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Can Overweight People Ski? 8 Helpful Tips For Heavier Skiers

Are you a few pounds overweight and wondering if you can ski? I am a 6′ 245 lb guy. My BMI puts me solidly in obesity territory for the last couple of winters. My best ski friend is a 330 lb 6’7″ big guy. We both have no problem downhill skiing, riding lifts, etc… Sure I would like to lose a few and am always trying. It doesn’t stop me from enjoying the winter sport I love. Can overweight people ski? Yes, overweight people can ski and enjoy it.

Can overweight people ski? Is there a weight limit for skiing?

To the best of my knowledge, there is no weight limit for downhill or alpine skiing. I have skied for almost 40 years now and have never come across a sign for a weight limit for a lift. The only real limiting factor seems to be whether you can lift yourself off the snow and stand up if you fall. You will fall when learning. A lot. Everyone falls every now and then even at the advanced level. It’s harder to do with skis and ski boots on than without. There will always be people around to help if you do fall.

There is plenty of winter clothing out there that fits any size person. Large people live and work in cold climates so you can find a snow pant to fit almost anyone. If you want the latest high tech 3L Goretex shell ski pants and jacket, you may have a hard time. My big and tall friend cannot get any high end clothing. Enthusiast level brands such as Columbia do make ski pants and jackets to fit big and tall body sizes. Overall the ski industry hasn’t done a great job making high end gear for larger size people.

can overweight people ski

Do ski lifts have weight limits?

As I mentioned above I have never seen a weight limit sign at the bottom of a ski lift. Most ski lifts are designed for 2 to 8 skiers or snowboarders to ride at once. I have ridden many double chairs with my larger friend. We weigh a combined 575 lbs before putting gear on which might add another 100 lbs to that. The lifts are not a worry. If they were, they would have a weight limit sign at the bottom of every lift.

Does your weight matter for skis?

Your ski size depends on your height, weight, and ability. The taller you are, the longer your skis should be. The heavier you are, the longer your skis should be. Bindings with a DIN range going up to 16 or 17 can handle the heaviest skier out there. I’m 245 lbs and an expert skier and never set my DIN above 10. I have no problems with skis releasing when I don’t want them to.

Most ski size charts such as the one below only show height. Weight is a factor also. I am 6′ and 245 lbs and I use 179cm skis. I am not maxed out on length yet for a pair of all mountain skis. My best ski friend at 6’7″ ad 330 lbs needs the longest ski available in any ski that he buys. He has no trouble with skis fluttering or not being controllable at high speeds.

ski size chart

How do you ski when fat? Is it still fun?

Is skiing still enjoyable when you are overweight? Yes. Is it as enjoyable as when you have a BMI in a healthy weight range? No. I won’t sugarcoat it and say that it is. I get a lot more tired after a run. Do you need to do any changes to your technique when overweight? Not really. It mostly comes down to terrain selection and knowing your limits. My knees remind me I could stand to lose a few pounds.

Can I still tear up a run? Yes. As with any sport you need to keep your current level of physical conditioning in mind and let that guide you. Would losing some weight be a good idea? Yes. It is as easy to do as just knowing it’s a good idea? No. If you struggle with this, don’t feel bad because you are not alone. That being said. Skiing is still one of the most fun and exhilarating things you can do even carrying around some extra weight.

chubby skier on the slopes

Tips for overweight skiing

Let’s talk about some things you can do to make your ski day more enjoyable if you are overweight. This applies whether you are a new skier heading out for your first lesson or an experienced skier.

1 – Do some training to prepare for skiing

The best thing you can do to get ready for skiing is to do some training exercises to prepare yourself. Skiing involves leg strength, core strength, balance, and cardio. That sounds like a lot. It’s really not that hard. Below are some suggestions for exercises you can do.

Core and balance – Yoga is an excellent way to improve your balance, strength, flexibility, and cardio too. It involves a lot of balance and stretching which will greatly reduce your chance of injury on the slopes. Anyone can go to a yoga class no matter how big and out of shape you are. See our article on yoga for skiers for some more information.

Leg strength – You can go to the gym and focus on leg exercises such as squats and deadlifts. If you don’t have a bike, biking is a great way to also gain some leg strength and endurance. If your gym has stair climbers, they make a good way to get cardio and leg strength in one.

Cardio endurance – I find mountain biking a great way to get cardio to prepare for skiing. You can really bike all year round. I do it with a regular mountain bike on paved trails. If you are lucky enough to live close to fat bike trails, fat biking can be a great way to enjoy the snow when not skiing. Fat bikes are much easier to balance than a skinny wheeled bike allowing less athletic riders to enjoy them.

Walking is also a good way to help your cardio if you don’t like to run or do other activities. Anything that helps get your heart rate up a little will help. You burn more fat with low intensity cardio than you do with high intensity cardio.

The below video gives some training tips for skiing.

2 – Buy or rent equipment from an expert ski shop

For your very first lesson, you are going to need a soft shorter ski and soft boots. Any on mountain rental shop can accommodate this. That will get you through learning to snowplow turn and stop. After your first couple of days you will start learning intermediate skier skills such as parallel turns and hockey stops. At this point, your equipment fit becomes a lot more important. It’s also when people start to consider buying their own equipment. This is where you may need a longer ski because of weight.

This is where some expert advice is good in helping you get the right equipment for your weight. Bigger skis that are too soft will feel flimsy and vibrate when you start picking up more speed. After your first few lessons when you decide you love skiing and want your own equipment, head to the shop. Don’t buy random equipment online and hope it will fit and work. The odds are good what you buy won’t be what you need.

See our article on buying vs renting skis for more information.

3 – Go to a boot fitter for your boots

Ski boot fit is the most important thing when buying equipment. Loose boots will make any skis feel bad. Loose boots will make your feet hurt, cause skiers toe, make your shins and calves hurt, etc… If you are overweight you may have larger calves which presents a problem with boot fit. An expert at a dedicated boot fitting shop will know how to deal with these issues.

The only challenge is finding a boot fitting shop. They are common around large ski resorts. They aren’t common anywhere else. Some ski shops will have an expert with boots. You need to ask around to find out which shops have boot fitters and when they are there. Surefoot is one of the best boot fitters out there if you happen to have a store close enough to use.

4 – Don’t use a wide ski or fat ski all the time.

The wider your skis are the more loads they will put into your knee joints. You ride on the edge of your skis while turning. Wider skis have edges more offset from the centerline of your leg and knee. You get more bending moments into your knee joint due to the offset. Really wide waist width skis are great for fresh snow days.

Don’t choose 105-120mm waist width skis as your daily driver for skiing groomers. Don’t run out and get a pair of 1980’s skinny skis either but stick to narrower skis. Only use a fat powder ski in fresh snow conditions. See our article on the best ski type for intermediate skiers to learn more about ski selection.

5 – The most difficult thing will be getting up from falls

The biggest frustration I have as a heavier skier is recovering from falls. The worst part of that is falling on flat terrain. A light and nimble me could prop myself up pretty easily. Bigger me sometimes needs to reach down and pop my skies off so I can stand up. Falling on steeper terrain is always easier. It’s easy just to push off the hill and be up. You have more weight and momentum so the risk of injury during a fall will be higher.

Falling on flat terrain

Even though it is counter intuitive. Falling on flat terrain is much harder to recover from than falling on steep terrain. To get up you need to do the following:

After you come to a stop. Orient your skies downhill from you so that they are laying in the snow perpendicular to the hill or fall line.

From here you can push yourself up with your arms and ski poles. Push into the snow above you and push your body weight over on top of your skis. The problem is about halfway up you run out of push and need to push hard with your legs to push your body up. At this point balance is difficult and you may not have the leg strength to do it. Don’t struggle too hard.

If you can’t push yourself up don’t feel bad. Lay back into the snow and reach down and pop your skis off. Standing up is really easy with skis removed. Pop into your skis again. If you are a bigger skier I recommend going straight for this on flat terrain.

The below video gives a demonstration of how to get up on flat terrain. You can see the struggle of pushing yourself up with your lower legs.

Falling on steep terrain

Now that you are an advanced skier and skiing steeper terrain getting up from falls gets much easier. If you fall, do the following:

Get yourself stopped so you don’t slide into something that will hurt or hurt someone else. You can dig your arms and legs into the snow. You can use your skis also. If you fall and you don’t stop right away on your own then you need to stop yourself. You should not slide down the entire run and hope everything will be okay.

Now that you are stopped. Get your skis below you, the same as you did on flat terrain. You might have to roll on your back or twist your legs to free yourself up. Get your skis perpendicular to the fall line below you before trying to prop yourself up. If you don’t do this your skis will start sliding while you trying to get up and you’ll just fall again.

If the terrain is steep enough you can just push against the snow with your hand and prop yourself up. I find this to be the case on almost any blue or black run. If my arm isn’t quite long enough than use a pole. You can still pop your bindings as a last resort but I find I rarely ever need to anywhere but green runs.

6 – Take a lesson

Nothing increases your chances for success with skiing better than taking a lesson. There is no faster way to hurt yourself whether overweight or not than trying to learn on your own. Pushing yourself off the top of a ski slope and hoping for the best rarely ends well. At the very least you will get ski patroller attention and lose your lift ticket.

As heavier skiers, we are more injury prone and wear out faster. Learning proper technique allows you to use less effort so you can ski better for longer. Professional ski instructors can teach you all the tricks of getting up when you fall. They will show you how to turn and stop while staying in control. See our article on tips for first time skiers for more information.

Lessons do not have to stop at the beginner level. As a bigger skier, I still want to ski advanced terrain and hit every powder day I can. Skiing in powder snow is not easy because you sink down into it. As heavier skiers you have more mass and momentum to deal with. Taking lessons can make that deep snow day much more enjoyable. Don’t feel you have to stick to only groomer runs because of your weight. You don’t. Learning how to ski off-piste snow conditions correctly will make it much easier. Easier is more enjoyable.

7 – Proper technique and balance

As an overweight skier, falling is going to hurt more and it’s harder to get up. The way to not fall is get better and skiing and use better technique. Learning proper technique and balance will go a long way towards you falling less. Skiing with your weight too far rearwards will put a lot more pressure on your calves and knees. It will make you hurt at the end of the day. Being too far rearward on your skis makes you less stable. A bump or rut in the snow is much more likely to throw you off balance and into a fall if you are skiing too far back.

8 – Be aware of your knees

Knee injuries are a not great way to end your skiing life. As a larger skier, you will put more loads into your knee joint making you more injury prone. There are ways to reduce this to reduce your chances for a knee injury.

  • Avoid turning really hard and loading up your knees with a lot of G forces. You can’t always avoid this.
  • Skiing moguls puts a lot of wear and tear on your body in general. Save moguls for sunny warm days with soft snow. Avoid them altogether. Don’t over do it here. Many a skier has torn an ACL while going at it in the bumps.
  • Ski with an athletic stance with your knees bent and your skis shoulder width apart. A little closer is okay, especially in deeper snow. Do not ski with a wider stance than that. It may feel stable to ski with your skis very far apart. It is putting more bending moments into all of your joints. It makes it much easier for your skis to splay open or ski tips cross which will lead to an unpleasant fall. You don’t want to go back to the 1980s and ski Stein Erikson style with your ski boots touching. This is an unstable position and makes it difficult to get on the edge of your ski. Modern shaped skis with sidecut are not meant to be skied that way.
  • As mentioned earlier. Save fat skis for deep powder. Don’t use them all the time on hardpack snow. The wider width also generates more moments and loads on your knees.

The below video gives some tips for how to protect your knees while skiing.

Wrap up

As long as you can physically get yourself up off the ground there isn’t any reason you can’t ski. Being overweight won’t stop you from enjoying skiing. If your unsure, go give it a try this winter at your local ski area or ski resort.

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About the author

My name is Doug Ryan. I am an adventure sports fan and an avid skier, sailor, mountain biker who also enjoys paddle boarding, kayaking, wakeboarding, waterskiing, and travel. I take any chance I can get to get out in the snow or water.  I actively run an adventure sports meetup where I get asked many questions.  I decided to start Endless Rush Outdoors as a way to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for adventure sports their gear.

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