5 preseason cross-training alternatives for skiers

In recent years preseason cross-training for skiing has turned into big business.

Riding the CrossFit momentum, many gyms have adopted ski-specific workout programs, incorporating circuit training routines designed to get the reps and heart rate up before the lifts start spinning.

But while these classes target ski-specific muscles and might even play ski movies and sweet pump-up music while you get your swell on, the reality is that they are pricey, adding another expense to an already expensive sport.

Don't go inside to get in shape for ski season this year. Photo courtesy of @canipel/Twenty20.
Don’t go inside to get in shape for ski season this year. Photo: Courtesy of canipel/Twenty20.

The good news is that cross-training has been around way longer than mountain-themed gym classes and those $60 performance compression socks they gave you a “sweet deal” on.

In fact, there are a few specific sports that we already enjoy in our free time that, if done consistently, actively prepare us for the slopes.

While it’s true that the best training for skiing is actually going skiing, here are a few fall activities that will have you on the way to your peak mountaintop fitness.

Inline skating

Photo courtesy of @ilovealleyspix/Twenty20.
Photo: Courtesy of ilovealleyspix/Twenty20
Okay, maybe you haven’t gone out for a casual Blade recently, but tuck away that ego and look into it, as inline skating is actually one of the most beneficial, low-impact workouts for skiers.

Targeting the glutes and hips, inline skating is a great way to build up strength around the lower body and core regions while avoiding putting to much weight and strain on the areas. A couple of lengthy cruises around the local bike path every week will pay massive dividends on your next pow day, believe us.

The same effect can be achieved playing hockey, but no guarantees on that low-impact part.


Photo courtesy of @zoeraa/Twenty20.
Photo: Courtesy of zoeraa/Twenty20
Probably the most obvious one in the bunch, but hiking is another great cross-training alternative that, with enough frequency, can seriously aid our ski fitness.

Logging miles at altitude is a perfect road to increased stamina, keeping us out on the hill longer this season (trail running is also helpful for the more speed-inclined).

Additionally, inclines naturally work our hamstrings, hips, glutes and core and uneven terrain forces our ankles, feet and calves into action, providing a full lower body workout.

Downhills can put a lot of strain on our joints, so be careful to step deliberately and keep your hips tucked back while descending.


Photo courtesy of jakwilli/Twenty20.
Photo: Courtesy of jakwilli/Twenty20.
Our favorite European leagues have started up and a few of us are out kicking the ball around in celebration.

The good news? The world’s game is an excellent way to increase lower body strength, especially in the hip and hamstring department. The lateral strength of soccer players caters well to the side-to-side motion of skiing, making those bump runs a little less strenuous.

Also, soccer is a perfect activity for developing balance, strengthening the core and working out the joints to handle extreme angles and positions.

The bad news? Some of that joint strain can lead to injury, and just like skiers, soccer players tend to fall victim to the ACL season-ender more than most other athletes.


Photo courtesy of @finchumfotos/Twenty20.
Photo: Courtesy of finchumfotos/Twenty20
A game of explosive quickness, and both lateral and vertical strength, basketball is actually a great cross-training alternative for skiers that can’t stand the gym.

Short, deliberate movements repeated often during aerobic activity, basketball is intense and works hips and glutes, while also firing the calves and ankles.

There is some risk for joint injury in basketball, so choose your game wisely, but all in all hitting the court is a solid alternative to lower leg circuit training.

Yoga and Pilates

Photo courtesy of @mmarko/Twenty20.
Photo: Courtesy of mmarko/Twenty20.
We all need to get centered once and a while, but how about dedicating that next down dog to downhill skiing? Yoga and Pilates are key for making sure our muscles are loosened and lengthened, something lots of training athletes overlook.

Flexibility goes a long way toward injury prevention and active recovery, helping the likes of Olympic gold medalist Julia Mancuso recover from injury and stay tip-top both in and out of season.

The two practices also dedicate a lot of time to building core strength and are relatively low impact, meaning you can develop muscle strength without breaking down joints. Even better, you can do it just about anywhere.

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