Menu for the Intense Backcountry Skier

January 24, 2018

The intense backcountry skier skins up as quickly as possible in the early morning to have fresh tracks and repeats this as often as possible well into the afternoon (or until the avalanche risk becomes too high). Usually, he exercises at high intensity, which increases the energy (calorie) needs and water loss through sweating and heavy breathing. On the other hand, breaks are short, if existent, and space in day pack limited since it is almost full of all the avalanche gear.

Nutrition Concern #1:

High energy needs and carbohydrate due to the fast pace while skinning up. If not sufficient fuel (calories, mainly in the form of carbohydrates) is taken on board, you risk to empty your tank and have low blood sugar while skiing down. This can not only reduce the enjoyment of the moment but also increase your risks of an accident. Being well-fueled helps to keep up with the high skiing pace.

Solution #1:

Try to stop (or slow down) every hour and get about 250 calories (mostly as carbs). See examples below. This is not enough to cover all of your needs for the day. Plan also a snack post ski and a balanced dinner.

Nutrition concern #2:

Water losses through sweating and heavy breathing can be surprisingly high even in the winter. Most skiers are gonna be dehydrated by the end of a ski day. This is not a big deal if you are only slightly dehydrated and have access to fluids afterward. However, the more dehydrated you are, the harder the exercise will feel like. If could also be more difficult to stay focus (pretty important while skiing down between trees) and to concentrate (important when making decisions about avalanche risk).

Solution #2:

Water needs vary greatly from one person to the other and based on weather. However, as a general advice for 1 full day skiing in the outdoor at high intensity, I would recommend bringing 1L (32 oz) Nalgene bottle and 500ml thermos of hot tea. Make sure you have other liquids in the car for after ski but remember that water is better than beer in terms of rehydration!

Note: This menu contains affiliate links. You can read my disclosure here.

Timing Foods Liquids
Break around 9 am 1 Mocha Energy Bar Sip on a Nalgene bottle (1 L or 32 oz) of water and a thermos of hot tea (500ml or 16oz). To boost the calorie count, add honey, maple syrup or sugar to your tea.
Break around 10 am About 10 pieces of Dried Mangoes
Reach the top (10:45 am) and ski down 2 cheese sticks and about 16 crackers
Put back the skins to climb back up (11:45 am) 2 Fig, Hazelnut, and Chocolate Energy Balls
Short break during 2nd ascent (12:45 pm) 2 Cocoa and Peanut butter Energy Balls
Reach the top (13:45 pm) and ski back to parking 1 small handful (or about ⅓ cup) of your favorite trail mix

This menu represents only a generic example and might not meet your specific needs. If you need specific advice for a particular condition or trip, please reach out to me.

Have fun and stay safe out there!

Gen Masson, MSc, RD, CD

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