Skiing or Snowboarding? It’s a Workout Win-Win.


In case you missed it, it’s cold! For many people, especially the trainers in this gym, that is not the preferred weather. I, on the other hand, love it. So far this winter, cold has meant snow, which brings me to the topic of this post: snowsports. Specifically, skiing versus snowboarding.

Everybody who participates have a stance, and those who don’t are most likely just better than you in both activities and know it. Here, I will expose my bias: I am a snowboarder through and through. However, there is no denying the skills of downhill skiers. I highly doubt this argument will ever truly be settled, so we may as well look at it from a different angle: which is a better workout?

We start with the first exciting way someone thought of to get down a mountain, skiing. According to Snowsports Industries America, alpine skiing burns an average of 500 calories per hour. Men’s Fitness explains that skiing works the “hamstrings, and especially the muscles of your ankles and calves,” citing moguls being a key characteristic of terrain experienced during skiing. Thom Canalichio, a competitive skier and snowboarder, emphasizes the work done by skiing on the outer muscles of the hips due to “that piston-like action of the legs and the push required to turn from edge to edge.”

Snowboarding, on the other hand, requires a different skill set and, as predicted, different stabilizing muscles. Scott Faucett, M.D., of George Washington University and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard teams notes the benefits of snowboarding in core strength due to the requirements put upon the abdomen for balance when one is strapped into a snowboard. Canalicchio explanation of his own fatigue is in accordance with the analysis of Faucett, as he highlights strength demands put upon his lower abdomen and quads.

In terms of the upper body component of these snow-workouts, the situation is a large factor. On flat slopes, skiers often propel themselves with their poles, while snowboards may skate their boards or simply unstrap. Snowboarders do get their share of upper body work in the endless buckling and unbuckling of the bindings. Kevin Jordan, a ski and snowboard instructor at Aspen Snowmass, explains that one is “essentially doing a pushup at least once every run."

In the end, even the quantitative data is not universal. The Compendium of Physical Activities ranks the caloric burn of each activity to be the same, with equal metabolic equivalent (MET) rankings. Additionally, many qualifications must be given based on the intensity at which each activity is performed; obviously, different level of exertion are required to ride a bunny slope, tear up a terrain park, or drop into Corbet's Couloir (if you are unfamiliar with this legendary slope, please take a moment to Google it with fear and amazement).

The only conclusion I feel comfortable drawing from this information is that there is an undeniable workout to be gained from a day on the mountain, and who knows, hitting the slopes may be just the change of pace your winter workouts need. Just remember, both skiing and snowboarding can be improved by your time in the gym. As Faucett puts it, “In the end, both are a good reason to hit the squat rack!”

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