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The snow is starting to fall and as we get ready to ski, most ski areas are focused on making improvements before the ski season begins. Nordic ski area operators are still busy enhancing their ski areas and here's a snapshot of what's new at many cross country ski areas.
With $500,000 of capital improvement projects mobilized, Royal Gorge in the Lake Tahoe, CA region has linked trails to accommodations at The Lodge at Sugar Bowl, added a new fleet of grooming machines, enhanced wayfinding signage across the resort, and developed a new website. The Tahoe Donner Cross Country Center in Truckee, CA will open its new state-of-the-art Alder Creek Adventure Center bringing substantial improvements to the operation and energy efficiencies while protecting natural resources.
Canmore Nordic Centre in Alberta, Canada reported construction of a new warming hut and a new fat bike single track. Jackson Ski Touring in NH has developed a new trailhead to give additional access to parts of its trail network and it will be hosting the NENSA Women's Day in January and a backcountry program with Wildcat Mountain in February. Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton, VT acquired a new groomer, improved trail signage, and added trails specifically for snowshoers, fat bikers, and skiers/snowshoers with dogs.
The Olympic Sports Complex in the Lake Placid, NY area has done a lot of trail widening and culvert replacement making their flat trails more skiable. They added some new easy trail loops and refurbished a building along the trail called Josie's Cabin into a destination for people to ski to, with fire pits, snacks and beverages. Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI, which celebrated being named a cross country ski mecca by Outside Magazine, has done work on its trails to improve ski conditions and grooming results and hosts a new "Ski the Beer Trail" event in February with a BBQ and craft beer tasting.
Vermont's Craftsbury Outdoor Center is building six new net-zero cottages that are run on the most efficient energy. Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center in Gorham, NH invested in a wood pellet boiler, which will provide substantially more efficient heat in the lodge and they're hosting guided snowshoe tours on Saturdays. On the flipside of Mt. Washington at Bretton Woods Nordic, they're offering new Sunday performance clinics, Wednesday workouts, and Saturday moonlight rambles.
The Weston Ski Track in MA will be run by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, which has invested in enhanced snowmaking abilities and a new grooming machine. Crystal Lake Ski Center in PA has installed large lakeview windows in its dining area and will offer the new Wild Wednesday package, which includes a guided ski tour, tips, and a catered lunch.
Check your local or favorite cross country ski area to hear about the improvements and get psyched for the coming season. Click for a brief preview in what's new in XC ski products. Photo of skiers at Royal Gorge Ski Resort by Cath Howard.
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.
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 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 11-15, 2016) 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.
"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 yoga programs, film programs, and dance 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. Upper Photo: Skiers at Cross Country Ski Headquarters; Lower Photo: 61-year old editor of XCSkiResorts.com with Mt. Washington in the background.
This past summer the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) announced plans to take over the ski operations at the state-owned Leo J. Martin Golf Course formerly known as Weston Ski Track outside of Boston, MA. Last winter, the cross country (XC) ski operation at the Leo J. Martin Golf Course, which has been under the management of the Weston Ski Track for about 40 years, enjoyed another typical and successful ski season with some 42,000 paid skier visits. This represents a ski area with XC ski-related business among the top five in the country!
A nonprofit advocacy group known as the Friends of Leo J. Martin Skiing got involved and proposed to run the ski business, which includes ticket sales, trail grooming, rentals, lessons, programming, and snowmaking. The state DCR listened to the Friends group's proposal and decided to stick with its own plan. In fact, the DCR expressed its intention to "improve and enhance" the skiing operation. As explained by DCR spokesman, Kevin O'Shea they are "committed to put in the necessary resources."
The DCR decided to acquire a new grooming machine and upgrade the snowmaking equipment. These can indeed be considered "necessary resources" and it is anticipated that the operation will be open for business in early December. The DCR also decided that the the former Weston Ski Track managers would run the ski area rentals, lessons and retail operation.
Some veteran skiers with the Friends group are concerned about the agency's ability to manage the ski business but the existing snowmakers will likely be staying on and the pumping equipment for snowmaking was purchased from the former area managers. In fact, it is known that the former Weston Ski Track managers have submitted a bid to run the rental and lesson services.
One of the longtime patrons at the ski area commented in a Boston Globe article that "The former management company spent 40 years developing the course into a top Nordic skiing facility and figuring out the best practices and strategies to make snow and maintain the track cannot be learned over one winter." O'Shea commented that "the DCR wants to assure a quality operation that will use year-round staff with the golf course operations to support the skier visitors."
The Weston Ski Track has done much to promote cross country skiing in the Boston area and as a metropolitan-based feeder for New England and beyond. It has been a training base for local high school and college ski teams and was one of the first XC ski areas to provide snowmaking to guarantee a long ski season and regular events to spread the gospel about cross country skiing. The metropolitan location of the Leo J. Martin Golf Course makes it a XC ski area that introduces and brings XC skiing recreation to a very large population and that makes it significant for the XC ski world.
New at this year's Boston Ski Show is the SIA Nordic Village with "The Biathlon Experience" including actual laser rifle and target and daily competitions, plus introductory tryouts of cross country skiing and snowshoeing using real equipment on Astro Turf track. The Nordic Village is especially popular with youngsters ready for fun new experiences on snow.
For the first time at Boston Ski Show, cross country ski and snowshoe gear, clothing and accessories featured and on sale at the new Nordic Specialty Shop at the Nordic Village inside the Expo hall, hosted by Great Glen Outfitters, Gorham, NH. Check out the Nordic ski products and get properly outfitted for the coming winter, including great active wear and boots. Enjoy winter by being properly dressed for it.
For years, the major metropolitan-based ski shows have attempted to include cross country skiing, but the overwhelming majority of show attendees are oriented to alpine skiing or snowboarding so show producers have a limited focus on cross country skiing. The shows feature radio stations simulcasts, fashion shows, and exhibits with ski areas, ski clubs, tour operators (organize trips to ski resorts), lodging facilities, snow sports products such as ski gear, scarves, and electronic massagers, and much more.
The biggest and most successful annual exhibit show for cross country skiing/outdoors called the Outdoor Adventure Expo has been held for many years in Minneapolis, MN conducted by and at the location of retailer Midwest Mountaineering (held behind the store on Cedar Street, Mnpls on Nov 20-22). This show features many seminars and presentations on the outdoors as well as regional exhibits and a major sale.
The Boston Ski Show was successfully held earlier in November but The Outdoor Adventure Expo in Minneapolis is upcoming and has free admission; click here for Midwest Mountaineering info and directions.
Tahoe Donner in Truckee, CA is slated to open its brand new state-of-the-art facility known as the Alder Creek Adventure Center for operation this winter. The building will serve as the base area for Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Area in the winter months and Tahoe Donner Equestrian
Center and Tahoe Donner Bikeworks in the spring and summer months. The cross country ski facilities include more than 100 kilometers of groomed trails and five huts along the trail system.
The Alder Creek Adventure Center brings improvement to the operation and energy efficiencies while protecting natural resources and it is designed to meet the growing needs of the community. The facilities' benefits include energy efficient and environmentally-conscious design that adheres to environmental regulations by governing agencies and an architectural vision that contributes to this mountain community.
The center has a new multi-purpose room with large windows for grand views of Hawks Peak and it provides improved utilization by school teams, youth groups and additional educational programs. The rental facility will offer a more comfortable and efficient experience for renters, with state-of-the-art racking systems and boot dryers.
There's an upgraded season pass/member locker room and changing areas with optional seasonal ski locker rentals and a larger public wax room and expanded ski tuning services. The parking lot capacity has been increased and designed to protect adjacent wetlands. There is also an expanded dining area, bar, and new kitchen with improved food varieties to include nutritious options and beverage service. Outdoors there's a grand terrace with fire pits and outdoor seating to create a memorable start and finish to a day of winter or summer activities.
A grand opening date will be announced in the near future. Located only 15 minutes from Lake Tahoe in Truckee, California, Tahoe Donner operates a wide variety of recreational facilities – some of which are for members only and others that are also open to the general public. It is one of America's largest homeowner's associations, with nearly 6,500 properties and 25,000 members enjoying over 7,000 acres in the Sierra Nevada. The Alder Creek Adventure Center will present one of the best facilities in the cross country ski world today.
Beijing, China has been selected as the host of the 2022 winter Olympics and one wonders how well it will work for the athletes. Chelsea Little a former cross country ski competitor authored a special article for the Valley News regarding the problems associated with the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) selection of Beijing, China as the host of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Little's first contention is that the IOC members are overwhelmingly oriented to summer sports. The selection of the 2022 games host was between Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan. Almaty is a winter-oriented city that had hosted the 2011 Asian Games and almost all of its winter sports infrastructure already exists. Beijing has very little snow and will construct totally new venues about 100 miles away from the city for the snow events (alpine skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing), which are expected to require machine-made snow. The region where the developments are to be built has a very dry climate and the snowmaking will need to take much-needed water from the local inhabitants. It was reported that Chinese alpine ski resorts are normally closed by the time that March rolls around.
Of course, Beijing and China have problems with human rights, smog, and environmental degradation beside being run by an oppressive regime…but Almaty is similar in those refrains. Considering what went on with Sochi (environmental debacle during construction of the venues and the invasion of the Ukraine) the IOC members do not have strict standards with regard to such social and environmental issues.
The vote for Beijing was 44 of 85 and this was two votes more than the majority needed to win, so a look at the IOC voting is relevant to the discussion. It should be known that the "IOC Evaluation Committee" were the only members to actually visit the potential host sites. This is of course, necessary because a "no-visit" policy is in effect since historically it is believed that bid cities were apt to give bribes to get IOC members' votes. Few of the voting members ever actually visited Almaty but many of them had been to the 2008 Summer Olympics held in Beijing. How can decisions be made on the host city without actually visiting the site candidates? By the way, the Evaluation Committee released a 138-page report showing that 8 of 9 commission members preferred Almaty.
With regard to the IOC host city election process, more than half of the 100 members who vote are from countries that have not won a winter Olympic medal in the last four cycles. And countries with strong winter Olympic teams such as Austria, Czech Republic, Belarus, Finland, and Slovenia are not represented among the IOC members at all. Only 9 of the voting IOC members have ever worked in winter sports.
Of the 98 winter Olympic events, 62% of the 2014 Sochi Olympic events were held on snow. Of the 100 current IOC members, only two come from a ski background (Einar Bjoerndalen, Norwegian biathlete and Gian Franco Kasper, of the International Ski Federation). There were 15 IOC members, who did not vote on the selection. They were unwilling or unable to attend the IOC meeting in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). For, example, Bjoerndalen did not attend the meeting because he was training for the World Cup to be held in Oslo, Norway in the last season of his career. He might have been able to address the IOC members regarding his experience in Almaty.
Machine-made snow is not uncommon for alpine skiers, freestylers, and snowboarders, but most of the cross country ski and biathlon event participants will be much less familiar with the manufactured snow consistency. And warm temperatures may require salting the snow, which is used to prevent it from becoming slush during the competitions. There were some of these warm temperature problems at some of the cross country and biathlon events held in Sochi. It is assumed that all snow competitors would prefer natural snow to machine-made snow. You would imagine that the natural snow is much safer compared to salted-up ice or slush!
Economically, Kazakhstan could have afforded to host the Olympic event, which they estimated at $4.5 billion, a pittance in today's Olympic game costs, particularly compared to the $51 billion Sochi price tag in 2014. The country has the largest economy in central Asia as it is the third largest non-OPEC supplier of energy to the European Union. But the Chinese consumer market presents a rosy opportunity to the IOC, who also has it eye on sponsorship potential in China.
Understanding Little's perspective, perhaps it is time that adjustments are made in the Olympic site selection process so there is more concern for the athletes and more IOC members who have experience in the winter games are appointed to make these decisions in the future. (Photo of competitor Kikkan Randall, unrelated to author)
In an article published by the Expedition News, educators and explorers Dave and Amy Freeman plan to kick off "A Year in the Wilderness" in September, continuing their efforts to gain permanent protection for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeastern Minnesota. Their expedition is intended to permanently protect the Boundary Waters from the proposed sulfide-ore copper mines on the edge of the Wilderness and support the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters.
The two will launch their canoe in the Kawishiwi River and paddle into the Boundary Waters and become immersed in the wilderness for a full year, camping at approximately 120 different sites and traveling more than 3,000 miles by canoe, foot, ski, snowshoe, and dog team. This trip is dedicated to bearing witness to the very land and water they are fighting to protect. To promote the cause, the Freemans are scheduled to appear at the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters booth in the Dairy Building of the Minnesota State Fair on Sept. 4-5, 2015.
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is a 1.1 million-acre canoe region featuring 237.5 miles of overnight hiking trails, 1,200 miles of canoe and kayak routes and 2,000 designated campsites. Dave, 38, and Amy Freeman, 33, were named the 2014 National Geographic Adventurers of the Year, who have traveled more than 30,000 miles by kayak, canoe and dogsled through some of the world's wildest places, from the Amazon to the Arctic.
The Freemans also run the Wilderness Classroom Organization, an educational nonprofit geared towards inspiring kids to get outside and explore their world. Wilderness Classroom's current reach is 100,000 elementary and middle school students, and 3,200 teachers around the world.
Throughout the project, the Freemans will invite others on resupply missions that will allow them to personally witness the beauty of the Boundary Waters and what's at risk from the proposed sulfide-ore copper mining. For more information: Ellie M. Bayrd, 612-616-2149, email@example.com, www.SavetheBoundaryWaters.org
More than 300 organizations have signed on to a letter to communicate to Congress regarding support for the continued Federal investment in recreational trails as part of the American transportation infrastructure. The Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) and other Federal programs are critical to transportation options.
Millions of people take advantage of trails every day for recreation or to get around. These trails, sidewalks, pathways, green lanes, and bike paths provide active transportation options for access to jobs, schools, and other daily destinations as well as providing fitness and outdoor access for recreation.
Investment in these assets in the Recreational Trails Program (housed within TAP) is more than paid for by users of the trails and it is funded by the gas tax levied against motorized trail users (ATVs, snowmobiles, etc.) but shared by all types of trail users from hikers and ATV riders to bike commuters, horseback riders, and many other trail user groups with activities conducted on facilities supported by RTP funding.
The current level of Federal investment in walking and biking infrastructure and recreational trails comprises only 1.5% of the Federal spending on surface transportation spending. This is not a significant factor in the transportation funding gap and cutting it would help little in efforts to reduce the Federal deficit.
The trails coalition letter regarding the Transportation Alternatives Program is critical in ensuring that Congress does not reduce or eliminate the most important source of funding for recreational trails and bicycle and pedestrian networks. In the end, 302 organizations signed on, with at least one from every state across the country! The letter included national, regional, state, and local organizations and businesses showing an extensive range of support.
The debates in Congress around transportation reauthorization heated up with two representatives introducing a bill to kill funding for TAP. The trail coalition letter was delivered in person on June 9 to every member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and several other leaders in both chambers. Additionally, copies of the letter was emailed to every staff person in Congress who works on transportation issues. By the end of July the U.S. Senate passed its multi-year transportation bill with a 65-34 vote and the provisions affecting the Recreational Trails Program were left alone. The amendments from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) that would have eliminated RTP were not brought up for consideration. Moving forward, the Senate also passed (91-4) the three-month extension of the current transportation legislation that the House had already passed. October 31, 2015 is now the new deadline for the House to pass its own multi-year transportation bill.
XCSkiResorts.com was a signatory on the letter and supports continued funding of the Recreational Trails Program. Building and maintaining networks of trails and other biking and walking facilities should be prioritized in the next transportation authorization. We should embrace a balanced 21st century transportation vision for America. Photo: Nordic Walking from Leki USA
There's no better way to enjoy the outdoors than hiking on a trail alone or with your friends or family. Whether you are a first time hiker or a walking aficionado, hiking with the family provides quality time together, allows the family to grow closer, develops life-long memories, and introduces the next generation to the outdoors. It's no wonder that statistics show that nationally more than 34 million people went hiking in the year 2013 and that has remained somewhat consistent in the last few years.
You don't need to walk very far to experience the joys of being outdoors with your kids or grandkids. It's about discovery and having fun. For parents taking their kids on a hike, it is recommended that the child's early experiences be positive, so avoid plans to reach that favorite spot or the top of the mountain. Keep it simple by being flexible and adaptive to make sure the younger ones have a good time.
Perhaps short hikes at first near home or a local park will provide a positive experience. Bring a snack, water, and invite your kid's playmate. They can find joy in clouds, flowers, tadpoles, splashing water, getting dirty, colorful bugs, etc. but you don't want them to get sunburned, hungry, thirsty, or exhausted.
Safety and Other Considerations on a Hike
Be careful of rocks, rubble, brush piles, or fallen logs where kids might lose their footing, sprain an ankle, or take a fall. Tell kids not to drink the stream water or eat berries or mushrooms and the rule with poison ivy, oak, and sumac is "leaves of three, let it be." Be wary of places where bees and wasps might nest.
Wearing bright clothing is a good idea so you are easy to see and find if lost. Layer clothing and be prepared for weather changes. Synthetic clothing (such as a capilene shirt or a pile jacket) is lighter, a good insulator, and dries faster. Socks and supportive boots are important. Traditionally hiking socks were made of heavy wool but more recently socks that are made of a variety of materials that provide warmth, durability and keep your foot dry. Hiking boots are not required but they can help kids feel like an explorer.
A list of items that could be useful on the trail includes: signal device (whistle, mirror), water bottle, emergency blanket, map, compass, flashlight (with spare battery and bulb), extra food, extra clothing, sunglasses, sunblock, insect repellent, knife, waterproof matches, firestarter or candle and a first aid kit.
If you think that you are lost try to retrace your course rather than continuing on in an effort to reach some destination. An emergency call consists of three short audible or visible calls repeated at regular intervals. Use a whistle for making noise and a mirror or smoke puffs during the day. At night, use a flashlight or small bright fires to signal.
You may consider leaving your dog at home if he or she cannot be kept under control. Respect the privacy of residents that live along the trail unless there is an emergency and you desperately need help.
Leave No Trace
Some basic concepts for outdoor and trail etiquette include: Plan ahead and be prepared; Travel on durable surfaces to minimize trail erosion; Pack out what you bring in to the outdoors (don't bury trash or diapers); Leave the outdoors as you found it, don't feed the wildlife, and take only memories away with you; Minimize the use of fire and take extra care if you do use it.
Here are some hiking destinations in Vermont and for more locations, check the XCSkiResorts.com Resorts Page:
Bolton Valley: There are 100km of Nordic and backcountry ski trails at Bolton Valley Resort and in the summer these same trails provide paths for outdoor adventure in over 1,000 acres of wilderness. Some trails lead up the valley to the ridge-line where hikers can connect with Vermont's Long Trail
Killington Resort: With 15 miles of hiking trails at Killington Resort, you can summit Vermont's second tallest peak to be treated to 360 degree views of Vermont's Green Mountains, New York's Adirondacks, and New Hampshire's White Mountains. Additionally, near the top of the mountain provides access to the Peak Lodge, Killington's state of the art facility, which offers fresh food and cool drinks to hikers and mountain bikers all summer. The K1 gondola lift is open for rides to reach the summit.
Smugglers' Notch Resort: The Green Mountain setting at Smugglers' Notch Resort creates many opportunities for guided and self-guided hiking for all ages. The resort hosts guided outings designed for families with young children, with a gentle pace and fun learning opportunities. Other guided outings entice new hikers and experienced hikers with the opportunities to learn more about the history of the surrounding area and the local flora and fauna, and to summit some of the area's most challenging peaks. Guided hiking is included in the resort's vacation packages. The resort provides informational sheets on self-guided outings nearby.
Trapp Family Lodge: There are over 60 kilometers of wooded hiking trails for all levels of ability at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe. There is a short, peaceful hike to the Chapel, built by the Trapp family sons on their return home after World War II. A more challenging hike takes you to the Slayton Pasture Cabin, a favorite resting spot for cross country skiers or snowshoers in the winter. Guided nature walks are available to guests to learn about native plants, wildlife, and the evolving landscape.
Woodstock Inn & Resort: Step outside the Woodstock Inn & Resort and choose from more than 60 miles of interconnected trails and pathways that wind through the Woodstock Village, nearby meadows and woodlands, scenic vistas, and rural countrysides. Pedestrian pathways skirt local landmarks, while off-road trails yield to magnificent vistas from the summits of Mount Peg and Mount Tom. For a historic walking tour of Woodstock's past, stroll the 20+ miles of colonial carriage roads as they wander through the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park and intersect with the Appalachian Trail. Above photo of a family at Smugglers' Notch Resort.
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 diminishing 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.
Raetha Stoddard at Jackson Ski Touring Center in NH says "The best reason to ski at JXC in the spring is the exceptional snow management combined with the fact that several of the trail systems are in higher elevated areas. When the cover is thin the groomers know what to do to prolong the season and the trail systems like Prospect Farm and the South Hall are in higher elevations with greater snow coverage. Another reason is that from now until March 31, a 2016 season pass can be purchased for just $120 and ski for the rest of the season free!
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." During the spring, they average about a dozen skiers a week and do not offer special incentives to encourage spring skiing. 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 a paintball biathlon, and their March Madness sale offers great deals on equipment and clothing. Proprietor Lynne Frye commented that "it is easier to be outside for a longer time in the spring - the days are longer, but the winter is not over yet!"
Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, MT also offered passes for next season at a great rate. The ranch's director of marketing, PJ Wirchansky said "guests ask why the trails are being closed while there is so much snow on the ground and we are seeing good weekend numbers, but it is much slower than any other part of the season. We'll continue to groom the trails regularly but we have easements on the private property that end on or before April 15."
The Breckenridge Nordic Center in CO opened a new facility this year and skiers are enjoying the patio and hanging 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 really well."
At most alpine ski areas there are usually weekend spring parties and incentives with lower prices as the trail counts begin to dwindle. BBQ lunches and live music are popular as are pond skimming and costume days on the slopes. At XC ski areas, it makes sense that more events and incentives can be conceived and scheduled to encourage more visitation at the end of the year. Photo: Groomed trail with blue skies at Byrncliff Resort.
The Woodstock Inn & Resort is one of Vermont's true gems for travelers. It offers warm New England hospitality amidst an atmosphere of country elegance and year round recreation. Resort facilities include the new 10,000 square-foot Spa, the Resort's Nordic Center, Suicide Six alpine ski area, the Resort's Golf Club, and a 41,000 square foot Racquet & Fitness Club. However, it's the lavish details of the wood-burning fireplaces in guest rooms, luxurious terrycloth bathrobes, and locally-made furnishings, that defines the country sophistication and completes the picture of charm and comfort at the Woodstock Inn & Resort, which rises above expectations.
The Woodstock Inn & Resort is a 142-room, AAA Four Diamond Resort and a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts. The village of Woodstock is located in Vermont's Green Mountains with antique shops, art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and specialty food markets in the downtown area...but if you also want recreation the Woodstock Inn & Resort delivers.
In the winter months, the inn's Racquet & Fitness Club is situated close to the inn hosting the Woodstock Nordic Center. There are partnerships between the inn and both Fischer Nordic Skis and Tubbs Snowshoes. The Nordic Center maintains some 60 kilometers of trails in the area – half of which are part of the nearby Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Professional instruction, ski storage, equipment sales and rental equipment are available at the ski shop, as well as a full line of clothing and accessories for cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
The Tubbs Snowshoes Adventure Center features guided tours, group teambuilding exercises, and family-friendly scavenger hunts. Beginners and experts alike will find the 30 kilometers of trails against the backdrop of the Resort's expansive grounds, with flat tracks along the babbling Kedron Brook on the golf course and more challenging uphills and downhills on the adjacent Mt. Peg property. Winter adventure-themed vacation packages are built around the Tubbs Snowshoes Adventure Center. From romantic to adventurous, there are value-packed getaways with the adventure centers designed for guests to enjoy an exhilarating way to experience the peace and tranquility of Woodstock in winter.
My wife and I enjoyed part of the Romance Excursion Package including accommodations for two nights, welcome gift basket, breakfast and a four-course dinner for two at the Red Rooster Restaurant, and a guided snowshoe trek to a four-course chef's dinner at the Mt. Tom Cabin in the national park. We also went cross country skiing on groomed ski tracks accessed from the Racquet & Fitness Club on a sunny morning followed by wonderful massages in the Spa. On the second morning, I went snowboarding at the nearby Suicide Six ski area while my wife took a yoga class at the club. Overall, we were impressed with the inn and its staff, each and every one of them. In all of our interactions, the Woodstock Inn & Resort staff was especially attentive to us, often without the need of having to ask.
On Saturday evening, we reached the Mt. Tom Cabin after crunching up about one and a half miles on snowshoes up a hardpacked snowy trail under a clear and cold starry night. The meal was prepared on a wood-burning cookstove by the Woodstock Inn's chef in a candlelight cozy setting. The evening's guide associated with the national park was a naturalist that imparted some of his knowledge about winter nature and history of the park, which is the only national park dedicated to conservation stewardship. The park's 550-acre forest is one of the oldest professionally managed forests in the USA with 400-year old hemlocks and Norway Spruce.
The inn's Main Lobby is comfortably furnished and features a 10-foot fieldstone fireplace at its center. Don't miss the newly opened Game Room, which is a hoot for the kid in all of us. It has a mix of games including a 4-foot scrabble board on the wall played with magnetic tiles, three real pinball machines, billiards, foosball, six TVs, video games, and more.
The new 10,000 square-foot spa has 10 treatment rooms, luxurious suite, tranquil men's and women's lounges, a light-filled Great Room, enclosed outdoor courtyard featuring a meditation tree and a wood sauna and a hot soaking pool. Guests can choose from a wide selection of treatments performed by licensed therapists.
The Woodstock Inn & Resort's own Suicide Six Ski Area opened in 1937, just a few years after the first ski tow in the United States was rigged up just over the ridge at Gilbert's Hill. Suicide Six has since evolved into a friendly and personal ski area that caters to families and local skiers. On Sunday morning when I visited, the slopes were covered with young local ski racers learning the ins and outs of skiing gates.
The Woodstock area offers other activities including day trips to nearby points of interest such as Simon Pearce Glass, Shackleton Furniture, or the Quechee Gorge. The Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, is Vermont's first national park and it operates in partnership with the Woodstock Foundation, Inc, and the Billings Farm & Museum – a working dairy farm and agricultural museum that mirrors rural life in Vermont in the late 1800s.
We excitedly planned a weekend trip to Jackson, N.H., because it is a true Mecca for Nordic skiers. This is the quintessential New England Nordic (XC) skiing experience with the covered bridge, white steepled church, brookside trails, and the accompanying village with all of the trappings.
Many of the trails lead right to the door of local inns, shops, and restaurants. It's no wonder that Jackson Ski Touring Foundation has been rated the top cross country ski area in the United States by the website, America's Best Online.
The Foundation is a non-profit organization chartered to maintain XC ski trails in and about the village of Jackson. There are about 75 landowners that allow trails to cross their property. Country inns are spaced throughout the region and the base lodge is a golf country club located on the village loop. The Cocoa Cabin is a warming hut serving hot cocoa on the weekend, located 3 km from the center on the gentle Ellis River Trail. Snowshoers can take a rustic narrow marked snowshoe trail from the center to reach the Cocoa Cabin.
We stopped at nearby Bretton Woods Nordic Center on the way to Jackson to ski in a snow storm for about 10 km on beautiful trails behind the Omni Mt. Washington Hotel. The grand hotel is at the southern base of the mighty Mt. Washington with 1,700 acres of spectacular scenery. This full service ski center has its own parking area and houses the ski school, rental equipment, and a retail shop with XC ski clothing and accessories. The center has a fireplace with couches and food service with tables and seating.
It was a problematic tour for my wife Kimberly, who had snow sticking to the base of her waxless skis. I tried applying a lubricant called Swix Easyglide a few times but it didn't work for more than 50 feet before the snow stuck to the skis again. In a husband-oriented display of gallantry, I switched skis with her but I couldn't get them to glide very well either.
We arrived at the Inn at Ellis River in Jackson after leaving Bretton Woods and were showed to our room-with-a-view by new innkeepers John and Mary Kendzierski. The next morning we awoke to the aroma of bacon, which while incredible, does not do justice to how good the maple bacon tastes when accompanying a choice of two hot entree specialties such as cinnamon crepe stuffed with apple filling and topped with
creme fraiche or pecan praline French toast. There's also fruit, yogurt, granola, and freshly baked breads, muffins, and other breakfast treats. The breakfast tables were covered antique metal sewing treadle tables. Looking out the windows from the dining room adorned with snowman figurines, we saw frolicking squirrels hopping from tree branch to tree branch.
Behind the inn and across the Ellis River is the Ellis River Trail, one of the most popular trails from the center lodge for XC skiers and snowshoers. We first stopped by the Jackson Ski Touring Center and got my wife's skis hot waxed as we waited. The wax job worked like a charm as we left the center for a short tour through the covered bridge, ending up at the Cocoa Cabin. The skiers along the Jackson trails are mostly experienced and courteous meaning they give the right of way to downhill skiers and get out of the groomed ski tracks when appropriate. Most say hello as they pass.
We lunched on scrumptious sandwiches at the J-Town Deli & Country Store, a warm and enticing old-fashioned country store that has a bakery, beer, wine, sweets and treats. Then, we headed to our appointment for a "couples" massages at Moondance Massage. Beside massages, Moondance offers energy work, facials, and yoga classes. By the end of the massages, we were both amazed at how our respective soreness was alleviated. We noticed three more couples coming in the door at Moondance, so this apparently is a popular venture for Jackson visitors.
The "Foundation" maintains 150 km of varied and breathtaking XC ski and snowshoe trails 2 hours north of Boston. Foundation trails connect with A.M.C. trails in Pinkham Notch and White Mountain National Forest backcountry adventure trails.
Our après ski time led us to the Wildcat Inn Tavern in downtown Jackson for some live music and libations. The tavern walls display classic ski posters and some antique gear such as snowshoes and a pair of red Jarvinen XC skis. The seats in one of the rooms were built to look like double chairlifts and there were soccer jerseys from around the world pinned to the ceiling. Afterward, we dined at the nearby Christmas Farm Inn for a great dinner and dessert.
Our getaway day included a stop and tour at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center, about ten miles outside of Jackson up the Pinkham Notch toward Gorham. The panorama view from the center of the Presidential Range and Mt. Washington is unparalleled. We skied a few cold and windy kilometers on wide whimsically-named trails such as the Great Grump Grade and Hairball Passage toward the Great Angel Warming Cabin. The trails were impeccably groomed and on our way back to the lodge we stopped by the Caddidlehopper Warming Hut and watched the Mt. Washington SnowCoach head up to treeline on the nearby Toll Road.
The White Mountains and Jackson met our expectations delivering great snow, excellent trails, and a superb weekend at a destination worthy of being named a Mecca of Nordic skiing.
The Adirondack Ski Touring Council (ASTC), which was developed in 1986 as a nonprofit corporation to promote cross country skiing and to build/maintain the Jackrabbit Trail in and around the Lake Placid, NY region, will see a change in leadership. The trail, runs for 35 miles (56 km) from Keene, NY to Paul Smith's College. ASTC expanded its mission to assume winter maintenance of other popular ski trails in the area. Last fall the ASTC combined with the Barkeater Trails Alliance (a mountain bike trail group) to form a larger organization.
Tony Goodwin, who has served as the Executive Director of ASTC for 29 years will step down this April and the position will be assumed by Josh Wilson, a Saranac ake resident with credentials that are well suited to run the organization. ASTC has about 250 dues paying members and a nine person board. Over the years, the organization has created trails and connections as well as maintained the trail with bridges and drainage control.
Wilson has served as the Executive Director of the New York Bicycling Coalition building its financial strength to become a statewide organization. His experience includes securing and managing grant funding, legislative advocacy, building partnerships, and overseeing organizational administration. Goodwin, who runs the Adirondack Trails Improvement Society will continue his involvement with the group and become an ASTC Board member.
The Adirondack Ski Touring Council was created by local skiers who saw an opportunity to link up traditional ski routes and create a trail system that took people from town to town and from the towns out into the backcountry. ASTC's first project was construction of the Jackrabbit Trail, which it was hoped, would link Keene, Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, and Tupper Lake. That goal has only been partially realized, but the trail constructed to date has added significantly to cross country skiing opportunities in the area and it helps to attract skiers and mountain bikers to the region. Financed by skier memberships, business sponsors of the annual trail map, and private foundations, ASTC has a paid part-time executive director who runs the organization and coordinates the volunteers who have built and maintained the trail.
The Bark Eater Trails Alliance (BETA) is a group that has constructed over 50 miles of mountain bike trails in Wilmington, Lake Placid, and Saranac Lake. Learn more about BETA on the web at http://www.barkeatertrails.org. The state land restrictions make it a challenge to expand the trail networks but there clearly has been a positive economic impact in the region associated with the ASTC and BETA trails.
Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center, one of the Adirondacks' prominent cross country ski resorts for more than 36 years, has new owners/operators. Kathryn and Paul Zahray, formerly of Matawan, NJ and long-term Lapland Lake customers for more than 17 years, have purchased the resort.
"We are thrilled to assume ownership of this very unique property which has been such an integral part of our lives for so many years," said Paul Zahray. "Kathy and I plan to maintain the high standards for which the resort has become known. Lapland Lake will continue as a cross country (XC) ski center and family friendly year round resort and we will add to the resort's offerings in years to come such as Autumn trail runs and a Fall Harvest Festival."
The new owners will seek more partnerships with local businesses and plan to continue the resort's long-standing support of XC ski racing at the secondary level. Emphasis will be placed on enhancements such as the recently added Reindeer Rally program geared to introduce more youth to the sport of XC skiing.
Resort founder, Olavi Hirvonen, and his wife Ann will work closely with the Zahrays for a significant period of time assisting in all areas of resort operation including trail maintenance, lodging operations, food service and ski equipment. This collaboration will ensure the high standards of the resort are maintained and will contribute to a seamless transition.
"My wife, Ann, and I are so pleased to have the Zahrays assume the reins here at Lapland Lake," said resort founder and US Olympian Olavi Hirvonen. "Paul and Kathy have been our customers for many years and have now become good friends. We look forward to assisting them in all areas of resort operations for an extended period of time."
Financing for the resort purchase and working capital was facilitated by three entities: Adirondack Bank, Hamilton County Industrial Development Agency, and Development Authority of the North Country. This ensures the new owners will have the financial resources to continue existing operations and to make planned enhancements.
Midwesterners by birth, the Zahrays enjoy a variety of outdoor pursuits including XC skiing and bicycling. Paul is a competitive athlete, who has completed two American Birkebeiner races and who has 15 marathons and many shorter races to his credit.
Paul is transitioning from a 25-year career with a major telecommunications provider. He holds his BS in metallurgical engineering from the University of Illinois and his Ph.D. in engineering and public policy from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Kathy holds her BA in psychology from the University of Michigan and her Master of Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh. Her experience includes work in individual and group therapy settings with mental health clients.
The couple has three daughters who all learned to ski at Lapland Lake: Karen, a web design and SEO specialist with focus on social media accounts and google adword campaigns; Amy, an employee at a naval architecture and design firm in Houston, TX, is the most proficient skate skier in the family; and Lisa, a second year engineering student at MIT, is also a talented musician.
Lapland Lake has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council's Private Sector Tourism Partnership Award; Best XC Ski Resort in the Mid Atlantic Region and Best XC Ski Resort for Families, Best XC Ski Resort Poll from XCSkiResorts.com; Top Ten XC Ski Resort Catering to Families on XCSkiResorts.com; and Fulton County's Tourism Partner Award.
A complete cross country ski and snowshoe facility, Lapland Lake offers fully equipped rental and retail shops, a comfortable warming lodge with snack bar, a trailside restaurant and overnight accommodations in private housekeeping cottages. The trail system has 50 km of trails for all ability levels with 38 km marked, mapped and snowcat groomed with trackset and skating lanes; 12 km are ungroomed, marked, mapped snowshoe trails. Other activities include ice-skating, tubing, sledding, kick sledding and wilderness ski touring.
Located in the south-central Adirondacks of New York, Lapland Lake is located just over an hour's drive from Schenectady; 60 miles from Albany and Utica; four hours from New York City and Boston.
(Event dates in this article are 2014-15. There will be updated info, but look for new dates in the coming season) Want a guilt-free way to indulge yourself with food while exercising? XC Skiing is one 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 Sweets and Snowshoes every Wednesday night 7-9 PM for adults only. Hot cocoa, coffee, and 3 desserts await snowshoers after a 30 minute trek to a pavilion and campfire. A warming meal of hot soup, bread and beverage at a trailside cabin is a destination for the Soup and Snowshoes guided trek mid-day on Sundays, and on Tuesday nights there's a Snowshoe Adventure Dinner at the mountain summit.
Eastman Cross Country's Nordic Nibbles in Grantham, NH on January 18 has a Scandinavian theme with a visit to a fire pit at each stop for cheese from a local smokehouse, Lindt chocolate, gingerbread cake and pastries, local dairy milk for hot coco, soup, and the main meal from 11 AM - 1 PM.
The Valentine's Day Destination S'Mores Station at Bretton Woods Nordic on February 14 with two self-guided tour for sweets from 10 AM – 4 PM. The shorter tour will be less than 2 km on easy trails so it's great for the kids. Purchase S'Mores Kits at the center or at the station to make your own.
The Chocolate Festival at Mt. Washington Valley Ski & Snowshoe Center in Intervale, NH on February 22 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 during January-March. 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 7 at 11 AM - 2 PM.
Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, CO hosts the Grand Huts.org Progressive Dinner on Feb 28 with a multi-course meal at outposts along the trail in a fundraiser for the huts.
Just Desserts Eat & Ski in the Enchanted Forest in Red River, NM on February 28 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 7.
Look to the Galena Lodge in Ketchum, ID for the Full Moon Dinners on nights associated with the full moon, (Dec 6 & 7, Jan 3 & 4, Feb 3,4, & 5, Mar 5,6, & 7, Apr 3 & 4) 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, and a Valentine's Day Dinner.
Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, MT has the Glide & Gorge event on March 8 from 11:30 AM-2 PM with trail luncheon stationed with appetizers, soups, entrees, desserts from the Ranch's four-star kitchen, local brew, wine, music and shuttles.
Royal Gorge XC Ski Resort in Soda Springs, CA has the Royal Fondo Tour on Jan 25 with skiing or snowshoeing to various huts along the trails for snacks and lunch at the resort deck.
Tahoe Donner Cross Country Center in Truckee, CA has the Taste of Truckee presenting food from local restaurants along the trails on Mar 22.
Cypress Mountain outside of Vancouver, BC has Ladies Only Chocolate Fondue Snowshoe Tours on Friday and Sunday nights starting at 6:30 PM. Warm up with a mug of steaming apple cider before enjoying appetizers then a chocolate fondue Jan 9 & 23, Feb 6 & 20, and Mar 6. These programs include rental equipment, trail access, guides/instructors, and the appetizers.
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.
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 Jan 23 & Feb 20; Skate skiing on Mar 5. The $50 price includes the trail pass, lunch, and discount coupons to use in the ski shop.
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 Outdoor Center in Gorham, NH on Feb 5 with 50% discount on trail passes and rental equipment to those wearing red. Also Women's Winter Escape is on Jan 16-17 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 Lady's Tea & Ski program at Garnet Hill Lodge in North River, NY runs on Tuesdays from mid-Jan to mid-Mar 11 (not Feb vacation) at 9:30 AM with lunch and skiing afterward. Trail pass, lesson, lunch, and equipment (if needed) included. Backcountry outings also included on some of the days. 518-251-2150. Preregistration required. $30 per session or $150 for 6 week program (discounted for season pass holders)
The Catamount Trail Association runs the Ladies Nordic Ski Expo at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT on January 9. The New England Women's XC Ski Day is scheduled at Jackson Ski Touring Center in Jackson, NH on January 24 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 Jan 28-31, 2016. 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.
Timber Ridge Nordic Center in Traverse City, MI has She-Ski a Wednesday Ladies Night with cross country skiing or snowshoeing and a speaker with munchies on Jan 6 and Feb 3. The Women's Winter Tour is a themed cross country ski, snowshoe and hike event at the same location on Feb 7, 2016 with a sampling of chocolate and other food goodies. For more info, check www.womenswintertour.com.
Ski, Spa & Soak Day at Devils Thumb Ranch Resort in Tabernash, CO on Saturday, Feb 20 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
Sun Mountain Lodge and Cascade Endurance in Winthrop, WA has the Women's Ski & Yoga Retreat on Feb 26-28 with XC skiing, yoga, breakfast and lunch, ski sessions, wine/hors d'oeuvres reception, and relaxation. Ski for Women is a fun event set for Feb 7 from 1-4 PM at the Mazama Community Club with the Methow Valley Nordic Club.
Women's Ski Weekend at Izaak Walton Inn, Essex, MT on the Amtrak line and scheduled on Jan 16-17, 2016 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 a classic ski clinic on Jan 16 at the Village Station and an intermediate skate clinic on Feb 27 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.
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:
Great Glen Outdoor Trails Center in Gorham, NH has 3-day camps perfect for holiday weeks where the kids do different activities including XC skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding. 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. The Kids Ski Fest on Jan 11 with a terrain park, group games, bean bag biathlon, Team Sprint Relays, treats to eat at the Cabin, a lollipop race and more. Mini-lessons will be offered in both morning and afternoon for first-time youth skiers. Special trail pass rate for participants and free rentals for kids.
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!
Jackson Ski Touring nestled in the Jackson Village in the NH's White Mountains has a kid's terrain garden and the Thursday After-School Program. Kids are encouraged to ski or snowshoe to a 3-kilometer destination to the Cocoa Cabana, which is open on weekends. Upon arrival kids that ski around a little Anklebiter's Race Course and get a medal. Jackson has created a variety of incentives to help parents get their kids enthused about XC skiing.
The Snow School program has snowshoeing for kids in more than 45 locations across the nation such as Cable Natural History Museum in WI; the Willows Ecology Center in Lapeer, MI; Bogus Basin in ID; and the Wild Bear Mountain Ecology Center in Nederland, CO. 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.
The Loppet Nordic Ski Foundation runs one of the largest introductory kids cross country ski programs of its kind in the country at the Theodore Wirth Park, just minutes from downtown Minneapolis, MN. Some 600 kids from six elementary and two middle schools learn to ski each year through the Foundation's programming. Kids are taught how to ski and use the equipment as well as given info about fitness and nutrition. The Foundation grooms a small trail at each school, so that the kids can ski right out the door in their physical education classes.
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. The Frisco Nordic Center, which is on the way to Breckenridge, will hold a Kid's Festival Fun Day in the spring.
Methow Trails in Winthrop, WA has two 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. And the trails are free for kids under the age of 17!
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 "Cold is Cool Passport" requires that an adult paying full price must accompany the kids and there is a $15 cost associated with the passport. In the Burlington, VT area, the Catamount Trails Association is conducting the Ski Cubs youth program for building skills, fitness, winter ecology and fun adventure. The program is free and provides kids with gear for skiing and snowshoeing. The WinterKids organization in Maine also has a variety of programs for thousands of kids each winter.
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.
Also in VT, the Bolton Valley Nordic Center's kids program focuses on the development of basic Nordic skiing skills as well as natural history, games, and orienteering. They explore the extensive trail system of Bolton Valley using Nordic Quest Poems as maps. At the end of each Quest they test the kids' ski skills with fun games like ski soccer, tag, obstacle courses and snowball biathlon.
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: XC Ski Kids by Fischer Nordic; Snowshoe Dad & Kids by Smuggler's Notch Resort.
Smuggler's Notch Resort, known as a prime Vermont family destination has one of the most comprehensive mixes of snowshoe programs available this winter. There's snowshoe treks for families with young kids, and outings for adults or families with older kids who want a bit more in terms of the length of the trek, the topography covered, and the insights shared about the natural world and outdoor skills. On an extended Smuggler's visit, snowshoe enthusiasts can find a different guided outing to do practically each day, as well as explore the trail network on their own.
Programs are scheduled for specific days and times at different prices for adult and children so check the Smuggler's website. Special Family Snowshoe Programs that are easy include the Family Snowshoe Cider Walk, which is an educational and fun guided trek on the special kids' trail, followed by hot apple cider at the Nordic Center. The Sugar On Snow Snowshoe Trek is where you will learn a bit about the history and process of Maple Sugaring. Upon your return to the Nordic Center, enjoy a sweet treat of Sugar on Snow, a Vermont tradition.
There are snowshoe hikes to a cozy cabin and treks available to learn about Vermont history, wildlife, and ecology as well as winter survival skills and tips. Learn about the animal tracks, habitat, and local flora while experiencing the scenic winter landscape.
Intermediate snowshoers can ride to the top of the Morse lift to explore backcountry terrain at a high elevation or do a trek to learn about maple sugaring with a sample of pure maple syrup.
Smuggler's also offers private snowshoe guided adventures, where you choose your own adventure daily by appointment. Intermediate snowshoe tours include the Sweets & Snowshoes Trek, which is a guided, enchanted evening snowshoe trek through lantern lit woods to a rustic pavilion alight with the glow of candles. Once there you will enjoy a warm fire, a selection of local handmade dessert pastries, coffee by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters or hot chocolate served in a keepsake mug. This is a beautiful backcountry experience!
The Top of the Notch Snowshoe Adventure Dinner is one of the most popular programs on Tuesdays, a dramatic and delicious dining experience atop Sterling Mountain (18 & older please). The Sterling lift transports you to The Top of The Notch, a mountain cabin lit only by candles. The renowned Hearth & Candle Restaurant serves a gourmet meal with appetizer, salad, choice of main course and a famous dessert. After dinner, work off those calories with a 40 minute snowshoe down to the Base Lodge. Advance registration at The Guest Service Desk is required. It takes off at off at 4:10 PM and the package includes lift access, snowshoes, and dinner for $69.
Dinner choices typically include seafood chowder or venison chili for the warming first course, and Vermont chicken breast with cheddar cheese and sliced apples, pork tenderloin, and vegetable lasagna for entrees. Warm apple crisp is the dessert. The cabin is a really congenial setting with candlelight and large tables. The tour around the summit is beautiful, whether you're enjoying it by starlight or with falling snow, and many of Smuggler's return guests enjoy the dinner on each visit.
Smuggler's guides recommend that snowshoers use poles. On a snowshoeing trail or in the backcountry, you never know what features lurk below the snow; you can expect to encounter at least one log to step over, snow potholes, sideslopes, deep snow and ups and downs. Poles provide additional stability in these situations. Plus, the poles provide a measure of upper body exercise, assuring a well-rounded workout. Lower Photo: Smuggler's Notch family
The Canmore Nordic Centre in Alberta, Canada opened for cross country skiing (XC) Oct. 23 and staged a race a few days later. This is a very early date for XC in the northern hemisphere and they were able to do it because they have snowmaking, a legacy from the 1988 Olympics in Alberta.
More and more XC ski areas are investing in snowmaking. Trapp Family Lodge steeped in tradition in Stowe, VT is included in this ever increasing list of XC ski resort snowmakers. The list of XC ski area operators that produce machine-made snow is now at about 30 ski areas including Rikert Nordic Center, Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Sleepy Hollow Inn, and Mountain Top Resort, in VT; Bretton Woods Nordic Center, and Great Glen Trails in NH, Pineland Farms and Quarry Road Rec Area in ME; Weston Ski Track in MA; Cross Country Ski Headquarters in MI; Breckenridge Nordic Center and Frisco Nordic Center in CO; and Royal Gorge in CA.
Why did these XC ski areas decide to invest in a snowmaking operation? The availability of less expensive and portable snowmaking systems are main motivations, but other business-driven issues are relevant too such as filling lodge rooms and fulfilling season pass holders' desire to extend the ski season beyond Mother Nature's whim.
Why did these XC ski areas decide to invest in a snowmaking operation? The availability of less expensive and portable snowmaking systems are main motivations, but other business-driven issues are relevant too such as filling lodge rooms and fulfilling season pass holders' desire to extend the ski season beyond Mother Nature's whim.
One industry consultant dubbed the XC ski resort quandary as "precipitation roulette" 20 years ago. Some business-oriented reasons to install snowmaking include operational security to guarantee skiing programs and staffing; competitive advantage against other XC ski resorts that do not have machine-made snow; and guaranteeing snow cover in important holiday periods (which can represent more than 30 percent of annual winter business).
The necessary elements of a snowmaking operation include cold temperatures, water, power, and system components such as piping, pumps, compressors, and snow guns. The power requires both manpower and energy supplied by electricity or fuel. There are many industry horror stories about the night hours and difficulty of the work associated with snowmaking for XC skiing. Getting the snow to efficiently cover a narrow corridor trail is also a challenge. Many operations simply cover a field and then move the snow to the trails.
Sleepy Hollow Inn's system in Huntington, VT, is powered by solar energy, while snowmakers used machine-made snow to cover trails at Canmore Nordic Centre to run early season programs for racing teams from across North America. Rikert Nordic Center increased from an average of 70 days of operation before snowmaking was added to 140 days without inseason closures!
But the most significant issue to embark on snowmaking has always been the investment required for many XC ski businesses that are small and seasonal. It is now at a point where operators at Mountain Top Resort in Chittenden, VT decided that snowmaking was a higher priority than selling retail products at the XC ski center. Snowmaking supports so many aspects of the business from rental operations and ski lessons to dog sledding and snowshoeing. In terms of the guest perspective, winter guests expect to book travel to a destination and get the experience that was desired…and that includes snow! Who knows, perhaps there will be a day sometime soon when snowmaking will be a basic aspect of XC skiing at commercial resorts. Upper photo XC ski racing in October at Canmore Nordic Center; Lower photo Snowmaking at Rikert Nordic Center.
Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center in Gorham, NH is planning to develop a "ski park" this winter to help kids and adults to have fun on the snow while developing basic cross country (XC) skiing skills.
In recent years, terrain-based learning has been incorporated into snowboarding instruction at alpine ski areas. It is a natural progression for it to spread to Nordic ski areas, too. Designed instruction areas are created with natural or machine-made snow and can be shaped quickly with a snowcat combining flat and hilly terrain conducive to learning, skier improvement, and fun. This learning terrain helps the learner to have fun by removing fear from sliding out of control and perhaps even adding a fairyland setting.
Sue Weymss, Great Glen's Ski Director commented that she first saw the idea of snow features in a book called "Teaching Children to Ski" and has been experimenting with terrain features and a fun obstacle course for the area's annual one day Kids SkiFest for the last few years. "We want to extend the terrain features to the entire season with snow roller coasters, trail bumps with rises and dips, a maze with markers, hula hoop arches, and more."
Kids have always been interested in building jumps and skiing kamikaze for kicks. With snowmaking at so many of the XC ski areas, operators can now consider building more terrain-based elements for specific purposes. Such elements might include elongated bowls, quarter pipes, rolling hills, spines, mounds, rails, boxes, and such.
The instructional terrain concept has been shown to allow faster technique learning progression by aiding balance and body awareness and it also helps with depth perception and ease of class segmentation (for instance, class age or fitness divisions).
The terrain could have a flat instruction area sloped a few percent to facilitate proper learning of stance, glide, and turning. Some rolling terrain with interspersed bumps could resemble trail skiing. Hill terrain with steeper slopes can have flat runouts that make the skier feel more safe and in control. Depending on the slope and length of runout, hills can provide the setting for downhill technique, telemark turns, and even slalom courses.
Great Glen is looking at various locations for the planned area on its property and one idea is to have it visible for parents and grandparents to watch their kids have fun in the snow. Wemyss said, "We're family-oriented offering a compact and safe area. Kids love the tunnel and skiing to our tubing park. We see parents who feel comfortable letting the kids go to ski on the trails themselves." Terrain parks that help new skiers build ski skills and confidence just could go a long way for a great time XC skiing and for a lifetime of fun in the outdoors.
The 21st Annual Winter Trails program, presented by SnowSports Industries America (SIA), is changing its format this winter and dedicating the entire month of January to discovering snowshoeing and cross country skiing. The new month-long format, previously a one-day event, will allow host sites to customize Winter Trails offerings to their facility and regional happenings. Events will include special offers on trail passes, rentals and mini lessons (cross country ski lessons only) and will vary site to site from free to reduced package pricing. Individual event details may be found at WinterTrails.org
By extending the event format to encompass an entire month allows each location to get more creative with their offerings and provide a more in-depth experience to the consumer and local community," said Reese Brown, SIA Nordic Director.
With over 100 locations around the country and an estimated 11,000 new enthusiasts trying cross country skiing and snowshoeing each year through Winter Trails, it's a perfect way to begin building a love of snow sports. The event offers children and adults an opportunity to try snowshoeing and/or cross country skiing at venues throughout North America. Winter Trails is easy to participate in, super fun and a great way for friends and family to gather and get outside and exercise.
Once people try it and have fun, it's simple to return back to the same location. Most event sites operate daily with rentals and instructors to make sure everyone learns proper technique and has a great time.
Current Winter Trails Day locations, hours and offerings are posted at WinterTrails.org and updated as locations/events are announced. Venues include alpine resorts, Nordic centers, state parks, National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service land. Details for each event appear on the WinterTrails.org website. Advanced registration is suggested, but many sites also offer on-site registration. Participants are encouraged to check the location listing for specific information as each site can differ slightly.
California mountains continue to suffer a terrible drought with very little snow in the last few winters, which translated to excessively low water levels. A recent article in Skiing Magazine looked at last winter's drought in California and its impact on skiing in the Sierra Mountains. There is snowfall data from 1879 to the present, which reveals that wide swings of snowpack are the norm. Only a few winter's ago (2010-11), the California ski resorts recorded as much as 800 inches of snow…and that deluge was not even in the top five winters on record!
XCSkiResorts.com spoke with some cross country ski area operators to discuss the California drought and mayhem on snow-related businesses and the conclusion is that XC ski areas are pretty resilient when faced with winter weather woes.
Paul Peterson of Bear Valley Nordic Center commented, "Thanks to a huge summer grooming effort last summer, we were open for 120 days in a row last winter. It was a bit grim from a snow depth standpoint but we are very adept at snow farming and we kept it going. Fat bikes were part of the fun as well with five new Surly Fat Bikes in the rental fleet."
South of Lake Tahoe, Sorensen's Resort reported good snow on the ground from Thanksgiving on…but there was a 19% decline in business. Sorensen's owner John Brissenden cited the media hysteria about the drought for the decline. Special events and programs are hosted at Sorensens all year long and 60 pairs of snowshoes were out on the trails often last winter.
Tahoe Donner Cross Country on the west side of Lake Tahoe had to close four times last winter. They had skiable conditions on 81 days and were often limited to only 40 kilometers of trails. Their normal year approaches 120 skiable days and area manager Sally Jones commented that the "high temperatures in the afternoon caused melting, but we shoveled snow to keep the trails covered. Some of the skiers grabbed shovels and helped! The bonus at Tahoe Donner was a big snow dump on April 1, which saw skiers come out in droves to enjoy the skiing and now the area is anticipating a busy year coming up. Nearby Royal Gorge Ski Resort had to close for one period but consistently kept snow on the trails at higher elevations..
The drought was more extreme in southern California. Bev Brown, owner of Rim Nordic in Running Springs, commented "Being so far south we received small amounts of snow early in October and a few inches in November and December. Then January was totally dry for us and it remained that way until late February when 7 inches of very wet snow finally fell. We got 10 inches on March 1st, but it was so wet that we were not able to groom."
By April, the California Cooperative Snow Survey reported only one third of the average statewide snow-water equivalent and late season storms did not alleviate the severe drought that continues to impact farmers, town and city water systems, and others.
The Climate Prediction Center has issued an El Nino Watch for the coming fall and winter, which usually translates to significant snow in California. To the uninitiated this can mean that despite the facts that last winter's snow was the least amount since 1977, multiple snow storms of five to eight feet can occur and that would turn things around this winter!
Peterson commented, "This is the 40th year I've been in the business and the weather statistics show that there have been 7 great winters, 7 very challenging winters, and 16 medium winters, which I define as getting 300-350 inches of snow." The Nordic ski area business is resilient but the most significant aspect of the winter involves about 40 critical days (holidays and weekends) when good conditions make a big difference for the business. "Last winter which was tough was saved because we summer groomed many of our trails, widening and smoothing them and laying down wood chips. We are certainly optimistic for a more prolific winter this year as the last three have been way below our normal of 350 inches."
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 still one of the most 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.
At Garnet Hill Lodge, in North River, NY there's a shuttle ride from the bottom of a long downhill back to the lodge that has been offered since the early eighties. It originated when the lodge owner picked up skiers in his car and was then upgraded to a van and now it's a mini-bus. The shuttle is a free service for the skiers at Garnet Hill Lodge. Skeirs must sign up for the shuttle and there are many routes that skiers can take using intermediate rated trails to reach the two pick-up locations that have a 500 foot and 900 foot vertical drop, respectively. Shuttles are offered daily and 3-5 times a day on weekends and holidays. During the week and on slow times, the shuttle is offered on demand.
The Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center in Gorham, NH is adjacent to the Mt. Washington Auto Road and offers an uphill ride to achieve "treeline status" in the SnowCoach, which is a tracked van. The comfortable heated tour takes folks to the 4,000 foot elevation up Mount Washington where the views are breathtaking. Intermediate and advanced skiers can handle skiing down this road as a thrilling four mile decent back to the base lodge. There are various price options for the SnowCoach.
Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Vermont has a free shuttle on the weekends that delivers skiers to the Highland Lodge for a 20 km return trek. There's a net drop of about 300 meters on the groomed trail, which traverses hill top pastures, farmsteads, and quaint Vermont villages. A shorter 5 km shuttled ride brings skiers back to the lodge from Craftsbury Village at the general store and deli.
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.
If a hiker acts negligently and requires a search and rescue, who foots the bill of that search and rescue? Currently there are eight states with search and rescue billing laws on the books…that is if you are recreating in the outdoors and are responsible for needing to be rescued, the state can charge you for the cost of that search and rescue (S & R) mission.
While these laws are usually not enforced on hundreds of annual S & R missions, each mission averages about $2,000 each. The cost of a helicopter search alone could be as much as $6,500 per hour!
A small portion of these missions involve people who are deemed responsible for their predicament. Their negligence might mean that they avoided posted warnings or were unprepared or had inadequate gear for their outings. These S & R missions help people who are hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, backpacking, off road vehicle riding, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, or snowshoeing. The National Park Service and Coast Guard do not charge for search and rescue missions…the tax payers cover the costs incurred by those Federal agencies.
The NH Fish & Game Department spends a range of $350-1,000 per rescue for people who are having problems or are injured while recreating in the outdoors. Since the department has kept records there have been 957 search and rescue missions at an estimated cost of $1.8 million.
The problem is that there is little budget for these missions. In NH, funding for S & R comes from boating registrations, OHRV (off road vehicles) registration fees, and sportsmen (hunting and fishing) licenses. The majority of missions in NH seem to involve hikers, so the Hike Safe Card has been developed (state law RSA 206:26 bb) as an additional way to raise funding. The card would exempt a person from liability to the Department for the reasonable cost of a search and rescue response that was due to a person's negligence.
The Hike Safe Card is similar to Colorado's Search & Rescue Card, which was established in 1987 as a source of funding for S & R efforts. The state created a fund and an advisory council and set a fee for the Colorado card at $3 per year or $12 for 5 years. This program has been deemed a successful way of underwriting the S & R efforts in Colorado.
The NH Hike Safe Card is voluntary and available on line and it went into effect on January 1, 2015. The cost of the card is $25 per year for an individual and $35 for a family. Outdoorsmen with valid hunting or fishing licenses are already covered for S & R missions that are due to negligence.
NH's Fish & Game Department said that about $2,000 has been earmarked for publicity. The card is also be available where hunting and fishing licenses can be acquired. It should be noted that people in the outdoors who require help but are not deemed responsible for their situation are not asked or required to pay for search and rescue efforts. The Fish & Game Department in NH has an annual budget of $200,000 for S & R missions. For more info click Frequently Asked Questions.
Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash, CO has recently opened the 50,000 square-foot High Lonesome Lodge and adjoining facilities to accommodate and host up to 350 guests on a hillside overlooking the Ranch. The lodge has 31 rooms and 4 suites offering a variety of amenities such as adjoining rooms, spacious bathrooms with low-flow fixtures, vaulted wood ceilings with beetle kill finishes, stone fireplaces in select rooms and suites, and exterior porches with east-facing views of the Continental Divide. A 40-seat Wine Grotto is situated into the lower hillside featuring an arched ceiling and wine barrels in the entryway including showroom-style planning and pre-event space.
The High Lonesome Barn has 4,200 sq. ft. and is a reclaimed Civil War-era barn for groups, meetings, special events, weddings, and bridal parties that can accommodate up to 350 people. A main feature is a wall of windows offering unparalleled views of the Continental Divide and Ranch Creek Valley. A Hay Loft in the Barn provides multi-function capabilities for receptions, reading lounge, and smaller meetings. There’s also the South Terrace for outdoor receptions and a landscaped “amphitheater” below for outdoor weddings.
The High Lonesome Pavilion is a 3,000 sq. ft. outdoor events Pavilion for comfortable al fresco dining from Spring until Fall on the hillside just north of the High Lonesome Lodge that is also outfitted with fire pit for tubing hill participants, Nordic skiers, and snowshoers.
The High Lonesome Lodge’s exterior matches the dark brown color of the existing main lodge at Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa with reclaimed rock covering the foundation and chimneys. Large windows are designed to allow for as much natural light as well as views for guests, and locally made iron railings and native landscaping keep a low carbon footprint and pay tribute to the Ranch’s history, often referred to as "parkitecture." The decor is of a similar style to the rest of the Ranch’s interiors - luxurious yet unpretentious and with whimsical touches that include western and folk art, European antiques, and leather sofas. The suites and some of the guest rooms also have fireplaces. All of the guest rooms and suites have scenic views of the property that overlook the meadow and the signature 300 foot “Devil’s Thumb,” a rock outcropping that sits on the Continental Divide for which the Ranch was named.
The Ranch continues its established recycling programs and used the beetle kill wood and other reclaimed products in all the facilities’ construction. The Ranch also features geo-thermal radiant heating, low voltage lighting, recycled pavement, sand water filtration system and is committed to sourcing sustainably farmed food, including raising its own 100 percent purebred Wagyu beef, and other products and services locally as much as possible.
Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa is already one of the leading premium resorts for cross country skiers in the world and the expansion will extend the opportunities for more people to enjoy the facilities and the surrounding land.
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.
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.
Methow Valley, WA has storybook trails that feature 1 km loops that have sign-sized illustrated story book pages on panels displayed along select trails for kids to read as they ski or snowshoe.
Smuggler's Notch in VT has an XC ski lesson for kids, which 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.
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.
Ski Cubs is an educational program of the Catamount Trail Association (CTA) focused on introducing youth to cross-country skiing as a means to promote healthy lifestyles for Vermont families and communities. Ski Cubs collaborates with local organizations and schools to serve participants with limited resources and limited access to winter sports opportunities. This program offers youth an opportunity to enjoy an active, outdoor lifestyle during the winter. The intention is that Ski Cubs participants will develop a lifelong affinity for outdoor recreation and natural areas while continuing to ski with friends, family, and community members.
In its 2011 pilot season, Ski Cubs worked with five Burlington area youth organizations, teaching a total of 60 young people (ages 8 to 14) to ski. 75% of participants had never skied before and 100% expressed a desire to continue skiing in the future! In 2012, the CTA expanded Ski Cubs with the purchase of GPS units and snowshoes to develop an environmental education curriculum. In 2014, the program structure was altered to a weekend-model at Bolton Valley Nordic Center. A kids program may also be initiated this winter in southern Vermont in conjunction with Ski Cubs.
Ski Cubs runs on six Saturdays in January and February 9 AM-12 PM at Bolton Valley Nordic Center and is 100% free of charge, including equipment, instruction, ski pass and snacks. Bus transportation is offered to and from Burlington, and other groups are welcomed from surrounding areas, too. All instruction is done by volunteers. Each day includes fun games on skis, skill building, environmental education and skiing along the Bolton Valley Nordic trails. Participating organizations must commit to all 6 weeks and provide an adult chaperone.
The CTA also developed a school-based model to increase the number of kids that were reached and the Ski Cubs partners with schools to create customized programs, where typically, schools transport students to a local Nordic ski area. Ski Cubs staff and volunteers instruct the school program. Each day includes fun games on skis, skill building, environmental education and skiing along Nordic trails. In 2014 Ski Cubs worked with Robinson Elementary School in Starksboro, Vermont, creating a successful model for potential future school collaborations. The school aspect of the program is a template that could be conducted respectively by every Nordic ski area.
Ski Cubs is seeking volunteers for the program, and interested parties can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 802-864-5794. . Volunteers who are experienced with cross country skiing, working with children ages 8 to 18, environmental education are needed and they are asked to commit to a minimum of two weeks.
The SIA Snow Show is set for Denver, CO at the Colorado Convention Center on Jan 28 – 31 for retail stores and industry professionals (not the public). The Nordic Center exhibit will be created at the Show to give Nordic buyers and those new to the category an exclusive preview of apparel, equipment, accessories and technologies specific for the cross country and snowshoe experience while learning how to market, merchandise and sell the sports.
Chris McCullough of Madshus said, "Any opportunity for the Nordic community to come together with a shared focus for growing the sport and raising awareness for the full breadth of Nordic ski participation is a huge plus for us all. We're all really supportive of the return of this Nordic Center exhibit.
Participating product suppliers in the Nordic Center include Alpina Sports Corp., Atomic USA, Inc., Crescent Moon Snowshoes, Endurance Enterprises, Fisher Skis US, Madshus, One Way Sport USA, Rossignol, Salomon USA, Swix Sport USA, Inc. and TOKO. XCSkiResorts.com is also participating in support of the Nordic Center.
After the SIA Snow Show, some of the XC ski gear can be tried on the snow at the Nordic Demo at Copper Mountain on February 1-2.
The winter and snow cover are leaving us, so what do we do with ski equipment?
1) Cleaning: Use wax remover and Fiber wipe to clean the kick zone and also the glide zone.
2) Use the finest Steel or Copper brush to clean excess dirt from base.
3) Apply layer of Start Base (or Service or soft non-fluoro glider like SG2) to glide zones.
4) While wax is still soft use scraper with low pressure to "hot wipe" wax and further dirt away.
5) Follow with Fiber wipe and then finest steel brush again to remove dirt while refreshing base further. Repeat steps 4 and 5 as necessary until no more dirt is seen coming from base.
6) If you suspect your skis have any base damage (i.e. base sealing) consider having the skis stoneground to reveal a fresh base in the spring before summer storage. A fresh base is the most import feature in a skis ability to hold wax and to glide. Ski shops in most every ski town offer great stone grinding services.
7) Once you have a clean and refreshed base it is time to saturate the base with a summer storage wax. In the glide zones melt in a thick layer of Start Base (or Service or soft non-fluoro glider like SG2) and let it cool. If all the wax has been absorbed into the base at any point add another layer on to. Let cool leave it on the ski all summer.
8) Skis should be storage in cool, dry place, out of sunlight and not near heating elements nor not near the roof where temperature can rise over 50C degrees. Skis should be stored loosely strapped with no pressure on camber so that there is no risk that heat and pressure can alter any of the skis camber characteristics.
9) Better to do something than nothing. So at the very, very least crayon your softest glide onto your glide zones right now.
Article contributor Andy Gerlach in Sun Valley, ID knows his stuff –he's with SkiPost and Start Wax at http://www.skipost.com/
Every pregnancy guide book and website will tell you that it's very important to exercise during your pregnancy. Exercise will help to keep your body loose and supple, leaving you much more well equipped to deal with the strains and stresses of late pregnancy and, ultimately, labor. What those same books and websites are hazy about though, are exactly which sports and exercise you should be undertaking: if you have always been into cross country (XC) skiing, can you continue to ski during pregnancy?
XC Skiing During Pregnancy
The simple answer is that yes, provided you have the approval of your doctor, you are able to enjoy XC skiing during early pregnancy. If you are not a regular and expert XC skier then your pregnancy is definitely not a good time to take up the sport; it is important that you are able to balance and feel there is a minimal risk of falling during your ski, as it is any fall or bump that has the potential to be damaging to your baby.
Perhaps you can check out some skiing videos and read some snow reports before you hit the slopes, to consider how you feel about enjoying your favorite winter sport while you're pregnant? Some women find even seeing skiing makes them feel so concerned that they are unable to enjoy themselves like they usually do.
Even if you are an experienced and regular XC skier, there are some precautions you should take if you decide to hit the snow whilst pregnant. Try not to overexert yourself too much: take things slower and less enthusiastically than you might have previously. Pay attention to your body and how you're feeling; don't push through any twinges or shortness of breath. Sit down and take a short rest instead!
Many women will choose to stop skiing at around the fifth month of their pregnancy because this is when most women find they really notice their baby bumps and they begin to feel cumbersome. When your bump is large it will also affect your center of gravity, which could in turn increase your risk of experiencing a fall. You shouldn't be concerned about the higher altitude of your ski destination affecting your baby however; this is a widely reported myth! Plenty of babies are born at higher altitudes, and the change in oxygen levels will have no effect on your unborn child.
Finally, because every pregnancy and every woman is different, ensure you discuss your plans with your doctor before you continue with your current exercise regime. That way, he or she will be able to tell you of any risks posed to your own particular circumstances. But if you are a healthy woman having a normal healthy pregnancy then there should be no reason not to enjoy a leisurely ski.
Postpartum XC Skiing
Postpartum exercise is beneficial for new moms, both mentally and physically. Depending on the type of child birth you experience, most new moms are given the all clear to begin exercising again at around a month to six weeks after their baby is born.
Once you are given the okay to exercise, there's no reason why you can't return to XC skiing! Just take it slowly and make sure you don't overexert yourself. It is unlikely that you will be able to go straight back into your pre-baby routine; instead set yourself small challenges to work your way of to your pre pregnancy fitness levels. Don't extend your joints to the point where it causes pain or stretch too excessively. Post-partum women will find their joints and ligaments are much softer for the first couple of months following the birth of their child, so it is important to be aware of this and avoid hurting yourself.
By following these few simple tips, there is no reason not to enjoy XC skiing during your pregnancy and after the birth of your baby. Why not get your skis on and find out for yourself?
Nordic sit-skiing gives a taste of freedom to a person with mobility limitations to access snow covered trails, fields, and cross country (XC) ski areas that cover the north country. People such as wounded warriors or accident victims, who have mobility impairments can experience the benefits of XC skiing…that is, getting outdoors in the natural environment, feel the confidence associated with physical and mental fitness and wellness, and enjoy the freedom to travel over snow as far as they can go.
Sit-skis are the adaptive equipment for folks in a wheel chair (spinal cord injuries) and for those with leg injuries or amputations. There are different kinds of equipment designs to support a wide variety of users such as people with and without legs, people of different sizes, and so on. Sit-skiers use short poles in the range of 100-130cm long. Those with one lower leg amputation are encouraged to participate in a standing position, so they might utilize the same equipment as able-bodied participants.
Sit-ski equipment consists of an ultra-light weight plastic or carbon fiber bucket supported by an aluminum alloy frame that clips into a pair of XC skis. The ski poles are shortened to accommodate the seat height and the skier double poles for a cross country ski experience.
So how much work is XC skiing for a mobility impaired person? The skis glide efficiently and the biggest challenge is steep hills. Most sit-skiers start on flat terrain and become accustomed to double poling to propel the equipment forward. Beginner trails at commercial XC ski areas provide optimal terrain for a sit-skier to practice and see if XC skiing is right for him or her. As in any endeavor, practice and repetition helps to develop the muscles and body parts that are needed. But the first time sit-skier should expect to have some arm soreness for a couple of days afterward.
It is a good idea to take a lesson and rent sit-ski equipment at the start to try it and see if XC skiing is something that feels right. There are dozens of different sit-ski designs with regard to attachment to the skis, but there are only a few manufacturers of the equipment. Some sit-ski models clip right on any XC ski with an SNS binding and others bolt permanently and require tools to change skis. You would be able to change skis depending upon snow conditions if you have the clip-on model sit-ski. The length of the ski selected will vary based on the skier's weight and it is good to start beginners on shorter skis for easier maneuverability. A sit-skier wants to minimize the ski base friction and narrower skis are generally faster than wider skis.
There are only a few XC ski areas that have sit-ski equipment to use including Vermont's Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton and Craftsbury Outdoor Center. Other areas with programs in the northeast include Pinelands Farm in New Gloucester, Maine and Weston Ski Track in Mass. (both of these areas have snowmaking). Most often an introduction to sit-skiing is through programs. Such organized programs across the country are in Minnesota, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, and in Sun Valley, Idaho. For a list of program contacts check out http://findaclub.usparalympics.org/ and do an advanced search for winter sports and XC skiing.
A sit-ski beginner usually has his/her equipment prepared for him/her ahead of time by the instructor. A sit-skier applies downward pressure in order to move forward and wants to get everything lined up to make the movement efficient and take full advantage of their functioning muscles.
As you might imagine, hills are a challenge for sit-skiers and the key is to avoid steep uphill terrain. Backsliding on gentle terrain is less of an issue although on a steep incline there is always a point of no return. Since your sole source of energy is double-poling and you cannot side step or herring bone, you are at the mercy of physics and at some point you simply cannot climb. Beginning sit-skiers are taught a safety procedure for bailing out on a backwards descent.
Patrick Standen of the Northeast Disabled Athletic Association commented, "A person could chose whatever ski set up works best for them, their adapted equipment, and the terrain they use. I have some buddies who backcountry in the Sierra Nevada's, who sit-ski up mountains with skins, but they are seasoned skiers." In general, it is recommended that sit-skiers go out with a companion who can help push them up hills.
"Specifically, the double-poling motion and cadence changes as you approach and begin to climb hills by becoming shorter and more rapid until, if needed, you are "ice-picking" or pulling yourself up one carefully planted pole pull at a time. It can be arduous but it is a total upper body workout and a great cardio pump."
Nordic skiing offers peace in the wilderness and feeds personal wellness and hopefully more persons with mobility impairments will discover that they can use ski-skis to attain this experience of beauty and tranquility.
Photo o Patrick Standen on the sit ski
I just got back from a weekend in the Mt. Washington Valley in New Hampshire's White Mountains and the report is that the trail conditions were great. This had been a good start to the winter season and there had been a few snow storms that provided great trail cover in the region, but now an epic rainstorm and extended warm up were forecast.
Case in point, the Jackson Ski Touring Center received three feet of snow in December. During the winter break between Christmas and New Year's Day, the number of skiers reported at Jackson had increased by 15 percent over last year's numbers. Overall, skier visits were up and the conditions made for excellent skiing and snowshoeing. Jackson Ski Touring Center Executive Director Thom Perkins said, "Even with some recent rain, there is still plenty of snow on the ground here in Jackson." And I can personally confirm that snow.
The weekend started on Saturday with a visit to Great Glen Outdoor Trails Center in Gorham, NH. It rained most of the time that we were out on the trails; all right, some might call it torrential downpour. But the snow was very skiable, not too soft or slushy. There were some very wet areas on the trails (called ponding) that we could easily ski around and avoid. We were in the leeward side of the mighty Mt. Washington and we got soaked but we were comfortable in the well-designed forested trails and never felt any wind from the storm. One skier in my group was a first timer and he had no problem with the weather or the ski conditions. I had intended to take the SnowCoach up the Mt. Washington Toll Road to the 4,000 foot elevation and ski back down, but the weather prohibited that idea so it will have to happen on a future trip to Great Glen.
The next day my wife and I skied at Bear Notch Ski Touring Center on trails that were scenic and comfortable (little up hill on our outing). Perhaps it was the soft snow that allowed us to scoot up the tracks with little effort. We were passed by a skijoring couple, each being towed up the trail by a Siberian Huskey leashed to a harness.
Part of the trails we skied at both Great Glen and Bear Notch were along brooks. Upon my comment to my wife that I enjoyed skiing along while hearing the water flow nearby, I learned that there are some people that claim such running water makes them want to tinkle. You're never too old to learn things.
We stayed at a country inn called the Christmas Farm Inn just up the hill from downtown Jackson, New Hampshire, which is a quintessential New England town with the white steeple church. This town, is home of the Jackson Ski Touring Foundation and it is a Mecca for cross country skiers. Jackson has also been cited as one of the more romantic destinations for travelers. Skiers can don their skis and hit the more than 150 kilometers of trails right out the door of their lodging almost anywhere in town. The Foundation operates under a Special-Use Permit with the White Mountain National Forest, and with the cooperation of 75 private landowners, and the Village of Jackson.
While at the Christmas Farm Inn, we dined on a fine dinner and breakfast and scheduled massages at the inn's Aveda Concept Spa. The inn is a classic country inn seemingly out of the movie White Christmas, and it is believed that it was originally built in 1778. We stayed in the Carriage House, which is the inn's newest facility that houses the spa and is nearby to the indoor pool and fitness center.
On Monday morning, we stayed in Jackson and skied in glorious sunshine on the Ellis River Trail, which is rolling terrain along the West Bank of the Ellis River. The Waffle Cabin is an easy destination for skiers to reach about 3 kilometers up the trail from the Jackson Ski Touring Center lodge. We took some photos and had a great return ski, again along the babbling river, which was full of water from the previous rainstorm. This trail is a special place for my family because it is where my wife fell in love with cross country skiing. Hopefully, I had something to do with it, but there was also a chipmunk that crossed her ski path on that day in 1986. We've also skied the Ellis River Trail with our kids and have savored our family memories on that trail.
All in all, it was a great three days on the trails in the Mt. Washington Valley and the moral of the story is that people should check the snow conditions reports before deciding that a rain storm or warm weather necessarily ruins cross country skiing trails. The weather may have been the reason that we saw so few other skiers on the trails. If they only knew the great trail conditions that they were missing!
Photo of two skiers behind Jackson Ski Touring Center lodge
Try before you buy - many XC ski areas conduct demo days to give skiers an opportunity to test drive the newest XC ski equipment. It's a day when product suppliers' branded tents and flags are flapping in the wind and company reps stand guard armed with knowledge of their wares.
You might participate in a demo because you have outdated gear (national statistics say that XC skis are 17 years old on average) and want to test new and different equipment to replace your old clunkers. Or you might just want to experience the advantages of the new gear. A pair of XC skis can be as high as $500 for premium models, so it makes great sense to try some different skis, ski categories, and brands to find something that best fits you.
Depending on how organized the demo is, you might need a credit card and/or identification for security but remember to also bring an open mind. The rep will ask you about your skiing ability and interests. If you're an intermediate skier who gets out on the trails four times a winter it is very different from a skier who hits the trails every weekend and can fly on skate skis. Give the rep an accurate description of your skiing prowess and interests so he or she can make a recommendation for you.
If you need a new set up and want to use a product demo to help make the decision about what to buy, do some homework before going to the demo. Talk with a knowledgeable ski shop employee who XC skis. Be wary of the alpine ski shop that limits its XC ski products to a dark or dusty back corner of the store. Find a reputable XC ski shop that sells multiple models among a few different brands of XC skis. Check out some company brand websites or other general XC ski-oriented websites.
When at the demo, get the right size skis for your weight and ski on them for about 15 minutes. Find some uphill and downhill trails to see how the skis perform. Do the skis hold going uphill or do you have to fight to prevent backsliding? Are some skis easier to turn than others? Does the glide seem to extend or do the skis slow down quickly? If you don't know what to look for while testing, ask the rep for some tips.
It is recommended to stay in the same category of skis when testing, so if you're trying a recreational waxless ski from one brand, test a similar ski and price point from a different brand before switching to a different kind of skis.
Of course, there are two different XC ski boot/bindings available and if you don't use the same system on the different skis that you're testing, you'll have to change boots to ski the other boot/binding system.
Rossignol rep Will Masson commented about the advantage of demoing with the NIS binding, "The NIS system allows you to move the binding on the ski to 7 different positions so you can fine tune your grip and glide position on the skis. The binding starts out at the balance point position and moves forward 1.5 cm and back 1.5 cm to customize your weight distribution on a particular ski. This can only be achieved when using the NIS system.
There is a graph that shows the benefits of moving the binding forward and back on the plate for skating and classic. A customer might be right between a 176 cm and a 186 cm ski on the recommended weight chart. That customer can be put on the longer ski to enhance the glide, and then the binding would be moved forward to maximize their grip on that longer ski. Advantages are like fine tuning a driver in golf, or a handlebar stem height on a bike, or strings in a tennis racquet. With other Nordic binding systems once you mount the binding you are stuck in that position!"
XC ski boots are a very important aspect of XC skiing comfort and it makes great sense to ski on some different brands. Do you want your boots to feel like a comfortable sneaker or do you desire the substantial support of a stiff sole? Is the toe box area of the boot creasing in a comfortable spot when you're skiing? Do your heels rise when you lift your foot? Is the boot too tight or too loose? Should you get custom insoles for your boots to make your feet feel more comfortable?
Have you tried XC ski poles recently? Ski poles have different grip straps that are easier to use and you may find that they are more comfortable and effective than traditional ski pole straps. Sunglasses are a great item to test. Do they fog up when you get sweaty? Do they feel so tight that you might get a headache? Are interchangeable lenses available for times of low light or bright sun?
Dedicate part of your ski day to the demo and try more than a few skis, poles, and boots. It should be fun and then you can make informed decisions when you purchase your next set of XC ski equipment and you'll feel great that you bought the perfect gear. For a nationwide demo day and introduction to XC skiing and snowshoeing click Winter Trails. Check the XCSkiResorts.com What's Happening Page for some demo day listings or contact a XC ski area near you to see when they will conduct their next demo day. SIA Photo of SIA Nordic Demo at Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa
There is archaeological evidence that domesticated dogs (and dog harnesses) accompanied humans in northern Native cultures as far back as 15,000 years ago. Today people can hop on a sled pulled by dogs over the snow for a great time to explore the winter wilderness and share that Native experience.
Dog sledding is suitable for people of most ages, who have a sense of adventure and don't need dogsled experience or special gear. Often warm clothing and boots are available from the outfitter. With the assistance of expert guides, you can drive your own dogsled on a scenic variety of beautiful trails along the river, across a frozen lake, or through forested trails. Today's dog sled adventures offer a multitude of options from one-hour guide-led runs to overnight and weeklong camping trips among the Native villages in the Arctic.
All of the states and provinces in North America that are covered in snow during the winter have dog sled outfitters and here are a few examples:
Wintergreen DogSled Lodge has lovely lakeshore lodging in Ely, MN with fabulous views & fireplaces and they are famous for fine food and mouth-watering meals. Wintergreen also offers Arctic treks in Greenland or Norway and is known for their lodge-based dog sledding vacations and dogsled camping adventures at one of the only resorts devoted exclusively to dog mushing. Parent-child pairs trips are popular at Wintergreen DogSled Lodge.
In Vermont, there are a number of dog sled outfitters that offer a winter stay and sled adventure package and educational dogsledding adventures for couples and families.
The Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel is a premier dog sled operator in New England offering year round dog sledding adventures at its kennel in Jefferson, NH on the north side of Mt. Washington. The adventures range from 2-50 miles (including overnights) and their dog sledding experiences are designed to be hands-on to the comfort level of the guests. Participants aged 2 and older are given the opportunity to meet and greet rescued and second-chance sled dogs, to help harness and hitch the team, and even help drive the sled (at musher discretion for guests and dog safety of course). Muddy Paw also offers 60-
minute rides at the Omni Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods.
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 32 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 starting at $29 for adults and $19 for kids.
In the spirit of this Olympic year, Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center in Truckee, CA announced a new Junior Biathlon program led by former US biathlon team member Tom McElroy. This program will be an introduction to the winter Olympic sport for children in second through eighth grade.
Biathlon was first adopted as an Olympic sport in 1955 and "competitions were held at the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley," said Sally Jones, manager of Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center, which is just around Lake Tahoe from the original site of the Sqauw Valley Olympics. Children who participate in the new program will be coached to improve their skiing skills and also learn marksmanship and gun safety using specially designed, 100-percent safe, laser biathlon rifles.
Tahoe Donner also has new biathlon clinics for adults and children interested in learning about the sport of biathlon. After range instruction and a brief background on biathlon history, participants will get a chance to ski or snowshoe a short loop and then practice their skills trying to hit targets with an elevated heart rate. This is a 1.5-hour clinic is $30 and scheduled on Dec. 22, Jan. 5, and 12, Feb. 8 and 17.
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.
Other XC ski areas with biathlon programs The Nordic Heritage Sport Club Center in Presque Isle, ME will hold the International Youth/Junior World Championships for Biathlon on Feb 28-Mar 7 and US Team Trials for the competition will be on Dec 28-30. At Rendezvous Ski Trails in West Yellowstone, MT it's a cornerstone of winter activity and there is a free "Try Biathlon Day" on Jan 4. There's also paintball biathlon in Gunstock, NH, Bohart Ranch in Bozeman, MT, and other programs at Blackhawk, WI, Sun Valley, ID and Anchorage, AK. Check Google or other web search service for a biathlon club or program in your area. Photo: Biathlete Lesson; ORDA Dave Schmidt
There was extensive coverage about fat bikes in the media last year (it's hot) and there's a photograph of a person riding a fat bike towing a Christmas tree on the cover of this year's Patagonia Holiday Catalog. Fat bikes were recently dubbed the "Hummers of the two-wheelers' world" in the Wall Street Journal. These specially-made bicycles that accommodate ultra-wide tires that can be run at very low pressure less than ten pounds of pressure allow fat bikes to roll over soft, slippery surfaces like snow. XC ski areas from Vermont to Michigan and Arizona to California and Washington are now allowing fat bikes also called snow bikes to be used on their groomed trails and offering rental bikes, too.
Fat bikes are one of the fastest growing segments of the bicycle industry. There were 10,000 fat bikes sold since 2010. They provide a great way for cyclists to stay in shape during the winter season. In eastern Washington's Methow Valley Sports Trails (MVSTA) 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. Last winter, there were 500 rentals with only 16 fat bikes at Methow Cycle & Sport and this was an increase of 60% above the previous year.
Fat bike products are available from companies such as Surlybikes.com and Salsacycles.com and even the mainstream company Trekbikes.com among others.
According to a recent survey by the Cross County Ski Areas Association there are at least 28 of the XC ski areas, which now welcome fat bikes on their trails. Flagstaff Nordic Center outside of Flagstaff, AZ is running a snowmobile on 25 km of the snowshoe trails to 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.
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 MVSTA grooming report. Just like a skier, a valid MVSTA day pass will be required for snow bikes.
Fat bikes are available for rent ranging from $10 at Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton, Vermont to $20 during the week at Flagstaff Nordic reaching $75 a day at New World Sport, a Fort Collins, Colo, shop that sends riders to local packed snowshoe and XC ski trails. It's $55 at Village Sports Shop in Lyndonville, VT and they suggest rider use the bikes on the nearby Kingdom Trails, where there are bikes to rent, too. Methow Cycle and Sport in Winthrop, WA has a $35 half day rate or $55 for a full day. They have rental bikes at the store and on site near 5 km of trails at nearby Sun Mountain Lodge. Reservations are recommended for weekends and holidays. Methow Cycle and Sport will also provide rack adaptors 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 Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, Mich at $15 per hour and California areas with fat bikes include Bear Valley Cross Country & Adventure and Royal Gorge where there are 10 km of trails available and rentals for $20 per hour.
As one might imagine the price for purchasing a fat bike ranges greatly from a low-end of $200 (at Walmart) to $2,000-6,000). 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 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.
* Purpose built snow bikes only! Both tires must be wider than 3.7" and tire pressure must be less than 10 psi, no exceptions!
* 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.
The biggest disparity between going cross country (XC) skiing on your own through the woods and XC skiing at a commercial XC ski area is trail conditions. Trail grooming at commercial XC ski areas (that charge a trail fee) refers to using a vehicle with attachments to rework the snow to provide consistent ski and trail conditions.
A compacted trail surface with set tracks will help skis to glide forward with minimal energy loss so that skiing is easier, beginners can learn to ski under control more quickly, and skiers can go further more efficiently. Icy trail conditions can be renovated and made skiable, and trails with little snow can be made skiable and last longer. Other important grooming situations include packing new snow to decrease wind susceptibility and conditioning deeper snow pack on high traffic trails, instruction areas, and down hills.
According to the "Cross Country USA Ski Area Development Manual" by Nordic Group International, "Good trail grooming is somewhere between a craft and an art," but the most prevalent factors to grooming the XC ski area trails include the snow conditions, temperature, humidity and exposure, the type and size of vehicle and attachments, and operator skills.
Chris Meyers of Bohart Ranch in Bozeman, MT spoke with XCSkiResorts.com about his 26 years of trail grooming commenting, "For the skier, you want it to be easy to ski and you don't want it icy." He goes out before sunrise when the humidity is lowest and it is coldest for his grooming to get better compaction of the snow. Also, there're no skiers on the trails at that time. As the sun comes out, the trails set up.
In general, ski trail groomers use a snowmobile or a large snowcat and each has its benefits and detriments. To the ski area operator, the significant issues include the cost of acquiring the grooming vehicle, the cost of fueling and maintaining the vehicle, depreciation, and finding a reliable skilled groomer (operator).
"Snocats" are big tractors with treads, which employ front and rear attachments (such as snowblade, tiller, powdermaker, compactor, or tracksetter) to rework the snow. Doug Edgerton of Yellowstone Track Systems and distributor of the Ginsu Groomer shared information with XCSkiResorts.com about the cost of trail grooming saying, "The big vehicles can cost $200,000 for a new one, but many ski area operators purchase used grooming vehicles and attachments. Running a large vehicle could cost in the range of $75-100 per hour. Gasoline alone can be about $25 per hour. Smaller snowmobiles with attachments that are used for trail grooming can cost between $12-14,000."
Snow farming is used by many ski area operators to retain snow, create cache sites in drift areas and shovel snow for later redistribution. Wet areas can be covered in hay bales or hay over plywood to hold the snow. Snow fencing can be mounted on skis and towed to different trails to catch the snow during snowstorms.
Front blades on a snocat are used to move snow around and borrow it from trail edges or caches. Tillers are used to break up ice, crust, and ski-compacted snow. Snow rollers can pack the snow to prevent it from blowing away or melting too quickly. Of course, more areas are now investing in snowmaking to produce machine-made snow that has to be moved and conditioned on the trails.
The Jackson Ski Touring Center recently upgraded their fleet of snow grooming tractors with the addition of a brand new $175,000 state-of-the-art Kassborher PB 100 grooming vehicle, which was added a new grooming implement to supplement their early season grooming fleet. The new PB 100 grooming vehicle incorporates the latest in grooming technology and Jackson's Executive Director Thom Perkins said, "Over the years, we've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars preparing the surface of the trails to be able to groom with the first snow of the season. Skiers can be assured that with this new equipment, our crew will be able to provide even better skiing."
All in all, we have the trail groomers to thank for XC ski trails that are consistent, safe, and fun to ski. Photos: Maplelag Resort, MN (Top) Snocat trail groomer and (lower) snowmobile with rolling compactor.
Skijoring is a Norwegian word that means "skidriving." A team of one or more dogs pulls an xc skier and the skier "drives" or directs the team as he or she skis behind. In Scandinavia, skijoring has been done for centuries and it is gaining popularity in the US. It's easy to learn and can lead to magical winter days for you and your canine friend. Skijoring will help keep your dog fit and healthy and it can deepen and enhance the relationship that you have with your dog. Learning to work with your dog and become a team is a great reward that skijoring has to offer.
The human aspect of skijoring requires skiing ability, dog training, and handling skills. Any XC ski gear can be used for skijoring and classic or skating ski techniques can be used. The type of ski selected depends on the experience that your desire such as how fast you want to ski and how far you want to go. Expect that a fast running dog on a groomed ski trail will be very quick and skating might be the best choice.
If you are new to XC skiing, it is recommended that you take ski lessons and practice prior to trying skijoring with your dog. Ski ability requires that you are able to control your speed, stop, and keep balance. But as previously mentioned, skijoring is a team activity and you should expect to work as hard as your dog. It is not a FREE RIDE!
Dog training and handling skills are equally important so it is useful if you and your dog have participated in an obedience class together. Key elements include being positive, patient, and consistent. Positive reinforcement is important with any animal training and short easy sessions will yield great results. You want to feel successful and gain confidence together.
No matter the breed (above 30 pounds), dogs have a strong instinct to chase, run on a trail, or hunt as a pack. While sometimes this instinct can result in unwanted behavior, when carefully shaped and trained, it also enables your dog to pull. One of the easiest ways to teach your dog skijoring is hooking him/her up with an experienced skijoring or sled dog team. Another method that works is to have someone ski slightly in front of your dog and call it, while you let it pull you.
Some dogs may learn immediately and others may take a little more work and encouragement, but keep things in perspective.
Dogs need adequate water and it is recommended not to run them on a full stomach. They can overheat in warmer temperatures (above 40 degrees) and dogs with thin coats (such as pointers) can get too cold. You might consider dog booties for abrasive snow conditions (may take some getting used to) and for furry footed dogs, you should trim the hair on their paws or use oils (Musher's Secret) to prevent snowballs. If your dog is not regularly exercised, start with very short sessions and work up from there. Consult a veterinarian for advice about ideal running weight for the breed of dog that you own.
The gear for skijoring is lightweight and simple. Booties have already been mentioned and a harness is necessary to connect you with the dog. A webbed harness when pulled to complete length stretches from your dog's neck and chest to the base of his/her tail. A good fitting harness should allow a dog to run and pull efficiently and safely. It is best to have an experienced and knowledgeable skijorer help to fit your dog's first harness. A bungee lead (a leash with a bungee cord sewn inside of it) is useful to prevent jerking motions and ease the stress of pulling on your dog. You will also have a harness around your hips and legs and these come in a variety of styles that should fit so that you can move and ski efficiently. A safety release between your harness and the line connecting you to the dog is very important.
Communication and Sharing
When you are ready to go, with a friend in front to encourage your dog, let him/her start pulling and give the command "Let's Go!"
There are many commands you will learn as a skijorer such as "whoa" or stop, "on by" meaning leave that irresistible distraction alone and keep going, "gee" means go right and "haw" means go left. "Come around" means turn around. Taking a class in skijoring will help you get started the right way.
While on the trails with your dog please be aware of trail etiquette. Respect the guidelines at an xc ski area and stay on the dog-friendly trails that are specified. Loose dogs can be an annoyance and even a danger to both skiers and other dogs. Be aware of others on the trail.
Louisa Morrissey teaches skijoring clinics at Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash, CO on Jan 5, 19, and Feb 2 and 23 at 10 AM -12 PM. At Frisco Nordic Center has skijoring clinics in Frisco, CO on Jan 25 and Feb 8. Also private lessons with advance reservations are available through the Aspen Animal Shelter. For more info about her programs see www.highcountrydogs.com
Breckenridge Nordic Center in CO has combined with the town of Breckenridge in a public private partnership to develop a new 9,200 square foot log lodge on Peak 8, which has become the new base of the BNC operations as of January. Gene and Therese Dayton, long time proprietors at the center spoke with XCSkiResorts.com about the development sounding like proud parents of a beautiful new baby, "The new facility called the Oh, Be Joyful Log Lodge houses all of the Breckenridge Nordic Center operations including areas for lounging, a loft and mezzanine, space for retail and rental operations, a snowcat garage, a full basement, restrooms, and two employee units so the groomers can be on site for storms."
Therese Dayton said, "The lodge sits nestled beneath massive mountain peaks that are white capped year round. It is all brand new, but looks like an old National Park Lodge and it sits on the edge of the Town of Breckenridge's Cucumber Creek Preserve. The new location is teeming with wildlife and has an easy topography for hiking, biking, snowshoeing and XC skiing."
The Daytons described the construction project as a "labor of love." It began in October 2012 and the lumber was harvested from the Pine Beetle devastation in the area. The logs were milled and lathed at Dayton's local sawmill operation and the log peeling and staining were done by hand. The building will be energy efficient with foundation insulation panels and thick roof insulation to make the log structure more weatherproof. The construction also utilized 110 spruce trees that were felled during the Breckenridge Ski Area gondola project.
The new lodge has great vistas, trail access, interior space for retail and rental operations, as well as larger and more desirable restroom facilities. The log lodge has an Old World "Black Forest Nature" theme with wood carvings, and wildlife artwork featured throughout the spacious Grandview Room. The huge handcrafted Spruce and Douglas Fir log posts and truss beam structure overhead, reveals a wide open feel with the cedar branch loft railing on the mezzanine level, the Lodgepole Pine Beetle killed tongue and groove ceiling, Arkansas moss rock stone fireplace, Information Guest Services desk, and Supreme Gold granite Cafe Bar top all with comfy in-floor heat over Red Pine flooring at your feet.
The Daytons worked with 14 landowners and 7 homeowner associations in planning and the site is right on the local bus shuttle route. Landowners donated land for open space and recreation. The town also worked cooperatively grading the parking, which is paved with asphalt and lighted, with dense Spruce trees and Colorado native landscaping and wildflowers. Patrons can easily drive right up to the front door for a quick Skier Drop Off under the covered Porto Cochere that'll be especially nice for families with small children, elderly folks, and/or guests with disabilities.
The Savory Spoon Cafe & Wine Bar serves grab n' go food/drinks, as well as warm and hearty homemade soups/chili, fresh green salads with plenty of toppings, and hot grilled sandwiches, and more. Seating is available on the warm fireplace hearth, in the lounge dining room, or outdoors at the South Cafe table or on the West Grandview Patio.
The town granted access to the adjacent property in the Cucumber Gulch Preserve, where the historic Joses mining cabin is located and the wildlife is plentiful. The Breckenridge region is known for the 13 pound, 7 ounce gold nugget that was found in 1887 by Tom Graves, who nuzzled it like a baby to keep people from discovering it. "Tom's Baby" as it is known is still on display at the Colorado Museum of Natural History in Denver.
The lodge is at 9,800 foot elevation and it has window views of the Ten Mile Range and Breckenridge's Peaks 6 and 7. For local XC skiers and those traveling to Breckenridge as a destination, there are 30 kilometers of groomed ski trails and there are also 18 kilometers dedicated for snowshoers. In the summer, the lodge will host nature programs, weddings, and other events. Connected to US Forest Service land, the Breckenridge Ski Area, and Summit County land the facility is adjacent to endless trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. As a year round recreational facility, the Oh, Be Joyful Log Lodge will put Breckenridge on the map to become a mecca for XC skiers and snowshoers.
The SIA/Physical Activity Council 2013 Participation Study recently 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 3,307,000 cross country skiers in 2012-13 (winter season). This was the second consecutive decline of the cross country ski population, with a decrease of 23% from the previous year. Other 2013 snow sport populations were: alpine = 8,243,000; snowboard = 7,351,000; snowshoe = 4,029,000.
The age group information of snowshoers showed 33% under 24, 42% in the 25-44 age group, and 20% in the 45-64 age group, while 5% were aged 65 and above
The gender of cross county skiers in 2013 according to the survey was 60-40 percent male-female as the percentage of female participation has declined over the last few years. Other demographic information included that 49% of cross country skiers had a household income above $75,000 annually and 59% had an educational level of a bachelor degree or higher.
The survey projections divided cross country skiers in the USA by geographic region. There was 15.9% of cross country skiers in the Pacific states, 18.2% in the MidAtlantic (NJ, NY, PA) region and 10.4% in the Mountain region. The North Central region remained the largest representation of the cross country skier population with 26.7% and 8.7% of them were in New England. The remaining 20% of cross country skiers were in the 17 states of South Atlantic and South Central regions.
The average retail prices for cross country skis in 2012-13 in specialty stores was $170.43 per pair of skis and $119.37 per pair of cross country ski boots.
Cross participation in other forms of recreation showed that 49.3% of cross country skiers enjoyed walking for fitness and 43.4% were also into hiking. 42.9% of cross country skiers are runners or joggers and 38.7% go bicycling on roads or paved surfaces while 34.5% of cross country skiers also snowshoe. 45.8% of cross country skiers also alpine ski.
The Participation Study looked at ethnic demographics and cross country skiing's largest group of participants are Caucasian 69.5%. The other groups amidst cross country skiing included 13% African American, 4.9% Hispanic, and 5.3% Asian or Pacific Islander.
When asked about where cross country skiers ski, 37% responded that they go to public ski centers, 35% went to private ski centers, 20% skied in the backcountry, and 8% said they skied in other non-groomed terrain. It would be assumed that many cross country skiers visit all the different venues during the winter and it is unknown whether cross country skiers understand the terms with regard to public and private ski facilities. For example, is a ski area that is owned and operated by a non-profit organization considered a public or private ski center?
The average number of days cross country skiers participated in 2012-13 was 9.4 days. Having someone to go with was the most significant factor that encouraged participants to go cross country skiing (61.9%). Other encouraging factors had similar statistics in the mid-to-high twenty percentages including 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. Can more people overcome these obstacles to become cross country skiers? Thanks to Kelly Davis, SIA Director of Research for sharing the study findings with XCSkiResorts.com.
Nordic snow pros or ski instructors teach the sport for the same reason to celebrate the community and culture of the sport and to share that experience with as many people as possible. Professional ski and snowboard instructors come in all shapes and sizes and from many different backgrounds. There are part-time and full-time instructors while some prefer teaching beginners, or kids, because they enjoy introducing new people to the sport, others are coaching competitive athletes at the highest level.
PSIA-AASI is the national organization in the USA that offers professional certification and certificate programs for those instructors looking to gain peer-reviewed recognition of their skills and knowledge. PSIA-AASI develops national certification standards with the industry partners that provide the foundation for these credentialing programs. The organization is comprised of regional divisions. As of the end of June 2013 there were 893 certified PSIA-AASI instructors for cross country skiing and 1,801 certified instructors for telemark skiing (usually done at alpine ski areas). Canada has the Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors (CANSI), a similar organization had 781 members in 2012-2013 including 583 xc ski instructors and 236 telemark ski instructors (some members have both certifications). These professional organizations are endorsed by the Cross Country Ski Areas Association and its president Chris Frado, commented, "For the best ski experience possible, take a lesson with a certified ski instructor."
The current PSIA-AASI education/certification standards provide a training focus and represent a minimum competency for each level of certification. There are specific PSIA-AASI manuals about teaching cross country skiing and telemark skiing. CANSI has four certification levels in xc and three in telemark. Certification courses are organized and run by six different regions across Canada, following standards established by the National Technical Committee. Besides regular professional development days, CANSI members have access to a variety of technical material such as a very detailed and comprehensive Instructor Manual, newsletters and videos. Professional members also benefit from a liability insurance coverage when teaching, and enjoy discounts with several industry-leading equipment suppliers.
From professional development to expanding your abilities to share the ski experience with others, to making lifelong friends and memories, PSIA-AASI is devoted to helping you make your time as an instructor as rewarding as possible. PSIA-AASI membership consists of both registered and certified members. Once you join the Association you become a registered member. When you take and pass your Level I, Level II or Level III certification exams, you become a certified member or instructor.
PSIA-AASI provides much more than just a membership; it provides a connection to people who are excited about skiing and sharing that passion with others. And, it provides a connection to sliding on snow that has the power to change lives.
The organization has more than 31,000 total members, hundreds of discount products from official suppliers and the PSIA-AASI Accessories Catalog available to members at a discount. Other membership benefits include attending clinics, attaining nationally recognized certification, online teaching resources and printed technical manuals, PSIA-AASI's magazine 32 Degrees, discounts on products from official suppliers, instructional aid products, and liability insurance coverage.
The costs associated with becoming a certified PSIA-AASI Nordic instructor are about $150 for attending a 2-day event in one of the regions where you would learn the particulars of teaching (covering material in the Nordic ski instruction manual) and $127 annual dues. For example, the PSIA-AASI events in 2012-13 sanctioned by the Eastern Division were held at 13 ski areas in six different states across the region during the winter (3 in VT, 3 in NH, 3 in NY, 2 in ME, 1 in MA, 1 in WV). Attending courses for CANSI can cost $250-300 but this includes the first year of annual membership, which costs $70 per year. If you're interested in sharing the passion of cross country skiing and becoming a certified instructor, contact www.thesnowpros.org or in Canada www.cansi.ca/en/ to find your respective division.
Skiers visiting a commercial cross country ski resort can feel comfortable knowing that if they get injured there is most likely a ski patroller on site during their visit. But who are these patrollers?
Since 1938 the National Ski Patrol (NSP) has served the public and outdoor recreation industry providing education and credentials for emergency care and safety service. The NSP has had a Nordic division since the early 1970s, and these Nordic patrollers provide venue coverage at Nordic ski resorts, services to backcountry enthusiasts by interfacing with the National Forest Service and different park agencies, and can be an integral aspect of local search and rescue groups.
The diverse nature of the Nordic classification lends itself to be a unique program within the NSP. These patrollers who work at ski resorts, in the backcountry, and at alpine ski areas use a variety of equipment types, and know the extended patient care knowledge required and the needed backcountry survival skills. This all contributes to defining what Nordic patrollers do.
Nordic Patrollers are educated with a comprehensive manual and Nordic ski enhancement seminars offered by NSP regional divisions. These are effective tools to build strong confidence and proficiency on the trails. The NSP is standardizing the program throughout the divisions, so the same tools are applied for patrollers to succeed and a quality assurance plan is being put in place to ensure that the NSP members meet high standards.
Mountain Travel and Rescue (MTR) courses provide a variety of skills, including nutrition and how the body performs in a wilderness environment, weather patterns, survival skills, working with group dynamics, an introduction to search and rescue, rope rescue skills, improvised toboggan construction, and land navigation with map, compass, and GPS. The MTR courses are taught in classroom and field sessions including mock scenarios to ensure the attendees can apply what they have learned to real life situations.
Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast looking to expand survival and travel skills in the backcountry environment or a ski patroller preparing for one of the worst possible scenarios a parent can face at a ski area (a lost child), the NSP has a range of training. NSP also covers fundamental principles of avalanche hazard and work with mountain search and rescue groups. Patrollers who operate/recreate in areas that lack appreciable avalanche terrain are trained in navigation, emergency rescue, and even survival skills.
Can there be a more rewarding role on the snow than to help someone in need? To find out more about training programs, membership benefits, regional programs, and credential requirements at the National Ski Patrol, click http://www.nsp.org/about/joiningnsp.aspx
Cross country (xc) skiing is a sport with a very low incidence of injuries for a number of reasons including the low impact nature of xc skiing, low sliding speed, and free heel allows twisting if you fall (the ski boot is connected to the ski binding only at the toe and the heel is free), but there may be some injuries during the ski season in falls or by aggravating pre-existing conditions. Like the Maytag repairman, ski patrollers at xc ski areas are not busiest employees at the xc ski area because they do not have to address many serious skier injuries.
According to Sophia Sauter, a registered physiotherapist, who authored an article in "Active Life Physiotherapy" about 75% of injuries sustained by xc skiers are a result of overuse due to the repetitive nature of skiing, while the remaining 25% are a result of trauma. The following outlines some common injuries and appropriate treatment.
Traumatic xc ski injuries (25%), for example include ankle sprains, thumb sprains, knee ligament sprains, groin muscle strains, and wrist sprains. Upper body injuries are often the result of falling down but since xc skiing speeds tend to be somewhat slow, the impacts are often less severe than impacts at much higher speeds. The recommended treatment for the traumatic injuries is RICE: Relative rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Then, slowly restore range of motion, strength, proprioception (such as the ability to drive using brake, accelerator, and steering wheel without looking at your arms and legs), and power. It's suggested to see a physiotherapist to obtain a proper diagnosis and set of rehabilitative exercises.
Overuse injuries (75%) from xc skiing, for example could include knee pain, compartment syndrome on shins, Achilles tendon problems, rotator cuff and shoulder problems, and low back pain. The recommended treatment for these problems is a bit different. In these cases it's important to correct muscle imbalance (e.g. tight/weak), equipment faults, and possible training errors. Seek medical advice from a physiotherapist or other qualified health professional specializing in injuries common to xc skiers. Most people skip the warm up or preparing for recreational activity altogether, but the best way to avoid injury is prevention. This means utilizing appropriate training progressions, maintaining physical strength, balance, flexibility, adopting appropriate recovery techniques, and treating any lingering individual alignment problems, weaknesses, and imbalances. It makes sense to warm up before hitting the trails. The physiotherapist suggests a full body analysis with a professional to identify individual mechanical inadequacies. Also consider an athlete specific core stability and functional strength program. Popular core-strengthening strategies might include yoga, Pilates, and a regular fitness regimen.
Think about dealing with your injuries before going out on the trails and you can start your next season off right!
Ask the general public to name an alpine skiing “Mecca” — described as a location where people, who share a common interest, yearn to go — even those who don’t ski can come up with at least Aspen or Vail, if not Killington and Sun Valley. But mention the Gunflint Trail or the Methow Valley to cross country (xc) skiers and more often than not, you’ll elicit a blank stare. Yet these are just two of several xc skiing destination resorts that devout xc skiers revere. In fact, each of the following five regions is definitely an “xc skiing Mecca” — each one, a destination that all traveling xc skiers have put on their “must visit” list.
Comprising the small, picturesque towns of Conway, Sugar Hill, Bartlett and Jackson in the heart of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the Mount Washington Valley has a half-dozen xc ski areas, all at the base of the most majestic mountain in the eastern U.S., the 6,288-foot Mt. Washington. Here, the spectacular scenery is enhanced by hundreds of inns, lodges and restaurants, plus unsurpassed outlet shopping. Ski past mountain streams, a white steepled church, or over a wooden covered bridge on the network of 150 kilometers (km) of trails that glide past numerous inns and stores and through the woods in Jackson Village.
Up in Pinkham Notch, Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center features 40 km of trails for cross country or snowshoeing and the more adventurous can take a snowcoach up the Mt. Washington Toll Road to unparalleled views and then make the choice to ski, snowshoe or ride the coach down. On the other side of Mt. Washington, Bretton Woods Nordic Center has its Mountain Road Trail, a 7-km downhill thrill that might be the most fun to be had on xc skis in all of New England. Franconia Inn is tucked away but is known for great cuisine in the evening and more than 50 km of trails. The region also has dog sledding, snowmobiling, zip lines, and 7 alpine ski areas to round out the snow sports offerings.
The Hills are Alive
The “Sound of Music” is more than 50 years old and another production by the Von Trapp family, America’s first xc ski center at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont is just two years younger. Nestled beside Mt. Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak, the lodge is among the most famous and diverse xc ski trail networks in the country. Three Stowe xc ski areas interconnect to provide roughly 150 kilometers of groomed trails, and there’s a link to backcountry ski 14 km to Bolton Valley Nordic Center via the Catamount Trail. Plus, with the variety of trails for snowshoeing around Stowe, it’s no surprise that the quintessential New England village is the original home of Tubbs Snowshoes, the largest snowshoe manufacturer in the world. Stowe's Recreation Path, which runs 5.3 miles along the river (and over 11 wooden bridges) and Route 108 is perfect for an easy snowshoe jaunt. Don't miss the Vermont Ski Museum in downtown Stowe or the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream headquarters (most popular attraction in the state) in nearby Waterbury, Vt.
Scandinavians settled by the thousands in Minnesota so it stands to reason that their national sport, cross country skiing, would abound in the state. The trails in northeastern Minnesota near Grand Marais offers more than 200 kilometers of groomed trails in the Laurentian Highlands adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Here, xc skiers enjoy moose yards, overlook ridges, old trapper trails and railroad beds. The Gunflint attractions include extensive stands of white birch, spruce, and aspen and spectacular cliffs.
Of course, in the land of 10,000 lakes there’s a multitude of frozen lakes and there is also a great chance that visitors in northern Minnesota will see the oscillating luminary curtains in the evening sky known as the Northern Lights. Perfect for those wanting to get away from it all, this area is less populated than other xc Meccas and the region is sprinkled with many isolated lodges, bed and breakfast inns, lakefront cabins, and yurts (large circular heated tents with hard floors, bunk beds and room for 6-8 people). And count on hearing the distant howls of timber wolves.
More than 70 years as a winter sports destination, the Sun Valley/Ketchum, Idaho, area was developed by railroad mogul, W. Averell Harriman to attract train travelers. Known for its alpine skiing, the area features more than 160 kilometers of trails and now it touts itself as "Nordic Town USA." The North Valley Trails run from the Galena Lodge back to town along the river. Expect to see colorful performance striders and skaters alongside snowshoers out walking the dog on this popular avenue.
For superb backcountry skiing amidst forests of pine and aspen, head to the Sawtooth Mountains and its high mountain reaches laced with granite spires and inviting cirques. Here xc skiers can enjoy trekking and guide services, even overnight accommodations in backcountry huts and Mongolian-style yurts.
The Methow Valley in northwest Washington on the eastern slope of the North Cascade Mountains is one of the best kept secrets among xc skiers. A network of 200 kilometers of groomed trails for classic and skate skiing combines at Methow Trails with lodges like Sun Mountain Lodge and warming huts along the trails, which are surrounded by more than a million acres of national wilderness and forest lands.
Snowfall here is not only plentiful, it is also dry thanks to the moisture traveling across 100 miles of mountains from the Pacific Ocean to get to Methow. And after the snow arrives, a crystal blue sky almost always follows revealing the incredible scenic mountain panoramas. Located only 2,000 feet above sea level, this 40-mile-long xc skiing valley requires no altitude acclimation.
Many other North American regions could make the list of xc skiing Meccas, including Michigan's Grayling region, California’s Lake Tahoe, Colorado, Lake Placid in New York, and Canada's Quebec and British Columbia areas. Start your own list of “must visit” xc ski destinations, and use XCSkiResorts.com to explore the many choices and then make some reservations for your next winter adventure.
There have been studies done about exercise intervention for clinical populations diagnosed with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and even post traumatic stress disorder. This research shows that there are beneficial effects that produce a statistically relevant and significant reduction in these mental maladies. The following few paragraphs provide info from some articles that covered the topic of using exercise as a good strategy for therapists to employ.
In the 4th century, Plato reportedly quipped, “For man to succeed in life he has been provided with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.” The CDC cites health benefits associated with a range of physical activity and in its absence there can be an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, etc. Physical inactivity may also be associated with the development of mental disorders such as those listed above.
There is evidence for the effectiveness of exercise training in patients with panic disorder impacted by a number of psychological factors such as increased self efficacy, a sense of mastery, distraction, and changes of self-concept. Can or will psychologists prescribe such an exercise intervention as part of therapy for their patients? It would seem to integrate perfectly with cognitive behavioral therapy strategies such as situational analysis, self monitoring, homework activities, and supportive follow-up to help compliance.
Physical fitness will also improve self-esteem and as patients feel better about themselves they’ll develop a more optimistic and energetic frame of mind. There is also an association between aerobic exercise and increased alertness. The exercise improves circulation and increases the availability of oxygen to the brain while it also causes the body to produce chemicals such as adrenaline to promote mental alertness. Fitness can instill a sense of pride and confidence and allow the mind a pathway to escape from everyday stress. Biologically speaking, exercise is said to cause the brain to release beta endorphins, which are essential in relieving pain and create a sort of euphoric or light happy feeling. This overall mood enhancement can be prescribed to help treat depression and anxiety. Regular exercise will also invoke focus, determination, and discipline, which are mentally strengthening.
Cross country skiing and snowshoeing are the top forms of aerobic recreational activities. And aerobic activities have been found to promote mental health, boost energy, improve sleep, relieve tension and stress, and combat anxiety and depression. There is a real proven link between physical fitness and mental health and well-being. We should get moving on this!
How do we encourage more psychologists to enroll their patients in outdoor fitness endeavors as part of therapy? There will be benefits from such strategies at a wide range of levels from getting someone out on rental snowshoes for 3 short weekly hikes to training for a 50 km skiathon.
A strategy to bring together xc skiing or snowshoeing and professional therapists can be developed. The skier can create a prescription for a routine for skiing or snowshoeing a number of kilometers a few times per week and the therapist can schedule sessions or maybe even hold the sessions on the trails. What would that be worth an hour including trail passes? Maybe xc ski areas can sell transferable season passes to therapists in a package? Maybe health insurance could cover the cost of and encourage such a winning strategy.
XC (cross country) skiers hate when snowshoers step on and mess up their groomed ski tracks and they both hate snowmobilers; while snowmobilers don’t want xc skiers and snowshoers using the trails that were paid for with snowmobile registration fees...and they all are freaked out about getting tangled up with sled dog teams! All winter trail users have the right to enjoy their chosen outdoor recreational experiences and their commonality is that they do not want their rights restricted in any way. In the winter, trail encounters between snowmobilers and other trail users must be expected. When these encounters inevitably occur, people should respect each other’s love of the outdoors and be considerate. That’s not a rule, an enforceable law, or a line in a list of codified responsibility dogma. It is the way to live.
While the vast majority of encounters between different winter trail users on the snow such as mushers (dog sledders), snowshoers, snowmobilers and xc (cross-country) skiers are friendly and respectful, there are some conflicts that occur and some resentment that does exist. Additionally, unsafe situations such as collisions, reckless behavior or poor judgment can occur. These situations can be compounded by damaged trail surfaces, narrow passageways, conflicted trail uses or trail congestion.
Other factors that may contribute to a problem on shared trails include trail user speed, mass of user or vehicle, sight distances, size of the group, users overtaking one another silently or without warning, user skill and experience and user expectations and preparedness. Add to that people’s different values and priorities and their tolerance for others’ lifestyle choices and it’s no wonder that you have a recipe for possible conflict.
In the Other Person’s Shoes
The most obvious way to prevent conflicts on the trails and promote safety for those who share the trails is to learn and understand each other’s perspectives. For example, many xc skiers and snowshoers are not aware that snowmobilers must pay a state registration fee, which is allocated to trail grooming. Snowmobilers have worked hard to secure landowners’ permission to develop and use their networks of trails. If xc skiers do not want to mix with other trail users they have the option of skiing at “skier-only” commercial ski centers that groom specifically for skiing, where snowmobilers are not allowed. And there are state and national park areas that restrict snowmobiling, too.
But snowmobilers may not realize deep-rooted resentments that many xc skiers have for the motorized trail users. Some skiers and snowshoers regard their solitude in nature as holy. They may feel that mechanized trail use is inappropriate and are angered by the inefficient two-cycle engine noise and exhaust. Snowshoers and xc skiers lifestyle perspectives may prevent them from ever being aware of the sheer joy a youngster experiences when (s) he rides a snowmobile for the first time. Certainly, there is enough room and plenty of miles of trails so that all trail users can be satisfied. And perhaps there are areas with separate trails that are primarily allocated to specific uses.
Snowmobilers and other trails users can facilitate mutual understanding through the process of communicating and collaborating. The Lyme-Pinnacle Snowmobile Club in the western central part of New Hampshire has discovered some success in sharing the trails. While it is unusual, the club membership is comprised of one-third xc skiers. They regularly share the trails and they pitch in and help maintain the trails in the off-season, too. And there is more than one report of a lost xc skier or snowshoer, who was glad to see a snowmobiler, who provided safe transport back to the trailhead. Perhaps it’s time trail users get into each other’s shoes and try each other’s activity. Work on joint projects such as trail maintenance, repairing a warming hut, deciding where routes are successful and where they are problematic.
What to Do at a Rendezvous?
The NH Fish & Game OHRV Operation and License Statute states: Any person operating an OHRV shall yield the right-of-way to any person on horseback, foot, ski, snowshoes or other mode of travel on foot; provided however, that such persons traveling do not unreasonably obstruct or delay OHRVs on the trail. The law also states that the maximum speed limit unless otherwise posted is 45 miles per hour.
There may be a code, trail etiquette, or laws of the land for snowmobilers and other trail users when they come upon each other, but what really matters is that people just use common sense. For example, obviously snowmobilers should be prepared for anything when approaching a blind curve, which suggests slowing down, being aware and keeping the sled under control.
Upon hearing the approach of a snowmobile, xc skiers or snowshoers should get off the trail in a place where they can be easily seen. They should give the snowmobiler room to pass, and be more wary if there are many people in either party. Skiers and snowshoers should also keep control of ski poles to avoid the sled as it goes by. Traditional yield rules and signage ask the machine operator to yield, but it is just much easier for the trail user on foot (or ski) to step off the trail.
XC skiers that use snowmobile trails often employ the skating method of skiing. This technique crosses the trail in a perpendicular fashion, substantially more than the traditional diagonal ski technique. The skater splays each sliding ski outward at an angle to glide longer and faster. This is usually a more encompassing exercise and snowmobilers should be aware that skating skiers might not be able to hear an oncoming machine very well. Their level of exercise and the sound of wind and sliding skis on crunchy snow can impair hearing somewhat. That is one good reason that snowmobilers, who may have newer quieter machines should not assume that other trail users will always hear them coming.
Mushers (dog sledders) recommend that as they approach head on, other trail users should get to the side or off the trail and let the sled dogs pass by. It’s best to try and communicate about each other’s intentions. Keep in mind that the sled dogs will try to keep to the inside of the trail on a curve to find the shortest path, so you should not automatically think that pulling off to the right is always the best option.
Interestingly, horseback riders suggest that other trail users talk it up when they come face-to-face. It is important that the horse understand that you are a person and not some robot contraption. Luckily, seeing equestrian enthusiasts on the winter trails is a rare occurrence.
People familiar with the trail sharing issue will often refer to the fact that there are very few problems on the trails. A common phrase is that problems occur with “less than one percent” of trail users. There is also concern about young people and others, who might act recklessly or are using snowmobiles for the first time. Skiers, who ski on the snowmobile trails but are not aware of the issues discussed in this article, are of particular concern, too. We must try to reach all of these “one-percenters” to prevent tragic consequences and keep the trails safe for all to use.
Backcountry access is now a service at more cross country ski resorts (see story at http://www.xcskiresorts.com/resort-features.php#Anchor-6262) and whether you refer to it as backcountry, out-of-bounds skiing, sidecountry, or off-piste skiing, such terrain accessed by skiers and snowshoers equipped with a sense of adventure, the latest powder gear, and exuberance to descend a mountain side in deep powder is intoxicating. But xc skiers can end up in dire circumstances, completely alone and on their own in trouble.
Some xc skiers have an insatiable appetite for untracked powder, which can override educated decisions when determining the acceptable risks. How to combat the possibility of catastrophe when accessing the backcountry within or outside the ski resort’s terrain, requires arming yourself with knowledge and the basis for sound decision making. The factors involved in off trail mishaps also often include human behavior and Mother Nature.
As more skiers and snowshoers access the off-trail terrain other issues such as increased use may impact safety. If a slope has been trafficked by dozens or hundreds of other backcountry users, it does not always mean that it is safe. Snowpack stability, route selection, and potential terrain hazards are all significant in the decision making for safety. While some ski area managers try to minimize the risk to off-trail users (such as “cleaning” gladed terrain areas), there are realities that include the skier’s individual choice and self reliance. Of course, there is a much better chance that help is nearby if a skier is in trouble within the ski area boundaries, but it still may take a while before help arrives.
It is important to for skiers and snowshoers to be educated and prepared and be able to assess the risks of backcountry activity even within the ski area boundaries. In these litigious times, there may not be ready-made pamphlets to promote safety in the backcountry because few writers and publishers want to be liable. But one example is, the Falcon Guide entitled “Cross-Country Skiing,” (see story at http://www.xcskiresorts.com/equipment.php#Anchor-1010), which has sections on Route Finding, Winter Hazards, and First Aid that provides useful info.
These are just some of the issues to be considered as more people ski or snowshoe off trails and more issues will arise as more ski areas open access to ungroomed terrain.
It has been said that cross country skiing and snowshoeing are some of the most romantic forms of recreation and Valentine’s Day is coming. So get 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).
Fairmont Chateau in Lake Louise, AB – The Chateau is a grand old resort 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. 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
A recent visit to Bolton Valley Nordic Center in Vermont afforded me an up close look at the newest sensation in cross country skiing – backcountry access at a commercial xc ski area. Bolton boasts having 62 km of high elevation backcountry ski trails including steep winding trails through birch glades, mellow trails for touring, and plenty of powder turns on the way back down.
In mid-February while much of New England was wondering when winter would begin, Bolton Valley Nordic Center with its base elevation of 2,100 feet has fresh snow and a reliable, plentiful base. The facility has 26 km of groomed trails, too. The rental equipment includes backcountry gear for either xc skiing or snowshoeing. The famous Catamount Trail is amidst Bolton’s trail system and there seems to be no limit to interest in this market segment. In fact, the grand daddy of xc ski areas, Trapp Family Lodge now offers 2,500 acres and 40 km of trails in the backcountry, too.
At Bolton Valley Nordic Center's eastern side, the Bryant Ski Trail takes skiers uphill on an hour trek to the Bryant Camp Backcountry Cabin (2,690 foot elevation). Not much to the building but it is a destination that opens into various trails further up the terrain. By the time I arrived in the late morning the trails were packed by previous skiers. I had a few chats with other skiers, who donned gear ranging from lightweight xc skis to heavy telemark gear with climbing skins, wide waxless skis with BC boot/bindings, and I even dodged a snowboarder careening down the packed trail on a split decision snowboard.
I had a conversation with a couple of skiers, who admitted to taking the Wilderness Lift at the adjacent Bolton Valley alpine ski area to ski from the Peggy Dow’s Trail to the Nordic area’s backcountry terrain and the Heavenly Highway Trail where I met them. I skied further up the Highway and then turned on to an aptly named trail called Devil’s Drop, which was really a downhill powder run with switchbacks.
Clearly, you want to ski these trails on a day with good soft snow conditions. The trails are well marked and with skiers dropping down into untracked lines through the trees the upper trails can be a bit confusing. It appeared that after skiing around a few times it would be more comforting as one becomes familiar with the upper trails. There is an overlook named Stowe View and another trail where you can reach a destination named Olga’s Falls. The Bolton-Trapp Trail uses the Catamount Trail (Vermont’s lengthwise winter trail) between the Bolton Valley Nordic Center and Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe and this reaches the highest point on the Catamount Trail at 3,310 foot elevation.
The west side of the Bolton trails covers another entire area to ski and looking at the map contours it is appealing for some downhill fun. The backcountry area also has some delineated glade areas on the trail map and one would imagine that there could be much more of these cleaned areas to give skiers more to enjoy.
Trapp Family Lodge offers guided tours in the backcountry for $35 hour and there is a 3-day package with rental equipment, skill lessons, and a full day tour for $250. Bolton has backcountry rental gear for $30.
Uphill Transport for Skiing the Glades
About a decade ago, alpine ski resorts came to the realization that gladed areas (skiing in the trees rather than on the groomed slopes) between trails offers great fun to skiers. They have created safe glades on gentle terrain by eliminating underbrush, smaller trees, and rocks so there is more room for skiers to pick their way through the forest (somewhat) safely. Glade areas for advanced skiers offer steeper terrain and more obstacles.
Call me a heretic, but I feel that the time has come for xc ski area operators to accept that there are many skiers who would like to access these backcountry stashes without having to climb and get so tired. Clearly there is a portion of the skiing population who would pay for transport up to higher elevations to access these areas so they can enjoy the downhill runs. For a few extra dollars above the trail pass, such transport could be provided with an industrial snowmobile (which most resorts already use) pulling an attached trailer with seats. And maybe the snowmobile driver can stop at the top to take some photos of the skiers as they take off down the terrain. Skiers can purchase the photo documentation back at the lodge and get the photos emailed to their computer or phone so they can show their weekend adventure to coworkers on Monday morning at work.
I imagine that xc ski resort operators might feel that such a service is the domain of alpine ski resorts...but xc ski areas could offer a more natural service within the context of xc skiing and snowshoeing. People like high places and the product supplier companies have recently produced a proliferation of off-track and backcountry equipment. This type of xc ski resort service has arrived.
On a preseason visit to Lapland Lake XC Ski & Vacation Center in Northville, NY, I was given a true taste of Finland. This is cross country skiing Finnish style from the resort owner, Olavi Hirvonen to the authentic woodburning sauna and the two resident reindeer on site.
Olavi and Ann Hirvonen have operated Lapland Lake for more than 30 years and visitors’ testimonials speak to their friendly, caring, and personal customer service that is Lapland Lake. Actually, the resort is tucked away in the town of Benson situated 60 miles northwest of Albany in the 6-million acre Adirondack Forest Reserve.
In February 2010, Olavi celebrated the 50th anniversary as a member of the 1960 US Olympic Team in Squaw Valley. He participated in two events and in the 50-kilometer distance he finished second among the US skiers. His performance was marred by a broken ski, which compelled him to proceed 1.5 miles on a single ski before he was able to obtain a replacement. Olavi applies that compulsiveness to overseeing the trail grooming and after winter storms he has the Lapland staff clearing twigs and branches off of the trails. Olavi works in the rental and repair shop, certainly a labor of love for the octogenarian, while Ann focuses on most of everything else.
The kids line up to spin on a sled upon the frozen pond, where a Finish experience called Napa Kiikku has the kids on a sled that is attached to a pole protruding through the ice. The “Ski-like-a-Finn” lesson package helps first timers to get the hang of xc skiing with rental gear, a trail pass, and a lesson. And from the looks of it, the trails are mostly on comfortable level terrain so that skiers need not climb too much or worry about out-of-control downhill experiences. There are a total of about 50 kilometers of trails with nearly 40 km that are groomed, 2.5 km lighted for night skiing and some panoramic views of nearby Woods Lake.
I sampled a small comfortable cottage called a “tupa” for overnight lodging and walked through the Lapin Tupa, which is a bigger dwelling that can be rented as private rooms by couples/individuals or shared by a larger group. The tupa where I stayed had electric heat, two bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, a small family room, and a woodstove. And when the snow is abundant, skiing from the front door and around the property will have you shouting tervetuloa (greetings) to others.
The Finnish Line Lodge is Lapland Lake’s main facility in a two-story building that literally rose from the ashes as it burned to the ground years ago, was rebuilt and now houses the retail store, rentals, fireside lounge area, and upstairs at the Kuuma Tupa snack bar for soup, chili, or a beverage. The Tuulen Tupa Grill is a dining room that has lunch and a catered dinner menu and it is slated for redecoration by the Hirvonen’s daughter, who is studying interior design and will undertake the project during her college break.
Lapland Lake welcomes people to cross country ski and snowshoe from kids and seniors, to ladies and teachers in weekly group programs that are scheduled. It has received the 2011 Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor among other recognition awards in the past. Ann Hirvonen stopped during our tour of the area and revealed that this was the spot she liked to stand at night to look at the twinkling lights of the tupas in the winter - knowing that people are enjoying it makes running Lapland Lake all worth it to her. You’ll say tavataan ladulla or “see you on the trails.”
Ski for Light, Inc. is an organization founded in 1975 to teach blind, visually- and mobility-impaired adults how to xc ski, in an atmosphere that encourages participants to recognize that they can usually accomplish much more, both on the snow and back home in everyday life.
Each year Ski for Light, Inc. conducts a week-long event where blind and mobility-impaired adults are taught the basics of cross country skiing. The SFL week in 2015 skiing will be held at Snow Mountain Ranch in CO on Jan 25 - Feb 1, 2015. The location of the event changes from year to year in an effort to spread the Ski for Light philosophy and idea to as many parts of the country as possible.
During the Ski for Light week each disabled skier is paired for the entire week with an experienced, sighted, cross-country skier who acts as ski instructor and guide. The disabled person skis in tracks or grooves in the snow, while the guide skis along side. The guide offers instructional tips and suggestions, support and encouragement, and describes the countryside.
The blind and mobility-impaired adults, who attend the Ski for Light week, come from all over the U.S. and from several foreign countries. Many of them come to Ski for Light with a desire to become more physically active and fit, and to find recreational opportunities that are lacking at home. Most of the SFL skiers discover, in the process of learning how to xc ski, that they can accomplish much more than others have told them, and much more than they themselves believed. They leave Ski for Light with a sense of accomplishment and motivation that carries over to every aspect of their lives back home.
The volunteer guides, who attend Ski for Light, are a very special group of people. They pay the same event fees as disabled skiers so that they can share a favorite activity with someone who would otherwise not have the opportunity to participate. Most of these guides discover that in the process of giving of themselves they are getting as much or more back in return. Many of them return to each event, year after year.
The organization is always seeking new guides and participants (visually impaired or mobility impaired) and word-of-mouth is how most first-time attendees are attracted to the program. Please help spread the word to anyone, who might be interested. Information about the event and application forms for the next event and at regional events around the country are available at www.sfl.org. Those interested in attending or volunteering for SFL may also call (612) 827-3232 or send an email to email@example.com.
The Squaw Valley Winter Olympics held in 1960 led the way to many technological advances that shaped today’s operation and broadcasting of the Winter Olympics. The Nordic event venues built in Tahoma, CA are now covered with dense new growth as all of the structures, which were temporary, have been removed. The land located on Route 89 about 10 miles south of Tahoe City on the west side of Lake Tahoe is now the Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park.
The Nordic venues and practice areas for the men’s 50 km, 30 km, combined, and relay races were held in the General Creek and McKinney Creek areas, which were privately owned when the Squaw Valley Olympics was in the planning stages. These games were also the first time that the biathlon and women’s 10 km were included at the Olympics. The 57 km of trails were developed in 1958 and completed in 1959 for a test run championship.
The 1960 Winter Olympics were the first time the winter competitions were ever nationally broadcast on TV. This was also the first time that sno-cat grooming vehicles were used to mechanically groom the race courses. Tucker Sno-cat machines towed agricultural choppers and tines to “tenderize” the snow conditions. They had yet to think of track setters in today’s terms, so skiers set the tracks by skiing behind the grooming machines. The downhill sections were raked by hand.
Another first was the use of electrical and manual timing. To keep spectators abreast of the competition, interval times of the racers were taken along the trail and were phoned to the stadium area where they were announced to the spectators and posted on the scoreboard.
Since there are few remnants from the Nordic events remaining, there is now an effort to reinvigorate these “forgotten Olympics” in a partnership with the state park to reestablish the trail network, construct interpretive panels and trail markers, and develop a museum of historical artifacts. Currently there is an Olympic exhibit at the Reno Airport and there is some signage at Sugar Park Point State Park. For more information there is a book by David Antonucci entitled “Snowball’s Chance: The Story of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games,” which is filled with information and photos.
Is there a difference between cross country skiing at a commercial center and “in the woods?” Are people aware about the difference between designed trails at a commercial xc ski area compared to cross country skiing in a field, in a local park, or on a trail in the forest?
One of the greatest obstacles for xc skiing growth is the common notion of a lone xc skier going into a narrow dark trail as if the very isolation in the woods was the goal. Interestingly, some ski areas have marketed that isolationism, but there are a few things that focus on the average recreation enthusiasts’ experience that are offered on designed trails at a commercial xc ski resort.
Often trails that are built by loggers and the government parks’ people have long straight ascents and descents and they are boring. Most average skiers are very 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 of what well-designed trails should provide.
Most commercial xc ski resorts charge a fee between $15 and $29. For that fee the patron (hopefully) get a business operation and trails that:
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 commercial xc ski resorts offer a different skiing product. New Hampshire’s Jackson Ski Touring Center, emulated by hundreds of xc ski resorts across North America could be thought of as quintessential because it provides a perfect example of most of those services and amenities. The investment required to supply the list of services above is no small number (snowcat grooming machines and such), but Jackson has something more and it is called the “culture of xc skiing.” This is why Jackson can be considered one of the true meccas of xc skiing.
Of course, the major issue with noncommercial cross country ski trails is about snow conditions. The whim of the weather rules the snow and without trail grooming and trail maintenance, the snow can be to hard packed, icy, sticky, too deep for nonpowder 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 commercial resorts. Skiers that experience the other 80 percent of the xc skiing outings are missing out on the list of services above and many of them are not even aware that those services exist. It needs to be spelled out for them and an effort needs to be made to differentiate commercial ski area experience from backyard skiing.
Adventure Guides for a Great Winter Experience
These days, cross country skiing is easy on groomed trails due to improvements in ski equipment and regular trail grooming. But, the secret is that great winter ski experiences can be had as a guided adventure in the backcountry.
Perhaps the term backcountry skiing paints pictures of avalanches and extreme skiing movies. The fact is that this type of cross country skiing can mean anything from a quiet morning tromp through the woods, getting back in time for a bowl of hot soup in front of the fireplace, to a challenging all-day trip to the top of the world. You can maneuver your skis up hills and then swoosh back down...but if you don't want any hills, you can ski over frozen snow covered lakes, alongside rivers, or through meadows.
Guides can virtually hold you by the hand or offer a recommendation for a self-guided tour. They can suggest appropriate equipment and clothing to make it a more comfortable experience and they can offer ski instruction to a first timer. Expect an experienced guide to help intermediate skiers master higher skill levels or lead advanced skiers on more extreme expeditions reaching new heights.
Adventure guides can plan your trip to match your skill level and desired intensity. The value of a guide is that your comfort level is increased multifold. That is because the experienced guide knows about trail and terrain selection to fit the skier level; he or she knows technique tips to help successfully crossing terrain in different types of snow conditions, but most of all the guide will give you personal attention and help you to avoid backcountry calamity.
A resort vacation is great, but while you're there take half a day with a guide to ski off into the untouched powder where the snow is fresh and fluffy. The pace might be like a hiking trip - where you can hustle along if you're looking for a killer workout, or just take your time and enjoy the scenery. Most ski guides love to talk, too - so expect some gab about local historical, geological or interpretive to provide a more informative and interesting experience.
Another guided adventure option to try is dog sledding with a guide. It's the experience of the Alaskan Iditarod on the trails. Work with a team of dogs. In New Hampshire there's Muddy Paw Kennel Dog Sled and Whitewater Rafting and in Minnesota the contact is Wintergreen DogSled Lodge.
Guide services to backcountry adventures on XCSkiResorts.com include Vista Verde Ranch in CO; Sun Valley Trekking in ID; High Peaks Adventures in NY; Coopers Rock Climbing Guides in MD; Bredeson Outdoor Adventures in CT and VT; International Mountain Climbing School in NH; and Swan Mountain Ranch in MT. Other guide services include Randonnee Tours in Eastern/Central Canada; Northern Cascades Mountain Guides in WA; White Pine Touring in Utah; Alpine Skills in CA; and Yellowstone Expeditions in MT.
Since the time that wooden skis were found in a peat bog in Sweden dating to 2,000 BC, there have been many milestones that brought xc skiing to where it is today. Focusing on the USA, the forefathers of our recreation include people such as Snowshoe Thompson, who delivered the mail in the Sierra Mountains of California and JackRabbit Johannsen, who xc skied in northern New York.
The editors of XCSkiResorts.com using various sources considered the milestones and developed this list of the Milestones of Modern XC Skiing in the USA in order of significance:
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:
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.
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.
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.
Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, CO is a destination for the whole family with the most affordable options for lodging which includes a Day Pass covering a weekend kids program with outdoor fun and indoor activities such as a pool, climbing wall, roller skating, craft shop, 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.
For people interested in traveling to xc ski resorts this winter, here is info about making a destination selection from the editor of XCSkiResorts.com.
In general, xc skiers select their winter xc ski destination resorts using some rating system of how xc ski areas perform in eight categories of criteria including trail quality and grooming, scenery, food quality, staff friendliness and service, the ski lodge facility and family issues. There is a great range of xc ski areas in North America and in the eyes of xc skiers these characteristics delineate areas without concern to whether the area is an inn, a ranch, a day area, a destination resort, or a recreation park area. I've purposively avoided the issue of cost - whether you like to travel to distant resorts or only travel within your region, you will still compare the other criteria to select your destination resort.
The information below describes what a quality xc ski resort is all about in terms of services and amenities at some of the leading xc ski resorts in North America.
XC SKI TRAILS
Trail Quality relates to the skiers' comfort on the trails, even though those skiers might be at different skiing or experience levels. The trail signage should help skiers understand where they are on the area's trail network. And signs should help skiers know the direction that will help them return to their starting place. The trails should provide a skiing flow so there aren't too many long uphills or sharp turns at the bottom of steep downhills. One idea that is done at Lapland Lake in Northville, New York that makes trails seem less crowded is to have skiers go in the same direction (one-way). The result is that the trails never seem crowded. Jim Richards of Maplelag in Calloway, Minnesota said, "Feedback from the majority of our skiers let us know that they preferred double-tracked trails over single tracks. And we had overwhelmingly negative opinions about allowing dogs on the trails, too."
Some of the best xc ski areas are just blessed with great terrain for xc skiing. The location of Royal Gorge in Soda Springs, California is perfect for xc skiing as the area's land diversity offers flat, rolling and more challenging variety. And Royal Gorge's "Sierra maritime snow consolidates well and is great for the base on the trails, which means that skiers can count on excellent conditions when they ski there."
Trail grooming can make or break the ski conditions. Olavi Hirvonen of Lapland Lake states, "We groom every morning unless we have to wait for the snow to dry out or cool off - and I groom the way I like to ski the trails myself." Hirvonen gets the Lapland Lake staff out on the trails after windy periods to rake and pick up the debris from trees like fallen limbs and pinecones because "I don't want the skiers to have to ski over the debris as it appears on the trails from the Springtime melt."
One thing that most of the best xc ski areas share in common is that they acquire and use the latest trail grooming technology to give them a mechanical advantage. They do not skimp when it comes to using snowcats with their grooming attachments to break up ice or powderize the snow into the finest trail surfaces.
Without getting into the details of grooming machinery and techniques, the personal pride of the area operators is paramount to the trail quality issue. Brian Wadsworth of Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana was a world class cross country ski racer, who groomed trails for eight years at the Ranch. He was selected by the Soldiers Hollow Olympic venue to groom the 2002 Olympic Cross Country Ski competition trails. He knows grooming from a technical and a skier's perspective. He knows the "best line tracks." But when he comments, "My goal is to be able to hold a World Cup race here any day of the winter" it sums up his pride and commitment to the quality of the trails at Lone Mountain Ranch.
STAFF SERVICE AND FRIENDLINESS
You know it when an area's staff is a great one - they seem happy to see you. In most instances, areas that have veteran employees have them because it is a great place to work. Most of these great employees do not need "customer service" training. They already have the personal touch. At Lone Mountain Ranch the staff has become "the hallmark in the industry," according to Wadsworth because they are "encouraged to create life-long relationships with the guests." Most of the people that work at the best xc ski areas want to work there as a lifestyle choice. This is apparent with their attitudes with the guests and about working at one of the best xc ski areas.
The Richards family, who own and run the Maplelag Resort in Callaway, Minnesota, treat their guests as part of their family. It may sound trite but their guests sincerely feel welcome and they state it unequivocally in testimonials. The staff often greets the guests by name. They Richards constantly ask their guests if there is anything that can be done and they drop everything to help their guests, be it in the lodge, on the trails, in the rental shop or at the dinner table. Richards feels, "One of us (the Richards family) is always around to help with our guests. It's fun to be talked to and pampered by the actual owners of the resort." Many testimonials from different areas claim the same thing with regard to their feelings about the service at the best resorts - they feel welcome, comfortable and "at home." And Maplelag avoids posting rules or signs saying "Don't do this or that."
XC ski lodges can be designed to provide space, convenience and efficient utilization, but there are also other factors that make a difference to skiers. Ann Hirvonen of Lapland Lake states, "Clean is huge to us. We are cozy and convenient, but facilities such as restrooms can get pretty yucky, so we keep them in good condition throughout the day." Lapland also takes into account brown baggers (bring their own lunch rather than purchase food at the area) by offering them a picnic area. And they have a public shower and changing area for skiers, who want to clean up before their drive home.
At Lone Mountain Ranch, part of their ambiance is the historic facilities. Of course they have also added new updated facilities such as a dining room and some cabins, but many guests go there to enjoy the rustic and original facilities. "It looks like what people expect Montana to look like and we continue to renovate with cozy features such as antique furniture and old fashioned quilts to retain our historical aspects," said Wadsworth.
The main lodge at Maplelag is the area's group meeting place, and it is a living folk art museum. Jim Richards has collected unusual items from around the world. He stated, "We work very hard cultivating this look to be a feast for the eyes." There are nooks and crannies where people can sit and relax, read a book, play games with the family, etc. The lodge also houses the main dining room, hot tub, sauna, massage rooms, rental shop, gift store and it is where the Saturday night talent show and dance takes place.
FOOD AND BEVERAGE
Whether Nordic skiers bring a picnic lunch, stop at a trailside snack shack or relax with a first class dining experience, the best areas usually are known for their outstanding cuisine. Good food service is a result of the area's commitment, quality chefs with pedigree culinary backgrounds, wine selection, and so on. The Maplelag kitchen is run by Debbie, the chef who has been on the job on and off for 25 years. There is a window opening to the kitchen where guests can speak with Debbie and see the staff cooking the meals. They make everything from scratch using only natural and fresh ingredients. They call it homestyle, hearty, and wholesome and it is a unique menu that is endorsed by the guests. Richards' summarized, "Food is a real joy at Maplelag.
QUALITY FAMILY TIME
Some xc ski areas are highly touted for their commitment to families. They cater to family needs by "dealing with the kids." Ann Hirvonen of Lapland Lake says, "We are a family and we raised our daughter here and when you raise a family at a ski center, you focus on families. So our trails have plenty of flat terrain for kids and we offer pulks (sleds that skiers use to carry small children), children's sized snowshoes, skis, boots, and ice skates." XC skiing offers families an activity that they can all do together. And that can include a four-year old on Snoopy skis skiing right alongside of grandpa skiing on his pine tarred woody originals.
Child-oriented instructors are a key element for families. For the kids to have a positive attitude about Nordic skiing they must have positive first experiences. It is suggested that the most successful lessons do not intermingle children with their parents in the same classes. Kids get comfortable with child-friendly instructors as individuals and on subsequent visits the kids commonly request to take additional lessons so they can spend more time with those friendly instructors.
Another important way to cater to families is to offer a variety of other skiing and non-skiing activities. At Lapland Lake a game played in Finland called Napa Kiikku is organized on weekends and holidays. The game involves a pole on ice with a sled that goes around in a circle. Adult lessons are conducted to correlate to the time that the kids play the game.
Kids love a campfire by the lake, sleigh rides, or just playing on a big pile of snow. Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont conducts many kids "classes" from swimming to puppet classes or making stuffed animals. The kids' classes provide parents with some child-free time for going on harder ski trails or getting a massage while the kids are being entertained.
Jay Richards (Jim and Mary Richards' son) of Maplelag commented, "Seeing our large family with our own kids running around, being involved makes families feel welcome here. We try to make parents feel at ease about having their kids run around." Maplelag cabins and cabooses are great accommodations that can fit large families and the Richards try to help families focus on being together doing family activities. Serving meals "family style" is a key element to the atmosphere. But so are the other family activities such as the dance and the talent show. Baby sitting services are available on site, too. Jay feels that one of the biggest reasons families visit is that there are many families already at Maplelag every time people visit and that makes families feel welcome.
Of course, there are other criteria for selecting winter destinations - for example, couples that are looking for a romantic weekend will have different needs (and desires). There is something more memorable about traveling to a destination compared to going to the local trail network for a couple of hours to xc ski or snowshoe. Whatever your interests, there is a perfect xc ski resort for you.