I have passed the last few days downhill skiing in Åre with my family. Åre is the major and largest ski resort in Sweden and was the host of the Alpine World Ski Championships in 2007. Compared to the Alps the height of Åreskutan, the mountain above the village, is not impressive with 1420 meters (4,660 ft) - but the skiing could for a real amateur as myself be quite challenging both on and off the pistes and there are some really fun black slopes. Regretfully, it was quite foggy at the top of the mountain most days so I cannot share any good pictures of the scenery – pictures of me skiing would never be pretty even in sunshine. It is quite humbling to realize that your six year old son is better even at Mogul skiing than yourself (see picture below).
On the other hand he has been skiing every winter season for four years, more than I ever did as a kid growing up in Stockholm city. Strangely enough he also seems to be less tired than myself in my legs at the end of each ski day. I tell myself that all exercise, be it biking to work or as this weekend Alpine skiing, is adding to the total training volume necessary for endurance competitions like TDG. On the other hand Alpine skiing, which is characterized by high-intensity exercise of between 90 and 120 seconds duration that requires repeated phases of high-force isometric and eccentric contractions, is something entirely different from long distance running. To be a good Alpine skier, if you in contrast to me have the skiing technique of course, appear to require the ability to reperfuse the ischemic muscle resulting from the high-force contractions and is not requiring a great maximum lung capacity like running. A good review article discussing the physiology of Alpine skiing is “Limitations to performance during alpine skiing”, by Richard Ferguson and published a couple of years ago in Exp Physiol. 2010; 95 (3): 404-10. In summary, if you want to be good at skiing - ski, if you want to be good at running - run!