Those of you that know me even in passing have an acquaintance with my enthusiasm for snowboarding. I just can’t get enough of it, and I get as much of it as I can.
This year, I went on a two week trip to Whistler, Canada. It’s close to Vancouver, has gorgeous scenery and two beautiful mountains just ready for the shredding fun. That’s how hip boarders refer to the activity of snowboarding: shredding. Go figure.
From a caloric perspective, snowboarding is an odd sport. If you put your body in position and go down as fast as you can, you barely consume calories. It’s the slowing down and braking that makes you sweat – or the turning and twisting you’d do in trees and glades. So the more advanced you get, the less you burn.
Since I am a total geek, I ended up putting on a heart rate monitor and checking the caloric expenditure. I went up on the first lift at 8:30 and stayed until 3:30, for a total of seven hours, and I burned 2500 calories. That’s like four brutal spin classes in a row, which makes snowboarding an excellent way of losing weight.
From a dietary perspective, Whistler is a good mountain. It offers the usual junk food that all snow resorts have, but there is a healthier selection, too. The big Asian community in Vancouver has left its culinary footprint in delicious noodle bowls and rice broths, and you can even get sushi on the mountain (not my thing, but really healthy).
With 2500 calories burned on exercise, though, your eating habits change. Suddenly, you have a hard time keeping up with your caloric needs. You end up eating everything in sight, especially after hours, since time on the mountain is precious.
It is no surprise that one of the most popular dishes in the lodges is poutine, a French-Canadian invention consisting of a soup bowl of French fries topped with cheese and gravy. There is more cholesterol in one serving than is needed to give half the population of Vancouver a heart attack, but the kids love it: salty and fatty, it replaces the electrolytes that smell up your clothes and gives you back the energy you just lost.
But that’s not it for snowboarding! There are two more interesting facts of note:
1. Snowboarders are fit people, and typically young. So when you hang out on the mountain, all of a sudden everybody seems to be fit and young, motivating you to get in shape even more. I recall how odd it felt, after two weeks solid in the resort, to go to the airport in Vancouver and see the average population turn older and fatter. The distortion of perspective is just baffling!
2. Caloric expenditure over time is very odd: you go from the run, where you race down the mountain and spend all your energy to the lifts going back up. Typically, you board for about 15 to 30 minutes in one go, and then about as much to go back up again. You alternate sweaty periods with chilly ones, which feels really strange, especially on a cold day.