Ski Season Training
Building Functional Strength for Winter
Come fall, many of us are daydreaming of first tracks in the backcountry. You’re plotting ski trips, caught the latest Matchstick ski flick, and have been burning through ski videos on YouTube. The skis are waxed, edges sharpened, and you can almost smell that first flurry on fall’s crisp days.
Mentally, you’re ready, but how about your legs and core? Off-season training isn’t just for the pros—put some work in before the first big days and the payoff will last all winter. Here are five basic exercises to include in your home ski workouts to build powerful legs, a strong core, and cardio endurance that will maximize your day on the slopes—especially on powder days.
Lower Body Exercises
Bodyweight squats work your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. Increase the intensity by deepening the squat past a 90-degree angle or by incorporating weight with dumbbells or kettlebells. Move to jump squats if you want to increase the fire!
A skier squat attacks all of the muscle groups. Stand with your back against a wall and your feet hip-width apart. Slowly slide down the wall, pausing at intervals, until your legs reach a 90-degree angle, and then slide back up, pausing at intervals, until you are standing up straight again.
The skier swing targets your hamstrings to keep you safely bending and straightening at the knees. To get in position for the skier swing, grab two dumbbells and push your hips back into a squat. Move your arms and the weights behind you. Now, stand up and push your hips forward, tightening your glutes, and using the momentum from your hips to swing your arms forward until they’re straight out in front of you. This is considered one rep.
There are a variety of lunges that, whether combined in a set or used in isolation, make great leg exercises for skiing. Lunges improve your power and control on the slopes and are particularly crucial for telemark skiers, who more or less involves lunge their way down the mountain. For a basic lunge, step one foot forward and bend your front knee at a 90-degree angle so that your thigh is parallel to the ground, while keeping your back leg straight.
Alternating lunges add movement to the exercise. Stand with your feet together, then step forward with one foot and lower into a lunge position. Push off your front foot and back into a standing position. Repeat this motion on the other side.
You can also perform alternating lunges with a jump, increasing your power. Start in a basic lunge position and then jump and switch legs in the air, landing back in a lunge position.
The plank is a staple for at-home exercises. Do the typical plank, with hands on the floor, or move to the forearm or side arm plank to change it up. Focus on keeping your back and legs straight by tightening your abs, legs, and butt! Try doing a set of three planks, separated by other exercises like squats and lunges—increasing the time you hold each plank. For example, hold the first for 45 seconds, the second for a full minute, and the last for 90 seconds—or as long as you can!
This exercise is a variation on the plank that helps to improve your core stabilizing muscles on the mountain. Start in a high plank position and jump your feet up toward your hands to one side so that your knees are right outside your elbow (or as close as you can get them!). Jump your feet back to the high plank position and then repeat this motion on the other side. Jump back and forth and imagine carving those turns run after run!
You don’t want to be off on the side of the trail trying to catch your breath while a group of four-year-olds whiz by you for the umpteenth time. Improve your cardio endurance to avoid that half-day bail and keep running laps until the well-deserved après ski party! Work a trail run or bike ride into your ski workout plan and you’ll have longer, happier days on the mountain.
As you plan out your off-season training, use any combination of these exercises to create your own at-home ski workout. These basic exercises can put you on the way to upping your ski fitness and maximizing your time on the mountain. If you’re looking to improve your backcountry touring game, or are ready to level-up your leg strength training, look for workouts that target specific muscles for uphills and downhills this season. Start moving now and get the ski season you’ve been dreaming of this winter.
Lauren Humphrey is a proud weekend warrior, mama-of-two, and a full-time special education teacher of eight years. She is the Regional Coordinator of the Northeast for the non-profit Adventure Mamas initiative and is passionate about helping mothers connect, reset and find strength and personal growth through outdoor adventures. You can find her rock climbing, mountain biking, trail running, skiing and snowboarding, or just walking in happy, little, toddler-led circles on a nearby trail.