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“If you don’t do it this year, you will be one year older when you do.”
⛷️ Why should you care about preseason skiing exercises?
A few years back I went skiing with my brothers. They hadn’t skied much in recent years and after about four aggressive, steep, and fast runs, they were both toast. Their legs were shaky and wobbly and they were ready to hit the lodge. I felt bad that they’d paid for ski passes and spent their day coming up to the slopes but couldn’t enjoy it.
I decided if I ever invite people who don’t ski regularly with me, I’d have them spend a few weeks doing some basic skiing exercises so we can all enjoy our time on the mountain more.
This preseason plan is not the same as most others you’ll find. Most of the Google results will have you doing isolation exercises that focus on building strength in one muscle or muscle group or doing drills that don’t translate well to the movements required when skiing.
The plan I put together through several years of testing out and modifying strategies buried in books, websites, and local knowledge has proven to work wonders in prepping someone who’s already relatively fit and strong for an amazing first day and week on the snow and a great, injury-free season thereafter.
I typically start this plan when I can’t mountain bike regularly and about 4 weeks before I think I’ll be putting my skis on for the first time each season.
The preseason is also a great time to get your skis ready. Learn how to tune and wax them yourself in this article.
It’s not an easy workout. Be prepared to feel the burn and be sore for the first several days you’re in it. That’s the point though, right? You want to avoid that soreness when you’re actually on your skis so let’s get it out of the way now before you leave home.
Downhill skiing is primarily an eccentric exercise meaning your muscles do most of their work to keep you upright and moving by pushing down into the ground from a standing position and not the opposite. Think about the movement you make when pushing through a fast turn or bouncing through choppy snow. Your knees come up and your butt goes down like you’re sitting into a squat. The muscle fatigue you feel is from dynamically moving in and out of this position over and over again.
If you haven’t done much cardio training recently, you’ll also be out of breath and have an elevated heart rate at the bottom of the run.
We’re going to focus on prepping you for both of these issues in the preseason this year with some focused skiing exercises that mimic movements you make on the slopes.
Here’s a quick overview of how to train for skiing:
- Focus on ski-specific muscle endurance and power: We’ll mimic the movements you’ll need to ski hard all day.
- Add balance and stability work: When you get tired your form tends to go. Core stability is the key to keeping good form throughout the day
- Build ski-specific coordination, agility, and flexibility: Stretching and flexibility is important to stay injury-free during the preseason conditioning workouts as well as when you’re on the snow
- Boost your cardio: Being able to push hard every run and all day comes from prepping for those demands in the preseason
Before beginning any training plan, check in with your doctor or a certified training professional.
Skiing Exercises to get you in shape for skiing
1. Renegade Rows
Renegade rows may not seem like a ski-specific exercise, but it’s one of the best core-strengthening drills you can do to prep for ski season. Renegade rows work your core as well as your upper body. They’ll improve your balance and stability on the slopes as well as your ability to firmly plant and turn around your poles.
- Using two relatively light dumbbells, get in a plank position with your back straight, your feet wide, and your hands directly under your shoulders.
- Do a pushup keeping your core tight and your back straight. Bring your chest within an inch or so of the ground.
- When your arms lockout, continue to raise one of them up at the elbow until your elbow is roughly parallel to your back.
- Return to plank position and repeat with the other arm.
Be sure to keep from rocking side to side by engaging the core muscles
Click here to see how to do a proper renegade row.
2. Windshield Wipers
Windshield wipers are amazing exercises. They focus on your core rotational ability using nothing but bodyweight. They also protect your back more than other core exercises.
To do windshield wipers,
- Start by laying flat on your back. You can grab onto something like the bottom of a couch if you need.
- Raise your legs straight up in the air in front of you.
- While keeping your legs together and fully engaging your core, slowly lower your legs toward the floor on one side. Don’t touch them to the floor.
- Raise your legs back up to the center and then lower them down on the other side.
- Slowly repeat this back and forth motion using energy from your core, not the momentum of your legs swinging. The slower you go, the harder it will be.
To make this harder, you can put weights on your ankles or hold a medicine ball or other object between your shins.
Click here to see how to do a proper windshield wiper.
3. Dot Drills
Dot drills work your speed and agility as well as your coordination and balance. They’re awesome skiing exercises that will help you prep for the quick torso rotations during high-speed mogul runs.
To do dot drills, you need to get a dot drill mat or put some masking tape down on the floor in dots matching a 5 on a dice. The outside corner dots should be placed a bit wider than shoulder-width apart in all directions.
A sequence of dot drills looks like this:
Forward-facing dot drill:
- start with your feet on the outside dots – one foot on each dot.
- Hop to the middle dot, then hop to the outside dots on the other side.
- Hop backward to the middle and then hop back to the starting position continuing to face the same direction the whole time.
Reverse dot drill:
The reverse dot drill is the same, but when you get to the opposite side, turn around to face the opposite direction from when you started.
You can do dot drills with one foot as well by hopping on one foot from one corner to the center dot then back to an outside dot on the other side then cross over to the other outside dot and then back to center and back to the starting side but the opposite dot.
You can also do double-foot dots by following the single-leg pattern but with both feet together.
No matter which pattern you’re doing, try to move as fast and smoothly as possible. Keep your body centered over your feet and your core engaged. Try to be precise with your foot placements.
When you get comfortable with all these patterns, you can combine them into one chain and get a mental workout trying to keep the patterns straight. Repeat each pattern a few times or rotate through the sequence. Dot drills are awesome skiing exercises because they prep you to be fast and agile.
You can get a mat purpose-built for dot drills if you don’t want to mess with aligning tape on your floor every time you do this drill. Honestly, it’s a great investment and I need to get one. My wife doesn’t like the tape left on the floor so I end up putting it down fresh often.
Here’s one I plan to buy that looks like it has good reviews:
Click here to see how to properly do a set of dot drills.
4. Hip Twisters
Good skiing requires rock-solid core strength, balance, flexibility, and coordination. Hip twisters will work all of the above in a game-like manner. This drill will help you with hip flexibility as well as glute and hamstring strength, which will help you power through when the pow is deep and your legs are fried.
This drill will also help improve your proprioception, which is your spatial awareness. Proprioception is key to smoothly hammering out powder runs without losing your balance or getting knocked off your perfect line. This skiing exercise isn’t a movement you’ll make when you’re actually skiing, but developing this core balance and awareness will make a huge difference when things get choppy.
Here’s how to do the hip twister:
- Stand in a neutral position on one leg.
- Keep your back straight and your weight centered over your standing foot.
- Imagine you’re in a game of twister, but you’re the spinner. Lift and extend your raised foot to reach all the points around the spinner. You could also imagine your foot is the hand of a clock.
- After you reach out to touch each point around the circle, bring your foot back to the center. Keep your core tight throughout the motion.
- Repeat the movement all around the circle touching all 16 points. Stay balanced over your standing leg and don’t fall down! Move slowly to maintain control.
- Repeat on the other leg.
To make this more challenging you can stand on an exercise stepper to raise yourself off the ground a few inches.
Other ways to build balance and improve proprioception: Anytime you find yourself standing in one spot – like brushing your teeth, doing dishes, or working at your standing desk – try standing on one leg for a minute or two at a time. To make it harder, you can try to stand with your eyes closed. All these daily activities can become great skiing exercises.
Click here to see how to properly do hip twisters
5. Speed Squats
Your quads get hammered when you’re skiing and for that reason, you’ll almost always see some form of squats in the best skiing exercise plans because are one of the best skiing exercises! Squats work your quads in a simple and incredibly effective manner that mimics closely the movements you make when skiing. Each turn you make you do a squat motion.
To get this motion as close to skiing as possible, we’ll do speed squats with feet and arms straight ahead dropping down so our butt is at least below our knees. After each squat, we’ll stand up and fully extend our hips.
- Stand with your legs roughly shoulder-width apart or closer.
- Push your hips and butt straight back keeping your back straight.
- Bend your knees until your thighs pass parallel to the floor.
- Keep your knees in front of your toes throughout the whole movement and keep your heels on the ground.
- Stand straight up fully extending your hips.
Move through your reps as fast as possible without compromising form.
Click here to see how to properly do speed squats.
6. Forward Lunges
Another exercise to engage multi-body systems in a manner that closely mimics skiing motions is a forward standing lunge. Standing lunges engage your hams, glutes, quads, calves, and definitely require a strong core and good balance to do well. They’ll help you improve your ability to charge through turns and keep forward as you ski.
- Step forward with one leg leading with your heel so your shin is roughly perpendicular to the floor keeping your knee behind your toes.
- Keep your back straight, your core fully engaged, and don’t rock side to side.
- Your back knee should drop down until it almost touches the floor.
- Step back with the forward foot until your feet are together.
- Step forward with the other foot and rotate feet until you’re done with the set.
Click here to see how to properly do a forward lunge.
7. Jumping Lunges
To continue on the lunge theme, we’ll amp it up a bit by moving from standing to jumping lunges. Jumping lunges will build explosive power throughout your skiing while also working your core strength and balance. They’re essentially the same movement as the standing lunge, but rather than bring the feet together after each lunge, you jump into and out of each one.
Click here to see how to properly do a jumping lunge.
8. Jump Squats
To get closer to what aggressive movements you’ll be doing when you’re dropping into that ugly double black chute, we’ll do some jump squats. This will build your ability to hit jump turns all day.
- Start with feet in neutral stance underneath you.
- Do a shallow squat with your arms out in front of you.
- Explode smoothly straight up as high as you can.
- Land softly on your feet going straight into the next squat.
Click here to see how to properly do a jump squat.
9. Lateral Hops
If you want to throw in a bit more challenge, you can do lateral hops over a stair stepper. This will work the leg muscles you don’t always use when moving in a forward/backward plane.
- Stand in a neutral position next to a stair stepper with your feet next to each other.
- Squat down and explode up and sideways so both feet land squarely on the other side of the stair stepper.
- Jump back in the same manner to the other side of the stair stepper. You can use something other than a stair stepper if you don’t have one handy.
Click here to see how to properly do a lateral hop.
10. Trail Running
If you’ve spent much time at Adventure School, you’ll know that I love trail running. I don’t think there are many better ways to prep for long days at the ski resort than a good trail run up and down a mountain.
Trail running works your body in so many awesome ways. Not only do you get a solid aerobic endurance workout that will build your ability to stay out skiing longer, but you get to build full-body movements that work your balance, core, lateral movement muscles, and primary movers all at once. Trail running also builds your proprioception and your quick reaction time while in motion. Of all the skiing exercises, trail running is my favorite and the one that feels least like an exercise and more like an adventure.
To use trail running as a ski training exercise, you’ll want to find a trail that’s steep, rocky, technical, and ugly. Keep it within your skill level, but you’ll get the most benefit for skiing if the trail has steep up and downs and requires you to navigate plenty of obstacles.
I like to do a two-hour lap up to the top of Mt. Olympus here in Salt Lake City. It’s steep and pushes my endurance as well as my technical skills.
Another one close to home is the Bell’s Canyon trail. It’s super steep and very technical at some points.
I sometimes also throw in some intervals that match my lap times at the resort of between 3-5 minutes when the trail allows it.
Run once or twice a week leading up to the season.
If you don’t have any trails suitable for trail running near you, you can also run stairs. Go to your local high school stadium and do laps on the bleachers. Your legs will hate you, but you’ll be happy when you’re skiing. Stairs work the vertical motion of skiing well. For an added challenge you can throw in some stair hops by jumping up a set of stairs while balancing on one foot or jump with both feet skipping every other stair.
As with all workouts, stretching helps prevent injury and maintain a good range of motion, but with skiing, good flexibility could save you a lot of pain if you fall. Flexibility will also help you be a stronger and more agile skier. I won’t go through my list of ski stretches in detail here, but be sure to stretch your quads, hams, hip flexors, back, abdomen, calves, ankles, and general upper body stretches. Doing these skiing exercises will be a good start, but be sure to include a cooldown and stretching each day.
A few more tips to get the most of your ski days
If you’re coming from a low elevation location for a ski vacation, be sure to spend plenty of time on your cardio and be prepared to deal with a bit of altitude sickness when you get to the resort. No amount of skiing exercises will help stave off altitude sickness, but learn to recognize it and treat it so you don’t ruin your whole ski vacation.
Hydrate well. Just because it’s cold when you’re skiing doesn’t mean you don’t need water. The air in the mountains in winter is usually very dry and will suck you dry as you ski. Drink plenty of water to get the most from your body while you ski.
Work on your recovery. If you’re planning a multi-day ski vacation, be sure to spend the après ski in recovery mode so you can go hard on days two and three. Hit the sauna or the hot tub, get a massage, stretch, use foam rollers, and pay attention to your nutrition. It costs good money to ski and you don’t want to waste it being laid up in the hotel feeling too awful to ski.
You will get sore! If you haven’t been doing much in the way of upper leg workouts, you will be sore. This is a good thing as it means you’re working hard and avoiding this same issue when you hit the slopes. Delayed-onset muscle soreness or DOMS is that achy, sore, hot feeling in your muscles after working a muscle group that hasn’t been used much recently.
The good news is that the pain and soreness will go away in a few days, but the bad news is that there’s not much – if anything – you can do to speed up the process. If you do all the skiing exercises listed above, you won’t be sore for skiing. DOMS is essentially tons of microtears in your muscle fibers and they can’t be magically put back together with a massage, a hot bath, some vitamins or supplements, or anything else. Read all about it here if you wish, but know that you’ll be fine in a few days and ready to ski without getting sore when the snow flies.
Do you have any tips to help make your first few days on the slopes better? Share with us below in the comments.