Alternative training camp ideas: Skiing

Seen as an ultimate winter holiday but also incredible for fitness, skiing could be perfect for rowers at this time of year

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Cross-country skiing (Shutterstock)

With so many retirements from Channel 4’s The Jump again this winter – where celebrities take to the slopes of Austria, one casualty being Sir Bradley Wiggins – it’s fair to say downhill skiing isn’t without its risks. We discover the benefits of the somewhat less daring discipline of cross-country.

Former Olympic skier and now coach Roger Cruickshank is one of the UK’s top downhill talents. He explains some of the key benefits skiing can bring to your training. “Skiing is extremely good for your core strength and furthermore, for all those little muscles that you would otherwise never use!” he explains.

A fear can be forking out the cash to go, and then having to learn the ropes but Cruickshank says it’s worth it: “You probably want to give yourself a good couple of weeks to get to a comfortable place where you can go almost anywhere. That’s the beauty of alpine skiing – you never stop learning!”

So for competitive rowers, are we right in thinking cross-country skiing provides a safer option than downhill, when it comes to potential injury?

“Cross-country skiing is certainly a lot safer due to the slower speeds and generally it is done on flat pistes so there is no risk of cartwheeling down mountains. It can be viewed in a very similar way to cross-country running though there is a surprising amount of technique to it. It’s very good for your body awareness and can be very therapeutic! It’s all about getting in a rhythm,” explains Cruickshank.

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In order to maximise the benefit to fitness, preparation is key. Cruickshank adds: “Try to train some weights in the gym before you go on your skiing holiday to avoid the shock to your muscles. Though make sure you know what you’re doing before doing free weights and if not, get some professional help.

“Many people don’t give themselves enough preparation so they end up suffering from ‘delayed onset muscle soreness’ (DOMS) after a couple of days which will then affect them for the rest of their trip. That’s why it’s good to prepare your body so that you can get the most enjoyment out of it!” he says.

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Why ski?

Mark Homer, GB Rowing Team Head of Performance Sport and Medicine, says: “Skiing is a good low impact ‘whole body’ training stimulus that generally has to be done at moderate altitude – another means of improving endurance capacity if planned and executed effectively.”

Cruickshank’s top skiing destinations

Saalbach Hinterglemm, Austria
Not only is this destination a great party town but it’s also a massive skiing area where you can ski in between the local ski resorts.

Lillehammer, Norway
A fantastic spot for a more tailored cross-country skiing expedition with over 2,000km prepared cross-country trails in the area.

Scotland, UK
When the snow is here then actually it can be the best place to ski. I do a lot of ski touring where you put ‘skins’ on the bottom of your skis so that you can walk up the hills without slipping backwards. This means you can go anywhere and actually Scotland is extremely good for ski touring!