Fit Like a Skier: The Ultimate Guide To Ski Fitness
Whether you’re new to skiing or you’re a pro on the slopes, training for the upcoming winter season is a must. In fact, getting in shape for the ski season is essential if you want to shred your hardest while minimizing your risk for injury. If you’re new to training for skiing or you’re simply looking to spice up your fitness routine, have no fear. We’re here to help.
In this ultimate guide to ski fitness, we’ll walk you through the ins and outs of training for the slopes. We’ll discuss everything you need to know from the benefits of ski training to the best HIIT workouts you can do on a ski fitness machine, like the Pro Ski Simulator. That way, you can make the most of your time in the mountains. Let’s get started!
Benefits of Training For The Ski Season
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty details of how to get in shape for skiing, let’s talk a bit about the benefits of ski training.
Like any sport or athletic pursuit, skiing demands a whole lot of your body. From cardiovascular endurance to muscular strength, shredding laps through fresh powder requires you to be at the top of your game at all times.
As a result, training for the ski season can help you be ready to meet these physical demands head-on.
In particular, training for skiing provides the following benefits:
1. Enhanced cardiovascular endurance
Whether you prefer to ride the lifts or head into the backcountry, alpine skiing is an inherently cardiovascular pursuit. Therefore, pre-season training to improve your cardiovascular endurance can pay dividends on the slopes.
In fact, a 2018 study from the University of Salzburg even found that completing frequent cardio workouts like HIIT for skiers led to increased endurance and performance in the mountains.
2. Improved muscle strength
Anyone that’s ever felt the dreaded leg burn after cruising down a long run knows how much strength is involved with skiing. However, skiing on its own isn’t enough to give you the strength you need on the slopes.
In fact, specifically targeting the muscles you need to ski during the off-season using a skisimulator can help you make the most of your time in the snow.
3. Increased balance and responsiveness
Skiing requires a whole lot of balance if you want to navigate tricky terrain in the mountains. Researchers from the University of Thrace even found in a 2004 study that training for skiing can greatly improve your balance on the slopes.
So, using an indoor ski machine and doing other balance-focused exercises can help you ski better and harder during the winter months.
4. Decreased likelihood of injury
Did you know? Ski training can actually decrease the chances that you get hurt this winter season.
According to a major 2013 meta-study from researchers at Mid Sweden University, maintaining your muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance is critical for injury prevention. As a result, the time you put into your training during the off-season and your during-season maintenance workouts can have a major impact on your well-being.
5. More fun on the slopes
For most of us, skiing is all about having fun. The good news is that training for the upcoming season can help you make the most of your lift ticket.
By getting in shape for the winter, you can ski for longer each day, maximizing your total run count for increased fun in the mountains. Plus, if you’re fit and in shape, you’re more likely to crush it on the slopes, which is sure to impress your friends.
How To Train For Alpine Skiing
If you want to perform in the mountains, your training routine is of the utmost priority. In this section, we’ll discuss the basics of both pre-season training and during-season fitness maintenance to help you make the most of that fresh pow each winter.
Off-Season Ski Training
Let’s face it: No one wants to arrive at the slopes on the first day of the season only to have to call it quits after a few runs because your legs have decided that they’d rather enjoy some après, instead.
So, if you want to max out your vert total for the winter, you’ll need to make some fitness gains during the off-season. When it comes to off-season training for alpine skiing, you’ll want to create a fitness plan that encompasses 4 different types of exercises: endurance-focused cardio, HIIT, muscular strength, and flexibility.
Combined, these 4 types of exercises and training routines allow you to prepare your body for the aerobic and anaerobic demands of alpine skiing. Ultimately, your unique training goals will dictate how much emphasis you place on each of these 4 types of exercises. However, incorporating all of them into your weekly training program is essential for all-around results.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Endurance-Focused Cardio Workouts
While many people don’t think of alpine skiing as a cardio-intensive sport, a solid level of cardiovascular endurance is a must for anyone looking to achieve peak performance. As a result, it’s essential that you dedicate at least a small portion of your weekly training plan to longer, endurance-based cardio workouts.
Unless you happen to live somewhere with a climate that allows for year-round skiing, your cardio workout is going to involve some cross-training. In lieu of skiing, you could head out on a long run, bike, hike, or swim, just to name a few examples.
The key here is that you slowly build up your cardiovascular endurance over the course of the off-season. Creating that baseline of cardiovascular endurance is essential for improving your body’s aerobic and anaerobic capacity.
In fact, a 2018 study from the University of Québec even found that there was a correlation between higher aerobic and anaerobic capacities in skiers and performance on the slopes. So, the energy you put into your summertime runs could lead to a more enjoyable ski experience come winter.
2. HIIT For Skiers
In addition to building up a baseline of cardiovascular endurance, skiers also need to focus on training exercises that mimic the high intensity of skiing itself. Enter: HIIT.
HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a method of training that encourages athletes to alternate between periods of high and periods of low-intensity. For example, a simple HIIT workout might have you alternate between sprinting for 30 seconds and walking for 60 seconds.
According to Harvard Health, HIIT is often more effective at helping people burn body fat, build muscle, and increase their VO2 max than long-duration cardio exercise. While more research is needed into how this all works, it’s clear that HIIT often leads to a higher rate of calorie burn than longer periods of moderate exercise.
Plus, a 2010 study from the University of Bern even found that HIIT is directly correlated with an increase in VO2 max and performance in skiers. So, adding HIIT workouts into your ski training plan is a solid choice.
What exactly can you do for a HIIT workout? Well, when it comes to HIIT for skiers, there’s nothing better than training on an indoor ski machine.
Using an indoor ski machine, like the Pro Ski Simulator, allows you to get all of the benefits of a HIIT workout while also training your ski-specific muscles, balance, and agility. When using a ski exercise machine, you can alternate between periods of moderate-intensity and short bursts of high-intensity exercise to get the performance benefits of a HIIT workout.
For more ideas on how this could work for your training needs, check out our video, which shows different exercises you can do on a ski machine:
3. Muscle & Strength Training
When it comes to pre-season ski training, don’t forget to focus on your muscular strength. Countless studies over the years have identified muscular strength as a key determiner in ski performance, and for good reason: You simply can’t ski well if your legs are tired and feel like Jell-O.
Additionally, strength training helps reduce your likelihood of injury. That’s because a well-rounded strength training plan targets all of the smaller stabilizer muscles throughout your body that are essential for your performance in the mountains.
Without a proper training plan, your muscles will be too weak to support your body through periods of high-intensity activity, like skiing.
However, not all muscular strength training plans are made equal. If you want to train for alpine skiing, you’ll want to focus primarily on building up your lower body and core strength.
Of course, HIIT training on a ski simulator will do a lot toward building up your muscular endurance. Nevertheless, you’ll want to supplement your HIIT training and endurance-based workouts with more targeted weighted exercises.
Some key lower body exercises you might consider include:
- Back squats
- Front squats
- Walking lunges
- Split squats
- Jump squats
As you can see, the emphasis here is on, well, squats. Skiing requires spending a lot of time in a squatting position, so the more you can train your body for squatting before the season starts, the better.
Furthermore, you’ll want to make core training a key part of your fitness plan. Your core is the foundation for the rest of your body, so keeping your abs toned and strong is essential. The important thing is to find a set of core exercises that challenge you and to do them on a regular basis. Some great exercises to consider include:
- Russian twists
However, there are quite literally hundreds of different core exercises out there, so it’s impossible to list them all here. For some inspiration, check out this video from professional freeskier John Collinson, where he shows off one of his intense core and balance workouts:
Last but not least, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of flexibility training when you’re prepping for the upcoming ski season. While we often spend so much time focusing on our strength and endurance capabilities, we sometimes overlook how integral flexibility training is to our well-being.
Ultimately, flexibility is essential for preventing injury. So, don’t forget to dedicate at least part of each workout to stretching and other flexibility-related exercises.
In addition to your standard pre-workout warm-up (which can include lots of dynamic stretching), as well as a post-workout static stretch session, you may consider adding yoga into your fitness routine.
Practices like yoga, which put a big emphasis on stretching out and loosening your muscles are awesome supplements to any skiing training plan. Alternatively, you can try yoga-inspired exercises like the ones you find in this mobility routine from ski training coach Alison Naney:
Maintaining Fitness Levels During The Ski Season
While pre-season training is essential for ski performance, it isn’t the whole story. In fact, once the season is in full swing, you’ll want to commit to regular training sessions to help maintain your fitness levels and prevent injury.
Here’s how to stay on top of your fitness in between shred sessions on the mountain.
Pre-hab exercises are some of the most important things you can do to maintain your fitness levels during the ski season.
What exactly is a pre-hab exercise, you might ask?
Well, pre-hab is effectively the opposite of “rehab.” So, instead of helping you recover from an injury, pre-hab exercises help you prevent them in the first place. Since racking up dozens or hundreds of ski days each season can cause a lot of wear and tear in your joints and muscles, pre-hab helps you stay fresh throughout the winter.
To pre-hab properly, you’ll want to create a pre-hab plan that prioritizes flexibility, balance, and muscular endurance. Although everyone’s pre-hab routine will look a little different, the key point here is that your program should focus on fixing any of the muscular imbalances that naturally concur throughout the ski season.
Doing so often involves lots of core exercises, stretching, and balance work.
You can also incorporate aspects of active recovery into your pre-hab routine. To do so, you can plan to do a light jog, bike ride, or swim to help keep your muscles active without overloading them. Even better, you can set aside time for a relatively casual session on your ski exercise machine to help you perfect your form while also engaging your ski muscles.
Although we wish it wasn’t true, the fact of the matter is that injuries can and do happen. No matter how careful we are on the slopes, injuries are a fact of life when you play in the mountains. Therefore, knowing what to do to recover from an injury is essential.
As far as injury rehabilitation for skiers goes, the most important thing is that you seek out professional advice. Whether it’s a chronic injury that’s plagued you for years or an acute issue from your last run, a physician or physio is the best person to see if you want to recover properly.
When meeting with a medical professional about your injury, ask about the various treatments and exercises you can do to speed up your recovery time. More often than not, your physio will give you a list of different rehab exercises to help you recover.
What’s important, however, is that you actually do these exercises. All too often, injured athletes will faithfully complete their rehab exercises for a few days, only to fall off the bandwagon by the end of the first week. At the end of the day, if you want to recover from your injuries, committing to your prescribed rehab routine is essential.
Nutrition For Alpine Skiing
Finally, it’s important to note that no guide to ski fitness is complete without mentioning the importance of nutrition to your overall performance. While physical fitness is a major part of ski performance, a lack of proper nutrition is only going to hold you back.
That being said, there’s no magic nutrition plan that works for all skiers. Every single skier is different, so it’s impossible to say that sticking to one diet is going to turn you into the next Bode Miller and net you a bunch of Olympic gold medals.
However, there are some general principles of alpine skiing nutrition that are worth keeping in mind at all times. In particular, consider the following as you build your own nutrition plan:
- Diversify Your Macronutrients. All foods contain a mix of macronutrients, namely, protein, fat, and carbs. While modern diet trends like to vilify fats and carbs, the fact of the matter is that we need all of them if we want to perform at our best. Carbs are our fast energy during workouts while fats provide long-lasting energy for sustained performance. Meanwhile, proteins help our muscles recover after a day on the slopes. So, aim to get a mix of all macronutrients at each meal.
- Hydration is Key. We often don’t feel compelled to drink water in cold conditions, simply because we don’t feel as thirsty as we would in the summer heat. However, our bodies need water to perform cellular respiration, which is how we turn food into energy. Since high-altitude air can be dry and skiing can be exhausting, we need to stay hydrated at all times while skiing. So, focus on getting your fluid intake while at the mountain. Consider bringing a thermos filled with hot water with you while skiing for a warming and hydrating drink in the mountains.
- Stick To Real Food. While protein bars and energy gels are all the rage these days, they’re no substitute for real food. Sure, they can be a nice supplement to your diet, but eating a well-balanced and nutritious meal will do more for you in the long-term than an energy shot. Moral of the story? Dietary supplements are just fine, but they should supplement your meals, not replace them.
Training for skiing is the best way to get excited about the upcoming winter season. Getting fit and focused for the winter through a well-curated training plan can help you perform your best in the mountains.
For a better ski training experience, consider adding a purpose-built ski fitness machine, like the Pro Ski Simulator into your workout program to help you make the most of all that fresh pow.
See you in the mountains!