There's plenty to do while waiting for winter to return, says Cathy Packe – getting fit, for example

The winter, to the dismay of keen skiers, is coming to an end. Despite excellent conditions in many resorts, the snow can't last for ever, and as soon as the Easter holidays are over, we shall be putting away our skis for this season, and turning our minds to summer holidays.

The winter, to the dismay of keen skiers, is coming to an end. Despite excellent conditions in many resorts, the snow can't last for ever, and as soon as the Easter holidays are over, we shall be putting away our skis for this season, and turning our minds to summer holidays.

Most of us, that is, but not all; suggest a summer holiday to a fanatical skier and you are likely to be greeted with incomprehension. "I tend to take my holidays during the winter – quite a lot of us do that," says Vanessa Fisher from the Ski Club of Great Britain. "I did take a short break last summer though; I went to Chamonix. It's a great place – plenty of fresh air and hot sunny weather."

Some winter-sports fans often forget that there is plenty to do in the mountains in summer, too. Skiing resorts such as Zell am See have a range of other activities during the rest of the year: mountain-biking and walking, and sailing and windsurfing on the lake. This kind of activity is popular with those who are committed to their skiing. "We're not very good at lying down doing nothing," Fisher says.

Tom Saxlund runs the New Generation ski schools in Courchevel and Meribel. He has seen many skiers benefit from outdoor summer holidays. "Some activities can help you to develop the ability to deal with fear. When skiing, your technique can go out of the window because you are frightened. Tackling that can be a good thing."

Year-round skiing is possible, of course; for example, on the glaciers at Tignes or Hintertux, or in the southern hemisphere in New Zealand or Chile. But these tend to be expensive options. A more modest alternative is to go to an artificial slope. That suggestion tends to make snow-lovers scoff, but Saxlund thinks it is wrong to dismiss dry slopes. "If you treat them like skiing in a holiday resort you will be bored, but they are great as a developmental aid." He suggests that skiers who have only skied once or twice should book themselves in for a few summer lessons with a qualified instructor.

Two British ski centres, the Snowdome in Tamworth, Staffordshire and the largest, the Snozone at Xscape in Milton Keynes, boast real snow on their man-made slopes. Elena Kale, who is in charge of marketing at Xscape, is keen to encourage skiers to hone their skills between seasons. "Lots of people only go skiing for a week, so they don't want to waste two or three days getting up to speed. They want to be confident as soon as they get there."

One reason many people waste skiing days is because they don't have the energy to ski every day. Martin Jefferies, a sports therapist and ski teacher who holds stretch workshops at Natureworks in central London, finds this unsurprising. "Most people are recreational skiers who try to get fit in two months," he says. "It isn't going to happen. If you want to go skiing next year, get off your backside and do something now." He stresses the importance of flexibility and the need to build stretching into any exercise you do. And this doesn't mean a five-minute stretch before you next go out on the slopes. "I'm talking about three or four times a week, for 45 minutes to an hour of stretch development." Martin sees the results in his workshops. "People don't realise how limited their movement is until they get some flexibility back."

All the professionals stress that a commitment to fitness between seasons can help anyone who wants to continue to improve. Even the champions follow this advice. Britain's top woman skier is Chemmy Alcott. This week she was busy competing in the Austrian and Italian championships, but her mother Eve Alcott was happy to speak on her behalf. "During the summer she will spend six hours a day in the health club," she says. And she won't be indulging herself with a massage or a sauna. "She'll be doing fitness exercises, weights and so on. And last summer she went around Scotland on a bike. In summer, fitness is the thing."

This might sound too active for the average summer break, when the idea of lying beside a pool with a good book could be more appealing. But Tom Saxlund believes that even reading is good for your skiing. "People who read about skiing become much more knowledgeable, much more aware of how things should work. It helps them to focus on natural movements." If this is more attractive than regular exercise or an activity holiday, he suggests The Skier's Edge by Ron LeMaster, who used to coach the American national team.

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