Fitness exercises for skiing, should not be ignored, as skiing is for most people a recreational sport that they participate in once a year. For this reason most individuals are poorly conditioned prior to their skiing activity, and pay the price of sore muscles, reduced time on the slopes and injury.

Your skiing fitness program should begin a minimum of 8 weeks prior to your time on the slope. The key areas to look at are, muscular strength and endurance, especially in the muscles in the legs. Flexibility, having a good range of movement in your joints will enable your body to adjust to any sudden changes in your direction and also help prevent injury when you fall. Aerobic training will enable you to ski longer, as fatigue results in poor concentration ending in injury from crashing.

Most injuries occur in the afternoon of the first two days, this can workout to be an expensive holiday. The following skiing fitness exercises, will hopefully aid you to enjoy your time on the slopes.

Weight Training Exercises Lower Body

Seated leg extension machine
Keeping your back firmly into machine, place your feet under the foot pad, about shoulder width apart, just above your ankle level. As you develop your leg strength, aim to work for 3 sets of 10 – 12 reps, followed by 1 – 2 sets of 50% weight, using 1 leg for 4 – 8 reps.

Calf machine
Most modern gyms will have a calf machine, if not that use either a Smith Machine or Barbell across your shoulders. Stand straight with the balls of your feet on the platform, with the shoulder weight cushions comfortably placed on your shoulders, – avoid being bent up, or straining to reach the supports. Lift and lower slowly for 2 – 3 sets of 10 – 12 reps working for a full range.

Cable adductor and abductor pulls, Inner/Outer Thighs
Aim for 2 sets 0f 10 – 12 reps with a suitable weight. Work one leg, then simply turn around to face the other way, in order to work the abductors. Repeat on the other leg. Count the number of reps that you can do, in order to gauge the difference if any in strength in each leg.

Leg Press Quadriceps
There are a number of foot positions you can use to work the different muscles of your quadriceps, you can have your feet close together – wide or shoulder width apart. Work for 3 sets of 10-12 reps, for first set work with your feet close, then normal and finally wide, with toes pointing outwards.

Hamstring Curl Machine
Use a suitable weight and perform smooth reps. Avoid pushing yourself on this exercise, as most people’s hamstrings will tend to be tight, and can easily be damaged. Aim for 2 – 3 sets of 10 – 12 reps, using a light weight for your first set.

Gluts/Hip Flexor Cable Pull
Connect a foot strap around a leg, just above the ankle joint, and attach this to a low cable pulley. Aim to keep your legs and back straight throughout the exercise, to help isolate the gluts, holding a secure object for balance. Work for 2 sets of 10 – 12 reps, on each leg – facing forward (gluts) and rearward (hip flexors).

Complete Lower Body
A combination of either front or rear lunges can be performed using a Smith Machine, however always make sure that you perform with a lightweight, enabling your leg muscles to get use to the movement prior to increasing the weight. Aim for 2 sets of 10 – 15 reps each leg, using a light weight, however aim for a full range of movement.

Adductor Machine
Aim to keep your legs and back in contact with the machine at all times. Some machines will have a combination of settings, allowing the legs to be taken wider, avoid taking your legs out too far, especially for beginners. It may be useful to warm up your muscles with a lightweight prior to your training weight. Aim for 2 sets of 10 – 12 reps with a suitable weight.

Aim to do these exercise’s twice a week, with at least 2 days rest between sessions. The main muscles used during skiing are those of your quadriceps (thighs), however a total body workout needs to be done, as all of your muscles will be used, and as soon as one of them becomes tired, your skiing ability will suffer.

The use of a Swiss Ball will certainly improve your core strength, whilst aiding your stability and balance on the slopes.

Performing aerobic exercises to improve your fitness will reduce your risk of injury, as you will be able to maintain and focus upon your skiing technique. Look at designing yourself a simple circuit, whereby you will do a 30 – 45 seconds light jog/run, followed by 8 – 15 of each exercise in a controlled manner.

On your first time around perform just the leg circuit, then the upper body and finally the abdominal exercises. Make sure that you do the lap jog/run after each leg/upper body or abdominal circuit.

Leg  Circuit

  • Two footed squat thrusts – aim for a 12 inch jump.
  • Walking lunge forward – changing lead leg.
  • Alternate leg squat thrusts – count reps on 1 leg only.

Upper Body Circuit

  • Wide arm press-up. Take elbows out to your sides
  • Normal press ups, aim to keep a straight line through your back
  • Close Hand – Aim to keep your thumbs touching each other

Abdominal Circuit

  • Normal sit ups, keep your chin off your chest
  • Alternate elbows to knees – count reps on one side only
  • Alternate hand to foot – count reps one side

Start by performing the exercises with adequate rest between each different exercise until you get fitter. Once you can do the exercises and repetitions comfortably, work on increasing the number of different circuit exercises you can perform, or change the exercises for ones that are slightly harder – if you don’t then your fitness will not improve.

Dependent upon your fitness level, you may only wish to perform the first 1 – 2 exercises, and add a new one as your fitness level increases/or at the beginning of a new week.

For those of you that are fitter, you should be able to run for 1 minute on each exercise for 2 sets.

  • Working with a partner and to music will certainly help motivate you.
  • Remember that you do not have to do all the exercises listed above.
  • For competent skiers, and for those persons of a good fitness level, the plyometrics circuit will certainly improve your leg strength, resulting in greater skiing capabilities.

Along with the above circuit or weight training sessions, you should aim to do some form of aerobic training ideally 3 times a week.

The fitter you become, the more time you can spend skiing, and less chance you have of having a serious accident. With skiing being a sport in which you have sessions of moderate to high rate levels for periods ranging from 1-5 minutes plus, followed by periods of rest, i.e. traveling back up the slope, the best exercise to perform would be interval work.

The best aerobic equipment, would be skiing machines or steppers, however any aerobic equipment will benefit you.

Once you feel comfortable with your level of aerobic fitness, aim to implement some interval work into your sessions. These can be performed on any equipment or running/steppers/bike.

Example of interval session on exercise bike

Level 4
5 minutes easy
RPM 60
Level 6
2 minutes hard
RPM 80+
Level 4
2 minutes easy
RPM 60
Level 7
90 seconds hard
RPM 80+
Level 4
2 minutes easy
RPM 60
Level 8
1 minute hard
RPM 80+
Level 4
5 minutes easy
RPM 60

Example of interval session on running machine

10 KPH
5 minutes easy
15 KPH
200 meters hard
10 KPH
2 minutes easy
12 KPH
400 meters hard
10 KPH
3 minutes easy
15 KPH
200 meters hard
10 KPH
5 minutes easy

The above examples are only guidelines to illustrate ways in which you can increase the difficulty. The bike sample shows that by increasing the level from 4 to 6/7/8 you will only need to work for a short period keeping the speed the same in order to raise your heart rate.

The same would work for the running machine, however here we have used distance as the interval guide. The faster you run, the shorter the distance you can cover, likewise placing any upward gradient into your run will make it harder.

Remember to give your body sufficient time to recover, i.e. for our 400 meter run, we have an extra minute to allow the heart rate to recover, as well as doing the run at a slower speed.

Only persons of a reasonable fitness level should perform these types of workouts, if you feel faint or ill in any way, stop immediately.

As mentioned earlier, most accidents occur in the afternoon, this is due to both poor fitness levels in skiers, and the fact that as a recreational sport, most participates avoid both eating and drinking regularly. Maintain your food and fluid intake whilst on the slopes, preferably hot meals or such foods as flapjacks, and warm drinks.

Train well before you go skiing, and you will get more out of your sport.