Alpine Touring Nutrition Tips

Expert advice from professional instructor Charlie MacArthur on how to fuel up during alpine tours.
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Professional Ski Instructor Charlie MacArthur skins up the side of Aspen.

Professional ski instructor and expert uphiller Charlie MacArthur earns his turns at Aspen Snowmass, Colo., a resort that allows (and welcomes) in-bounds ski touring.  

When earning your turns, proper nutrition is essential to keep you feeling strong as you skin uphill and so you can fully enjoy your descent. Ski touring is one of the most physically demanding activities you can do on the ski hill, so it’s important to be prepared with adequate water and snacks to keep your body fueled. 

Charlie MacArthur, expert uphiller and instructor of SKI and AIM AdventureU’s new online course "Uphill Skiing 101," has a few smart tips about how you can maximize your performance while minimizing the weight you have to schlep while ski touring.

Ski Touring Hydration Tips

GU Hydration Drink Tabs

Drop an electrolyte tablet in your water bottle for extended tours to replace the electrolytes you'll be sweating out as you power uphill.

Hydrating often is key for a long day of skinning up the mountain. Make sure to consider the altitude when planning how much water to bring because our bodies dehydrate more quickly at higher elevations and require much more water during strenuous activities. A good rule of thumb is to drink a half-liter of liquid per hour of moderate ski touring. If you plan to be out longer than 90 minutes, consider adding electrolytes to your water to replenish those you’ll be sweating out. 

You can find electrolytes in most sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade, and you can also purchase electrolyte tablets that can be dropped into water bottles or bladders. Everybody has different needs when they exercise, so the exact amount of water needed during a ski tour will vary. But err on the side of bringing more than you need because the last thing you want is to be halfway up an epic route and realize you are out of water.

Nutrition for Skiing Uphill

gift guide 2018 GF honey stinger stroopwafel

Pocket-sized snacks for easy on-the-go munching are an uphiller's best friend. 

With all the gear required for touring, it’s important to bring snacks that are small and lightweight but packed with nutrients to keep you energized all day. If you’re only going out for a quick ski tour, fueling before you go and hydrating properly during the tour may suffice. But if you’re planning on skinning uphill for more than 90 minutes, food is essential to keep your body functioning at its best. 

It’s recommended that you consume about 150 calories per hour. Focus on eating small snacks throughout a longer tour to keep your energy levels balanced, and save heartier foods like sandwiches for the top of your ascent to help your body process nutrients better.

Snack on this: On-slope nutrition made from scratch

For snacks, MacArthur recommends eating real food instead of processed foods to maximize the nutritional benefits. His favorite snacks to bring on a tour are bagels and sardines. But for on-the-go eating, energy bars and gels are great because they are filled with proteins and nutrients while their small size makes it easy to throw them into your pockets. When choosing the right snacks, make sure they are made with real ingredients and packed with protein to sustain energy over long periods of time and help with recovery at the end of the day.

Cold Weather Tips for Ski Touring

If you find yourself on the mountain during a particularly cold day, make sure to pack snacks close to your body instead of in a pack to prevent them from freezing. “I like to take sports bars and cut them into small bite-sized chunks and put them in a pocket close to my skin. This way they will be nice and warm—and chewable—in cold weather,” says MacArthur.

When it comes to hydration in cold temperatures, it’s best to avoid the water bladder because they are prone to freezing, especially on longer tours. If you are using a bladder, MacArthur suggests clearing the hydration pack’s hose by blowing the water back into the bladder after drinking to keep the tube and bite valve from freezing. Water bottles are usually best when it's cold out because you can keep them close to your body to keep them warm.

Whether you are planning a quick skin up the mountain or an all-day adventure, refueling throughout the day is crucial. If you follow these tips, you will feel energized and strong while getting up the mountain so that the only thing you have to think about on the way down is where you want to set your first tracks.

Want more ski touring tips? SKI Magazine and AIM Adventure U partnered with professional instructor Charlie MacArthur to design the online course Uphill Skiing 101. From essential gear to skills and strategies, this course teaches you everything you need to know about getting up the mountain so you can shred down it. Learn more and enroll at skimag.com/uphilling101.

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