Just as for any sport performed at the highest level, there is no quick and easy route to becoming a highly skilled aerialist, it takes years of dedication and training. Skiing is an outdoor sport performed at altitude, so aerial skiers also have to contend with the mountain weather where wind, sun, snow, rain, visibility and the temperature all combine to make the conditions more challenging.
There is no substitute for experience when it comes to performing to the best of your ability. Talent is required, but a disciplined approach to training is the best preparation to obtain the high levels of fitness, skiing ability, acrobatic skill and spatial awareness needed as an aerialist.
Dry Land Training
Historically, many of Britain’s aerial skiers have learned to ski on dry ski slopes here in the UK and we have a produced some past champions. Now we are fortunate to have some indoor snow skiing facilities, some of which have a freestyle club which offers regular training sessions perhaps with a small jump and a soft airbag to land on. This can be an excellent way to gain an introduction to the sport.
Any time the aerialists are not on skis, they can be found improving their fitness and gymnastic ability. Running, circuit training, pilates, cycling and swimming are popular methods for improving cardio-vascular fitness which is essential to be able to train and compete effectively at altitude. Gymnastics, diving and trampolining are indispensable for learning the complex somersaulting and twisting manouevres they will later perform on skis. Once these are learned, aerialists spend much of their time during summer transferring their skills into spectacular jumps on a water ramp.
As with any competitive sport, the aerialists are often in the gym working with weights to improve their muscle strength. Strong muscles support the joints and protect against injury. Even though aerials looks elegant and easy, strength and power is required to resist the forces of the kicker, control the take-off and to absorb the landing. Core body strength in the abdominal region is essential for maintaining body shape throughout the jump. Not only do aerial skiers need to be strong, but due to the acrobatic nature of the sport, they need to be flexible too if they are to avoid injury, so much of their free time will be spent doing stretching exercises.
On Snow Training
Once the winter arrives, it is time to put all that training into practice. It’s not just the acrobatic part of their skills that need to be practised, being an accomplished skier is essential if you are to land and ski away from your jumps. Knowing the mountain environment and how the weather influences your speed, the visibility etc. is all part of the skill set required. The transition from summer water ramp training to jumping on snow needs a period of adjustment. Although the speed into the jump and the acrobatics may be the same, landing on such a steep hill with the ability to ski away requires practice and confidence which is something you can’t prepare for on the water ramp. Skiers are required to perform each of their manoeuvres in training on snow before being allowed to attempt them in competition.