Cycling vs Skiing

By March 26, 2013 Bike More 2 Comments

The draw of the bike has been strong this year. I have raced more this spring than I ever have which has been at the sacrifice of skiing.

That being said I have still managed to ski 50 days and of which 30 have been touring. Balancing both activities has been challenging but I am beginning to think that ski touring has actually helped my riding. Not only has skiing given a great break from riding I think that it has actually built a big engine over the winter.

Building a large aerobic base is key to any endurance sport. I had suspicions that the long touring days would very similar to LSD base training ride. On the bike I am very meticulous and almost obsessive about training with power. But rightly so as the results have been very noticeable. After a hard days racing on Saturday it was time to get back on the skis. It is a shame that I haven’t skied more as my new skis look so lonely sitting next to the bike. Armed with my garmin and heart rate monitor I set out to gather some information. Those who are familiar with training on a bike with a power meter may be familiar with TSS (training stress score). In nut shell it is a quantitative way to measure training load over the short and long term to track changes in fitness but also intensity and volume.

We enjoyed some great turns on a local favorite and even sampled some sun soaked powder. Nothing like a sunny spring day to recharge the batteries. Getting home I was interested to see what the training load would be for skiing. Much to my surprise a simple 4 hour ski tour gave as much training stress as about an moderate intensity 100km ride. This day with only 900m in elevation gain is actually only about half our normal day. The result was a score of 144 that was pretty small in comparison to the 272 TSS racked up in the full day racing yesterday.

Looking at the situation from a base building perspective if give some interesting insight. 30 days touring from December to early February with likely and average TSS score of at least 150 is about 4500 total TSS points in this case equivalent to about 30 100km base mileage rides. Couple that with a week of riding in Arizona to mix it up a little bit. It looks like it made for a great base fitness.

How can we tell the effects of the base training on Aerobic endurance?


Looking at this graph and after only a month since starting my training again there is still minimal Power to Heart rate drift. This is encouraging to think that with only a month of riding that a 2.45 hour tempo ride can yield results like this. It is clear from this graph that ski touring has built a big aerobic engine which has allowed a very steady progression fitness and subsequent power gains with only 3 races as intensity work.


This race .43% hr to power drift. At race intensity with 3 massive efforts. Very promising numbers. Ooops guess I need to update my threshold power. This is another major revelation. That my Threshold power now is as high as it was during peak cyclocross season. Check another major win for ski touring.

Looking at the power profile thus far this year it looks promising with some intensity work there could be some good improvements. My best numbers were mid cyclocross season and if I were to do a 20m TT test my numbers would likely be as good or better than PB’s from last year.


I don’t think I will feel bad now sacrificing a bike day for a ski day!


  • Interesting to see that the approach to base training may not have to be sport specific.

    I wonder if other types of endurance training would provide the same benefit?. Rowing and swimming come to mind, and also that horrid running stuff.

    I definitely would like to experiment with a power meter. It seems like an interesting and effective tool, although an expensive one.

  • Kurt says:


    For sure parts of base training have to be specific to the bike. You just wouldn’t get the same muscle adaptations. But using aerobic type activities like ski touring or cross country sking will strengthen the heart and increase the aerobic capacity. All the training philosophies more or less talk specificity as you get closer to your key events. So 3 months out it isn’t as crucial to be totally focused on the bike. Like now when we are racing bike time is much better than other activities. When I have more time I am going to plot back my ski touring days and lengths (I have them all recorded) and see what the approximate addition to the overall fitness was. I am sure I will be surprised. It has for sure allowed me to better recover from hard intensity rides quicker than last year.

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