Around Maine, leaves are changing colors, nights are getting colder and a certain part of the population is breathing a sigh of relief. Fall can only mean one thing: snow and skiing are around the corner.

This time of year, many athletes begin asking about the best ways to get in shape for skiing. The U.S. ski team is training now in Chile and New Zealand. Those of us who are not pro athletes must instead make use of smart dry land training techniques.

Fitness for skiing demands a good cardiovascular base. Also, skiers can be smart about adding two other components to their training regimen: proprioceptive awareness and eccentric strengthening.

Try standing on one foot. That’s a little wobbly but not impossible, right? It’s not just balance that keeps you from falling. Instead, proprioceptive input allows your body to constantly get feedback from the nerve endings in your joints. Your body then makes minute adjustments to your muscles to maintain balance.

No matter how wobbly or solid we are on one leg, we can all make improvements. In fact, workouts that integrate proprioceptive challenges is one of the most important new trends in fitness science. Athletes like Laird Hamilton have suggested we should be doing our weight-lifting workouts on a single leg to improve proprioception. Balance trainers can take these skills to the next level. Swiss balls, Bosu balls and inflatable discs can add a proprioceptive boost to any workout.

Balance boards work the same way and are more fun. Younger athletes especially like them. Most balance boards look like a skateboard with a single wheel on a rail. You ride the board, using your entire body to keep balanced. A Vermont company, Vew-Do, makes a sturdy wooden balance board that’s particularly popular with skateboarders and snowboarders.

Spend a few minutes with a balance boards and you’ll understand why elite athletes are sold on them. To keep upright, users have to work their legs, trunk and core. It’s hard work, and this kind of training translates particularly well to unstable slope conditions.

One thing all skiers know is strong legs are a key to performing. But most skiers are probably not taking the best approach when working on quad strength in the weight room.

Skiing is about decelerating. As you pass over terrain features or turn at high speeds, you rely on your legs to push back against the hill. The harder you push back, the faster you go without losing control.

Now translate that to the weight room. A squat or a leg press involves the opposite motion. Instead of decelerating, we’re doing a concentric contraction against the weight. That means our muscles are contracting as the weight is applied. We’re lifting the weight instead of lowering it, and that’s inefficient for snow athletes.

Instead of focusing on concentric contractions, many elite skiers are turning to eccentric training to improve leg strength. In these workouts, the athlete slowly lowers the weight down, then is helped back up by a spotter. Squats, leg presses, and lunges can all be done with an eccentric technique.

Typically, athletes use higher weights with eccentric workouts. This makes good form and careful spotting especially important.

So as you’re silently counting down the hours until opening day at Maine’s ski areas, try some of these ski-specific approaches to getting in shape. Focus on balance and strength, add in some eccentric workouts, and you’ll hit the snow this year feeling as strong as an Olympian.

Dr. James Glazer is a sports medicine physician for Coastal Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Freeport. He serves as a consultant for the U.S. ski team.