Growing up mostly in Georgia, and now living in Florida, seeing the snow is a rare occurrence. It might have snowed once every five to ten years in Savannah, and usually only barely. And snow in Florida would probably drive the Florida Men insane, as they would be convinced that the end of days had arrived and fling themselves madly into apocalyptic acts of destruction and mischief. More so than they do already, I mean.
But when I was young, I did, for a time, get to spend time playing in the snow. This is because we spent three years in Heidelberg, Germany. It took a while to get used to the cold. Central Europe is barely even habitable by the standards of southern gentlemen like me, and acclimating to the near glacial temperatures in the land of the Teutons took time. The upside was that there was a fair amount of snow. The things one can do in the snow make the cold more tolerable.
My goofy friends and I could pummel each other with snowballs. We could sled down hills, which was impossible back home. Florida has no hills and the parts of Georgia where they do are the parts we always steered clear of. Because those are the parts where people who are married to their cousins demand that you squeal like a pig and do unholy things. As anyone who has seen Deliverance knows.
But I digress. In addition to the normal backyard fun, we would also take occasional trips to the Austrian Alps for ski trips. Skiing is the hardest thing you only have to learn once, my first ski instructor told me. The first few hours tend to result in embarrassing spills and a lot of unintentional consumption of snow when you faceplant. But once you get the hang of it, it’s something you never forget, like riding a bike. The last time I went skiing was after a ten year hiatus, and it came back to me right away.
Skiing is, unsurprisingly, good exercise. You can burn about 400 calories per hour on the slopes. And you can burn about the same if you prefer snowboarding. But I always found snowboarders to be weirdly obnoxious, like their skateboarding cousins. They seem to spend their entire time engaged in acts of folly that are likely to break something or result in some injury that’s likely to cause sterility.
Of course if you’re really coordinated, you can try slalom skiing. For those uninitiated in such things, this is the event where you ski down a hill at breakneck speed while trying to get between pairs of flags. This sport is doable by only the chaddest of all skiers. Yes, I learned a new word from the young people of the Internet. I should stop. Adopting young people speak makes me come off like Steve Buscemi in 30 Rock. Anyway, slalom skiing burns 650 calories per hour. But I’m not really coordinated enough to pull that off. I’m not a klutz, but that level of control is beyond me. A man’s got to know his limitations.
Of course, one doesn’t need mountains to lose weight in the snow. Cross country skiing burns about 500 calories or so per hour. And if you don’t have snow at all, you can still lose weight this way. But you’d have to buy one of those goofy Nordictrack skiing machines. You should only do this if you have too much money and no self respect.
And if you have gun-loving buddies, you could always do the biathlon, which is cross country skiing combined with target shooting. This allows you to burn about 500 calories per hour while dealing with pent up angst by destroying inanimate objects. Of course, my gun-loving buddies, all hardcore southerners, would probably turn their nose up at the quaint bolt action rifles biathletes use. They would instead bring something fully automatic with enough lead to cause deforestation and temporary deafness. Or a shotgun that could fell a tree. This sort of outing might result in an arrest, an international incident, or the latest in a long line of Florida Man stories.
Skiing isn’t the only option, though. Sledding down a hill can burn 500 or so calories per hour. Now, I know, you’re skeptical. If you’re just sledding down some minor incline, it will probably not burn anywhere near that much. But if you’re actually sledding down a large mountain and steering around tight turns and avoiding trees, that does burn a lot. Just don’t do unwise sledding, such as steering through a forest or a ravine. Or riding something silly like a piano or a bathtub. Which is a thing people do. Most of your weight loss from this “hold my beer” stuff will be weight you lose recovering in the hospital. Or from getting things amputated.
Then there’s that activity I never quite got the hang of, ice skating. I never figured out how to turn on the ice without collapsing into a heap. That strange motion skaters make crossing one leg over the other always ended in disaster. But if you can figure it out, this will burn 400 calories per hour.
And if you can manage to turn and you’re hardcore, you can try speed skating. You’ll burn 1,100 per hour doing this. Of course, if you crash into a wall while doing this, that will probably result in more of the “hospital recovery” type weight loss. Also, possible death. So know your limitations.
Or, if you’re super coordinated and don’t mind wearing frilly outfits, figure skating is another option. This burns 1,200 per hour. But only if you have epic levels of balance. If not, it’ll result in faceplants into the ice, and likely more hospital weight loss. And also possible death. Although you’ll be a very fancily dressed corpse.
And if you’re a person with rage issues, ice hockey is another way to burn calories. This is paradoxically a very impolite sport created by the most polite of all humans: Canadians. I honestly never saw an angry Canadian until I saw a Hockey match. I didn’t realize they had it in them. Anyway, this elaborate form of ice brawling burns about 650 calories per hour. This explains why the angry Canadians (along with some angry Russians, which is a far more common phenomenon) we imported to Tampa Bay are so skinny. Also, go Bolts. Two years in a row and you brought the Stanley Cup to a state where ice is not a naturally occurring substance. Immigration can make the U.S. a better place.
Of course, it’s possible to lose weight in the miserable cold even without going too far from home. A good snowball fight is something you can do in your backyard and will burn about 250-400 per hour. And even the relatively mundane act of building a snowman will burn a decent amount. I’ve noted before that any building or repair work can be a decent workout.
So if you do venture into the more frigid climes of the world, there are a lot of good ways to stay in shape. But it’s important not to ruin the gains after a day in the cold. Sometimes the onset of hypothermia makes us want to consume things. There is a tendency to drink copious amounts of hot chocolate with marshmallows when doing these things. And if you’re at a ski lodge, there is frequently a collection of unhealthy things at the bottom of the hill. Like chocolates and truffles and other dessert type things, which, as I’ve noted before, aren’t so good for you.
Also, the Germans and Austrians I used to ski with drank rather alarming amounts of beer. I didn’t, because I was five years old when I moved there (that would’ve been weird), but it may explain why so many of their skiers were a bit…portly. Drinking can ruin a diet, and the fact that I once knew a bunch of fat guys named Hans and Fritz proves this. So, there is a risk that you undo all of the work you did by drinking liquid calories to try to stay warm. Also, drunk skiing increases the likelihood of faceplanting and hospital related weight loss. And death. Fortunately, I prefer the Blessed Brown Water of Life, which has very little in the way of calories.
But if you can avoid those temptations, these activities are really good ways to keep the weight off. Sadly, I haven’t been able to participate in these wintry sports recently. Winter in Florida lasts approximately two weeks in January and is characterized by temperatures that might be slightly below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Which is about 15 degrees Celsius for the furriners. Or 288 degrees Kelvin for the nerds. These temperatures don’t come close to producing snow. But one of these days I’ll go to the Rockies. I’ll ski down those snow crested peaks and get skinnier and then ruin it with beer and hot chocolate. Although, I should be careful. Those mountains have some steep cliffs. I might take a wrong turn off of a cliff and accidentally go skydiving instead. I mean, crazy stuff like that is good exercise, but kind of a bummer with no parachute.
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