Three Exercises for Backcountry Skiers: Training for a Strong Winter

Why exercise at home for stronger ski days?

Winter is here and it’s time to hit the slopes! As we get our winter gear out, it’s important to think about how to tune up our minds & bodies for the season, too.

One of the best things you can do to stay strong and injury free this winter is to prep with a little strength training. Doing some exercises at home, even in small doses, is a really effective way of staying healthy on your skis. Nothing ruins ski season like being sidelined with an injury!

On top of that, practicing functional movements at home can build the muscle memory to help your technique come together early in the season. By building your endurance and practicing healthy movement patterns in pre-season, you can jump start your season and ski strong all winter long.

Three strength moves for backcountry skiers

We’re going to take you through three moves we love for building strength for ski season. Each of these movements imitates an action that we use in the backcountry. These are all exercises that have direct benefits for the moves we do on our skis.

Move #1: Stagger squats


  • Mimics the position of a side-slope skin track.
  • Builds posterior chain strength and endurance.
  • Great for all levels and easy to do at home!  

How to do stagger squats:

  • Elevate one foot above the other by about 8-12 inches. A yoga block or even a small stack of books works for this.
  • Do a squat!
  • Keep an open “proud” chest and straight spine. Avoid hunching over or collapsing. Focus on controlled and intentional movements.
  • Be sure to do this exercise on both sides!

More tips:

  • Take a moment to notice where your bodyweight goes naturally, and if you tend to favor one side. Then, try shifting it around, weighting the elevated foot and then the lower foot. Finally, look for evenly balanced weight between both feet.
  • Notice where your weight balance is when you feel most stable. There’s no “right” weight balance for this exercise - instead we’re looking to build awareness of where our bodyweight is & the ability to shift it as needed to achieve more stability. 
  • 2-3 sets of 6-10 squats on each side is a good starting point.
  • If you’re ready for a tougher challenge, try adding a gentle jump at the top of the squat, focusing on landing lightly and evenly.

Move #2: Ski twists


  • Builds core & lower body strength and endurance.
  • Good practice for keeping your chest centered and strong while your lower body twists with each turn.
  • Reinforces using internal torque to power your ski turns.

How to do ski twists:

  • Place your feet close together, bending your knees into a partial squat.
  • For your arms, you have two options: either hold them out in front of you at a 90-degree angle, as if you were holding ski poles, or hold a lightweight object like the ball in the photo above.
  • Use small stepping or hopping motions, rotate your lower body to the diagonals while you keep your upper body facing forward.
  • From neutral, step or hop to the right diagonal, then to the left diagonal, and back to the right again.

More tips:

  • Protect your joints by practicing landing lightly like a spring or a cat!
  • Play with feeling the tension build in your body as you twist, which creates explosive power when you move out of the twist and back to center.
  • 2-3 sets of 20 reps is a good starting point.

Move #3: Twisting plank tucks


  • Imitates the action of the twisting contractions and realignment in downhill skiing.
  • Builds core stability and endurance.
  • Works a little arm strength, too!

How to do twisting plank tucks:

  • Get into a tall plank position on your hands, like the top of a push-up.
  • Place both feet on gliding discs. If you don’t have these, try using paper plates or dish towels.
  • Moving both feet at the same time, rotate hips and knees to the side and draw your knees forward toward one elbow. You can make this move a bit easier by pulling one knee forward at a time.
  • Move your feet back to their starting position, then repeat, going toward the opposite elbow.

More tips:

  • 2-3 sets of 12-20 reps is a good starting point.

Mindful winter training tips

Bringing our best selves to the outdoors isn’t just about how strong our bodies are. Training our minds is just as important. Seeking out and equipping yourself with mindset tools and an awareness of how to work with your nervous system as an outdoor adventurer will help you have better adventures all around. Your mental health needs care and training just like your physical health!

One of those mindset tools is titration, which refers to adding challenge in small doses without overwhelming your system. Often we feel pressure to push through and overdo it, or are in a rush to get ‘the most’ out of our training time. Overtraining can not only hurt your body, it can also affect your mood, situational awareness, and how much you enjoy your time outside. When adding strength training to your plan, be mindful of how much you add and how quickly.

We recommend starting at a low level of difficulty and adding challenges one step at a time. Take time to pause after the challenge and notice how it felt for you. Let your body recover and return to a feeling of safety. Once you have rested and processed, consider whether you want to add something harder, stay at your current level, or even switch it up to something easier.

Growing your skills with your mindset and nervous system helps you stay safer outdoors. There are so many benefits this has, but one example is improving your decision-making and risk management as a result of improved awareness of both your body and your surroundings. Another mindset example is self-talk: letting go of unhelpful self-talk like weakest link syndrome means we also have more fun! It’s a win-win.

More ways to have a strong winter

If you want to dive into even more about making the most of this winter, here are a few resources to check out:


And to wrap up, if you’re in a place where investing more time on your winter training would be supportive to you, we invite you to join Ski Babes: Online Mind & Body Training for Winter! We created Ski Babes to help you train for winter recreation through structured-but-flexible workouts, a supportive community, anti-diet culture nutrition guidance, and nervous system-aligned training. 

Join us for Ski Babes and train from your living room for a strong, intentional winter season. Our Late Winter Session starts January 16, 2023. Learn more or enroll for Ski Babes here.

See you there!


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