8 Pre- & Après-Ski Stretches For Hitting The Slopes, From A Former Competitive Skier
With snow in the forecast and fresh powder on the slopes, there's nothing quite as tantalizing as hitting the nearest ski resort and speeding down a bevy of new trails, especially when an early start means first lift and a shot at impeccably groomed runs. While it's tempting to jump right onto the slopes cold, taking an extra five to 10 minutes to pause and stretch before shredding the gnar is essential to efficient skiing, injury prevention, and longevity.
"Stretching pre- and post-[ski] is essential for mitigating injury," says Robyn Fog-Wiltse, M.A., former competitive skier, obstacle course racer, and founder of Sasquatch Training. "It's a little tricky, though. We don't want to static stretch too much before skiing, unless you already have a chronically over-tight muscle group that you've already been working on."
Fog-Wiltse, who has a master's in human physiology from New York Medical College, recommends dynamically warming up your sacrum, hip sockets, and IT bands before and after embarking on a downhill day, noting that most ski injuries occur in the ankles, knees, and hips. These catastrophic injuries typically happen when athletes don't effectively stabilize the body when zooming across a slope. "If you are going around a corner…and standing too far upright, when you wipe out, you're probably going to wreck your knee in a big, spiral motion," she says.
We asked Fog-Wiltse for her top eight stretches for skiers hitting the slopes this season, and she created this no-nonsense circuit that's quick and easy for powder enthusiasts at any skill level.
First, a few quick tips: Bring a portable foam roller along to help you release tight muscles prior to getting back into the car, use dynamic stretches before skiing and static stretches after, and be sure to always stretch on a solid surface like a wood floor or hard-packed snow.
Dynamic / Static Stretches
Pre-ski: 8 to 12 reps of each movement
Après-ski: 30- to 60-second static holds of each movement
- Sit tall, with both legs in a bent, 90-degree "pinwheel" position.
- Without hunching your back, keep the inside leg bent while rotating it toward the ceiling, then back down to the ground, warming up the hip socket.
- Both feet should stay flexed throughout. That's one rep.
Z-Sit Knee Drops
- Sitting on your rear, prop your back up straight with your arms firmly behind you.
- Keep both legs slightly bent and facing out in front of you, slightly wider than hips' distance, in a "Z-sit" position.
- Keeping your left knee vertical, drop the right knee down and under the left knee, then return it to center. That's one rep.
- While seated, pull the soles of your feet together in front of you and keep your chest lifted.
- Gently, while maintaining a straight back, press your chest toward your feet.
- Pulse for a dynamic, pre-ski stretch (8 to 12 reps), and hold for 30 to 60 seconds post-ski.
Standing Biceps Femoris Stretch
- Prop your right heel onto a bench or step that's at least 1-foot tall.
- With a soft bend in the right knee, rotate your shoulders and arms to the outside of the right leg.
- Pulse in and out pre-ski (for 8 to 12 reps, then switch sides). Hold the twist for 30 to 60 seconds after skiing on each side.
Foam Roller Stretches
Pre- and après-ski foam-roller stretches will both be dynamic.
Hip Flexor Roll
- Lying on your stomach, with the roller just below your hip bones, bend and prop your left knee out along the foam roller.
- Using your arms for control, glide forward and backward along the front 5 to 8 inches of your right hip.
- Repeat 5 times, then switch sides.
- Begin in a bridge position, lying on your back, then lift the hips to slide the foam roller just above the tailbone so that it's centered on your sacrum. Stay here for 20 seconds to allow the muscles to unwind.
- Next, lift up one knee at a time until your legs are bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Slowly and carefully rock your bent legs from side to side, keeping the knees together (this should not feel like an ab workout). Repeat for 5 pulses on each side.
IT Band/Outer Thigh Roll
- Find the narrow, meaty space between your upper and lower hip bones, then lie down on the foam roller, making contact with this area.
- Rotate laterally, from the outside of the hip to the front of the hip crease, not up and down the fibers on the side of the leg.
- Repeat for 5 reps, then switch sides.
- Sit your bum on one end of the foam roller and lie back, making sure that your head is supported on the other end.
- With your arms in a cactus position, breathe deeply for 20 seconds while allowing your chest and back to soften.
- After this brief hold, straighten your arms, allowing your fingertips to graze the floor (if possible), and slowly sweep your arms overhead, making 5 "snow angels" as you move your arms up and down along the floor.
Emily Pennington is Outside's parks and travel columnist. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Condé Nast Traveler, Lonely Planet, Adventure Journal, REI Journal, and Backpacker, to name a few. When she’s not sleeping in the dirt or researching health trends, she’s frantically working on a book about visiting every U.S. national park, slated for release in November of 2022.