It’s only September, but snow is already falling in the mountains. For some people, this is a sad time of year marking the end of lazy summer days at the pool. For others, it means the most wonderful time of the year is in sight: ski season.
The members of CU’s Freeride Ski Team (CUFST) fall into the latter group. They didn’t even wait for the first frost; practice began weeks ago.
The CUFST is the only non-varsity freeride ski organization in the country. There are three sub-teams within CUFST that specialize in different aspects of skiing.
The non-competitive team is called Freeride and includes members who seek hands-on coaching and who have the desire to improve their skills and ability.
There is also a competitive mogul team which is considered to be the most established and structured of all the programs.
Their main goal is to earn points in competitions in order to qualify for the U.S. Ski Association (USSA) national competitions.
The most competitive program is Team Delta. Members of this program have the opportunity to compete in the World Tour in big mountain and slope style events.
“Our events are judged on technicality, air and fluidity, which makes it more challenging since there are no set rules,” said Team Delta member Skippy Mesirow, a sophomore open-option major.
Although this will only be Mesirow’s second year on the CUFST, he has gained sponsorship from Aspen-based company High Society Freeride.
During pre-season, the freeriders practice twice a day, five days a week. The morning practice takes place in the weight room at the CU Rec Center with a training program designed by CUFST Head Coach Palmer Hoyt. The afternoon practice consists of a fun outdoor activity such as group hikes at Chautauqua Park, team trampoline sessions and ultimate Frisbee games.
Their training program also includes ski-specific exercises such as core training to improve balance, speed training to increase stamina and plyometric exercises to improve power.
“The most important pre-season training is core strengthening. Core training is laced into all the activities we do,” said Hoyt.
Core training targets the abdomen, glutes, hips, and back muscles. Hoyt leads the CUFST in abdominal exercises, balance and stability control drills, as well as other activities to strengthen core muscles.
Hoyt says the second most important aspect of pre-season training is stretching.
“Stretching and flexibility are the most important ways to prevent injuries during the season,” Hoyt explains.
The most common ski-related injuries are back and knee injuries. According to Hoyt, most injuries that occur on the slopes result from an imbalance between major muscle groups, which can be prevented by improving core strength and flexibility.
The most exciting and most challenging event of the season will be the U.S. Open at Copper Mountain in January.
“It is an open event, but top skiers from all over the world come to it,” said Hoyt.
The teams will also be competing this season in rail jams at local Colorado mountains and USSA competitions.
There are many ways the average skier can begin practicing for the upcoming season before the powder arrives. On Sept. 18, the CUFST distributed a training handbook to its members.
Kristen Brown, the coach for the mogul team, said, “If you follow the plan, you’ll feel so good by the end of fall semester.”
Here are some tips from the official CUFST training manual, created by Hoyt:
– You’re only as strong as your weakest link. Consistent weight training and plyometrics will strengthen and tune your body for skiing.
– A strong and balanced body that originates movement from the core is a skier’s best asset. Staying healthy means a great ski season.
– Endurance and body awareness will provide confidence. Endurance is gained through consistent strengthening and physical improvement.
– Stretch, stretch, stretch. It’s how you can keep skiing through your whole life.
– Keep the ski season in the back of your mind, and remember that it is up to you how well you ski.