The Athlete's Guide to the Slopes

January 9, 2012 | Randi Weitzman

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Hitting the slopes for the first time ever this winter? Even if you're a star on the court, you will still face the same steep learning curve as other first-time skiers and snowboarders. Here are three tips to help you not only get the most out of your time on the slopes, but also to make sure you return to your primary sport in one piece.

1. Start slow. As a strong athlete, you're used to dominating every situation you encounter. Although you'll be tearing down the slopes with your friends in no time, your first few runs are not the time to test that Double Black Diamond. No matter how great an athlete you are or how many tips your friends gave you on the way to the mountain, start on the bunny hill. All skiers and boarders fall. The secret to avoiding injury is learning how to fall, and the bunny hill provides the perfect venue for perfecting your falling technique.

2. Layer, layer, layer. Temperatures may be below freezing, but skiing and boarding are cardio-intense, and you'll be sweating in no time. You'll be much more comfortable on those long rides up on the chairlift if you can remove a layer or two of clothing instead of being stuck with a heavy outer jacket over a soaked shirt. Wear clothing that's easy to move in, wicks moisture and covers all your skin. Stay away from moisture-trapping cotton, and never wear blue jeans: frozen pants quickly become stiff and heavy.

3. Don't skip the warm-up. You wouldn't start a workout without a warm-up, so don't start skiing or snowboarding without getting loose first. Start with a Dynamic Warm-Up to get used to the high altitude, then add a few exercises that engage your upper legs and core—like Lunges, Bridges and Planks. When you fall on a snowboard or a pair of skis, your body can go in a hundred different directions, and a 10- to 15-minute warm-up will go a long way toward making sure those spills don't result in a season-ending injury.

Outdoor sports are great for athletes seeking new challenges during the long winter months. Follow these tips to enjoy the slopes over the weekend and make it back to basketball practice on Monday.

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