Life Style

Skiing Is a Great Workout—Here’s What to Know Before Hitting the Slopes

Close up of Gigi Hadid with skis, one ski in the air

No sport says “winter” more than skiing—but you don’t have to be a snow bunny to enjoy gliding down the slopes. Skiing is notoriously fun, and it’s also an effective form of exercise. Because it tends to be done for hours on end, you can use it as an alternative to working out for the day.

If you have access to a snowy hill or mountain and the proper equipment, you should definitely consider picking up this fun, adrenaline-pumping activity. To find out everything we could about how skiing is a great exercise, we tapped two instructors, William Toro and Mike Humphrey. Read on to learn more about skiing as a workout.


What Is Skiing?

Skiing is a recreational sport. To ski, you use two long pieces of material called skis, which attach to your feet through boots, to traverse through snowy terrain. Cross-country skiing uses skis to move through flat land, while downhill or alpine skiing is when you slide down a mountain on skis. The latter is the more common type of skiing and the kind we’ll be mostly talking about here.

Type of Activity: Cardio and Strength Training

Skiing packs a double punch: You’ll need both cardio endurance and strength, and it will enhance both. “If you are looking for [lower body] strength training, calorie burning, and core strengthening, skiing is the sport to go for,” says Toro.

The strength training element is focused on your lower body. “Eccentric leg strength enables you to manage the forces you experience with every turn down the hill,” says Humphrey. “While skiing does work out your full body, it [is especially] great for training your lower body, especially your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves, since you end up doing a lot of squats,” Toro tells us. “To ski, you need core strength, which comes with skiing and some regular core training exercises.”

The calorie-burning capabilities of skiing are nothing to sleep on, either. “Skiing for an hour helps you burn 400-600 calories, equivalent to a 30-minute HIIT session (HIIT burns around 400-500 Calories),” Humphrey says. “Improved aerobic fitness will build overall endurance and allow you to ski longer without feeling fatigued.”

In addition to cardio and strength, Humphrey adds that “skiing also works your core muscles and improves balance while improving coordination, agility, and overall fitness.”

Best For: Building Endurance

As with most things, the more you ski, the more you’ll adapt and the longer you’ll be able to do it. Many people spend entire weekends on the slopes. This is also helped by the fact that there are natural breaks taken with skiing: Every time you hit the bottom of the mountain, you need to go up a lift to get back to the top. That’s an innate rest period.

Since skiing is both a cardio and a strength training activity, it is excellent for building up your endurance for both cardiovascular fitness and lower body strength. Additionally, Humphrey notes that “skiing is a great way to stay active and enjoy the outdoors,” so it may provide a mental health benefit, too (as outdoor activities often do).

What to Expect When Skiing

If you aren’t ready to ski on your own many ski establishments offer introductory classes. These can be short, as in an hour or so, or you can do a series for an entire winter season. While you don’t have to, Humphrey recommends taking a lesson because “a ski lesson with a certified instructor will also ensure you are learning in a safe, fun environment.”

Skiing is done on snow, so the main thing you’ll want to be prepared for is being outside in the cold. (We’ll discuss what you’ll need to wear for that below.) Additionally, you’ll want to be aware of the varied equipment needed, such as poles and boots, and either purchase them ahead of time or check that the place you’re going has rentals available.

Lastly, even though you can ski all day it doesn’t mean you have to, especially if you’re new to skiing. Most ski resorts have lodges, which offer an indoor place to take off your damp outerwear and rest.

Safety and Injury Considerations

Toro tells us that skiing is an activity for people of all ages, with Humphrey adding that “skiing can be a great way to get fit and have fun at the same time.” He does note that there are risks, however. “Some injury risks are associated with skiing, such as knee or ankle injuries. Skiers must take the necessary precautions to stay safe. This includes proper warm-up exercises and stretching, and strengthening exercises after skiing.” Warming up is vital for all sports, and skiing is no exception.

If you have any current injuries—or even any old injuries that tend to flare up when you’re in the cold—you’ll want to ask your general practitioner about skiing before trying it out for the first time. “Skiing is a relatively low-impact sport,” says Humphrey. “However, if you suffer from any joint or muscle problems, skiing may not be the best choice. If you have any pre-existing medical issues, consult with a doctor before attempting skiing.”

Alpine Skiing vs. Cross-Country Skiing

Usually, when people talk about skiing, they’re referring to alpine skiing. That’s the type that occurs on mountains, with a downhill trajectory. But skiing can also be done on flat land, referred to as cross-country. It involves slightly different skis, which are narrower than downhill skis.

In terms of their differences for fitness, Toro explains that cross-country skiing “needs higher stamina and endurance,” as it is often done for longer periods. There’s no mountain to be taken back up, only to go down again. “It is great for someone looking to increase endurance and cardiovascular exercise,” he adds, noting that “it’s a low-impact cardio workout.”

“Mountain skiing/alpine skiing involves short bursts of energy,” Toro says. “It’s physically demanding. It needs very good core strength and leg strength. It also [requires] high endurance. Mounting skiing is a mix of resistance and endurance training.” Humphrey sums up the differences by explaining that “cross-country skiing generally provides a better aerobic workout, while downhill skiing is more challenging for your legs and core muscles.”

What to Wear Skiing

By the very nature of skiing happening in snow, you can plan on it being cold. If the weather were warm enough for the snow to melt, you couldn’t ski. Additionally, your primary concern for clothing should be protecting yourself from cold snow getting into your clothes. Toro advises the following pieces of attire:

  • Water and wind-proof outer layers, such as a ski jacket and ski pants
  • Warm, winter-appropriate layers of tops and bottoms (shirts and pants)
  • Ski boots
  • Heavy, waterproof gloves
  • Headgear, such as a beanie and neck wrap
  • Ski goggles

Humphrey tells us that the most important elements to keep in mind are that “skiers should wear warm, breathable clothing that doesn’t limit movement. A warm baselayer that wicks moisture away from the skin, a breathable mid-layer, and a waterproof outer layer are ideal. Insulated gloves, goggles, and a helmet will provide additional protection while skiing.”

The Final Takeaway

Skiing is an outdoor winter sport that involves using skis to glide down mountains full of snow. It’s a great workout because it requires both lower body strength and cardiovascular endurance, and it has the ability to improve both. Skiing should be avoided by anyone with joint problems or ankle or leg injuries, and it isn’t free of risks. You’ll need a variety of equipment, from skis to goggles to headgear, so be sure you head off to your first ski trip fully prepared. If you’re going to a ski resort and don’t know how to ski, lessons are likely available to help get you started. Skiing is a wonderful combination of fun and exercise, and perfect for someone who wants to try a new winter sport.


Related posts

The 14 Best Drugstore Lip Primers of 2022 for Long-Lasting Lipstick


How to Treat Sunburn Blisters


What Happens to Your Body When You Die?


Receding Hairline


Paint Your Trim Freshen Your Interior Design


We’re Still Not Over the Teenage Dirtbag Trend, So Here’s How We’re Wearing It


Leave a Comment