woman demonstrating pilates exercise twist for skiers

Pilates for Skiers: 5 Moves to Improve Your Strength on the Slopes

Ski season is in full swing, so you may be feeling a few more aches on Monday morning. Don’t worry, there’s a pilates routine for that!

The stoke may be high, but sometimes the body just ain’t up to it. All manner of outdoor recreation has seen a boom over the last year. And with restricted numbers at resorts, demand and interest for skiing and backcountry pursuits are at an all-time high. And spring ski season is in full swing.

But more time on the slopes means more stress on the muscles. So you may be noticing tightness, tenderness, or shakiness from all that shred. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to cut back on skiing. You may just need a better way to develop and strengthen your body.

We spoke with Vanessa Johnson, the head of instructor training for Club Pilates, to learn a few moves she said will improve strength, mobility, and flexibility.

“Pilates is an amazing way to cross-train your body for skiing,” Johnson said. “Adding pilates into your movement routine will strengthen your core, glutes, hamstrings, and back while also creating stability and mobility within the body.”

Here are some exercises to get you started:

  • Spine twist: Keep the shoulders relaxed and energy in the arms from fingertips to fingertips. Use your exhale to engage your core and twist from your obliques. Eyes and head stay aligned with the spine as you rotate. This move strengthens the rotational muscles around your spine and core, including your obliques, which can, in turn, benefit you on the slopes when skiing or snowboarding and trying to change directions.
  • Chest expansion: Keep the head aligned with the spine all throughout this move, which strengths your chest, shoulders, and upper back. This exercise can improve your posture.
  • Bridge: Knees reach over your toes while in your bridge. For an added challenge, add a march. Ensure your head is against the headrest the whole time for safety. This move is great for strengthening the posterior chain (primarily the back, glutes, and hamstrings), which will help keep you upright while skiing.
  • Footwork — lots of it: Using the jumpboard and magic circle in a mogul position, rotate toes and hips to mimic riding a snowboard. Exhale as you press the carriage away, keeping the core engaged. This move is great for challenging your stability, similar to how it might be tested on the slopes through bumpy snow or moguls.

Pilates Exercises for Skiers

“It is important to create balance within your body by developing whole-body strength, mobility, and flexibility,” Johnson told us. “Not only will you glide down the mountain more effectively and effortlessly, you will be less prone to injury too.”

Quadruped Variation (Bird Dog)

women demonstrating pilates exercise on all fours with one arm and one leg raised

This exercise recruits your shoulders, back, hips, and glutes and challenges balance, which is a major component of winter sports.

  • Situate yourself on your mat or pad on all fours. Distribute weight evenly across hands and knees.
  • Keeping your core engaged, lift your opposite arm and leg.
  • Relax your shoulders, keep a soft bend in your elbows, and reach long throughout your lifted leg.
  • Hold for 1-2 seconds. Return to all fours.

Spine Twist

woman sitting upright with arms out, twisting at core

  • Sit upright with your feet extended in front of you, slightly apart.
  • Extend your arms straight outward from your side.
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed and energy in your arms, from fingertips to fingertips.
  • Use your exhale to engage your core and twist from your obliques.
  • Keep your eyes and head aligned with your spine as you rotate.

Chest Expansion Variation

woman demonstrating pilates chest stretching exercise for skiers

  • Start in a relaxed lunge position with one knee on the mat and the other forming a right angle. Slowly pull back on the resistance straps with both arms.
  • Keep head aligned with the spine all throughout this move, which strengths your chest, shoulders, and upper back.
  • In addition to being a great pilates exercise for skiers and snowboarders, this exercise can also improve your posture.
  • If you aren’t using a machine/equipment, you can also modify this exercise to do at home with resistance bands. Simply follow the steps here, pulling the bands apart.

Bridge Variety

woman demonstrating pilates bridge exercise for skiers

  • Bring your knees over your toes while in your bridge.
  • For an added challenge, add a march by lifting your feet up and down off the floor.
  • Ensure your head is against the headrest the whole time for safety.
  • This move is great for strengthening the posterior chain (primarily the back, glutes, and hamstrings), which will help keep you upright while skiing.

If you’re looking for more instruction, Johnson demonstrates these exercises in her “5 Pilates Moves for Snow Sports” video, below. (Note: Johnson and Club Pilates studios use an equipment apparatus called The Reformer. But most exercises can be done with just you, a mat, and your body weight.)


Vanessa Johnson discovered pilates in 2001 while recovering from multiple injuries playing college basketball. In it, she found not only a way to rehabilitate sports injuries, but also a core set of principles upon which she’s built her life and career.

Johnson worked on the corporate Club Pilates team to help develop its franchise locations, rewrote the Comprehensive Teacher Training program, established the Club Pilates Master Teacher Training program, and played an integral part in the Club Pilates Instructor Bridge Training program.

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Adam Ruggiero
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Adam Ruggiero is the editor-in-chief of GearJunkie and a fan of virtually all sports and activities. From biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming — if it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.