How to Train in the Summer for Cross Country Skiing: A Jackson Hole Guide for Off-season Workouts

Year-round training allows skiers to jump back into their skiing routine as soon as the snowpack gets high enough.

Even though the flowers are in full bloom and the mosquitoes are biting, you can still work on your cross-country ski fitness in the summertime. Off-season workouts enable cross-country skiers to stay fit year-round. Do you know how to stay in shape for year-round conditioning? Continuous training allows skiers to jump back into their skiing routine as soon as the snowpack gets high enough. 

Want to feel ski-ready once the snowflakes start falling? Check out our summer fitness guide and get after it!

Why you should train in the summer

Cross country strength and conditioning involves a wide range of exercises designed to give you ski-related skills through enhanced strength, endurance, flexibility, and mobility.

To build strength, start on the quadriceps and gluteal muscles which will do much of the hard work of moving your body forward and controlling your downward movement when approaching an icy patch. Your abdominal muscles, lats and triceps will help you keep your core upright. Not conditioning properly, can result in serious back injury which can cut your skiing season short. As always consult your fitness trainer or doctor before starting any exercise program for proper form, weight and repetition.

The goal is to be physically and mentally prepared before winter—giving you the upper hand. Summertime strength and conditioning increases your abilities, decreases your risk of injury, and gives you the confidence you need to succeed at cross country skiing.

Establish a good routine

Consistency is key. Plan to workout 5-6 times per week with at least one good rest day. Rest days allow your body to recover. Your muscles need time to repair and heal after workouts. If you have limited time or are just getting used to consistent workouts, try 30-60 minutes of exercise each day. The best thing you can do is get into a routine—even if it doesn’t consist of hard or long workouts yet.

Choose outdoor mountain sports and workouts that are both arm and leg specific

Cross country skiing requires strong arms AND legs which is why you should focus on using both during the summer conditioning months.

These are some of our favorite outdoor activities you can do in Jackson Hole to train for XC skiing:

#1 – Roller Skiing

Olympic and professional cross country skiers use roller skiing as a main exercise during the off season. Roller skiing uses similar movements and mechanics as cross country skiing—making it the perfect summer alternative. Essentially, roller skis help your body remember the exact strength, balance, and mobility it will need to XC ski later this year. 

Roller skis are a sibling to rollerblades—slightly longer than rollerblades and without a brake. To replicate the XC ski experience, start out on flat, well-paved surfaces and then move on to hills after you get the hang of it. 

The bike paths in Jackson Hole give you miles and miles of great roller skiing opportunities. Some of our favorite spots to train on roller skis are the bike path in Grand Teton National Park, the bike path from highway 22 to the end of highway 390 (from the town of Jackson to Teton village), the path along highway 89 from town to Moose, and the south park loop path. Whichever route you choose will give you plenty of space to train!

#2  – Speed hiking with trekking poles

Speed hiking with poles is a great upper and lower body workout. Plus, we have SO many trails within 30 minutes of Jackson. You can hike Game Creek just south of town, Granite Canyon in Grand Teton National Park, or Ski Lake on the pass. The goal is to get your heart rate up and use both your legs and arms while working out. Plus, you get great views of the mountains—a win-win!

#3 – Trail running

Take it up a notch from hiking and start running! Many trail runners use a combination of speed hiking and running. A combination of running and hiking gives you high intensity and low intensity intervals in the same workout. Steep or rocky terrain is typically hiked and hilly up and down terrain is easier for running (especially when you first start trail running workouts). If possible, try to trail run with trekking poles to give you that upper body workout.

We recommend Hagen’s trail, Putt-Putt, Game Creek, Bradley-Taggart, Munger mountain, and Phelps lake. If you’re new to trail running you can always reach out to Teton Trail Runners, a local running club. They run as a group every Tuesday evening. Take a peak on their website for running locations, distance, and difficulty level.

#4 – Biking

Whether you road bike or mountain bike, you engage your quads, work on balance, and strengthen your core. It’s one of the top low-intensity cardio exercises out there! As long as you’re not mountain biking extremely technical terrain, biking is generally a low impact and safe activity. Mountain biking is more of a total body workout whereas road biking is specific to your lower body. 

For mountain biking spots check out Ferrin’s trail in Jackson, Munger mountain down fall creek road, or Mike Harris on the Idaho side of the pass. Great road biking options are the bike path next to highway 89 from town to Jenny lake and the opposite direction from town to Hoback junction. 

Indoor activities you can do this summer to train for Nordic skiing next winter

Sometimes indoor activities are preferable to outdoor ones—even during our beautiful summers in Jackson Hole. Smoke during fire season, thunderstorms, torrential downpours, or work schedule limitations may give you a reason to train inside. 

#1  – Ski Machine

Ski machines are more popular in gyms these days—and for good reason. Ski machines like SkiErg are the cardio machines that give you a love/hate relationship with the gym! Ski machines provide an intense cardio workout. It’s almost as if you were to use a rowing machine upright and with the motion of nordic skiing. Most cardio machines like the elliptical or treadmill focus on the lower body. Ski machines on the other hand are upper body focused. If you’re dealing with aching knees or lower body injuries, ski machines are a great way to stay in shape during the nordic skiing off-season. 

#2  – Pilates 

Pilates are a great way to improve strength, flexibility, and mobility at the same time. Plus, pilates can reduce your risk of injury. Nordic skiers need strong obliques, and abdominals—the muscles responsible for keeping you stable while skiing on hilly or uneven terrain. Plus, many pilates exercises focus on knee strength and stability. It’s no surprise that knee injuries are common among skiers. Do pilates to take some of the stress off your knees while also keeping them in good shape. 

Want to take a pilates class instead of searching the web for pilates exercises? Jackson gyms and exercise studios offer pilates classes taught by instructors who are knowledgeable about ski-related fitness. Check out Align Pilates, Inversion Yoga, Core Pilates of Jackson Hole, VIM, or Pursue. 

#3  – Swimming

Although swimming isn’t what you typically think of when you need to find a new way to train for cross country skiing, it’s extremely effective. Swimming is a full body workout and intense calorie burner. Plus, swimming helps with endurance, muscle toning, overall aerobic fitness, and lung capacity. 

Even if you’re not a great swimmer you can still grab a kick board and kick your legs in a scissors motion, tread water, jog in the water, or jump in the water. If you don’t know where to start, swim lessons or a deep water aerobics class could be an option. 

The Teton County Recreation Center has classes and lap lanes. If you can brave the cold lakes in Grand Teton National Park, you could swim across them as an outdoor training activity. 

#4 – Yoga

Yoga is popular in Jackson Hole for good reason—it’s good for us physically and mentally. Skiers need to regularly stretch to avoid injury, tone muscle, and improve mobility and coordination. Additionally, yoga is a great way to unwind after a few days of intense ski-fit training. It can alleviate stiffness and sore muscles. 

Yoga poses that can get you ready for the ski season are child’s, cat, cow, dragon, and monkey poses. Finish with a few minutes of focused breathing while holding the restorative bridge pose. 

Don’t know where to start at home? Go to a few yoga classes in town. Check out Inversion, Pursue, Home Yoga Studio, Medicine Wheel Wellness, or Akasha.

Closing thoughts: A weekly guideline for summer ski training 

Your summer can be filled with activities that not only help you prepare for nordic skiing this winter, but activities you can enjoy! 

  • Monday  – Trail run with trekking poles
  • Tuesday  – Mountain or road bike
  • Wednesday – Midweek restorative day – yoga or pilates class
  • Thursday  – Swim at the rec center
  • Friday  – Roller ski on a bike path 
  • Saturday – Speed hike up something steep
  • Sunday  –  Rest and recuperate


While there is no single way to effectively train during the off season, our guidelines should give you a place to start. We hope you reach your goals this summer!

Explore JH Nordic



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