Whether you are a skier or snowboarder, preparing your body for winter is key. You’ll not only have a much better time out on the mountain, but you’ll also significantly improve your overall fitness too.

You do not need to be able to complete a triathlon or a marathon to enjoy a week on the slopes. However, a good level of fitness is important, both to minimise the risk of injury and to make the most of your limited time on the slopes

A comprehensive conditioning regime consists of more than just a few squats, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend hours in the gym every day in the autumn. Medical professionals recommend that you start to condition your body using ski-specific exercises at least 6 weeks before your winter holiday, and, fortunately, many of the best exercises for skiing can be done from the comfort of your own home.

The four-time Team GB Olympian and Ski Club of Great Britain Honorary President shares a few ski workouts that any snowsports enthusiast can follow along at home, without the need to go to the gym. Incorporating these exercises into your fitness routine before and during the season will help you maximise your time in the mountains.

Although skiing and snowboarding may be considered sports for the adrenaline junkie, injuries only occur 2 to 3 per 1000 skier days. Whilst injury cannot be altogether prevented, we can certainly do quite a lot to reduce our risks. These simple tips from Jonathan Bell, knee specialist at Wimbledon Clinics, may help you avoid injuring yourself this coming winter.


The annual ski trip may be considered a family holiday but it requires a high level of fitness and strength to participate safely. Your body will respond to the challenges of skiing and snowboarding far better if you are in good shape. If you have a good baseline fitness, you are much less likely to fatigue. I think that fatigue is a common cause of injury in the once a year skier, as evidenced by the fact that the majority of ski injuries occur after 3 p.m. You should probably do 6 to 12 weeks of preparation depending on your baseline level of strength and fitness.

Pre-existing injuries

If you have a niggling injury, now is the time to get it dealt with, rather than two weeks before you are about to travel. If you have received treatment for an injury or even had surgery, you need to be realistic about how well recovered you are. Although you may be able to potter down a blue run three months after a knee replacement, you certainly are not fully recovered. ACL reconstruction will take approximately nine months to recover and many do not feel completely recovered until after a year.


It has been noted that injury risk increases 800% if equipment is borrowed. It’s essential that you hire your equipment, or purchase your own, have it set up correctly by a professional and it should be in a well-serviced condition. Equally make sure that your equipment matches your level of ability. So have a good hard look at those 15-year-old ski boots and perhaps consider whether it is time for renewal.


Skiing and snowboarding are fun sports, but if you are fearful or scared, your risk of injury will significantly increase. Be aware that alcohol decreases your performance considerably and even a small amount may put you at risk of injury after the lunchtime glass or two. You will be at your most fatigued on day three of the ski trip. So pace yourself, do not overdo it. When you get on a ski lift, be very aware who you are on a ski lift with. It is easy to be knocked over by the person sitting next to you and every year I see significant knee injuries from people being injured in the first five yards after they get off the lift and, in fact, I would consider it to be most dangerous place on the mountain. Finally, don’t forget that in the mountains it is easy to dehydrate and it should almost go without saying that adequate clothing is essential to prevent hypothermic injuries.

It is easy to forget just how physical a whole days skiing can be. Even with lunch breaks and pauses on the lifts, an average day on the slopes sees 4 to 6 hours of sustained physical activity – made worse by the high altititude. Recovery is important, because skiing works you hard and in strange ways at an intensity that can only be sustained for a couple of minutes before the legs start to burn.

If you really want to ski longer, harder and safer next winter, you will need to create a ski fitness programme that includes:

  • Endurance
  • Strength
  • Flexibility

To improve your cardiovascular fitness, you will need to try and do aerobic sessions of 20 minutes to 1 hour at least three times a week. Aerobic activity includes any exercise which raises your heart rate, such as cycling or running.

During these sessions, you should be working at around 50-60% of your max heart rate – as a rought guide, this number can be reached by deducting your age from 220. If you are unable to measure you heartrate accurately, then a good rough guide is that you should be able to just about hold a conversation with whoever you are training with.

Cycling is the favoured method of aerobic training for World Cup skiers and is a great way to replicate the fitness needed for skiing or snowboarding. Cross-trainers, similarly, provide a great training method. If you can get access to one, then the Skier’s Edge provides the best ski specific fitness workout, as it is the only machine that works in a lateral plain.

Ice Skating, rollerblading or rollerskiing are great ways to train endurance for skiing as they require similar levels of balance/coordination and lateral movement.

Running is great for weight loss and aerobic activity but is high-impact and can be hard on a skier’s knees, particularly if they’ve been in the wars already. Swimming is not a great way to train for skiing as it concentrates too much on the upper body, although is a good way to vary a programme.

Only once you have reached a good level of fitness for your skiing (it will take about 6 weeks to feel the effects) you can also consider anaerobic exercises where you work in short blasts, such as circuit training – a great way to get even fitter before you hit the slopes.


When planning where to go, consider the following:

  • You don’t have to be super fit to enjoy skiing, but a bit of preparation goes a long way!
  • It is recommend to begin any skiing-related fitness programme at least six weeks before you go
  • Cycling and running are excellent aerobic exercises for skiing
  • Bored of the gym? Consider rock climbing or rowing as good ways to build skiing strength

Ross Woodhall

Need more advice?

If you need more tips and tricks to get fit or stay fit, reach out to the Ski Club’s Info & Advice team