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f you start training now, you will have more than four months to prepare your body for the slopes. That's enough time to become a super person if you work at it.

Hopefully, it will snow a lot this winter, and mountain resorts will not have to spend so much money making artificial snow. But whether you ride on the sprayed stuff or the much better natural fluff, you need to be in shape to ski or snowboard down the mountains without gasping for breath or stopping to let your burning thigh muscles recover.

If you start training now, you will have more than four months to prepare your body for the slopes. That's enough time to become a super person if you work at it.

Even if you're not a winter sports athlete, training to be one will bring out your muscles, help you get rid of body fat and make you a better athlete on or off the mountain. It's a worthy goal, even if you never intend to get on a lift.

You don't have to go to a gym to get in snow-riding shape. Sports that require using the same muscles as skiing and snowboarding will work just fine for conditioning your body. So start by skating, which is the closest you can get to being on snow. Skate on wheels or skate on ice. Skate on a skateboard. Whichever one you choose will improve your strength, your reflexes and your reaction time — all of which are important skills whether you ride through the trees or only on mild green trails.

While many ice rinks close for the summer, they will soon start opening up again. The act of skating on a thin blade over the slippery surface of ice will also teach you the most basic skill of snow-riding: balance.

Ice skating will keep you cool despite the hot weather we've been having, so you can be as active as you dare without working up a sweat. If you don't have skates, you can rent them at the ice rink.

If you're renting, ask the tech to spend a moment sharpening the blades. Sharp edges are important whether they are on skate blades, ski edges or the rims of a snowboard.

Skiing and snowboarding both involve making turns, so practice making turns as you skate. Here's a technique tip: Don't turn with your feet, legs or hips. Instead, learn the feel of turning with your upper body. Twist your shoulders to make them turn in the direction you want to go. In fact, this is one of the secrets to riding through the trees at a resort. The mantra "Be good or eat wood" applies to being able to make precise and accurate turns through the sometimes narrow paths between trees.

At the same time you are getting good at the small movements of skating, build up your strength and power by riding a bike. Riding up hills on a bike will improve your aerobic capacity, so you won't be breathing hard when you ride down hills over snow.

Biking is also a good way to train on the mountain before it's covered with snow. You can bike around at the base of a resort, or if permitted, practice biking up a trail that is not too steep. It's also a test of your aerobic fitness because if the altitude doesn't make you breathe hard while riding around the mountain, you are probably already in good aerobic shape.

If you start training now for that soon-to-come day when the lifts open, you can take your time. You won't have to get all intense and frantic like those who have waited until the last minute to get in shape. You'll be ready.

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Wina Sturgeon is the editor of the online magazine Adventure Sports Weekly, which offers the latest training, diet and athletic information.

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