Nordic Skiing vs Base Training

So later this year in November I have an opportunity to go on a Nordic Ski training camp for 4 weeks which i believe has a mix of freestyle and classic. I am based in the UK so the weather is a bit damp at that time of year but certainly rideable. I would still get more volume on the bike as oppsed to a dedicated ski camp as i am in the 12-15hr range. I dont want the amswer of do what you enjoy, but would rather hear peoples thoughts on which would be optimal to do.

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Hello Matthew, Nordic skiing is fantastic and a lot of the bike clubs around here in Bavaria incorporate it into their winter training. Outdoor bike riding is a bit unreliable as we can have snow and ice for weeks at a time. Normally athletes are quite happy to mix up their winter training with cross-country skiing, alpine skiing and ski touring is also very popular. I used to live in the UK myself so I’m familiar with the weather, and the cycling culture. Cycling never actually seems to stop regardless of the conditions! What I think you are asking is how would a 4 week nordic skiing camp compare with, say, a block of endurance training in terms of the adaptations you can reasonably expect. One thing is that Nordic Skiing is a bit more technical than you might have thought, requiring balance and co-ordination (in many respects I find it similar to rowing a single scull). You will definitely have a greater capacity for volume at the end of the course than at the beginning. I think a lot depends on what your goals are. If you are aiming for a cycling event in July, I think it will make very little difference whether you did the skiing or the riding. However, doing something different may well make the whole season of winter training much more bearable. Also, cross-country skiing is great fun and excellent exercise and is worth doing for its own sake. If I were you I would grab this opportunity with both hands!


Bike training would be optimal if you are a cyclist…but god assuming you are not a pro (and some of them run in the off season) I would do the camp - something different, somewhere new - got to be worth it. Have never done nordic skiing but most people say it’s the best all over body workout so I would grab it with both hands


Optimal for what? A nordic skiing event? Track cycling?

One more thought about your Nordic Ski camp Matthew - in the Alps November is very early season. For example the earliest opening I know about is in Seefeld which is scheduled to open on 12th November thanks to snow farming and a lot of effort. Otherwise you will be restricted to glaciers. Perhaps in Scandinavia some places are going to open sooner but I haven’t had the chance to ski there yet. The experience of skiing in November is likely to be very different to going in January or February when you will have literally hundreds of kilometers of trails to choose from. There are also a handful of indoor cross-country ski places in the world, e.g. Oberhof but frankly that is just for the pros. Obviously skiing in late winter is going to have a greater impact on your spring/summer cycling goals than doing so in November.

As in would it potentially throw me 4 weeks back in terms of on the bike fitness and then I have to work at cycling again for a month or so to get my self back to the level i was before the trip rather than progressing with training and maybe even making some more Z2 adaptations.

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Ah, no, I don’t think it would throw you back 4 weeks - you’ll still be working a lot aerobically and also on leg strength. I would guess you might be losing a bit of specificity, especially at the top end of the power curve, but whether that matters dependa on your training phase - if you’re in base, it won’t matter much, in the middle of race season it might not be the best idea.
Depending on how intensive the camp is, you might need to plan for a recovery week after?

(Take all this with a large pinch of salt, as I’m not a nordic skier at all! They do feature in endurance research quite a lot though.)

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I’d be at that camp so fast your head would spin. As was noted, you might lose a little top end, but I am willing to bet you would build plenty of base and some VO2. XC skiing is so efficient at building general fitness it is amazing. There is no way you come out of winter saying “dang I only added 10 watts to my FPT instead 12, I shouldn’t have spent that awesome month skiing.”

I base that on you already being a capable skier. 4 weeks of just learning how to ski isn’t going to build fitness…

I would also add some dry land training for skiing in the mix for a few weeks leading into the camp, some running, bounding etc.


Easy solution - bring your bike and a trainer to the camp. Ride the trainer an hour a day. But maybe that is a giant PITA because you are flying? Or maybe the hotel/camp has a little gym with a bike.

Fly to Mallorca or Girona like pros and ride 20 hours per week?

I honestly don’t see you getting set back 4 weeks by going to ski camp. XC skiing is like doing zone 2.

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Agree! Sepp Kuss was a competitive skier before pro cyclist. Most of the older Colorado-based pros (David phinney, Sandy Hampsten etc skied a lot. You’ll build a strong base and develop complementary muscles which will benefit your bike posture. Don’t complicate things by thinking about a bike during that time. Focus on having fun, and you’ll get great training as a big plus.

For real fun see if they have biathlon available. Skiing AND shooting is amazing!

Good shout. I do have assiomas as my PM’s. I can always chuck them on the hotel spin bike etc and do an hour a day or so.

Biathlon is the sport, apologies if nordic and biathlon arent the same. Its basically 3 weeks of training with a week of several races in the 4th week.

Wow, even cooler. One more is that biathlon training may have less distance work and more technical focus on range processes and sitting vs pure endurance. And the asking time may be more like intervals;. Laps between shooting rounds are typically 2.5 - 3k.

Still highly encourage it!

PS. Where is the camp?

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Its actually three different phases. The first four weeks, phase one, which i have been talking about are in Norway and if I do well enough i get invited back to the second phase of competition and so on. So after four weeks of norway it would be two weeks in France and if I happen to be really good a week in Germany. So a possible seven weeks, but im just banking on the four weeks as thats the only thing thats definite.

Oh, my, you have just upped my envy factor about 10x. And to be invited to these camps you are definitely no slouch in the skiing department!

We have two Olympic biathletes who competed in Bejing who grew up in our part of WI, Deedra Irwin and Paul Schommer. They occasionally train show up back home and sometimes at our practices. So cool for the youth biathletes here. They are both really amazing and giving individuals. Last season we had Andrew Musgrave of the UK in Madison WI as a guest coach with the CXC Academny.
If you go, a trip report certainly is in order! Ski fast, shoot straight.

Just in case i have misled anyone, i am just a novice at Nordic/Biathlon who has stumbled across a work trip opportunity. I am by no means anything special because of the diffefent counties that the events are in. Just looking at the possibility of where some cross training would leave my on the bike fitness.

It’s all good. What a great opportunity – hope you grab it and have an awesome personal experience as well as helping you when it’s time to be back on the bike. (and still envious:))

I am with you in the envious group. I spent one summer in Minnesota Biathlon that was proceeded by possibly the worst snow year in Minnesota history and never got to race on the snow… Summer biathlon was never my thing, I was always a much better skier than runner. It was a harsh reality to learn as a young teenager that I did not have the genetics to be an Olympian, a few that I trained with had that gift and it was amazing to watch.

I have been on the ‘work trips’ you are taking about albeit a long time ago. You will build loads of base fitness training all day and when competing in Biathlon your top end will get plenty. There’s a reason why Nordic skiers have some of the biggest VO2 levels… wouldn’t give it a second thought this one… or did you just want to make the internet jealous :grinning:

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In a vacuum, cycling is optimal because you are a cyclist who wants to get better at cycling.

But in the real world, base training is predominantly about building mitochondrial density, making them more efficient, etc (look up the science if you want). Whether you’re cycling, skiing, rowing — the body doesn’t know the difference on a cellular level; it’s going to create a stimulus which will create adaptations. Excellent.

Now, nuance is important. You have an opportunity to do something cool, fun, completely different for a month when you are almost as far away from target race(s) as possible. That’s going to be an amazing way to catch a mental break while giving you an endurance boost. You’ll then come back to cycling mentally fresh and raring to put the volume in.

It’s a no-brainer IMO.