Last Sunday, I hit the slopes for the first time in 12 years. I’ll admit, I was nervous to try skiing again, as I had never even made it past the “bunny” slope as a kid. I’ve been at Colby for almost 3 years and every winter I get asked if I ski. It has been a common assumption that because I’ve lived in Maine my entire life, I must be experienced in all things winter- including winter sports, such as skiing. Though I was certainly curious about what I was missing, my inexperience compared to fellow classmates deterred me from trying it out. Not to mention, skiing is not a particularly cheap past-time- between the boots, skis, poles, helmet, goggles, and ski membership, the price can easily climb up to several hundred dollars. I was concerned that I would pay all that money (even just for rentals) and then hate the sport.
Amazingly, Colby put together a fantastic deal- a completely free day of skiing at Sugarloaf for 40 lucky individuals. Everything would be provided, from the lift ticket to a free lesson for beginners. This sounded like the ideal opportunity to investigate my place in the sport of alpine skiing. Needless to say, I signed up as soon as possible, and was grateful to find out that two of my friends also had extremely little experience skiing and decided to sign up as well. We checked and double checked the gear list, put on our brave faces, and headed to Sugarloaf together.
I knew little about what alpine skiing entails. The extent of my knowledge was that you snap your feet into some skis with special boots, hold some poles, and slide down giant snowy slopes. Most of our class discussions about skiing focused on Nordic skiing, so I wondered about the physiology of Alpine. This type of skiing has components of altitude, low temperatures, and complex biomechanical movement (1). Skiers move at high speeds and must make sharp turns, using specific techniques with specially trained muscle groups (1). An article written in 2009 summarized 30 years of research, and the authors found that several energy systems are utilized in the sport but no one has been observed as the main contributor. Apparently, the main component of success in alpine skiing is technical competence. That is, using the correct tools in combination with the proper movement techniques to achieve maximal speed and control (1).
Following a brief lesson that taught my friends and I the basics of skiing (the “Pizza” quickly became my best friend!), we were excited to try out our newfound skills on some bigger slopes. My greatest focus when traveling down was maintaining control- it was quite difficult at times to keep my legs in the right position. I only fell once, and that was when I was getting off the lift! Overall, it was incredibly fun and I felt quite accomplished by the end of the trip. I’m happy I finally went, despite my sore calf muscles the next day!
- Turnbull, JR, Kilding AE, Keogh JW. Physiology of Alpine Skiing. Web. 2009. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports: 19(2), 146-155. Accessed 26 January, 2017. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/24247534_Physiology_of_alpine_skiing