Sunday, 10 April 2016

Skiing in Slush - Top tips from Val d'Isere Instructors

Love it or hate it, warmer spring weather will result in slushy pistes, especially lower down. Personally, I love skiing in slush, although it took a little while to start to enjoy it. Initially I did not have the right technique and found it hard work, but I now find powering through the slush great fun.

However, if you don't have the most efficient technique or good levels of ski fitness, skiing slush can feel heavy and tiresome. In slushy spring conditions, we see more over use injuries, particularly to the patella-femoral (knee) joint, more calf strains from a 'plant and ride' (where the ski's get stuck in a bank of snow, the bindings don't release and the skier continues over the top) and more knee ligament injuries, especially to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

To help prevent injuries in the slush, listen to your body.  If you are tired, take a rest. At the end of the season, skiers are often tired but keen to push on to make the most of the snow while the lifts are still open. Use rest time to rehydrate, refuel and stretch.  Fatigue is probably the largest cause of why injuries occur in slushy conditions and the ACL is often the unwilling victim.

Good strength and neuromuscular control of the legs and core is also essential to help reduce the risk of injury.  A strong core will help limit excessive movement of the upper body when being thrown around in variable conditions. Good balance and proprioception is necessary to help recovery and prevent falls.

Practicing your balance is probably the best way to help prevent injuries in slush, but you want to make this training dynamic and variable.  You can start by practicing static balance on an uneven surface such as a bosu ball (as shown in the picture).  A pillow or cushion will do if you don't have access to similar equipment.

To further challenge this, try and juggle a tennis ball or take hold of a medicine ball and pass it around your body.  Trying to regain your balance when you move outside of your base of support is great training and will help to sharpen your righting reactions which is important in preventing falls when you are thrown around in variable slushy snow.

It is also important to perform balance practice dynamically, as skiing is never about just standing on one leg!  Star excursions are are great starting point.  If possible, draw a large eight prong star on your patio or in your garage.  Stand on one leg in the middle of this and reach your other leg as far down the first prong as your can.  Repeat this all the way round each of the eight prongs.  Reach as far as you can to challenge the supporting leg.  You can then swap sides.  Introduce a wobble cushion under the supporting leg to make it a lot harder.

Other ideas for improving dynamic balance include:
  • hop to deep land.  Hold the landing for 5 seconds. 
  • Travelling hop and hold.  As above but vary the direction that you hop in to include forwards and backwards, side to side and diagonally. 
  • slack lining
When skiing in slush, our leg muscles work a lot harder and there is a high chance that you may aggravate any pre-existing injury, especially if you have knee or back problems. If your legs are felling particularly tired, stick to easier pistes, take regular breaks and book a massage with us to help accelerate recovery. If you combine good ski fitness and balance with good technique, you will significantly help to reduce your risk of injury.  

We've asked some of Val d'Isere's fantastic ski instructors for their top tips on skiing slush?

Lena Hauritus-Neilson
Point your ski's and go.  Power through and keep momentum.  Ideally do medium rounded turns.

Rupert Tildesley
Make sure the ski goes forwards along its length through the slush.  Try not to pivot it assuming it will slides sideways (it probably won't).

Xavier Raguin
Use your weight to push through the snow and use your speed.

Pamela Nardin
Don't be too rough otherwise you will get stuck and fall.  Keep your legs active to turn the ski's.

Clare Burns
Stay centered and distribute your weight over the whole of your foot. Use speed and momentum to power through it.

Thank you to everyone that has let me pick their brains.  There are some very useful tips which will hopefully help to prevent injuries occurring.


We do not recommend that you introduce these exercises without consulting a physiotherapist if you have any current injuries or back issues. We do recommend seeking advise from a healthcare or fitness professional when starting new exercises.

The purpose of this blog, is to provide general information and educational material relating to physiotherapy and injury management. Bonne Santé physiotherapy has made every effort to provide you with correct, up-to-date information. In using this blog, you agree that information is provided 'as is, as available', without warranty and that you use the information at your own risk. We recommend that you seek advise from a fitness or healthcare professional if you require further advice relating to exercise or medical issues.

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