Throughout the years, there have been strong ties between the racetracks and the slopes. The need for speed has attracted many drivers to downhill, with Kitzbuhel and Madonna di Campiglio being the scene of many press conferences and driving displays. Lindsey Vonn revealed she had seriously considered switching sports were it not for restrictions around pregnancy being necessitated for a chance at an F1 ride.
As we’ve recently profiled, Nordic skiing is one of the fastest growing disciplines of the sport, particularly in America. In the upper Midwest, there may not be much in the way of slopes, but XC skis are a great way of working out – and even traveling – in Minneapolis or Chicago when outdoor tracks and trails are snowed under. In the realms of celebrity, one confirmed cross-country convert is champion driver Sir Lewis Hamilton. The reasons he loves the sport aren’t starry, citing the “peace and tranquility” and “great workout” as gains – much the same as the growing number of everyday enthusiasts.
Cross country skiing at 2000m. This is one of the greatest workouts I’ve discovered over the years. Feeling so focused. Finding peace and tranquility in all I do and never giving up! Sending you big waves of energy🙌🏾 pic.twitter.com/PX9XCxcZCU
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) January 22, 2021
The Formula One offseason is from November through to March, so Nordic skiing as a way of keeping in race condition makes perfect sense for Hamilton. In a Formula One race, a driver will get through 1,200-1,500 calories, with most races coming in around about the two-hour mark. Compare and contrast that with Nordic skiing, which will burn around 500 calories per hour (based on Hamilton’s 160lb racing weight) even at a leisurely 2.5mph pace, and the exertion levels are relatively similar. The massive difference is that flatland skiing allows room to breathe – not every decision is critical, and mistakes can be smoothed over, unlike technical slaloms or split-second timing-dependent downhilling. Even prior to discovering cross country, Hamilton has always had a love of the mountains. He’d spent prior winter seasons snow hiking and told The Independent in 2013 that his post-retirement plans would include ‘climbing Mount Everest for charity’.
From the cool and calm of the snow to the heat and noise of the track, Hamilton came runner-up in last season’s F1 Championship in the most heartbreaking fashion. He finished second to Max Verstappen in the season finale Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which relegated him to second place for the season. Car troubles plagued his Mercedes team all year, and the car is clearly inferior to the Honda of Verstappen’s Red Bull Racing team. He’s not expected to take a record-breaking eighth title (he and Michael Schumacher are tied on seven) this season either, with the Coral F1 betting odds showing him as a fairly distant third favorite, reflecting both the car and his advancing age. At 37, he is getting on a bit for an F1 driver, and when he took the 2020 title at 35, he was the oldest champion since Damon Hill triumphed at 36 in 1996.
When he does retire, it’s unlikely that F1’s loss will be skiing’s gain. Hamilton has shown no intention of taking up another professional sport when his driving career comes to its conclusion. Perhaps his competitive spirit might see him take on ex-rival Roman Grosjean – another F1 driver who’s grown fond of the slower pace of XC skis. Perhaps, like the rest of us, he’ll keep going simply for the love of skiing.