An Intro to Cross Country Skiing
Just when you thought lycra was out of style.by Ian Harvey
Imagine gliding along a groomed trail through snow covered trees. The silence is scarcely broken by your skis sliding on the snow, the pine's dampened whisper, or your frozen breaths. Coming around a bend, you surprise a deer and its fawn as they forage for food. They lightly spring away as you smile with surprise. Back at the lodge, you enjoy a light lunch and drive home with your batteries charged, ready to take on your world.
Cross country skiing opens the door to all these simple backcountry pleasures. From an athletic point of view, it blows away the treadmill gathering dust in your basement. As a low impact activity, it uses natural movements similar to hiking, walking, and running. Because cross country skiing uses so many muscles in the body at the same time, it quickly develops the cardiovascular system, and also burns through the calories. An adult male skiing on flat terrain will burn about 13 calories per minute. Plus, natural scenery is much more appealing as a backdrop to exertion than muscle bound freaks, or Larry King on a health club television. Fill your lungs with fresh frozen air; it won't stink like gym.
Cross Country Ski Equipment
Compared to most other winter sports, cross country skiing is pretty cheap. A trail pass averages $12, and you can generally pick up a trail pass, rental equipment, and a ski lesson for $35. You can round up a quality package of boots, skis, and poles for about $225. Compare that to $70 lift tickets and $800+ for an alpine ski package. That's a lot of extra beer money.
Cross Country Ski Areas
As a cross country skier, you'll never run out of terrain to explore. There are 500 Cross Country ski centers throughout North America. Many of these centers are located within one or two hours drive of major cities. Cross Country ski areas offer cush amenities such as warming huts or lodges, food, technical assistance or lessons, fireplaces, and maybe a hot tub or sauna for après skiing relaxation. Most offer programs for children and adults, and many miles of ski trails specifically prepared for cross country skiing. Many ski centers also offer packages including lodging in the form of a hotel, or a bed & breakfast.
Ski centers generally have a hot line to call for a grooming report. They'll tell you how many trails are open and when they were last groomed. Log on to www.xcski.org for snow reports from any one of some 300 participating areas.
Cross Country skiing is also a family friendly sport. Couples can put toddlers in a pulk sled which can be comfortably towed by a skier. Generally, the little ones fall asleep quickly and stay warm and comfortable. Many areas also offer trails where pet owners can ski with their dogs. Got a big mutt who's impossible to wear out? If you're truly adventurous and dedicated, look into skijoring. It's basically dog sledding minus the sled. Let Fido earn his kibble. For more info, check out http://www.ptialaska.net/~skijor/
Whether you're looking at your first cross country outing, or getting back into the sport after a long layoff, my advice is to visit a professionally groomed trail system and take a lesson. Many cross country ski areas offer packages that include rental equipment, a one to two hour lesson, and a trail pass for as little as $35. It's a wise investment in what could become a lifetime passion.
Once you're hooked, come back to Backcountry.com, and we'll set you up with everything you need to get out on your own. You'll be tearing up the real backcountry in no time.
Cross country skiing is a lifestyle sport that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. It brings one outdoors in a beautiful environment and in contact with good people. It's healthy, affordable, easy to learn, low impact, family friendly, and fun! For more information on Cross Country skiing, consult www.xcski.org and www.xcskiworld.com
Former US Olympian and National Champion, Ian Harvey, works for Toko Ski Waxes and Tools. Toko is a world leading manufacturer of ski waxes and tools.