QUICK TIPS: Get In Shape For Ski Mountaineering

When it finally starts to snow, I think we all have one goal: To ski as much as possible. I've always held the philosophy that more skiing equals more fun, and for those of us who hike for our turns, there are only a few ways to get more. We either have to spend more time, use lighter gear, or gain more fitness. Since life gets in the way of skiing and not everyone wants to ski on lightweight "kid" gear, let's focus on fitness. 

Backcountry skiing is a vertical sport, so it makes sense that we need to train to move uphill. Running and riding bikes uphill certainly helps develop general aerobic fitness, but to really work on sport-specific fitness, a bunch of us in the Salt Lake area like to find some of the steepest trails around and run or power hike with poles. We are fortunate in that we have a few peaks with three to four thousand feet of vertical gain in just a few miles that allow us to really train the same muscles we will be using when they are covered in snow. For those with smaller hills, more reps are on the menu. 

Our three keys are listed below:

  •     We like to set vertical goals for the week to keep track of volume. Twenty thousand to 30,000 feet of gain a week will really harden the legs.
  •     A couple times a week we will put in a hard sustained effort or work some uphill intervals into the routine.
  •     Again, using poles helps engage the upper body much in the same way they are used during uphill skinning.

It all sounds pretty simple, but getting some vert in now makes it that much easier on the skin track. Really the hard part is waiting for winter.