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How many calories does skiing burn | Ridestore Magazine

We love skiing for so many reasons. It brings together family and friends, it's wonderful to be out in nature, the views are breathtaking, and the food and drink in ski resorts rivals that of the best restaurants. And somewhere down that list (certainly not number one) is skiing and snowboarding being pretty great workouts. And though it’s probably not time to swap your monthly gym membership for a season pass, it’s still a good workout. But it begs the question — just how good of a work out is it? How many calories does skiing burn? We know that everyone is dying to know: are the burned calories enough to cancel out all that melted French cheese and fresh pastry you ate? Well, let’s find out.

Before diving in and exploring how many calories skiing burns, remember that you will always look fantastic regardless of how hard you ride; check out our ski jackets and ski pants.

Table of contents

Is skiing good exercise?

The short answer is yes, of course skiing is good exercise. However, the term "good exercise", like so many other subjective statements in this article, depends on many variables. Skiing a leisurely blue run between lunch and apres ski probably isn't as effective as a day touring in waist-deep powder or negotiating steeper terrain, leg-burning moguls, or tight trees. Generally speaking, skiing is a fabulous workout, but it depends on the type of riding you are doing. One thing that is arguably the most important point to note is that skiing is good exercise because it's fun. Exercise, the ability to move, stretch, be active, is one of life’s great luxuries, and a total pleasure. To live a healthy life in general, exercise is pretty important, whether you’re getting it in on or off the mountain. And that’s why skiing is so brilliant, because it’s not only exercise, but also really fun, too.

Let's dig into a bit of the science to more accurately answer whether skiing is good exercise. Specifically, downhill skiing more or less equates to cycling or rowing workouts. But, of course, negotiating deep powder will push your heart rate higher than a relaxed groomed run. Though all types of skiing provide cardio-metabolic benefits, including improved insulin resistance, body composition and glucose metabolism, the harder you ski, the better the work out. Skiing also promotes stable blood pressure, blood lipids and heart rate. And it also appears to reinvigorate blood vessels and overall cell health — all good things.

Is skiing good exercise?

Downhill skiing health and fitness benefits

Downhill skiing is excellent exercise, but most importantly, it has infinite health and fitness benefits. Skiing is, in essence, a form of interval training, which is universally understood to improve your overall fitness level and help you live a long and healthy life. 

This also extends to the complexity of the movements in skiing. All the various moves, carving, tight turns and sweeping turns, stopping, jumping, and much more, create eccentric, isometric and concentric muscle work that fire up your lower body muscles. But, again, this is pretty unique to skiing. Few other workouts engage such a wide range of knee and hip movements involving so many lower body muscles.

But skiing isn’t just the downhill part. The whole sport also means carrying heavy skis around the resort, often over your shoulder, which helps tone your shoulders and biceps. In addition, walking in ski boots helps tone and engage your calves. 

But above everything, the most significant and most impactful health and fitness benefit of skiing is the simple fact you are outside. Spending more time outdoors, particularly in the mountain air (which improves oxygen flow in the blood — training at altitude is a proven way to increase fitness levels), extends your life and maintains higher happiness levels in general.

Factors that affect calorie burn

Many factors will affect your calorie burn, and it's important to be aware of those numerous factors when considering how many calories skiing burns. All these variants will make your snow-filled workout more efficient and productive. From what you ate during the day to how energetic you are feeling, let's dive a little deeper into the factors that affect calorie burn. 

Factors that affect calorie burn

Level of effort

The level of effect is a huge one. It's the same principle as when you do any workout. Imagine yourself at the gym one day, you're feeling tired, and you simply drag yourself from one machine to the next doing the bare minimum. Your heart rate doesn't really increase, you don't work up a sweat, and consequently, your calorie output reflects this. But the next day, you are feeling full of energy, you dive into the workout and put 100% effort into every move. It's the same with skiing, simply getting off the lift, skiing down a well-groomed run and doing some very relaxed turns won't raise your heart rate a whole lot. But really getting into the turns, carving, tensing your core muscles as you move and stay balanced, using all the space you have in front of you, perhaps even jibbing on the slope a little, will all massively increase the intensity of the workout, increasing the calorie burn.

Fitness level

Your fitness levels also contribute to the fluctuating level of calories burned. As your fitness level increases, you can go for longer, ski more runs, start earlier and finish later because you are less tired. This means you will gradually increase the calories burned by increasing your skiing difficulty and duration. However, if you don't challenge yourself to try new things on the slopes, do more runs, or experiment with new types of skiing, the same "workout" or day of skiing will burn fewer calories over time as your body adapts. So, another life lesson is to continue challenging yourself, no matter your level. Keep pushing what you perceive as your physical limits and keep growing in your fitness and ability.

Type of skiing

There is a big difference in the physical energy output of, let's say, a steady afternoon ski on a red run versus a day in the snowpark or a day freeriding where you hike for your turns. Therefore the type of skiing is a huge factor in determining how many calories you will burn. Of course, a leisurely scoot around the well-groomed pistes still burns calories but if you want to really put yourself to the test, try playing in the snowpark. The calorie  output will be hugely increased if you focus on a few features and you climb/walk back to the top instead of taking the lift. Even better if you explore off-piste riding, which is already a much more physically demanding type of skiing, but try boot packing or touring for your run as this is a super impactful cardio workout. 

Calorie calculator

calorie calculator

So how exactly do you calculate your calories burnt? Well, we have some excellent news for you! First, you can easily do this automatically. We have found a great website that allows you to simply input your weight and the amount of time skiing to give you an estimate. What's even better is you can also see how the different types of skiing will impact the calories burnt. 

Click here to test it out.

Remember though, the most important factor is your enjoyment, and focusing on calories isn't healthy, nor does it promote overall health and well being. Still, we will admit, we were super curious too.

Calorie-burning workouts: how does skiing compare?

 Once you go down the fitness rabbit hole, it's natural to start asking questions like, “if skiing is such a good workout and helps burn calories, how does it compare to other types of exercise?”

Does snowboarding burn as many calories as skiing?

There has been an age-old war of the sports between skiing and snowboarding, with snowboarding often being referred to as "the dark side". But it turns out snowboarding might actually be more accurately named if we referred to it as the "cardio side". Snowboarding inches ahead of skiing on the calorie-burn barometer, though not by a considerable margin. Overall, a moderate day on the slopes on a snowboard would provide a slightly higher calorie burn than the same day skiing. 

The significant difference is in the muscle groups used when snowboarding. Skiing and snowboarding both require strong legs and a solid core, but boarding demands increased flexibility, particularly in the upper body.

Does snowboarding burn as many calories as skiing?

Other winter sports that burn calories

Try cross country skiing if you want a more intense, full-body workout. Cross country targets all major muscle groups, including arms, back, abs, obliques, glutes, and legs.And why not experiment with your cross country skiing workout by using interval training? Turn your afternoon of cross country skiing into a HIIT session by increasing your speed for short periods followed by short recovery periods.  

If you love to get up close and personal with the mountains and wildlife and want an effective calorie-burning workout, you might also want to try snowshoeing? Snowshoeing offers a tremendous lower-body workout. Snowshoeing targets your glutes, calves, hip, quads and hamstrings. In addition, your calorie output will further increase if you snowshoe along a steeper trail. 

There you have it. Skiing offers us so much — yes, it's a fabulous calorie-burning workout, but the passion, enjoyment and opportunity to spend precious time with friends and family is the real prize. So get out there and enjoy skiing!

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