Ski Exercises: Get Fit For Ski

Whether you’re an experienced skier or a complete beginner, everyone knows that skiing is a very active sport and like all forms of exercise you should prepare your body for a full on week of skiing or boarding. 

The ABTA Destination Services team have produced some ski related guidance and tips so you can find out how to have a safe and healthy holiday in the snow and specifically how you can get fit for skiing!

Ski Holiday Guidance and Tips


BE SAFE ON THE SLOPES (downloadable PDF)

Three Simple Ways to Get Fit for Skiing

There are three areas in which you need to train: your cardiovascular fitness, your flexibility, and lastly your strength and power. Read on to learn some alternative ways you can train each area, to help you get the best out of your ski holiday this winter.

Increasing Ski Fitness

Your cardiovascular fitness is the first thing you should work on in the lead up to a ski holiday. If your heart can’t get the necessary oxygen to your muscles for them to work fully, they won’t be much good, no matter how many squats you have been doing.

Running is the most obvious way to work on your cardio, however there are ways which are more relatable to skiing. In the gym, rather than heading straight for the treadmill, try a spin class. These are great as you are working your lower body at the same time as your heart; cross trainers or stair machines also offer better preparation for skiing than a flat treadmill.

Running up and down hills will naturally work your body in a way more similar to skiing than running on the flat will. Downhill works best because you will be building eccentric strength in your legs. Don’t know what this is? Read on…

Strength Exercises for Skiing

Alpine skiing primarily demands eccentric strength, mostly in your legs; as gravity bounces you down the ski slope your muscles absorb the negative force of each landing or turn.

Eccentric Leg Press

Eccentric leg press
Eccentric leg press

Load a leg press machine with just over half of the weight you can lift with both legs. With one leg, lower the plate down for six seconds. When you’re at the bottom, push up with two feet. Perform this slowly, resisting the weight coming down on you, keeping the movement smooth and controlled. If you have to move too fast, then the weight is too heavy.
There is an added benefit of this single-leg work over movements using both legs - it helps eliminate strength imbalances. If you have a weaker leg this will be more susceptible to injury than your stronger leg, so building this up a bit in advance of a ski trip is always a good idea. (And it will make your skiing more balanced which is another bonus).

The Squat Jump

Squat Jump
Squat Jump

With your feet shoulder width apart, squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, then jump as high into the air as you can. Land softly on the balls of your feet and repeat. This increases the explosiveness of your quads and glutes, great for pushing hard out of turns.

The Pump Squat

Pump Squat
Pump Squat

If in the gym use a medicine ball, or at home simply a heavy book will help. Hug your chosen weight to your chest, go into a low squat position and pulse up and down only an inch or so each way for 1 minute, without coming back to a standing position.
These are all more beneficial than the common flawed pre-ski exercise of leaning your back against a wall and squatting, as this can translate into skiing with pressure on your heels, (and is a less effective way of working your quads than performing regular squats).

Avoiding Skiing Injuries

As important as your body’s strength on the slopes is its flexibility; this is key to avoiding injury. As well as all the stretches and yoga moves which can help prepare you for skiing (which it is useful to research as well), you need to get to know your biomechanics in your knees and pelvis area, and work on controlling your weight distribution. Training these areas before a ski trip can drastically improve your flexibility, agility and consequently your skiing in general. 

Imagine a dot on the centre of your knee cap and picture a vertical line from it down to the floor. This line should finish between your second and third toes. Then you need to find the neutral position of your pelvis, as this is the position in which your muscles work best. To do this it helps to imagine you have a tail: keeping your upper body relaxed, stick your tail bone out and up so that your imaginary tail points upwards as far as it will go. Next bring your tail bone down and imagine pointing your tail forward in between your legs as much as possible. Your pelvic neutral will be half way between these two extremes.

Practice both the above movements at once - move your knees into position, (bent and directly over your second and third toes), whilst also keeping your pelvis in its neutral position. As you squat down ensure your weight is coming forwards, nearly enough to tip over. A good trick is when in this position to imagine you have a Smartie in your belly button, and you have to hold it there without your hands, using just your core muscles.


This will train your biometrics into being the correct alignment for skiing. By balancing your weight forwards from your core in this position over the centre of your skis, you will get the greatest level of control in your skiing. The more time you spend in this position in the lead up to a ski holiday the better. Training your body in this way can be immensely more valuable to the average holidaymaker than trying to fit as many heavy squats as you can into a few weeks.

These are just some ideas, there are many different exercises you can use to train for skiing. But please do always consult a professional before beginning any kind of training programme.

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