed that it’s not only the large leg muscles that need to be in shape, but the smaller stabilizing muscles that keep the joints in line and prevent injuries.

Charlene O’Brien is one of the teachers of the ski fitness classes at Blue Ox, which focuses on stamina, core strength, flexibility and leg strength. She also encouraged people of all ages and skill levels to enroll.

O'Brien said, “people are encouraged, at all classes I teach, to work at their own pace and follow what their body says.”

Listening to your body is important, she said since when people are tired they don’t stay in good position and the muscles that would normally stabilize joints and protect them from injuries can’t do their jobs.

“During ski fitness we will attack imbalances that can be a precursor to these injuries and help build a strong joint to assist in resisting all the pressures we put on it during ski season,” Toney said.

Another “muscle” to make sure is functioning well going into ski season is your brain, as poor judgment and over-aggressive skiing early on in the season can lead to injuries.

“People forget, especially on good quality snow, we don’t have the base we have later in the season,” said Thibodeau.

Early in the year, Thibodeau said patrol sees more severe injuries than later in the season and he attributes that increase in severity to the thinner base layer.  He also said that the days with the most injuries are also those with the best weather.

“When it’s clear, people really go fast,” Thibodeau said.

The early season is marked not necessarily by different injuries, he said, but just more serious ones. The only exception is that patrol does see more fractures, including compound fractures, early on.

Besides going fast, other aggressive moves can cause problems early on in the year.

“Don’t start hucking until you’re confident about your landing,” Thibodeau said.

In order to ski appropriately for the conditions, you have to know what the conditions are. So he recommends checking  not only sources like the Targhee Snow Phone, but talking to patrollers and other skiers.

Also, factors like elevation and what direction the slope is facing, called aspect, are important to know to properly gauge snow depth.

“If you’re skiing something south facing, there’ll be less snow than north facing,” he said. “That’s just the nature of it.”

For those who may be thinking of venturing into the backcountry, Thibodeau said the skills taught in avalanche courses like those from Yostmark and the American Avalanche Institute can help people appraise snow conditions in bounds too.

Where to go to get ready physically

Besides skiing carefully and knowing the snow, the best thing people can do to avoid injuries is to be in shape.

Both Blue Ox and Targhee Crossfit are offering ski fitness classes this fall.

Blue Ox

47 South Main Street

Driggs, ID 83422


Targhee Crossfit

440 North Main St

(970) 379-2431


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