Health benefits of alpine and cross country skiing

Meteorologist Brittney Merlot
Updated: February 22, 2021 07:54 PM
Created: February 19, 2021 07:14 PM

BIWABIK, Min. -- It's the middle of winter and we just dealt with a long cold snap, all during a pandemic. It's a crucial time to make sure you aren't forgetting to take care of your health.

Skiing and snowboarding are said to be great cardiovascular exercise that can help burn calories and lose weight. Experts say it also strengthens your lower body muscles, improves flexibility, engages core muscles and it also boosts your mood!

"This is what we are made to do! We aren't made to sit inside buildings. We are supposed to be outside and enjoying the great outdoors!" explained Benji Neff the Director of Mountain Sports at Giants Ridge.

The management at Giants Ridge refused to let any pandemic stop them from closing this hill to us.

"We worked hard to get here to this point, to make sure that we could be open and still offer great recreational opportunities for everybody." explained Fred Seymour the General Manager at Giants Ridge. Right when the pandemic struck, he immediately began calling ski resorts in Australia and New Zealand to see how they were handling their hills. Once winter months rolled into the U.S. he reached out country wide to get advice on how they were running things during the pandemic.

Because of that, Giants's ridge has many safety precautions in place. For example, there is a certain entrance to go inside and a separate one to exit. "This eliminates the cross traffic and keeps the flow of people distanced." said Seymour. Of course masks are required inside and reservations for the restaurant are required. Tables are six feet apart and time limits are set, in order to get everyone in who's hungry. "We also clean every rental returned, which is a common practice in the rental industry. But since COVID hit, we've ramped up our procedures." explained Neff.

The biggest COVID-19 precaution change, no one is allowed to bring their bags inside to boot up. So you'll have to embrace the cold or get creative. "You'll see a little ice house village that individual families have set up for their own personal warming shelters. Which has just been kind of cool, unique, goofy kind of thing! You know, no one is catching any walleyes in those tents but it looks like they are biting really good! Even though it's on a snow surface!" laughed Neff.

"This year with not being able to be inside, it's refreshing to see the number of people that do come out and are still learning to ski and having a great time doing it. So don't let COVID keep you home." said Heidi Jo Karlsson the Director of Snow Sports and Recreational Manager at Giants Ridge. 

Karlsson just created a new ski lesson class called Easy as 1-2-3! It's a one hour long lesson that's a rotating program, where you go through three different stations learning the simple basics of downhill skiing.
Station 1, is learning the flats and developing motor skills and balance on skis. Once you feel comfortable enough you progress on to Station 2, where you just go straight, down a small sloped hill and practice the wedge stopping method. Once you've mastered that, Station 3 teaches you how to turn. Skiers can stay in a station as long as they want or go back and forth between them until they're ready to ski on their own. This program is for ages 7+, but for the little ones, they also offer private and semi-private lessons as well, that are much more hands on. Click here to sign up all types of lessons at Giants Ridge.

No matter your age, you can gain the benefits of fresh air, socializing again (at a distance of course) and keeping your physical health up.

Dan Cohoe from Hibbing is now retired and in his 60's, and has been to the hill over 30 times so far this year! "To get out, because this is what we've done since we were kids. It's down to speed, you can go as fast as you want or as slow as you want. It's fun, both of my kids started when they were three years old, as soon as they were out of diapers they were on skis and they still ski and are in their 30s now." explained Cohoe.

"Downhill skiing is a mix of endurance and resistance training, which is comparable to sprinting or rowing." said Neff. "It's definitely a work out and a life long sport.

If downhill just isn't you thing, Giants Ridge also offers tubing, fat tire biking, snow shoeing and  of course cross country skiing. Those trails wind through over 60 kilometers in the Superior National Forest. Health benefits of cross country skiing, is comparable to running long distance, but easier on your knees according to experts.

With the potential to lose weight and feel better. Experts say when you're skiing, you're also improving insulin resistance, increasing your metabolism and lowering your blood pressure and heart rate.

Just be sure to dress appropriately in layers, because you may work up a sweat!


Meteorologist Brittney Merlot

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