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For me, there truly is nothing better than shredding waist deep pow or jumping from pillow to pillow and then stomping that soft, buttery landing. But you know what comes in at a close second? Mountain biking.
I miss ski season as soon as it’s over, but that’s when I grab my bike and head for the local singletrack to get a good ol’ dose of that brown pow. Mountain biking not only gives me that sense of freedom I get from skiing, but has also become one of my favorite ways to train for skiing in the off-season.
Related reading: The Best Ski Areas for Mountain Biking
For people new to mountain biking, it can be hard to see the correlation between the two sports. But there’s actually a lot of overlap, which is why so many professional skiers are also mountain bikers.
Here are just a few reasons why mountain biking can not only benefit you as a skier, but in every other aspect of your life as well.
Kiss those early season ski legs goodbye.
Obvious benefits of mountain biking include increasing strength, power, and endurance in the lower body and core. It’s also easy to see where mountain biking up steep singletrack can help build cardiovascular fitness. These things all translate to skiing fitness and performance. As a coach and athlete, I’ve found that the best way for me to avoid early season ski leg fatigue is to train in the off-season, and my training plan includes lots of mountain biking.
But there are benefits to mountain biking beyond these fitness components. Mountain biking can also help improve your coordination, weight distribution, and form on the ski hill.
The athletic stance that we are all so familiar with when skis are on our feet is very similar to the “ready position” that bikers must get into when attacking the trail. Mountain biking also teaches you to keep your hands in front of you, look where you want to go, and how to change the distribution of your weight to accommodate for terrain variation.
These are all skills that are critical to skiing but often difficult for people to master on the ski hill. But add some summer training on a mountain bike to the mix, and you increase your practice opportunities before the ski season starts.
The more you progress as a biker, and the more playful you become on two wheels, the more playful and confident you will be on the ski hill when you put on your ski boots the following winter. Flow on the mountain bike trail will start to feel very similar to flowing through perfectly spaced trees on an epic pow day.
Train your mental game.
Fear is the No. 1 thing that stops my clients (on snow or on the trail) from progressing and from trying new things. Fear of failure, fear of falling, fear of looking “stupid.” But if we live our lives never doing anything that we are afraid of, is that really living?
So when someone tells me they are scared, I ask them what they are scared of, because unless we first know that, we can’t get past any of our fears. On a bike, maybe they’re afraid of going over the handlebars when the slope descends steeply; maybe they’re afraid they’ll skid out in a tight turn on loose track.
Chances are, if you’re just getting into mountain biking, you’ll run into fear a lot more than when you’re skiing, especially if you’re a veteran skier. Learning to conquer the fears you may encounter on two wheels will not only teach you valuable new skills (that will most likely transfer to the slopes), but will also help you build confidence and mental strength, so that when you encounter fear on the slopes, you’re better equipped to overcome it.
All work and no play … well, you know the rest.
We all love skiing, so when the season ends, “play time” can dwindle unless you have another sport or outlet to fill it with. Having a mental and physical break from your job, from your family, from the craziness of everyday life, is imperative to everyone’s happiness. Enter mountain biking.
What may have started out as just something fun that I did with friends has over the past 10 years turned into a freedom that I need in my life when the snow isn’t falling. Taking that time on the bike, pedaling up the trail at sunrise with my dog in tow, well that quality time away (even if just for an hour) helps me to be the best wife, mom, friend, and business owner that I can be. Because when I get home, it’s “go” time before my bike shoes even come off.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned rider, mountain biking can be the perfect mental and physical outlet in the off-season. Spend some time on a bike this summer, and you’ll be a few steps ahead come fall, when it’s time to buckle down and get in shape for ski season.
Shannon Mahre is an IMBA-ICP Level 2 certified mountain bike coach and founder of Girls with Grit, an organization that hosts year-round mountain biking, skiing, SUP, and yoga clinics and classes specifically for women.