As February comes to a close, we approach the most critical time of year for many skiers. March. It’s the last month for potential snowstorms, pow days, and crispy park laps before April temperatures turn the mountain into a hot dogger’s paradise of slush piles and pond skims. But what are we to do about training during the month of March? What are some things to consider regarding output and cumulative fatigue? In today’s blog post I will present a few things to think about as we cross the mid-season mark.
By now, if you’ve been on a consistent training program, you’re ripping on skis. Your legs are fully with you and you’ve developed the dynamic core strength to withstand anything the mountain throws your way. It’s for this reason that we should always aim to maintain our previous training frequency throughout February, and into March, before we adjust for the summer months. I covered how to do this in detail HERE.
March is such a critical month for strength and conditioning. Each day we pray for big overnight snow storms, and cold fronts, which means that we need to keep our body ready for when we get the call. There’s a saying that goes “your eyes are bigger than your stomach” meaning that you think you’re hungrier than you actually are. This happens in skiing too. We can be so hyped on new snowfall that we ski outside of our current level of preparedness, launch bigger features, and carry more speed because we’re stoked. But skiing too aggressively while failing to maintain your strength can present dangers and risks that aren’t worth the ski runs.
Of course this can be remedied with some basic maintenance. However, to avoid redundancy of the previously mentioned article, I will focus on specific ways to advance your performance in March.
The first thing you should do, in addition to maintaining your physical training output, is place an increased emphasis on post-skiing recovery which I wrote about HERE. This is critical to sending it all March, getting in your final ski trips, or accomplishing any incomplete goals you’ve set for yourself this season. If you’ve had a total amount of vertical you wanted to ski this year, a time you’ve wanted to beat on the NASTAR course, or a local town event you’ve wanted to compete in, nows your chance to put everything on the line. In doing so, you must prioritize recovery so that you can continually put forth the effort and output necessary to see these ideas come to fruition.
Remember to be smart about conditions. New snow can be exciting but new snow can also present dangerous and changing snow conditions. If you plan on goin in the backcountry, make sure you know what you’re doing and surround yourself with a smart group of people who are well versed in avalanche safety and rescue. You never know what pitch will slide and you must be prepared to act quickly in the event of an emergency. When staying in bounds, be mindful of other skiers who may be out on their first day all season. I remember as a kid it was easy to forget that 90% of the skiers on the mountain are on vacation. They’re most likely skiing for the first time all year. The other 10% are locals and avid skiers but unless they’re absolutely shredding, it’s hard to tell one from the other. For this, always assume that the other skier has no idea what they’re doing, hasn’t been training regularly, and lack the body control to get out of your way. This is essentially defensive driving for the ski hill.
Lastly, March is the time to take the largest reduction in training intensity. This is typically the heart of the season for most people and if you’ve been maintaining your strength training all year, this is the month to reduce the load, back the weight off, and focus on weekly consistency over everything. Unless you’re an Olympian, March will be the month where you ski with the most aggression and intention. You’re now skiing with at least three months under your belt, the body is completely back in action, and you’re ready to push the envelope. Because of this, it’s time to respect how much training output can hinder your performance in specific settings when the intensity is too large. An easy rule of thumb is to take your typical load (weights used) and reduce the number down to 70% of an estimated 1 rep max for any given exercise. To do this, click THIS LINK and follow the prompts. For example, if you front squat 100 lbs for 10 reps, input 100 lbs in the “lift” space and “10” for “Repetitions” then calculate your percentages. Select 70% and that’s your new working weight for March. In this example, performing 100 lbs for 10 reps would produce an estimated 1 rep max of 133.3 lbs and 70% of this is 93.3 lbs. So you could start front squatting 95 lbs in March to maintain lower body strength without placing too much overload on the muscle system and your ability to recover.
I love March, it was always my favorite month of skiing and I typically produced my best competition results here. It was also the most challenging month to manage strength and conditioning output. With these three guidelines, you can have an epic March in the gym and on the hill.