When you think about ski holidays, you can almost smell the cheese…and the vin chaud, hot chocolate and lunch with a side of fries. It’s no small wonder that many of us put on weight while out in the mountains, instead of losing it as we should be doing given we’re exercising all day, every day — right? Well, not exactly, says Andy Sturt, MD of chalet-holiday specialist VIP Ski.
Skiing burns up to 3,000 calories a day, about 1,000 or so more than the average person with a desk job would burn at home. While that does give us licence to eat a little more than normal, it doesn’t mean you can pile into three large wedges of cake at tea.
Skiing uses muscles you don’t use in everyday life, no matter how sporty you are, so it’s important to eat and drink wisely to give yourself the best chance of enjoying your holiday and to repair those muscles each night — and don’t forget alcohol represents calories, too.
Being at altitude puts a strain on the body and increases the metabolic rate, so the best time to fuel yourself for skiing is first thing in the morning. Eating fat and protein in the same meal will slow down the release of energy, ensuring you have enough to get through the day.
You also need slow-release, low-GI (Glycaemic Index) carbs — whole grains rather than white. If you normally avoid carbs, you can get away with eating them at breakfast in the mountains as you’ll be spending the day skiing, out in the cold and your body needs proper fuel.
Porridge with honey, granola and fruit, whole-grain toast or bagels and poached or boiled eggs, avocado on toast are all good choices. While fruit is a fantastic source of vitamins, it contains fast-releasing sugars – so try not to eat the entire fruit bowl in one sitting.
What to Eat During The Day
If you intend to ski in the afternoon, don’t over-indulge at lunchtime or you’ll feel lethargic all afternoon as your body tries to digest the meal. At the same time, don’t be afraid to eat carbs at lunch — if you’re watching your weight you can eliminate them in the evening, because a salad won’t fuel you for skiing.
Good lunch choices include soup and bread, a sandwich with lean meat or a nut butter, salad with nuts, goats cheese and/or fish and meats with pulses or beans. Remember, you can always pack your own picnic – for example the new Solaise day lodge in Val d’Isere offers a warm and comfortable area where picnickers are welcome. You could bring anything from a sandwich to a full-blown rucksack meal to heat in one of the microwaves provided.
If you must have a burger and fries, have it as a treat and not every day! It’s never a good idea to drink too much at lunchtime. Alcohol will impair your decision making — putting you and others at risk, plus it is severely dehydrating.
Boring as it sounds, the best thing to eat when you get in from skiing is a protein-based snack to repair muscles and reduce soreness for the next day, so choose a milkshake, yoghurt-based smoothie or sandwich with lean meats, eggs or low-fat cheese.
Wise Supper Choices
Supper is the time to avoid overload — as tempting as it is to enjoy everything the chef conjures up! As you would at home, keep portion sizes sensible, don’t overload on bread (even if it is absolutely delicious, and far nicer than at home) and don’t tuck into the entire cheese board each and every night.
It’s important to eat protein while skiing to help repair muscles, but limit red and processed meats — wisest choices are fish and chicken, with plenty of green veg and not too many potatoes, pasta, or rice. Go easy on the canapés before dinner, too.
Don’t eat too much too late at night — it will affect the quality of your sleep, as will tucking into the booze, both of which might lead to mistakes on the piste the next day.
Try to encourage your children to eat healthily while on holiday. Make breakfast a big meal to give them energy to make it through the day — porridge, eggs and fruit are all good options. At lunch try to ensure they have a balanced meal — although a plate of chips might look tasty it would be better with some meat or fish, but not every day!
Send them off to ski school with a snack in their pockets — a peanut butter sandwich, muesli bars and dried fruit are all good options — but if you’re skiing with them make sure you carry snacks and drinks in your backpack. You don’t need to be too strict while they’re burning off all their energy skiing, so sweets and choccies are ok this time! Try to limit the amount of hot chocolate they have too. Although milk is good, the sugar is not!
Remember that your children will be tired and hungry when they come in off the slopes, and may prefer to eat earlier than the adults in the chalet — we offer early children’s high tea, so perhaps keep dinner together as a family for one night of the week, or the night that you go out to a restaurant.
If you are vegetarian or vegan, make doubly sure you are eating enough protein — don’t just eat vegetables.
Whilst our menu is planned, it is not set in stone, we will always do our best to accommodate preferences and requests. Unfortunately, most ski resorts simply do not offer the huge selection of gluten, lactose or dairy free products available in supermarkets at home. That said, if you have any dietary requests, food intolerances or food allergies, we do our upmost to plan the menu to suit you. We can always provide fruit as an alternative pudding, too.
Our Executive Chef is passionate about food and hugely sensitive to the appetite of skiers whilst considering a balanced diet. The new and refined menus are heavy enough to reward mountain exertion yet light and simple enough to leave you grinning not groaning! We also offer a ‘switch menu’ for guests who would prefer to see a more simple dish on the menu, or a lighter option. And if you’re looking for an even greater degree of luxury you may be interested in our Platinum Service Upgrade, too.
Snacking On The Slopes
Keep some snacks in your pocket or backpack when skiing, especially if you have children with you. However, even good snacks are bad for you if overdone — so unless you’re going ski-touring you don’t need to provision for a marathon.
The best snacks are cereal bars, flapjacks, trail mix (nuts and seeds), and dried fruit — all of which are filling and tasty but release energy slowly, unlike a chocolate bar that will cause an energy spike but leave you hungry half an hour later.
Bounce balls and bites are readily available or Tribe offer a good selection and will tailor and deliver a box of snacks to suit your requirements. Go steady on the nuts, they are high in protein but pack a fattening punch.
Most people are dehydrated in their everyday lives, so combine altitude, exercise and salty foods (fondue!) with alcohol and you’re looking at a recipe for disaster. Dehydration causes your heart to work harder and will affect your performance on the piste, so drink plenty of water. Down a large glass when you first get up (altitude and central heating is very drying), then after breakfast too.
Take a bottle or hydrapack (like the new Osprey bag with insulated hydrapack) up on the slopes with you and if you’re working hard (or have a hangover) add a little powdered sports drink such as Skratch Labs – available from Wiggle – and SIS.
Bear in mind that caffeine — tea, coffee and even some herbal teas such as green tea — all have a diuretic effect and encourage water loss. Most importantly, don’t not drink to avoid loo stops — drink water until your pee is completely colourless, that’s the only way to tell.
Boozing and Skiing
Alcohol and skiing don’t mix that well — so save your drinking until apres rather than on the slopes. If you do end up having the inevitable big night out, eat before you go out, after you get back (though try not to raid the chalet’s fridge — none of the staff will thank you for getting through the next day’s menu with your midnight munchies!), and the following morning.
If you have overdone it, take things steady the day after — only do a half to two-thirds of the skiing or snowboarding that you would normally as dehydration from alcohol (and tiredness after a late night) reduces concentration and the capacity of your muscles, so you’re more likely to fall.
If you’ve had a big session, drink plenty of water to rehydrate in the morning, and rehydration sachets (such as Diaoralyte or your choice of sports drink) and a vitamin C boost / sugar drink like Berocca. Coconut water is an excellent natural hydrator, too.
Here are some examples of our starters:
Sweet Potato, Coconut, Lime & Chilli Soup
Salmon, Citrus & Shaved Fennel Salad
…and light options from our ‘switch’ menu include:
Pan-fried Sea Bream with sizzled ginger, chilli & red onion
Lemon Baked chicken and warm quinoa salad
Vietnamese Chicken & Mint Salad
If you have any tips of your own on keeping healthy whilst skiing or snowboarding we’d love to hear them, so please post them in the comments box below. Also see our feature on how to get ski fit quickly .