How Many Calories Do You Burn While Skiing Or Snowboarding?

James Shaffer
By James Shaffer
Last updated on October 27, 2020
Table of Contents

Whenever we think of doing any type of athletic activity, we sometimes believe we can get away with eating more than usual, thanks to the number of calories we’re planning on burning.

Of course, this is understandable with sports like soccer, baseball, and the like, but does the same hold true when skiing and snowboarding. 

Before you go and grab an extra-large meal and that tasty dessert, it might be worth looking at how many calories you can burn when hitting the slopes.

Below, we’ll take a look at the extreme sports of skiing and snowboarding to see exactly how many calories you’ll burn when spending your day on the hill.  

Burning Calories On The Slopes

extreme showboarder jumping through a ring on fire

Overall, when looking at the number of calories burned while skiing or snowboarding, one of the most reliable sources on the topic is Harvard Medical School. 

They created a table examining the number of calories burned during a range of different physical activities, based on a person’s actual body weight and the amount of exertion required.

Snowboarding and skiing make that list, amongst many others.

Broadly speaking, the amount of calories you burn depends on multiple factors. 

The first is what sort of exercise or activity you’re doing. 

So, for instance, if you’re doing cross-country skiing rather than downhill skiing, you may be burning more calories. 

Generally speaking, the higher your heart rate is, the more calories your body will burn. 

But let’s look at some general numbers from these studies and other research.

Downhill Skiing

Based on Harvard Medical School’s chart, downhill skiing will burn between 360 to 532 calories per hour. 

These numbers are based, of course, on body weight, which means that they might vary considerably depending on your actual physiology.

For example, according to Snowsports Industries America, a major player in the skiing industry, a downhill skier burns about 500 calories for every one hour of skiing.

Beyond that, the chart from Harvard is making some assumptions. 

The amount that’s given assumes that you’re putting in a moderate amount of physical effort into skiing. In contrast, putting in less effort will cause you to burn fewer calories, and an increased effort will cause you to burn more per hour.

Therefore, it’s safe to say that you’ll burn more calories going down a black diamond hill rather than the bunny hill.

Cross Country Skiing

When looking at cross country skiing, though, you’ll find a big difference in calories burned. 

You can tell already based on the Harvard chart suggesting you burn 480 to 710 per hour. Again, those numbers are only somewhat accurate since it’s virtually impossible to give an exact answer.

The reason cross country skiing can burn so much depends on four factors:

  • Your own body weight
  • The skiing speed
  • The terrain

But with that said, it’s generally assumed you’ll burn roughly:

  • 400 to 500 per hour with light effort
  • 550 to 600 per hour with moderate effort
  • 600 to 675 per hour with intense effort.

Those numbers are assuming you weigh about 150 pounds. Therefore, if you weigh either more or less than that, you might either burn more or fewer calories depending on your own personal metabolism.

If you’re new to the sport and are just thinking about getting into skiing, here are a few good all-mountain skis that are ideal for any skill level.

Snowboarding

Man taking a jump on a snowboard

The Harvard chart doesn’t mention snowboarding, but research shows someone can burn between 290 and 806 calories every hour. 

This is once again making some broad assumptions, such as moderate effort, effort, and the fact this research is based on body weight alone.

This also doesn’t account for all the walking you’ll be doing, either, which will also cause you to burn more calories over the course of a day at your favorite ski resort. 

But aside from that, when snowboarding, don’t forget to bring snow goggles and any other equipment you’ll need.

Is Skiing Or Snowboarding Good Exercise?

While skiing and snowboarding aren’t necessarily the most intense sports, there’s no doubting the fact that you can still burn a good amount of calories while doing them. 

Beyond that, these activities work several lower body muscles. 

In fact, you’ll pretty much get a full-body workout from either sport, whether you’re a beginner or pro. 

It might not seem like it, but your arms, chest, and upper body muscles will even get a workout while shredding down the slopes. 

Aside from that, you’ll also work four main areas:

  • Quadriceps - these are the muscles in front of your thighs. These are the main muscles used in skiing. These will hold you in position and help flex your hips and extend your knees. The steeper the run is, the more you’ll feel them working.
  • Hamstrings - these run the back of your thighs, absorb shocks, and help protect the anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) that keep your knee together.
  • Gluteals - also known as glutes- are in your buttocks and help you lean forward and maintain your balance. You’ll feel these more when you’re turning and carving down the mountain.
  • Core - your back and abdominal muscles also work as stabilizers, helping protect your pelvis and spine. These allow you to stay upright and on your feet.

It’s good to note that you’ll still be working those same muscle groups while snowboarding or cross-country skiing.

Average Calories Burned Overview

Here is a table that'll give you a general overview of how much you can expect to burn per hour in the various disciplines.

Exercise TypeLow intensityModerate intensityHigh intensity
Downhill skiing360 calories460 calories600 calories
Cross-country skiing450 calories550 calories700 calories
Snowboarding290 calories430 calories550
calories
Snowshoeing380 calories480 calories630 calories

This table shows how various snow sport disciplines burn calories at various intensities

Final Thoughts

Overall, a day skiing or snowboarding will probably beat an hour or two at the gym in calories burned. 

But with that said, you should maintain more interest in these sports than simply burning calories. 

Skiing, snowboarding, and any other type of winter sports are great ways to get outside, get some fresh air, and make the most of the winter months.

We wrap this up with a fun little graphic that shows how many calories all the riders on the slopes burned together in 2011-2012.

Getting exercise on the slope is one thing, but getting in shape before the skiing season is paramount for both performance and decreasing risk of injuries. Here are 9 easy and effective exercises to prepare for the ski season.

James Shaffer

James Shaffer

James is a veteran snowboarder and skier. His passion for snow sport dates back to his early life growing up in Colorado. He spent his early adulthood as a ski instructor around popular locations in Europe but is now back in Colorado.
Published October 24, 2020
Last updated October 27, 2020
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