Train Your Brain

Get more from skiing by building mental stamina. Think of it as crunches for your brain.

Taos Ski Valley, NM – You already know that skiing requires athleticism and excellent body control. That’s why you follow your workout routine throughout the year working on stretching, core exercises, weights, balance, quickness, and cardio. Being healthy increases responsiveness and allows your body to relax on the mountain. If you’re not struggling to exert yourself at every turn, your movements are more effortless and your body is open to experiencing the adrenaline rush and natural high you feel when you’re skiing.

The same is true about mental stamina. By exercising your brain and preparing it for what you’ll face on the slopes, you’ll be better equipped to face challenges and to take your skiing to the next level. As an Olympic athlete, I’ve learned that mental toughness is a something you can always work on, no matter what skill level you are at. One of the reasons that skiing requires so much brainpower is that at times it’s incredibly counter intuitive.

I know you’ve experienced this. Skiing can force you to go against your will. You know you need to move downhill but that can be a scary proposition. At times like this, don’t take away your tools for success at the very time they are needed most. I learned early in my racing career that if I was tentative skiing over a jump going 75 MPH that I may kill myself. I needed to call upon my tools to be successful and that being fearful, defensive, or tentative is a prescription for disaster.

Boost Your Skiing IQ

Simple recommendations for raising your skiing intellect:

  • There are no shortcuts. With proper preparation you’ll increase your confidence and be more proactive and aggressive on the mountain. What can you do on the mental side to better prepare? Take ski lessons! During these sessions you’ll have the opportunity to interact with expert skiers and you’ll quickly develop the tool set you need to be successful in different skiing situations. Another important part of preparation is ensuring you have the proper gear. Do your homework and rent your ski equipment before you buy so you’ll be happy with the performance on the hill. By being prepared and gaining greater confidence your muscles, joints and your entire body will be able to move forward without hesitation and you can develop a rhythm or flow when skiing.
  • An apple a day… The right food keeps your brain and body on track. If you’re hungry, suffering from low energy, or not properly hydrated your concentration will suffer. That’s one of the reasons why you see a lot of injuries at the end of the day. Sure the body is tired but losing your mental sharpness can cause problems too. Keep your energy up with health snacks throughout the day.
  • Have a plan when entering a run. Ask yourself, what’s my tactic for the bumps, what turn shape is appropriate for the specific task at hand, when do I need to slow down, or at what point in the run can I let them go a bit more.” By assessing the situation and acknowledging these questions before you’re in middle of your run, you’ll have more success.
  • Have self awareness. “Know thy self.” Know your skill set and limitations. It’s important to push yourself when skiing but it has to be done in reasonable increments. Each time you’re on the mountain set a challenging but achievable goal for yourself for the day. By knowing your skiing ability and by being comfortable with your equipment, you’ll be more in-tuned to what terrain is best suited for you and your skiing ability. And most importantly you’ll set yourself up for continued growth as a skier.
  • Develop the habit of success. It’s no secret that success breeds success. If you take the necessary steps to prepare, including having a plan when entering a run, and working to increase self awareness on the hill, you’ll develop the correct muscle memory when you’re skiing. This is incredibly important because instead of fostering incorrect movements and following those patterns (which is easy to do when you’re not mentally engaged) you’ll develop the physical and mental attributes of a successful skier. One way to do this is to watch good skiers so you can absorb their habits and build on them. Use the power of positive visual imagery. Watch a video of a skier who you would like to emulate and then picture yourself skiing just like that skier. Or pick someone out on the mountain that has the skills you’d like to develop and use your imagination to feel yourself skiing just like you want to.


You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to benefit from greater skiing brainpower. You can elevate your skills and increase your level of enjoyment on the mountain by flexing your mental muscle.


Olympic Gold Medalist Deb Armstrong is the Ambassador of Skiing at New Mexico’s Taos Ski Valley and is a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America Alpine Team. Her website may be found at


Leave a Reply