New Yorkers hit the gym before they hit Aspen slopes |

New Yorkers hit the gym before they hit Aspen slopes

Emily Fredrix
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
This Nov. 5, 2011 photo courtesy of The Sports Club/LA shows an Aspen Ascent class taught by Stephanie Levinson, left, at The Sports Club/LA-Upper East Side in New York. The class helps skiers get in shape off the slopes. (AP Photo/Rachel Neville)
AP | The Sports Club/LA

NEW YORK – Hold out your poles and sway your hips side to side. Lift one leg up and try not to lose your balance.

There are no steep hills below you or trees to avoid. Instead, you’ve got hand weights and a stepper. And you hope not to bump into your neighbor.

This ski prep workout won’t completely relieve me of my fears of being stranded atop the bunny hill (again). But it does make me at least entertain the idea of going skiing.

That’s the goal of a new ski preparation workout that aims to take skiers from the gym to the slopes in prime condition. Get into shape for skiing and you just might like it. And if you take the class – offered at The Sports Club/LA and Reebok Sports Club/NY locations around the country – you could get discounts on your vacation, too.

Why not train for a vacation that you’re investing in anyway, said Stephanie Levinson, who created the cardio and strength-training class, called Aspen Ascent.

“People spend so much money to get to a place, take time off work. And if you’re prepared you can have such a better time skiing,” said Levinson, an avid skier, who has been teaching the class in New York since September at The Sports Club/LA.

The class is a joint effort between the upscale gym chain and Aspen/Snowmass. The two are offering discounts to each other’s customers to get them skiing or working out. Class participants can get a fifth lift ticket free with the purchase of four, and other discounts on lodging, equipment rentals, and more. For resort-goers, they can get a $100 discount on select initiation fees on joining the gym.

The classes are aimed at skiers, but can help with all winter sports, including ice skating and cross-country skiing, or just general fitness, Levinson says. They’re divided into three parts: speed and agility, strength and balance and core and flexibility.

On a recent Saturday morning, some 40 people filled a gym studio on New York’s Upper East Side. Levinson explained the skiing preparation philosophy early on – be less sore, more confident and have fewer injuries. We were all in tank tops, spandex or even less. The cold, blustery conditions of skiing were at the back of my mind but surviving the next 45 minutes was at the front.

We panted, sweated and grunted our way through power ski squats (exactly as they sound – ouch) and the ski shuffle, where you go from side to side and touch the ground, while keeping your eyes forward. Balance is vital for skiiers, Levinson says, so they don’t tip over. To mimic an icy slope, you have one foot on a disc that you glide across the floor. Meanwhile you’re lifting weights (your poles) with both hands.

Knee injuries plague skiers, so Levinson had us move up and down the stepper, and from front to back, holding weights. Yep, that made my knees burn.

A strong core means skiers can hold themselves up and maneuver down the mountains. There’s super ski abs, where your legs are in a V position, and while holding weights, you twist side to side.

After 45 minutes I was, firstly, glad it was over. But I was also glad I did it. I could see how going through the movements and preparing my body would help ready me for skiing. Maybe next time I go I won’t be the oldest, childless person on the bunny hill. Or have to walk down in shame. (Both happened.)

Others feel the same way. Randi Marshall says the class is starting to give her confidence to take up winter sports again. The 48-year-old was sidelined with an ankle injury while ice skating two years ago. But having taken the class for weeks, the Manhattan resident says now she’ll consider skiing again.

“This gives me the impetus to think about it,” she said. “If you can get the basics down, then you might be able to not look like Bambi.”