(Feb. 3) It’s an Atkins dieter’s nightmare.

On an average day when he’s in training, Olympic cross-country skier Torin Koos, 25, consumes 3,000-3,500 calories. He increases that 25% on the day before he competes. That’s when Koos loads up on pasta, energy drinks and other carbohydrate-rich foods, which will supply the energy he needs during the race.

Koos also eats plenty of fruits and vegetables, including Northwest pears, and he’ll sport the Pear Bureau Northwest’s USA Pears logo during the Olympics in Turin, Italy, from Feb. 10-26.

“I love eating fruit, and if I have a choice between a candy bar and a pear, I’ll definitely choose the pear,” said Koos on Jan. 31 from the Seiser Alm ski area of Italy, where he was completing high-altitude training.

After that, Koos headed to Davos, Switzerland, for a World Cup competition Feb. 4-5, and he expected to return to Italy on Feb. 6 for the Olympics. A box of Northwest pears was set to await him there, thanks to Kevin Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of the pear bureau, one of Koos’ sponsors.

“He just embodies the active lifestyle and healthy eating that we’re trying to promote,” Moffitt said. “It’s a great fit.”

Although Koos has been busy training for the Olympics and competing in national and international events, he finds time to promote pears during media interviews. His one-year contract began last spring, and Moffitt said he plans to schedule the athlete for talks at schools, colleges and sporting events after the Olympics.

At 21, Koos was one of the youngest competitors in the cross-country events at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The Olympic Village menus are set by each host city, and Koos expects fruits and vegetables to be readily available to the athletes in Turin.

“It was a pretty good spread of food,” he said about the 2002 Winter Olympics. “In Salt Lake, they really took good care of the athletes. It was professionally run, and it really carried through to the training table.”

As a member of the U.S. Ski Team, Koos meets with team nutritionist Susie Parker-Simmons. Every athlete’s dietary needs are different, and for a sprint skier like Koos, caloric intake is closely monitored. He’s scheduled to compete in the 1,500-meter sprint relay Feb. 14 and the individual 1,500-meter sprint Feb. 22.

ORCHARDS AND MOUNTAINS

Because he grew up in Wenatchee, Wash., and Leavenworth, Wash., Koos is not a stranger to the apple and pear industry. He lived at the foot of the Cascade Mountains, so skiing came naturally, and the area is home to a number of Olympic athletes. In high school, he sold locally grown apples and pears at the Peshastin, Wash.-based Smallwood’s Harvest mercantile store for two summers.

A fruit grower and skiing acquaintance of Koos put Moffitt in touch with the skier. Like other Olympic athletes, Koos needed sponsors to continue training and competing.

A continued relationship is possible, Moffitt said. Athletes in endurance events typically have their best competitions in their late 20s to mid-30s as their lungs become better suited to the anaerobic events, and Koos sees competing in the 2010 Winter Olympics as a possibility.

His Salt Lake City finish, 36th out of about 80 skiers, was not “his greatest day ever,” but he’s put that behind him and is focused on Turin, Koos said.

After the 2002 Winter Olympics, Koos graduated from the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and a minor in economics. He’s been able to devote more time since graduation to honing his skiing skills, and he competes in 20 to 30 races a year in the U.S. and abroad.