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"Peak a Week" - Fuel Up to Go Further | UNITED STATES, COLORADO | 01/11/2011, by AlpineAmbitions
“Peak a Week” is a Skiing the Backcountry exclusive series. Hosted by Donny Roth, owner of Alpine Ambitions, the idea is to provide some insight into the process of backcountry skiing. Each episode will feature a new mountain and a new guest. There will always be an educational element that highlights a critical piece of the day. There will be no daring feats of stunning athleticism. Rather, it is meant to inspire the average recreational skier to get into the backcountry.
“Eating while skinning? What are you talking about?” This was the reaction I got from another guide during a conversation we were having about moving efficiently in the mountains. I simply stated that I often don’t actually eat during transitions, but rather just load up my pockets so I can eat as I begin the next ascent. I felt this was totally obvious. The curious look on my friend’s face told me otherwise.
Backcountry skiing is by definition an aerobic activity. This means you will spend most of the day with an elevated heart rate, yet for the most part you should be able to pull in enough oxygen to fuel the energy generating process. Working at this capacity means the body must be fed properly.
You’re not out-of-shape
It is amazing to me how often people claim to be out-of-shape while we are ski touring together. It doesn’t matter if it’s a client or a friend that’s a high-level athlete – I hear this claim more well more than half the time I’m out with someone. The problem is not fitness; it’s a lack of fuel.
Super-ski-touring-machine, Greg Hill calculated that he consumes about 700 calories per hour while out in the mountains. While the typical weekend backcountry skier probably doesn’t need to consume this quantity of food, the idea should be applied. Just as you do while on long bike rides or hikes, you need to be constantly eating while ski touring.
I recently went on a tour of Berthoud Pass with two friends, both of whom are incredibly fit individuals. Connie Sciolino owns the Alpine Training Center in Boulder, Colorado, and is responsible for whipping my ass about three times a week in the pre-season. Timmy Duggan is a pro cyclist, racing on the UCI Tour with the Italian Liqui-Gas team. They both wanted as much vertical and mileage as the day would permit – I had no idea how big of a day I was in for. To prepare for this, I didn’t force extra sleep, or strip down my pack.
All I did was pack more food.
For a full day of ski touring, I typically fill my skin bag with food. I throw in a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and plain crap. I also eat a normal breakfast, and plan on eating on the way home from skiing.
A typical day’s worth of food looks something like:
- Cereal and fruit at the house, with a liter of water and a double espresso to get going
- I start eating a breakfast burrito at the trailhead, and try to finish it within the first hour.
- A cup of trail mix that is a mix of fruits and nuts
- Meat and cheese wrapped in a tortilla. If I’m going deluxe I throw in an avocado.
- An apple or a couple mandarins
- A peanut butter and honey sandwich – or two.
- A cup of trail mix that resembles a mix of candy
- An energy bar
- A few small Snickers bars
This may seem like an insane amount of food. This is what I will bring to fuel myself for a 6000-foot day, with a loaded “guide’s pack,” so that I’m ready for another one the next day. If you’re only headed out for a quick 1500 vertical foot lap, you don’t need all this. But either way, try bringing more food than you think is necessary and see how you feel.
Being “out-of-gas” at the end of a climb, muscle soreness, and “bonking” are all signs that your body has run out of fuel while still trying to generate energy. Once you go into this kind of debt, it is hard to recover.
A day of ski touring demands a constant supply of energy. Put your food at the top of your pack. Every time you stop, pull some of it out, and put it in your pocket. Then after you have completed your transition and are headed back up the skin track, take small bites and eat while climbing. If you’re about to go descend, eat while your putting on extra layers or snapping photos.
You’ll be amazed at how you can send it all the way to the summit, or be ready for another lap, and definitely recover more quickly – maybe you won’t have to sit out a powder day!