Gliding along freshly groomed snow as brisk mountain air hits your lungs, soaring through snow covered trees as you skate down the trail – in the fall, when it’s grey and cold out, skiers dream of the upcoming season. Getting in shape for Nordic skiing is key to making those dreams a reality.

Trying to make it up that first small hill and having to stop to catch your breath, or having to cut your ski shorter than you want because you are pooped, or waking up the next morning with burning muscles makes that first ski a little less enjoyable. So if you start your winter training now, your winter skiing will be that much more enjoyable. Here are our favorite tips to get in shape for Nordic skiing.

How to get in shape for Nordic skiing

Aerobic: Long and slow, work on your endurance

Nordic skiing is the definition of a cardio workout. In order to cover all the kilometers you’d like – without having to strop frequently to catch your breath – working on your cardio endurance is key. Low heart rate endurance workouts are essential for creating a solid base for the season. The key for building long term endurance is long and slow. 

Workout ideas: Long hikes (be sure to add some hills in), roller skiing, mountain biking, trail running; anything that gets you moving and breathing at a conversational pace. Running is a great way to train without having rollerskis. If you are looking to work your way into running, try slowly working your way up by going on a walk run. Start with a walk-run (1 min run, 1 min walk) then slowly work up to running more and for a longer period of time.

Where to go: Start your preseason workout on classic local trails in Jackson Hole like Hagen, Game Creek, or along the Snake River on the Emily’s Pond Levee.

Anaerobic: Devote time to high intensity training 

If you are really looking to get in shape for Nordic skiing this season, a high intensity interval workout a week is essential. A high intensity workout is where you push your body to a level higher than what you are comfortable with, over and over. The key to interval training is consistency. 

Workout Ideas: For me, personally I like to use time, so choose a time, let’s say 5 minutes and push yourself at around 80 percent capacity for 5 minutes. Then, take a small break (less than that five minute time) and do it again. As you get better, try increasing your intervals or the length of time you are sustaining that high intensity.

Working on balance is essential

In order to be a good nordic skier you must be efficient. Being efficient means having great form, and great form means having good balance to maximize glide time. Balance is the secret to being a great skier.

Workout ideas: Yoga, core strengthening, and stretching are all great ways to improve your balance. Slacklining is also a fun way to try a new skill and get that balance practice in.

Where to go: Inversion Yoga, Akasha Yoga, Pursue, Core Pilates, Teton Yoga Shala

Don’t forget the upper body

Nordic skiing is one of the most if not the most hardcore endurance sport. Nordic skiing is a WHOLE body sport. In order to get in shape for Nordic skiing, you need arm strength to power your pull push. If you think about it, anytime you get to a hill your arms, abs, back, and shoulders are doing the brunt of the work.

Workout Ideas: To get your upper body ready, aim for 10-20 pushups and arm dips a day and try to incorporate some arm strengthening into your weekly exercise routine.

Strength workouts for nordic skiing

Core: Trunk Circuits

The three fundamentals of cross country skiing are balance, weight shift, and timing. The first two depend on strength training.  A solid upper body that stays stable as you stride over the legs is dependent on a strong core. 

In an effort to get in shape for Nordic skiing, try holding each of the following for 30 seconds to a minute increasing the time as you get stronger: Plank, Side Plank, Bridge, and Superman. 

Leg strength: single leg squats 

One of the most fundamental parks of skiing, classic, skate, backcountry, or even downhill is balancing on skis. In almost all forms of skiing you are doing some sort of squat.  Leg strength is essential for balancing on moving skis. Single leg squats are a perfect way to practice this skill. 

Single Leg squats, Side lunges, Squats, Step ups

Arm Strength: powerful pull

As discussed earlier, having a strong upper body is essential for being a strong nordic skier. Working on your pushups, pull ups and dips are a great way to get stronger. 

In the fall, when its grey and cold out, we all know it’s hard to get off the couch and out the door. The first couple times are the hardest but once you get in the groove it becomes so much easier, and will make getting out the door to skiing this winter a breeze!

Explore JH Nordic



  • May JHNordic Report
    Skate Ski to Ski Lake Watch the video! Scotty McGee shares his awesome skate ski adventure with us this past week! Crust is maturing at mid elevations. Optimal conditions exist within a short window of time as temperatures recently are rising to 40 degrees by 10am. Early starts pay off! Keep an eye out for the second or third clear night in a row and cool day time temperatures for best conditions. You can utilize… Read More