Reading Time: 4 minutes

Does a day’s skiing in Switzerland burn enough calories to offset that rosti? We put Bernard, our trusty volunteer, on the case to investigate. Warning: the scene around the cake trolley isn’t pretty.

One of the great pleasures of a ski trip, especially one to Europe, is indulging in those calorie laden foodstuffs which make life worth living: rosti, fondue, pasta, pizza, deluxe burgers, roast meats, roast vegetables. I, for one, would eat a towel if it were roasted.

So what about those foods that weigh heavily on the hips yet lightly on the soul? If I ski every day, do I burn enough calories to offset the rosti? If not, how many extra runs do I have to make? And should I just not worry about it and shake off the extra wobbly bits when I get home?

Let’s follow our willing volunteer, Bernard, through his typical ski day in Switzerland and see how he gets on:


Waking at seven, Bernard showers and shaves and progresses with  scampering urgency in the direction of the breakfast room, propelled by a primal part of his brain that’s telling him if he doesn’t get there soon everyone else will have cleaned up the buffet. Of course there’s plenty left, but just in case the bar should be cleaned out before he has chance to go for seconds, he takes two cups of coffee, an omelette with cheese and ham (400 calories), and a scoop (let’s be honest Bernard, that was two scoops) of hash browns (660 calories). And half a tomato, so he can claim to have had something healthy.

Having wolfed down this plateful, Bernard notices the buffet is still well loaded. Reasoning that he will be exercising, and being a strong advocate of reducing food waste, Bernard wobbles back to the bar and picks up another omelette and another scoop of hash browns. He skips the tomato, since that would be excessive: his second visit adds another 600 calories to breakfast, bringing the breakfast total to 1660. Leaving the room, he pockets a couple of pain au chocolates “to avoid blood sugar crashes” during the long hours until lunch.


Lunch is long coming but long lasting: three slices of cheese-and-ham pizza (3 x 350 = 1050 calories) and a plate of fries (450 calories) gives Bernard a lunchtime tally of 1500 calories. The daily total has reached 3160. I’m no nutritionist, but that sounds like a lot of skiing will be required, and we haven’t even begun to think about the distant promise of dinner.

Only two laps later and Bernard’s neanderthal brain is beginning to murmur sweet thoughts of dinner: Will it be the fondue? The rosti? Or perhaps a roast chicken with vegetables? After all, he’s been out in the cold right? That HAS to be speeding up his burn rate? And skiing is a sport isn’t it? That’s got to be doing something? So, before we follow Bernard to the restaurant (assuming we can keep up with him, since it’s likely going to be the fastest he moves all day), let’s have a quick think about his calorie usage through the day on skis.


Bernard skied for two hours and 30 minutes this morning. In that time, being a pretty strong skier, he covered 4000 vertical metres of groomed runs, and 500 metres of bumps, with an average burn rate of 730 calories per hour, bringing his morning total to 1825 calories burned. The afternoon, being tired, and if we’re honest, ever so slightly puckish, he skied for only two hours at a lower intensity, avoiding bumps and sticking mostly to blue groomers. In the afternoon he burned a more modest 1200 calories. His day’s total, a respectable 3025 calories burned, so a net gain of just 135 calories consumed. But remember, we haven’t had dinner yet…

“And goodness me, wasn’t that a great day?” says Bernard’s dining buddy, the grease from his chicken rolling down his chin. “Certainly was,” says Bernard, gulping his beer (150 calories), and scarfing a mouthful of rosti (600 calories). “I barely stopped all day,” says buddy. “Me neither,” lies Bernard, reaching for the bowl of roast potatoes (120 grams). “And boy, was it cold out there. I never stopped shivering all day. I’m exhausted. Oh, and yes, thank you, I will have another beer.” (150 calories) 


“I didn’t try those desserts at the lunch stop,” says buddy, a touch smugly. “I’m saving myself for this evening.” He chuckles and looks longingly at the cake trolley, lying in a well illuminated corner. One of those slices looks distinctly bigger than the others. Bernard has noticed this too. Conversation wilts. Eyes flutter nervously from dining companion to the bigger slice. In this neanderthal world, he who eats the most calories is best set to survive coming shortages. And tomorrow is going to be a big day. Who knows if they will even have time for lunch at all?

Edging his seat back, peeking at the cake while trying to look like he is listening to buddy talking about some powder run he enjoyed in the morning, Bernard’s mouth is dry. His stomach screams a borborygmi of needful pain. It simply must have cake, specifically THAT cake, THAT slice.


Buddy stands. Bernard moves like a racehorse. Long, loping strides carry him in graceful arcs through the throng of diners. Shouldering aside an old lady, and stepping on the toes of both propriety and his fellow skiers, Bernard reaches the trolley. But there are no plates! Bernard stares back toward his table, only now noticing the small cake plate to the left of his place setting. Buddy, who had moved less speedily, but with more cunning, is approaching with plate in hand. Eyes locked as if over the carcass of a gnu, both freeze, palms sweating. Buddy moves the plate forward as if to say, “You lose, sucker!”

“Looks like someone can’t cut very straight,” laughs Bernard, through gritted teeth. “Haha, yes. Go on, you take the big slice,” says Buddy, fully aware that Bernard has no plate.

Trembling, cursing, and mourning not only the loss of the favoured slice but the end of a lifelong friendship, Bernard mutters grimly, “You take it. I skied more than you today. And I forgot my plate.” Buddy takes the bigger slice. Bernard gets his plate and settles for second best: 250 calories, for dining room total of 1240 calories, a daily total of 4400 and a net gain of 1375. 

There are no friends on a powder day, and nor are there any around the cake trolley. But never mind, tomorrow is going to be a big day.

Nigel Harrison
To top