A chill is in the air, and at high-altitude resorts, slopes are opening for the season. From snowboarding to ice hockey, there are many fun winter activities to try out this year that will kick your calorie burn in high gear.
If you’re curious about the calorie-torching power of your favorite winter workouts, look no further—we have the info you need.
With around 7 million Americans hitting the slopes every year, according to the National Ski Areas Association, skiing is a very popular winter activity. Although skiing dates back thousands of years, it wasn’t always for fun. The International Skiing History Association notes that “stone age hunters followed reindeer and elk herds from central Asia’s Altai region, moving to the northwest and northeast, using skis covered with fur that worked like modern climbing skins.” Luckily, hunting for dinner on skis has become less of a necessity. In fact, many of us are hoping to burn off our meals instead as we vacation to ski lodges.
In a comprehensive list of the calories burned from dozens of activities, Harvard Health notes that an average person weighing 155 pounds would burn 223 calories downhill skiing for half an hour, and 298 calories cross-country skiing for the same amount of time. That means that a full afternoon spent on your skis could burn anywhere from 1338 to 1788 calories!
In the past few decades, the United States has seen an increase in popularity of snowboarding, a close cousin to skiing. Created in 1964 by a surfer named Sherman Poppen, the very first snowboard, or “snurfer,” according to Bulgaria Ski, was created by bolting two children’s skis together. Although it was a popular Christmas present for kids, it was “a mass phenomenon [that] disappeared as quickly as [it] had emerged”—that is, until a second surfer, Dimitrije Milovich began work on a new prototype based on recently emerged short surf boards. With the help of a few devoted “snurfers” who refused to let the fad die, by the 1990s, ski resorts finally began allowing snow boards on the slopes, cementing the sport we’re all familiar with today.
When it comes to the caloric output of snowboarding, however, calculations can get a little tricky. According to Ski and Snowboard Month, recreational snowboarding for thirty minutes burns approximately 220 calories for a 155-pound individual. That number—which likely refers to alpine snowboarding—is comparable to the caloric output of downhill skiing. However, if you’re talking about competitive (or freestyle) snowboarding, which includes tricks and flips, the calories burned can be nearly twice that of the recreational variety, clocking in at around 490.
This winter activity has been around for thousands of years and has existed in many forms. From high speed toboggan and luge competitions to bouncing down the bunny hill on an inner tube, riding down a hill may not sound like much of a workout, but it actually burns more calories than you might expect. According to Harvard Health’s calorie chart, sledding, luge, and tobogganing burn around 260 calories per half hour. So why is this number higher than skiing or snowboarding?
For amateur sledders, working with little more than a plastic saucer or Radio Flyer, the calories burned don’t come from the ride, but from the trek back up the hill. And of course, if you’re on a hill with more than one person, you’ll have to grab your gear and run as soon as you reach the bottom, or you might risk being knocked over by the next person down the hill! As for professional lugers and tobogganers, it’s necessary to have “tremendous upper body strength” for the beginning of the race, according to How Stuff Works. Additionally, careening down an icy chute on little more than a two-by-four requires core strength to keep sliders on the board and in control.
Another winter activity with a rich history, snow shoeing is thought to have originated in central Asia and migrated over the Bering Strait with ancestors of the Inuit and Native Americans. According to the United States Snowshoe Association, it wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that makers of snowshoes abandoned the traditional rawhide lacing and wood in favor of neoprene and aluminum. It was this shift towards convenience that helped the shoes gain recognition as part of a recreational activity. Similar to cross country skiing, snow shoeing makes for a great cardio workout and, according to Harvard Health, burns approximately 298 calories per 30 minutes.
Last but not least, this winter activity is beloved by sports fans and artists alike. From ice dancing and figure skating to hockey, ice skating is an activity with an option for everyone. According to research conducted by Frederico Formenti of Oxford University, ice skates got their start in Finland, over 4000 years ago. Initially, like skis and snowshoes, they were used for survival rather than recreation. Of course, society has come a long way since then, and with it, ice skating has developed into a favorite winter pastime.
Harvard Health notes that ice skating in general burns approximately 260 calories every 30 minutes, while hockey burns 298. Of course, if you take a look at competitive skaters, those numbers double, according to U.S. Figure Skating. Additionally, they note that one hour of skating “is equivalent to a 5-mile run,” and that even new skaters “use lots of energy just to get around the rink.” So, whether you’re still clinging to the wall of the ice-rink, nailing triple Lutz jumps, or scoring goals in a hockey game, skating is a great way to burn calories this winter.
Even though summer sports may be off limits for the next few months, there are plenty of ways to get in shape and stay active during the chillier months.