How Many Calories Do Your Favorite Winter Activities Burn?

Exercise scientist Greg Cloutier breaks down the caloric output of winter classics, from sledding to skiing.

If your go-to winter activity is watching Netflix under a stack of blankets, it’s time to get moving. After all, if there’s an upside to dealing with seemingly endless Northeast winters, it’s the plethora of outdoor activities available at our fingertips.

We asked Greg Cloutier, project manager of the Human Performance and Exercise Science Laboratory at Northeastern University’s College of Health and Sciences, just how many calories you actually burn doing those classic winter activities:

Calories burned: 300 for alpine, 500 for cross-country*

Both forms of skiing are great exercise, but cross-country takes the aerobic cake. “Cross-country is much more of a calorie-burner than downhill skiing, because of the amount of body parts being used, but also the duration,” Cloutier says. Don’t worry if you’re a beginner: Cloutier says newbies actually tend to burn more calories than seasoned skiers. “As you become more efficient with form, you burn less calories per hour than someone who is less proficient,” he says.

Calories burned: 100-150

Taking the kids to the (mini) slopes is a great way to spend an afternoon, but it probably shouldn’t replace your gym visit, Cloutier says. “Sledding with the kids is great activity, particularly if you have to pull the kids up the hill,” he says. “But walking up the hill doesn’t take 15 minutes; it’s probably five minutes up the hill, at most, and 30 seconds down.”

Calories burned: 400

Snowshoeing just may be the sleeper hit of your winter workout routine. “You’re plodding through the snow and you’ve got to lift your feet up, so it’s also a higher caloric demand than walking alone,” Cloutier explains.

Shoveling Snow
Calories burned: 400

“Last year would have been a better example of having an exercise routine built around shoveling,” Cloutier laughs, adding that the calories burned shoveling snow are fairly substantial. “You’re bending, lifting, and tossing something up overhead.” Just be sure your heart is healthy enough to sustain the effort—Cloutier says many people have cardiac problems while shoveling snow.

Ice Skating
Calories burned: 300, or around 300-450 for pick-up hockey

A lazy lap around the rink isn’t going to burn off your afternoon hot cocoa, but Cloutier says skating with intensity can be a good workout. A game of pond hockey ups the calorie burning potential even further.

Walking in the Cold
Calories burned: Roughly 200

You may have heard that shivering burns calories, making a cold-weather walk a better workout than a summer stroll. Unfortunately, Cloutier says, that’s largely wishful thinking. “It may not add anything substantial,” he says. Nonethless, he says, “Even if you make an attempt to do something during this type of weather in the winter months, you’re one step ahead.”

*Calorie estimates are for an hour of activity performed by a 150-pound man