Each day at sunrise, 32-year-old LisaVan Sciver, a full-time ski patroller at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming, is on the slopes—some of the most challenging in North America, by the way, with one of the highest vertical drops—to make sure the conditions are stable enough to open the mountain. Lugging a backpack filled with up to 35 pounds of supplies, she navigates waist-high powder to set explosives designed to clear potential avalanche hazards. “Ski patrol is basically just physical Van Sciver. “You can’t go out there and not be in top shape.”
Patrollers are true winter-fitness specialists, and under those bulky jackets, packs, and helmets, you’ll find some of the fittest women on earth. Not only do they have to maneuver the slopes in treacherous conditions, but they also need the core strength and cardiovascular endurance to pull rescue sleds twice their weight up and down the mountain, as well as the agility to save mountain-goers from snow slides and, in some cases, avalanches.
That means a large amount of their prep work happens in the weight room, not on the slopes. “Ski patrollers’ gym workouts are truly a model for how to build not only an ideal physique but also the functional fitness, power, and endurance required to sustain a 13-hour workday on the mountain,” says John Cole, director of human performance at the Ski & Snowboard Club Vail in Colorado. By using their training methods, you can reap a leaner, tighter, stronger body (most notably your legs and butt)—even if you have no plans to hit the slopes.
Follow this patroller-inspired workout, created by Cole, one to three times a week on nonconsecutive days. Complete three sets of the first move, resting as little as possible between each set. Rest one minute, then continue until you’ve finished all the legs and butt exercises. (Start with light weights until you can get through every exercise with proper form.)
Performance Perk: Yes, this is a great tummy toner, but it also helps activate your glutes. Learning to turn on those muscles is just as essential for athletes (to help prevent knee injuries) as it is for women who spend most of their time sitting behind a desk.
Keep It Straight: Your hips should always stay parallel to the floor, even when you’re raising a leg.
Stand with your back facing a knee-high box or bench about a foot behind you and hold a pair of light dumbbells at your sides (a). In one motion, take three seconds to raise the dumbbells straight out in front of you as you sit back into a squat until your glutes nearly graze the box (b). Take two seconds to reverse the movement and return to start. That’s one rep. Do 10.
Performance Perk: This builds strength in the anterior leg muscles (the front side, i.e., quads), the ones used most in skiing. Performing the move slowly improves muscular endurance, meaning the muscles take longer to fatigue.
Start Light: Do this exercise without dumbbells the first time to nail proper form. Add weight slowly from there.
Performance Perk: This move creates strength and stability from every angle, so you get a tight, trim waist. Leg strength actually starts in the core, where the legs are connected to the spine via the hip flexors.
Performance Perk: Most of the time when we move (including when we ski), our weight is unevenly distributed on one side of the body. Because you’re holding a weight in only one hand, this move challenges your balance and core stability.
Toughen Up: Make this move more challenging by either using a heavier weight or extending the weight directly overhead.