Backcountry Snacks by: Michael Wirth
Hi all, my name is Michael Wirth and I do a bit of backcountry skiing–or maybe a lot for some’s standards. You tell me: last season I just surpassed 500k feet of vertical gain.
Don’t worry, I’m not here to tell you I ski a lot. I’m here to tell you that the many hours I spend in ski boots each season has given me the time to test a variety of different fuel (food) sources to stay energized and pass some tips along your way: in particular, some of my favorite recipes for easily pocketable backcountry snacks.
As a preface to the recipes: I’ve found that natural foods are the best way to maintain energy levels throughout long endurance activities (backcountry skiing falls in this). Many athletes swear by using gels and bars for their convenience at high intensity or long activities outdoors. At the same time, many of these athletes (from renowned cyclists to runners) admit that these highly processed, highly efficient, forms of carbohydrates cause drastic fluctuations in energy levels. I’ve found this to be true: feel great 30 minutes following downing a gel and then have an immediate drop in energy levels.
Natural foods, those which aren’t just maltodextrin, have a wild way of fueling you and keeping your energy levels stable throughout activities that last from two to ten hours…or more.
Okay, so here are some of my favorites:
Store these snacks in the refrigerator to keep them fresh and ready for most one week after cooking. A great option is to store half of the batch in the freezer in an airtight container and remove into the fridge once you have about three cakes left to thaw and be ready for your next adventure.
Remember to reuse the plastic bags or tin foil you use to carry these snacks around. You can easily get 3 or more uses out of the same piece of tin foil.
So, this article isn’t intended to advise you on how many grams of carbohydrates you should consume based off your weight and activity intensity to keep you fueled. Instead, this is supposed to be simple. It’s my philosophy that keeping things simple and listening to your body is the only tried and true way to stay nourished.
I typically eat one rice cake (about 1.5” by 2”) every hour when I’m on a tour lasting more than two hours. And have one sweet potato cake every hour.
That is the basis of what you should base your fueling strategy off of when you’re in the backcountry: eat something every hour that has a solid amount of carbohydrates. If you’re hungry, eat more. If you’re not hungry, eat something. Remember, you’re not on a backcountry tour to make yourself feel groggy. You’re out there to have an amazing time. If you eat early and eat often then your energy levels will stay higher and you’ll be able to ski better.
My advice is to drink between .5 and 1 liter of water for every hour you’re out there. Mix a hydration mix into your bottles as this will help maintain your electrolyte balance, and most likely make you drink more because it tastes better. My favorite drink mix is Skratch Hydration Mix.