6 Pre-Ski Yoga Stretches You Need Before Your First Run

by Natalie Kiser

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We get it, skiing is exciting. When the snow is falling, the only thing on your mind is getting to the chairlift for some sweet, sweet runs. But bolting toward the mountain as soon as you park and immediately clipping into your skis or snowboard might lead to sitting in the lodge more than getting in turns. Starting off your day with tight muscles could lead to discomfort and even injury, so it’s important to get your body warmed up for the physical activity ahead.

Taking a few minutes to warm up with some yoga-based stretching will prime your body for the day ahead, reducing that dreaded leg burn you feel on your first couple of runs. Even 10 minutes of stretching could extend your shred time for hours, and reduce any soreness that you may feel the next day.

The yoga poses below can be completed anywhere—in the parking lot, lift line, or hotel room. These poses for skiers and snowboarders target your calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, obliques, and back so your whole body is prepared for the bumps, twists, and turns that you’ll encounter on the mountain.

6 Poses for Skiers and Snowboarders

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

How the pose preps you for skiing: Simple but effective, the act of “touching your toes” lengthens your hamstrings—even if you can’t actually reach your feet. Your hamstrings help to stabilize your legs and keep your knees bent, which are crucial for staying balanced while shuffling to the lift and going downhill. For an added stretch, cup your elbows with the opposite hands and gently sway your left elbow toward your left knee. This movement lengthens your right side body—or oblique—as well. Then sway to the other side. This movement prepares your torso for the sharp twists that you may take to slow down, change directions, or ride through moguls.

How to practice Standing Forward Bend:

  1. Begin by standing tall with your feet slightly wider than your hips.
  2. On an exhalation, fold forward from the hip joints (not the waist) and keep your back flat and shoulders wide. Bend your knees as much as needed.
  3. Lower your hands to the floor, your knees, or your elbows.
  4. Stay here for 10 seconds.
  5. Slowly roll up to standing, one vertebrae at a time.
Woman demonstrates Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend (Photo: Christopher Dougherty)

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend)

How the pose preps you for skiing: Similar to Uttanasana, folding forward with your feet wide stretches the outer edges of your calves. Snowboarders know that all-too-familiar feeling of the side of your calves burning from shifting your weight over your front foot. Prasarita helps with that. This posture also lengthens the muscles on your inner thighs, which enables you to easily shift your weight from side to side. Plus, you can grip your elbows and sway just like you did in Uttanasana to continue waking up your obliques.

How to practice Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend:

  1. Begin with your feet parallel, 3–4 feet apart, hands on your hips.
  2. On an exhalation, fold forward from your hips, maintaining a flat back as you lower your arms toward the ground, opposite elbows, or a ski pole for balance. Bend your knees as much as needed.
  3. Stay here for 10 seconds.
  4. Option to stretch the inner thighs here by gently shifting your weight from one foot into the other, straightening the opposite leg.
  5. Return to center.
  6. On an inhalation, slowly roll up to standing, one vertebrae at a time.
A person demonstrates Pyramid Pose, or Intense Side Stretch Pose (Parsvottanasana) in yoga (Photo: Christopher Dougherty)

Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose)

How the pose preps you for skiing: Continue to lengthen the backs of your thighs with this standing posture. Sometimes referred to as Intense Side Stretch, it lives up to its name by giving a nice stretch along the entire back of your extended leg. It also stretches your psoas, the muscle that flexes your hips. When skiing, hip mobility is essential for squatting deeper, shifting your weight from side to side, and for positioning your skis in pizza and french fries. Pro tip: Much like Standing Forward Bend, hinging at your hips instead of at your waist helps you maintain a flat back, which brings you deeper and increases the stretching sensation in your hamstrings and hips.

How to practice Pyramid Pose:

  1. Begin by standing with your feet slightly wider than your hips.
  2. Step your right foot back 2–4 feet and angle your back foot in slightly.
  3. Square your hips to face the same direction.
  4. On an exhalation, fold forward from your hips, bringing your torso toward your left thigh and release your arms toward your left foot. If you have a ski pole, you can place it into the ground beside your left foot and use it to keep your back flat and your legs balanced as you fold deeper.
  5. Stay here for 10 seconds.
  6. On an inhalation, begin to rise up one vertebrae at a time.
  7. Step your right foot up and parallel with your left foot, and repeat on the other side.

Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)

How the pose preps you for skiing: This posture offers a combination of stretching and strengthening, making it an excellent primer for a day of skiing. Both feet actively press into the ground, strengthening and lengthening your hip flexors, glutes, and quadriceps. A ski pole at your side can help you maintain balance and keep your torso upright.

How to practice Low Lunge:

  1. Begin standing with your feet slightly wider than your hips.
  2. Step your right foot forward 2–4 feet, with your right heel at about a 30- to 45-degree angle from your left foot’s big toe.
  3. On an exhalation, bend your right knee and begin to drop your left knee toward the floor. Keep your torso upright.
  4. Place a ski pole into the ground parallel with your right foot and in line with your left hip to help you keep your balance.
  5. Stay here for 10 seconds.
  6. To exit, on an inhalation, straighten your right leg and then bring it back alongside your left foot, still hip-width apart.
  7. Repeat on the other side.

Utkatasana (Chair Pose)

How the pose preps you for skiing: Introduce your legs to the rigors of skiing and snowboarding without the added moguls. Sitting back into Chair Pose activates your glutes, quadriceps, and core, getting your body ready for exercise while you’re still on a more stable platform.

How to practice Chair Pose:

  1. Begin standing with your feet slightly wider than your hips.
  2. On an exhalation, bend your knees and sink your glutes toward the floor, keeping your thighs parallel. Your torso will be leaning forward slightly over your thighs.
  3. Lift your arms so that your biceps are slightly in front of your ears, palms facing each other. Option to circle your wrists in a clockwise, and then counterclockwise motion to warm your forearms.
  4. Stay here for 10 seconds.
  5. Straighten your legs and bring your arms back down by your sides.
Woman demonstrates Tree Pose (Photo: Christopher Dougherty)

Vrksasana (Tree Pose)

How the pose preps you for skiing: After all of that stretching and priming, the final component that you’re going to want to focus on is your balance. Whether you’ve been doing snow sports for years or this is your first time on the slopes, gliding down a trail relies on being able to maintain your balance. Tree Pose is a standing balance posture that can help you find your center of gravity.

How to practice Tree Pose:

  1. Begin standing with your feet slightly wider than your hips.
  2. Bring your palms to touch and place them in the center of your chest.
  3. Fix your gaze at one steady point straight in front of you.
  4. Bend your right knee and place your right foot on your ankle, shin, or thigh. Avoid resting your foot on your knee.
  5. Press your foot into your leg and your leg back into your foot as you maintain an upright posture.
  6. Stay here for 10 seconds.
  7. Slowly lower your foot to the ground.
  8. Repeat on the other side.

See also: These Yoga Techniques Are So Simple, You Can Practice Them While Skiing