Roger Marolt: Sometimes skiing don’t feel like it should: It hurts so good

Roger Marolt
Roger This
Roger Marolt

Those claiming they know how to get in shape for skiing are either liars or they don’t know how to ski. Experience is the great teacher. If someone promises fitness for ski season, run as fast and far away from them as possible. And, you still won’t be any more physically prepared to tackle the slopes after you catch your breath and foam-roller you aching legs.

It’s a fact: after each of your first four days of skiing, your legs and lower back will ache. You will be so miserably sore that you will wonder if skiing is worth the effort. You might regret springing for the Aspen Premier pass. Striving for the 100-day pin will seem less a worthy goal of achievement than a prison sentence that cannot be shortened by good behavior. Of course this assumes you are skiing properly. If not, sliding down the mountain on your skis should pose no more day-after suffering than an afternoon of boutique shopping.

It goes without saying that this is a liberal media portrayal of early season skiing. A more balanced reporting of what skiing feels like after the first few runs would include some description saying something like “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” or “Biden sucks in the bumps.” At any rate, the basic message is the same — working into an enjoyable ski season takes time.

The fact that I have used “skiing” or “ski” nine times in the first three paragraphs of this column offers a clue as to why it is impossible to get in shape for this sport. Just as there is no suitable substitute word for “skiing,” there is neither a suitable physical activity to replicate the act of skiing.

You can do deep squats in the gym, but if you incorporate that exaggerated movement into your skiing, you are going to get super sore and/or blow your ACL. If you are into long distance running and try to incorporate that plan of attack into your skiing, you are going to get super sore and/or blow your ACL. If you play a lot of tennis to hone your ability to stop, start, and shift directions quickly and use short twitch muscles that allow you to do these things in your skiing, you are going to get super sore and/or blow your ACL. Bicycling thousands of miles as training for skiing? All that’s going to do is harden your butt for riding old, slow ski lifts and/or blowing your ACL.

In the old days there seemed to be an ongoing debate in town over whether or not skiing was exercise. It seemed to me that more people than not agreed that skiing was not exercise. I never understood this. As an overactive 10-year-old, nothing made my muscles ache except the first couple of days of skiing every winter. There was the time I decided to practice for the sixth-grade standing broad jump the day before the test in gym class until my stomach felt funny and woke up to abdominal muscles that were too sore to touch, but that was the only thing I recall doing that produced anything like the pain of the first day of skiing.

All said, my advice is to forget about the idea of getting into shape for skiing. One of the best things about living where we do is the change of season. Not only does flipping the pages of the calendar bring different temperature ranges and new nature-scapes to look at, the shifting environmental conditions push us into different kinds of exercises. Just as soon as the spring slush starts getting a little too soft and sticky, the shoulders of the roads get swept off and we get out the road bikes. When the summer traffic arrives we move to the trails for running, hiking, and mountain biking. Falls are perfect for casual sightseeing walks after morning yoga. Finally, the first snowfalls of winter bring us around to the inevitably excruciating pain of a new ski season. It’s the beautiful circle of mountain fitness.

What it comes down to is trying to accept the initial pain of not only the first days of skiing, but all activities we eventually get into decent enough shape to kind of enjoy, because, in the end, most of us end up fat and reminiscent. And, the few who don’t, get lots of wrinkles from the long runs they do where the sunscreen was all sweated off after the first three miles.

Roger Marolt thinks the physical pain of early season skiing is better than the pain of remembering where he stored his ski socks, goggles, and gloves last spring.