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Why Nordic Skiers Need Variety

Adding novelty to your favorite trails and training has some surprising benefits.

Tips & Ideas Tuesday, November 3, 2020

As endurance athletes, Nordic skiers love routine—our long slow routes, our hill climbs, our short-and-sweet get-it-done workouts. Even those of us who don’t consider ourselves hardcore or competitors all tend to gravitate toward our favorites.

All of us can get into a rut after months (or years) of skiing the same terrain. We might be hesitant to branch out of our old reliable trail picks—after all, that’s where we feel safe, competent, and content.

But mixing things up in your ski routine can provide a surprising benefit.

A study published in the journal Neuron found that when participants were viewing similar, common images, an oddball image thrown in would activate the pleasure centers of the brain with a little rush of dopamine.

For skiers, that novelty, or “oddball” move might look like switching it up from classic to skate, heading into the backcountry, changing trails, or even striking out to a new ski area and exploring all-new terrain.

What can that little rush do to your weekly ski? Help strengthen your motivation.

Dopamine acts as a drug on our brains—we get a rush even in anticipation of a pleasurable thing. The novelty of discovering a beautiful overlook or conquering a new hill climb triggers are rush of dopamine. Even the memory or anticipation of doing that again can also trigger that feel-good response and encourage us to want to do it again.

Diversity, then, can help keep our motivation high and our workouts rewarding.

Here are a few easy hacks for adding an “oddball” dopamine factor to your skiing.

  • Ski a favorite loop in the opposite direction.
  • Head out when the sun is rising or setting.
  • Consider a night ski, either on a lit trail or with a headlamp.
  • Skate a favorite class trail and vice versa.
  • Ski with music if you usually don’t; if you do, unplug and take in the sounds around you.

Another way to instantly up your novelty is to check out a new ski area entirely. Nordic skiers can be creatures of habit. We’re loyal to our favorite cross-country resorts and areas because of familiarity, convenience, price, or proximity, but there’s no comparison between the above-it-all views of Beaver Creek’s terrain and the friendly roller-coaster twists and turns of Grand Lake Nordic.

CCCSA has the perfect solution to x-c boredom: A season punch pass gives you 18+ trail passes at 10 resorts plus great lodging, rentals, and tour discounts — all for the low price $150. The pass is valid anytime during the 2020/2021 season, and punches extend to guests as long as the punch-pass holder is present, too.

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