Getting Your Ski Legs Back

December 10, 2014 D'Arcy McLeish

You would think that spending 7 months a year in ski boots, year after year, would do the trick to having permanent ski legs. Nope. Every year, a week into the ski season (which is a week into work for me), I pretty much can’t walk from charging too hard on my summer legs. You would also think that, after skiing for the last thirty years, I would have learned a few tricks to getting my legs in shape or at least have a system set up for doing so. Nope.

What you need your legs for... Photo - Rand Lincks
What you need your legs for…
Photo – Rand Lincks

I have a system, it just doesn’t involve anything physical. ‘Cause that would mean I’d have to hit the gym, which just doesn’t work for me. Can you think of a more boring place? Every few months I attempt a ‘go to the gym’ experiment.  As I walk out the door, with my ‘gym’ shoes and my loser water bottle, I see either my skis, my bike, my climbing gear or my dog and I think, ‘wow, any of those things would be more fun than working out in a crowded room’. At which point I grab one of those aforementioned items and so ends the gym experiment.

Yep. This is how I prep for ski season... Photo - D'Arcy McLeish
Yep. This is how I prep for ski season…

So what do I do to prep for ski season? How do I get my “ski legs” back? First, I book a holiday in the fall, usually somewhere warm, on the ocean. I then go there and pretty much do nothing for at least a week. Ok, not nothing. Swimming, surfing, riding bikes, reading copious amounts of fiction and napping in the shade every afternoon. That all seems to really get my legs mentally prepped for the coming winter. Next I come home and sort out all of my gear. Maybe heat my liners again, go get my boots re-punched. Then I start checking the weather and waiting for the snow. And no, at this point, I do not go to the gym. In fact, because it’s now raining every day, I’m really only just walking my dog for activity and reading books for good times. The bike is put away and the climbing gear is stowed.

I can put up with a little pain in the first week for this... Photo - Eric Berger
I can put up with a little pain in the first week for this…
Photo – Eric Berger

Finally, when the snow does fall and the hills start to call us back for our yearly journey into their embrace, I just go skiing. And yep, the first week is punishing. My legs turn burn and then turn to jelly. I have trouble walking after each successive day on the hill. My calves stop wanting to support my weight. It’s hell, really. But I remember a physio who worked with the Canadian Alpine Ski Team telling me that the only real way to get your ski legs back is to go out and ski. Makes sense to me. And it sure beats going to the gym.

Be safe, ski hard.