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Skiing and Hiking

Off-Season Hiking Means Winter Ski Fitness


Skiing and Hiking

Views from the Top of Bigslide Mountain in the Adirondacks.

© Mike Doyle

How Hiking Can Help Your Skiing

You may be gliding when you're skiing, but don't think that you are not giving your core muscles and your leg muscles a hard workout. Just listen to the moans and groans of skiers who jumped into the first day of skiing without having maintained their muscles during the dry season. You know they will probably quit before lunch, and the next day, they will walking quite slowly with aching quads. If we keep asking these skiing muscles to go hiking for an extra mile in the summer, we won’t have any problems come winter.

Hiking for exercise and fitness involves more than just a stroll around the yard. You have to walk toward the objective of working your leg and core muscles. The best way to do that is go up. That means adding hills into your hiking - maybe not every hike - but more and more uphill as you get deeper into the summer.

Plan Your Hikes

Plan hikes so that you gradually increase your effort. In most countries and across the United States, hiking is a big tourism attraction and government agencies, such as departments of tourism and environmental conservation, print maps and guides for interesting nature and scenic hiking. So, finding maps (and a place to hike) isn’t difficult.

In the U.S., there are hiking trails that run across many states, such as the Appalachian Trail in the East and the Continental Divide Trail in the West, including many in between. Across Canada and Europe, maps of hiking guide books that list the intensity of exercise gained are widely available.

To start hiking, start walking. It's a good idea to start with easier trails before you try to hike a high mountain. Plan a several hour, hill / mountain hike each week, as your summer schedule permits. If you have time, add an after dinner walk during the week.

Focus on Your Feet

Look at hiking as a fun thing to do - as in you like to do it, rather than you have to do it to exercise. Naturally, the focus is first on the feet because they can quickly become a double source of agony if you don't treat them correctly to begin with. From the inside out look for good quality, wicking socks and good fitting, waterproof hiking boots.

Obviously, boots, or trail running sneakers, that are comfortable and provide good stability are important. In my experience, the comfort and support level is raised tenfold by adding hiking footbeds to your boots. If you invest in custom fitted footbeds molded to your foot, you compound the torsionial stability built into the hiking boot of your choice. I choose an orthodic footbed made by Surefoot and engineered with a density designed for hiking and running sports. Surefoot made my ski boot footbeds, which are denser for the rigid boot and I swear by them. They were the key to going many hiking miles with happy feet. However, don’t feel limited to one or two brands. Shop around, see what appeals to you the most, find out what would be most beneficial to you, and explore your options.

Don't Forget Your Favorite Ski Resort

Remember, the goal is to work the leg and core muscle groups, preferably without thinking about it. Can you think of a better place to do this than at a ski resort? Of course, you’re not going to find any snow, but many ski areas are open for hiking and mountain biking. Some areas run one or two lifts to bring hikers, bikers, and tourists down after a hike up or to access more difficult, higher terrain. Being above the tree line adds a whole new dimension to hiking. Whether up high at a resort or down near the base, you will be amazed at the difference in how the slopes and trails appear without snow. What you always saw as the easy beginner slope will have a whole new look that’s definitely worth seeing.

Hiking Poles

Either use your ski poles or better yet, trekking poles. Most trekking poles are adjustable in height and some come with built in shock absorbers. Some add rubber tips to cover the metal points for road or rock hiking. Remember to use two poles. Effectively using two poles aids in balance and saves on knee wear - especially going downhill. At first it may seem awkward going, but a good rhythm comes naturally after a short time.

One Foot In Front Of the Other

"One Foot In Front Of the Other" is the essence of hiking – keep moving, but rest when you have to, and drink a lot of fluids. Check your local department of tourism website and look for hiking challenges in your area, such as the 46 High Peaks of the Adirondacks or hiking fire tower summits. Almost every place has hills - you don’t have to climb mountains. Just get out, enjoy the summer and think snow.

Next Page: Hiking Tips: Hiking tips for skiers.

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