Nutrition on the Slopes

Nutrition on the Slopes

Annie Davis

By Annie Davis \ March 12 2024

Parents of young kids will know what I’m talking about: the kids never eat the meals you make and seem to survive off snacks at odd and inconvenient times throughout the day. This applies for ski and snowboard days as well.

Wanting a better understanding of nutritional best practices and which snacks I should have for my kids while skiing, I connected with Amy Loverin, a registered dietitian and assistant professor in the College of Health at the University of Utah Health. I could have chatted with her for hours about nutrition and how what we put into our bodies is so important and impacts so many functions of our bodies. But I kept myself in check…keep reading!

Do temperature and elevation impact how we consume or “burn” energy? 
The short answer is YES! Skiing and snowboarding both require us to be outdoors in cold weather and at altitude. Loverin says the freezing temperatures and elevation make our bodies use more calories compared to different environments (think warmer and closer to sea level).

This means we (adults and kids) need to consume more calories, and we can’t forget about fluids. Hydration is key.

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Loverin says an excellent nutritional start to a ski day is essential. This means a breakfast with complex carbohydrates and protein is a must. Breakfast with a complex carb and protein mix will contain more fiber and provide lasting energy. Examples include oatmeal with fruit, whole grain toast and eggs, protein pancakes or waffles and breakfast burritos. If kids eat foods with more fiber, this can keep them full longer. Fruits and vegetables can also provide essential vitamins and minerals. 

Does age or size matter for how we use up energy? 
This is tricky to answer quickly. Loverin says caloric needs are highly individualized for both adults and kids. Needs vary based on activity level, body composition, shape and size, age and sex.

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Kids generally need fewer calories compared with adults because of their size but will need to eat and refuel more often. Kids are also very good at inherently knowing how much food their bodies need. However, Loverin says altitude can decrease one’s appetite or thirst sensation, so a best practice is to carve out break times for snacks and drinks.

So, what are the best snacks to bring on a ski day to keep the kids full, energized, and happy?


Loverin emphasized the importance of thinking about food as fuel for your body and what you are trying to accomplish rather than as good/bad or healthy/unhealthy. When feeding ourselves and our kids, she encourages us to focus on healthy eating patterns, which generally consist of lean protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and water.

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That said, convenient and portable snacks on the slopes can be small peanut butter and jelly or turkey sandwiches and fruits or vegetables like apple slices or carrot sticks. If getting out the door is hectic, you’re short on time and you’d rather bring pre-packaged snacks (like me and probably a bazillion other parents), Loverin says good options are trail mix, granola bars, yogurt pouches, etc. However, try to be mindful of the ingredients, and try for options that aren’t solely candy-focused or packed with added sugar. 

Are there snacks or foods that should be avoided? 
Again, Loverin emphasizes thinking about your activity and which foods will best support your body in executing that activity.

I thought for sure she would tell me to steer clear of packing a Snickers bar, but in the case of a long ski day, a Snickers bar would provide simple carbs that the body can process and use for energy quickly. If you or a hungry kid is fatigued on the slopes, this kind of snack could solve the problem.

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When it comes to hydration, Loverin does recommend avoiding soda. Water is ideal, and a drink with electrolytes or even hot chocolate at the end of the day can be options to support recovery.

Takeaways:

  • Being “hangry” is a real phenomenon. Loverin says food and what we put into our bodies can impact mood, behavior, and cognitive function.
  • Make sure kids are fueling up every 1–2 hours.
  • Don’t forget about hydration.
  • Focus on snacks that have a good carb and protein combo (protein helps with recovery and feeling full, while carbs will provide energy).

This post is sponsored by University of Utah Health
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