Snow Sport Conditioning: Sports Physical Therapy in Denver

Although summer still lingers, winter’s on its way. Many of us anticipate the joys of skiing – downhill and cross-country, snowboarding and snowshoeing. Are you in shape for snow sports?

If you stayed active during the warm weather, you may have a base level of fitness. Running, bicycling, swimming, hiking and other high-energy pursuits keep the cardiovascular system primed and muscles strong. However, summer activities often don’t prepare you for many components of snow sports. How’s your squat? Your balance? Your core strength? Starting winter sports with a strong body, tuned in the right places, can improve your performance, increase your enjoyment and reduce the risk of injury.

The exercises below train your snow-sport muscles for strength, balance and stability.


Planks strengthen the abdominals and back muscles, essential to making twists and turns as you ski or snowboard.


Front plank:

  • Body in push-up position: Horizontal and face down, arms extended directly underneath the shoulders. Weight supported on hands and toes. Keep back straight, head aligned with the spine.
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds. Lower yourself to floor and rest. Repeat 5-10 times.
  • If you experience lower-back pain in plank position, keep knees and toes on the floor. Keep back straight.

Side plank:  Targets the side abdominal muscles (obliques).

  • Support the body's weight with the feet and one forearm, with the elbow directly underneath the shoulder.
  • Extend other arm along your side. Keep the back straight, head in line with the spine.
  • Push the body into a diagonal position and hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times on both sides.
  • If you experience lower-back pain in plank position, keep knees and toes on the floor. Keep back straight.


Squats strengthen major muscles of the lower body: the gluteus maximi (butt muscles), quadriceps (front thigh muscles) and hamstrings (back leg muscles). These muscles allow you to hold your knees slightly bent as you ski or snowboard down the hill.
  • Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width. Slowly squat down, leading with the hips rather than the knees. Pretend that you are reaching back to sit in a chair. Think of your weight going down through your heels. Keep feet flat on the floor as you lower down and then rise back to standing. (Raising the heels predisposes the knees and lower back to injury.)
  • Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground, you lose form or you’re about to reach the point of pain – whichever comes first.
  • Hold the “down” position for 30-60 seconds. Repeat.


Lunges focus on the gluteus maximi, quadruceps and hamstrings, all vital as you maneuver your skis or snowboard down the hill.
  • Step forward with one leg and lower your upper body, bending your back leg down toward the floor. Keep your feet apart about 24-30 inches.
  • Don’t allow your front knee to extend past your toes as you come down, and keep your front shin perpendicular to the ground.
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times.
  • Push up and back to standing.
  • Repeat lunge with the other leg, or do all the reps with one leg, then switch.

Toe/heel raises

These exercises build up the ankle muscles, helping you shift your body over your skis or snowboard.

  • Stand with feet together (skiers) or feet slightly wider than hip width (boarders) and flex knees to 30-45 degrees.
  • Lift the heels as high as possible without rolling the ankles in or out.
  • Hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat 5-10 times.
  • Relax for a minute or two and repeat the exercise, but this time lift your toes as high as possible without rolling the ankles in or out. Typically you have much less available motion at the ankles compared with heel raises.