We are offering a ski conditioning class that runs once a week for eight weeks. Your ski articles have been a help. Do you have any ideas/suggestions for a circuit style class? We are working with 35 to 50 year old males. Last year, our format was some stair work and a 10 station circuit that was repeated twice. After core and stretch work, the session lasted approximately one hour.
Sounds like a cool class you've got going. In terms of designing a circuit class specific to skiing, the best thing to do is think about the demands of the sport. Skiing is an interesting case study because you have a potentially very high intensity activity (depending on the level of skill and the difficulty of the ski runs chosen) that lasts anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes, followed by several minutes of inactivity and rest (chair lift ride). Depending on the level of fitness of your clients and depending on where they go skiing, you should be able to create a circuit that parallels the rhythm of a ski day (bouts of high intensity exercise followed by rest and active recovery). Start with short intervals with moderate intensity and build toward peak explosive work (within safety and client capability). Use light cycling, dynamic stretching, step walking, ergo, pool during your rest periods to help work lactic acid through.
Think whole body fitness. Think proprioceptively RICH training environment. Skiing is a central nervous system explosion (slick, uneven surface, quick changes of direction, varied light and vision, weighted extremities, etc...), so train your clients to move dynamically and functionally. During my tenure as the head coach for the Australia Olympic Ski Team, one of my main goals was to "keep them guessing." Once the team had reached a solid level of functional conditioning, I constantly changed training conditions (within the current training phase), so that their bodies were continually having to adapt to different movements, intensities, angles of motion, level of explosiveness, etc... Medicine balls, swiss balls, balance boards boxes and free weights are all great tools for this type of work because they make the athlete's body think!
With your clients, it would be good to vary rest times as well to parallel the ever changing chair lift times. At whatever level your clients can safely handle, keep them guessing. They'll love the program and they will build dynamic, functional strength with strong cross-over onto the slopes. As a general guideline, if the circuit work is intense, let them recover fully between circuit laps (as they would between ski runs). While cardiovascular fitness will indeed help their recovery at altitude, you may want to make the decision with your clients to train cardio on their other workout days, so that they can focus on functional strength and movement skill work with you (as your circuits build in time and intensity, they will get a good cardio blast there as well).
If you want to focus specifically on the cardio, you can do so but may sacrifice some of the strength benefits. In terms of exercises suitable for a circuit, if you take time to look through Juan Carlos Santana's "Stability Ball Training" article series, Annette Lang's "Medicine Ball Training" series, Mike Clark's "Essentials of Integrated Training" series and Mark Cibrario's "Functional Integrated Strength" article series, you would be able to design an absolute bombproof circuit for your skier clients.
With an eight week program, if your clients are committed and doing other exercise throughout the rest of the week, you will be able to build and progress a fantastic program. Good luck and let us know how you progress.