The Heli-Ski Blog

Heli-Skiing Training Tips from an Olympic Decathlete

Posted by Jane Carswell on Jan 26, 2011 5:10:00 PM

by Michael Smith

Heli skiing fit tips by Michael SmithWhen it comes to preparing for a high-end athletic pursuit, as with heli-skiing, there really is no secret formula to performing at your best.  The simple truth of it is, smart extensive preparation will help you achieve your desired result.

Within the context of that smart preparation equation, there are literally hundreds of factors, considerations and protocols that can be involved.  Here is a short list of many of those items to potentially consider:

Cardiovascular Fitness   



Body Composition






Muscular Strength

Reaction Time


Muscular Endurance



Power Output


Mental Focus


Injury Prevention   


You might be thinking: 'That is a long list'.  I agree. To remain sane it is best to limit it to a select few.  That being said, you are probably naturally drawn towards the items within the equation that you are best at.  Correct?  But, one of the wonderful things about sport is that it allows us to express ourselves, realize our strengths and to explore our weaknesses.

Where is your focus better spent over the next while for ultimate improvement? 

Examples - You’re great at hitting the gym and doing your workout, but you could be drastically missing some essential nutritional items in your diet.  On your bike, you’re great on the flats but have a tough time with the climbs. You might be a conservative efficient skier but while on your heliskiing trip you might have the opportunity to explore your courageous side by going down something steep and deep. 

On one of my first heli-ski trips I would bet that I had the best squat strength of all of my other fellow 12 or so skiers in the heli, yet by day four I could barely stand up.  My thighs and knees were screaming at me to stop.  Early on in the trip I had to hit every feature I could see and catch some air.  I was having so much fun not thinking of the repercussions several days down the road.  Catching some air was fine for a one day escapade but it was one of the stupidest things I could do on a multi-day outing.  What I had in leg strength could not be offset by my lack of endurance and flexibility.  The next trip it was more important for me to pick a smooth line rather than take a run at every fun feature. 

Yes, I encourage you to take advantage of your strengths, utilize your innate abilities, but as well, remember to seek out areas that you might consider your weaknesses; areas that challenge you as you approach your inspiring multi-day heli-skiing vacation.  

Michael Smith is a Managing Director in the Private Client Department at Thomas Weisel Partners / Stifel Nicolaus.  Michael began his career in financial services after a successful 14 year career in track and field where he represented Canada at 3 Olympic Games (1988, 1992. 1996), multiple international competitions, and was ranked in the top 10 in the world for 10 years in a row in the sport of decathlon.  Besides continuing to participate in several sports Michael enjoys working with and supporting numerous community and charity events.

As usual, Michael is planning on heli-skiing with CMH this season yet again with us and has agreed to share his thoughts throughout the ski season.  If you’re interested in joining or have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact CMH and in turn Michael.      

Photo: Being Prepared Makes for Better Heliskiing! by Kevin Boekholt, CMH Revelstoke

Topics: Fit Tips