So here’s the deal on chairlift eating, gleaned from my years of reporting on sports nutrition and skiing through lunch. Those sugary gel blocks and gooey energy shots that provide instant power when you’re biking or running at high intensity are of little value when you’re at the ski area. It’s pretty simple really. When the body is at its aerobic limit, most of us just can’t stomach the fats and proteins of real food. And even if we can keep such food down, it doesn’t make much sense to divert energy to the digestive system when we should be powering the legs with simple carbohydrates.
But that’s only true when you’re crushing it on the bike, run, or Nordic skis. Riding lifts is a different matter. The chairlift lets you cool down and process healthy fats and proteins throughout the ski day. Meaning you can eat complex food. The key is moderation. If you feel like your legs turn to lead and your feet get cold after a big sit-down lunch, it’s in part because your body’s energy (and much of your blood flow) is working on breaking that meal down. So, don’t gorge. To stay powered up (and warmer), snack lightly throughout the day on a mixture of dried fruit (simple carbs), nuts (healthy fats and protein), and whole grains (complex carbs).
Anybody with rudimentary kitchen skills can pull those ingredients together to make a decent snack. But if you’re short on time or initiative, try these pre-packaged alternatives, which we like because they taste good and you won’t crack a tooth eating them in cold weather.
Meal Ready to Eat: Bear Naked’s Peak Cranberry Almond Trail Mix
What’s in it: Cranberries and almonds of course, but also raisins, walnuts and Bear Naked granola clusters.
How it tastes: It’s so good—tangy, lightly sweetened cranberries and whole almonds—that it’s easy to polish off an entire bag in a sitting. But that would be 560 calories, so save some for later. They also don’t skimp on the nuts, though it’s heavier on the walnuts than the almonds.
Why it’s good for you: The nuts offer heart healthy fats and useable protein (four grams per serving). The fruits are quick energy sources and balance the acidity of the nuts—this is important but tough to explain in a blurb. The granola offers a steady burn of carbs. And Bear Naked didn’t overdo it on the sweetening (honey). $2.99; bearnaked.com
An Edible Granola Bar : Clif’s CRUNCH White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Granola Bar
What’s in it: Whole grain oats, minced nuts, assorted goodness.
How it tastes: Most granola bars go down like sawdust and taste much the same. But this Clif Bar is different. They got the moisture content and texture right. Even my kids will eat them.
Why it’s good for you: Well, as a whole grain (rye, oats, barley) and nut product it’s better than a simple sugar or starch, but it’s not a rounded meal by any means. I ramp up the health factor by using the bar as a vehicle for almond butter. We also like Clif’s commitment to well-sourced ingredients—the bar is 70 percent organic. $3.50 (box of five); clifbar.com
Rocket Waffle: Honey Stinger’s Organic Stinger Waffles
What’s in it: Scrap what we said about nuts and fruits, this is the get-you-through-the-last-bootpack-and-descent snack. Or use it as a high energy, easily digestible treat before a hard ski tour. The main ingredient in these 160-calorie “stroopwafels” (a staple of northern Euro street vendors) is honey. But unlike a shot or a gel block, they curb your appetite and are a pleasure to eat.
How it tastes: Honey and waffles? Come on. Our art director eats them for breakfast (warmed on a cup of coffee). They’re also super manageable to chow on the lift or during a break in the Nordic ski action.
Why it’s good for you: USDA Organic is nice. And whether the science backs it up or not, honey is a better sweetener than corn syrup or cane sugar simply because it tastes sweeter so you don’t overeat. Eat a salad for dinner or something. $22.24, (box of 16 waffles); honeystinger.com —Marc Peruzzi