Though it is illegal at most ski resorts in the United States, backcountry skiing is a sport that's very popular in parts of Europe and Canada. The activity is prohibited Stateside because it involves trekking out in the wilderness as opposed to regularly patrolled ski areas. Many skiers find that this is more adventurous and more fun than regular skiing. It allows you to travel over fresh snow and often provides a much better workout for you if you're using skiing as a way to improve your health. It's important to understand the health benefits that backcountry skiing can provide.
Backcountry Skiing as an Upper-Body Workout
Typically, when you go skiing, you don't use your upper-body as much as you use your lower body. Though you use your ski poles to keep your balance and help you move from side to side, that doesn't provide a very strenuous workout. When you go off the trails and into the backcountry, however, your upper-body is prone to a better workout. For starters, the backcountry does not have groomed snow or paths carved into the ground, so you have to propel yourself forward. This gives your shoulders, biceps and arms a good workout. You can improve your range of motion by propelling yourself forward as you ski in the backcountry. By twisting and turning to move your body, you will also workout your torso, your abdominal muscles and parts of your back.
Backcountry Skiing as a Lower-Body Workout
Though you use your upper body more during backcountry skiing, you still need to use your legs to move around. During this type of skiing, you are always using your legs to move around. You will likely feel some tightness in your hamstrings, glutes and calves if you fail to stretch before starting to ski. These areas are used to help you push off and move yourself forward. If you engage in backcountry skiing regularly, your leg muscles will get toned by the repetitive motion.
While regular downhill skiing is not particularly taxing on your body, backcountry skiing can provide a good cardio workout that you will certainly feel. From your shoulders to your legs, you will be working muscles throughout your body in order to keep it moving forward. You will also need to keep moving to work your way through fresh snow. Therefore, backcountry skiing can help get your heart rate up and increase your breathing. This can help you burn calories and possibly even lose weight.
Of course, there are some drawbacks to backcountry skiing. You need to be experienced or go with some who is experienced and you need to make sure that you have a good sense of direction. There are no well-worn paths for you to follow. When used properly, backcountry skiing can certainly help you to improve your health.