Spending the day skiing is a great way to have fun and it also has the extra benefit of providing some really good exercise. You can definitely tell after a day of skiing that you have worked a wide variety of muscles in your body. You can also be sure that you have burned some calories during your exciting day on the slopes.
While muscle movement and strengthening are very important, many of us are concerned about the cardio side of exercise that skiing provides. It surely keeps you moving and gets your heart rate up and I know that there are often times when I get to the bottom of a run and I am out of breath. But there are also times when I am skiing that it seems easy and I am putting in little effort.
There is no doubt that skiing does provide cardio exercise, but does it really provide an effective amount? How many calories does skiing burn?
The Quick Answer
In general, the average person can burn between 300 and 500 calories an hour while skiing or snowboarding. At first glance, these seem like pretty good numbers and are in line with many other types of aerobic workouts. In reality, these numbers will probably be significantly lower due to the nature of how most people ski.
The Real World Factors
The calories shown above are a range of numbers that can differ due to the person’s weight but there will also be differences due to how the person skis. Let’s take a look in more detail at some of the factors that will affect these numbers.
The first factor, as mentioned above, is weight. The more you weigh, the more calories you will burn. This is true for any exercise not just for skiing.
Type of Skiing
The type of skiing (or snowboarding) will be a factor in the number of calories that you burn. Downhill, nordic, cross-country, and snowboarding will all vary in the number of calories burned. If you want to get an idea of the differences in the types of skiing, take a look at this calorie calculator. Remember that this is just calculating the calories for the activity but it is not considering all the factors that we are discussing here.
Level of Skiing Activity
How active of a skier are you? Do you just ride gently down the beginner’s slope? Do you ski the intermediate slopes and make lots of cuts and turns? Or are you skiing advanced runs with lots of moguls? Of course, the more active of a skier you are, the more calories you will burn.
One thing that we must factor in is the idle time that we spend skiing. You will be spending a fair amount of time in line at the ski lift, on the ski lift and if you are like me, you will probably be taking a few stops or breaks as you make your way down the mountain. All of these need to be factored into the real calorie count.
Skiing most often takes place in the cold weather and it has been shown that being in the cold and exercising in the cold can burn more calories.
Inside the Numbers
As you can see there are a number of factors that will determine how many calories are burnt while skiing. Let’s make a few assumptions for an example and try to calculate the number of calories that a person might really burn in an hour of skiing. While it is impossible to know every factor and get an actual real number of calories that are burned, we can at least come up with something that is a little more accurate.
Let’s start with the following assumptions :
- Weight: 150 lbs
- Ski type: Downhill, with moderate activity
- Calories burned while standing in the cold: 2.5 per minute
- Calories burned while sitting on the chair lift in the cold: 2 per minute
- Calories burned while skiing (moderate activity): 6 per minute
- Calories burned while taking small rests: 1 per minute
Note that the calories per minute were calculated using this calorie calculator. Standing generally burns about 2 calories per minute and sitting burns about 1 calorie per minute and we increased these a little due to the assumption that it would be cold. We only assumed 1 calorie per minute for taking a rest because we are assuming you will be warm at the time you take a rest.
Let’s say that the above skier spends the following amount of time per hour for each part of skiing:
- Total time waiting in line: 10 mins
- Total time on ski lift: 20 mins
- Total time skiing: 26 mins
- Total time resting: 4 mins
We can now calculate the number of calories for each activity with the following:
Time x calories per minute = calories
- Total time waiting in line: 10 x 2.5 = 25 calories
- Total time on ski lift: 20 x 2 = 40 calories
- Total time skiing: 26 x 6 = 156 calories
- Total time resting: 4 x 1 = 4 calories
Adding all of these up we get:
Total calories for all activities in 1 hour = 225 calories
As you can see, even with a generous estimate for the calories burnt while resting, standing in line and on the ski lift, the number of calories comes in quite a bit lower than the estimate above of 300 – 500 calories per hour. We could cut out the resting time but that would only give us about 20 more calories.
In our example we are not able to change the time waiting in line or on the ski lift, these are just a part of skiing that we have to accept. If we really wanted to increase the number of calories, we would need to change our style or type of skiing to something that burns more calories.
Keep in mind that the numbers above are times that we have made up. Your time for waiting in line, riding the chairlift and resting may be very different, which can greatly affect the number of calories you are burning when you ski. You can always keep track of the times you spend on each activity and calculate your own calorie estimate if you would like.
There are quite a few calorie calculators out there and while they really just give us estimates, they are still a good tool to give us some guidance on what we are doing. If you want to try to calculate your own calories for skiing feel free to take a look at the calculator that we have been using here. You can also use this one to calculate many other activities and compare them to your skiing or other outdoor winter activities.
The number of calories that we may burn while skiing is not quite as high as we might have thought. With that being said, don’t let that discourage you, skiing is still great exercise and there are little things that we can do to help increase the number of calories that we burn.
You can do things like increasing the activity or aggressiveness of your skiing, find ways to keep moving while you are in line or on the chair lift and many other things that may help. Just know that no matter how many calories you are burning, you are burning them while having a great time skiing.
Do you know of any ways to increase the calories burned while skiing? We’d love to hear from you, so please leave your comments.
As a young kid, I traveled from Indiana to Colorado where I first learned to ski. Over the years my love for skiing grew and eventually as an adult I was able to move to Colorado where I can always be close to the mountains. Writing about skiing gives me the opportunity to continue to be involved in a sport that I have always enjoyed.