What is a Skihab?

Skihab comes from the words skiing and rehab prehab. Whether you are staying in bounds or most of your time in the backcountry your body could benefit from pre-season training and in-season maintenance to improve your performance and reduce your chances of injury. Our Skihab programs are focused on helping your body recover from big days out in the mountains and maintain key areas of strength and control so you can be prepared to go all out next time you make it out. These Skihab programs are designed specifically for skiers and snowboarders based on the latest research surrounding injury prevention. In addition to programs for inbounds alpine skiers, we also offer programs for backcountry sliders so you can recover and prepare for the up and the down. So in short our focus is to help you prepare, and recover so you can perform and prevent. Our Skihab programs are designed by physical therapists with years of experience shredding, touring and competing while at the same time rehabilitating a range of injured snowsport athletes from our friends to Olympians. 

Why should we do Skihab to maintain our bodies during the season?

When you were a kid and trying out different sports, chances are you did batting practice for your baseball or softball team. Or did hours of dribbling skills practice or shooting free throws for basketball. Freestylers and butterfliers had different workouts. Setters and hitters had still different workouts. The kids doing field events didn’t have the same practice as the ones doing track events. The general theme was to build a baseline of fitness and then add in sport specific movements in order to be ready for the season. Our Skihab program evolved out of a desire to bring the principles of progressive loading and sport specificity to the sports of skiing and snowboarding. As physical therapists, we consistently see a variety of injuries related to backcountry and inbounds skiing. Some are freak accidents but some have a pattern. Looking at these patterns, we developed a program that targets the key components of strength, endurance and power to optimize your performance and reduce your chance of injury in the mountains. It is quite common in skiing and snowboarding to have long days as we try to maximize our time doing what we love. If we have a baseline of strength and endurance already built into our system, we are able to perform the tasks necessary while significantly improving our style, technique and skill. 

What do these Skihab Programs hope to accomplish?

Our focus is to make sure that you have the strength, mobility and control that you need to go out and get the most out of your winter season. Skihab addresses mobility of the spine, hips, knees and ankles while incorporating the strengthening exercises needed to optimize power and dynamic control of the lower extremity kinetic chain. This all equates to reduction of repetitive stress on the more vulnerable joints in our body. Optimizing your mobility, strength and control has also been shown to be associated with a reduction in injury. We want to help you get stronger so you can stay out longer. 

How can I know if my body needs a Skihab tune up like my edges?

The Alpine Training Project provides all of our participants with a brief self assessment or movement screen that can be done in the pre-season or during the season to get a sense for what areas of weakness or mobility restrictions may be affecting your performance. You see how banged up your edges get as the season wears on. We don’t hesitate to give them a tune. So why not learn the right exercises from the experts to tune up your body as well. 

There are several ways to assess your fitness level season to season. Some of it is subjective meaning how you feel at the end of the day (short-term) or at the start or end of a season (long-term). Some of it is objective which is something we can track (range of motion, flexibility, strength). Keeping a log of this objective data can be very telling. Just like keeping a log of food intake can be helpful from a nutritional standpoint. Consider how being a little scientific about your training can lead to a ski conditioning level that you haven’t yet reached. Skihab is, in a sense, like putting money into the bank. A little sweat on the front end can lead to decreased injury risk and increased performance on the uphill and downhill. It’s a little easier to withdraw from the ATM when there is money in the bank.

What are the top injuries we see related to skiing and snowboarding?

The knees, hips and lower back tend to take up most of the stress of skiing and boarding. Inbounds injuries are more typically related to the repeated pouding of yo-yoing up and down chairs all day while backcountry athletes will have issues related to pushing their sliding sticks uphill all day. That isn’t to ignore the obvious trauma that can occur in either endeavor. The most common traumatic injury we will see if the rotational knee injury such as an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) or Meniscal tear. Did you know that research has shown that the risk for these types of injuries can be reduced by doing the right exercises to develop and maintain better strength and control through your core, hips and knees? Well it has and we have used this research to inform the exercises and program designed incorporated into all of our programs. For inbounds riders, we tend to see more knee and lower back complaints while we see more hip flexor and lower back pain associated with backcountry touring. With the exercises in our programs, we have focused on addressing all of the issues we have seen come up over the years in the clinic as well as referenced in the literature.

Skihab can be done anywhere or anytime. 

You don’t need a gym to do your Skihab exercises. Some of the exercise might ask you to use a small ball or a small foam roller, but you really don’t even need these. We’ve designed the stretches, mobility drills, core strength, leg strength and control exercises to be done in spaces as small as backcountry hut or a hotel room. 

What does it mean to recover from skiing and snowboarding using Skihab?

Recovery is a general term used in the training world to describe restoring your joints and muscles back to the optimal state for performance. Going hard and putting lots of reps on your legs leaves your muscles stiff, and filled up with metabolic byproducts such as lactic acid. This can limit the mobility and performance of a muscle and the joints that it supports. Joints will also develop stiffness and in some cases inflammation that needs to be flushed out as well. Our recovery program focuses on gentle restorative movement exercises that improve circulation and tissues mobility to decompress inflamed joints and get blood into sore muscles so they can be ready to go for your next day out. 

It’s all about fun.

Ultimately our goal with the program is to show you the right exercises and training plan so you can focus on what this is all about. And that is getting out there and having fun. The creators of Skihab and The Alpine Training Project have a true love for the sport and we feel that if we can share how best to prepare and maintain the body that we are helping to share in the joy that we feel after a day out in the mountains. 

Check out our programs and get ready to your best season yet.


This post written by Mandie Majerus PT and Mitch Owens PT.