How to prepare at home
Okay, you will be heading off for your ski trip this winter. Excellent! There are a few simple things you can do at home to prepare yourself physically so you can play all day and not get overly frustrated and/or sore.
Remember, you will be using a lot of muscles on the ski slopes that you normally don't use just walking around the house or playing in the park. Skiing is a foot & leg sport, so as soon as you can, months before if possible, start getting your feet & legs ready.
How? Well, use them more! Whenever possible, take the stairs instead of riding an elevator or escalator.
This is the wrong way to take the stairs! This is the right way to take the stairs.
Ride a bike if you can, roller skate, ice skate, hike up hills. And since this is sort of required, before you do any kind of exercise stuff out of your normal activity, check with a physician to make sure you won't do any damage to yourself.
Just use your legs and feet more!
How to get important moves into your muscle memory:
If you have a new skier, one of the best things to practice before getting on the snow is this:
First, take a look at my SNOtes-1 and see what I mean by "ski strong"—that's something you can practice while you are watching TV or waiting for your turn to use the bathroom...you know, anytime you have a few free minutes to use.
Next, go to a room with a smooth floor, like your kitchen, and find a chair or countertop you can grab hold of to steady yourself.
With socks on your feet (or the feet of the first-time skier you are helping) practice standing in a "ski strong" stance with your feet about as far apart as your shoulders or hips, like this:
Learning to make a wedge.
Next practice moving your heels apart while keeping your toes in pretty much the same place. Your feet will create a V shape when your do this correctly. Some small children have a hard time getting the idea into their feet that they want to only move their heels apart, not just spread their feet, or doing it backwards by moving their toes further apart. Practice this at home until the movement becomes easy, and time spent in a beginner area will be much more productive! NOTE: A small wedge is easier to steer than a huge wedge...so don't practice making monster wedges!
This is where we want our feet to be while we are skiing. It gives us better stability while also letting us access the edges of our skis more efficiently.
Once upon a time having ski boots pressed as tightly together as sardines in a can was the cool thing. No longer. It isn't just because doing so makes someone look like they just time traveled from the early 70s. Close feet prevent edges from engaging quickly and easily while also creating a smaller base of support.
Just imagine you are standing up in a moving train or bus. Would you feel more stable with your feet smashed together or wider apart? The same thing is true for when you are sliding over the snow.
Preparing for parallel turns.
While holding on to the back of a chair or countertop, practice moving your feet (shoulder width apart) left and right at the same time while keeping your upper body still. This is called upper/lower body separation. It's an ability that separates advanced skiers from novice skiers. The goal is to get this movement into our bones, into our muscle memory. Just imagine that your upper body is always facing the next turn, which is downhill, while your feet and legs are actively turning.
See my SNOtes-2 "Turn your pants, not your jacket" for more information about this.
Pivot your feet around the arches/middle.
Not on your toes or heels.
A little note about little kids.
Children under the age of 6 tend to move their bodies as a whole as opposed to having a lot of nuanced movement. They also tend to mirror the movements of their legs and feet with their arms and hands. Upper and lower body separation (e.g. ability to turn the legs and feet in one direction while turning the torso in the opposite direction) develop later.
Practicing a strong stance is helpful for everyone, and something small children can start getting into their muscle memory. See "Ski Strong" in SNOtes-1.