Tag Archives: Training

Ski Randonee and Ski Running Explained

Ski Mountaineering Introduction

Ski Running terrain, the stuff you used to dread

Let’s just start by saying that I recognize that this is not a post for every kind of skier. For whatever reason, the subject of going backcountry skiing for more than just ripping turns or dropping into steep couloirs is more than some can handle. I know thanks to a few pieces of hate mail I recently received for suggesting (here) that there may be something other than fat skis and big attitude as reason to go skiing in the mountains. That “something” was light backcountry ski gear and the idea of backcountry skiing as an endurance sport. I also received more than a few comments and emails praising the post and asking for more details. It is for these people that I once again write about this idea of Ski Rando Racing, Ski Running, or Ski Mountaineering – whatever it is called in the US. It is so young that it has yet to really have a name stick. So here are my thoughts about this sport that I am sure would be phenomenally popular if given a chance.

Maybe Ski Running is a good term as in some ways it is a fit. If you are a trail runner, road biker, mountain biker, nordic skier, or hiker …and also a backcountry skier – Ski Running combines all of these into a winter sport that can be done alone on all that lower angle terrain you have been ignoring while headed to the steeper stuff. No, it is not about the turns, it is about the experience of going to the mountains, moving quickly, efficiently and becoming fantastically fit from it all. Think nordic skiing light but backcountry capable, and think perfect singletrack where you decide to lay it down.

For me, the opportunities opened up when I saw the gear. Having previously lived in the Mammoth Lakes area of California, backcountry skiing meant telemarking. I ignored that and promptly locked my heels down many years back when AT gear became more efficient. Nevertheless, the setups were still a bit clunky and heavy. Dynafit certainly helped lighten the load but the typical US gear selection was still about skiing down, not necessarily up, even though 90% of the backcountry skiers life is spent going…. up.

The Euro racing scene

As I started spending more time in Europe, specifically the Italian Dolomites, I discovered an entirely new gear selection. Superlight everything, taken to an even higher level thanks to the phenomenally popular European race culture. Suddenly there is backcountry gear not much heavier than a nordic set up that also allows one to ski well… down.

After three back to back ski trade shows in recent weeks it is becoming clear – this gear is beginning to make its way to the US and just might possibly be on shelves for the winter of 2011. Dynafit seems to be riding this wave most effectively with their new Dy.N.A. Race and TLT5 ultralight all purpose boot. Scarpa’s F1 has long been the standard, and continues to be king, but keep an eye as well on both Garmont and Scarpa’s new offerings.

Because I know the range so well, and especially the potential for big spring tours, I cannot imagine a much better place for ultralight ski touring gear than California’s Sierra Nevada – so maybe this post is for you guys. In Colorado, Utah and Wyoming it has already caught on, yet in the Sierra, where it is a perfect match, not quite yet.

A ski running day rather than a skiing day. But yes, the big bowl back there, already skied it.

Ski Rando Case Study

A beautiful, still winter day in the Dolomites. Time to get out for some exercise and I would live to ski, but with whom? It’s a Tuesday morning and I made no plans with friends. I grab my light ski gear and head out the door. Destination: frontcountry, lower angled, rolling terrain, ridgelines; in other words, safe.

3 hours later I have a 26km ski behind me with an average heart rate of 165. I still managed to gain 1200 meters and even made some nice powder turns in the trees. Sounds like a fun workout, much like going for a summer run or ride, but all while being in the mountains in the depths of winter.

Tiny heel post

My Ski Rando Gear

Skis: Ski Trab Duo Sintesi Aero – an all around superlight ski for both training and moderate tours, yet light enough to race on. There are lots of skis to choose from…

Bindings: Dynafit toe piece, Schia heel post. Be warned, many race heel bindings are not releasable. Dynafit does make a very light, releasable heel with the Speed Binding

Poles: Ski Trab with tall grip for multiple hand positions, length = floor to nearly shoulder height

Skins: Ski Trab narrow skins, they only go 2/3 of the ski length, You want some base showing to allow for skating and gliding

Boots: Scarpa F1′s

My thought about all of this is the simple fact that you can go out for a very real backcountry ski using extremely comfortable, light gear. Skinning will suddenly feel like trail running, but get to the top, rip your skins and enjoy the benefits of being on skis. It doesn’t matter if you intend to ever race, it’s really about getting out more often, experiencing the backcountry in a new way and implementing a different type of exercise for fitness – one that will have you all the more appreciative when you really go backcountry skiing.

Yep, it's a workout. Guess I can't hide the two stops at huts

The tallest sandwich on record post ski running workout yesterday


US Ski Mountaineering Team Member Nina Silitch as Guest Contributor

In the coming days, Top US Team Member Nina Silitch will be writing up a post of her own with details about being at the top of the game while living in Europe as a Ski Randonee Racer (or is it Ski Running? Ski Mountaineering? What did we decide?)

Finally, Nina will include her thoughts on the US scene and how it is evolving. More about Nina at:  FasterSkier.com


Further Ski Mountaineering Links

The US Ski Mountaineering Association

Boulder Performance Ski Rando Racing

Skin Transition Video

Local Dolomites Race – Tour de Sas Video

2006 World Championship Video

Posted in Backcountry Skiing, Gear Review, Ski Rando Racing, Uncategorized | Also tagged , , , , 13 Comments

Professional Road Racing Training Tips

Training for a Granfondo? Perhaps the Maratona dles Dolomites

Post courtesy of Bruce Hendler at AthletiCamps: High Quality Coaching and Performance Cycling Camps, based in Northern California. Bruce is an old cycling friend of mine with whom I spent many hours pedaling and racing alongside. He has become a legend of cycling wisdom thanks to his vast experience and passion for the sport of road racing. I know as fact that he can help prepare the aspiring road racer who dreams of personal results at a Granfondo. With AthletiCamps training program or cycling camp education, you will be well prepared for endless uphill kilometers in granfondos such as the Maratona dles Dolomites.


Rubens Bertogliati

Its time to bring back a Pro-shop edition with two new guest professionals; Rubens Bertogliati (Androni-Diquigiovanni) and Vladimir Efimkin (AG2R.) I had the pleasure of working and riding with them this past couple months and was able to have some good discussions about their training and racing. Rubens is the current national Swiss time trial champion and has worn the yellow jersey in the 2002 Tour de France. Vlad has finished 11th in the Tour and won stage 9 in 2008. He won the Tour of Portugal in 2005, and has numerous professional accomplishments. Both are looking forward to having good seasons and are super friendly and outgoing.

Q: As we go into the new 2010 season, what types of things are you doing to prepare for the long and very difficult season? Are you changing any of your preparation?

RB: Normally the season in Europe or Italy starts at the beginning of February. As usual I start training on the bike about two months before. In the first month I do free body exercises, swimming, and a little bit of running as well. Then I will

Vladimir Efimkin

increase the number of hours on the bike. I arrive in January prepared to do 6-hour training rides. Normally on the bike I concentrate on 3 important factors: force, rhythm, and endurance. Force is to develop power; rhythm is to have a good spinning frequency and endurance is to have a good capacity for long distances. Of course, balancing everything with specific structure is the trick that we focus on.

VE: For me, from a training standpoint, I am pretty much doing the same things I have done in the past, as they have been successful for me. The season is long and hard and I must separate myself by not “getting too serious” too early. It’s funny, you see me on our rides only eating simple food like bananas and small sandwiches. The reason I do that is I will be eating “race food” for about 8 straight months! We also talked about massage. Pretty much all race season, I am on a table getting massages, before a race, after a race. With a schedule that includes 80+ races, I need a break right now, so the timing of getting serious is important and that point usually happens at the team presentation and training camp. During this part of the year, I still train, but more as a prep for the more difficult training.

Q: How do you define success for yourself this upcoming season? Do you have individual goals, team goals? How do you as an experienced athlete measure your success?

RB: First of all it is important to arrive at the races well in form. Then my goals are absolutely the Swiss championships and the Giro d’ Italia. The team goals are important (maybe you have to help one of your team mates in the general classification of a stage race.) I can say that the team goals are focused around all the races in Italy. Surely my individual goals are to win as many races as possible, concentrating on the time trials and on the breakaway stages. I think that first of all you have to be happy about what you have done in the race and before the race, then the results are secondary.

VE: I think for me, it’s about improving on results from the past, as knowing my previous accomplishments allows me to set realistic and attainable goals for improvement. Of course, team goals are very important, but as individual riders, we must look for our opportunities and a good director will help guide an individual’s effort that blends with team goals. But first and foremost, we are professionals and we must respect the team. Being a professional on the same team for a couple years, we already know the big goals for the year, mainly the Tour, which I am very excited about after having bad luck in 2009.


  • Training is changing at all levels. Both Rubens and Vlad stated many times that training is changing at their level of the sport or at least for them. Gone are endless miles of volume and substituted is some form of monitored structure . Professionals cannot sacrifice volume, but they are now balancing that volume with structure. Adding this element can allow them to track progress (just like amateurs), and give training some meaning along with motivation to improve.
  • The workouts. When you ask these guys what types of workouts they do, it’s basically no different than anything most amateurs do. It’s just that they do the workouts with more hours and of course, higher wattages. In other words, there is no “secret” workout for the pros, just because they are pros. It’s about understanding your goals and most importantly, their environment while developing a program that allows them to succeed.
  • Picking races (and goals) you can excel at. At the level of the sport these guys are competing, they choose goals that suit their riding style. It’s taken them years and years to fine tune this aspect of their career. As a coach, this is an important topic to discuss with amateurs. We try not to stereotype riders to specific styles of races, but try to focus on overall fitness level, especially when starting out in the sport. Most of the time, good fitness can overcome the statements of “I cannot climb” or “I cannot time trial.” Successful riders at the local and regional level compete and do well in all types of race environment.
  • Training prepares you to race. I think one of the most important lessons we can learn from Rubens and Vlad is that their training prepares them to race. If they have not prepared the body to race, then the season could be a disaster. If you race too early (and try to race often) and are not physically or mentally prepared, it can have a negative impact on your season. From a physical perspective, early stress will fatigue you enough that your body may not recover. From a mental perspective, not doing well doesn’t really help morale. A lot of new (and experienced) racers compete way too early and we see this all the time. They wonder why they don’t improve and a lot of them leave the sport quicker than they got into it. Rule of thumb: the longer it takes to get fit, by following a good training program, the longer you stay fit.
  • Again, thanks to Rubens and Vlad for their help in this article. I think the major take-home messages here are pretty obvious. First, make sure you are prepared to race before you race. A good solid training program with specific goals is key to any successful season. Two, there are no special workouts. You have to define your goals and track your progress throughout your training and racing.

    About Bruce
    Bruce Hendler is a USA Cycling Coach and owner of AthletiCamps in Northern California. For the past 9 years, he and his experienced team have helped athletes of all levels achieve their goals in the great sport of bike racing through cycling training camps, cycling coaching and performance testing. To contact AthletiCamps, either give a call at 1-866-370-6516 or request more information at the Contact Us page.

    Posted in Cycling, Guest Contributor | Also tagged , Leave a comment

    Garmin’s Virtual Training Partner

    Garmin Forerunner 405 Review

    So I got my new Garmin Forerunner 405 the other day. A watch, a GPS, a training partner and tool, a little coach in a watch.

    I used it for the first time today training ski rando. All worked perfectly until this little window kept rotating through telling me I was behind my virtual Garmin training partner. It even had a little guy running along, in front of my little guy.

    Huh? I was livid, I went faster but no matter what I did, the little icon man stayed off the front. Soon I had sweat dripping off my hair, as I went higher an icicle formed and dangled in front of my eyes, irritating me that much more. I was afraid to slow to deal with my icicle for fear of little icon man disappearing off the screen. Thankfully I was reaping the rewards of an all new playlist, Forza, and rather than bluegrass twanging in my earbuds I had Tool taking root in my pscyhe. I was ready to fight.

    And fight I did, by the time I got to the top I had closed in on my little virtual buddy. I thought I would take him on the descent so as if in a race, I stopped, ripped off my skins, threw the downhill lever on my boots, stashed the skins inside my chest pockets and was off. Down I flew on the hard pack ice, no longer able to look at the screen, I hoped for the best in my efforts and stubbornness.

    10 minutes later I was finished and like a downhiller made my last turn to stop outside the Kronplatz bar, ever thumping with techno. With my quads screaming in protest of my ridiculous descent, I pulled back my shirtsleeve and with gloved finger hit the pause button. But wait, where is he? No, I had not just paused the little battle, I had stopped it altogether, he was gone, off to the showers. Unless I really read the manual, will I ever know the outcome? Does it really matter? And just what does this say about my personality?

    Posted in Humor, Ski Rando Racing | Also tagged Leave a comment