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Major burning thighs! Is it bad technique or a physical fitness thing?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone, I started skiing at age 5 and stopped at 13 (2001) to learn how to snowboard.  I got bored of snowboarding 10 years after that and tried to get back into skiing.  The lesson learned was, skiing is WAY more fun!  It was so fun, I ended up getting new custom fit boots this season!  So far, I've gone about 4 times since I restarted skiing.  Anyways, I'm not sure if this is a time gap thing, age thing, or a change from straight to shaped skis but I'm having problems with burning thighs.


All of the skiing i've done was learned as a child from instincts and no instruction.  I'm a very confident skier and can do blues no problem and can do blacks with caution.  However, near the middle / end of the day, I noticed that on green runs, I started getting lazy and did some back seat driving X_X.  I knew that was the source of the thigh burning so I'd force myself to lean a little forward more.  However, now a different part of my thighs are burning!  I suspect that I have a totally wrong form or something but this never occurred when I was a kid!  Is there somewhere I can refer to for good skiing form (there aren't any stickies and most of the posts I find are just people debating on proper technique or cause of wrong technique).


So... besides that, my last guess is that I'm getting out of shape hahah.... I'm 23, post college (aka post partying and unhealthiness) and now working as an engineer (aka sit all day).  I never had this much burn in my thighs during snowboarding and I am just as good on a snowboard compared to skis.  Hopefully, I suspect its a technique thing and I can force myself to get rid of my bad habit once I pinpoint what exactly it is.  



post #2 of 18

Well if you are weak and you get tired, you are probably doing all sorts of bad things to compensate for tired muscles, which will only create more tired muscles.    Start running and biking, do some type of workout each day.   Plenty of threads on here about what to do to get in shape,  bottom line is it's all good, and mixing it up each day is even better.  

post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 

I wouldnt say I'm terribly out of shape, I definitely cant run a marathon but I bike 15-20 miles up / down hill once a month.  My will to keep going is pretty strong, the last time going to the mountain, I literally burnt myself out until my thighs literally locked up and I had to find another alternative to going down.... basically I just bombed the slope until it was unbearable and then i sat for a minute, repeat!


quick question, how tight do you guys put the top 2 buckles on your boots?  Since I got new custom fit boots, it feels like I can make them tighter because they fit so well, however I'm not sure whats the best fit.  Should I try to loosen em up a bit to give my thighs some more play?

post #4 of 18

You should tighten your buckles to what feels good for your skiing.    I wouldn't adjust things just to stop sore muscles.   Biking once a month is not going to cut it at all.  try 3 -4 times a week and go on short runs the other days, mix in some squats or lunge walks, roller blading etc...     this should be your first step. 

post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 

alright, now you are making me miss my weekly rollerblading with my family as a kid, the mandatory PE classes, and my participation high school sports......


OKAY! i will try my best once I get back home from vacation.  thank you again :)

post #6 of 18

It seems like taking a lesson would be the easiest way to figure out what you are going wrong.

post #7 of 18

I had the same problem last year with the burn. See how long you can remain in a semi squat position. At 1st I could only do it for about 1 min but over the off-season i built it up to 5 min and have not had the burn on skis since. My other problem was shortness of breath so I started jumping rope and running stairs. Now thats better too. But you never mentioned cardio endurance as a problem only the quads so thats what I would focus on. Running stairs would help both and side-to-side jump lunges. One legged shallow squats will help with quads and balance. Doem in a door jam and try not to hold on to anything unless you start to tip. I bet your legs will feel much better and you will enjoy your skiing much more if you do some of these things regularly. I know I do!!!


post #8 of 18
Thread Starter 

yeah a lesson would be nice... I wonder if the instructors at big bear are decent / good?


Anyways, I'll be focusing on strengthening my legs while going to the mountain every 2 or 3 weeks and see how it goes, thanks everyone :)

post #9 of 18

Take a lesson but tell the instructor your problem.  If he/she is a good instructor they will check your stance, skiing posture and where you are on your feet an d skis when you are moving under different mt. aspects.  The most obvious and prevalent cause of thigh burn is that you are in the back seat and putting undue strain on your thighs.  This can be remedied easily with the right instructor.

post #10 of 18

I experience thigh burn.  It's the way I ski.  Working out, strength training helps, but there are plenty of skiers out there with weaker legs that done have that problem.  Start with technique, that's what I would do.  Or that's what I should do rolleyes.gif


post #11 of 18

Physical Trainer Guys: Fitness


Instructors: Technique


Gear nuts: The boots

post #12 of 18



If you get a chance, get some video taken of your skiing, post it on youtube and link it here. This way we can tell you for sure what is going on.


If you're going to ski hard all day, you should be tired at the end of the day, but you should be tired all over. 99% of the students I teach that complain of specific muscle tiredness either have gear issues or technique issues (mostly technique). Most of these skiers can reduce or eliminate the tiredness problem far easier through technique change than through fitness improvement. As you've deduced, the most common cause of thigh burn is sitting back. Two common reasons why you could be sitting back are vertical movement with no ankle movement and lack of forward movement of the core.


Here's an exercise you can do at home that might help: sitting in a chair. First try to sit so that your back fits flush with the back of the chair when your butt makes contact with the seat. Do you notice how your belly button moves backward as you sit? Now stand up (and move the belly button forward). Without moving your feet try to sit so that your butt is on the edge of the seat by sinking down slowly. Did your heels come up off the floor? See how your belly button hardly moves backward at all? You should also notice that you have to bend your ankles to make this happen in the second sit and that your ankles do not bend on the first sit. Now try that second edge sit again, but this time stop before your ankle comes up off the floor (don't go all the way to a sitting position). From this "squatting" position, try to stand up again, but try to stand on your toes as soon as you can. Notice the "forward" movement of the belly button this time? Try this again doing the same movement, except for lifting the heels off the floor. Feel the weight shift to the balls of your feet? I'll call this movement a "squat-forward" move.


When you start a turn, as your skis start pointing down the fall line, they will start to move faster than you are moving. Think what would happen if you were on skis on flat ground and someone laying on the snow pushed your boots forward from behind you. If you were prepared for it, you'd stiffen against the push and everything would move together. If you weren't prepared, your feet would move ahead of you and your belly button would move backward like you were going to sit in a chair and you'd either fall or recover and pull yourself back up. In a ski turn, you can't stiffen against the push from gravity if you don't use your ankles. You have to move your core (e.g. the belly button) to avoid sitting back. If you are trying to recover from sitting back all day (even just a little), you are going to be doing a lot more work. Compare thousands of "sits" to thousands of "squat-forwards". The timing here is subtle and critical, but the more time you spend "sitting", the faster your thighs are going to start burning.


One of the ways we can make turns on skis is to straighten the legs to release the old edges, flow the body over the skis to the inside of the new turn, then bend the legs to sink weight down and engage the new edges to go in the new direction. If that last step is down without ankle movement, you're getting in and out of the chair on every turn. The least you can do is to turn the chair sit into a squat-forward. But if you can add turn types where both legs bend to start the turn and then finish the turn with both legs extending or turns where the new inside leg bends while the new outside leg straightens, then you will have a much bigger tool kit to deal with different terrain and snow conditions. Using the best tool for the job can also be a lot easier on the thighs.


So whether you are sitting at the end of your turns to engage your new edges or simply failing to move with the skis as they begin accelerating down the hill, the solution is the same: use your ankles! When you get that problem fixed, your next leap forward in skiing will be using your ankles differently. If this does not solve your problem, then the next step is video or an in person lesson with a pro.

post #13 of 18

On a more general note, try to relax on your skis a bit. Many relative novices tend to get more tired simply because they are tense, and are actively trying very hard to control themselves and their skis in inefficient ways. I see this all the time in my extended family members. On the same terrain, someone with a good skiing background who got out of shape would probably end up with less burn/tiredness than a very in shape skier who is a novice trying to force it all day. The trick is to let subtle edging and weight transfer motions do the work. Think about being centered, and not making sudden, forced movements. 


And also exercise more. And take a lesson. wink.gif

Edited by LiveJazz - 12/30/11 at 8:52am
post #14 of 18

This is something most ski instructors see on a regular basis.  "Thigh Burn" happens when you use your muscles to hold yourself up and not your skeleton.  It happens when your stance has you in the backseat.

Originally Posted by oh5hitronald View Post
....  I knew that was the source of the thigh burning so I'd force myself to lean a little forward more.  However, now a different part of my thighs are burning! ....


Now, how did you lean forward?  Was it from the hips or from the ankles?  If from the hips your butt would go back and you'd still be in the backseat.  (Thus the change in muscle burn.)  If from the ankles you are starting to draw the entire body forward and get into a proper stance.  (If not enough then that might be the change in muscle burn you feel.)


Can you feel the tongue of you boots against your shins all the time when you ski?  (I'm talking a nice firm contact.)  If you don't, then I'm thinking you are in the backseat.


I'll echo that you need a lesson.  Tell the instructor your problem and show him/her what muscles are hurting.  (Rub them and say these muscles hurt after skiing.)  A good instructor will take it from there.


There's a bunch of ideas that I have to help.  However, it is best to see you and how you ski before making a diagnosis and offering a prescription for help.  Right now anything we offer is a guess at best.

post #15 of 18

Add one more item to Philplug's list...the heels on your bindings are too high forcing you too far forward.


Yes, out of condition does it.

Yes, poor technique.

Yes, being forced to lean too far forward either by the boots or the bindings.


Or, a combination of ingredients.


For technique, you do need to be balanced over the balls of your feet.  How hard that puts you against the tongues of your boots depends on your body structural arrangement and your equipment.  If this results in burning thighs, your equipment might be forcing you too far forward.  You need to bend your knees and sit back a bit to be balanced.  (I know that happens to me on my Rossi/Dynastar/Lange bindings with their standard raised heels--lowering the heels was a big help.)  Sometime when you're skiing along, glance down at your ski tips.  If they're fluttering, they are not engaged in the snow--you're sitting back on your heels and burning your thighs.  If your ski tips are well engaged in the snow, and your legs still hurt, it may be your equipment.

post #16 of 18
Originally Posted by Philpug View Post

Physical Trainer Guys: Fitness


Instructors: Technique


Gear nuts: The boots

Psychologists: Intent 



TAPP  Like Philpug says, it could be Technique, could be Alignment/equipment,  could be Physio, or could be Psychological.  These four areas should be assessed to determine the root cause of your issues.  Focusing on the wrong area will yield poor results.  A good coach/instructor will address the cause rather than the symptom.  


Tiredknees says:

"For technique, you do need to be balanced over the balls of your feet."


Really?  All the time?   Where might this be inaccurate?  When you release your turns are you balanced over the balls of your feet?  I am not?

Edited by bud heishman - 1/1/12 at 12:07am
post #17 of 18
Originally Posted by oh5hitronald View Post

...tried to get back into skiing.  The lesson learned was, skiing is WAY more fun!  It was so fun, I ended up getting new custom fit boots this season!...

Hi oh5hitronaid,

Welcome to EpicSki!

Could be many things as you and others have said.

One thing caught my attention in your post though: new boots this season.

When was it that you tried skiing again? Did you have the new boots then? And did you have burning thighs then? ...or is burning thighs new with the boots?

Happy New Year!
post #18 of 18

oh5hitronald ,


As others have stated, it could be equipment related, alignment related, technique related, conditioning related, and stance related.  All of these items can contribute to burning thighs.  The physics of how a shaped ski behaves compared to straight skis is also a factor and if any one of the items above are not correct for you, your thighs let you know.  I suggest that you start by seeking a qualified boot fitter (bring your skis too) and get your fit and alignment checked and adjusted.  From there, find a qualified instructor and work on your body position on the skis.  Working on technique will be  a waist of time if your're skiing in a balanced position.



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