Pat McCloskey training for ski season. Picture: Becky Thurner, Thurner Photography, Pittsburgh, Pa

There are many similarities between mountain biking and skiing aside from the fact that both sports engage the same type of people.  I love to mountain bike, but I use it primarily as an exercise to keep me in shape for skiing.  I don’t take any chances. I ride to ride another day.  But it is good exercise and keeps your skiing skills sharp in the off season.  Consider the following:

  • Look Ahead –  As in skiing, if you focus on the tips or your front tire, you’ll reduce the amount of reaction time needed to make any last minute changes.  You are way better off concentrating on what is down the trail by looking ahead.  This way, you have plenty of time to make adjustments and won’t get caught off guard by changes in terrain.  Just like skiing, look ahead not at your front tire.
Focus on the trail ahead. Picture: Pat McCloskey
  • Tire selection – I tend to like a more knobby tire to handle all kinds of different terrain.  Here in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, we have many rocks and roots which tend to become slick when the weather turns ugly.  A good tire with a good rubber compound and an aggressive tread pattern can be ridden all year long.  The important thing is to make sure there is an adequate knobby pattern on the edges of the tire to help with cornering in slick conditions.  As with good ski edges, if you have a good tire edge pattern, you can lean the bike over in the turns…similar to carving on the slopes.
  • Body position – Utilize body position on the bike to face the new turn, keeping your outside pedal weighted just like you would do with the outside ski during an aggressive GS turn.
  • Terrain selection – Just like in skiing, selection of terrain and line is important on a mountain bike.  When looking ahead, you can quickly see your line and make your way over and through rough terrain.  Momentum is your friend and the shocks will soften the blow of rugged trails.  Be aggressive but always be safe.  At our age, no need to be a hero. Look ahead and select a good line just like you would on a pair of skis.  

Mountain biking is great aerobic exercise as well which is important in skiing.  If you’re in good aerobic shape and your legs are strong from riding, you’ll enjoy your ski season all the more.  Ride to ride another day, get in shape, and be ready for the season to come.


  1. Hi Pat,

    What is your opinion about E-bikes as exercise? I have one, bike at least 4-5 times a week and go 5-10 miles on it. Do you think that is enough for leg strength?

  2. Dennis A Grunbeck says:

    I mountain bike in the skiing off-season, as well as windsurf. I agree with Pat about how mountain bike skills/strength transfer over to skiing, as well as windsurfing skills/strength.

    I’ve just started going to bike parks this fall (4 days so far) and have had a ton of fun. So far, I have been to Powder Ridge, Ct (the first place I ever rode a chairlift in ’62 or ’63., Mountain Creek, NJ and most recently I spent 2 days at Thunder Mountain (Berkshire East in the winter) in Mass.

    I am 66 y.o. and ride XC MTB at least twice a week in the fall and spring. My advice is “Get out and ride until the snow falls!!”

    • Patrick McCloskey says:

      Hi Dennis- we ride all year. Get some good helmet and handlebar lights and an aggressive tire and ride in the snow. Great fun and keeps you in shape.

  3. Patrick McCloskey says:

    Hi Ellin- E-Bikes generally have three settings. The most aggressive is I believe Turbo and that is pretty much battery driven with hardly any effort. The lower and middle settings allow for some effort. You always have to pedal but the settings other than turbo allow for some exercise. I would say that to get your legs ready for skiing, you should feel some effort on your rides. E-Bikes are great for getting up over the grunts and getting up long fire roads and allowing for more riding on the trails. A nice option but in my opinion, regular mountain biking generally is more beneficial. It all depends on how you use the E-Bike.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *