Wellness and Camaraderie for Injured Veterans

Sit ski and cross country ski camp for Veterans

Sit ski and cross country ski camp for Veterans

More doctors may be prescribing outdoor recreational therapy instead of Xanax if the proposed Federal legislation entitled the Outdoor Recreation Therapy for Veterans Act (HR 2435) passes. Studies are showing evidence that outdoor recreational activities can be therapeutic. I met Veterans Ray Gilmore and David Binford recently at a ski industry meeting and they were engaging anyone who would talk with them about the Azimuth Check Foundation, which provides injured veterans and first responders challenging year-round athletic activities to create wellness in an atmosphere of camaraderie.

“Whether these Vets have seen or unseen injuries, they can find peace in the outdoors.” They feel that participation in activities such as alpine and Nordic skiing, snowboarding, kayaking, hiking, fishing, cycling, saltwater and freshwater fishing, indoor rock climbing, wood carving and art, aquatics, golf, water skiing, stand up paddleboarding, archery, and even bowling will build self-esteem and accomplishment.

Azimuth Check Foundation recreational climbing outing

Azimuth Check Foundation recreational climbing outing

There are some Veterans and first responders who have experienced visual impairments, amputations and other physical and mental challenges who have discovered organizations that orchestrate recreational activities, which can positively impact their independence, well-being, and whole health through adaptive recreation therapeutic programs. Azimuth partners with other organizations such as the Veterans Adaptive Sports and Training, Adaptive Sports of the North Country, Ability Plus Adaptive Sports, Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports, and Northeast Passage.

 Health is more than the absence of physical disease or disability, but rather includes important aspects of physical, emotional, and social wellbeing.  These Vets and first responders talk about their experience with disability and recognize that changes in health status and mobility can pose significant challenges and adjustments for individuals, as well as within families and friendships. 

Misha Pemble-Belkin of Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports’ Veterans Ventures program commented, “I’ve taken anti-depressants and done talk therapy but nothing I tried has worked - it was like my brain was still at war.” Different than working with healthcare providers in an office setting, this real world/real time approach to creating solutions for active and engaged living takes the guess work out of what happens when you go home or are discharged from care. The program employs certified and licensed recreation therapist practitioners with a strong history of working with individuals across the disability spectrum including individuals with physical disabilities, cognitive disabilities, and behavioral health needs.

Recreational archery program

Recreational archery program

While the work they will do together is built around having fun, it is also a therapeutic modality grounded in World Health Organization’s international classification of functioning (ICF) and is at the forefront of healthcare trends that emphasize prevention strategies and support a person to develop functional skills for active living and community access as part of personal health management.

Gilmore talked about difficulty “shutting the motor off whereby the adrenaline remains and has become toxic.” The recreational activities help to create new memories and meaningful relationships. Beside physical challenges many Vets are faced with what has been referred to during past wars as PTSD (post traumatic stress), combat fatigue, and/or shell shocked. While a stigma may remain about this condition, more Veterans are now acknowledging it and seeking help.

Some of these program participants express that they’ve have had enough of meds and therapy (for example cognitive behavioral therapy, prolonged exposure therapy, acceptance commitment therapy, etc.). Recreational programs can provide problem solving, a collaborative strengths-based approach, camaraderie supported transition, relevant and meaningful goals, and develop sustainable healthy behavior.

Trauma-focused psychotherapies are the most recommended treatment for PTSD. This treatment focuses on the memory of the traumatic event and its meaning. It is intended to help people process the traumatic experience by visualizing and talking or thinking about the memory to change toward helpful beliefs about the trauma. Eight to sixteen sessions are often recommended. One Vet referred to taking “meds” for his troubles which made him feel like a “zombie” and took away the passion and joy of life. That is not saying that suffering with PTSD issues will allow much passion and joy. But that Vet commented that participating in recreational programs and outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking, rock climbing has helped to instill periods of passion and joy in his life.

How does it work?

At Northeast Passage, a recreation therapist (RT) will meet with an individual to complete an initial assessment.  During this assessment, the RT talks about health conditions, interests, personal strengths, and local resources.  They will also use standardized assessment tools as part of a collaborative process to identify goals, and a plan for achieving them, while working together.

Follow up appointments are used to work on achieving these goals and during these appointments the Vet and RT will be in the community actively engaged in recreation. At the same time, they’ll likely be creating community connections, learning about equipment, developing skills and aspects of themselves that support continued active participation and a healthier experience.

VAST Biathlon Camp at Pineland Farms

VAST Biathlon Camp at Pineland Farms

Kristina Sabasteanski is an Army Veteran who runs programs at Pineland Farms’ Veterans Adaptive Sports & Training in southern Maine, which offers year-round programming each year for Veterans with disabilities. She stated “Last year we took 17 Veterans and volunteers to Maine Huts and Trails in Kingsfield, ME.  We had a variety of Veterans with physical disabilities, PTSD and other issues as well as Vets just there for the camaraderie. We stayed overnight and people commented that it was just what they needed to relax and get away from issues for a few days. It was -9 F the day we left to go home and there wasn't a single complaint among the group. Sometimes the Vets crave challenges similar to what they experienced in the military such as harsh winter conditions, strenuous activities, etc.”

 Our yearly Biathlon Camp had 16 Veterans with disabilities - ranging from SCI, amputations, TBI, blindness, PTSD and TBI, and other orthopedic issues. “Many had never even seen snow before the camp and by the last day they cross country skied and competed in a biathlon race against each other. These trips and activities with fellow Vets allow them to share their experiences in the military and they realize they are not alone in their struggles.”

 Retired SGSG Misha Pemble-Belkin of Vermont Adaptive Veteran Ventures is proud to offer programs specifically designed for injured service members, Veterans with disabilities, and their families. The program has 170 Vet participants for more than a thousand activities including winter sports such as skiing, XC skiing, and snowboarding. It’s Vets helping Vets to learn these sports.

Vermont Adaptive was originally for groups of physically disabled Veterans from the Vietnam era. They then saw an increase in disabled Veterans participating during and after the Persian Gulf conflict. They’ve now entered a new era, where Veterans with disabilities include those with both physical and invisible disabilities like PTSD and brain injuries.

VAST recreational program for veterans at Pineland Farms. ME

VAST recreational program for veterans at Pineland Farms. ME

According to Pemble-Belkin, “there was a study of 1,200 Vets who were split into a group taking three of the major meds and a group taking a placebos and it showed similar results. While the war experience was stored in your brain, outdoor recreation can provide some joy and passion that is a relief to the miserable times being home alone or unengaged.”

There are several ways you or your company can support these organizations: including spreading the message, direct donations, matching gifts and event sponsorship. Please direct all inquiries or donation-related questions to:

Azimuth Check Foundation:

Pineland Farms VAST Program in southern Maine with Kristina Sabasteanski

Northeast Passage in NH with David Lee

Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports Veterans Ventures with Misha Pemble-Belkin

Devil's Thumb Ranch Time for the Honey Harvest

Harvesting honey at Devil’s Thumb

Harvesting honey at Devil’s Thumb

Autumn in Rockies - it’s honey harvest time. In addition to crisp morning hikes, cool flowing streams, and fiery colored leaves, there’s another reason to make a beeline to Devil’s Thumb Ranch this autumn. Collecting the sustainable sweetness from their very own eighty bee hives is at the top of their honey-do list.

The busy bees and talented beekeepers have worked hard all year to ensure an abundant crop – batches upon batches of amber goodness that make the Devil’s Thumb farm fresh breakfasts more flavorful, house-made desserts more delectable, and signature cocktails even craftier.

While many of guests at Devil’s Thumb love their ranch-raised, melt-in-your-mouth, Wagyu beef – accompanied by homegrown vegetables – their locally-sourced honey is creating a buzz of its own. From the honeycomb on the cheeseboard in the resort’s Heck’s Tavern to the baked brie with mountain flower honey served at the Ranch House Restaurant, they are committed to sweetening the ranch-to-table experience every way they can.

Winter wonderland at Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort

Winter wonderland at Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort

In Tabernash, Colo., Devil’s Thumb Ranch is a unique, environmentally sensitive and rustically elegant wilderness resort beneath the Indian Peaks. It is one of the leading resorts that has invested in extensive sustainable energy and practices and has become one of Colorado's (and North America's) premier XC ski resorts. The ranch is at the foot of the Continental Divide in the Ranch Creek Valley (near Winter Park) with great views of the mountains, more than 5,000 acres of meadows and woodlands and 100 km of trails.

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 Top 10 features favorite romantic XC ski resorts across North America or check out one of the destinations below.

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. The Romance Package includes a cozy room or cabin with a fireplace, a single rose, champagne, chocolate covered strawberries and a relaxation amenity list.

The Glen House is the newest New Hampshire inn located in Gorham, NH with breathtaking views of the nearby mountains and trails at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center. During the winter months, take a romantic journey to enjoy the sights of the protected Great Gulf Wilderness and the Presidential Mountain Range from the comfort and safety of a Mt. Washington SnowCoach.

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.

Share a sleigh ride with Rover at Mountain Top Resort

Share a sleigh ride with Rover at Mountain Top Resort

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.

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.

Dinner with a view at Sun Mountain Lodge

Dinner with a view at Sun Mountain Lodge

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.

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.

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


Winter Girls' Getaways are the Rage

Gals weekend at the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, NH

Gals weekend at the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, NH

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. has found a list of women's programs for this winter ranging from once-a-week group outings to week-long all inclusive packages.


The Notchview Reservation in Windsor, MA has the Women’s Winter Breakfast Ski from 9:00 AM to 10:45 AM led by women who teach and work at the Reservation. This 6-week program starts with a 75-90 minute ski followed by a continental breakfast in the lodge.

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 Feb 9; Skate skiing on Mar 9. The $50 price includes the trail pass, lunch, and discount coupons to use in the ski shop.

Ladies Night at Byrncliff Golf Resort & Banquets in Varysburg, NY offers half price on Thursdays for the trail pass for XC skiing or snowshoeing.

Bretton Woods Nordic Center, NH has the Ladies Loppet Women’s Nordic Ski Club on Saturdays, Jan 3 - Mar 14 11:00 AM - 12 lesson for all level skills. $65 for the season.

The Adventure Center at Waterville Valley, NH and southern White Mountains has the NENSA Women’s XC Ski Day on Jan 20, 2019 with XC ski instruction, equipment demo, lunch, prizes and wrap up party.

Go Red for Women's Heart Disease program at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center in Gorham, NH on Friday, Feb 1, 2019 with 50% discount on trail passes and rental equipment to those wearing red. Also Women's Winter Escape is on Jan 19-20, 2019 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, and more.

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


Women wintering on the shore at Lutsen Resort

Women wintering on the shore 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 22-24, 2019. 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 Stretch & Slide Yoga-Ski Retreat on Wednesdays Jan 19 - Feb 16, 2019. Begins at 10:00 AM with a yoga class at the Gerrish Township Municipal Building (1 mile south of XC Ski HQ), and continues with a full day ski/snowshoe rental and group lesson at 12:00 PM (facilities pass included!). Also included after the lesson is a homemade chili lunch (classic or vegetarian) at the Stone Turtle Day Lodge Café

Lutsen Resort, MN on the north shore of Lake Superior in MN has its Girlfriend Getaway Package, which includes a bottle of champagne, massage or treatment, 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.

Timber Ridge Nordic Center in Traverse City, MI has She-Ski a Wednesday Ladies Night with cross country skiing or snowshoeing. Lutsen Resort in MN has the Girlfriends Getaway Package for anytime of year with a bottle of champagne,


Ski, Sip & Spa Day at Devils Thumb Ranch Resort in Tabernash, CO on Saturday, Feb 11, 2019 includes XC ski lessons, lunch, yoga, hot tub, sauna, and wine and cheese. Massage or facial available at special rates. Additionally, the Ranch hosts the Women’s Classic XC Ski Clinics starting in January.

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.

Women's Skate Clinics at Frisco Nordic Center, Frisco, CO has two levels. On Mondays is the Level one starting on Jan 7 at 10-12 with a second session starting in Feb and on Tuesdays there are the more advanced clinics are held and more intermediate and advanced sessions on Thursdays. Check the Frisco site for specifics on schedule and prices.

Sun Mountain Lodge and Cascade Endurance in Winthrop, WA has the Women's Adventure Camp on Feb 22-24, 2019 with XC skiing, yoga, breakfast and lunch, ski sessions, wine/hors d'oeuvres reception, and relaxation. Also, the Trail Running and Yoga Retreat is on April 18-21, 2019. Contact Cascade Endurance.

Women's Ski Weekend at Izaak Walton Inn, Essex, MT on the Amtrak line and scheduled on Feb 8-11, 2019 with lodging, 1 hour skate skiing instruction, two 1-hour yoga sessions, and 30 minute massage, buffet dinner and one night accommodations.

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 Product News Page for info about women's XC ski equipment.

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.


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 Tuesday night, and on Wednesday 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. Look for the Morse Highlands Day Lodge for a bonfire and S'mores.

Notchview Reservation in Windsor, MA hosts the Moonlight Ski, Wine & Cheese event on XC skis or snowshoes for tasting of local wines, beers, and cheeses. Go by your own headlight or the moonlight. Pre registration required for event on Jan 19, Feb 16, and Mar 16 starting at 6:15 PM.

The Chocolate Festival at Mt. Washington Valley Ski & Snowshoe Center in Intervale, NH on Sunday, February 24 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."


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 on Saturdays during January-March.

On Feb 2, Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI the "Ski the Beer Trail" is a new event with XC skiing, craft beer tasting, and a rustic BBQ lunch along the trails. Look for the Fill at the Grill and Fire on the Mountain food events.

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 9.


Just Desserts at Enchanted Forest XC Center

Just Desserts at Enchanted Forest XC Center

Just Desserts Eat & Ski in the Enchanted Forest in Red River, NM on February 23 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.”

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.

At Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash, CO,  the Ski, Sip & Spa is an all day event that includes lunch and wine & cheese. It is set for Feb 10. Also, the Taste of the Ranch dining series regularly features fresh offerings for a 4-course ranch-to-table experience.

The Rendezvous Trails in West Yellowstone, MT features cuisine that is homemade and from local restaurants that can be found along a designated route on the trails at the Taste of the Trails on Feb 17. Pay in advance at West Yellowstone retailer Free Heel & Wheel.

Frisco Nordic Center in CO has the Ski, Eat and Be Merry event on Feb 9 from 6:00 - 10:00 PM with a progressive dinner along the trails featuring food, drink, 3 bonfires and 300 luminaries on a 2 km loop. The evening ends with a party in the lodge. Frisco is also hosting a Snowshoe Dinner on two Sundays, Jan 20 and Feb 17 starting at 5:00 PM for a tour and then dinner. 


Tahoe XC in Tahoe City, CA has the New Year's Day On Trail Pancake 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. Fish Taco Night is a fundraiser on Feb 13.

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.

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 XC Ski & Yoga Retreat, which includes getting outdoors in nature for cross country skiing and snowshoeing, healthy meals, wood-fired hot tub, bonfire,, and more on Feb 22-24, 2019. The program at Maplelag is run and organized by Melissa Joy Schoeller (sign up directly at 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 19 and Feb 16 where they start with yoga (10 AM at the town Municipal Building) 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 ($35 each plus $10 if you need rental equipment).

On January 19-20, 2019 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, Feb 9 and Mar 9, 2019 with yoga at 8-9 AM, XC ski instruction 10 AM -12 PM, wine and waxing clinic at 3-4 PM, yoga, 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 ($95 with discount for season pass holders 603-236-5201).

In the Rockies, the Ski, Sip & Spa Day is at Devils Thumb Ranch Resort in Tabernash, CO on Saturday, Feb 10, 2019 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 Feb 9-10, 2019 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 Winter Ski Retreat on Feb 22-24, 2019 coordinated by Cascade Endurance with Nordic skiing, yoga, breakfast and lunch, ski sessions, wine/hors d'oeuvres reception, and relaxation. The Women’s Running & Yoga Retreat is set for April 18-21, 2019.

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

Taking the Grandkids Snowshoeing

Fun on snowshoes - Laura Rose/

Fun on snowshoes - Laura Rose/

On a winter trail outing near my home, I ran into a neighbor and her granddaughter on snowshoes – and it was not going well for them. The kid was whining and uncomfortable and she headed back home (nearby) by herself. Grandma kept going and since she is a neighbor, I went along with her for a while and chatted. She was not aware of how to help her granddaughter have a good time snowshoeing on a cold winter day. Here’s a primer about going snowshoeing with the grandkids.


You can get the kids snowshoes that are used or new but it’s best to get equipment that is appropriate for their size. For the youngest kids 4-8 years old get colorful snowshoes but most importantly ones that are secure and easy to put on. The Tubbs SnoGlow has LED lights, and also from Tubbs is a model called the “Snowflake.” Ideal has the SnoStompers for under $20, but expect to pay more than that for name brand snowshoes. Most of the companies have a snowshoe for kids.

Keep in mind that the older the kid the more important they’ll want “cool” looking snowshoes rather than a pair intended for babies. As kids get older, they’ll need a snowshoe that is intended for lighter people and has regular snowshoe and binding characteristics (looks and performs like an adult snowshoe).

Again, the key issue is that the snowshoes are easy to put on and easy to walk in. I’ve also found that it is easy to sell used kids snowshoes after your kid gets too big for them.

Snowshoers at any age -

Snowshoers at any age -


Light layers of clothing are comfortable and you can add or remove clothing as needed (i.e., if it gets too hot). A lightweight synthetic base layer of long underwear helps to keep you dry and transport perspiration away. A middle layer provides insulation such as a shirt or sweater and then a jacket shell on the outer layer works great. Don’t forget a headband or light hat and a pair of appropriate gloves. Alpine ski gloves may be too warm for snowshoeing unless it is very cold outside (or you have poor circulation issues).

The goal is for the kids to recognize when it is too cold or too hot and to encourage them to change to feel comfortable with the temperature. Wearing a backpack will allow kids to stash or pull out the extra clothes, and feel self sufficient.

Fun on Snowshoes

If you want it to be a good time for them (and you) you have to make the snowshoeing outing less “boring” and more exciting. Additionally, the first few outings should be short and easy so that the kids don’t feel that snowshoeing is “too much work.” Maybe they can use a camera or cell phone. Plan ahead and discuss what to look for - perhaps there are different kinds of scenic views, trees, animals, tracks, and silly poses that you can do. You can not stop too many times to take photos. Pose for them, take selfies, get some photos of them without you, send them out on social media, etc. You’re making and saving memories!

Perhaps you can print the pictures and create photo books of the adventures. Maybe the kids will discover that they love photography. It will give you an indoor activity to arrange the photos that you can do together with the kids.

Set up a scavenger hunt on the way out on the trail (hang or hide treats or something) and use the destination as a goal to be eligible to play the game. On the way back, the kids can look for and accumulate the hidden treasures.

Kids love candy and perhaps they’ll love to go snowshoeing to look for candy that is cached (hidden in specific locations in bags). Take them on a “Quest for the Candy” by following hints that you write in advance as a poetic treasure map to follow. This is a new type of orienteering for children.

“Orienteering” can be fun for older kids, whereby they snowshoe to find markers by using a compass. Set up five numbered markers in advance and figure out different ways to go to them by taking a compass reading. Give each snowshoer (or team of snowshoers) a compass and show them how to use it. Then see if they can go to the markers in a different but specific order. The first one to record all of the marker numbers wins.

“Snowshoe Biathlon” incorporates other backyard games such as ring toss or ball toss into a container. Set up a course and stations along the trails. If you want to have a competition, keep time as snowshoers race through all the stations to a finish line. Add time for each toss that is missed. If you do not have backyard games or are unable to easily create them, snowshoers can walk backwards or hop through a natural obstacle course at the stations. If you prefer not to have a competition, do the biathlon just for fun.

Choose the Trail

Don’t look down at your feet - look out at nature!

Don’t look down at your feet - look out at nature!

Make sure to take the kids on interesting trails and accept that “interesting” may be very different than it is for you. They may not like historic bridges or flat trails that lead to nothing. Have a destination such as waterfalls or a hilltop, or a site for wildlife spotting. Discuss this issue prior to planning the trek so you are aware of what they might enjoy. It may be like pulling teeth to get them to decide but it will give you a goal as to where to go. Make snow angels and slide down the hills and they’ll keep going. Be aware about whether the child is over his or her head – the trail may be too steep, too long, or you are not getting to the destination soon enough.

If you want to avoid all of this decision-making, go to a cross country ski area that can accommodate kids on snowshoes like Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center in Gorham, NH. They have a scavenger hunt called “Trail Tracker” which is a big hit for kids to track down signs of cartoon animals out on the trails. When they find the animated creature signs, they stamp a card and upon return to the lodge, they get a treat.

Hydrate and Snacks

Plenty of snacks and drinks are a must for a successful outing. If you are going out more than a half hour pack enough water or drinks. The kids get thirsty fast and they may like to play the “I’m thirsty” card when they want a break. Granola bars, sandwiches, energy drinks, fresh fruit and crackers can provide ample energy boosts but also consider some snacks that you know they enjoy like chocolate or candy bars.

A Great Time with the Grandkids

Try to teach them to have fun with snowshoeing. Take snack breaks or play I-spy in the middle of the woods to keep them interested in continuing to walk. Go for a snowshoe adventure rather than just a snowshoe hike.

Take the opportunity to get outside and enjoy nature and exercise, while at the same time get some bonding time with your family; you’ll be glad you did.

USA Today 2018-19 10Best Poll for Cross Country Ski Resorts

USA Today logo@jpeg.png

The USA Today 2018-19 10Best Poll for Cross Country Ski Resorts was conducted to find the resort voted as best by the public and Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa was number one!

A panel of Nordic ski experts were asked to nominate their 20 favorite resorts, and then the top 20 from the panelists’ suggestions made the final list for the nominated 10Best Poll cross country ski resorts. The nominated resorts are then voted on by the public.

Voters were asked to vote for their favorite resort the winners were announced on Friday, December 7. 

 The expert panel, who developed the final list of cross country ski resort nominees included:

 Jennie Bender – cross country ski competitor, who has raced all over the world.

Reese Brown – Executive Director of Cross Country Ski Areas Association.

Roger Lohr – owner and editor of

Cami Thompson Graves – coach of Nordic ski team at Dartmouth College.

Jonathan Wiesel – consultant entrepreneur in the ski industry with Nordic Group International.

Congratulations to Devil’s Thumb. The cross country ski resorts for the 2018-19 USA Today 10Best Poll voted Top 10 include: 

Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa, CO

Cross Country Ski Headquarters, MI

Tahoe Donner Cross Country, CA

 Garnet Hill Lodge, NY

White Grass Touring Center, WV

 Lapland Lake Vacation Center, NY

 Maplelag Resort, MN

Sovereign Lake XC Center & Silver Star Mountain Resort, BC

Latigo Ranch, CO

Jackson Ski Touring Center, NH

Resorts in this article are linked to pages on and the poll provides links directly to all the resort websites.

Will Olympic Gold Turn Into More Recreational XC Skiers?

Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins won the Olympic Gold Medal - will it encourage people to try XC skiing?

Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins won the Olympic Gold Medal - will it encourage people to try XC skiing?

People in the cross country ski business (professionals who sell equipment, run ski areas, teach lessons, write ski content, etc.) often debate about winning Olympic medals and if there is a significant impact on cross country (XC) skiing in the USA.

At a ski industry association meeting after the Olympic gold medal was won by the US women’s cross country skiers in the 2018 Winter Olympics, a leading company manager stated “the number of cross country skiers in the US will double after this!”  There has never been a winner in the debate about the so-called “Olympic bump” but after the publicity about XC skiing, the industry is hopeful that there will be an up tick in the number of people who try XC skiing this winter.

The highly-conditioned Olympic athletes can generate and enjoy skiing at speeds above 35 miles per hour (with some help from gravity). The grace and power that’s possible to achieve using both technique and fitness is amazing to see, and fun to experience! But there’s another side to XC skiing. It can be done at any speed, and many who do it love it for its relaxing, rhythmic movements that carry one into winter wonderlands. Skiers can pick their own pace, gliding along through fields and forests, stopping when they choose, soaking in the beauty of the natural snow-covered world. It can be as peaceful and quiet as the skier wants, or as energetic, fast and exciting. Every bend in the trail can bring new sights and sounds.

XC skiing for recreation, fitness, getting outdoors in the winter

XC skiing for recreation, fitness, getting outdoors in the winter

For those that enjoy learning, the possibilities of XC skiing are virtually endless. While an hour’s instruction can provide the skills to a new skier to have them negotiating and enjoying mixed terrain safely, the technical nuances of the sport can be explored for years. XC skiing on the trails has two main disciplines, classic skiing and skate skiing, and within each there are sub-techniques that allow one to cover all grades of uphill, downhill, and flat terrain with efficiency and grace. There is also off-trail skiing (for example, in a local park or on a snow covered golf course) and backcountry skiing (up and down hillsides). And not to be discounted is the value of meeting and spending time with others who share the love of outdoor activity and nature. XC skiers are just really nice people.

XC skiing can be done most anywhere snow coats the ground. There are also specific cross country ski centers, which feature mechanically groomed trails, ski equipment to purchase or rent, food and drink, and instruction. All the states that get snow in the winter have these ski centers (check out and it’s well worth traveling to one to get started in the sport.

Recreation on Rail Trails

Rail Trail North Pathway in WY by Tim Young

Rail Trail North Pathway in WY by Tim Young

In Lebanon, NH our greatest resources include the Northern Rail Trail and the Mascoma River Greenway, trails that were created on an old railroad line in the region. These multi-use corridors create powerful opportunities for active transportation and physical activity—improving our health and well-being and safely connect people of all ages and abilities to jobs, schools, businesses, parks and cultural institutions.

Older trail enthusiasts and potential trail users can thrive on the rail trails because they have been built with a minimum of grade for the railroads. In short, this means that these trails do not have significant uphill or downhill aspects so they are easier and safer to enjoy for recreational trail uses such as cycling, walking, running, hiking, horseback riding, dog sled training, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, bird watching, and to gain access to fishing areas.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people. Thirty years ago, a group of walking and biking enthusiasts, railroad history buffs, conservation and parks groups, and active-transportation activists began meeting regularly in Washington, D.C., to mobilize efforts to preserve unused rail corridors for public use. The group quickly realized the need for a dedicated organization, and on Feb. 1, 1986, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy opened its doors.

RTC serves as the national voice for more than 160,000 members and supporters, 31,000 miles of rail-trails and multi-use trails, and more than 8,000 miles of potential trails waiting to be built, with a goal of creating more walkable, bikeable communities in America. The national RTC office is located in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in California, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

RTC has supported the development of thousands of miles of rail-trails and multi-use trails for millions of people to explore and enjoy. The work combines national policy advocacy and research expertise with on-the-ground trail development. RTC advocates for trail-friendly policies and funding at the federal and state levels—in the courts, in Congress and throughout the country. This trail development work has helped hundreds of communities in America plan, build and maintain trails in urban, suburban and rural areas. 

Elizabeth River Rail Trail by KR Murphy

Elizabeth River Rail Trail by KR Murphy

Since 1986, they’ve worked from coast to coast, supporting the development of thousands of miles of rail-trails for millions to explore and enjoy helping to craft rural trails that spool out over a hundred miles of open prairie, snake through mountain passes, span canyons and hug riverbanks, offering views of the countryside often unknown to the highway traveler. These trails are part of the connections between towns and suburbs, linking communities along vibrant corridors in much the same way as the railroads did in their heyday.

RTC’s mission, and its value, is magnified in urban areas, where one mile of trail can completely redefine the livability of a community. Where trails are more than just recreational amenities, creating opportunities for active transportation and physical activity—improving our health and wellbeing—as they safely connect us to jobs, schools, businesses, parks and cultural institutions in our own neighborhoods and beyond. And, through the promotion of rails-with-trails—trails alongside active rail lines—they are now unlocking the true potential of transportation systems that reflect how people really get around in the 21st century.

Northern Rail Trail Editor rides the Northern Rail Trail Editor rides the Northern Rail Trail

In my hometown, the trails are used by people of all ages, from toddlers to senior citizens, for cycling, walking, running, hiking, horseback riding, dog sled training, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, bird watching, to gain access to fishing areas, and even by handicapped people with walkers and in wheel chairs! This use includes residents of the contiguous towns as well as many surrounding areas, and from Vermont and Massachusetts and other New England areas.

The Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Grafton County (FNRT) is a non-profit organization, founded in 1996, dedicated to the conversion of the Northern Rail Corridor into a multi-use recreational trail. The Friends have built an organization of approximately 130 paid members from all over New England, with the majority from the Upper Valley, and a twelve member volunteer Board of Directors who come from many Upper Valley towns and represent a variety of interests including cyclists, runners, snowmobilers, hikers, and cross country skiers. The Friends also have a strong base of volunteers who attend workdays and activities.

In support of the trail development in Lebanon, Enfield, Canaan, Orange, and Grafton, the FNRT has sponsored its own workdays and held clean-up days. This work has included removing ties and metal, decking bridges, bridge demolition and reconstruction, clearing brush, ditching, signage installation, landscaping and mowing, litter clean-up and surface improvement work.

The FNRT has promoted the trail through a newsletter and local newspapers, as well as at events sponsored by Riverfest, the Upper Valley Trails Alliance, and Eastern Mountain Sports. The Friends have written and received numerous grants and maintain a web site (, which has allowed new users to get information about the trail including surface conditions, access points, and nearby facilities.

A series of color maps and informational displays of historic interest, produced by volunteers have been posted at various points along the trail. A number of small parks have been developed through the efforts of the organization and other volunteer groups in Lebanon and Canaan. Finally, benches have been placed at scenic intervals along the trail, which people find comforting for rest breaks.

Maine's WinterKids Program Gets Grant from Killington


The “Passport” Program is a tried and true method to introduce school children to snowsports in 10 different states and Maine’s WinterKids program goes way beyond its Passport. More than 100,000 kids have taken advantage of the WinterKids Passport program in Maine to become active and WinterKids Executive Director Julie Mulkern states emphatically, “Getting every child outdoors in winter is our goal.”

The Passport program in Maine is for fifth to seventh graders and for $20 it includes alpine and Nordic skiing, ice skating, and snow tubing. Each ski area across the state participates by offering services to the students that include two free lift tickets, or in the case of Sunday River and Sugarloaf: a one-day learn to ski packages when accompanied by one adult. Program research shows that each child brings 2.5 people with them to the ski areas. The non-Alpine areas offer free tickets as well.

 Younger kids (pre-school to fourth grade) can go Nordic skiing or snowshoeing three times each at a list of participating Nordic ski areas across the state such as Carters Cross Country in Bethel, Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, and the Outdoor Center in Rangeley Lakes. Additionally, there are other special programs and events intended to engage kids during the winter such as the WinterKids Winter Games and the WinterKids Challenge. These programs offer cash prizes to schools that compete against each other to coordinate outdoor winter activities and keep track of their respective student participation. Sugarloaf Ski Resort hosts the WinterKids Downhill 24 in early March, a 24-hour ski and snowboard team challenge, to raise money for WinterKids programs.

 The Killington World Cup Committee awarded WinterKids a grant from proceeds associated with hosting two years of successful World Cup races at Killington. Mulkern commented, “The funding will allow us to expand our Nordic program for elementary school kids. Currently, we support immigrant and refugee students in Portland to participate in Portland Nordic’s 12-week XC skiing program. This grant will allow us to bring programs to more rural parts of the state, including northern Maine and the western Mountains where formal cross-country ski training programs in rural communities do not currently exist. The opportunity to participate in winter sports at a very early age will help these kids to become competitive for their middle school and high school teams, an invaluable experience they would not otherwise get.”

 The WinterKids program in Portland is supported by the Michael & Barbara Peisner Nordic Fund and it is conducted on the Riverside Golf Course that is groomed for Nordic skiing. The Portland Parks & Recreation partners with WinterKids by providing transportation.

Kids snowshoeing with the WinterKids FunPass

Kids snowshoeing with the WinterKids FunPass

 There were 230 teachers and 4,200 kids involved with the WinterKids Games in Maine, where thanks to sponsors and grants, the top three schools were awarded $5,000, $3,000 and $1,500 respectively, and other schools received equipment. There was one school in each county that participated in the WinterKids Games. The program engages parents with the kids to enjoy the winter outdoor activities. The Guide to Outdoor Active Learning produced by WinterKids makes it easy for preschool and elementary teachers to integrate fun and outdoor activity into their winter lessons - all while meeting education standards.  

 In the upcoming year, the Passport booklet is becoming an app and ski areas can offer more variety and targeted campaigns with it. WinterKids is growing beyond the passport component and has expanded to more than the additional programs mentioned in this article, whereby a meaningful public health benefit appraisal could be derived from the efforts. The organization has also begun programs in neighboring New Hampshire.

The WinterKids organization is successfully matching financial support with spearheaded campaigns with kids, schools, and communities to engage more kids in the winter outdoors, and it makes perfect sense because in the words of Mulkern “Kids’ default setting is to be outside and exploring.”

Kingdom Trails: Vermont's Fat Bike Mecca

Kingdom Trails in Vermont attracts fat bikers to 30 miles of groomed trails

Kingdom Trails in Vermont attracts fat bikers to 30 miles of groomed trails

Fat bikes, dubbed the "Hummers of the two-wheelers' world" are proliferating with more than 150 cross country (XC) ski areas in North America that welcome fat bikes on their snow covered trails. These specially-made bicycles that accommodate ultra-wide tires that can be run at very low pressure 4-8 pounds of pressure allow fat bikes to roll over soft, slippery surfaces like snow. XC ski areas and regional pockets across the nation from Vermont to Michigan and Arizona to California and Washington now have fat bike trails with single track groomed and signed trails and rental bikes, and special events.

First timer fat bikers get some pointers before heading downhill

First timer fat bikers get some pointers before heading downhill

A small group of North American Snowsports Journalist Association members were recently introduced to fat biking by the welcoming folks at Kingdom Trails in Lyndonville, VT. The group found the bikes easy to balance and maneuver. Similar to XC skiing, the fat bikes provide exercise when going on flat terrain with more effort required up hills earning thrills on the downhills.

An industry source (at QBP, manufacturers of fat bike brands Surleybikes and Salsacycles, boots, gloves, accessories and apparel) recently reported that 150,000-200,000 fat bikes that have been sold since 2010. These bikes provide a great way for avid cyclists to stay in shape during the winter season and they provide different recreational fun for people who are active or love the outdoors.

Fat biking at Kingdom Trails in northeastern Vermont is no small matter. It is the foremost mountain bike destination in the east with more than 40,000 day passes sold in 2017 (20% increase from the previous year) and they've quickly parlayed this notoriety into becoming a mecca for fat bikers in the winter. Kingdom Trails has 100 miles of bike trails (30 of which are used in winter for XC skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking) and works with 80 different land owners. They also host Winterbike, which is the biggest fat bike festival in the east. The organization conducted a survey of bikers showing that they are generally aged 45-60 and reportedly attract $8-10 million of business to the region!


At Darling Hill Road in Lyndonville, the Village Sport Shop has a trailside facility adjacent to the Kingdom Trails Nordic Adventure Center renting fat bikes for $55 a day and sells the bikes ranging from $1,800 to $2,800. Fat bike products include softgoods, accessories and bikes available from companies such as Liv Bikes, Giant, and Pivot among others.

Another option for those who would like an introduction to fat biking is to have a guide at Kingdom Experiences take care of all the details. They’ve got certified instructors and want to help cyclists have an experience catered specifically to rider skill and ability levels offering kids camps, women’s clinics and getaways and more.

Kingdom Trails employs three paid groomers, who pack and maintain about 30 miles of trails. Day membership prices (day pass for trail access) are $15 a day for those aged 16-69 and $7 for youth aged 8-15. There are also year-round memberships available with an annual family membership priced at $150. Memberships and rules of fat bike etiquette can be found at the Kingdom Trails Welcome Center in East Burke or the Kingdom Trails Nordic Adventure Center on Darling Hill Road in Lyndonville.

Fat Bikes – the Marriage of XC Skiing and Bicycling

Fat biking at Kingdom Trails, Vermont

Fat biking at Kingdom Trails, Vermont

Fat bikes, dubbed the "Hummers of the two-wheelers' world" in the Wall Street Journal are proliferating where there are more than 150 cross country (XC) ski areas that have fat bikes available to use on snow covered trails. These specially-made bicycles that accommodate ultra-wide tires that can be run at very low pressure 4-8 pounds of pressure allow fat bikes to roll over soft, slippery surfaces like snow. XC ski areas and regional pockets across the nation in Vermont, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Alaska and Washington now have fat bike trails with groomed single track and signed trails, rental bikes, and special events.

An industry source (at QBP, the manufacturers of fat bike brands Surleybikes, Salsacycles, tires, boots, gloves, and apparel) recently reported that 150,000-200,000 fat bikes have been sold since 2010 while there are about 7 million mountain bikes sold. Fat bikes provide a great way for avid cyclists to stay in shape during the winter season and they provide different recreational fun for people who are active or love the outdoors. Fat bikers are mostly male and are aged 35-65, with 80% at high education levels Bachelors degree or higher) and professional/managerial vocations.

Kingdom Trails

A small group of North American Snowsports Journalist Association members were recently introduced to fat biking by the welcoming folks at Kingdom Trails in Lyndonville, VT. The group found the bikes easy to balance and maneuver. Similar to XC skiing, the fat bikes provide exercise when going on flat terrain with more effort required up hills earning thrills on the downhills.

The Kingdom Trails in northeastern Vermont is the foremost mountain bike destination in the east with more than 40,000 day passes sold in 2017 (20% increase from the previous year) and they've quickly parlayed this notoriety into becoming a mecca for fat bikers in the winter. Kingdom Trails has 100 miles of bike trails (30 of which are used in winter for XC skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking) and works with 80 different land owners. They also host Winterbike, which is the biggest fat bike festival in the east.

At Darling Hill Road in Lyndonville, the Village Sport Shop has a trailside facility adjacent to the Kingdom Trails Nordic Adventure Center renting fat bikes for $55 a day and sells the bikes ranging from $1,800 to $2,800. Fat bike products include softgoods, accessories and bikes available from companies such as Liv Bikes and Pivot among others.

Another option for those who would like an introduction to fat biking is to have a guide at Kingdom Experiences take care of all the details. They’ve got certified instructors and want to help cyclists have an experience catered specifically to rider skill and ability levels offering kids camps, women’s clinics and getaways and more.

Kingdom Trails has three paid groomers who maintain about 30 miles of trails. Day membership prices (day pass for trail access) are $15 a day for those aged 16-69 and $7 for youth aged 8-15. There are also year-round memberships available with an annual family membership priced at $150. The Kingdom Trails Welcome Center is in East Burke and the Kingdom Trails Nordic Adventure Center is on Darling Hill Road in Lyndonville.

Other Fat Bike Locations

At the Nordic Village outside of Flagstaff, AZ there are 25 km of snowshoe trails that accommodate fat bikes. The bikes ride much better on packed trails compared to riding on soft snow. Fat bikes can be rented at Flagstaff Nordic for $35 on weekends plus a $10 trail fee, and they offer a 40% discount on weekdays ($20) while charging a lower trail fee on weekdays ($7), too.

In eastern Washington's Methow Trails the winter season can be longer than all other seasons combined and it was one of the first trail networks to embrace fat biking. They saw it as a new, exciting way to get outside and recreate and for the passionate XC skier interested in fitness, it provides another way to cross-train. Some guys from Methow Cycle & Sport groom some of the local trails and the shop rents 16 fat bikes.

One avid snow biker describes the thrill of riding his fat bike in the winter as, "Riding on snow has been a great alternative to my other winter love…Nordic skiing. Hopping on the snow bike has been a great way to mix up the winter activities. There's an amazing sensation when you climb aboard a snow bike and find that you "can" ride where only skiers or snowmobilers had once been able to go!" Surveys show that 71% of fat bikes were introduced to the sport at a demo, borrow, or rent the bike that they are riding and 64% of the fat bikers said they would pay to ride on groomed trails.

Fat bike trail offerings are assessed on a day-by-day, snow conditions, user compatibility basis. Information on the trails that are open to fat bikes is available daily on the Methow Trails grooming report. Just like a skier, a valid Methow Trails day pass will be required for snow bikes.

Views in Methow Valley, Washington

Views in Methow Valley, Washington

Fat bikes are available for rent ranging from $15 per hour at Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton, VT to $55 for a full day reaching $75 a day at New World Sport, a Fort Collins, CO, shop that sends riders to local packed snowshoe and XC ski trails. Methow Cycle and Sport in Winthrop, WA has a $35 half day rate or $55 for a full day. Reservations are recommended for weekends and holidays. Methow Cycle and Sport will also provide rack adapters for customers who wish to transport rental fat bikes to the riding area of their choice. Other XC ski areas that have fat bikes on location to rent include Woodstock Inn & Resort in VT, Great Glen Trails in Gorham, NH, Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI, in California at Bear Valley Cross Country & Adventure and Mont-Sainte-Anne, QE.

As one might imagine the price for purchasing a fat bike ranges greatly from a low-end of $200 (at Walmart) to $1,800-6,000. Like any other equipment the low end is probably less reliable and the high-end includes bells and whistles or are built with carbon fiber construction.

Currently, the issues for fat bikers include skier/biker relations and conflicts, variable and changing snow conditions, impact on trails, and building fat bike-specific trails. Fat bike riders are looking for packed snow trails, moderate climbs no more than 8% grade, and narrow single tracks to ride. They are asked to follow a code of etiquette because they can damage trails groomed for classic and skate XC skiers. A typical list of XC ski area "conditions of use" include:

* Riders need to purchase a trail pass to use the area's trails and tell the ticket vendor that they are planning on fat biking.

* Trail access is dependent on conditions and they should check the daily grooming report for detailed trail access information.

* Bikes should yield to all other users. Stay to right side of trail at all times, stay out of the classic ski tracks, and give skate skiers a wide berth. * Stay off trails with more than 3" of new snow.

* If you are leaving a rut deeper than an inch, having a hard time riding in a straight line, or pushing your bike, the snow is too soft and you absolutely should not be biking on the trails.

* Be an ambassador for the sport – stay polite, educate other bikers, discourage bad behavior, follow the rules, and we'll all have a good time this winter.

* Stay on trails designated for Fat Biking.


Tips to Start Kids Cross Country Skiing

Take the kids on a memorable cross country ski outing (Great Glen Trails)

Take the kids on a memorable cross country ski outing (Great Glen Trails)

You might save money by giving your kids outdated and hand-me-down cross country ski equipment, a heavy nylon parka, and a fur-lined cap with earflaps, but this gear will increase your kids' chance of having a rotten time while cross country (XC) skiing.

Improper equipment may be too heavy, cause blisters, and expose kids to frostbite. Too much or too heavy ski clothing (often used by alpine skiers when they go XC skiing) will lead to a common but misguided perspective: that is, XC skiing is tiring and "too much work." Dress correctly and get equipped properly and XC skiing can be a blast.

Poorly equipped kids won't be able to glide, turn, or stop as quickly as their appropriately outfitted friends. They may have trouble getting the skis to grip while going up hills. How much fun is that?

Use the tips in this article to get properly fitted equipment and clothing for children, whether it's brand-new or previously used. As they grow out of gear and clothing, pass them on to another child but make sure that it is appropriately sized for the one receiving the hand-me-down. Some shops have buy-back, trade-in, or long-term rental plans for children's gear, so check with ski shops in your area.

The Right Gear

Waxless skis are great for kids and even toddlers can enjoy a stroll on wide plastic XC skis that they can strap on to their regular snow boots. Make sure the boots fit well and feel as comfortable as a pair of sneakers. Sizing XC skis has changed so you can have short skis that are both very maneuverable and provide long glides. Use the "paper test" to see if a particular pair of skis supports your weight effectively for both gripping on the uphills and gliding on the flat terrain or downhills. Here's how to do it: On a hard floor surface, you should be able to slide a piece of paper under the skis when you stand evenly weighted on both of the ski centers. When all of your weight is applied to one ski at a time, the paper should be unable to slide.

Light layers of clothing should help you feel comfortable and you can always remove a layer if you get too hot while going uphills. A lightweight synthetic base layer of long underwear helps to keep you dry and transport any perspiration away. A middle layer that provides insulation such as a shirt or sweater with a jacket shell on the outer layer works great. Don't forget a headband or light hat and a pair of appropriate gloves (not alpine ski gloves) that are made for movement.

Have Fun

Kids love to race (Fischer Sports)

Kids love to race (Fischer Sports)

Make sure XC skiing is fun for the child; this means avoiding strenuous hills and scary out-of-control downhill runs. The key is for your child to have a positive experience on the first few XC ski outings. It may be easier (and a good decision) to have your child begin with a qualified instructor in a class with other kids. After the lesson, join him or her for an easy family XC ski to a nearby destination.

XC ski areas often have special terrain or incentives for kids. Trail Tracker is a scavenger hunt at Great Glen Outdoor Trails Center in Gorham, NH, which is a big hit for kids to track down cartoon animals out on the trails. When they find the animated creatures, they stamp a card and upon return to the lodge they get a treat. Other programs at Great Glen include the winter-long Bill Koch Ski Club, Ski with a Naturalist, and a day long Kids Ski Fest.

Annie’s group at Methow Trails (Valley Photography)

Annie’s group at Methow Trails (Valley Photography)

The Methow Trails in the Methow Valley in Winthrop, Wash. welcomes “kids to XC ski free” for those aged 17 or under! They also invite kids to participate at no charge in their 4 annual on-snow race events.

"StorySki" trails are 1-kilometer XC ski loops lined with the stories of delightful children's books by local children's book author and illustrator, Erik Brooks. The 3 Methow ski trails allow young skiers and their families to ski while reading an entire book and gliding through the magic of winter in the Methow Valley with 18 colorful story-panels that usher kids along the trails for a self-guided storybook tour.

The Methow’s "Wild Side" trails appeal to slightly older kids (6-12) and encourage playful skill building on skis through engaging challenges that the panels suggest.  

Bring some chocolate treats, talk about animal tracks, and encourage your child. Make it about more than skiing, and it can give you many years of quality family time and memories cross country skiing with your children.

Smugglers' Notch Fun Zone 2.0

Smuggs Fun Zone 2.0 includes an arcade area

Smuggs Fun Zone 2.0 includes an arcade area

Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Jeffersonville, VT opened a 26,000 square-foot one-of-a-kind Family Fun Complex facility that appeals to all ages. This brand new 4.4 million dollar facility is known as FunZone 2.0  

Bill Stritzler, Smugglers’ Notch Managing Director stated “I am very proud of the commitment to Family Fun represented by this project. This next dimension in family fun was fully conceived and led by Smugglers’ staff, and then designed and built by Vermont companies and financed by Smugglers’ and Vermont lenders.”

As the leaders in the family vacation experience, Smugglers’ has taken feedback from many years of guest interactions to build the ideal all-in-one Family Fun Complex. Featuring multiple levels of fun activities at the FunZone 2.0, which is broken up into two main zones with a general focus on age, including:

The Go Zone includes:

● 30-foot, see through climbing tower with multiple pitches for all ability levels

● 3-dimensional Mountain Rally Races slot car track modeled after Smugglers’ three mountains and cozy resort village

Fun Zone Rally Race Course

Fun Zone Rally Race Course

● 30-foot “leap of faith” thrill activity with automatic rappel system

● Two cutting-edge Ninja Warrior-inspired courses with physical challenges allowing participants to race the clock for the best time

● 3,500-square foot, one-of-a-kind mountain-themed laser tag facility

● Lazer Maze challenge with multiple levels of complexity

● 2,000-square foot arcade with video games and redemption center.

The Ozone includes:

● Inflatable obstacle courses

● 20 foot giant inflatable slide

● Mini-golf

● Foosball

● Sky walk viewing area with views of climbing tower, Leap of Faith, and Smuggs Warrior course

● Littles’ Loft toddler area with Vermont-inspired Country Store make-believe area, large foam blocks for building, kid-sized inflatable obstacle course, and lounge area for parents Social Connection that includes:

● ReFuel Café featuring food and beverage with seating area, also serving beer and wine

Fun Zone 2.0 Lazer Tag

Fun Zone 2.0 Lazer Tag

● Two private party rooms with rental packages available.

Parents will have to make sure to use the Fun Zone as a reward after a great day of skiing, otherwise the kids just might want to spend their whole vacation there!

Making Time for XC Skiing

Motivate yourself to get out on the trails!

Motivate yourself to get out on the trails!

Lean snow years across the country have had effects on cross country (XC) skiers. There have been droughts and sunny stretches in the west, ice storms, meltdowns, and freeze ups in the central and eastern regions, and more. This is not intended to be a meteorological report; it is an annual ritual and a skiers’ lament! And another one of the greatest challenges for many people who love to XC ski regardless of the snow conditions is making time to get out there. Skiers struggle with this, but there are easy ways  make time and to be more prepared to enjoy skiing.

Skiers can reframe their perspective on the sport and here are some tips from the folks at

Event Skiing

Making skiing a big event means that it requires preparation, planning, travel, and so on. You can make plans to go to a ski area or resort, trail network, or a famous ski destination such as Sun Valley, Lake Tahoe, Methow Valley, Colorado, Stowe, VT or Jackson, NH and these destinations depend on travelers. Obviously XC skiing is not only a form of recreation, it is also a business that will not survive if skiers do not visit spiritual Mecca’s such as the ones listed.

Not every ski outing needs to be such an event. It takes time to consider and plan a trip to these destinations and the weather has a way of impacting the advance planning. We can expect that if we visit one of these destinations that it will be memorable, but if you live where there is snow, there are plenty of days in the winter when you can get outside and enjoy XC skiing and this takes into account that you may have to work five days a week and all the other things that you need or want to do.

Spontaneous Outings

There is no guarantee that the snow conditions will be perfect no matter how much planning you do to prepare for your event. To take advantage of spontaneous skiing, you need to be prepared for the moment.

Get an accessories bag or ready-to-go-ski kit together

Get an accessories bag or ready-to-go-ski kit together

When it is time to go skiing it should only take a few minutes to get out the door. Of course, it takes some time to dress with base layer, selected socks, and top (ski shirt) and bottom (ski pants). I admit that it may be a bit obsessive to organize a "get away" bag of accessories; but the first step to get on the snow quickly entails reaching into my oversized bag that is readily available to get the accessories needed. This is a common sense list of things that you might need and here’s an entire article about setting up your Accessories Bag. Perhaps such a bag can also be developed as a “Ready to Go Ski Kit.” The kit is simply available to go anytime, anywhere, no matter what. My full accessories bag has snowboard gear (hats, gloves, sunglasses, goggles, hand and toe warmers, repair and replacement stuff, etc.) and it contains a smaller XC ski backpack that has XC-specific gear (survival stuff, spare gloves, water bottle, etc.)

Skis, boots, and poles must be readily accessible, and some people just leave this gear in their car during winter. My gear is in the garage next to my car, so it is easily available. Perhaps you might leave gear in your car that is not your prime equipment so that if it is stolen, it will not be the end of the world. I cover my gear in the car with a blanket to dissuade potential robbers. When it’s time to go skiing, I grab my Accessories Bag, ski boots, poles and skis and I’m off to ski.

If you have waxable skis, you are probably aware about waxing and your associated wax accessories and can get it together quickly, but I feel that having no-wax skis can be an important part of the equation because they save time and eliminate the need for waxes and associated accessories. You may sacrifice some performance due to your type of waxless ski (old, new, skin, pattern, etc.) but the intention is to get out quickly rather than get optimum ski performance. Conceptually the Ready to Go Ski Kit is set up so that you will not have to go through such a long mental checklist every time you want to go skiing.

The key thing is to establish your kit and gear readiness so you can go skiing when the opportunity presents itself – early morning, at lunch break, coming home from work, or whenever. You can literally pull over at the side of the road and go for a ski. Perhaps a nearby open field has set up and would be great for crust cruising or maybe new snow has made that popular riverside trail magical for a short jaunt.

Where Else to Ski

If you are dedicated to a certain ski area, a season pass makes great sense for the quickest and least expensive way to more regularly enjoy the groomed trails. The more often you go to a ski area, the easier it will be to get out on the trails because of familiarity with the situation. You could also check XC ski area websites to find advance online discounts that might be available. I bookmark my local ski area website ski condition reports on my Smartphone and it is amazing how valuable this is if I want to quickly decide which area to visit on a given day. The areas post their conditions, the weather, special events and programs, and more.

Some states have ski area organizations that have developed a reciprocal pass program where you can use your season pass to visit different ski areas in the state. This may be helpful to seek the best ski conditions in your region. Additionally, about forty XC ski areas now employ snowmaking and that can guarantee snow cover at those areas (check a list of some of the ski areas with snowmaking).

Finding Others to Ski With

Jackson Ski Touring Center like many other ski areas has programs to bring skiers together

Jackson Ski Touring Center like many other ski areas has programs to bring skiers together

If you don’t like skiing alone you could develop a list of other skiers who can be spontaneous and ready to go. The call to ski may be a day or two in advance, or perhaps it can be a text on the prior evening to make arrangements to meet at a trail. Talk with other skiers and ski area employees to start your list of others. Maybe you can ask other skiers who you have met at the area or on the trail. Carpooling or ride sharing might help you to ski more often.

You also can participate in programs such as Jackson Ski Touring Center’s Friday Sliders group or join a ski club like the ones developed at the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid. You can send out a message to club members (or your list of other skiers). Keep in mind that in many cases, involving other skiers may make things more complex and not align with a spontaneous outing.

Many of us are fair-weather skiers looking for the best circumstances – but you may be surprised even if the snow conditions on a given day are not soft or have a cover of sleet, or are wet because of rain or warm temperatures. Experiencing different conditions can be fun to see how techniques and equipment are put to the different tests. The key point is, motivate yourself, make time, and get out there to XC ski!

Common Nordic Skiing Injuries

Warm up, ski safe, and avoid obstacles

Warm up, ski safe, and avoid obstacles

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 the 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 the 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 (not intended to sound like a list of possible side effects in a pharmaceutical ad) 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 getting in shape, warming up, and dealing with your injuries before going out on the trails and you can start your next season off right!

Who Needs XC Ski Lessons?

Ski lesson with CANSI certified ski instructor

Ski lesson with CANSI certified ski instructor

The vast majority of cross country (XC) skiers do not take XC ski lessons, but rather they start with friends or family, who are usually not trained to teach XC skiing. So, who needs XC ski lessons? Most of us do!

Starting with the basics, a XC ski instructor can help a skier choose clothing and equipment that is appropriate for weather and his or her skiing goals and abilities. Equipment selection including the ski flex, length of poles, ski boot type and fit can make a huge difference in a skier’s experience.

A ski instructor can gently guide any XC skier to better skills and match a skier's pace to his or her level of fitness and interest, keeping the skier from working too hard…and let’s face it, most people who do not XC ski perceive the sport as too much work. The idea of sliding on snow can be a challenge for some people. An instructor can show the proper way to balance, transfer weight from one ski to another, and how to use the poles. Learning to keep the body forward with appropriate ankle and knee bend can start a new skier with confidence. Maintaining control down hills is also key to enjoying XC skiing.

The first time a new skier approaches a hill, whether going up or down, can be a make-or-break experience. A lesson can help one learn simple techniques to travel up a hill with confidence. Going down a hill on XC ski equipment can be frightful to new and experienced skiers alike. Narrow trails, difficult snow conditions, rocks and trees are challenging to even an experienced XC skier. An instructor can make sure the initial down hill experience is a safe and comfortable one by starting on the right terrain and practicing skills and techniques. Such a lesson will prepare a new skier and build their confidence.

Can a Lesson Help Seasoned Skiers?

Alpine (downhill) skiers who are trying XC skiing for the first time will also greatly benefit by getting some XC ski instruction because the equipment and techniques varies between the two sports. Skiing uphill is a totally new experience for the alpine skier and going down hills on XC ski equipment, which is lightweight and has a free heel…and no big plastic ski boot, can be more than thrilling.

An experienced XC skier, who may need to improve on some aspects of their technique can also benefit from a ski lesson. Most XC ski control and efficiency problems involve incorrect body movements or timing issues and these problems will waste energy. Even constantly looking down at the skis will distort good body position while XC skiing.

Years of incorrect technique can instill the wrong muscle memory and this really requires a certified and experienced instructor to rectify. Video analysis can be a great benefit to seasoned XC skiers. A good ski instructor will not be critical but will direct the lesson to the skier’s goals such as improve glide, control, and feeling more confident on skis.

So many XC skiers use outdated equipment and instructors can be helpful to discuss newer or more appropriate products with them. There are so many derivations of XC skiing, that it is imperative to get informed advice to match what someone wants to get out of XC skiing, be it gliding on a groomed trail or mastering the glades in untracked powder or other ski conditions.

Finding a Qualified XC Ski Instructor

To find a qualified XC ski instructor visit or call a XC ski area. Discuss skiing goals with the instructor and find out if they have been certified by the Professional Ski Instructors organization. Certification involves training and passing a test to teach XC skiing. The instructor should be a “people person” easy to talk to, and offer positive feedback on a skier’s strong points and encouragement on how they can get even better skills. With enhanced skills and techniques, XC skiers can experience the fun aspect as well as enjoy the outdoors and fitness associated with the sport.

Thank you to Brad Noren, of who is a PSIA certified level 3 Alpine and Level 2 Nordic ski instructor for information in this article based on his experience teaching since 1972 in northern Michigan.


Cross Country Skier Trends from Winter 2016-17

XC skiing in the shadow of Mt. Washington at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center

XC skiing in the shadow of Mt. Washington at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center

The SIA/Physical Activity Council 2016-17 Participation Study  

The SIA Physical Activity Council 2016-17 Sports Participation Study published by Snowsports Industries America (SIA) gives a clear picture of the cross country ski population in the USA. In a nationwide survey conducted with more than 40,000 people it was projected that there were 5,059,000 cross country skiers in 2016-17 (last winter season). While this was higher than the recent years, the impact of weather makes year-to-year comparisons not trendable. When there is snow in populated areas, there is an increase in cross country skiers.

Other 2016-17 snow sport populations were:

alpine = 11,800,000; snowboard = 7,600,000; snowshoe = 3,700,000.
Male XC skiers outnumber female XC skiers 61% to 38%.

Male XC skiers outnumber female XC skiers 61% to 38%.

The gender of cross county skiers in 2016-17 according to the survey was 61-38 percent male-female as the percentage of female participation has declined over the last few years. Another way of looking at it is that the male participation has surged 24% but that would ignore the 9% decline in the number of female cross country skiers from the previous year at a time when the total number of cross country skiers increased by 9% above the previous year.

Other demographic information included that 41% of cross country skiers had a household income above $100,000 annually.

Cross participation in other forms of recreation showed that 51% of cross country skiers are into high impact/intensity training and 42.3% walk for fitness; 39.6% are cross trainers or use elliptical motion trainers (all sounds like indoor exercise) while 39.1% go bicycling on roads or paved surfaces. The study shows that 38.6% of cross country skiers enjoy bowling and 38.4% use the treadmill (again with the indoor fitness). Interestingly the study shows hiking as an activity done by 38.4% of cross country skiers (formerly one of the top cross participation activities) and does not show alpine skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing in the top eight cross recreational activities. Either many more of the cross country skiers became fitness junkies or something is inaccurate. Traditionally, about 40% of cross country skiers also alpine skied.

The newest information showed that there are 425,000 fat bikers and last year there were 7,000 fat bikes sold.

We're still awaiting info about the average number of days that cross country skiers participated but a few years ago it was 7.2 days and 24% of them participated 9 days or more.

Why People Try or Quit Cross Country Skiing

There are many reasons that people do not try XC skiing

There are many reasons that people do not try XC skiing

Having someone to go with was the most significant factor that encouraged participants to go cross country skiing. Other factors that are impediments to cross country skiers include being able to go cross country ski locally, getting a lesson, having new equipment, being in better health, having more vacation time, and fewer work commitments.

Researchers in the industry point to trends such as an aging population of skiers, increasing costs of participation, accessibility and transportation difficulties to mountain areas, the urbanization of the new participant base, a lack of snow culture in new North American immigrants, and the suggestion that Millennials are too obsessed with their phones to get out on skis. Oh, and have we mentioned climate change? The snow line may be moving north more quickly.

In 1988 there were reportedly nearly 5.8 million cross country skiers in the US corresponding to a good snow year and the development of waxless skis. Can more people overcome the listed obstacles to become cross country skiers? Thanks to Ryan Combs, SIA Director of Research for sharing the study findings with