Skiing vs. snowboarding: Which is a better workout?


Two beloved winter activities of all snow-dwellers and even people from warm locales are skiing and snowboarding. In fact, for many people, hitting the slopes is the one bright spot of a very long winter. Whether you’re an avid boarder or a beginning skier, here’s what to know about each winter sport as it pertains to burning calories, working the muscles and being prepared:

Muscles used

Different muscles are used during skiing and snowboarding. For example, while snowboarding, you use your quadriceps and hamstrings to get the board moving, and your calves, hamstrings and quadriceps are all used to make turns and guide the board. However, balance is also a huge part of snowboarding, so you engage your core muscles and those in the feet and ankles to stay upright and maintain the often delicate balance required.

Skiing also engages the core muscles for balance and stability, as well as those in the ankles, feet and calves for eversion – or turning the sole of your foot outward to put your skis on their edges. Additionally, the hamstrings and quadriceps are engaged while bending your knees, which helps stabilize the knee joints to prevent ACL tears. But skiing also uses the gluteal complex muscles – in fact, they’re vital for skiing. The stabilize other muscles, assist in flexion and help external leg rotation, which is important for steering your skis. Finally, skiing also engages arm muscles, especially when using poles to drag yourself along on flat surfaces at the bottom of the runs.

Calories burned

In general, even just one hour of downhill skiing or boarding burns an enormous amount of calories. However, there are many variables determining just how many calories one burns, including the intensity of the slopes, the quality of snow, one’s weight and height, the level of effort exerted and the speed you reach.

On average, an adult that weights between 110 and 200 pounds will burn between 250 and 630 calories per hour while snowboarding or skiing, depending on all of the above factors.

Pre-snow sport workout

If you don’t stretch and work the muscles you use for these downhill sports, you’re likely to feel quite sore for at least a few days after. At least a week before heading out on a ski or boarding trip, here are some things you should know, consider and do to be at your peak fitness level for winter sports:

Weight training

Strong muscles will make it easier to last longer on the slopes. Skiing can quickly tire the quadriceps, and the same is true of the calves for snowboarding. You can do weight training for hamstrings, thighs and arm muscles as well as core conditioning exercises. It’s also good to bike to prepare the leg muscles.


Having flexible joints will help reduce your chance of injury. If you don’t feel particularly flexible, start stretching a few weeks in advance of your trip so as not to damage a tendon or a ligament.

Aerobic activity

Skiing and boarding are very aerobically demanding, specially for people who live at lower altitude levels but travel up into the mountains to ski. Before going on your trip, do cardio like swimming, stair training, step aerobics or running – all aerobic activities that will help you deal with the lower oxygen levels.

Exercising and stretching

Here are some good stretches and exercises to help you get prepared for your day in the snow:

  • Side-to-side jumps to help your hip, lower leg and thigh muscles
  • Forward lunges with weights for thighs and core
  • Squats for thighs and core
  • Single weight exercises with weights to hone your balance

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