Winter Girls' Getaways are the Rage

Among some women, the "Girls' Getaway" weekend or program has become an annual tradition where small or extended groups of women, ladies, girls, mothers, daughters, or friends organize a get together unaccompanied by (one might even say unburdened by) or exclusive of men, boys, brothers, and fathers. The motivation and/or common denominator is about connecting.

A girls' weekend might include recreating or relaxing together, enjoying good food and libations, and a host of other activities that provide the backdrop for engagement and lasting memories. XCSkiResorts.com has found a list of women's programs for the upcoming winter 2015-16 ranging from once-a-week group outings to week-long all inclusive packages.

EAST

The Lapland Ladies Love to Ski is an instructional cross country ski program that runs 3 times a winter and has been ongoing for about 10 years. It is designed for women and taught by women at Lapland Lake XC Ski & Vacation Center in Northville, NY. Female participants, who are beginner or intermediate level skiers, register for the program for a one-time activity or for all 3 outings. They are grouped to learn and practice ski techniques and they all have lunch together followed by a presentation about cross country ski equipment, clothing, and other topics. After lunch the group is self-divided into smaller groups for a social ski tour out in different directions on the trails and then back in the lodge for a hot beverage and a chocolate goodie at the end of the day. Classic skiing on Dec 20, Jan 21 & Feb 11; Skate skiing on Mar 4. The $50 price includes the trail pass, lunch, and discount coupons to use in the ski shop.

The Adventure Center at Waterville Valley, NH and southern White Mountains has the Women's Clinic on Feb 18, 2017 with XC ski instruction, equipment demo, waxing clinic, yoga, massage, lunch included.

Rangeley Lakes Outdoor Center in ME has Ladies Day on Mondays with a half price trail pass and a FREE cup of soup.

Go Red for Women's Heart Disease program at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center in Gorham, NH on Feb 3, 2017 with 50% discount on trail passes and rental equipment to those wearing red. Also Women's Winter Escape is on Jan 14-15, 2017 from 8:30 - 4:30 for an all-women’s weekend with classic and skate ski clinics, naturalist-led snowshoe tours, yoga, equipment demo, snow tubing, nutrition talk and more;

The Ladies Nordic Ski Expo at Trapp Family Lodge is in Stowe, VT on January 14, 2017 for clinics, lunch, and social fun on the snow. The New England Women's XC Ski Day is scheduled at Bethel Inn in Bethel, ME on January 22, 2017 with gear demo, lunch, prizes, gear demo, and wrap up party.

CENTRAL & MOUNTAINS

Lutsen Resort in MN has the Girlfriends Getaway Package for anytime of year with a bottle of champagne, breakfast, dinner, a spa treatment, guided tour with complimentary XC ski or snowshoe gear (or hiking, biking, or sea kayaking in the warmer months) and galleries and shopping in nearby Grand Marais. Photo: On the lake shore in winter at Lutsen Resort. Photo of Girls Getaway at Lutsen Resort.

Maplelag Resort in Callaway, MN has the Women's Ski & Be Yoga Retreat, which includes getting outdoors in nature for cross country skiing and snowshoeing, healthy meals, and massage on Feb 3-6, 2017. A number of girls' getaways at Maplelag are organized by patrons, who have visited the resort with their families and then return another time with other women to enjoy a variety of activities such as quilting, knitting, book discussions, board games, and so on. The family style meals at Maplelag make it easy for the groups to engage and there's the added bonus that none of the gals have to cook during the weekends, either.

The Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI has Women's Ski Club on Wednesdays Jan 11 - Feb 15, 2017 at 5-7 PM for local women to get together and XC ski in a relaxed, welcoming environment.

Timber Ridge Nordic Center in Traverse City, MI has She-Ski a Wednesday Ladies Night with cross country skiing or snowshoeing. The Women's Winter Tour is a themed cross country ski, snowshoe and hike event at the same location on Feb 5, 2017 with a sampling of chocolate and other food goodies. For more info, check www.womenswintertour.com.

Ski, Sip & Spa Day at Devils Thumb Ranch Resort in Tabernash, CO on Saturday, Feb 12, 2017 includes XC ski lessons, lunch, yoga, hot tub, sauna, and wine and cheese. Massage or facial available at special rates.

The Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat, CO has the Share & Save (starts at $335 per night with a 3 night minimum) program offer during certain times in the season. There are three meals a day, cross country ski instruction, guided backcountry ski tours, equipment to use, cooking classes, wine tasting, sleigh rides, horseback riding, photography workshops, and evening entertainment. Such a package includes transportation from the airport to the resort and there are many extras offered to extend the memories such as dogsledding, alpine skiing, massage, and premium wines at an additional price

WEST

Sun Mountain Lodge and Cascade Endurance in Winthrop, WA has the Women's Adventure Camp on Feb 26-28, 2017 with XC skiing, yoga, breakfast and lunch, ski sessions, wine/hors d'oeuvres reception, and relaxation.

Women's Ski Weekend at Izaak Walton Inn, Essex, MT on the Amtrak line and scheduled on Jan 21-22, 2017 with lodging, 1 hour skate skiing instruction, two 1-hour yoga sessions, and 30 minute massage, buffet dinner and one night accommodations.

Royal Gorge XC Ski Resort in Soda Springs, CA has a Women's Skate Clinic with Olympic skier Katerina Nash for an intermediate skate clinic on Feb 25 at the Summit Station.

One multi-year women's weekend participant jokingly cited "verbal profuseness" as the prime characteristic of her getaway experience with female friends. Such getaways may have a distinct purpose such as high performance fitness exercise or healthy wellness activities or they could incorporate different themes, but it is the composition of the group, which determines the vibe for the weekend. Check the XCSkiResorts.com Product News Page for info about women's XC ski equipment.

Family XC Ski and Snowshoe Destination Vacations

Plan to gather up the kids and head to the hills during the school breaks next winter. No need to head to warmer climes - winter can be snowy, yet mild, and perfect for a family vacation with plenty of activities such as cross-country (XC) skiing and snowshoeing. According to the experts, who regularly update XCSkiResorts.com, the nation's top XC ski resorts are exceedingly family-friendly with lots to enjoy together both on the snow and off. What families want and need is exactly what an xc ski vacation delivers: multi-generational participation, quality time and shared memories.

There are special touches such as talent shows, child-friendly classes and family style meals to help your XC ski and snowshoe vacation become the perfect memorable getaway with your loved ones. Families can find resorts that offer the perfect combination of carefree atmosphere and picture-perfect views together with beautiful lodging, family dining, and expertly groomed trails and learn how they can enjoy the winter outdoors together. The following are top suggestions from the site:

EAST

Lapland Lake Ski & Vacation Center in Northville, NY has nightly bonfires on the weekends and the kids love to play Napa Kikku, which is a Finnish game on ice with a sled and a pole. Kicksleds, tubing, ice skating and parents use pulk sleds to pull the kids along the xc ski trails.

Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, ME has family programs to engage kids and adults with outdoors and educational activities such as XC skiing, mountain biking, equestrian, exploring life and animals on the farm, apple cider making, butter making, milking a cow, carving pumpkins, and much more.

Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT is one of the most famous family resorts where the hills come alive with the "Sound of Music." In the Green Mountains of Vermont, Trapp Family Lodge is a paradise for families with a fitness center, an indoor pool and the Mountain Kids Club provides playtime, craft time and movies for kids.

Smuggler's Notch Resort in Smuggler's Notch, VT has a dynamic lineup of family programs with 1,000 acres for alpine skiers and snowboarders, teen centers, kids camps and FunZone play area, resort village with shops and restaurants, condo lodging, and walk-to free shuttles. There's xc ski and snowshoe trails, winter walking, ice skating, and more. Recognition for family focus has been awarded by numerous magazines.

CENTRAL

Maplelag Resort in Callaway, Minnesota is run by a 3-generation extended family and this resort has families coming back year after year. They serve family style meals and host a talent/variety show, which is a big hit for families. The state’s largest hot tub, famous bottomless cookie jars, sledding, ice skating, and XC ski/snowshoe trails combine to make this one of the most popular family destinations.

As the name implies, Palmquist Farm in Brantwood, WI is an XC ski center on a farm that offers kid-friendly animals such as horses and a dog. There are sleds to use on sliding hills and ice skating pond, plus horse-drawn sleigh rides and kids rental ski equipment. They say that a visit to Palmquist's is like coming home to Grandma's house.

WEST

Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash, CO has outdoor adventures from XC skiing and snowshoeing to Zipline, horseback riding and laser biathlon. There are "cowpoke camps" for overnight guests with kids in half and full day programs, heated pool, movie nights, game room, and more.

Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, MT has programs for outdoor youth adventures that include animal tracking, snowshoeing, tubing, snow kickball, obstacle Olympics, finger painting, scavenger hunts and ice cream socials. Parents will love the cuisine, massage and xc skiing on picturesque trails.

You'll be amazed by the giant trees in Sequoia National Park and Monument near the Montecito-Sequoia Lodge in Kings Canyon National Park, CA. There is a daylong program for children, which has a break for the family to join together during lunch. The kids build igloos, go tubing and XC skiing or snowshoeing on nature hikes to see and learn about animal tracks. At night there is a dance, karaoke and bingo.

Biathlon Programs Proliferating at XC Ski Areas

Biathlon is now on target at many XC ski areas across the country. The sport of biathlon combines cross country (XC) skiing and target shooting. The roots of biathlon are traced to Scandinavia in the mid 1700's, and currently in Europe it is the most popular winter sport attracting 700 million annual television viewers. XC ski areas in the US are now offering programs with real 22 caliber biathlon rifles, laser rifles, and even paintball markers (guns).

Biathletes race 5 kilometers (3 miles) on XC skis before shooting a rifle at five targets 50 meters (164 feet or 54 yards) away. They have a pounding heart and shaking legs with cold fingers and must take five shots. It may be cold and snowy while the sport entails concentration for precision rifle marksmanship. The competition includes shooting from a standing position and a prone (lying down) position. Depending upon the venue, the penalty for a missed shot may be a one minute added on the competitor's time or skiing a penalty lap.

The Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid, NY has scheduled biathlon lessons on selected dates December-March, with experienced instructors where skiers can head out to the range under careful supervision. The "Be a Biathlete" program is on the actual shooting range used by Olympic athletes in the 1998 Olympics held in Lake Placid. The "Discover Biathlon" program and package for $55 includes a one-hour ski lesson and use of a rifle at the biathlon shooting range. Skiers can pay $16 for a shooting only one-hour session where they are informed about safety before they go to the range.

In a similar program at Soldier Hollow Cross Country Ski Resort in Midway, UT you will be provided with ten clips of five shots each, for plenty of opportunity to learn and improve. The highly accurate rifles are the very same rifles used during the Olympic Games held in Utah in 2002. After range instruction and practice, a "mini' fun competition is staged for participants. Programs are coordinated by reservation for minimum of two people, who can ski or snowshoe and there are three program levels.

The Craftsbury Outdoors Center in Craftsbury, VT has recreational biathlon programs for adults and youth competition programs. A program in West VA at White Grass Touring Center is the BB Biathlon with scheduled activities on Jan 22, Feb 12, and March 5 held at 1:00 PM where you ski and shoot 9 shots at 3 targets and everyone wins.

Mountain Top Inn & Resort in Chittenden, VT initiated the Paintball Biathlon, which brings the aspects of biathlon to 250 kids in a one day event to ski and target shoot with paintball markers (guns). For the ski area, using paintball is a less expensive way to host biathlon. Skiers in paintball biathlon are rewarded with time deductions for each target they hit. Midway through each lap, the skiers visit the shooting range where identically sighted paintball markers (guns) await them to take their shots before skiing off for another lap. The event draws youngsters from across the region and is geared to have fun on snow. It has introduced the sport to kids and some of them are now participating more seriously in high school biathlon teams. There's another paintball biathlon called the Valentine's Day celebration on Feb 19 at Gunstock Mountain Resort, NH.

In the Rockies, XC ski areas with biathlon programs include the Rendezvous Ski Trails in West Yellowstone, MT where biathlon is a cornerstone of winter activity and there is a free "Try Biathlon Day" on Jan 8; Bohart Ranch in Bozeman, MT with the Bridger Biathlon Club; and at Sun Valley, ID with the Casper Mountain Biathlon Club. In the west, check the Auburn Ski Club in the Tahoe, California region for its biathlon programs and the Methow Biathlon in Mazama, WA on the Methow Trails. Check Google or other web search service for a biathlon club or program in your area. Photo: Biathlete Lesson; ORDA Dave Schmidt

Incentives for Older XC Skiers

About a quarter of the cross country (XC) skiing population is older than 50 years old and as the large segment of population known as Baby Boomers continues to age, they are remaining active - many of them are looking for softer or easier forms of recreation and cross country skiing and snowshoeing fit that prescription.

Two folks at Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI

Two folks at Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI

It is important for older people to exercise because it can help fight both physical and psychological maladies. Everyone understands the need to stay physically active and there is a growing body of research indicating that physical activity is beneficial for the brain, particularly the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain where working memory partially resides and is most susceptible to problems associated with aging. There is extensive evidence that outdoor exercise has positive impacts on sleep, depression, and anxiety. No matter how old you are, it just makes you feel good, too.

The SeniorsSkiing.com 2015 Subscriber Survey showed that the priorities of the older skiers include: discounts; easy access to the area facility from the parking lot; newsletter or website pages dedicated to specific activities catering to older skiers; instruction or guide tailored to older skiers; and a meeting place or set-aside areas in the lodge for seniors.

There are XC ski resorts and lodging establishments that have senior-friendly characteristics and the incentives almost always include discounts for older people. At Canmore Nordic Center in Canada, trail fee discounts begin at age 55, while most ski resorts set a higher age for lower-priced season or daily passes. At Bear Valley Nordic Center in CA, skiers aged 60-69 get a 28% discount on trail passes and those aged 70 and older get 60% off.

At Tahoe Donner Cross Country in Truckee, CA the senior 4-week program is on Fridays at 11:30 AM for people age 60 and older to learn to ski in a fun, supportive environment. Skiers can select any of three sessions starting on Jan 6, Feb 3, and Mar 3. The program includes trail pass, rentals and instruction. At Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, MT there is a discount for skiers aged 60-69 while it is free for those aged 70 or older to access the ski trails. They also apply a "senior" discount for season passes. This is a popular way that most ski areas attract the older skier segment.

One of the age-old concepts is that many older skiers are retired and as such, they have more flexibility in their weekly schedule – also known as mid-week availability. During the week most cross country ski areas have few patrons, thus the development of group offers, activities, and programs such as at Lutsen Resort in MN where there is a Sunday-Thursday discount offer on lodging rates that includes free XC ski or snowshoe gear and a guide. The Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI (and other XC ski areas in MI) has the Silver Streak Week (Monday-Friday on January 9-13, 2017) with complimentary facility access, free hot cocoa, and free demos.

Programs such as Jackson Ski Touring's Friday Gliders & Easy Sliders and Tuesday Trekkers provide a group experience that's taken advantage of by mostly older folks. Such programs coordinate a scheduled weekly outing for groups such as the Easy Sliders, which is a group of skiers who cross country ski on easier trails (and they get tips from a guide) or the Tuesday Trekkers snowshoe group. For these examples, the Jackson Ski Touring Center in NH is the starting point and after the tour, people meet back at the lodge for an après ski spread with wine and cheese, fruit, coffee, and there's even a masseuse on hand to offer massage for tips. Garnet Hill Lodge in North River, NY hosts a weekly snowshoe club and Cross Country Ski Headquarters reports a similar group regularly drives two and half hours from Grand Rapids to visit and ski the area.

At Lapland Lake Vacation Center in Northville, NY there's a Silver Strider discount trail pass and the weekly "Soup-er Seniors," which includes a free bowl of soup on non-holiday Thursdays starting in January.

The 62 year old XCSkiResorts.com editor takes a break on the Mountain Road in the shadow of Mt. Washington

The 62 year old XCSkiResorts.com editor takes a break on the Mountain Road in the shadow of Mt. Washington

"Road Scholar" is a brand within the Elderhostel program intended for adults (many who are older) who want to travel, learn and stimulate discourse and friendship among other people for whom learning is the journey of a lifetime. The Craftsbury Outdoor Center hosts week-long Road Scholar XC ski programs during the winter months with programming inspired by the hostels and folk schools of Europe offering short term academic experiences to adults. This year Craftsbury Outdoor combines XC skiing and snowshoeing with other local programs.

The folks taking advantage of cross country ski offers are proof that you're never too old to get out and enjoy nature in the winter. If you are an older skier or someone who would like to try cross country skiing or snowshoeing, check an XC ski resort near you for special programs.

Winter Yoga Retreats Combined with XC Skiing and Snowshoeing

Melissa Joy Schoeller runs yoga-ski program at Maplelag Resort

Melissa Joy Schoeller runs yoga-ski program at Maplelag Resort

This winter across the country, resorts and inns are offering retreats that combine yoga with cross country skiing and snowshoeing. These activities go hand-in-hand as they encourage and build an intimate relationship between mind, body, and spirit. The fluidity and rhythm of cross country skiing and/or snowshoeing are indeed yoga-like, and yoga is known for enhancing balance and strength using “micro-muscles” and that makes it a perfect match, which can also add a spiritual aspect.

Maplelag Resort in Callaway, MN has the Ski & Be Yoga Retreat, which includes getting outdoors in nature for cross country skiing and snowshoeing, healthy meals, and massage on Feb 3-6, 2017. The program at Maplelag is run and organized by Melissa Joy Schoeller whose activities are for “an active day in the fresh outdoors with time and space to rest and renew mind, body, and spirit.”

The Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI has the Stretch & Slide Yoga Ski Retreat on Jan 21 where they start with yoga to establish self-awareness with body and breath, so that awareness carries over into the skiing. Many people who participate in Stretch and Slide are new to skiing, so beginning with yoga gets people feeling embodied and in touch with themselves right off the bat, which helps them learn Nordic skiing technique with more ease and enjoyment. Being more in tune with one's body and breath also helps foster an awareness of the present moment, which enables one to truly experience and savor the beauty of nature when skiing or snowshoeing outdoors.

On January 14, 2017 at Great Glen Trail Outdoor Center in Gorham, NH the Women’s Winter Escape program activities emphasize ski clinics for classic and skate techniques, beginner through advanced, but there is also pre and post-activity stretching, snowshoeing, yoga, snow tubing, lunch, and an après ski wine & cheese with discounted shopping in the Great Glen Outfitter Shop. This program is limited to 20 participants, ensuring a low instructor to student ratio for personalized attention and instruction during clinics. Participants can change groups during the day for example to go snowshoeing led by a naturalist and later in the afternoon can rejuvenate with a yoga session. On the following day, Great Glen hosts an equipment demo, with products from ski and snowshoe suppliers available to take out and test on the trails.  Participants in Saturday’s Women’s Winter Escape will receive a free trail pass for Sunday, enabling them access to the demo with no extra charge.

The Adventure Center at Waterville Valley, NH in the southern White Mountains has the Women's Clinic on Saturday, Jan 14, 2017 with XC ski instruction, equipment demo, waxing clinic, yoga, massage, and lunch included. The program is organized at the Adventure Center and if it is cold, the indoor yoga class will help as a warm up before the outdoor part of the program.

In the Rockies, the Ski, Sip & Spa Day is at Devils Thumb Ranch Resort in Tabernash, CO on Saturday, Feb 12, 2017 including XC ski lessons, lunch, yoga, hot tub, sauna, and wine and cheese. Massage or facial services are available at special rates to program participants.

The Women's Ski Weekend at Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, MT on the Amtrak line is scheduled for Jan 21-22, 2017 and it includes one night accommodations, skate skiing instruction, two yoga sessions, a 30-minute massage, and a buffet dinner. Brenda Winkler will help you learn new or refine ski skills and develop your yoga practice that will complement your skiing. The event allows for more relaxation time so you will feel refreshed, recharged and ready to explore your new skills when you return home.

In the western US, Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop, WA in the Methow Valley has the Women's Adventure Camp on Feb 26-28, 2017 coordinated by Cascade Endurance with Nordic skiing, yoga, breakfast and lunch, ski sessions, wine/hors d'oeuvres reception, and relaxation.

Check with the ski resorts for program prices, details, and registration.

 

Lifts and Shuttles for Fun on Cross Country Skis

When it comes to cross country (XC) skiing, the theory of what goes up must come down may be going out of style. Nowadays many people really enjoy the fun of just going downhill on XC skis, but they'd prefer avoiding the need to laboriously trudge uphill to earn that fun. Yeah, the skis have waxless bases that allow you to ski uphill without totally killing yourself, but it's so much easier with the onset of "lift or shuttle-served" XC skiing.

Simply put, lift or shuttle-served XC skiing allows the fun of the downhill with the use of a ski area lift or a shuttle ride so there's no need to "pay the price" of going miles uphill on skis. Of course, there are those who believe that one must earn such fun, but "no pain, no gain" may be a view that's, well a bit fuddyduddy.

At Bretton Woods in New Hampshire's White Mountains there is a $31 High Country lift ticket that gets an XC skier up near the summit to the Mountain Road by way of a chair lift, for a 7 kilometer (km) ski back down. The trail is easy enough and skiers can ski in the groomed tracks or on the flat skate lane, where they can make turns or snowplow.

The Bretton Woods lift ticket provides one ride on the high speed detachable quad (which slows down upon egress) and unlimited use of a T-bar, which is a few kilometers down the trail. The T-bar provides access to upper elevations of Mount Stickney and the Stickney Cabin, which has snacks, beverages and a place to hang out with indoor seating or outside by a stone fireplace. Skiing back to the Mountain Road offers some choices including a groomed trail or skiing through the glades (trees) with options for different levels of difficulty. The Mountain Road is one of the most fun trails to be had on XC skis in New England!

In the northwest at 49 Degrees North Mountain Resort there is a lift-served XC ski trail called the Summit Trail that is accessed near the top of Chewelah Peak. It descends and winds around the mountain for 12 km. On a clear day one can see all the way to Montana from the trail and many animal tracks or an occasional moose might be seen. It is a 2,000 foot decline in elevation but not all downhill though.

Other XC ski trails that are accessed by chair lifts can be found at Giants Ridge in MN with a free lift ride when you purchase a trail pass to access the 6 km Bronze Trail, the 6 km Summit Trail, or the 14 km Gold Trail. Boyne Mountain in MI has the Cold Springs Downhill trail. Royal Gorge in the Tahoe, CA area has two surface ski lifts for practicing downhill turns and also having accelerated fun.

Shuttles

At Garnet Hill Lodge, in North River, NY there's a shuttle ride from the bottom of a long downhill back to the lodge that has been offered since the early eighties. It originated when the lodge owner picked up skiers in his car and was then upgraded to a van and now it's a mini-bus. The shuttle is a free service for the skiers at Garnet Hill Lodge. Skeirs must sign up for the shuttle and there are many routes that skiers can take using intermediate rated trails to reach the two pick-up locations that have a 500 foot and 900 foot vertical drop, respectively. Shuttles are offered daily and 3-5 times a day on weekends and holidays. During the week and on slow times, the shuttle is offered on demand.

The Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center in Gorham, NH is adjacent to the Mt. Washington Auto Road and offers an uphill ride to achieve "treeline status" in the SnowCoach, which is a tracked van. The comfortable heated tour takes folks to the 4,000 foot elevation up Mount Washington where the views are breathtaking. Intermediate and advanced skiers can handle skiing down this road as a thrilling four mile decent back to the base lodge. There are various price options for the SnowCoach.

Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Vermont has a free shuttle on the weekends that delivers skiers to the Highland Lodge for a 20 km return trek. There's a net drop of about 300 meters on the groomed trail, which traverses hill top pastures, farmsteads, and quaint Vermont villages. A shorter 5 km shuttled ride brings skiers back to the lodge from Craftsbury Village at the general store and deli.

At Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, MT there is the Upper Trail Shuttle (available a few times per week) that takes you a couple of miles away from the facility and leaves you with a mostly downhill ski back to the lodge for about 10 km.

One might wonder that if the downhill ski run is the objective, why not simply go alpine skiing? The trails above are cross country ski experiences. They all require kick and glide techniques across some flat terrain and they do not have the consistent and necessary steepness for alpine skiing. As lift and shuttle services become more popular, they'll be available at more ski areas but until that happens, you'll have to seek out areas that offer this service if you want this level of fun on XC skis.

Eat Your Way To Fitness - This Year's Food-on-Snow XC Ski & Snowshoe Events/Tours

Want a guilt-free way to indulge yourself with food while exercising? Cross country (XC) skiing and snowshoeing are some of the best forms of aerobic exercise, but if you go on a "Gourmet Ski Tour" on your XC skis or snowshoes, you may very well eat your way to fitness at a number of trailside food stops. What a grand time so go ahead, eat, ski, and be merry - appetizers, wine, champagne, fondue, entrees, desserts, and more.

Here's a cross section of the culinary XC ski events that are planned this winter across the country with a varied menu of fun and fine cuisine.

EAST

Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton, VT has the Nordic Rendezvous and Back to the Barn Tour on its trails through the Green Mountain forests with feed stations along the trail on Saturday, Feb 4, 2017. Enjoy hot blueberry soup and other treats and ski, snowshoe or go fat biking to the cabin where Robert Frost once lived and wrote. The day is followed by a dance in the barn.

Smugglers Notch in VT has the S'mores and Snowshoe Trek every Wednesday night 5:30-7:00 PM. S'Mores await snowshoers after a short trek to a bonfire. For hardier snowshoers there's the Notch Night Snowshoe Tour on Saturday night, and on Tuesday nights there's a Snowshoe Adventure Dinner at the mountain summit. The Maple Experience is on Tuesdays on a tour to learn about maple sugaring and get to take home a sample.

The Chocolate Festival at Mt. Washington Valley Ski & Snowshoe Center in Intervale, NH on Sunday, February 26 is an inn-to-inn affair at 10-12 stops to experience your chocolate fantasies including moose and fondue. Go on a tour of any length and actually gain calories, even if you ski as far as 20 kilometers. A shuttle is also available for those that have overindulged at the event dubbed the "Sweetest Day on the Trails."

CENTRAL

Treetops Resort in Gaylord, MI has the Skiable Feast Getaway Package that features a winter gourmet adventure with 5 buffet food stations along 6 km of trails. It is offered on 7 dates during January-March.

On Feb 4, Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI the "Ski the Beer Trail" is a new event sponsored by Paddle Hard Brewing with XC skiing, craft beer tasting, and a rustic BBQ lunch along the trails.

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan in Ironwood features cuisine from local restaurants that can be purchased at a nominal fee along a designated route along the trails at the Taste of the Trails on the ABR trails on March 4 at 11 AM - 2 PM.

MOUNTAINS

At Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash, CO,  the Stagecoach Classic Race & Tour is on January 21 with a 15 km tour (also a race for competitors starting earlier), which starts at Devil's Thumb follows the Fraser River and ends at Hideaway Park in Winter Park followed by a BBQ and beer garden with live music.

Just Desserts Eat & Ski in the Enchanted Forest in Red River, NM on February 25 features goodies from 20 different local restaurants at three trailside stations with up to 100 desserts within a 4 kilometer loop. Their motto is, “It’s not a race, just a gorge fest.”

The Rendezvous Trails in West Yellowstone, MT features cuisine from local restaurants that can be purchased at a nominal fee along a designated route along the trails at the Taste of the Trails on February 25.

Look to the Galena Lodge in Ketchum, ID for the Full Moon Dinners on nights with the full moon, whereby you can go ski or snowshoe ($5 snowshoe rental offered) and then return to lodge for a 4-course dinner at $40 or half price for kids under 12. There are also special Wine Dinners, Holiday Dinners, Valentine's Day Dinner and Twilight Ski Dinners scheduled from mid-December to mid-March.

Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, MT has the Glide & Gorge event on March 4 from 11:00 AM- 3:00 PM with trail luncheon stationed with delicious foods paired with wine and spirits from the Ranch's four-star kitchen.

WEST

Royal Gorge XC Ski Resort in Soda Springs, CA has the Royal Grand Fondo Tour on January 28 with skiing or snowshoeing to various huts along the trails for snacks and lunch at the resort's Summit Station.

Tahoe XC in Tahoe City, CA has the New Year's Day On Trail Breakfast at 10-11:30 AM with skiing or snowshoeing to the unique trailside "lunch truck" (pictured above) for a hot meal made to order right along the trail and remember to sign up in advance.

Cypress Mountain outside of Vancouver, BC has Fondue Dinner Snowshoe Tour, Girls' Night Tours, and Music Night all scheduled to start in January. These programs include rental equipment, trail access, and guides/instructors.

The Case for Fee-Based XC Skiing

XC skiing at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center

XC skiing at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center

Is there a difference between cross country (XC) skiing at a commercial center and “in the woods?” You better believe it!

One of the greatest obstacles for increasing XC skiing popularity is the common image of a lone XC skier going into a narrow dark trail as if isolation in the woods was the goal. But designed trails at XC resorts with groomed and maintained trails offer much more than solitude.

Often trails that are built by loggers or by the government in state and federal parks have long straight ascents and descents. Most average skiers are often afraid of the speed of a long downhill. Instead, trail designers such as John Morton of Morton Trails recommend undulating and twisting trails that spark interest on every turn and also help slow down the speed. Destinations, scenic vistas, and accomplishment upon arrival make great sense on XC ski trails, and these are characteristics that well-designed trails provide.

Most XC ski resorts or centers charge a fee between $15 and $35. For that fee the patron gets a business operation and trails that:

* are designed for XC skiing, snowshoeing, or fat biking in harmony with the environment and are user-friendly;

* are regularly maintained or groomed, and include tracks and a lane for ski skaters and separate trails for snowshoers or fat bikers;

* can be expected to be free of debris or fallen trees and provide consistent skiable quality;

* have clear signage with available and understandable maps;

* have quality rental equipment that enhance the activity (easy to use and provides greater control for the average skier);

* offer ski instruction in various forms (kids, women, group, private) in an area for learners where they are not embarrassingly on display;

* include a food and beverage service;

* offer special organized programs for school kids, older folks, etc;

* have a facility where people can change clothes, get warm, or socialize;

* include a friendly helpful staff, who can share local information;

* have ski patrollers to help, if necessary.

Snowcat grooming at Bohart Ranch

Snowcat grooming at Bohart Ranch

Yes, admittedly many people can XC ski out their back door in the backyard, on a local golf course, or on a trail in a nearby forest, and it is very convenient to do so. But fee-based XC ski resorts or centers offer a different skiing product. New Hampshire’s Jackson Ski Touring Center, emulated by hundreds of XC ski resorts across North America, is a perfect example. In addition to the services listed above, Jackson also has something intangible: the “Culture of XC Skiing.”  History, Expertise, Community, Education. That’s why Jackson and surrounding XC ski centers can be considered one of the true mecca regions of XC skiing.

Of course, the major issue with non-fee-based XC ski trails is the condition of the snow. The weather rules the snow and without trail grooming and trail maintenance, the snow can be hard packed, icy, sticky, too deep for non-powder skiers, or too inconsistent to offer a good experience.

The statistics have shown over many years that less than 20 percent of XC ski outings are at fee-based resorts or centers. Skiers that experience the other 80 percent of the XC skiing outings are missing out on the benefits, and many are not even aware that those services exist. If you haven’t stayed at a XC resort or skied at a XC ski center, give it a try. It’s a great winter experience.

Romantic Getaways for XC Skiers or Snowshoers!

It has been said that cross country skiing and snowshoeing are some of the most romantic forms of recreation so consider getting away with your loved one to a winter wonderland of memories for some outdoor recreation and pampering that you deserve. The XCSkiResorts.com Top 10 features favorite romantic XC ski resorts across North America (in alphabetical order).

Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash, CO has so many things for couples to do such as sleigh rides, air rifle biathlon, fat biking, romantic dining, and enjoy the geothermally-heated pool and a full array of spa treatments all amidst rustic elegance.

Fairmont Chateau in Lake Louise, AB – The Chateau is a grand old resort in western Canada with all the trimmings and places for romantics to enjoy each other and an outstanding rear window panorama of the Victoria Glacier.

Franconia Inn is a charming country inn located in Franconia, NH with breathtaking views of the nearby mountains and intimate trails. The inn offers the "Romantic Interlude," which includes a bottle of champagne, 4-course gourmet dinner and a full country inn breakfast.

Galena Lodge, Ketchum, ID – The Honeymoon Yurt is a love nest that is only 20 minutes out on the trail. Couples can enjoy the backcountry accommodations in comfort themselves and get dinner delivered and maybe even a massage for two.

Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky, MT – Near Yellowstone National Park, the ranch has cozy cabins, a lodge with great cuisine, massage services and a staff that treats all of its guests warmly.

Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior in Lutsen, MN has the "Romantic Getaway" including a bottle of champagne, candlelit dinner, whirlpool and fireplace in your room, and breakfast with optional massage for couples.

Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz, NY – A Victorian castle within an hour of NYC with free use of xc skis, snowshoes or ice skates for overnight guests. Climb the Sky Top Tower for a 360 degree vista. The spa has instruction for couples massage.

Mountain Top Inn, Chittenden, VT – This resort is buried in the Green Mountains, where you can sit fireside in the restaurant with a wonderful menu or in the pub with live entertainment. Sled on the hill behind the inn, take a horse-drawn sleighride or enjoy extensive trail network.

The Nipika Mountain Resort in Kootenay, BC has a secluded lodge and cabins. Couples are transported to the site, which is situated in 8,000 acres of wilderness with 36 feet of guaranteed snow. The resort is the ultimate eco-resort without high altitude problems.

Sun Mountain Lodge, Winthrop, WA – There is a 360 degree view of tranquility with guest rooms and lakeside cabins, extensive wine cellar and spa services.

Vista Verde Ranch, Steamboat Springs, CO – Guests are limited to 30 so the staff can insure personalized attention. Couples can share a guide into the backcountry and special cuisine at this secluded retreat in the Steamboat area. Photo: Happy couple from Fischer Skis

 

Snowmaking Pays Off for XC Ski Resorts

The Canmore Nordic Centre in Alberta, Canada opened for cross country skiing (XC) Oct. 22 and staged a race a few days later. This is a very early date for XC in the northern hemisphere and they were able to do it because they have snowmaking, a legacy from the 1988 Olympics in Alberta.

CanmoreOctRace.jpg

More and more XC ski areas are investing in snowmaking. Trapp Family Lodge steeped in tradition in Stowe, VT is included in this ever increasing list of XC ski resort snowmakers. The list of XC ski area operators that produce machine-made snow is now at about 30 ski areas including Rikert Nordic CenterCraftsbury Outdoor Center, Sleepy Hollow Inn, and Mountain Top Resort, in VT; Bretton Woods Nordic Center, Great Glen Trails and Gunstock Mountain in NH, Pineland Farms and Quarry Road Rec Area in ME; Weston Ski Track in MA; Cross Country Ski Headquarters in MI; Breckenridge Nordic Center and Frisco Nordic Center in CO; and Royal Gorge in CA.

Why did these XC ski areas decide to invest in a snowmaking operation? The availability of less expensive and portable snowmaking systems are main motivations, but other business-driven issues are relevant too such as filling lodge rooms and fulfilling season pass holders' desire to extend the ski season beyond Mother Nature's whim.

Why did these XC ski areas decide to invest in a snowmaking operation? The availability of less expensive and portable snowmaking systems are main motivations, but other business-driven issues are relevant too such as filling lodge rooms and fulfilling season pass holders' desire to extend the ski season beyond Mother Nature's whim.

One industry consultant dubbed the XC ski resort quandary as "precipitation roulette" 20 years ago. Some business-oriented reasons to install snowmaking include operational security to guarantee skiing programs and staffing; competitive advantage against other XC ski resorts that do not have machine-made snow; and guaranteeing snow cover in important holiday periods (which can represent more than 30 percent of annual winter business).

The necessary elements of a snowmaking operation include cold temperatures, water, power, and system components such as piping, pumps, compressors, and snow guns. The power requires both manpower and energy supplied by electricity or fuel. There are many industry horror stories about the night hours and difficulty of the work associated with snowmaking for XC skiing. Getting the snow to efficiently cover a narrow corridor trail is also a challenge. Many operations simply cover a field and then move the snow to the trails.

Sleepy Hollow Inn's system in Huntington, VT, is powered by solar energy, while snowmakers used machine-made snow to cover trails at Canmore Nordic Centre to run early season programs for racing teams from across North America. Rikert Nordic Center increased from an average of 70 days of operation before snowmaking was added to 140 days without inseason closures!

But the most significant issue to embark on snowmaking has always been the investment required for many XC ski businesses that are small and seasonal. It is now at a point where operators at Mountain Top Resort in Chittenden, VT decided that snowmaking was a higher priority than selling retail products at the XC ski center. Snowmaking supports so many aspects of the business from rental operations and ski lessons to dog sledding and snowshoeing. In terms of the guest perspective, winter guests expect to book travel to a destination and get the experience that was desired…and that includes snow! Who knows, perhaps there will be a day sometime soon when snowmaking will be a basic aspect of XC skiing at commercial resorts. Upper photo XC ski racing in October at Canmore Nordic Centre; Lower photo Snowmaking at Rikert Nordic Center.

Cross Country Skiing at the Boston Ski Show

New at last year's Boston Ski Show was the SIA Nordic Village with "The Biathlon Experience" including an actual laser rifle and target and daily competitions, plus introductory tryouts of cross country skiing and snowshoeing using real equipment on Astro Turf track. The Nordic Village proved to be especially popular with youngsters ready for fun new experiences on snow and it will be featured again this year Nov 10-13.

BEWI Boston3.jpg

 

Last year for the first time at Boston Ski Show, cross country ski and snowshoe gear, clothing and accessories were featured and on sale at the new Nordic Specialty Shop at the Nordic Village inside the Expo hall.  According to Great Glen's Nate Harvey, "People checked out the Nordic ski products and got properly outfitted for the coming winter, including great active wear and boots. We sold more than a dozen ski packages and included a season pass with each of the purchases. A few marathon runners bought some clothing, too." He was happy to use the show to "broaden interest in cross country skiing and introduce it to people who might not have tried it before."

For years, the major metropolitan-based ski shows have attempted to include cross country skiing, but the overwhelming majority of show attendees are oriented to alpine skiing or snowboarding so show producers have had a limited focus on cross country skiing. Reese Brown, SIA Nordic Ski Director said "The show was great for us. It was standing-room-only all of the time during the busy sections and busy during the slower times. Most people had an understanding of biathlon from watching the Olympics. It was also very busy putting people on skis and snowshoes on the synthetic track. Many show attendees and exhibitors commented on how great it was to have cross country represented at the show and that there was a retail opportunity there, too." The show features radio stations simulcasts, fashion shows, and exhibits with ski areas, ski clubs, tour operators (they organize trips to ski resorts), lodging facilities, snow sports products such as ski gear, scarves, and electronic massagers, and much more. Reese commented, "I was very happy with the show and we're looking at how we can make a bigger splash next year."

The biggest and most successful annual exhibit show for cross country skiing/outdoors called the Outdoor Adventure Expo has been held for many years in Minneapolis, MN conducted by and at the location of retailer Midwest Mountaineering (held behind the store on Cedar Street, Mnpls). This show featured many seminars and presentations on the outdoors, as well as 75 regional exhibits, and a major sale. There was a Beer & Gear Social Night reception, the Banff Mountain Film Festival, which attracted 2,600 paying attendees, and a number of XC ski resorts that introduce people to their facilities and book reservations. The Outdoor Adventure Expo drew about 9,000 attendees this year and had nine classrooms at the adjacent university for seminars and presentations. Rod Johnson, owner of Midwest Mountaineering commented, "This was our 31st winter expo. The people get info about the outdoor skills they need and the can get equipment on sale." Photos from Reese Brown of a girl taking aim with a Biathlon rifle and the Great Glen exhibit at the Boston Ski Show.

Milestones of Modern XC Skiing in the USA

Since the time that wooden skis were found in a peat bog in Sweden dating to 2,000 BC, there have been many milestones that brought xc skiing to where it is today. Focusing on the USA, the forefathers of our recreation include people such as Snowshoe Thompson, who delivered the mail in the Sierra Mountains of California and JackRabbit Johannsen, who xc skied in northern New York.

The editors of XCSkiResorts.com using various sources considered the milestones and developed this list of the Milestones of Modern XC Skiing in the USA in order of significance:

1. Development of synthetic xc skis in 1974.
2. Development of the waxless based ski in the early 1970's, most notably the Trak ski with synthetic fishscales on the ski base to eliminate the need for ski waxes. The waxless base gave the recreational skier grip on uphill travel while also allowing gliding downhill.
3. Integrated xc ski binding systems, which provided substantial improvements in simplicity of boot/binding interface and control in the mid 70's.
4. Bill Koch won the Olympic silver medal in 1976 and World Cup in 1982, the first American to ever win at that level. The Nordic Trak exerciser used the Koch image as a fitness icon in advertisements for years. In 2010, there was US Olympic medalists in Nordic Combined and in 2012 there was a World Cup winner in women's sprint.
5. The onset of the commercial xc ski area concept began in 1968-69 at Trapp Family Lodge. This brought designed, groomed, and maintained trails making xc skiing easier and safer for the average person.
6. The skating technique proliferated for a faster paced and higher performance form of recreation.
7. Revolution Skis developed by Fischer led the way to shorter skis, which were easier to use and consolidated ski sizing and simplified ski selection.
8. New lighter clothing with synthetic and breathable materials was more conducive to xc skiing comfortably; company brands such as Mother Karen led the way in the late 1970's.
9. Other technological advances such as the 2 Wax System that offered one wax for cold temperatures and one for warm temperatures simplified ski waxing while the BackCountry binding systems provided a beefed up boot/binding system that provided substantially more support and control for backcountry recreation.
10. Will the Nordic Integrated System (NIS) developed in 2005 change the ski/binding interface? This system combines the ski and binding at manufacture rather than at the retail store.

1960 Olympic Nordic Event Legacy

The Squaw Valley Winter Olympics held in 1960 led the way to many technological advances that shaped today’s operation and broadcasting of the Winter Olympics. The Nordic event venues built in Tahoma, CA are now covered with dense new growth as all of the structures, which were temporary, have been removed. The land located on Route 89 about 10 miles south of Tahoe City on the west side of Lake Tahoe is now the Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park.

The Nordic venues and practice areas for the men’s 50 km, 30 km, combined, and relay races were held in the General Creek and McKinney Creek areas, which were privately owned when the Squaw Valley Olympics was in the planning stages. These games were also the first time that the biathlon and women’s 10 km were included at the Olympics. The 57 km of trails were developed in 1958 and completed in 1959 for a test run championship.

The 1960 Winter Olympics were the first time the winter competitions were ever nationally broadcast on TV. This was also the first time that sno-cat grooming vehicles were used to mechanically groom the race courses. Tucker Sno-cat machines towed agricultural choppers and tines to “tenderize” the snow conditions. They had yet to think of track setters in today’s terms, so skiers set the tracks by skiing behind the grooming machines. The downhill sections were raked by hand.

Another first was the use of electrical and manual timing. To keep spectators abreast of the competition, interval times of the racers were taken along the trail and were phoned to the stadium area where they were announced to the spectators and posted on the scoreboard.

Since there are few remnants from the Nordic events remaining, there is now an effort to reinvigorate these “forgotten Olympics” in a partnership with the state park to reestablish the trail network, construct interpretive panels and trail markers, and develop a museum of historical artifacts. Currently there is an Olympic exhibit at the Reno Airport and there is some signage at Sugar Park Point State Park. For more information there is a book by David Antonucci entitled “Snowball’s Chance: The Story of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games,” which is filled with information and photos.

Get Educated for Off Trail Safety

Backcountry access is now a service at more cross country ski resorts (see story at http://www.xcskiresorts.com/resort-features.php#Anchor-6262) and whether you refer to it as backcountry, out-of-bounds skiing, sidecountry, or off-piste skiing, such terrain accessed by skiers and snowshoers equipped with a sense of adventure, the latest powder gear, and exuberance to descend a mountain side in deep powder is intoxicating. But xc skiers can end up in dire circumstances, completely alone and on their own in trouble.

Some xc skiers have an insatiable appetite for untracked powder, which can override educated decisions when determining the acceptable risks. How to combat the possibility of catastrophe when accessing the backcountry within or outside the ski resort’s terrain, requires arming yourself with knowledge and the basis for sound decision making. The factors involved in off trail mishaps also often include human behavior and Mother Nature.

As more skiers and snowshoers access the off-trail terrain other issues such as increased use may impact safety. If a slope has been trafficked by dozens or hundreds of other backcountry users, it does not always mean that it is safe. Snowpack stability, route selection, and potential terrain hazards are all significant in the decision making for safety. While some ski area managers try to minimize the risk to off-trail users (such as “cleaning” gladed terrain areas), there are realities that include the skier’s individual choice and self reliance. Of course, there is a much better chance that help is nearby if a skier is in trouble within the ski area boundaries, but it still may take a while before help arrives.

It is important to for skiers and snowshoers to be educated and prepared and be able to assess the risks of backcountry activity even within the ski area boundaries. In these litigious times, there may not be ready-made pamphlets to promote safety in the backcountry because few writers and publishers want to be liable. But one example is, the Falcon Guide entitled “Cross-Country Skiing,” (see story at http://www.xcskiresorts.com/equipment.php#Anchor-1010), which has sections on Route Finding, Winter Hazards, and First Aid that provides useful info.

These are just some of the issues to be considered as more people ski or snowshoe off trails and more issues will arise as more ski areas open access to ungroomed terrain.

Winter Trails Users Should Stop Hating!

XC (cross country) skiers hate when snowshoers step on and mess up their groomed ski tracks and they both hate snowmobilers; while snowmobilers don’t want xc skiers and snowshoers using the trails that were paid for with snowmobile registration fees...and they all are freaked out about getting tangled up with sled dog teams! All winter trail users have the right to enjoy their chosen outdoor recreational experiences and their commonality is that they do not want their rights restricted in any way. In the winter, trail encounters between snowmobilers and other trail users must be expected. When these encounters inevitably occur, people should respect each other’s love of the outdoors and be considerate. That’s not a rule, an enforceable law, or a line in a list of codified responsibility dogma. It is the way to live.

While the vast majority of encounters between different winter trail users on the snow such as mushers (dog sledders), snowshoers, snowmobilers and xc (cross-country) skiers are friendly and respectful, there are some conflicts that occur and some resentment that does exist. Additionally, unsafe situations such as collisions, reckless behavior or poor judgment can occur. These situations can be compounded by damaged trail surfaces, narrow passageways, conflicted trail uses or trail congestion.

Other factors that may contribute to a problem on shared trails include trail user speed, mass of user or vehicle, sight distances, size of the group, users overtaking one another silently or without warning, user skill and experience and user expectations and preparedness. Add to that people’s different values and priorities and their tolerance for others’ lifestyle choices and it’s no wonder that you have a recipe for possible conflict.

In the Other Person’s Shoes

The most obvious way to prevent conflicts on the trails and promote safety for those who share the trails is to learn and understand each other’s perspectives. For example, many xc skiers and snowshoers are not aware that snowmobilers must pay a state registration fee, which is allocated to trail grooming. Snowmobilers have worked hard to secure landowners’ permission to develop and use their networks of trails. If xc skiers do not want to mix with other trail users they have the option of skiing at “skier-only” commercial ski centers that groom specifically for skiing, where snowmobilers are not allowed. And there are state and national park areas that restrict snowmobiling, too.

But snowmobilers may not realize deep-rooted resentments that many xc skiers have for the motorized trail users. Some skiers and snowshoers regard their solitude in nature as holy. They may feel that mechanized trail use is inappropriate and are angered by the inefficient two-cycle engine noise and exhaust. Snowshoers and xc skiers lifestyle perspectives may prevent them from ever being aware of the sheer joy a youngster experiences when (s) he rides a snowmobile for the first time. Certainly, there is enough room and plenty of miles of trails so that all trail users can be satisfied. And perhaps there are areas with separate trails that are primarily allocated to specific uses.

Mutual Understanding

Snowmobilers and other trails users can facilitate mutual understanding through the process of communicating and collaborating. The Lyme-Pinnacle Snowmobile Club in the western central part of New Hampshire has discovered some success in sharing the trails. While it is unusual, the club membership is comprised of one-third xc skiers. They regularly share the trails and they pitch in and help maintain the trails in the off-season, too. And there is more than one report of a lost xc skier or snowshoer, who was glad to see a snowmobiler, who provided safe transport back to the trailhead. Perhaps it’s time trail users get into each other’s shoes and try each other’s activity. Work on joint projects such as trail maintenance, repairing a warming hut, deciding where routes are successful and where they are problematic.

What to Do at a Rendezvous?

The NH Fish & Game OHRV Operation and License Statute states: Any person operating an OHRV shall yield the right-of-way to any person on horseback, foot, ski, snowshoes or other mode of travel on foot; provided however, that such persons traveling do not unreasonably obstruct or delay OHRVs on the trail. The law also states that the maximum speed limit unless otherwise posted is 45 miles per hour.

There may be a code, trail etiquette, or laws of the land for snowmobilers and other trail users when they come upon each other, but what really matters is that people just use common sense. For example, obviously snowmobilers should be prepared for anything when approaching a blind curve, which suggests slowing down, being aware and keeping the sled under control.

Upon hearing the approach of a snowmobile, xc skiers or snowshoers should get off the trail in a place where they can be easily seen. They should give the snowmobiler room to pass, and be more wary if there are many people in either party. Skiers and snowshoers should also keep control of ski poles to avoid the sled as it goes by. Traditional yield rules and signage ask the machine operator to yield, but it is just much easier for the trail user on foot (or ski) to step off the trail.

XC skiers that use snowmobile trails often employ the skating method of skiing. This technique crosses the trail in a perpendicular fashion, substantially more than the traditional diagonal ski technique. The skater splays each sliding ski outward at an angle to glide longer and faster. This is usually a more encompassing exercise and snowmobilers should be aware that skating skiers might not be able to hear an oncoming machine very well. Their level of exercise and the sound of wind and sliding skis on crunchy snow can impair hearing somewhat. That is one good reason that snowmobilers, who may have newer quieter machines should not assume that other trail users will always hear them coming.

Mushers (dog sledders) recommend that as they approach head on, other trail users should get to the side or off the trail and let the sled dogs pass by. It’s best to try and communicate about each other’s intentions. Keep in mind that the sled dogs will try to keep to the inside of the trail on a curve to find the shortest path, so you should not automatically think that pulling off to the right is always the best option.

Interestingly, horseback riders suggest that other trail users talk it up when they come face-to-face. It is important that the horse understand that you are a person and not some robot contraption. Luckily, seeing equestrian enthusiasts on the winter trails is a rare occurrence.

People familiar with the trail sharing issue will often refer to the fact that there are very few problems on the trails. A common phrase is that problems occur with “less than one percent” of trail users. There is also concern about young people and others, who might act recklessly or are using snowmobiles for the first time. Skiers, who ski on the snowmobile trails but are not aware of the issues discussed in this article, are of particular concern, too. We must try to reach all of these “one-percenters” to prevent tragic consequences and keep the trails safe for all to use.

 

Can XC Skiing and/or Snowshoeing be a Remedy for Anxiety and Depression?

There have been studies done about exercise intervention for clinical populations diagnosed with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and even post traumatic stress disorder. This research shows that there are beneficial effects that produce a statistically relevant and significant reduction in these mental maladies. The following few paragraphs provide info from some articles that covered the topic of using exercise as a good strategy for therapists to employ.

In the 4th century, Plato reportedly quipped, “For man to succeed in life he has been provided with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.” The CDC cites health benefits associated with a range of physical activity and in its absence there can be an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, etc. Physical inactivity may also be associated with the development of mental disorders such as those listed above.

There is evidence for the effectiveness of exercise training in patients with panic disorder impacted by a number of psychological factors such as increased self efficacy, a sense of mastery, distraction, and changes of self-concept. Can or will psychologists prescribe such an exercise intervention as part of therapy for their patients? It would seem to integrate perfectly with cognitive behavioral therapy strategies such as situational analysis, self monitoring, homework activities, and supportive follow-up to help compliance.

Physical fitness will also improve self-esteem and as patients feel better about themselves they’ll develop a more optimistic and energetic frame of mind. There is also an association between aerobic exercise and increased alertness. The exercise improves circulation and increases the availability of oxygen to the brain while it also causes the body to produce chemicals such as adrenaline to promote mental alertness. Fitness can instill a sense of pride and confidence and allow the mind a pathway to escape from everyday stress. Biologically speaking, exercise is said to cause the brain to release beta endorphins, which are essential in relieving pain and create a sort of euphoric or light happy feeling. This overall mood enhancement can be prescribed to help treat depression and anxiety. Regular exercise will also invoke focus, determination, and discipline, which are mentally strengthening.

Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are the top forms of aerobic recreational activities. And aerobic activities have been found to promote mental health, boost energy, improve sleep, relieve tension and stress, and combat anxiety and depression. There is a real proven link between physical fitness and mental health and well-being. We should get moving on this!

How do we encourage more psychologists to enroll their patients in outdoor fitness endeavors as part of therapy? There will be benefits from such strategies at a wide range of levels from getting someone out on rental snowshoes for 3 short weekly hikes to training for a 50 km skiathon.

A strategy to bring together xc skiing or snowshoeing and professional therapists can be developed. The skier can create a prescription for a routine for skiing or snowshoeing a number of kilometers a few times per week and the therapist can schedule sessions or maybe even hold the sessions on the trails. What would that be worth an hour including trail passes? Maybe xc ski areas can sell transferable season passes to therapists in a package? Maybe health insurance could cover the cost of and encourage such a winning strategy.

Common Nordic Skiing Injuries

Cross country (xc) skiing is a sport with a very low incidence of injuries for a number of reasons including the low impact nature of xc skiing, low sliding speed, and free heel allows twisting if you fall (the ski boot is connected to the ski binding only at the toe and the heel is free), but there may be some injuries during the ski season in falls or by aggravating pre-existing conditions. Like the Maytag repairman, ski patrollers at xc ski areas are not busiest employees at the xc ski area because they do not have to address many serious skier injuries.

According to Sophia Sauter, a registered physiotherapist, who authored an article in "Active Life Physiotherapy" about 75% of injuries sustained by xc skiers are a result of overuse due to the repetitive nature of skiing, while the remaining 25% are a result of trauma. The following outlines some common injuries and appropriate treatment.

Traumatic xc ski injuries (25%), for example include ankle sprains, thumb sprains, knee ligament sprains, groin muscle strains, and wrist sprains. Upper body injuries are often the result of falling down but since xc skiing speeds tend to be somewhat slow, the impacts are often less severe than impacts at much higher speeds. The recommended treatment for the traumatic injuries is RICE: Relative rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Then, slowly restore range of motion, strength, proprioception (such as the ability to drive using brake, accelerator, and steering wheel without looking at your arms and legs), and power. It's suggested to see a physiotherapist to obtain a proper diagnosis and set of rehabilitative exercises.

Overuse injuries (75%) from xc skiing, for example could include knee pain, compartment syndrome on shins, Achilles tendon problems, rotator cuff and shoulder problems, and low back pain. The recommended treatment for these problems is a bit different. In these cases it's important to correct muscle imbalance (e.g. tight/weak), equipment faults, and possible training errors. Seek medical advice from a physiotherapist or other qualified health professional specializing in injuries common to xc skiers. Most people skip the warm up or preparing for recreational activity altogether, but the best way to avoid injury is prevention. This means utilizing appropriate training progressions, maintaining physical strength, balance, flexibility, adopting appropriate recovery techniques, and treating any lingering individual alignment problems, weaknesses, and imbalances. It makes sense to warm up before hitting the trails. The physiotherapist suggests a full body analysis with a professional to identify individual mechanical inadequacies. Also consider an athlete specific core stability and functional strength program. Popular core-strengthening strategies might include yoga, Pilates, and a regular fitness regimen.

Think about dealing with your injuries before going out on the trails and you can start your next season off right!

Do You Want to be a Nordic Ski Patroller?

Skiers visiting a commercial cross country ski resort can feel comfortable knowing that if they get injured there is most likely a ski patroller on site during their visit. But who are these patrollers?

 

Since 1938 the National Ski Patrol (NSP) has served the public and outdoor recreation industry providing education and credentials for emergency care and safety service. The NSP has had a Nordic division since the early 1970s, and these Nordic patrollers provide venue coverage at Nordic ski resorts, services to backcountry enthusiasts by interfacing with the National Forest Service and different park agencies, and can be an integral aspect of local search and rescue groups.

 

 

The diverse nature of the Nordic classification lends itself to be a unique program within the NSP. These patrollers who work at ski resorts, in the backcountry, and at alpine ski areas use a variety of equipment types, and know the extended patient care knowledge required and the needed backcountry survival skills. This all contributes to defining what Nordic patrollers do.

 

Nordic Patrollers are educated with a comprehensive manual and Nordic ski enhancement seminars offered by NSP regional divisions. These are effective tools to build strong confidence and proficiency on the trails. The NSP is standardizing the program throughout the divisions, so the same tools are applied for patrollers to succeed and a quality assurance plan is being put in place to ensure that the NSP members meet high standards.

 

Mountain Travel and Rescue (MTR) courses provide a variety of skills, including nutrition and how the body performs in a wilderness environment, weather patterns, survival skills, working with group dynamics, an introduction to search and rescue, rope rescue skills, improvised toboggan construction, and land navigation with map, compass, and GPS. The MTR courses are taught in classroom and field sessions including mock scenarios to ensure the attendees can apply what they have learned to real life situations.

 

Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast looking to expand survival and travel skills in the backcountry environment or a ski patroller preparing for one of the worst possible scenarios a parent can face at a ski area (a lost child), the NSP has a range of training. NSP also covers fundamental principles of avalanche hazard and work with mountain search and rescue groups. Patrollers who operate/recreate in areas that lack appreciable avalanche terrain are trained in navigation, emergency rescue, and even survival skills.

 

Can there be a more rewarding role on the snow than to help someone in need? To find out more about training programs, membership benefits, regional programs, and credential requirements at the National Ski Patrol, click http://www.nsp.org/

 

Becoming a Certified Nordic Ski Instructor

Nordic snow pros or ski instructors teach the sport for the same reason to celebrate the community and culture of the sport and to share that experience with as many people as possible. Professional ski and snowboard instructors come in all shapes and sizes and from many different backgrounds. There are part-time and full-time instructors while some prefer teaching beginners, or kids, because they enjoy introducing new people to the sport, others are coaching competitive athletes at the highest level.

 

PSIA-AASI is the national organization in the USA that offers professional certification and certificate programs for those instructors looking to gain peer-reviewed recognition of their skills and knowledge. PSIA-AASI develops national certification standards with the industry partners that provide the foundation for these credentialing programs. The organization is comprised of regional divisions. As of the end of June 2013 there were 893 certified PSIA-AASI instructors for cross country skiing and 1,801 certified instructors for telemark skiing (usually done at alpine ski areas). Canada has the Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors (CANSI), a similar organization had 781 members in 2012-2013 including 583 xc ski instructors and 236 telemark ski instructors (some members have both certifications). These professional organizations are endorsed by the Cross Country Ski Areas Association and its president Chris Frado, commented, "For the best ski experience possible, take a lesson with a certified ski instructor."

 

The current PSIA-AASI education/certification standards provide a training focus and represent a minimum competency for each level of certification. There are specific PSIA-AASI manuals about teaching cross country skiing and telemark skiing. CANSI has four certification levels in xc and three in telemark. Certification courses are organized and run by six different regions across Canada, following standards established by the National Technical Committee. Besides regular professional development days, CANSI members have access to a variety of technical material such as a very detailed and comprehensive Instructor Manual, newsletters and videos. Professional members also benefit from a liability insurance coverage when teaching, and enjoy discounts with several industry-leading equipment suppliers.

 

From professional development to expanding your abilities to share the ski experience with others, to making lifelong friends and memories, PSIA-AASI is devoted to helping you make your time as an instructor as rewarding as possible. PSIA-AASI membership consists of both registered and certified members. Once you join the Association you become a registered member. When you take and pass your Level I, Level II or Level III certification exams, you become a certified member or instructor.

 

PSIA-AASI provides much more than just a membership; it provides a connection to people who are excited about skiing and sharing that passion with others. And, it provides a connection to sliding on snow that has the power to change lives.

 

The organization has more than 31,000 total members, hundreds of discount products from official suppliers and the PSIA-AASI Accessories Catalog available to members at a discount. Other membership benefits include attending clinics, attaining nationally recognized certification, online teaching resources and printed technical manuals, PSIA-AASI's magazine 32 Degrees, discounts on products from official suppliers, instructional aid products, and liability insurance coverage.

 

The costs associated with becoming a certified PSIA-AASI Nordic instructor are about $150 for attending a 2-day event in one of the regions where you would learn the particulars of teaching (covering material in the Nordic ski instruction manual) and $127 annual dues. For example, the PSIA-AASI events in 2012-13 sanctioned by the Eastern Division were held at 13 ski areas in six different states across the region during the winter (3 in VT, 3 in NH, 3 in NY, 2 in ME, 1 in MA, 1 in WV). Attending courses for CANSI can cost $250-300 but this includes the first year of annual membership, which costs $70 per year. If you're interested in sharing the passion of cross country skiing and becoming a certified instructor, contact www.thesnowpros.org or in Canada www.cansi.ca/en/ to find your respective division.