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At first glance, it might seem like skiers aren’t actually doing much work. After all, they’re simply standing on their skis and sliding down the mountain… right?

Well, as any skier or snowboarder will tell you, it’s actually one of the best forms of exercise out there.

I remember when I was teaching snowboarding every single day on Grouse Mountain here in British Columbia. As an instructor, it seemed like I was always looking back up the slopes with my toe edge in and my heels raised.

does skiing burn calories

Let me tell you one thing:

By the end of that season, I was insanely sore. But on the plus side, my calves got huge – and my entire lower body felt stronger than ever before. 

But I know what you’re thinking:

“What about the calories? What number of calories an hour do you actually burn while skiing?”

It’s more complicated than it looks, but on average an intermediate to expert skier may burn around 350-600 calories per hour. Though it depends on a variety of factors. Let’s delve deeper and find out the number of calories you burn while skiing!

Is Skiing Good Exercise for Burning Calories?

Various studies have confirmed that skiing is an insanely good workout. One study found that alpine skiing is roughly equivalent to rowing or cycling, which makes it an endurance-focused sport that is great for your cardiovascular system.

Time Magazine quoted Dr. Josef Niebauer as saying: “Alpine skiing is a mix of endurance and resistance training. It has positive effects on the heart and circulation, as well as peripheral muscles—predominantly the legs.”

skiing calories burned

You’ll find yourself being pushed to the limits in more ways than one. Your leg muscles will take a real beating, but you’ll also struggle to catch your breath when hitting moguls and rough terrain. 

Personally, I like to take at least one or two rests on long runs. It helps me catch my breath, enjoy the winter landscape, and regain my focus. 

This should show you just how demanding skiing and snowboarding really are, and it’s not just a matter of standing on your skis and doing nothing while sliding down to the bottom of the slopes. 

Here are a few specific health benefits associated with skiing:

  • Boosts Flexibility
  • Boosts Core Muscles
  • Boosts Lower Body
  • Improved Mood
  • Improved Insulin Resistance
  • Boosted Glucose Metabolism
  • Lower Blood Pressure
  • Lower Blood Lipids
  • Lower Heart Rate
  • Lower Arterial Stiffness

Why Skiing Burns More Calories than Other Sports

Skiing helps you burn calories for a number of reasons. Firstly, this is an “aerobic sport,” which means that it requires more energy sources for extra fat-burning power. 

Aerobic sports like skiing also boost your breathing rate and improve overall endurance. 

Calories Burn in Skiing

When you’re on a pair of skis, you need to keep your knees bent in an isometric position. In other words, your quads are always activated, and this is a key aspect of why skiing helps you burn such a high number of calories per hour. 

Your feet also help you burn calories per hour, as their movement activates your shin and calf muscles each time you make a wide turn on the slopes. 

How Many Calories Does Skiing Burn?

Now let’s get to the question on everyone’s minds: How many calories do you burn skiing? At the end of the day, there’s no universal answer to this question. Why?

Because it all depends on how hard you’re willing to push yourself, how long you stay on the mountain, and how many breaks you take throughout the day.

That said, most people can expect to burn about 500 calories an hour on the mountain. 

This means that when you finish skiing for the day, you should have burned at least a few thousand calories.

Your total calorie burn also depends on the type of skiing you choose – a subject we’ll get to in just a second. 

If you’re not quite “feeling the skiing calorie burn” while alpine skiing, try these strategies:

  • Walk Up the Slope Instead of Taking the Chair Lift
  • Challenge Yourself
  • Take Fewer Breaks
  • Ski for Longer

That being said, sometimes riding chairlifts is the only real way up the mountain. 

Which Type of Skiing Burns the Most Calories?

calories burned snowboarding

Without a doubt, the type of skiing that burns the most calories is cross-country skiing. Spend a few minutes watching cross-country skiing, and you’ll immediately see why. 

Unlike downhill skiers, these athletes can’t just rely on gravity to carry them to their destination.

Instead, nordic skiers must push and skate with their skis and poles over flat snow. Sometimes, they even have to climb up hills on their skis.

All of this means that they can easily burn over 1,000 calories an hour. 

In other words, cross-country skiing burns calories at twice the rate of resort skiing. It’s no wonder why so many experts say that cross-country skiing is great exercise

With all that said, resort skiing and snowboarding can also be extremely demanding under certain conditions. While coasting down the bunny hill super slow probably won’t burn calories per hour to the same extent as climbing up a nordic track, things get a little more even when you start dealing with black diamond ski runs.

These expert downhill runs are often extremely steep. The steeper the incline, the more you have to work to remain balanced. In other words, you’re fighting against gravity – a great way to feel that skiing burn. 

So tough, in fact, that you might end up shedding hundreds of calories an hour in just a single run during your snow day. 

Throw in a few moguls, and you have clear evidence that alpine skiing can be just as good for shedding calories per hour as cross-country skiing under certain circumstances. 

Do Calories Count on a Ski Holiday?

does snowboarding burn calories

One of the best things about a ski holiday is the fact that you don’t really need to watch what you eat. 

As long as you’re shedding plenty of calories per hour on the slopes, you can go nuts when it comes to lunches and dinners.

Personally, I’m always a big fan of hot chocolates, although lately, I’ve been reaching for hot apple ciders.

In fact, it might actually be beneficial for you to eat foods with a lot of warm fats, like poutine or a burger with fries. These foods will give you plenty of energy to get out there and burn even more calories per hour

Does the Cold Weather Help You Burn More Calories While Downhill Skiing?

how many calories do you burn snowboarding

Interestingly enough, the weather affects the number of calories per hour you burn.


Because cooler temperatures force your body to burn more heat in order to keep you warm. This process helps you burn even more calories per hour, pushing your workout even further. 

This means that heading up the mountain to work out is almost always a better option compared to lifting weights at home or going for a run in your city. 

How Many Extra Calories Can I Eat on Holiday Without Gaining Weight?

calories burned downhill skiing

It all depends on your time spent actually skiing or snowboarding. 

For example, let’s say you go on a five-day ski or snowboard holiday. If you’re out there skiing the slopes every single day, you really don’t need to worry about what you eat. 

As long as you’re skiing and pushing yourself to the limit, it’s going to be very difficult to replace the calories per hour that you burn on the snow. 

Let’s do some simple math:

Assuming you ski for 6 hours, you’ll burn approximately 3,000 calories per day. 

Now let’s take one of the fattiest, most calorie-rich meals imaginable: The cheeseburger with fries. This meal contains about 1,000 calories. 

Remember, you need to eat to maintain your energy levels and keep your muscles strong. 

Even if you ate three cheeseburgers and fries (one for breakfast, lunch, and dinner), you still wouldn’t gain any weight because you’d burn away all your calories. 

Now, this diet would prevent you from gaining weight, but you’d actually lose weight if you chose a slightly healthier diet. 

Let’s assume you save your cheeseburger for dinner and opt for healthier options for breakfast and lunch for a total of 2,000 calories per day. This would cause you to burn a net total of 1,000 calories each day, which would cause you to lose weight at a fairly rapid pace.

Things become even more healthy if you compare nordic skiing to alpine skiing. 

In this situation, you’d burn 6,000 calories per day (assuming you kept going for six hours). Even if you ate three cheeseburger meals each day, you’d still end up shedding 3,000 calories and insane rates of weight loss. 

You also don’t really need to worry about grabbing a dessert or a cake at lunchtime. If you’ve been skiing for three hours, you definitely deserve it. It won’t really affect your muscles. 

Is Skiing the Perfect Way to Get Those Calories Burned in the Winter?

how many calories burned skiing

If you’re trying to figure out how many calories per hour you’ll burn on your upcoming ski trip, I gotta tell you something:

You’re kinda missing the whole point of skiing. A ski trip is supposed to be fun!

Just sit back, hit some nice runs, and hey – if you end up shedding calories in the process, that’s an awesome bonus!

Pushing yourself too hard can have dire consequences. Wanting to stay healthy is great, but you also need to know how to pace yourself. The last thing you want is a major injury because you were so obsessed with shedding calories that you skied off a cliff. 

Categories: Skiing

Elliot Figueira

Elliot Figueira is an experienced snowboarder and kayaker who lives in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. Although he started off as a skier, he switched to riding when he was 12 and never looked back. During his college years, he worked as a snowboard instructor at Grouse Mountain near Vancouver. Elliot prefers snowboards and equipment made ethically in Canada.


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