I have been solo-representing for the females in training since I started my skiing career. I was the only girl on my level three technical and teaching exams, and I've only ever had one female coach. But, honestly, it doesn't bother me. I bloody love a ski with the boys, not only because they push my limits… but I also feel like a bad bitch. #shameless.
However, I'll never forget the day I hit it with my girl gang in Verbier, Switzerland. I've never felt like more of a bhaddy in my whole ski life. It was December 2019, and we all had the day off and weren't hungover, which has only ever happened once. And damn, we brought the heat; I think we were all surprised. This was not a dootsy ski with the girls. This was a may-as-well-be-skiing-with-the-boys-have-your-shit-together-becasue-its-go-time ski. I was surrounded by five phenomenal women, and we turned heads. I couldn't believe I was skiing with girls. I'll never forget that feeling: to be in awe of the women I'm skiing with, and to be one of them too, it's next level. And I would love for this feeling to be known by ski gals far and wide.
The gender discrepancy in the ski industry is a complex topic with many avenues that could be addressed. However, I believe that physical performance is a significant contributing factor. Men will always have a massive physiological strength advantage compared to women; that is just the way it is. The issue is that our ski women aren't often engaged in strength training and this lets us down in both performance and injury numbers.
Strength and athletic performance have been heavily studied, and strength always comes out on top.
Based on the research, there is no substitute for muscular strength when improving an athlete's performance in general and sport-specific skills while simultaneously reducing their risk of injury. (Suchomel et al., 2016)
Ground reaction forces in high level skiing can get up to 1.5-3.2 times the skier's bodyweight. (Giligen et al., 2018) It therefore makes sense that increased strength directly correlates with FIS points in competitive racers; the stronger the skier, the more successful they are (Vogt et al., 2003). The idea that skiing requires only aerobic fitness and core strength is an outdated misconception. Skiing is a STRENGTH sport. The sooner this is accepted by the skiing community, the sooner we will have empowered and more successful female skiers.
A pre-season training program focusing on strength will undeniably level up your skiing. Every year I go back to the Alps, I'm the strongest I've ever been. I can feel it in my skiing, and my coaches can see it. Imagine how you'd feel, being told you look powerful on your skis. Then pre-season the shit out of this year you won't have to imagine.
Building women up for skiing performance is only half of the battle. Recent research has come through and put strength training at the top of the pedestal for injury prevention. This is a core issue that affects the women in this industry to a greater extent than men.
Every year I know more than one female in my circle who ruptures their ACL, and I don't really have that big a ski circle; I live in Queensland FFS. But, I know this is not just me.
Women are three times more likely to sustain ACL injuries in sport than men (Petushek et al., 2019), and ACL rupture is the most common injury suffered in alpine skiing. (Westin et al., 2018).
The role of strength training in injury prevention is logical. Human tissues all have a finite capacity to deal with force, and when that capacity is exceeded, tissue damage occurs. Long-term, consistent strength training increases the structural strength of muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, cartilage, and connective tissues. This increases the tissue's loading threshold, thus reducing injury risk (Case et al., 2020). Welcome to Project Get Less Fragile.
Lauersen and his mates showed that strength training programs reduced injuries on average by 66% compared to programs without a strength training focus. (Lauersen et al., 2014).
And then Case and colleagues (the legends) took it one step further. They showed that athletes with a higher relative back squat suffered fewer lower limb injuries in-season (Case et al., 2020). They suggested that:
As a female athlete, being able to back squat 1.6 times your bodyweight significantly reduces your risk of lower limb injury. (Case et al., 2020)
Now 1.6 times bodyweight is a big ol' back squat for a chicka. While it would be great, a hefty goal like that can disempower people, especially those at the beginning of their journey. That is not what I want to do. I'm sharing this information, so you understand that F45 and ya' Les Mills booty pump is not the kind of strength training I'm talking about.
We're talking long-term athletic development, training with a pure performance focus working on strength, speed and power. Emphasis on the long-term. You don't need to worry about squatting 1.6 times your body weight until you can squat 1.55 times your body weight. Right now, all you need to worry about is adding the next 2.5kgs. Once you've got it, add another, and then another. I’ve been consistently training squats for five years, and I can squat 1.3 times my bodyweight, so I ‘ain’t even there yet. Where your at is not the issue, where you’re going is.
Patience and consistency are your best friends. I am yet to encounter one human, male or female, who disliked training when sustainability and performance were at the forefront of their programming. Perfect training weeks don't exist. Just start with what you can manage and build as and when appropriate.
A 66% reduction in injury risk is the odds you want on your side because knee injuries are the kind of fuckery no one needs in their lives.
For more advice and to know more about my business Set to Ski, follow me on Instagram @georgiamariecarter.
Big love to the ladies who charge. Let's level up.
Georgia Marie Carter
BASI Level III instructor, Accredited Exercise Physiologist and Strength & Conditioning Coach.
References cause I ain’t making up nuttin’
Case, M., Knudson, D., & Downey,D. (2020). Barbell Squat Relative Strength as an Identifier for Lower Extremity Injury in Collegiate Athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 34, 5. DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003554
Gilgien, M., Kröll, J., Spörri, J., Crivelli, P., & Müller, E. (2018). Application of dGNSS in alpine ski racing: Basis for evaluating physical demands and safety. Frontiers in Physiology, 9, 145–145. DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2018.00145
Lauersen, J. B., Bertelsen, D. M., & Andersen, L. B. (2014). The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48(11), 871. DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2013-092538.
Petushek, E., Sugimoto, D., Stoolmiller, M., Smith, G., & Myer, G. (2019). Evidence-Based Best-Practice Guidelines for Preventing Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries in Young Female Athletes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 47(7), 1744-1753. DOI:10.1177/0363546518782460.
Suchomel, T., Nimphius, S., & Stone, M. (2016). The importance of Muscular Strength in Athletic Performance. Sports Medicine 46, 1419-1449. DOI: 10.1007/s40279-016-0486-0
Vogt, M., Dapp, C,. Blatter, J., Weisskopf, R., Suter, G., & Hoppeler, H. (2003). Training for optimisation of the dosage of eccentric muscle action. Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Sportmedizin und Sporttraumatologie, 51. 188-191
Westin, M., Harringe, M., Engstrom, B., Alricsson, M., & Werner, S. (2018). Risk Factors For Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury in Competitive Adolescent Alpine Skiiers. The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 6(4). DOI: 10.1177/2325967118766830