27/5/11 – Why energy bars just don’t cut it

If, like me, you are one of those people who has one perpetual eye on your next meal, the prospect of the long stretch between breakfast and supper during a hut-to-hut ski tour may seem alarming. What sort of provisions will you pack to sustain you between huts? Will there be room in your rucksack? Will you get terribly hungry? And most worryingly, will your companions’ picnics be nicer than yours?

Viande sechee for 14, carried to the Konkordia Hut

A year ago, when ski touring in the Bernina region, I was the only one to pack ‘energy’-type bars. Nobody wanted to share them with me because they were so unappetising, despite probably ‘doing the job’. Thankfully most days we arrived at the huts early enough to feast on pasta (on the Italian side) or roesti (on the Swiss side) at about 2pm before sitting down to supper at around 6pm.

A much better bet for the rucksack, I have since discovered, are mixed nuts and dried fruit, such as raisins, sultanas and apricots. I buy mine at home from Julian Graves, which seems good value, mix my favourite types together and bring them in a carrier bag. They are delicious and easy to hand around; they provide good energy compared to their weight; they don’t freeze, melt or smell, and unlike individually wrapped energy bars, they aren’t bristling with packaging.

A lump of hard cheese is another satisfying snack, which provides a gratifying opportunity to use the Swiss Army knife that weighs down the lid of my rucksack. I like the harder types of Gruyere best, but a word of advice: don’t unwrap it in the dorm room three days into the tour.

Dried or smoked meat makes tasty Alpine fare, and most mountain guides worth their salt will have a slab of some kind in their rucksack, whether a blotchy, gnarled salami sausage or a slab of smoked ham. One of my favourite mountain meats is the good-value, square-edged Landjaeger, available in bunches of two or four in Austria, Switzerland and probably Germany: the skin is thin enough to eat and you can break off pieces to hand around without the Swiss Army.

Snake snacks - we could have got through several packets

Wafer-sliced, delicate viande sechee is wonderful too, but you may have to carry packaging to keep it fresh: on a recent Berner Oberland tour, one of my friends, a chef, heroically carried enough for 14 of us to feast on with our afternoon shandy aperos at the Konkordia Hut.

And what’s for pudding? Chocolate is the obvious choice, available to buy daily in huts so you can avoid lugging it throughout the tour. But it tends to freeze or thaw, and I find that one bar leaves me wanting a second, whether I’m up a mountain or not.

My suggestion is to take sweet/sour shoelace-type confectionary. Between Alagna and Zinal in March I carried a bag of Haribo strawberry sherbert-covered ‘snakes’. They were so popular among my companions that I had to ration them towards the end. I took a similar packet, from Migros, to the Berner Oberland, with similar results – though oddly, the boys liked them more than the girls did.

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5 Comments

Filed under Austria, Food and drink, Italy, Off-piste, Ski touring, Switzerland

5 responses to “27/5/11 – Why energy bars just don’t cut it

  1. Elly Schierbeek

    Ah, the tour in the Jungfrau region. Your photo brings it all back, the blue skies, the masses of snow, the glaciers hanging and falling in every direction, the hot sunny terraces at the huts. I went the week before you. I always bring dried fruit and nuts: natural dried (brown) apricots, available from the Coop in Switzerland, not as sticky as the orange dried ones, and mixed nuts. But I have to confess I only carry enough for myself for the week, because of the weight. At 8st 2lbs I’ve got trouble carrying group kit as well! All the fittening work keeps me an unintended skinny minny. Would be great to do a tour together sometime. I might stretch to carrying a pack of the strawberry-sherbert snakes to see the surprised grins on the rest of the group! Elly

  2. Hi Elly, I agree touring and the preparation for it is brilliant for fitness and I always feel on top form after a tour (and usually during it as well). BUT touring in Italy I find I PUT ON weight, due to piles of pasta on arrival at huts and the inevitable afternoon carafe of red… I don’t intentionally take much extra food (though my pack never seems to be the smallest; see my blog of 6/4/11), but as other people often carry good things to eat and I want to accept anything they offer around, I try to take items that might be tasty so I can do the same! It would be great to join up for a tour some time. Yolanda

  3. Pingback: 24/4/12 – Ski-touring by boat from Bodo | morethanskiing

  4. Bartek Czerwinski

    Hi Yolanda, I’ve just come across your article by accident. It’s actually a great coincidence. See, me and my business partner are skiers and snowboarders ourselves and we know exactly the problem that you are talking about. So we developed and created an energy bars specifically dedicated to the needs of skiers and snowboarders, especially freeriders! You might want to have a look at http://seshbar.com – thanks!

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