Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Understanding the Trail Signs on Your Ski Vacation

Have you ever wondered what it means when you hear from your previous ski vacation skiers or snowboarders say something like, “I can do the blacks” or “I prefer to stay at greens”?

If you are clueless about their meaning, they actually refer to a mountain trail designation system categorizing the difficulty of ski and snowboard slopes. The green circles, blue squares and black diamonds are used throughout the ski vacation destinations in North America (and most of the world) to indicate relative difficulty level. Here's how to classify them:

Green circle stands for the easiest trail at particular resort; blue square indicates more difficult trails; and, black diamond being the most difficult type of slopes.

Additionally, some resorts combined two symbols to show even more degrees of difficulty. You'll find that these resorts have five or six levels (instead of three). These are very helpful as you progress your ski level. Telluride, Colorado, for instance, uses double markings to show six degrees of difficulty.

These are the two blue squares for more difficult trails and two black diamonds for extremely difficult trails.

Meanwhile, some large ski resorts in Colorado including the Winter Park have five designations: A green circle, a blue square, a black diamond inside a blue square, a black diamond and a double black diamond:

A blue square indicates more difficult, a black diamond inside a blue square for even more difficult slopes; and, a black diamond signifies the most difficult trails.

Other useful tips:

·         Some ski resorts have an orange oval on their maps. This orange oval sign means that the particular trails are used for halfpipes and freestyle terrain parks.

·         Make sure your first run should be on the easier slope. Easier slopes allow you to leisurely do warm ups. Also, you can have enough time to evaluate the relative degree of difficulty of the area.

Little known facts:

·         In 1964, the trail marking system in the U.S. used a green square to indicate the easiest trails, and yellow triangle to signify a more difficult level. The blue circle identifies the most difficult trails, and a red diamond marks extreme caution. But four years later, the signs were changed to the present system of using green circle, a blue square and a black diamond.

·         Each ski resort has its own trails marking designations based on the difficulty of the particular skiing area. Most of the resorts have designated 25 percent for green trails. Almost 50 percent are blue, and about 25 percent are black.

·         Not all green trails are easy peasy. If mountain slopes are steep, the green trails will already be a huge challenge for novices. They may not be the easiest trails for some rookies.

Now that you already have the knowledge on the trail marking systems, you must always remember to ski safely and make some precautions before gliding on the slopes on your ski vacation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ski Trip Fitness: how to get fit for the slopes

I'm sure you are excited for your upcoming ski trip. But before that, you should make sure that your body is physically fit for the activities that you will do. Former British downhill skier Graham Bell has a few fitness tips to help you get ready for the slopes.

Cardio. Cardio. Cardio.

Your heart and lungs are the engine that will keep you going all day on the slopes at altitude. Improving your cardiovascular system will help in improving your skiing stamina. Bell suggests to start your cardiovascular exercises at least six weeks before the start of your ski vacation and you'll notice a huge difference.

Even by just going for a brisk walk will provide you a good cardiovascular work out. Walk upstairs or walk up escalators instead of standing still. Try whenever possible to get yourself a little bit out of breath.

Bell also explains that to train for a longer period of time at a manageable pace is the best way to improve your aerobic fitness. It's fine to do it little and often rather than doing it all of a sudden. Cycling, running, rowing or stepping for 20 minutes three times a week will provide a solid base, he adds.

Build up your skiing muscles

A skier is familiar with burning thighs after a long run, or an aching muscles the next day. In order to last longer, you need to build your ski-specific muscles such as your legs, specifically the quadriceps or the thigh muscles, the buttocks and the calves.

Bell suggests to use leg press but avoid knee curls to avoid your knees from getting strained. He added that it is reasonable to do a number of repetitions (up to 20 at a time) in order to build up endurance.

Bell explains that the lower legs take a lot of strain. So it is better to work on strength endurance rather than maximum strength – thus work at 70% of your maximum.

Bell adds that hamstring curls are also an important type of exercise but often forgotten by skiers. Hamstring curls is done by lying on your front and pulling your heels up to your backside. It strengthens the back of the leg and protects the knee from possible knee ligament tears.

But if you don't go to a gym, don't worry. You can perform some exercises at home. Bell suggests doing simple squats and crouching down (your back straight and knee forming a right angle and then back to standing position) and lunges would do.

According to Bell, strengthening some key areas in your body such as your stomach, back and sides are important especially for beginners who fall a lot and use this part of the body to get back up. To prepare them for your ski vacation, Bell suggests to either use the machine in the gym or do sit-ups and press-ups at home. Moreover, having a strong shoulders are important especially for those who take a lot of hits.

Flexibility, balance, and coordination

Increased flexibility helps your body to prevent injuries. It can easily cope up with the strange twists that happens often to skiers. It also helps your body prevent soreness and stiffness during your ski vacation.

A little stretch every time you do some exercise will help increase your flexibility. For beginners, Bell suggests doing calf stretching. He added that hamstring stretches and quad stretching are also important.

Likewise, good balance and coordination are important in helping you improve skiing techniques quickly. Moreover, Bell adds that these assets help skiers stay on their feet and recover from potential wipeout at speed. As an exercise, he suggests to stand on one leg and the other leg trying to write numbers in the air from 1-10.

With all these exercises, your body will surely be ready for your much-awaited ski trip. Happy skiing!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ski Vacation Reflection: The Benefits of hitting the slope

Your excitement intensifies as the first flakes of snow start to pour from the sky and the winter breeze starts to caress your warm body. Finally, your much awaited ski vacation is just around the corner. Your craving for extreme adventure and on the slopes will soon be satisfied.

But there’s more to a ski getaway than just fun and adventure on the snow.  Beyond those things, skiing also provides great health benefits. So here are the benefits that you can get when you go up and down the slopes.

Improves your proprioception

One of the benefits of skiing is it increases your proprioceptive strength. Proprioception is “one's ability to feel the position of different body parts and the effort that goes into moving them.” Since skiing is a proprioceptive activity, it further strengthens your ability to be aware of the movements of your body parts. Proprioception also weakens as we age.  Hence, you can reverse (or slow down) the process by indulging yourself with a ski trip.

Combat the signs of aging

Another benefit of skiing is it slows down the signs of aging. Years of ski trips have prepared your knees and bones for this. Thru skiing, your knees and bones are strengthened, thus lessening your chances of knee injury and bone disorders such as osteoporosis. It’s also a great aerobic activity.

Strengthens your heart

Skiing also improves your cardiovascular system. Skiing helps elevate your heart rate, thus increasing blood circulation, bringing more nutrients and oxygen to your tissues, and helping remove waste from the body more quickly.

Keeps you fit          

Good news to all health buffs there:  Did you know that skiing can help you lose weight as well? A week on the ski can help you as much as 5 pounds!

It also tones your stomach muscles. Achieving balance while skiing is very important, and do you know what muscles are in play when achieving this balance?  Yep, it’s your stomach muscles.  Hence, it’s a fun way to get you bikini ready just in time for summer.  It also helps in stabilizing your spine, protecting it from dangers of getting injury when you fall down while skiing.

Meet new friends

Lastly, skiing also lets you expand your social network. When you go with your friends on a ski trip, not only do you strengthen your camaraderie with them, you are also allowing yourself the chance to get to know more people. You get to interact with and learn from people from different age groups and cultural backgrounds.  Beats staying home and watching TV all day, doesn’t it?

Your ski vacation can give you more than just happy memories on the slopes.  It’s good for your health and well-being, too!  So what are you waiting for?  Get those gears out and embark on a ski adventure. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Family Fitness Tips before Going on a Ski Trip

Ski trips are always tough on the body. It can leave you dead tired after almost four to six hours of sustained exercise on the slopes. As a result, you run the risk of not having all the fun in the snow.

Fortunately, a former British Olympic skier named Graham Bell says there are countless ski-specific exercises that are proven to help every guest enjoy ski vacations. These exercises help prevent the likelihood of muscle aches and pains that are common even among super-fit guests who come for a ride on the now.

Graham suggests engaging in a fitness program for at least six weeks prior to a scheduled ski trip. Regular exercises helps build base fitness and enhances a person’s stamina. This way, you get tired less easily so you can enjoy more ski runs without having to stop for breaks.

Examples of stamina-enhancing exercises include aerobic s and other cardiovascular fitness routines such as zumba dancing, running, ice skating, and roller blading. Cycling is also a fun activity that promotes cardiovascular health.

If you are planning to visit a skivacation destination with your family, take everyone else on a weekend cycle ride or encourage your kids to try rollerblading or skateboarding to school. Push one another to engage in low intensity exercises and help them prepare for more strenuous activities on the icy slopes.

A few more days before that actual trip to a selected ski area, do ski-specific training such as those that enhances muscle strength, balance, and flexibility in order to prevent injury. Take note that snowboarders require more flexibility and muscle strength considering that they tend to ride lower than skiers.

Do not forget to touch lessons and exercises that promote balance and coordination. Try standing on equipment like wobble boards, balance cushions, and Swiss balls.  See to it that kids are supervised when trying any of these exercises; otherwise they run the risk of getting into accidents.

On your free time, bring your kids to a local fitness trail, an adventure playground, or high ropes course. If possible, let them have a hand on that paddle-board, it’s great for improving balance, coordination and strength.

Right at home, encourage everyone in the family to do simple, non-locomotive exercises such as single leg balance stretch and wall-sit exercises.

As always, see to it that you take time to warm up your muscles before any exercise.  Take note that warm up exercises need to be light and easy, not strenuous as the actual ski-specific exercises. Then cool down.

Be fit for that upcoming skitrip and have a blast on your family vacation escapade.

Friday, August 07, 2015

How to Maintain Ski and Snowboards

Ski vacations are hardly complete without your favorite skis or snowboard. These are the ones you need to be able to fly down powdery hills and catch breath-taking sceneries within and around the ski area.  These ski equipment can set you back a hundred bucks so taking knowing how to properly take care of these can be of great help.

Skis and snowboards have a strong tendency to deteriorate, regardless of how often these are used while on holiday. Its base can deteriorate in no time and can possibly hinder you from having a fun-filled day on the slope. Thankfully, ski fanatics can take advantage of several measures proven to help prolong the life of your ski equipment.

Skiers and snowboarders alike agree that whatever damage on snow sport equipment must always be acted upon immediately. Repair any form of damage on the equipment as soon as you notice such damage and do not wait for things to worsen. Wax your new equipment on a regular basis to strengthen its base. Regular waxing will also help prevent water from slipping into the equipment’s core which may later weaken it. In addition, see to it that the edges of your ski and snowboards are kept sharp and the base are structured and waxed.

After skiing and snowboarding, service your boards and skis with a thick coat of storage wax before eventually storing it. The storage wax will help prevent your equipment from drying out so you can use it again on your next ski vacation. Do not forget to remove this wax before using it again on your next holiday, otherwise, you’ll feel sticky on the first few runs.

Servicing ski equipment is fairly easy and can be done at home, but it requires skill and some tools to be perfectly done. With this in mind, it might as well be better if you bring your boards and skis to a good shop. Local ski rental shops and ski equipment providers on ski vacation destinations typically offer overnight service and also provide professional advice on how to properly care for your ski equipment.