There have been questions on a few message boards inquiring about the aerobic component of downhill skiing. Is it downhill skiing aerobic or is it all anaerobic?
The short answer is, it depends.
How aerobic a day of skiing is depends on your skill as a skier, how aggressively you ski on any given day and the terrain.
I’ll share two files with you, one file is a day of skate skiing and the second file is a day of downhill skiing:
1. Skate skiing day. Set all of the dropdown menus to “time.” When I skate ski, I try to minimize stop time. Though you can’t see it on this software, my heart rate response for this near two-hour workout was: less than Zone 1 = 27 minutes, Zone 1 = 43 minutes, Zone 2 = 29 minutes, Zone 3 = 12 minutes, Zone 4 = 6 minutes, and Zone 5 = 0 minutes. Though no Zone 5 is shown, there is likely time that heart rate response did not reflect effort. Some short efforts left my legs searing and I needed to stop and recover. If you change the dropdown menus to “distance” it doesn’t change the charts much.
2. Downhill skiing day. Again, set all of the dropdown menus to “time.” The flat-line altitude reading you see is a generous lunch break. Because I’m trying to work on retrieving lost downhill skills, we stayed mainly on blue runs. There were a few bumps and steeps, but not much. Collected heart rate data: less than Zone 1 = 3:30, Zone 1 = 59 minutes, Zone 2 = 10 minutes and Zone 3 = 1 minute. For this 4:40 day at the mountain, only about 70 minutes of it was aerobic work.
If I continue to downhill ski next season, I’ll be curious to see how the data changes – or if it does change.
While there is some aerobic work within the downhill day, it is harder to track the strength work accomplished. I believe downhill skiing does work on leg strength.
In both cases, I believe skiing works on balance and muscular fitness not accomplished by running and cycling. Both running and cycling are primarily forward motion, while skiing involves the use of all the leg muscles.
Will this season’s ski work benefit my summer race season? (Thirteen days of Nordic skiing and two downhill days.)