The recent explosion in popularity of the ski-X event in Vancouver is testament to the high octane nature of the sport. I am pleased to see it’s inclusion in the games and the excitement of the action in the men’s finals over the weekend I think shows that the International Olympic Committee made a pretty good decision. But what does it take to make it as a ski-X racer?

First of all, it seems you have to be big. Six of the top eight in the mens event weighed 90kg+ and were around or over 6′ tall. This sort of stature will give an idea as to the demands of the sport but here’s a breakdown. To succeed in ski-X, an athlete needs the ability to start quickly (arguably the most important part of the race), maintain form during tight turns, achieve stable positions for takeoffs and landings, absorb compressive forces on rollers and react quickly to the surrounding race situation. This adds up to an athlete that can generate large upper body forces at the start gate, possesses very strong core musculature for postural control and strong unilateral balance and force generation. A larger athlete will also be more difficult to pass and with gravity being the primary source of acceleration during the race, provided friction isn’t increased to a greater extent, some extra mass is beneficial.

Ski-X is a relatively new sport and little, if any, published data exists relating to it however, it is possible to draw some conclusions regarding the energy systems used during the event based on the time taken to complete the course and the movements involved during the race. The Olympic course was being completed during the qualifying stages in around 1min 15s and the movements involved are isometric, concentric and eccentric unilateral and bilateral squats and lateral lunge derivatives. From this we are able to confidently state that the majority of of energy production is via anaerobic pathways.

The combination of all of these factors mean that there is room to be very creative with the strength and conditioning sessions for ski-X athletes. Aside from general preparation and the usual suspects of squats, deadlifts, stiff leg deadlifts, rows and presses more specific exercises can be designed. For example decline med ball throws, lateral single leg jumps with held single leg landings, band resisted lateral jumps and weight disc tuck holds could all hold a place in a program design. Conditioning sessions could consist of circuits and include balance/proprioception based exercises for some skills under fatigue (a tool I know Brendan utilises with his MMA athletes and finds very useful).

For those also doubting Canada’s ability in these games (not quite owning the podium like we heard before the games), have a look at the video below to see a 1-2-3 for them at the x-games and also get a little more insight into the demands of the sport.

Neil Welch


  1. Do you think age has anything to do with it? Other than the athletes being a little bigger/heavier? The average age in the womens small final being 20ish and the average age in the big final being closer to 30. Does experience count? The younger skiers have the balls but maybe it is the lack of weight that slows them down. 

  2. Age will definitely play a part with race experience counting a great deal. With ski-x being a relatively new sport though most of the more experienced athletes’ backgrounds will be in alpine racing. The reason for the difference may then be that the older skiers are also technically more proficient. I’m sure as the sport continues to grow the experienced ski-x specialists will come to the fore.

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