Outdoor Skills + Advice: Pre-Season Ski Training Tips

By Casey Dean, in-house writer for National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS); photograph courtesy NOLS

Forget a bikini bod—it’s time to start perfecting your skiing bod.

While some people are amping up their diets and gym routines in a frantic attempt to look amazing when the family comes over for the holidays, others are hitting the gym for another reason—powder.

NOLS instructor Jaime Musnicki gave us some advice on prepping for ski season (and, incidentally, looking great for the holidays). Her first suggestion was maintaining an active lifestyle. But by preparing specifically as ski season approaches, you can gain longer days early in the season, decrease risk of injury, and, ultimately get in more skiing this season. Here's where to start.

Cardiovascular Fitness

Walking, running, hiking, and biking are all great ways to improve cardio fitness. And interval training is essential. “A lot of skiing is more anaerobic than aerobic, so being able to have the high-intensity workouts is really important for training purposes,” Musnicki said. Ski-specific core and lower body exercises like plyometrics are helpful in building stability from legs up to the core.


While plyometrics build strength, weight training is also a great way to set yourself up for success. “Probably the biggest injuries, in the early season especially, are knee injuries," noted Musnicki. "A lot of that is directly related to your quads and hamstrings—which hold your knees together—just not being quite as strong as they could be yet.” Dynamic movements such as squat thrusts and jumping lunges can prevent an early-season injury from ruining the season.

Musnicki added that backcountry skiers tend to pull muscles in the hip flexor region while breaking trail skinning. Be sure to train your core and stabilize your hips through strength training and stretching to avoid this kind of injury.

Functional Flexibility

Yoga provides strength training, as well as functional flexibility. Yoga provides better body awareness, allowing yoga-skiers to use the body in different ways and prevent injuries.

Protecting Yourself on the Slopes

Movement is how the body stays warm, and food and water fuel that. Bring warm and/or flavored water, which you may be more likely to drink on a cold day in the snow.


“People get hurt skiing most frequently when they’re being tentative in going, in committing to the fall line and going downhill,” Musnicki noted. Skiing assertively—aggressively can take you to the other end of injury—keeping your weight forward, and stress off your knees and back also allows a skier to respond to terrain more easily.



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