WorkoutsWednesday Workout: Alpine Touring & Backcountry Skiing with NCAA Champs DU

Avatar Gabby NaranjaNovember 23, 2016
University of Denver (DU) Head Nordic Coach Dave Stewart during a backcountry ski on Berthoud Pass in the Colorado Rockies in 2015. (Courtesy photo)
University of Denver (DU) Head Nordic Coach Dave Stewart during a backcountry ski on Berthoud Pass in the Colorado Rockies in 2015. (Courtesy photo)

Looking for a workout that’s been known to produce both NCAA Championship skiers AND a national title? After winning the overall at 2016 NCAA Skiing Championships in March in Steamboat Springs, Colo., the University of Denver (DU) shares a workout that — perhaps to no surprise — combines an alpine skier’s agility and strength along with the cardio fitness and adventure-loving attitude often exhibited among nordic athletes.

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Who says backcountry skiing and alpine touring are only workouts for the post-season springtime? For a little more than three years, the University of Denver nordic ski team has taken full advantage of the Rocky Mountain Range’s summits, not only as a way to work off the post-season blues, but as a means of in-season training as well.

Denver University nordic skies Maja Solbakken, Josh Smullin, Sylvia Nordskar during a back-country ski on the Buffalo Pass in 2015 (Courtesy photo)
University of Denver nordic skiers Maja Solbakken and Sylvia Nordskar with Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club coach Josh Smullin (c) during a backcountry ski on Buffalo Pass in 2015. (Courtesy photo)

DU Head Nordic Coach Dave Stewart (who helped lead the Pioneers to two individual NCAA titles as well as the overall team title last season) indicated that when packing for training camps, or even ski races, slipping a set of skins into duffel bags and an extra set of touring skis is a must.

“A few years ago, some of our skiers got really fired up about alpine touring and backcountry skiing,” Stewart wrote in an email. “So we started to bring equipment with us to training camps and race trips as well as getting in some more skinning close to Denver when at home.”

Taking the opportunity in between race weekends, or even training sessions, to venture up and off-trail on alpine skis also prevents from getting bogged down with the regular routine of training, according to Stewart.

“Getting out on the backcountry equipment, off the trails and in the mountains is a mini-adventure and a break from the routine,” Stewart wrote. “It’s also outstanding training and adds some more variation, something we are always looking for.”

The tours combine strength during descents with a low intensity cardio during the climbs. As Stewart pointed out, what makes backcountry skiing a beneficial workout for cross-country skiers is the way it brings together exploration and exercise.

“We always have a few people on the team who love spending time adventuring in the mountains, so backcountry is a way for us to combine this with race training,” Stewart wrote. “It’s good for the body and mind.”

Denver University nordic skier Trygve Markset during a back-country ski at Fish Creek, Steamboat Springs in 2014. (Courtesy photo)
University of Denver nordic skier Trygve Markset during a backcountry ski at Fish Creek, Steamboat Springs, Colo., in 2014. (Courtesy photo)

The Workout

Purpose: Low-intensity workout that doubles as a break from the occasional routineness of in-season training

Step 1: Pick a time

  • DU Head Coach Dave Stewart suggests melding alpine touring/backcountry skis into midweek training camps or even as a post-race day recovery workout.
  • “Find a good time for a tour, either the day after a race, on an afternoon midway through a training camp or on a sunny spring morning,” Stewart notes.

Step 2: Get a Guide

  • Gathering information from someone knowledgeable about the safety of conditions is a priority for DU athletes looking to complete the workout.

Step 3: Skin and Ski Up

Stick your skins on and begin the uphill trek. Stewart suggests “see[ing] what you find over the next few hours,” as you work the ascent.

Step 4: Ski Down

After a few hours of uphill, dig into the descent.

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Gabby Naranja

Gabby Naranja considers herself a true Mainer, having grown up in the northern most part of the state playing hockey and roofing houses with her five brothers. She graduated from Bates College where she ran cross-country, track, and nordic skied. She spent this past winter in Europe and is currently in Montana enjoying all that the U.S. northwest has to offer.

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