Feb 28 2010

Gluten Free skiing and snowboarding

Feeling light and gluten free

When I first started this blog I choose the name Gluten Free Snowboarder more as a joke than anything else. But because the internet has become everyone’s first choice for research, I have been getting a lot of searches for information about gluten free eating at ski resorts as well as emails about specific areas. And since I am a gluten free practitioner I have done a lot of research and thought I’d share what I know in this post.

Not a lot of restaurant choices out here...

Since my gluten allergy was diagnosed 2 1/2 years ago I’ve seen a tremendous growth in information and food choices for those dealing with these issues. That said, ski areas are a particularly hard place to eat gluten free as the standard pizza, burger and cookie meal doesn’t work for those who can’t eat wheat. The other big challenge is that the food delivery crew often has very little knowledge about what’s in the prepared items like soups and chilies. What I generally find is that the bigger and nicer the ski resort, the more likely they’ll have items marked gluten free and know what ingredients are in their food. As an example, earlier this year, I was pleased to note that the on mountain cafeterias at Beaver Creek now indicate which items on the menu boards are gluten free. Haven’t seen this much elsewhere, but once one area starts something new, others tend to follow.

Lunchtime in the backcountry - Great Canadian Heliskiing

When I’m on a heli or cat trip , the chefs at the lodge take good care of me, but the rest of the time I’m on my own so have learned to bring food with me and always pack a big cooler for multiday road trips. Let’s start with breakfast. Oatmeal, that mainstay of ski trip early morning fueling, can be a tricky one as while oats themselves do not contain gluten, they are often contaminated in the harvesting and packaging process. If you want to be sure you’re totally gluten free I recommend eco-planet organics hot cereal which comes in three tasty flavors. If granola is your thing, I’m a big fan of Bakery on Main and in particular their Extreme Fruit and Nut Granola. As far as baked goods and breads go, I think you’re much better off if you can find a local bakery that produces gluten free products – I’m fortunate to live in Boulder, Colorado where there’s numerous options but some of the best stuff I’ve seen comes from Outside the Breadbox based in Colorado Springs, which makes great breads, bagels (!) and pies among other products.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a Whole Foods near you, they have their own line of gluten free products ranging from muffins to pie crusts and seem to be adding other gluten free items on almost a daily basis. In the last month I have seen two new product lines (both Colorado based so don’t know if they can be found outside this area) that have changed my buying habits. Canyon Bakehouse makes four types of breads that are sandwich worthy along with some Cranberry Crunch Muffins that are solid enough to survive in a ski jacket pocket. The other new noteworthy addition is the Udi’s line of gluten free breads and blueberry muffins. Whole Foods also now carries the very tasty line of cookies and brownies from the Wow Baking Company, definitely worth checking out if you have a bit of a sweet tooth.

Before all these products were available locally, I used to do a lot of shopping on line at glutenfree.com which carries most of the Glutino and Gluten Free Pantry lines. You can find a lot of these products in you local store but some of the more esoteric ones like my personal favorite, premium Gluten Free English Muffins, I have only seen on-line. One of my other Glutino favorites for skiing is their line of breakfast bars which make a good portable snack for the hill. Of all the online sites, this one is the most extensive and could be your one stop shop if you don’t have a local store that carries these kinds of products.

One other company I have to mention is Pamela’s Products. They were one of the first companies to produce gluten free items and have in my opinion make some of the best products on the market particularly their cookies and baking mixes. Their baking and pancake mix can be used to easily make numerous breakfast items including delicious pancakes and all sorts of baked goods as the mix includes those unique ingredients (like xantham gum) necessary to successfully bake gluten free items.

Who needs food when you've been eating powder all day...

In general, my gluten free ski plan involves eating breakfast at home, making a sandwich for lunch and hoping the resort I go to has some sort soup that doesn’t have flour in it. In the meantime, I carry lots of snacks, both solid and liquid (can’t beat those Naked Juices or Odwalla Smoothies for thirst quenching and instant energy).  For dinner, there’s always meat (or tofu if you prefer) and potatoes and if you like ethnic food, you’ll quickly learn that Mexican, Thai and Indian food all can be thoroughly enjoyed without involving any flour. As for me, I’d gladly eat cold rice and beans every day as long as powder is the main course but fortunately for me, these days I can have my gluten free cake and eat it too…