Each fall, millions of skiers and snowboarders partake in an annual tradition that goes something like this:

First, it’s unearthing the equipment tucked away in garages, closets and basements the previous spring, blowing off the dust that’s collected over the past six months’ disuse, and assessing the gear’s readiness for action. Next, it’s off to the ski shop or tuning room to bust the rust off edges, wax the bases and ensure bindings are working properly. From there, it’s back home to buy seasons passes or ticket specials at local ski areas. Maybe still, this is the year that Swiss Alps trip with friends becomes a reality.

For all of the logistics and schlepping – there’s a lot of schlepping – that goes into the gear and trip planning it’s no wonder that people refer to skiing and snowboarding less as sports and more as lifestyles. What is perplexing, however, is why so many seemingly organized skiers and riders neglect to prepare the one thing that can truly make or break a great ski season: their ski health, fitness and Alpine intelligence.

So, as winter approaches and so many millions of us anticipate what will undoubtedly be a snowfall season for the ages (the power of positive thinking, right?), let’s explore the key aspects of ski season prep, including fitness, safety considerations and international trip planning should you finally book that trip to the Swiss Alps.


Physical Preparation

This will come as a shock to exactly no one: regular physical activity is good for your health. But it’s a cornerstone of a successful ski season. Even the most seasoned alpine veterans will benefit from physical preparation, particularly exercises that target leg strength and cardiovascular endurance. Pre- and early season training programs that include squats, lunges and core exercises help build the muscle strength necessary to shred the slopes, or at least get you down in one piece.

Tom Wolfe, a mountain guide and the founder of Sawback Alpine Adventures, a Global Rescue Safe Travel Partner, suggests his “leg blaster” routine. “Leg blasters are a simple sequence of squats and lunges, and get you in shape quickly,” he says. “There are two versions: the standard and the mini. I recommend starting with the mini, which is perfect for those not used to it. From there you can work up to the standard routine.”


A young woman leg squats on a dock by a lake.


If your skiing or riding is more the human-powered variety, i.e. skinning or Alpine ski touring, there’s simply no substitute for the real thing. “To prepare for the season in full, there’s nothing more important than time spent on the skintrack,” says Ryan Koupal, founder and director of 40 Tribes Backcountry Adventures, another Global Rescue Safe Travel Partner. “Going through the motions is a great way to prepare: climbing, transitioning, descending, transitioning, and doing it all over again.”

On the nutrition side, again, no surprises here. A well-balanced diet is crucial for sustaining energy levels during extended skiing sessions. Generally speaking, eating foods rich in carbohydrates, proteins and essential nutrients supports muscle recovery and overall stamina. But as Sawback’s Wolfe points out, “Nutrition is highly personal. It’s important to keep a steady flow of energy. You need to figure out what’s best for you.”

Part of that energy flow comes from proper hydration (and no, we’re not talking about the Après ski scene). The cold mountain air and physical exertion can lead to increased fluid loss, especially if you’re skiing or riding at a higher altitude. You may not feel as thirsty but take our word for it: you are. Drink plenty of fluids.


Understanding and Adhering to Safety Guidelines

Depending on where you’re skiing or riding, it’s always a good idea to stay informed about safety guidelines and weather and snow conditions, no matter how familiar you are with the area. Ski resorts have specific rules and regulations designed to promote a safe experience for all visitors. Knowing guidelines for trail difficulty ratings, trail closures, designated areas for specific types of skiing and snowboarding such as terrain park skiing, and rules regarding speed and overtaking, is essential for preventing accidents. As they say, know the code.


A smiling woman in yellow and red clothing skis on a steep slope in the high mountains on a sunny day.


If you’re in the backcountry or skiing with a guide, adherence to safety guidelines can be the difference between a safe run and serious injury or even death. The backcountry is an uncontrolled environment, rife with dangers like crevasses, cliffs, tree wells, and the omnipresent threat of avalanches. Websites like avalanche.org or others listed here depending on where you’re skiing are essential information stops before heading out.


International Travel Planning

For those with their eyes set on an international destination, here are some key considerations for travel during the ski season:

Research and Choose the Right Destination – Booking an international trip must be done well in advance, but you can still use current conditions and other information to make a more informed decision about whether to go or not. When researching ski resorts, consider factors such as terrain, weather conditions, and the availability of amenities and other things to do in case the snow isn’t great. Just like at home, not all international ski areas are the same. If you’re taking your young family on a ski trip, for example, you’d want to avoid the fearsome terrain of La Grave, France, and instead consider a resort that would make everyone happy, like Courmayeur, Italy, or Avoriaz, France.


A snowcat climbs a ski slope at night to groom the snow.


Check Entry Requirements – If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll need a passport to enter the country, of course. Once you’re within any country that’s part of western Europe’s Schengen Area – the 27 European countries that have done away with passports and many other types of border control at mutual borders – you don’t need to present formal documentation. Starting in 2025, however, US citizens must register within the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), allowing citizens to continue to travel visa-free to countries like France, Germany and Italy.

Health Precautions – Check with your healthcare provider to ensure you are in good health for high-altitude activities. Some individuals may experience altitude sickness, so it’s crucial to understand the symptoms and take necessary precautions.

Language and Cultural Considerations – Familiarize yourself with the local language and cultural norms of the destination. This can enhance your overall travel experience and help you navigate any cultural differences. What’s customary or routine at your home ski hill may not be in other countries or regions.


Three snowboarders ride down an open snow field with cliffs on the side.


Transportation and Transfers – Arrange transportation from the airport to the ski resort in advance. Research the availability of shuttles, taxis, or rental cars to make sure you can get to the ski destination and back.

Travel Services Protection – Get a Global Rescue membership to ensure you’ve got a contingency plan in case you have a medical emergency. It saved Martin Kosich’s life after a ski accident in Zermatt, Switzerland, in 2013, and Richard Jorgensen’s life after a heli-skiing accident in British Columbia in 2018. The inherent risks involved with skiing and snowboarding, especially in the backcountry, compel many outfitters like Sawback and 40 Tribes Backcountry to require a service like Global Rescue’s in the event it’s needed.


In many parts of the northern hemisphere, the ski season is already here, and countless skiers and riders are rejoicing. Of course, with the arrival of each new season comes the anxiety of a good or bad snowfall year. Asked what his predictions were for snowfall this upcoming season in North America, Sawback’s Wolfe says, “No idea!” At which point he quickly brushed off the possibility of a less-than-stellar snow year and reminded us of that all-too-common refrain of the passionate skier or snowboarder: a bad day on the slopes beats a good day at work.