Summer Cross-Country Ski Training: Keep Your Form Without Snow

Skiers are made in the summer. It is their off-season ski training routine that enables them to give their best performance and enjoy the most out of their ski season – those few months that every skier eagerly waits for.

In order to stay in form during the summer months, you need to make a training plan that involves endurance training and other forms of exercises, so that your muscles remember how to work when it is time to ski!

What is Dryland Training?

Commonly known as ‘strength and conditioning,’ dryland training involves any physical activity skiers perform without snow in the off-seaosn to enhance one’s physical strength, endurance, flexibility, and mobility. Typically, dryland training serves the purpose of helping you physically prepare for the ski season. Skiers involve alternative sports and workout to train their body and get themselves in shape before the actual season begins.

Regardless of the method employed, the end goal of dryland training remains the same: pre-season training to ensure the individual is in the best shape when the season kicks off. This not only helps build stamina and strength so you can perform better, but it will also help prevent any injuries during the season.

An ideal summer or off-season workout involves the following factors of training:

  • Muscle Memory
  • Endurance
  • Strength
  • Balance

6 Ways to Get Ready for Cross-Country Skiing in Summer

If you have been gasping for air and struggling hard to maintain your balance while cross-country skiing on rolling meadows, and wondering why your back and shoulders are not bending as they should be, it is a sign you need to have an off-season practice routine as soon as the ski season finishes up.

You must make sure your muscles do not forget the cross-country skiing motions even in the off-season. Indulge in some form of exercise on a daily basis, at least 5 to 7 hours a week. You don’t have to make these hours strenuous and boring. Instead, participate in interesting physical activities that are centered towards fun.

Keep your exertion level low as your body does need a resting period to come into full form when skiing starts. Involve in moderate level activities including sports and once your body gets the rhythm, try endurance workouts to challenge your muscles.

1. Roller Skiing

It is great for: Muscle Memory, Endurance and Balance

You can do cross-country skiing even without snow. Since cross-country skiing has become an Olympic sport with professional athletes, there was a need to be able to train regardless weather conditions – and summer in particular.

Dryland training has produced a series of new sport equipment to satisfy the needs of avid cross-country skiers, some better, some worse. And while many don’t consider these equal to snow cross-country skiing, they are in fact a legitimate alternative to nordic skiing. One of these is roller skiing:

Using roller skis is actually pretty similar to cross-country skiing, therefore it greatly helps your body to remember the exact kind of movements it carried out last season, in order to do the same in the coming one. Taking up roller skiing to keep your ski skills sharp could well be the solution. They have the same balance, and you can use most of the regular techniques from winter the same way, only with lighter outfit. Thus, you are able to keep your level of performance all year long.

Roller skis are similar to rollerblades – without brakes and having a much longer physical appearance. When you roller ski on hard ground like concrete or asphalt, your body undergoes similar movements as when you do XC skiing. Once you master roller skiing on a flat surface, add some obstacles here and there along with elevated surfaces to replicate your ski experience. This will help you with the body balance, strength building, some form of endurance, and to top it all – the closest replica of your XC skiing that you can get in summers.

roller skiing

2. Working-out With a Ski Machine

It is great for: Muscle Memory and Endurance

Another popular alternative is the cross-country ski machine. These fantastic in-door alternatives are similar to elliptical machines, but they closely imitate the movements of cross-country skiers. Cross-country ski machines are perfect for keeping you fit during the summer, however you are unable to practice your cross-country ski technique the way you can with roller skis.

If your only goal is to keep your training schedule in summer, it’s an excellent choice for a comprehensive, full body workout with the same level of intensity as on the snow.

3. Using a Balance Board

It is great for: Balance

You have to fine-tune your balance in the off-season in order to prepare your body for keeping a balance on the snowy terrain and maneuvering effortlessly over the slopes.

A nice way to do so is to get yourself a balance board which is a great way to get a sharp balance as well as to strengthen your lower body muscles. Start by balancing on the board with both your feet and then try doing it with one foot. Do squats or dribble a ball, or even invent your own balancing exercises – this will not only keep your muscles busy but your brain too!

Balancing is a necessary act for good skiing. If you do not have a balance board and do not intend to buy one, you can still train your body to balance by some similar activities. Stand on one foot while lifting your other foot right in front of you and moving it in different directions without losing the balance. Repeat this with the other foot.

4. Explosive Exercises

It is great for: Strength

The off-season time is not only a great way to stay in form, but also to improve your explosive speed and work on muscle power. Make a strength training program that involves a combination of exercises that use your muscles (upper and lower body as well as core muscles) in rapid bursts. This routine will train your muscles on how to respond quickly and with increased power. Such exercises are known as Plyometric Exercises.

The Plyometric exercises, also known as Plyos or Jump Training, may include lunges, quick jumps, clap pushups, reverse lunge with knee up, etc. Research has proven that Plyometric exercises can build muscles, improve your athletic performance, burn calories and hence fat, and improve your speed and power.


You can go for a gym-based weight lifting session a couple of times per week (replace some days of Plyos with strength training, and make a routine that you can follow for weeks until ski season arrives). Your strength training gym sessions will help you understand and realize the areas your body needs help in.

You will be able to identify your weak muscles and those that you can count on. Once you do that, you have to work on your weak muscles and train your stronger ones so they compliment each other on the slopes. Remember that cross-country skiing requires a different set of muscles involving the core, along with the upper and lower body.

5. Nordic Walking

It is great for: Endurance

Walking at your normal pace is a great way to train your leg muscles for shuffling techniques for your skiing. When you walk at a faster pace, you train your leg muscles for classic striding. To make your walking a bit more similar to classic striding, go for an uphill ski walk.

Nordic walking (or ski walking) is a classic dryland drill and helps you become a classic strider. You can also use ski poles while you are doing so. Ski poles not just mimic your skiing posture while you ski walk, they also reduce the jerk that negatively impacts your ankles and knees while you ski walk downhill.


Many pro skiers who vouch for dryland training believe that uphill ski walking provides your body with a better training mechanism than running. Start with simple ski walking for a shorter duration and then keep on adding variations into it and increase the time. You will notice that your endurance level will slowly improve, and you will be able to notice the changes as early as in a couple of weeks.

6. Running

It is great for: Endurance and Balance

Running trains your leg muscles for classic striding on snow and is a great way to tone your body and make it ready for skiing without using much of any equipment. To make sure your running helps you with the skiing, press your toes and ball of your feet and push off with your toes while you run.

Glide is a very important factor for cross-country skiers and running does not help in that aspect. Also, you do not have any problems in getting the grip or keeping your balance while you run, but you may have this issue when you try to balance yourself on the slopes.

But you can practice uphill running to sharpen your skiing skills. It really helps if you go for huge strides. A big bound in an uphill run is quite similar in technique to climbing uphill while skiing. This bounding style when you run uphill is often referred to as hill bounds or moose-hoofs.

running training

To further help yourself, you can focus on emphasizing weight transfer from one side to the other and push off with your ball of the foot and toe while you continue to run. Some skiers while they go through dryland training prefer holding ski poles while they run to mimic the skiing posture and using body muscles accordingly.

It is better to start this type of dryland training with less vigorous motion and for a shorter time interval. Gradually, keep on increasing the time limit and add more variations in running so different muscles are used at a varying angle.

A disadvantage of running is that running vigorously – especially downhill – negatively impacts your joints, tendons, and ligaments. When your foot lands on the ground, your body undergoes an impact which could lead to short-term injuries and if you keep on doing it, it may lead to the degradation of connective tissues and joints.

You need to go for shock-absorbing training shoes that are stable and provide you with good traction. The last thing you want while running downhill is to hurt your joints and miss the coming ski season.

Off-Season Training Tips for Cross-Country Skiers

If you have noticed that as soon as the ski season starts, your legs feel tired and you have to cut short the initial days. The time you could have spent on the slopes – you are spending it in the resort or at home. This is because of local muscular endurance, also referred by sports enthusiasts as LME.

  • Some skiers try to go for light activities and non-weight bearing workouts during the summer. Although this may make your summers fun and active, it may not be very helpful for preparing your body for the ski season.
  • Start with two sessions per week and focus on strengthening the weak muscles.
  • As you are only as strong as the weakest muscle, indulge in a regular strength training phase, and once you feel your body is at a good pace, convert this strength into ski-specific LME. This could include any activity and exercise that copies your skiing motion. Do it for four to six weeks with at least two targeted workouts per week.
  • Strength training is one of the most important yet the most ignored off-season training. Another idea is to invest your time in stretching and flexibility sessions. This gives you a better sense of your body (hint: yoga).
  • The aerobic metabolic system provides almost all the energy for your long and strenuous uphill skiing. The ideal way to increase your endurance for doing so is to indulge in long-duration foot-based exercises that may take from half an hour to a couple of hours, with a low to moderate intensity level. If you do not have roller skis, go biking. If you cannot do that, go for a hike or run with poles in order to get your core and upper body moving.
  • It is also important to take a day or two off during the week. This will let your body absorb the work you have done on other days.
  • On an advanced level, you can alternate between a week of endurance training and a week of muscular endurance and weight training. This will not only keep your routine from falling into the boring-zone, but it will also give you a nice balance between the gym and outdoors.


Closing Thoughts

In cross country skiing, your body works as an engine that moves in different directions. Different sets of muscles work together to carry out a certain movement on the snow. Cross country skiing is not something you can mold your body into doing in a matter of days – it requires a proper training process that you must indulge into especially when it is off-season.

It is never too late to get started. Taking the time to train off-season is totally worth the effort. You will realize this once you go on your first ski tour as soon as the winter arrives – you will feel that you have more power and control on the slopes, your muscles will have a better endurance level, and instead of cutting your day short, you will spend more time outdoors.

Before you know it, you have a physically fit and super active body to enjoy the entire ski season. After all, skiers are made in the summer – try it yourself!