Nordic Walking An Effective but Easy Exercise

Nordic Walking burns 40% more calories!

Nordic Walking burns 40% more calories!

Nordic walking is a fitness activity that combines walking with specially designed poles to engage the upper body muscles. Like cross country skiing, the poles are used to match each step a person takes and it’s an easy, inexpensive workout with remarkable benefits - according to a study by the Cooper Institute, Nordic walking burns up to 40% more calories compared to just plain walking.

It’s better than just walking because it provides an easier cardio workout by increasing the heart rate 5-17 beats per minute more than normal walking without increasing the perceived rate of exertion. It also provides an upper body workout that includes shoulders, arms, chest, and back muscles. And it’s a low impact exercise, so it’s easy on knees and joints.

A good pair of walking or running shoes, comfortable clothing, and Nordic walking poles will get anyone started.

People of ALL ages and ALL fitness levels can unlock the calorie burning and aerobic benefits of Nordic Walking. The winning combination of improved posture, unique 4-Wheel-Drive type action and the shock absorbing benefits of the poles help many individuals to walk comfortably - even those with balance issues, knee issues or new knees, hip issues or new hips, back issues (including those with rods in their back), weight issues, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's (PD), neuropathy, arthritis, bursitis, scoliosis, lumbar stenosis, fibromyalgia, post polio, osteoporosis, stroke recovery and other limitations to walking.

Nordic walking (or ski walking) is taking off and the Human Kinetics book entitled Nordic Walking for Total Fitness by Suzanne Nottingham and Alexandra Jurasin has got it covered. For those who are unfamiliar, Trekking (hiking with poles) and Nordic walking are two different activities that use very different poles and techniques. It may sound silly, but perhaps "walking is not just walking." The pole angle, weight, grip, and straps are different between the aforementioned modes of walking. The Nordic walking pole is designed to allow your hands to relax in order to target the larger wrapping muscles of the back. But using poles of any kind automatically stimulates your spine and all of the muscles around it, even with inefficient technique. When walking, the key postural muscles of the core and upper body are engaged.

There are Nordic walking technique progressions, fitness exercises, power training, and variations for balance, agility, and flexibility. In the aforementioned book, common technique errors are reviewed as well as uphill and downhill techniques, advanced cardio training, and drills for strength training and calorie burning.

The book also includes fitness assessments, sample workouts for varying levels of interests from first timer to cross training triathletes. There are also suggestions about customizing your program. Training program recommendations are offered for building distance, fluctuating daily intensity, and rest days. If this all sounds a bit like overkill, that's because it is, particularly if you are a recreational fitness enthusiast but you need read only as much of the book as you feel is relevant to your personal situation.

I've been a Nordic Walker for a few years and found many of the claimed attributes for the activity regarding posture and exercise to be true. I've always been in search of a way to decrease the amount of time spent exercising, so I was sold when I heard that using the poles increases caloric burning by 40 percent. Cross country skiers will find it easy to quickly master Nordic walking. As a bonus, after a summer of Nordic walking, I noticed a marked improvement in my cross country ski poling in terms of strength and timing. It seemed that I increased the amount of forward momentum that was attributable to poling and I was able to pole stronger and longer when skiing.

Nordic Walking provides an exercise foundation for anyone, ranging from those just looking for an activity to lose weight to health aficionados interested in taking it to higher levels of fitness.

Cross Country Ski Areas Celebrate Great Winter

Cross country ski season summary for winter 2016-17

Cross country ski season summary for winter 2016-17

Many Nordic ski areas across the nation had a great season despite the “Whiplash Winter,” which threw a few curveballs at ski area operators. Here’s a snapshot of the 2016-17 winter from cross country (XC) ski resorts far and wide:

 West

Tahoe Donner Cross Country Center in Truckee, CA had a fantastic winter season overall, including excellent snow conditions over Christmas and New Year’s. January alone was a record-breaking month for snowfall. The base area at Tahoe Donner Cross Country received 530” of snow this winter, which is significantly above the average of 450” per winter season. People were visiting just to see what the buzz was about. The season pass and day ticket sales were exceptionally high. They saw a lot of new folks taking lessons or trying XC skiing, taking advantage of the great conditions and they reported that fat biking has taken off in the past couple of years.

 Methow Trails in eastern WA was open 115 days with the season ending on April 2. They groomed over 16,000 miles and were up 10% in revenue for the season with the best ever season pass sales.  The Methow community keeps growing in winter visitation with skiers primarily coming from the Seattle area. They’re 4 hours away from Seattle but Seattleites enjoy going to the Methow for snow and sunshine!  There’s also good visitation from Canada as they offer Canadians the prices on par. Methow Trails is still very enthusiastic for the fat bike trend as they saw an increase in people trying fat biking this season.

At the Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop, WA retiring ski operator Don Portman reported they had a great winter season, which was cold with lots of great hard wax classic skiing. The groomers were thrilled since it was mostly easy snow to groom and no grinding ice. The Christmas holiday period was strong and business was good.

The rental equipment and lesson numbers were down slightly over last year, which was the best year ever. Fat biking continued to grow in the valley and there has been an expansion of fat bike trails away from the ski trails at a local state park. The lodge is also seeing growth in snowshoeing and even though the snowshoe rental fleet was increased this past season, they still almost ran out on a couple of busy weekends. There are some spectacular snowshoe trails and people were very happy using them. There was also an increased use and interest in skin based off track skis such as Altai Hoks (brand model of short wide waxless skis that are like snowshoes), and the new waxless track skis with attached skins.

 Mountains

The past XC ski season at Devil’s Thumb Ranch (DTR) in Tabernash, CO started the day before Thanksgiving and finished on April 9th with four and a half months of great snow.  The Stagecoach Classic, which is a point-to-point race attracted 450 racers from across the country and one of the season’s highlights was the Women's Ski and Spa in February attracting about 110 women, which gathered great reviews from the participants.

According to the resort manager, “There was an increase in skier traffic about 20% above the previous season and the DTR activity center was busier during the week. The factors explaining those trends includes the growing population of Colorado, retired baby boomers are active and tend to come during the week, the price of XC skiing is affordable for families, the state does a great job of maintaining the roads making a day trip from the Front Range accessible. The terrain at DTR is vast and varied with 80km of trails, attracting both beginners and experts (college racing teams come to train because the trails are groomed daily and the snow remains very good throughout most of the season with the cold temperatures in the Tabernash area at 9000 feet). The people who stay at the resort get a ski in-and-out experience.”

Winter in Sun Valley, Idaho

Winter in Sun Valley, Idaho

At Sun Valley Nordic Center, they topped the previous season with 112 days of operation. About a quarter of the visits were by snowshoers and 95% of the ski lessons were private. Nordic Director Ivana Radlova commented, “The snow seemed to be coming every day after the first appearance and the mountains of snow made for some great skiing, but also brought some challenges with grooming and visibility. There was a noticeable lack of sunshine this winter in Sun Valley and there were more people Nordic skiing or snowshoeing who would be ordinarily alpine skiing who came largely due to the weather – flat light, snow storms. One day the mountain had to close all together and the Nordic trails had a whole bunch of folks with helmets and goggles showing up for some skinny skiing.” There was some interest in fat biking at Sun Valley Nordic, but conditions were rarely perfect for them as the ski trails were often soft and the bikes would leave deep ruts, which annoyed the skiers.  

Central

Mariah Frye of Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI reported that December snow set the stage for a successful season, which was a bit above the annual average. She saw more new faces at the area such as retired baby boomers and people who exercise attributing to the US Ski Team success in cross country skiing and attractive rates at the area. The season pass is only $38.00 at Cross Country Ski Headquarters and they did great with rentals and selling retail ski packages.

 Trends at the area include the popularity of skin technology on ski bases and events that engage more people combining cross country skiing and snowshoeing with yoga, live music, and food events.

Maplelag Resort in Callaway, MN commented that early snow was great for them to host a record number of high school ski team attendees at their early season ski camps and that snow lasted through the warm weather in February. Fat biking has taken off and Maplelag is grooming some specific trails for fat bikers. The season was a bit above the average and owner Jay Richards stated, “People have expressed their appreciation for our family-owned operation and made-from-scratch home cooked food service.”

 East

At Jackson XC in NH spokesperson Deb Deschenes stated, “What a great season it was!” Mother Nature blessed us with over 110 inches of snow this past season providing us with an amazing platform for some of the best Nordic skiing in years! We enjoyed over 112 skier days this season with our skier visits up and ski school held strong with numbers beating the past 3 years. First time skier visits were up, vacation weeks were boasting with families young and old, all enjoying fresh powder week after week! The spring skiing season extended into mid-April.  Jackson XC also added 3 new trails for three miles of fantastic new terrain, held 2 ribbon cutting ceremonies, installed new bridges, and entered into an agreement for permanent easements!”

Great Glen in the shadow of Mt. Washington

Great Glen in the shadow of Mt. Washington

 At Great Glen Outdoor Outdoor Trails Center they “had a very solid season all in all.  Once winter got going it was quite good with lots of ups and downs in temperature and snow, but constantly good skiing throughout.  Compared to the last 3 or 4 MLK weekends, this was one of our best ever and our demo day on MLK Saturday was huge. Day passes were up slightly, season passes up significantly, SnowCoach up huge, tubing up significantly.  Snowshoeing continues to grow along with snowshoe rentals. Retail, oddly, was flat probably because the snow didn’t start until after Christmas.”

The Woodstock Inn Resort in central Vermont reported an “outstanding season with 109 operating days!  A little thin at times, but generally great skiing throughout the winter. There was great skiing and weather both Christmas week and February break week, which were major contributors to a successful season.  Retail shop sales and lessons were also very strong this winter. “

 At Lapland Lake in NY, “Snowfall was 104” compared to an average of 116” and total ski days were 110 compared to an average of 109.    The weather challenged us repeatedly with unusually warm and rainy conditions.  Snow patterns in nearby metro areas, which help motivate our customers to turn out and ski, were not great. 

 “Snow came in early December giving people the lead time and confidence to plan visits over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday and we had a great holiday season.   Overall winter weather was a bit on the warm side and conditions became a bit challenging as we moved into March and during those weeks we chose to focus on quality over quantity closing parts of our trail system.  Then the 20-inch storm on March 14th brought us back to almost 100% operation and gave us outstanding conditions until our last day of operation on April 3rd. 

Compared to 2015-16 we saw a dramatic improvement in ski lessons and ski equipment sales.  Ski lesson volume more than doubled from the previous year. This tells us that new people continue to discover the sport, and that experienced skiers are committed to continuing and often expanding their personal range of XC ski activities. 

In the Lake Placid, NY area reports from the Olympic Sports Complex showed an incredible increase of skier days that was 30% above the average year and a great increase in revenue per skier while being open for 139 operational days. They’ve categorized experiences for guests with a “Discover” program for cross country skiing and biathlon, guided tours for activities at Josie’s Cabin a short distance destination along the trails, weekly baby boomer camaraderie programs, and invigorating ski clubs in nearby towns. The Complex is a former Olympic site with a stadium and it is now experimenting with the Snow Factory that can produce machine-made snow at temperatures up to 60 degrees. They plan is to start making snow next September so a ski loop can be open in October for team training programs.

Taking aim at the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid

Taking aim at the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid

In the southeast region at Whitegrass in WV there was record breaking interest and participation in their Winter Discovery snowshoe walks that touched on different natural history subjects.

Long time XC ski guru Chip Chase said, “We experienced one of our busiest ski days ever in early February when all the perfect conditions converged and one of the busiest Sundays ever in March when loyal customers flooded the trails in order to support our efforts. Season passers, mostly from out of town, were stronger than ever as skiers are more than willing to support us. Our rental and sales fleet have never been better, trails and grooming the best it’s ever been, and basically all we need is SNOW! We lost every holiday to rain or no snow except New Year’s Day, yet a few other busy weekends took us over the top to make it financially.” Some of the biggest trends at Whitegrass include wider skis and more interest in backcountry skiing, and a younger crowd.

While much of the success is related to getting snow, the ski areas are developing programs and efforts to take advantage of winter to make it happen and withstand the ups and downs of the climate.

Mt. Washington Auto Road Opening

Something different to do - drive the Mt. Washington Auto Road to the top of the world

Something different to do - drive the Mt. Washington Auto Road to the top of the world

The Mt. Washington Auto Road completed in 1861 began its 156th season on Saturday, May 20 for guests to drive their own vehicles to the summit at 6,288 feet. 

The road is open and operating hours will become 7:30 AM - 6:00 PM daily starting on June 18, weather permitting. The 7.6 mile drive to the summit passes through four unique ecological zones and provides stunning vistas of the northern Presidential Mountains and Great Gulf Wilderness offering a true taste of the Mount Washington experience!

The road to the top of the Mount Washington Auto Road was still being cleared during the month of May and it was projected to be fully open during the month or by Memorial Day.  Check the website for details and special programs at http://www.mtwashingtonautoroad.com/

Guided Tours offer a unique opportunity to learn the true nature and history of Mount Washington and the Auto Road. Driven by an accomplished and dedicated tour guide, your "stage driver" will offer stories, anecdotes, legends, history and insight into the ecological wonder of Mount Washington as well as point out interesting features and scenic opportunities from the base to the 6,288-foot summit. Enjoy walks, hikes, alpine flowers, ecological zones, history, or simply extended time on the summit - these are all options that are available on a 3-Hour Adventure Tour and discounts are available if booked online.

Bicknell’s Thrush Guided Tour

The Bicknell’s Thrush is an extremely rare bird species with very limited breeding grounds. It is the most secretive of the breeding thrushes in North America and it is the only bird whose breeding is restricted to the Northeastern part of the continent. They usually breed at higher elevations, normally nesting above 3,000 ft. The unique and harsh climate is just what the birds prefer due to the combination of low vegetation and abundant moisture. The Mt. Washington Auto Road offers you a rare opportunity to view these obscure birds on a guided tour.

The Bicknell’s Thrush Guided Tours are scheduled for selected mornings in May (5/28) and June (6/3, 6, 8, 16) leaving early in the morning (6:00 AM) before the Mt. Washington Auto Road opens to the general public to insure there is as little additional noise or disturbance as possible. Our success rate at hearing and seeing this elusive thrush is quite good, but with the species in decline due to wintering habitat losses, there can be no guarantee of sightings. Tours are $50 for about 2 hours and advanced reservations are required.

Adaptive Mountain Bike Program in Vermont

Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports mountain biking program

Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports mountain biking program

The Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports organization's new Adaptive Mountain Bike Program, which is one of the first in New England offers special dates for outings in various location and limited adaptive mountain bikes to use. All abilities are welcome and participants may bring their own equipment as well.

The program is scheduled at multiple locations with outings and events planned for all level mountain bikers who have their own equipment. In addition, four adaptive mountain bikes are available for participants on a first-come, reservations-based system.

These highly adjustable bikes are ideal for individuals with spinal cord injuries, amputations or limb differences, or balance and motor skill disabilities. Vermont Adaptive purchased the bikes last summer with funding from the US Dept. of Veterans Affairs grant and Phil Black, owner of Lookout Tavern who donated monies for Vermont Adaptive to purchase a trailer for hauling the bikes to various locations statewide.

"Participants gain a sense of accomplishment when reaching the top of the mountain and that is great to see," said Kelly Walsh, Vermont Adaptive program coordinator, who is responsible for Vermont Adaptive's veterans programs.

For 2017, the US Dept of Veterans Affairs again awarded Vermont Adaptive grant monies to help purchase 10 two-wheeled mountain bikes and 10 bicycles for use on recreation paths. These bikes will be added to the existing fleet, allowing participants who don't need to use an adaptive bike to get outside, exercise and socialize with other veterans, to enjoy Vermont alongside their peers with physical disabilities.

The custom hand cycles are crafted specifically for rocky terrain with unique hand cycles that are designed for adaptive riders to cruise down the trails smoothly.

There is open enrollment for free to the mountain bike program this summer. Although Vermont Adaptive will have a limited number of adaptive mountain bikes for use, all adaptive riders are encouraged to bring their own bikes and participate in any of the summer events. Reservations are required for programming and equipment use.

The schedule will kick off with the Summer Solstice Bike Ride on June 21 at Blueberry Lake in Warren, VT followed by the Mountain Bike "Snowshed Session" on June 24 at Killington Resort. Other events include the Green Mountain Trails Bike Ride is July 9 in Pittsfield, the Blueberry Lake Bike Ride on July 9 in Warren, the Vermont Mountain Bike Association Festival on July 21-23 in Warren, the Killington Bike Ride on July 29 and the Pine Hill Park Bike Ride on August 13 in Rutland. This program is limited to Vermont but you can look for similar programs in other regions across the country by contacting organizations that resemble Vermont Adaptive.

This year's Killington Resort Adaptive Event for Independent Riders will also have bike demos "encouraging adaptive awareness for proper use of hand cycles," said Olivia Joseph, Vermont Adaptive program coordinator and organizer of the adaptive mountain bike program.

The program is seeking volunteers who have an interest in mountain biking and for further info, contact Olivia Joseph at north@vermontadaptive.org.

 

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 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!

Cross Country Ski Areas Fight the Whiplash Winter

Quarry Rec Area machine-made snow keeps skiers on the trails during meltdowns

Quarry Rec Area machine-made snow keeps skiers on the trails during meltdowns

Cross country ski areas are normally very susceptible to the weather. This winter ski areas and skiers “endured” a few huge snowstorms, days of nearly 70 degrees, meltdowns, freeze ups, rain deluges and floods, and more with what has been dubbed the “Whiplash Winter.” The whiplash effect refers to the weather changing in short periods from unseasonably warm to freezing cold with major snowstorms followed by unseasonably warm weather, and repeat from late November through early April.

 Cross country (XC) ski areas combated the Whiplash Winter across the nation with grooming and/or snowmaking and many ended up on top. And they kept skiers and snowshoers informed about the conditions.

Thanks to machine-made snow, Gunstock Mountain in NH was able to stay open but the natural snow situation was feast or famine. It was a weird year for fatbikes because conditions were either too soft (too warm, or too much fresh snow)… or too icy for them. Gunstock Nordic Director Kale Poland stated, “We had to close during one week and then Stella (big Nor’Easter snowstorm) saved the day. It’s just about adapting to whatever gets thrown at us! Thanks to our ability to have direct contact with our customers with our Facebook page, we were able to effectively get the word out.” 

Further north at Waterville Valley’s Adventure Center, Leah Wilson commented that “some cold weekends were a problem but there’s been a ton of snow. After the storm, we had 25-35 trees down on the trails, which took two days to clear. It was either too soft or too icy for much fat biking. She kept skiers aware of the situation with her daily posts on the Manager’s Blog.”

Quarry Road Rec Area in Maine reported “Despite a warm, dry spell in early December, Quarry Road got off to a good start, opening December 9 on machine-made snow and we haven't looked back since. Even with a couple warm spells and rain events, we've managed to keep the trails open every day. Major dumps in late December, February, and March really helped, and we've continued to have good coverage and lot of skier traffic. We're planning to stay open through at least the first weekend in April, and will be hosting a skate race on April Fools Day (no joke!).”

The Craftsbury Outdoor Center in VT also has snowmaking to produce piles of snow that are hauled to the trails and they stated “We did pretty much exactly the same thing as ever: opened in November and have been skiing since.”

Sleepy Hollow in VT warmed up so much in February that their machine-made snowpile melted but they remained opened through the end of March. The late snowstorm provided an extra great weekend that was super busy with pent up skiers.

At the Mountain Top Resort in central VT, Nordic ski manager Roger Hill said “the conditions were good from mid December through the middle of the President's week vacation.  We had the full 60 km of trails because melts, freeze-ups, and rain are not an issue as long as there is sufficient base thanks to the state-of-the-art groomer used at Mountain Top where the approach is that “if we can't groom it we don't open it.“.

Snowmaking at Mountain Top was used to fill the lull between President's week and the March storm.  “We wouldn’t say it ‘saved the day’ but it definitely made for an improvement on what the natural snowfall offered (we make snow for our 2 km loop only). Using Mountain Top’s website, social media, and sites such as Ski Vermont, Snocountry.com, and media outlets such as XCSkiResorts.com, people seem prepared.”

Tahoe Donner Adventure Center buried in one snowstorm

Tahoe Donner Adventure Center buried in one snowstorm

Tahoe Donner in Truckee, CA said they had the most snow in the last 40 years. There were rain events and power outages and the area responded to big snowstorm totals by grooming a shorter 15 km loop near the lodge. There was flooding and many downed trees on the trails. While there were 10 days when they could not open, they’re only 1% below last year’s skier visitation with spring skiing still to go.

Garnet Hill Lodge in North River, NY was covered with a decent base all winter but the warm ups and freezes were challenging. They acquired a new groomer so they tilled the trails to break up the ice and created reasonable skiing. When there was too much snow or ice, they kept their core 2.5 km trail aptly named “Old Faithful” maintained and they prioritized grooming on their most popular trails. They use their website webcam and Facebook to keep skiers aware of the conditions at Garnet Hill.

Dan Baumann of Golden Eagle Lodge in Grand Marais, MN who has been hosting family vacations in the wilderness for 40 years said it was weird weather but they dealt with it by grooming. With a February warm spell and heavy rain followed by 20 below-zero temperatures the trails remained snow covered but it was the most trail tilling that was done in the last six years.

At Breckenridge Nordic Center in Colorado they use machines to make snow for storage but they didn’t need it this year since they have had the largest snow amount in 125 years! The temperatures were warmer in Colorado this winter, but there was so much snow that there’ll be backcountry skiing into May with the Center’s Snowcat Adventure interpretive tours.

They saw older skiers, who are active people now seeing XC skiing as cool, and it’s less costly and less crowded than recreational alternatives. There was also a great increase in snowshoeing at the area.

Trail sign buried at Bear Valley in 17 foot snowstorm!

Trail sign buried at Bear Valley in 17 foot snowstorm!

At Bear Valley in Alpine, CA owner Paul Petersen said “We had great holidays early in the season but a 10 inch rain event was then followed by 17 feet of snow, followed by a 13 inch rain event. “We overworked our shoveling muscles as this season’s 400 inches of snow required lots of physical work and it was tough on the staff.” But Bear Valley kept the trails open despite some creek crossings that presented flooding challenges. “Overall, the season delivered a home run, but not a grand slam. Most of the storms were during the week leaving great weekend days.” This sums up the outlook by XC ski area operators about the Whiplash Winter of 2017.

Are Dogs Welcome on the Ski Trails?

Dogs can be on a leash or off a leash on the ski trail

Dogs can be on a leash or off a leash on the ski trail

This winter I was menaced by a dog on the trails at Eastman Cross Country Ski Center, which is a golf course with cross country (XC) ski trails in N.H. with homes along the trails. That dog was nipping at my heels sprinting behind me for more than 150 yards and barking with bad intentions.

Then I noticed a story in the Grand Junction Sentinel about dogs on trails in Colorado; XC ski trails that are groomed by the Grand Mesa Nordic Council on U.S. Forest Service land. A proposal to formally designate some of these trails as dog-free (or trails that allow dogs) has divided the community of trail users.

The Council wants some of the trails labeled with a “no dogs” rule and enforced to formalize the unofficial law. The local ranger stated that the U.S. Forest Service’s view is that trail users are required to have their dogs leashed at trail heads and on the trails, and dogs must be under control of their owners, but that can be voice control.

There was a dog biting incident on the Grand Mesa trails in February 2016. The other concerns are with waste, safety, and trail maintenance. Dogs can be an obstacle on the trail that causes skiers to lose control on fast downhills. Some trail users have commented about the amount of dog feces on trails and dogs behavior jumping on skiers and being aggressive.

Those who want to continue bringing their dogs to the trails feel they have a right to do so and they believe the area is open for public use including pets. Signs banning dogs have been installed illegally and some skiers were using intimidation tactics to discourage people from bringing their dogs on certain trails. While some skiers want one trail dedicated as dog-free there are other skiers who favor restricting dogs from all the trails.

The Nordic Council claims that it annually spends nearly $80,000 to groom the trail network, but the Council does not have the legal power to restrict use because it is pubic land. The Forest Service is taking comments to determine if a formal environmental analysis is needed, which will take months and not guarantee any action.

According to the Cross Country Ski Areas Association there are more than 60 XC ski areas in the organization that allow dogs on some trails (there are about 300 XC ski areas in North America and many more parks with trails). Some XC areas have designated specific trails for the dogs, others welcome dogs on all the trails, and some invite the skiers with dogs to use the snowshoe trails. Some XC ski areas require the dog to be tethered to the skier and it is suggested that dog owners check with the XC ski area for their specific dog trail policy. The association’s suggestions for taking your dog on ski trails include:

Indication that dogs are welcome

Indication that dogs are welcome

  • Keep your dog under control at all times.
  • Be particularly aware of your dog at the parking lot and trail head, where you’ll encounter skiers without dogs.
  • Abide by all municipal animal control ordinances and city, state/province, and federal regulations.
  • Have proof of current rabies vaccination.
  • Be courteous to other skiers and snowshoers.
  • Bag and remove any feces.
  • Restrain dogs before and after skiing, either by attaching to leads, tying up, or by leaving them in your vehicle. Keep dogs within three feet of you or your vehicle.

Where are the XC Skiers in the Spring?

Light weight outing on a blue sky day. Cath Howard at Royal Gorge

Light weight outing on a blue sky day. Cath Howard at Royal Gorge

As the cross country (XC) ski season winds down most XC ski areas close because of lack of skiers rather than lack of snow on the trails. The sun comes out, the temperature rises, and the XC skiers quit. Why?

Are we infected with winter fatigue? Is the lure of spring time recreation too strong to ignore?

XCSkiResorts.com spoke with some ski area operators around the nation to get their take on spring skiing. Many areas host springtime season pass holder parties and offer big discounts for purchasers of season passes for next year. Lapland Lake in Northville, NY commented that their trails are compacted on a daily basis so the snow does not disappear like in the city or open areas in suburbia. Lapland's Kathy Zahray encourages skiers and snowshoers to get out and enjoy this weather and these great spring conditions!"

Zahray admits that “the reality is that in the spring it costs more for grooming and staffing than the amount of income earned from the diminishing number of skiing patrons, however this is one of the most fun times of the year to enjoy the outdoors. The milder temperatures and discounted rates are terrific for everyone and it is fun to ski in shorts and t-shirts." Lapland Lake is offering all adult and senior day use passes at $15, and all kids aged 17 and under ski free with a paid adult and there are special lodging prices.

Carters XC Ski Centers  in Bethel and Orford, ME have been very busy this spring renting cabins and selling equipment. Carter’s hosted the Burger, Beer & Bike Festival for their patrons to try fat bikes and enjoy the area.

In Minnesota at Maplelag Resort, proprietor Jay Richards concurs "that people want to get on the snow early but get tired of winter and ready for warm spring days." He feels that "skiers in the Midwest are conditioned to colder and drier snow compared to skiers in other regions who are more accustomed to a wider variety of snow conditions."

At Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI they run spring events on machine-made snow such as the Hawaiian Barbecue where they have locally raised pork hocks, along with island style veggies and of course fresh grilled pineapple. Proprietor Lynne Frye invites everyone to celebrate all that is great about spring: long, sunny days of great cross country skiing in Michigan!

Skier Brenda Winkler, who is a regular at Izaak Walton Inn  said, “There is nothing like skiing on Piston Bully groomed trails at Izaak Walton Inn. I skied yesterday and then enjoyed the best Buffalo burger in the restaurant. Izaak Walton Inn has had great grooming all season and there is a lot of winter left at the Inn!” And they have great spring specials for stays starting at $99 per night.

The Breckenridge Nordic Center  in CO has skiers who are enjoying the patio and lounging around with a glass of beer or wine. They’ve held some well-attended fundraising events this spring and expect to remain open through the second weekend of April. Owner Matt Dayton said “We’re having really warm days but own snow holds up very well.”

The folks at Methow Trails in Winthrop, WA stated, “This season has been another fantastic snow year!   We have no shortage of snow but people stop skiing after Presidents Day weekend which is really too bad because we often find the best skiing of the season comes in the spring. The trails are well packed, and the days are lighter and warmer making it much more comfortable to ski. We’re seeing that in the Methow right now there’s some of the best ski conditions we’ve had all year!  Photo: Top photo from NY Cross Country Ski Areas Assoc.; Groomed trail with blue skies at Byrncliff Resort & Conference Center

 

Art Along the Trails Gallery at Jackson Ski Touring Center

XCSKiResorts.com Editor lying around at the Art Along the Trails exhibit

XCSKiResorts.com Editor lying around at the Art Along the Trails exhibit

Jackson Ski Touring Center in NH featured two local abstract painters, in a display of art with nature on a snowy Saturday in February. Instead of a white walled gallery, in its place were walls made from snow, hemlocks, and birches, all places for paintings to hang from...and the beneficiaries were on snowshoes and cross country skis.

During the four hours for viewing, hundreds of cross country skiers and snowshoers were instilled with the energy of culture experiencing the avant garde exhibit called “Art Along the Trails” in Jackson with more than two dozen paintings installed on tree trunks and limbs. Prices of the different sized paintings (some as big as three-by-four feet) ranged from $125 to $2,900. The exhibit, which included pieces with titles such as “Illuminated Icefalls” and “Cosmic Wash” was a novel idea.

The artists hoped to develop a new language by using radically different color palettes to represent local places, landmarks, and the weather of New England. Many of the canvasses were non-representational, measuring four feet by three feet with high contrast colors to express abstract landscapes in the area. The artists believed that the snowy cross country ski trails were the perfect place to host their work.    

The painting duo, Rebecca Klementovich and Kristen Pobatschnig from Conway, NH refer to themselves as the "Femme Fatales of the North" and they are working to bring more attention to female painters in northern NH, especially abstract artists. Klementovich commented, “We hauled 25 pieces on a sled to set up the show starting at 8 AM and it was only seven degrees. It was worth it watching the kids seeing abstract art in what was probably their first experience with abstract art and hoping that the introduction to it would impact them throughout their lives.”

Abstract art displayed along the trail

Abstract art displayed along the trail

Klementovich who sells most of her work in galleries located in Boston and southern New England stated that “only about 3% of sales of abstract art is by women and there is very little recognition of women abstract artists in northern New England, so we wanted to make a statement.” For more info about her art click www.klementovich.com

"The raw power of the landscape in northern New Hampshire is an extraordinary source of inspiration," said Pobatschnig. And the art scene in Jackson, which is emerging as a small gem in rural New England with four galleries and one museum seemed like the perfect place to exhibit the inspiration.

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

 

Kids Programs This Winter

Kids on cross country skis or snowshoes? It is not only about child obesity, nature deficit disorder, and better brain function – it's about fun. What can the kids do after school or on the weekends? Have you set your plans for the school breaks this coming winter? The winter can be snowy yet mild and great for a weekly program or a family winter vacation with plenty of cross-country (xc) skiing and snowshoeing, so gather up the kids and head to the hills. There are xc ski resorts that are exceedingly kid-friendly with fun activities to enjoy on the snow. And xc skiing and snowshoeing not only delivers great times for kids, they create memories they'll have for a lifetime.

We know about the calorie-burning effectiveness of xc skiing and snowshoeing. We understand that kids should get outdoors more often. And according to Dr. Majid Fotuhi, chairman of the Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Fitness in Baltimore, studies support the idea that exercise can improve learning efficiency for kids. In short, exercise and better fitness are associated with better brain function. Here are some samples of the unique xc ski and snowshoe programming at xc ski areas this winter:

Snowshoeing Dad with kids at Smuggler's Notch Resort

Snowshoeing Dad with kids at Smuggler's Notch Resort

Smuggler's Notch Resort in VT is known for family programming. The one and a half hour XC ski lesson for kids happens in a special terrain park that has snowy roller bumps and other features for kids to learn balance and increase confidence while having fun on skis. Snowshoe programs at Smuggler's include the Cider Walk and the Sugar on Snow Trek.

Jackson Ski Touring nestled in the Jackson Village in the NH's White Mountains has a free, supervised 90-minute ski tour of their wooded trails every Sunday through March 5, 2017 (except Feb. 19). The tours are led by a youth program director in the local school district and her husband, who is a ski patroller and Wilderness First Responder. The Youth Nordic Program tours are open to kids ages 11-17 who are at least intermediate to advanced level XC skiers. The program is 10 AM- Noon, on wooded excursions with a maximum group of 10 focusing on fun, with stops along the way to watch birdlife, study animal tracks, and ice crystals in the streams.

The Snow School program has snowshoeing for about 30,000 kids annually in more than 60 locations in 16 states across the nation. Some of these programs include games, ecology, wildlife tracking, outdoor skills and more. Go to the Winter Wildlands Web site or Facebook page for a list of Snow School locations.

At Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI the Junior Muffin Races are held on March 19, 2017 for kids in three age groups (6 and under, 7-9, and 10-12) with free registration, trophies for all participants, and lunch included. The short race distances are age appropriate for each group.

Breckenridge Nordic Center in CO has one of the best equipment exchange programs for kids whereby kids can trade in their old equipment for similar or upgraded equipment or gear in a different category.

Methow Trails in Winthrop, WA has three StorySki trails that feature 1 km loops with illustrated story book pages on large panels displayed along select trails for kids to read as they ski or snowshoe. There are also two interactive “Wildside” signs for older kids along the trails. And there are no trail fees for kids under the age of 17!

Tahoe Donner Cross Country Center in Truckee, CA has three kids programs between January and March for different age groups. An 8-week After School program is for kindergarten-grade 5.  Third to fifth graders have a Junior Racer program while second to eighth graders can learn how to race and shoot a rifle in the Junior Biathlon program.

A number of states conduct statewide programs to encourage kids to get outdoors in the winter. The Ski New Hampshire "4th and 5th Grade Passport" offers trail passes for one visit at the state's XC ski resorts. The Michigan Snowsports Industries has the "Cold is Cool Passport," which requires that an adult paying full price must accompany the kids and there is a $15 cost associated with the passport for XC skiing. The WinterKids organization in Maine also has a variety of programs for thousands of kids each winter.

Kids in the Reindeer Rally at Lapland Lake Vacation Center in NY

Kids in the Reindeer Rally at Lapland Lake Vacation Center in NY

Lapland Lake in Northville, NY has the Reindeer Rally season-long program for kids supervised by skilled, kid-friendly, incredibly entertaining PSIA-certified instructors. The program, which is for kids aged 5 – 11 runs 90 minutes on weekends and holiday weeks. The "on-ski" games include Toilet Bowl Tag, Limbo, Spider (flag tag), Soccer on Snow, Relay Slalom, Caterpillar Relay, Sharks & Minnows, Scavenger Hunt, Elephant Hunt & more!

Great Glen Outdoor Trails Center in Gorham, NH has the Kids Ski Fest on Sunday, Feb 19 with games on the snow, relays and a themed ski tour. The Trail Tracker program is free everyday scavenger hunt at Great Glen, 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.

These winter programs feature ways for kids to learn balance and increase confidence while having fun on skis or snowshoes. And they're committed to helping kids develop lifelong habits of health, education, and physical fitness through participation in outdoor winter activities…and as the kids can attest they are also just plain fun. Photos: Lapland Lake Vacation Center; Snowshoe Dad & Kids by Smuggler's Notch Resort.

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. Skiers 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.