How to get ski fit and avoid injuries on the slopes

As the winter chill sets in and snow-capped mountains beckon, make sure you are ready for your ski trip.
Snow sports like skiing and snowboarding are not just thrilling winter sports, but also hugely physically demanding activities that require strength, flexibility, and endurance.
Whether you’re a seasoned skier or a novice hitting the slopes for the first time, getting fit before the ski holiday will help to enhance your performance and prevent injuries, allowing you to make the most of your alpine adventures.

What exercises are good for snow sports? – Here are our Top Tips!

At Complete physio, we believe prevention is better than cure!
In an ideal world you would be starting to up your fitness and strength levels 2-3 months before your holiday, although 6 weeks is probably more realistic for most people. If you are reading this with your trip booked next month, don’t despair, as even a few weeks of exercising can help get your muscles fired up and slope ready!

Here are some of the main areas that you should be focusing on.

Cardiovascular Fitness Training

Almost all snow sports are aerobic activities that place significant demands on your cardiovascular system.

To build endurance and improve your stamina on the slopes, incorporate cardiovascular exercises into your fitness routine. Activities such as running, cycling, swimming, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are effective ways to boost your cardiovascular fitness.

Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week. This will not only improve your cardiovascular health but also prepare your body for the increased effort required for a long day on the slopes.

Leg Strength and Endurance

Strong legs are the foundation of successful skiing; strength-training exercises are a vital part of preseason fitness. You should be doing exercises that target the major muscle groups in your lower body, including quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. Squats, lunges, leg presses, and plyometric (jumping) exercises will all help build strength and endurance in your leg muscles.
You should try to add both combination movements which engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, and also some isolated exercises that target individual muscle groups into your training programme.

Here are six effective strengthening exercises that you can add into your strengthening routine:

  1. Squat

Exercise: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, lower your body by bending your knees and hips as if sitting back into a chair. Keep your chest up and back straight.
Repetitions: Start with 12-15 squats and gradually increase as your strength improves.

  1. Lunges

Exercise: Take a step forward with one foot, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Push back to the starting position and repeat on the other leg.
Repetitions: Perform 10-12 lunges on each leg.

  1. Calf Raises

Exercise: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and rise up onto the balls of your feet, lifting your heels as high as possible. Slowly lower back down.
Repetitions: Perform 15-20 calf raises.

  1. Bridge

Exercise: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips towards the ceiling, squeezing your glutes at the top. Lower back down without touching the ground.
Repetitions: Perform 12-15 bridges. You can progress this to single leg bridges

  1. Side Leg Raises

Exercise: Lie on your side and lift the top leg towards the ceiling, keeping it straight. Lower it back down without letting it touch the bottom leg.
Repetitions: Perform 12-15 leg raises on each side.

  1. Hamstring Curls

Exercise: Using a stability ball, lie on your back with your feet on the ball. Lift your hips towards the ceiling while curling the ball towards your glutes.
Repetitions: Aim for 12-15 hamstring curls.

When performing these exercises, it’s essential to listen to your body and start with a weight or resistance level that challenges you but allows for controlled, pain free movements. Gradually increase the intensity and repetitions as your strength improves.

Most injuries during skiing occur just before lunch or at the end of the day when your muscles and concentration is fatigued. Consistent strength training will enhance your skiing performance and also reduce the risk of fatigue-induced injuries.

Core Stability

A strong and stable core is essential for maintaining balance and control while navigating the slopes, especially when the terrain is icy or bumpy. A strong core will help you to keep your stability when you hit a bump or lose balance. Try to ensure you do regular core exercises, such as planks, Russian twists and bicycle crunches.

  1. Plank

Exercise: Start in a push-up position, with your hands directly under your shoulders. Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels, engaging your core.
Repetitions: Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, gradually increasing the duration as you build strength.

  1. Russian Twists

Exercise: Sit on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat. Lean back slightly, keeping your back straight. Hold a weight or medicine ball and twist your torso to one side, then the other.
Repetitions: Aim for 15-20 twists on each side.

  1. Leg Raises

Exercise: Lie on your back with your hands under your hips. Lift your legs towards the ceiling, keeping them straight, and then slowly lower them without letting them touch the ground.
Repetitions: Aim for 15-20 leg raises.

  1. Bicycle Crunches

Exercise: Lie on your back, lift your legs, and bring one knee towards your chest while simultaneously twisting your torso to touch the opposite elbow. Alternate sides in a pedalling motion.
Repetitions: Perform 15-20 bicycle crunches on each side.

  1. Superman Exercise

Exercise: Lie face down on the ground with your arms extended in front of you. Lift your arms, chest, and legs off the ground, squeezing your glutes and lower back muscles.
Repetitions: Aim for 12-15 repetitions.

  1. Side Plank

Exercise: Lie on your side with your elbow directly beneath your shoulder and lift your hips, creating a straight line from head to heels. Engage your core.
Repetitions: Hold for 20-30 seconds on each side, gradually increasing the duration.

Consistency is key when working on core strength. Start with a manageable number of repetitions and gradually progress as your strength improves. Additionally, it’s important to maintain proper form throughout each exercise to maximise effectiveness and reduce the risk of injury.

A stable core will protect your spine from the twisting and turning movements associated with the sport, as well as improve your skiing technique.

Flexibility and Mobility

Skiing requires a wide range of motion, and flexibility is key to executing smooth turns and absorbing shocks. By doing a regular stretching routine that focuses on your lower body, hips, and spine, you can help prevent muscle strains and injuries that may occur if your muscles are tight and inflexible.

Dynamic stretching, which involves controlled movements through a full range of motion, is particularly beneficial for warming up before hitting the slopes.
Here’s a list of dynamic stretching exercises specifically beneficial for skiing:

  1. Leg Swings: Stand next to a support (such as a wall or railing) and swing one leg forward and backward in a controlled, pendulum motion. Repeat for 15-20 swings, then switch to the other leg. This exercise helps stretch and warm up the hip flexors, hamstrings, and quadriceps.
  2. Lunges with Rotation: Take a step forward into a lunge position and rotate your torso over the forward leg. Return to the starting position and alternate sides. This dynamic lunge with rotation engages the hip flexors, quads, and activates the core.
  3. High Knees: While standing, lift your knees towards your chest in a marching motion. Gradually increase the intensity to a jogging motion. This exercise helps elevate the heart rate, warms up the lower body, and enhances hip flexibility.
  4. Butt Kicks: While jogging in place, bring your heels up towards your buttocks in a kicking motion. This dynamic movement stretches the quadriceps and engages the hamstrings and glutes, helping prepare the legs for the skiing motion.
  5. Side Shuffles: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and shuffle laterally to one side, then back to the other. Keep a low stance, and maintain a slight bend in your knees. This exercise engages the inner and outer thighs, mimicking lateral movements in skiing.
  6. Dynamic Arm Swings: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and swing your arms in circular motions, both clockwise and counterclockwise. This helps warm up the shoulders, upper back, and chest.
  7. Ankle Rolls: Lift one foot off the ground and rotate your ankle in circular motions, first clockwise and then counterclockwise. Switch to the other ankle. This exercise helps enhance ankle flexibility, crucial for forward weight transfer and balance during skiing.
  8. Trunk Twists: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and twist your torso from side to side, allowing your arms to swing with the movement. This dynamic stretch engages the core muscles and prepares your body for the rotational demands of skiing.

Aim to carry out these stretches slowly, gradually increasing the range of motion as your muscles warm up. You should perform a warm-up routine for approximately 5-10 minutes before hitting the slopes to optimise your performance and reduce the risk of injury.

Yoga or Pilates can be an excellent way for skiers to improve flexibility and enhance your overall body awareness. At complete we offer 1:1 and group pilates classes

Balance and Proprioception

Skiing demands a high level of balance and proprioception – the ability to sense the position of your body in space. Incorporate balance exercises into your training regimen, such as single-leg squats, stability ball exercises, and exercises standing or kneeling on a wobble board.
Improving your balance and proprioception not only enhances your skiing performance but also reduces the risk of falls and injuries on uneven terrain and changing slope conditions.

High Intensity Interval Training (HITT) for Explosive Power

Skiing involves bursts of intense effort, especially when navigating steep slopes or challenging terrain like moguls. HITT training involves exercising at a high intensity for a short period of time (usually 30 seconds to several minutes), followed by a similar short rest period.

Try and incorporate exercises like jump squats, box jumps, and agility drills into your interval training sessions; this type of fitness can really help with your explosive power, and over a few weeks of training you will improve your ability to generate speed and power quickly, making it easier to tackle challenging sections of the mountain.

There are some excellent HITT classes in most gyms and also online. It is wise to seek some advice on this type of exercise from an experienced gym instructor or physio, especially if you are not used to this type of training.

Sport-Specific Training

This type of training involves doing exercises that mimic the movements of skiing, to improve muscle memory, and also fine tune your overall skiing technique.

If you can incorporate repeated exercises that replicate the motions of skiing, such as lateral lunges, side-to-side jumps, and twisting movements, you will create a long-term ability to perform these tasks with little to no conscious effort.

You could also consider doing activities such as rollerblading or inline skating to simulate the lateral movements and balance required for skiing.

Rest and Recovery

Allow your body sufficient time for rest and recovery between workouts. Overtraining can lead to fatigue and increase the risk of injuries. Incorporate rest days into your weekly routine, and prioritise sleep and healthy nutrition to support the body’s recovery processes.

A well-rounded approach to rest and recovery is essential for maintaining overall well-being and optimising your fitness for the ski season.

How can Complete Physio Help?

Preparing for your ski holiday is not just about honing your skills on the slopes; it’s also about ensuring your body is physically prepared for the challenges that skiing presents.

At Complete physio, we see hundreds of snow sport enthusiasts both pre season and post injury. We have an exceptional team of Physiotherapists, pilates instructors, podiatrist and strength and conditioning coaches to cover all aspects of rehabilitation.

We can work with you prior to your holiday, and provide you with a personalised programme that is specifically tailored to your individual needs, based on a thorough assessment of your strength, flexibility, balance, core stability and cardiovascular fitness.

Your programme will also incorporate sport-specific training, to enhance your performance, reduce the risk of injuries, and help you make the most of your time on the mountain. Remember that consistency is key, and starting your fitness regimen well in advance will yield the best results. So get in touch and gear up; get ready to carve through the snow with confidence and strength!

If you would like to book an appointment to see one of our expert physiotherapists please call 020 7482 3875 or email

Don’t let pain hold you back, book now!

Book a consultation with us