May 25, 2023

Summer strength and conditioning for skiers

The ski hill is CLOSED... Now what?

No time like the present to reflect on strengths and weaknesses, literally, and how to get better at skiing in the off season by adding in simple offseason exercises to build better balance in muscle groups and optimize ski fitness and training. 

  1.  Skiers are strong!!!
  2. Seasonal Conditioning Strategy
  3. Training Tips to Make it Happen

1. Skiers are strong!!!

Legs of steel!!! But... 

Mostly downhill travel for 4 months and medially rotating your femurs under a load. Your quadriceps, hip flexors and adductors are likely quite strong in comparison to your hamstrings and lateral femur rotators. 

Love your lungs!

Charging downhill is fun and can be a cardio workout, but most of us aren't skiing at a speed or intensity where our lungs are the main contributor... adding in some casual hikes like ski touring can help solve that.


After 4 months of spending the days shredding, our bodies and brains are accustomed to lots of move time playing outdoors... don't stop now 🙂 Simply staying active with a variety of activities can help balance our muscle groups

Every Thursday evening there is a new challenge in the Weekly Ski Fitness Focus Forum

2. Seasonal Conditioning Strategy

Group fitness opportunities like peloton ski workout styles or 12 week ski training programs that include a downloadable ski workout plan pdf and even have ski exercises for beginners can be incredibly handy. But, knowledge is power. Let's explore the principles that create the sound architecture of solid plans to help you combat your individual muscle imbalances and prevent injuries. 


Planned cycles of varying intensity, volume and technical sport focus. 

Let's highlight some training chunks of time during Periodization...


Entire time leading to the big goal...

Time depends on goal...

1 year or 4... 

Interski demo Team

 or for the Olympian Hopefuls





Multiple mesocycles fit into one macrocycle

















Microcycles are typically a week

5040 ski tour mountain view

Training can be tough... but glimpses of success help motivate the journey

How come no matter how fit you get in the summer playing sports and following conditioning programs after that first day of skiing your legs are still sore? Is this avoidable? How long does it take to get in shape for ski season?

No. But yes. It depends. Confused? Keep reading....

Principles of Periodization

Let's start with the 3 phases of the General Adaptation Syndrome. It helps build a better picture of why we get that initial soreness at the start of the season.

Alarm Phase

In shock from the new routine the body reacts as sore and tired. The duration of this stage varies immensely depending on the individual. In this stage, performance decreases.

Resistance Phase

Body tolerates and adapts to stress and gets stronger. 

Exhaustion Phase

The goal is to avoid this phase. This is when stress wins, injuries are common and the immense soreness and fatigue return. Other factors can contribute to this like lack of sleep, proper nutrition and occupational stress 

To answer the question from just above, it truly does depend on a TON of variables!!! Think of it like your body recalibrating. Over the summer you may be stronger, you may be weaker. Regardless, your brain and body need to reset  proprioception and the current effort it requires to create the accurate and desired result.

What the heck is proprioception?

A combination of balance, agility and coordination. For skiers it's your bodies natural joint stack on the skis and refining how much throttle from each muscle it takes to tip and twist those skis.

Why bother training over the summer if you are still going to be sore after day one?

Well... even though yes, you may still be a bit sore after the first couple of days back in boots, with a strong base of conditioning you will find your ski legs again WAY quicker and be in a much better position to avoid early season injuries. 

Phases of Periodization

There are plenty of models out there that each have a slightly different twist and name. Most of them are quite confusing on their relevance to skiing. Let's label the strategic chunks of training so it's easy to remember and makes sense to our objective. 

Rev it Up: Low intensity, high volume, building base 

AKA "Preparatory Period" or "Offseason". The focus is building base and fundamental fitness. The label "Offseason" is a bit misleading as it actually contains the largest volume of training and is crucial to avoiding injuries. 

Step one: LOTS of volume, emphasis on cardiovascular versus heavy weights. Referred to as the Hypertrophy/ Endurance Phase. Yep, also a confusing name.

Common errors...  

  • Skip to extremely long distance...  intent is high volume in relevant  to your CURRENT capacity
  • Wait to cram it into a 30 day ski workout plan in late fall when snowflakes come to mind... a solid base takes time

Step two: is the basic strength phase, time to add some resistance and reduce volume. This allows more time and energy to master some sport relevant moves creating direction and purpose to the training.

Lock + Load: Moderate intensity, less volume

Finally the playful phase where you have enough in the tank to push yourself into your to create the relevant strength and power for your sport, "Lock + Load". For a skier this is where instead of simply surviving skiing all day you can add in some quicker moguls, and challenging drills like spiess and dolphin turns. 

Game Time: THE PEAK!

 Also known as "Competition Phase or "In Season" this is all about the absolute peak of your conditioning performance. The training volume goes WAY down with relevant tapering or unloading involved in a mix with minimal workouts but super high intensity. This is only truly maintainable for a few weeks maximum at a time. It is a constant battle for athletes who have a season of races or tournaments with multiple peaks required. 

After Party: Low intensity, low volume, active recreational sport

In May, most of us are here, aka the Post Season Phase. We've had plenty of time to recover, but we still have some remnants of that solid base of ski fitness from the season even if we haven't done much since the hill was open. Don't stop moving,  but keep it playful and add some unfamiliar activities with a totally different focus. 

All that said... the ski season NEVER ends...Time to tour!!! Will it be with skins or a plane ticket or both?

Bluebird backcountry fluffy powder day

This climb rewarded with fluffy POW POW!!!

Ski Touring

One of the best ways to carry on and improve upon the ski fitness you have gained is to get out there and go touring! Skinning uphill will force you to engage those missing muscles groups that are not targeted so frequently while focusing on downhill skiing. Remember to scale the challenge for where you are starting from. 

Backcountry fresh snow bluebird mountain view

Satisfying skin track view...

Ski the Globe

Instead of waiting for winter to come to you, go to winter. Ski camps are a great way to explore foreign mountains, tackle new terrain and make ski buds while challenging your skills. Check out great deals on the Member Discounts page.  

Mount Washington Alpine Resort Section 8 Snowsport Institute CSIA Bootcamp and Science Friction Camp

Section 8 Snowsport Institute 2023

Mount Cain She Shreds ski camp

She Shreds 2018

Skiing...Who Said Anything About Snow?

Grass Skiing 

No you didn't invent it... there is even a World Cup event! 

Dirt Skiing

It's been around for ages... 

Sand Skiing

Let's not forget about sand skiing! 

3. Training Tips to Make it Happen

In my experience training is all about strategy. You can have the greatest intentions in the world, but if you don't have a practical plan to get there it's probably not going to happen for ya...

Start a training log

Right Rhythm

Set an objective

Don't overcomplicate it, but note the date, activity, duration, reps, sets...

Some sessions are going to be epic, some it will be a miracle they happen at all. Plan the days and general times in your calendar to do the sessions. 

Just like with skiing, having an objective key. As Ski Nerd also refers to think SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic,Time based

Managing Training Stress

Ski fitness can get technical and overwhelming. Remember that effective resistance training for skiing is essentially loading relevant moves and strengthening the muscles that naturally get left out to avoid injury. Simple, practical plans tend to be the most effective ones. Getting stressed about making it perfect? Come back and have a laugh at yourself with this video. 

Keep Moving! Don't Forget to Have FUN!

 STOP... Remember some of the most rad skiers of all time were not afraid to laugh at their own expense....

A legend among legends, Shane McConkey certainly lived an epic life that will not be forgotten! Keen to GIVE ER, with a whole new meaning, adding life to the days. Rocking "Saucer Boy" keeping it real and poking fun at the inflated egos. 

WARNING:  This video contains some RAD stunts! The likelihood of it igniting your SKI STOKE is REAL HIGH!!! 

Remember You were warned! Also, skiing is dangerous, if you are going to try some of these stunts, at least get it on video!!! Be aware this video does contain brief nudity and some redneck skier humour! If that's going to offend you... well... don't watch it then ;p

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About the author 

Jessi Morris

Ski bum by day, Athletic Therapist by night, life is better in the mountains, that's why I hardly ever leave. I live full time in Bear Lodge on Mount Washington where I have my own clinic set up for injury prevention, injury management, and skier specific strength. I ski because I love it. Refining technique keeps me on my toes. Plus, it allows me to nerd out on the anatomy, physiology and overall biomechanics of it which is totally my jam! Cheers to new ski buddies and more ski stories! 

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1 year ago

Getting strong and developing your fitness is a controllable element. I am a big advocate of controlling the controllable. I can’t control the weather or the snow conditions. I have limited ability to control the number of days I spend on a mountain, governed by the fact that I live a long way from a skiable hill and despite pouring as much of our resources into skiing as possible, it’s still not enough. I can, however, somewhat control my fitness. It’s always a frustrating mystery, even with some high level skiers, how they don’t optimise their potential and neglect physical,… Read more »

1 year ago
Reply to  Jessi Morris

Have a listen to Tom Gellie’s podcast with Warren Jobbitt from a couple of years ago when he talks about the posterior kinetic chain in efficient skiing. Tom also talks about it extensively in his videos, particularly those about athletic stance.

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