Ski Legs: Workouts To Get in Shape For Skiing

The ability to ski all day in freezing temperatures and still enjoy your time off the slopes requires a certain amount of physical stamina that can only be attained over time. That’s why it’s so important to keep your body moving all year round – and refrain from procrastinating on your fitness goals.

workouts for skiing

After all, it’s much easier to maintain an optimal level of physical fitness, than it is to fall out of fitness -and have to claw your way back. Have you ever tried to do a plank after not working out for a couple of weeks? No thank you.

Whether you’re going to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Big Sky, Montana, or somewhere in-between, we’ve created this guide to getting in shape for skiing, so you can build and maintain your strength, mobility, and flexibility for skiing over time.

Get in Shape, and Stay in Shape for Skiing

Maintaining moderation and consistency in your fitness routine can also help to prevent injury and promote longevity. But besides the additional health benefits, maintaining a strong core and foundation all year round means you can step up your routine gracefully (and without injury) when you’re ready to hit the slopes.

Below we’ve rounded up some of our favorite ways to train before we head to the mountains.


Running is such a great way to train for skiing because you are simultaneously improving your cardio and strengthening the muscles you’re going to use most on the mountain; mainly, your hamstrings and quads. You can start off with a few low intensity and low mileage runs to build a strong and healthy foundation. Once these ‘easy’ runs are mastered without injury, you can slowly build up to more mileage and slowly increase your pace.

running to train for skiing

Building Up Your Running Base

A great way to measure intensity when you run is by how easy it is to hold  a conversation with your running partner. When you’re first beginning, you should be running at a conversational pace. That is, a pace where you would easily be able to maintain a conversation while jogging. Once you’ve done this for a couple weeks, slowly start to increase your pace – so that it gets harder and harder to maintain a conversation. Once you’re at the peak of your training, you should not be able to talk because you’re running at pace that takes up all your breath.

An example of a foundational running plan would look like this:

  • Week 1: 2 mile run at ‘easy pace’ 2x/week
  • Week 2: repeat
  • Week 3: 3 mile run at ‘easy pace’ 2x/week
  • Week 4: repeat
  • Week 5: 2 mile run at easy pace building to a moderate pace – holding this pace for half a mile – then back down to easy for the remainder 3x/week
  • Week 6: repeat
  • Week 7: 3 mile run at easy pace building to a moderate pace – holding this pace for a mile – then back down to easy for the remainder 3x/week
  • Week 8: repeat
  • Week 9: 2 mile run at a moderate pace – starting with a 20 minute ‘easy’ warmup and 10 minute ‘easy’ cool down 3x/week
  • Week 10: repeat
  • Week 11: 3 mile run at a moderate pace – starting with 20 minute ‘easy’ warmup and 10 minute ‘easy’ cool down 3x/week
  • Week 12: repeat
  • Week 13: 2 mile run at a pace that is hard to maintain a conversation – inclusive of a 20 minute ‘easy’ warmup and 20 minute ‘easy’ cool down 3x/week
  • Week 14: repeat

Fartlek Training (Speed Play)

You can also practice fartlek or speed play as you work up to a faster pace. Fartlek training involves running in intervals of faster and slower speeds. Essentially, you are engaging in periods of hard work followed by a short recovery and then repeating this over the run for a set period of time. An example of a fartlek workout would look like this:

  • 20 minute warmup at 40-50% effort
  • 1.5 minute at 70% effort
  • 45 seconds at 50% effort
  • 1 minute at 70% effort
  • 30 seconds at 50% effort
  • 1.5 minutes at 80% effort
  • 1 minute at 50% effort
  • 1 minute at 80% effort
  • 30 seconds at 50% effort
  • 1.5 minutes at 60% effort
  • 45 seconds of 50% effort
  • 1 minute at 60% effort
  • 10 minute cool down at 40% effort

HIIT Workouts for Skiing

HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. This generally means that during a HIIT workout, you are engaging in periods of hard work, followed by shorter periods of rest (similar to the Fartlek workout outlined above). The reason HIIT workouts are so great for getting in shape for skiing is that they mimic the cardio and explosive strength efforts you will be doing on the ski hill. They’re also known to increase longevity. Below are some of our favorite ways to build a HIIT workout into our routine:

  • Running Stairs: running stairs at a stadium near your house is a great way to engage in explosive interval training. After your warmup, sprint up one row of stairs – focusing on form, engaging your core, and using your arms – and then walk down the next row of stairs.  Repeat this pattern for about 20 minutes or until your heart rate is sufficiently elevated. Then engage in a cool down routine.
  • Tabata: Tabata is ideal for increasing VO2 max (and a great way to simulate your heart rate on the slopes) as long as you do it right. Twenty seconds of all-out work, followed by ten seconds of rest, repeated eight times. The most important thing to remember when doing Tabata is your form. Correct form when preforming the exercises is crucial to prevent injury. Some of the exercises we like to do in a Tabata style workout are:
    • Squats
    • Backward Lunges
    • Burpees
    • Box jumps
    • High knees
    • Pushups
    • Crunches
  • HIIT play: since many gyms and studios such as Equinox are closed, it’s time to press play on your favorite home workout. Some of our favorites focus on flexibility, mobility, and building lower back strength. These core elements of fitness will help to prevent injury on the slopes.
HIIT workout for skiing

Pilates and Yoga for Skiing

Both Pilates and Yoga are great ways to build balanced strength in your body while maintaining flexibility and mobility. All of these components are extremely important for skiing. You need strength to power through hard snow, make sharps turns, and avoid muscle fatigue on the fill. You need flexibility to avoid injury in the case of sudden or unexpected movements. You need mobility to engage in the varying motions of skiing as you encounter varied pistes, slopes, and bumps on the hills. Our favorite yoga and pilates methods for skiing are:

  • Mega-reformer Pilates (which incorporates cardio)
  • Hot Yoga (to promote mindfulness, breath work, and flexibility)
  • Yoga Sculpt (for strength and mobility)
  • Vinyasa Yoga (for strength, mobility, and breath work)
  • Foam Rolling and Stretching (okay so these aren’t classes per se, but it’s important to do at least 10 minutes of good old fashioned stretching and foam rolling even after a yoga or pilates class, because you have been engaging your muscles for an extended period of time)
yoga for skiing
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