As a ski teacher, it’s so exciting to see students make strides in their skiing and get pumped about the progress. However, I’ve seen more than one student compromise his day because he simply didn’t have the energy to do what he wanted to do — like ski a run top to bottom, ski through the morning all the way to lunch, or have patience with his kids.
You come to the ski resort with whatever fitness level you have at the time. The thing you can control once you arrive is how to fuel your body for the days/weeks activities. The foods we choose make a difference in how we respond to the demands of skiing and snowboarding over the course of several days. I’m not suggesting that you be a martyr on your trip, just that you be mindful of the decisions that you make and try to balance out the good and the bad. The following are some things to consider so that you’re time on the mountain is fun, meaningful, and memorable (in the good way!).
Begin hydrating before you get to the slopes and continue to drink fluids, preferably water, during your entire trip. Dehydration can interfere with cell function, including those in your muscles and those in your brain. Muscle fatigue and/or bad decision making can lead to compromised fun on the slopes, but is completely preventable. To give you an idea of how much water you should drink, divide your weight by 2. That is the number of ounces of water you should drink per day, minimally. If you are at altitude, exercising or drinking alcohol, increase that number. So, as skiers and snowboarders, we should add more.
Research has indicated that we function at a higher level both physically and mentally, when we make the time to eat breakfast. If your typical breakfast is a cuppa’ joe and you’re good to go, you’ll want to add some nutrient dense foods to that minimalist meal before you come out to play on the slopes. Choose a breakfast that includes whole grain carbs such as oatmeal and whole grain bread. Foods high in sugar and white flours will get you out the door, but won’t maintain your energy levels for skiing and riding.
If you’re on vacation and the donut is irresistible, stick a whole grain energy bar in your pocket for a mid-morning snack so that you’re good to go until lunchtime. Also, your body will want protein to feed your muscles during the day. Eggs, yogurt, tofu, etc., should be part of your pre-slope meal. And, don’t be afraid of fats while on your ski trip – just eat them in moderation and choose the good ones like avocado and nuts. Fat provides big energy per gram, more than carbs and protein. Choose the healthier fats, whenever possible and go lighter on the butter, cheeses, fatty meats, etc.
Lunch and dinner are important meals for energy AND recovery. You’re on vacation and most likely you will indulge. Just keep in mind that not eating well for a day may not make a huge difference, but eating poorly for several days while you’re making demands on your body will catch up to you. Balance out meals like pizza and french fries, with meals that enhance your mental and physical function with nutrients.
When the pizza/french fry devil wins the lunch battle, choose a lean protein (broiled fish or fish, tofu, etc.) and lots of fresh veggies for dinner. If you went over-the-top the night before for dinner, make your lunch the nutrition power house by choosing a turkey sandwich on whole grain bread, skip the chips, and a piece of fresh fruit, for example. We cannot expect to be excessively well-behaved while on vacation, but we also do not want to sabotage the experience by not feeling as vitalized as we can.
In a nutshell, your vacation should be awesome. You’ve made the time to come out to the mountains to enjoy yourself, soak in the views, challenge your skills on the slopes, and spend time with happy people on similar pursuits. Fuel your body accordingly – hydrate and nourish – to give yourself every opportunity to make it your best vacation ever.
Say hi and send a smile my way when you see me out on the slopes. And, if you went for the donut option for breakfast, I just may have a PowerBar in my pocket. Hit me up.
– Robin Barnes
Ski instructor and staff trainer at Heavenly. PSIA National Alpine Team. HEAD Athlete.