When you ski down a mountain, you move from side to side and make quick turns like a slingshot or a pinball. You don’t slog across a slope, stop, and then start all over again to trek to the other side. If that were the case, you’d give up the skiing part of your holiday and spend all day in the hot tub. To ski downhill, you need agility, or explosive energy, to perform sharp turns as well as take on moguls and bumpy terrain. By doing ladder drills, you can improve your agility, cardiovascular endurance, coordination and balance.
Using the Ladder
While you can buy a ladder made of nylon strapping, you can also use rope, tape or chalk to mark out a ladder for agility drills. Warm up your legs and feet before you begin ladder drills. Perform a few minutes of jumping rope, one-legged hops or jumping jacks to get your heart pumping and boost your body temperature. Ladder training requires quick changes of direction, foot coordination and rhythm. Practice a complex drill slowly at first and without the ladder, so you grow familiar with the stepping pattern. When you do the drill, progressively pick up your speed and repeat the drill for 30 seconds to two minutes. Start with a simple jog through the ladder, alternating your right and left foot with each successive square.
Forward and Backward
Skiing down rough terrain demands that your feet make constant adjustments to maintain balance and coordinate your movement. Perform ladder drills that require your feet to make forward and backward adjustments. For example, place the ladder horizontally and step with your right foot into the first square. Using a one-two count, follow with your left foot into the same square. Hop into the second square with your right foot followed by your left. Step backward out of the second square with your right foot followed by your left. Repeat the rep by stepping forward into the third square with your right and then left foot. Continue stepping in and out of the squares, using forward and backward movements.
Side to Side
Practice sideways foot placement to improve edging movements in downhill skiing. Perform a side-to-side shuffle with the ladder situated vertically. Begin by standing to the right side of the first square. Using a one-two-three count, step your left foot first into the first square, followed by your right foot. On the third count, step outside and to the left of the first square with your left foot. Begin the next rep by stepping into the second square with your right foot followed by your left foot. Continue the three-step pattern in and out of the squares until you complete the ladder.
When doing complex footwork drills on agility ladders, place the ladders on surfaces, such as a grass field, gym floor or athletic track, providing adequate traction. To prevent injury, avoid slippery surfaces or cement surfaces. Although many people use duct tape to create ladders, foam or nylon ladders maintain dimensions and are portable. Don’t use materials, such as wire or metal rods, to create the ladders. Not only do you risk getting your foot caught on a dangerous material, but you can’t perform the drills without anxiety.
- Total Skiing; Chris Fellows
- Advanced Sports Conditioning for Enhanced Performance; IDEA Health & Fitness Association
- Fitness; Karen S. Mazzer, et al.
- Functional Training for Sports; Michael Boyle
- Sports-Specific Rehabilitation; Robert Donatelli
Kay Tang is a journalist who has been writing since 1990. She previously covered developments in theater for the "Dramatists Guild Quarterly." Tang graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and political science from Yale University and completed a Master of Professional Studies in interactive telecommunications at New York University.