Working at a snowsport resort is an energy intensive job. You’ll need to fuel all that shoveling, lifting, pushing, turning and more, but keep in mind that you also need to fuel up your brain in order to make good decisions – and your safety, and the safety of your co-workers and guests depends on that. Most people are aware of mood swings when blood sugar levels fall, but studies with ski guides, patrollers, lift operators and instructors have also shown that when blood sugar fluctuates, reflexes are slowed, information is not integrated as well, decision making is impaired and the risk of injury is increased.
So even though you are on a budget, may not have access to a good supply of fresh food and probably don’t have much time to spend at food prep, keeping your blood sugar stable and your fluid levels topped up are critical to the way you do your job, and how much fun you have doing it! Here are some strategies for snacking that will help to keep you on top of your game when you are working, and when you get to play in the powder!
Ski Area Best Practices:
Here are some great ideas from ski areas that have implemented nutrition programs.
Locker room treats: While the resort can’t supply daily food for everyone, many resorts have stepped up by making sure that at least once a week they place boxes of apples or bananas in the locker rooms. Here are some examples from resorts in western North America:
- One resort has an arrangement with BC fruit growers to supply the apples that are off size or a bit misshapen.
- Several resorts that have a lot of avalanche work provide a snack for the dawn patrol during periods when the hazard is high and patrollers start before the sun comes up. The patrol manager has a small budget, and individuals take turns bringing something for the group.
- At another, one of the managers stops in at the local grocery store and picks up what ever crate of fruit they have excess of that week. This is especially good if workers live at the resort village and can’t get into the city to shop.
- Food services contracts may prohibit bringing in food that is not purchased through the negotiated supplier, so one resort contracted to get extra crates of fruit from their food supplier delivered to the resort on a weekly basis for staff.
- A resort in Colorado offered a daily special consisting of a sandwich and piece of fruit in a brown bag. Priced at just a few dollars for staff, it also became a very popular choice for guests.
- Other resorts use symbols to indicate items on the menu that would best serve the energy needs of their staff, and discount these items an additional 5% over the standard staff discount.
- A resort in Vermont offers staff cooking classes as a fun social event. They use healthy recipes that teach young (and old) staff how to make simple and inexpensive food.
- Another in Colorado holds “Build your own Sandwich” events a couple of times a season where workers come in a little early to a safety meeting which is followed by a chance to make their own sandwich with a variety of healthy choices supplied by the department manager.
Sandwiches are the ultimate energy food. They automatically fall into the ideal 2/3 carb and 1/3 protein ratio, and as long as you take it easy with the butter or margarine, mayo, cheese and bacon, they’ll digest at just the right rate to keep your concentration sharp, your reflexes fast and a your energy level high!
- The wrapping: Bread, bagel, wrap, bun, cracker or pocket – think whole grain for flavor, vitamins and fiber. The less processed the carb the longer it will take to digest which is a very good thing when it comes to stabilizing blood sugar. Beware of brown bread, sometimes it’s made with refined white flour and then simply colored brown. It’s a good idea to check the label and try for at least 2 gm fiber/slice what ever your choice is.
- The filling: Go for lean protein here. Sliced chicken, turkey, tuna, or bean spreads (see the recipe below for an inexpensive, healthful and tasty spread) are the best choices. Lean roast beef, pork or salmon are a little higher in fat but as long as you discard any visible fat from the meats they are also great choices. Left over breakfast omelet or even last night’s dinner also work, just wrap them up in lettuce or a bun and you are good to go! Cheeses tend to be high in fat, so slice thinly and think about using vegetables instead of cheese for flavor.
- Accessories: Switch out high fat mayo and butter for sliced vegetables, or a smear of mustard, chutney or humus. Lettuce makes a great barrier between the meat and bread to help keep tomatoes from soggifying your bread. Be creative with sprouts, spinach, cucumber, and peppers to name just a few, they can radically change the way you see a sandwich. Lightly rub peppers, squash, eggplant or mushrooms with olive oil sprinkle with your favorite spices and roast in a medium oven along with your dinner for especially flavorful veggies. If you do them in a big batch they will be ready to dress up your lunch all week.
Cut your sandwiches in halves or even quarters for great pocket snacks to eat when you feel your energy lagging. Small amounts eaten more frequently will keep your blood sugar stable and your energy and mood high. Not having to visit the cafeteria has added benefits besides those to your wallet – you can also avoid long line-ups when you’d rather be out on the slope.
Another great choice for snacking is a power bar. While commercial bars store well and are easy to tuck in a pocket, most are expensive and are actually candy bars in disguise. It’s super easy to make your own power bars, quick breads and muffins for a fraction of the cost of commercial products – and you can be sure to include the right ingredients to fuel you day. Try one of these recipes and you won’t go back to prepackaged bars (click on the following link): Bean Spread, Peak Power Bars, Fruit Power Muffins.
Keeping your blood sugar topped up will make you feel better all day. You’ll be more alert, your reflexes will work better and your mood will stay more positive. It’s a sure way to increase performance and protect yourself from injury and illness…. So pack your lunch and keep smilin’!
– Article written by Delia Roberts, Fit for Snow
More resources related to Fit for Duty:
- Ski Area Employee Safety Resources
- Ski Area Safety Talk: Fit for Duty
- Fit for Snow facebook page
- 32 degrees article winter 2019, p84-87
- Research paper: Injury Prevention for Ski-Area Employees: A Physiological Assessment of Lift Operators, Instructors, and Patrollers
- BCFSC newsletter How what’s in your sandwich can influence the decisions you make