Preparing for the Snow Plough – A beginners guide to getting ready for the slopes

As a self-classified intermediate skier having discovered, and subsequently fell in love with the sport 5 years ago, I still vividly remember, as do my hips and knees, the first visit to the indoor ski center. Although I expected it to be challenging, what I hadn’t quite bargained for was the ‘snow plough’, and my distinct inability to access the required range of movement to be able to get into the position and to be able to stop. As the instructor patiently explained the need to go wider and then turn your feet in and push the inside of the skies into the snow. Although I knew exactly what he was asking, it was incredibly difficult from a mobility perspective. On the first attempt down a slight incline I decided to use the group of people in front waiting at the bottom as an alternative way to stop.

So, slightly deflated but also intrigued and determined by the fact that as a movement specialist and performance coach it was a real opportunity to walk the walk and see what could be done before the next lesson. Two weeks later after a daily series of flexibility and mobility exercises locked in with some stability it was a different story, and that’s the intention of this blog – to share similar strategies for success for those that may need help with the mobility and stability components of ski performance and conditioning as well as injury prevention.

A couple of reference points regarding the task of skiing:

Skiing involves an intense effort over a relatively short period in variable conditions, particularly stressing the thigh muscles (quadriceps) and the connective tissue, tendons, and ligaments of the knees and ankles based on a fixed foot position in the ski boots.
Knee injuries account for 55% of ski accidents according to SOS International, however I always reference a quote from Lenny Parracino at the Gray Institute; in functional activities and sport, “The knee is often caught in the middle, with no place to go and nowhere to hide”. What that means is that the knee is in between the hips and the ankles, so we have to ensure we have adequate mobility, stability and strength in these 2 key joints in order to look after the knee as much as possible.

Why Vibration?

Using vibration training has many advantages when it comes to flexibility; (1) mobility and stability; (2) rapid increases in blood flow, and (3) muscle activation and improved body awareness leading to enhanced stability are the big ones in this context.
The dynamic platform of Power Plate increases ground reaction forces and is essentially replicating the variability encountered on the slopes, becoming the perfect environment to prepare and condition the muscles, tendons, joints and connective tissue for the demands of the sport. All you have to do is choose the right exercises, and that’s what we’re going to look at below.
This daily program consists of 4 movements. To make it easy, they are broken down individually with some key coaching points to consider as well as a video for each.

If you want to do more than just 1 set on your favourite ones, go for it!

Exercise 1: Soft Tissue: Trigger Point Ball, Feet

Settings: 30-40 Hz Low
Duration: 1-2 sets, 30-45 Seconds, Repeat on both sides

Top Tips:

  • Keep standing knee bent to avoid vibration travel to the head
  • Always apply comfortable pressure down, avoid pain/discomfort
  • Roll slowly over 1-2 inches, moving forward and backwards, side to side and then rotating

Exercise 2: Mobility: Ankles

Settings: 30-35 Hz Low
Duration: 1-2 sets, 30-45 Seconds, Repeat on both sides

Top Tips:

  • Keep standing knee bent throughout
  • Use the same side knee to initiate the movement in different directions as shown
  • Allow the body to move naturally and rhythmically and select your own ranges of movement

Exercise 3: Mobility: Squat with Reach

Settings: 30-35 Hz Low

Duration: 1-2 sets, 30-45 Seconds, Repeat on both sides

Top Tips:

  • Always keep knees slightly bent at the top position
  • In each foot position ensure to perform 3 different depths of the squat
  • Keep the chest lifted and weight into the mid-foot

Exercise 4: Stability: Lateral Step to Balance

Settings: 30-35 Hz Low
Duration: 1-2 sets, 30 Seconds, Repeat on both sides

Top Tips:

  • Maintain the ski squat position throughout
  • Shift weight onto one leg and pause briefly to ensure control and balance
  • Use a toe touch if needed to maintain stability