Get Fit for Your Winter Ski/Snowboard Holiday

We all should have done it – started to get fit for our winter holiday way before now. We have 1 month until the first lifts open in the Alps and we are in training! Hobbling around the ski resort after 2 days of skiing, and not enjoying the rest of your week, is NOT COOL!

Stay strong and injury free by training your body before you come on your ski holiday. 1st Lifts brings to you some suggestions on the areas of your body you should be working, and some exercises to help you. You’ll be good for the snow in no time!

Start gently with one set of 10 to 20 reps of the exercises, then gradually increase to two or three sets as your strength improves.  Rest every third day (you can do serious injury without rest).   More experienced exercisers can rest one day a week, but will know to take a de-training week.  Drink water during exercise.

I am not a fitness instructor, please get expert advice.


Your quads are probably the most used muscles in both skiing and snowboarding. Your quads include the 4 big muscles in your thigh, oh you know them! These muscles hold you in position as you ski and provide protection for your knees. Good exercises for the quadriceps are squats and lunges.   Squats and lunges will also help the secondary muscles around your knees.  I don’t have to explain what squats and lunges are do I?

Hamstrings and Glutes

Your hamstrings are the muscles in the back of your thigh, which, along with the quads, allow you to bend your leg at the knee.  And we all know where glutes are right?  Yup, in your arse.

People who get hamstring strain often have stronger quads than hamstrings (or they haven’t warmed up properly).

Snowboarders often build a lot of strength in their quads and forget the hamstrings.  When riding, the hamstrings are used when the hip joint is extended during toe-side turns in both legs.  This movement is not a full extension amongst the majority of snowboarders therefore the muscles in the hamstrings under develop.

Downhill skiers typically lean forward from the hips, holding their bodies in a flexed position.  This requires great strength from your hamstrings and glutes because they help to stabilise your body.

Some of the following exercises will help the glutes and the hamstrings prepare for your ski holiday:

Deadlifts and one leg dead lifts

The deadlift is a weight training exercise in which a loaded (or unloaded in some cases) barbell is lifted off the ground to the hips, then lowered back to the ground.  Ask your gym instructor to help you with this.

Step ups

A really easy one, where ever you live.  If you don’t have a step take a run to the park and do them there.

Hamstring rolls

If you have a swiss ball or there is one at your gym hamstring rolls are great.  This is the one where you lie face up with your arms pressed into the floor by your sides, knees bent, heels on top of the ball. Now lift your hips up off the floor and, keeping your hips high, slowly extend your legs and roll the ball away from your body (don’t lock your knees). Bend your knees and curl the ball back into your body so you are at the start position.

Inner and Outer Thighs

In a skier your inner thighs work hard to keep your skis together. Your outer thighs keep your body stable and help you steer.

Some great exercises for skiers are side lunges, Swiss-ball squeezes for the inner thigh or sliding side lunges using disks.

If you are a member of a gym try inner and outer pushes on the abductor and adductor machines.  However, you can do some at home:

Adductor (inside thigh)

Lie on the floor on your left side with your body straight and rest your head on your outstretched left arm. Cross your right leg over your left and place your right foot on the floor so that you can lift your lower (left) leg. Raise your left leg by lifting your foot 8 to 12 inches off the floor. Slowly lower your foot back to the floor and repeat before rolling over and changing sides.

Abductor (outside thigh)

Lie on the floor on your left side with your body straight and rest your head on your outstretched left arm. Bend your left leg so that your left foot is somewhere close to your right knee. Lift your foot right foot 12 inches off the ground. Slowly lower your foot back to the floor and repeat before rolling over and changing sides.


Be careful with this one as it can put strain on your back.

Lie on your back with your legs extended in front of you and your arms on the floor at your sides. Make sure your lower back is flat on the floor by pulling your abdominal muscles in.  Lift your legs off of the floor to 45 degrees, feet pointing straight toward the ceiling. Open and close your legs in a scissor-like motion. Do half with right leg crossing over the left and then repeat with the left leg crossing over the right.

You can make these exercises harder by wearing ankle weights.

Cushion squeeze

You can use a cushion for this one, or an exercise ball.  Lie on your back with your legs bent, feet flat on the floor and cushion between your knees.  Press your knees together and squeeze the cushion really hard for about 5 seconds. Relax then do it again.

Shin and Calves

Because your knees are bent as you ski, your calves help you stay upright so you don’t fall over (your boots help too).

Snowboarders tend not to use the muscle in the shin (tibialis anterior), therefore not much strength is developed. The calf (or gastrocnemius) gets a lot of use (yes you’ve felt it) and becomes very strong. This imbalance can cause unstable ankles, which commonly develop into ankle injuries.  Good exercises for snowboarders and skiers alike are:

Calf Raises

We’ve all done calf raises before (haven’t we?).  You can stand in front of a chair for stability, with your feet hip width apart.   Now just raise your heels so that only the ball of your foot is off the floor.  You can do this on the edge of a step if you are confident, with dumb bells or one foot at a time.

Toe Raises

These strengthen the muscles surrounding the front and sides of the shin bone, helping to reinforce it. Start by sitting with both feet flat on the floor. Your heels will stay on the ground whilst you lift the rest of your foot up as much as possible –  you should be pointing your toes at the sky. Hold for a moment, then slowly return your foot to the starting position.

Abs and Back

As both skiers and snowboarders are in a flexed, bent over position, your back has to work really hard to hold your body in that position.  You can protect your spine from injury by having a strong core. Work these muscles with the following exercises:

Bicycle crunch

This is the one where lie on your back like you are going to do a sit up.  With your knees bent your hands will rest softly on your temples, elbows out.  Now bring your left elbow up (keeping that hand on your temple, your head and shoulders will rise as well) and your right knee up to meet in the middle, twisting as you go.


The one we all love to hate.  Lie on your back, bring your legs up and your arms up to meet in the middle above your head.  Now slowly lower your legs and your body back on to the floor.

Back Extensions

Lie on your front, legs straight, tops of your feet flat on the floor.  Your hands will rest softly on your temples, elbows out.  Now raise your head and chest off the floor, hold and then come down.

Dumb Bell Rows

This is where you have one knee and one hand (same side) on the weight bench.   With a dumbbell in the other hand (palm facing your torso),  keep your back straight, keep your head up and the weight should hang directly in front of you as your arm hangs.  Keep the torso stationary, lift the dumbbell to your side, keep the elbow close to the body, squeeze the back muscles and hold. Slowly lower the weight again to the starting position.

If you are the member of a gym you can also do lat pulls.


Along with your back, arms help push off with your poles while stabilizing your shoulder joints.  Snowboarders use their arms when setting off from the floor and to move in the right direction.

Don’t forget your biceps and triceps!  Simple exercises for your arms include bi-cep dips (which you can simply do on a chair) and press-ups.

Warm Up and Warm Down!

You are way more likely to come home with a ski injury if you have not warmed up before skiing and warmed down after skiing.  Those people you see actually stretching; the ones you’ve laughed at?  That is now you.  Stretching and a little jog before and after will help you to keep going the whole week.


PLEASE NOTE: None of the information on this page is provided by a doctor or sports expert.   The information is here as a guide and 1st Lifts is not liable for any injuries or unfortunate activities that may arise from this information.  Please ask your gym instructor or an expert to help you.

You ski and snowboard in the Alps at your own risk.