Downhill vs. Cross Country: The Ski-Booted Battle

The slopes are open and winter break is coming up. For some, that means breaking out the skis and heading to the hills for some serious shredding. Yet, this year, you may be wondering which pair of skis to break out to really smash your fitness goals. We here at EatFitFuel have done a side-by-side to see whether Downhill Skiing or Cross-Country is right for you and your winter workout schedule.

Muscles Used:

  • Downhill Skiing – The muscle groups used in downhill skiing are the “prime movers,” including the hamstrings, quadriceps (thigh), and calf, hip, and foot muscles. To a lesser degree, you’ll also use your abdominal muscles for control and strengthen your arms by using poles.
  • Cross-Country Skiing – The muscles strengthened while you cross-country ski typically include the thigh muscles, gluteus maximus (butt), calves, and biceps and triceps (front and back of the upper arm).
  • The Verdict – Because cross-country skiing has bursts of downhill, it involves all the muscles of downhill (although not as intensely) as well as the myriad of muscles used for x-country. Even though it falls slightly short on core work, the additional workout for your arms edges it in favor of Cross-Country.

Calories Burned:

  • Downhill Skiing – A person of approximately 150lbs can expect to burn between 360-570 calories in an hour of skiing. Downhill can be an intense workout for your core and legs, especially as you hit moguls, powder, or jumps.
  • Cross-Country Skiing – A person of approximately 150lbs can expect to burn between 500-650 calories. Cross-Country is a slow but constant burn, keeping your body working for every step of the way.
  • The Verdict – Downhill skiing can really push your core and lower body to the max, however it comes in short bursts. Each downhill run is only about 2-3 minutes, meanwhile Cross-Country skiing is constant work for you body, challenging you to push forward at all times. For that reason, and the higher amount of burned calories, Cross-Country takes the cake.

Safety and Accessibility:

  • Downhill Skiing – Skis are easy enough to come by, however you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who simply popped on some boots and skis and took off like they had been doing it all their life. Downhill Skiing takes practice and time to hone in the skills that keep you controlled and safe as you make your way down mountains. However, another hazard for any skier is the other skiers. Unfortunately, control and measured speeds doesn’t apply to everyone on the downhill slopes so you have to keep a constant eye out.
  • Cross-Country Skiing – There is definitely some skill needed to feel comfortable and confident on Cross-Country skis, however due to the generally flat terrain and personal control over speed and effort, starting Cross-Country skiing is a much quicker learning curve. Also, most Cross-Country trails are just that, Cross-Country trails, not downhill slopes. That means no speedy downhill skiers and usually free reign to go at your own pace.
  • The Verdict – This one is a bit of a landslide. Cross-Country skiing takes away so many of the dangers on downhill slopes, such as losing control, hitting nature or other people. Cross-Country certainly comes out on top for all those nervous mothers.

Overall Verdict:

It seems pretty clear that Cross-Country Skiing is the best option for working your body, burning calories, and staying safe in the snow this winter. Sure, it may not have the same freeing effect of speeding downhill but it certainly offers a brilliant option for getting your fitness on this winter. Alternatively, you could always ditch the french fries and go for a real sport like snowboarding… just kidding.

You May Also Like