Right now I am watching the downhill portion of the Men’s super-combined ski event. The reason I do not flag this as an Olympics related post is because I want to focus more on the idea of the physical conditioning required for downhill skiing.
Watch those Olympic skiers and watch them when they come to a stop, they are a huffing and a puffing! I suppose many people would be surprised at the effort required to participate in downhill skiing. After all, you just let the force of gravity pull you down the ski hill you are not providing the energy to ski at the top speeds.
WRONG. Of course, if you ski, you understand that downhill skiing is not a passive activity. I would say skiing passes through a number of phases where the middle phase is the only one where the goal is to expend as little energy as possible.
Beginners expend tremendous amounts of energy for a number of reasons. First and most critically, beginners are not capable of efficient skiing. They spend more time snow-plowing, skidding, and turning in other ways that require more energy. Another factor is they are skiing on slower runs and may have to perform significant skating and poling to get to the chairlift.
However, beginners strive to become intermediate skiers. Intermediate skiers are learning a number of ski tricks allowing them to ski more efficiently and they are found on faster runs where they can usually carry enough speed to get to the chairlifts. Intermediate skiers free-skiing are usually not pushing things too hard. They are usually in a zone where they can let nature’s forces free reign over their skiing. However, they are still expending energy greater than just sitting around.
Once skiers pass into the expert or competitive phase than skiing becomes a workout again. Expert skiers need to command greater energies than the beginner and intermediate skiers. If you are competing I would not expect you to lolligag out of the starting house anymore than the Olympic skiers would.
I ski NASTAR and I burst out of the starting house, I am poling hard that requires a lot of energy provided by my upper body and skating requiring significant energy input from my legs. Then as I am skiing down I need to carve around the gates, and then after breaking the light I have to stop. All of which require significant amounts of energy. Of course, I am also try to stay down in a tuck and tucking is hardly an easy and relaxed position.
When it is done I am winded. Now, the guys and girls in the Olympics are skiing hotter runs and skiing for three times longer than for what I am on course for. They need to be in good shape!