When I moved to Boulder, Colo., in 2018, I jumped on the stereotypical "Boulderite" athlete bandwagon. I signed up for local SkiMo and trail running races, created training schedules for Aspen’s Power of Four, did dawn and dusk patrols in in spandex onesies at Eldora Mountain, and engaged in other activities that most skiers probably find, well, kind of weird.

Given my new habits, I was enthused to hear that legendary American alpinist Steve House and master endurance athlete coach Scott Johnston came out with a new book, "Training for the Uphill Athlete," geared towards ultra-running, SkiMo, and ski mountaineering* athletes. On top of that, the two got the fastest mountain athlete alive, Kílian Jornet, to author parts of the book.

"Training for the Uphill Athlete" follows a similar formula to House and Johnston’s first book, "Training for the New Alpinism," which I used extensively before moving to Boulder. Many sections of both books read like college-level texts, detailing the scientific nuances—in mostly general terms—about how and why endurance athletes require a different mindset and level of commitment than recreational CrossFit or SoulCycle enthusiasts.

The joy of skiing uphill.

The joy of skiing uphill.

The sometimes bland—but important—explanations of uphill athlete physiology and theory are well researched and backed by the authors' many years of experience, coaching, and training. After all, the basis of the entire book relies on an understanding of how someone like Jornet can be so much faster over longer periods of time moving uphill than everyone else in the world, both on skis and on the run. 

Jornet in Action: Skiing the Troll Wall

Just like in their first book, the authors use short and sometimes hilarious essays from elite mountain athletes to add voice and humor to the sometimes bland main text. Ultra runner Jeff Browning's "Wildlife Rendezvous", in particular, will make sure you never read a children's book with owls the same way again.

Tamara Lunger, Philipp Reiter, and David Wallmann nearing the summit of Rheinwaldhorn in Switzerland.

Tamara Lunger, Philipp Reiter, and David Wallmann nearing the summit of Rheinwaldhorn in Switzerland.

Skiers of all types can benefit from Jornet's, House's, and Johnston's theories and practices to increase their abilities to move through mountains more efficiently, with or without a SkiMo spandex onesie. It's also worth noting that any uphill skier can definitely use "Training for the Uphill Athlete" to train for non-race specific objectives, but they will have to pick and choose what information is most relevant to them in the application and planning sections.

The authors do include hut-to-hut trip training plans and dry-land exercises that mimic the mechanics of ski touring, shining light on how backcountry generalists can be uphill athletes, even if they never plan to enter a race of any kind.

The Sport of SkiMo: An Introduction

Overall, however, it’s hard to say whether this book is more beneficial to ski mountaineers than "Training for the New Alpinism." The biggest difference between the two comes down to the different types of specialized training discussed in each. Overall, "Training for the Uphill Athlete" features high volumes of trail running, and hill bounding, and focuses less on gym workouts. 

Training for the Uphill Athlete Cover

Kílian Jornet runs down the Täschhorn, Switzerland on the "Training for the Uphill Athlete" cover.

This type of training is perhaps more attractive than slowly lugging a backpack full of heavy weight up and down hills repetitively, a key workout recommended by House and Johnston in “Training for the New Alpinism.” I can say from experience that the weighted backpack workouts put me in the best shape of my life. But, after all that time moving slowly up and down mountains, I'm anxious to give the Uphill Athlete training plan a try this spring and summer, especially if it means leaving my weighted backpack at home and moving just a little bit faster.

Training for the Uphill Athlete

Editor's note: SkiMo is defined as ski tour racing, while ski mountaineering is defined as more general mountaineering that uses skis for descending.

Originally published as a SKImag.com original in April 2019. For more great uphill (and downhill) skiing content delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for SKI's weekly e-newsletter.

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