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The Fitness Movements Used in Downhill Skiing

written by: Michelle Burton • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 7/6/2011

The main body movements in downhill skiing, if done correctly, can lead to weight loss, increased muscle tone and lower body strength, and overall aerobic conditioning. Much like yoga poses, downhill skiing moves increase balance, flexibility, and coordination.

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    Main Body Movements Used in Downhill Skiing

    The main body movements used in downhill skiing require the use of the major muscles in the legs including the hamstrings and quadriceps. The abdominal muscles are engaged at all times and the triceps are used as well. Skiers must use the hamstrings and quadriceps to move downhill by using one of four movements including sliding, slipping, skidding, and carving.

    Sliding motions require the body and skis to remain pointing forward in the direction of the downhill path. Slipping requires the skier to engage the leg muscles in order to move sideways downhill at an angle. Both movements require the use of the triceps for strong and accurate pole maneuvers. The abdominal muscles are engaged to help control body posture. Skidding is a combination of sliding and skipping, while carving is a bit more advanced than other body movements.

    In addition to using all of the muscles of the body to create quick, cutting, tip and tail movements through the through snow, carving requires a higher level of concentration, agility, balance, coordination, speed, and strength. Other main body movements used in downhill skiing include pressure control movements, edging movements, balancing movements, and rotary movements. Pressure control movements require the use of the muscles in the legs to manage and manipulate pressure variations between the snow and skis.

    Edging movements require the skier to use the entire body to adjust the edge angle of the skis in relation to the snow. The leg muscles are used to turn and guide the skis for rotary movements, and the abdominal muscles, leg muscles, ankles, knees, hips, and spine are used for balancing movements to help maintain balance when heading downhill. The skier will also use his head and arms for balance by moving them in the direction need to maintain balance.

    Because skiing requires a wide range of movements in intervals, it forces skiers to commit to short bursts of exertion and quick controlled body movements – much like a sprinter. This type of interval workout results in more fat and calories burned in a short period of time. Depending on how much you weigh, skiing can result in 300-431 calories burned per hour for light effort, 350-518 calories for moderate effort, and 472-690 calories per hour for vigorous effort.

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    About Downhill Skiing

    Downhill skiing or “Alpine skiing” is one of the most popular winter sports in America with more than 6 million people participating each year. Avid skiers may seek out remote mountain ranges to tackle, while may novices may opt for a more controlled environment such as a popular ski resort. Seasoned skiers understand that downhill skiing is more than just a fun winter sport. Downhill skiing is an athletic challenge that requires fitness, strength, coordination, and balance. So whether you are a novice or a veteran skier, downhill skiing will ultimately result in head-to-toe conditioning.

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    Snow Sports Industries of America

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    Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (Mayo Clinic)

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    Scottsdale, AZ 85259

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