In Lebanon, NH our greatest resources include the Northern Rail Trail and the Mascoma River Greenway, trails that were created on an old railroad line in the region. These multi-use corridors create powerful opportunities for active transportation and physical activity—improving our health and well-being and safely connect people of all ages and abilities to jobs, schools, businesses, parks and cultural institutions.
Older trail enthusiasts and potential trail users can thrive on the rail trails because they have been built with a minimum of grade for the railroads. In short, this means that these trails do not have significant uphill or downhill aspects so they are easier and safer to enjoy for recreational trail uses such as cycling, walking, running, hiking, horseback riding, dog sled training, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, bird watching, and to gain access to fishing areas.
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people. Thirty years ago, a group of walking and biking enthusiasts, railroad history buffs, conservation and parks groups, and active-transportation activists began meeting regularly in Washington, D.C., to mobilize efforts to preserve unused rail corridors for public use. The group quickly realized the need for a dedicated organization, and on Feb. 1, 1986, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy opened its doors.
RTC serves as the national voice for more than 160,000 members and supporters, 31,000 miles of rail-trails and multi-use trails, and more than 8,000 miles of potential trails waiting to be built, with a goal of creating more walkable, bikeable communities in America. The national RTC office is located in Washington, D.C., with regional offices in California, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
RTC has supported the development of thousands of miles of rail-trails and multi-use trails for millions of people to explore and enjoy. The work combines national policy advocacy and research expertise with on-the-ground trail development. RTC advocates for trail-friendly policies and funding at the federal and state levels—in the courts, in Congress and throughout the country. This trail development work has helped hundreds of communities in America plan, build and maintain trails in urban, suburban and rural areas.
Since 1986, they’ve worked from coast to coast, supporting the development of thousands of miles of rail-trails for millions to explore and enjoy helping to craft rural trails that spool out over a hundred miles of open prairie, snake through mountain passes, span canyons and hug riverbanks, offering views of the countryside often unknown to the highway traveler. These trails are part of the connections between towns and suburbs, linking communities along vibrant corridors in much the same way as the railroads did in their heyday.
RTC’s mission, and its value, is magnified in urban areas, where one mile of trail can completely redefine the livability of a community. Where trails are more than just recreational amenities, creating opportunities for active transportation and physical activity—improving our health and wellbeing—as they safely connect us to jobs, schools, businesses, parks and cultural institutions in our own neighborhoods and beyond. And, through the promotion of rails-with-trails—trails alongside active rail lines—they are now unlocking the true potential of transportation systems that reflect how people really get around in the 21st century.
Northern Rail Trail
In my hometown, the trails are used by people of all ages, from toddlers to senior citizens, for cycling, walking, running, hiking, horseback riding, dog sled training, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, bird watching, to gain access to fishing areas, and even by handicapped people with walkers and in wheel chairs! This use includes residents of the contiguous towns as well as many surrounding areas, and from Vermont and Massachusetts and other New England areas.
The Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Grafton County (FNRT) is a non-profit organization, founded in 1996, dedicated to the conversion of the Northern Rail Corridor into a multi-use recreational trail. The Friends have built an organization of approximately 130 paid members from all over New England, with the majority from the Upper Valley, and a twelve member volunteer Board of Directors who come from many Upper Valley towns and represent a variety of interests including cyclists, runners, snowmobilers, hikers, and cross country skiers. The Friends also have a strong base of volunteers who attend workdays and activities.
In support of the trail development in Lebanon, Enfield, Canaan, Orange, and Grafton, the FNRT has sponsored its own workdays and held clean-up days. This work has included removing ties and metal, decking bridges, bridge demolition and reconstruction, clearing brush, ditching, signage installation, landscaping and mowing, litter clean-up and surface improvement work.
The FNRT has promoted the trail through a newsletter and local newspapers, as well as at events sponsored by Riverfest, the Upper Valley Trails Alliance, and Eastern Mountain Sports. The Friends have written and received numerous grants and maintain a web site (www.northernrailtrail.org), which has allowed new users to get information about the trail including surface conditions, access points, and nearby facilities.
A series of color maps and informational displays of historic interest, produced by volunteers have been posted at various points along the trail. A number of small parks have been developed through the efforts of the organization and other volunteer groups in Lebanon and Canaan. Finally, benches have been placed at scenic intervals along the trail, which people find comforting for rest breaks.
The “Passport” Program is a tried and true method to introduce school children to snowsports in 10 different states and Maine’s WinterKids program goes way beyond its Passport. More than 100,000 kids have taken advantage of the WinterKids Passport program in Maine to become active and WinterKids Executive Director Julie Mulkern states emphatically, “Getting every child outdoors in winter is our goal.”
The Passport program in Maine is for fifth to seventh graders and for $20 it includes alpine and Nordic skiing, ice skating, and snow tubing. Each ski area across the state participates by offering services to the students that include two free lift tickets, or in the case of Sunday River and Sugarloaf: a one-day learn to ski packages when accompanied by one adult. Program research shows that each child brings 2.5 people with them to the ski areas. The non-Alpine areas offer free tickets as well.
Younger kids (pre-school to fourth grade) can go Nordic skiing or snowshoeing three times each at a list of participating Nordic ski areas across the state such as Carters Cross Country in Bethel, Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, and the Outdoor Center in Rangeley Lakes. Additionally, there are other special programs and events intended to engage kids during the winter such as the WinterKids Winter Games and the WinterKids Challenge. These programs offer cash prizes to schools that compete against each other to coordinate outdoor winter activities and keep track of their respective student participation. Sugarloaf Ski Resort hosts the WinterKids Downhill 24 in early March, a 24-hour ski and snowboard team challenge, to raise money for WinterKids programs.
The Killington World Cup Committee awarded WinterKids a grant from proceeds associated with hosting two years of successful World Cup races at Killington. Mulkern commented, “The funding will allow us to expand our Nordic program for elementary school kids. Currently, we support immigrant and refugee students in Portland to participate in Portland Nordic’s 12-week XC skiing program. This grant will allow us to bring programs to more rural parts of the state, including northern Maine and the western Mountains where formal cross-country ski training programs in rural communities do not currently exist. The opportunity to participate in winter sports at a very early age will help these kids to become competitive for their middle school and high school teams, an invaluable experience they would not otherwise get.”
The WinterKids program in Portland is supported by the Michael & Barbara Peisner Nordic Fund and it is conducted on the Riverside Golf Course that is groomed for Nordic skiing. The Portland Parks & Recreation partners with WinterKids by providing transportation.
There were 230 teachers and 4,200 kids involved with the WinterKids Games in Maine, where thanks to sponsors and grants, the top three schools were awarded $5,000, $3,000 and $1,500 respectively, and other schools received equipment. There was one school in each county that participated in the WinterKids Games. The program engages parents with the kids to enjoy the winter outdoor activities. The Guide to Outdoor Active Learning produced by WinterKids makes it easy for preschool and elementary teachers to integrate fun and outdoor activity into their winter lessons - all while meeting education standards.
In the upcoming year, the Passport booklet is becoming an app and ski areas can offer more variety and targeted campaigns with it. WinterKids is growing beyond the passport component and has expanded to more than the additional programs mentioned in this article, whereby a meaningful public health benefit appraisal could be derived from the efforts. The organization has also begun programs in neighboring New Hampshire.
The WinterKids organization is successfully matching financial support with spearheaded campaigns with kids, schools, and communities to engage more kids in the winter outdoors, and it makes perfect sense because in the words of Mulkern “Kids’ default setting is to be outside and exploring.”
Fat bikes, dubbed the "Hummers of the two-wheelers' world" are proliferating with more than 150 cross country (XC) ski areas in North America that welcome fat bikes on their snow covered trails. These specially-made bicycles that accommodate ultra-wide tires that can be run at very low pressure 4-8 pounds of pressure allow fat bikes to roll over soft, slippery surfaces like snow. XC ski areas and regional pockets across the nation from Vermont to Michigan and Arizona to California and Washington now have fat bike trails with single track groomed and signed trails and rental bikes, and special events.
A small group of North American Snowsports Journalist Association members were recently introduced to fat biking by the welcoming folks at Kingdom Trails in Lyndonville, VT. The group found the bikes easy to balance and maneuver. Similar to XC skiing, the fat bikes provide exercise when going on flat terrain with more effort required up hills earning thrills on the downhills.
An industry source (at QBP, manufacturers of fat bike brands Surleybikes and Salsacycles, boots, gloves, accessories and apparel) recently reported that 150,000-200,000 fat bikes that have been sold since 2010. These bikes provide a great way for avid cyclists to stay in shape during the winter season and they provide different recreational fun for people who are active or love the outdoors.
Fat biking at Kingdom Trails in northeastern Vermont is no small matter. It is the foremost mountain bike destination in the east with more than 40,000 day passes sold in 2017 (20% increase from the previous year) and they've quickly parlayed this notoriety into becoming a mecca for fat bikers in the winter. Kingdom Trails has 100 miles of bike trails (30 of which are used in winter for XC skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking) and works with 80 different land owners. They also host Winterbike, which is the biggest fat bike festival in the east. The organization conducted a survey of bikers showing that they are generally aged 45-60 and reportedly attract $8-10 million of business to the region!
At Darling Hill Road in Lyndonville, the Village Sport Shop has a trailside facility adjacent to the Kingdom Trails Nordic Adventure Center renting fat bikes for $55 a day and sells the bikes ranging from $1,800 to $2,800. Fat bike products include softgoods, accessories and bikes available from companies such as Liv Bikes, Giant, and Pivot among others.
Another option for those who would like an introduction to fat biking is to have a guide at Kingdom Experiences take care of all the details. They’ve got certified instructors and want to help cyclists have an experience catered specifically to rider skill and ability levels offering kids camps, women’s clinics and getaways and more.
Kingdom Trails employs three paid groomers, who pack and maintain about 30 miles of trails. Day membership prices (day pass for trail access) are $15 a day for those aged 16-69 and $7 for youth aged 8-15. There are also year-round memberships available with an annual family membership priced at $150. Memberships and rules of fat bike etiquette can be found at the Kingdom Trails Welcome Center in East Burke or the Kingdom Trails Nordic Adventure Center on Darling Hill Road in Lyndonville.
Fat bikes, dubbed the "Hummers of the two-wheelers' world" in the Wall Street Journal are proliferating where there are more than 150 cross country (XC) ski areas that have fat bikes available to use on snow covered trails. These specially-made bicycles that accommodate ultra-wide tires that can be run at very low pressure 4-8 pounds of pressure allow fat bikes to roll over soft, slippery surfaces like snow. XC ski areas and regional pockets across the nation in Vermont, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Alaska and Washington now have fat bike trails with groomed single track and signed trails, rental bikes, and special events.
An industry source (at QBP, the manufacturers of fat bike brands Surleybikes, Salsacycles, tires, boots, gloves, and apparel) recently reported that 150,000-200,000 fat bikes have been sold since 2010 while there are about 7 million mountain bikes sold. Fat bikes provide a great way for avid cyclists to stay in shape during the winter season and they provide different recreational fun for people who are active or love the outdoors. Fat bikers are mostly male and are aged 35-65, with 80% at high education levels Bachelors degree or higher) and professional/managerial vocations.
A small group of North American Snowsports Journalist Association members were recently introduced to fat biking by the welcoming folks at Kingdom Trails in Lyndonville, VT. The group found the bikes easy to balance and maneuver. Similar to XC skiing, the fat bikes provide exercise when going on flat terrain with more effort required up hills earning thrills on the downhills.
The Kingdom Trails in northeastern Vermont is the foremost mountain bike destination in the east with more than 40,000 day passes sold in 2017 (20% increase from the previous year) and they've quickly parlayed this notoriety into becoming a mecca for fat bikers in the winter. Kingdom Trails has 100 miles of bike trails (30 of which are used in winter for XC skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking) and works with 80 different land owners. They also host Winterbike, which is the biggest fat bike festival in the east.
At Darling Hill Road in Lyndonville, the Village Sport Shop has a trailside facility adjacent to the Kingdom Trails Nordic Adventure Center renting fat bikes for $55 a day and sells the bikes ranging from $1,800 to $2,800. Fat bike products include softgoods, accessories and bikes available from companies such as Liv Bikes and Pivot among others.
Another option for those who would like an introduction to fat biking is to have a guide at Kingdom Experiences take care of all the details. They’ve got certified instructors and want to help cyclists have an experience catered specifically to rider skill and ability levels offering kids camps, women’s clinics and getaways and more.
Kingdom Trails has three paid groomers who maintain about 30 miles of trails. Day membership prices (day pass for trail access) are $15 a day for those aged 16-69 and $7 for youth aged 8-15. There are also year-round memberships available with an annual family membership priced at $150. The Kingdom Trails Welcome Center is in East Burke and the Kingdom Trails Nordic Adventure Center is on Darling Hill Road in Lyndonville.
Other Fat Bike Locations
At the Nordic Village outside of Flagstaff, AZ there are 25 km of snowshoe trails that accommodate fat bikes. The bikes ride much better on packed trails compared to riding on soft snow. Fat bikes can be rented at Flagstaff Nordic for $35 on weekends plus a $10 trail fee, and they offer a 40% discount on weekdays ($20) while charging a lower trail fee on weekdays ($7), too.
In eastern Washington's Methow Trails the winter season can be longer than all other seasons combined and it was one of the first trail networks to embrace fat biking. They saw it as a new, exciting way to get outside and recreate and for the passionate XC skier interested in fitness, it provides another way to cross-train. Some guys from Methow Cycle & Sport groom some of the local trails and the shop rents 16 fat bikes.
One avid snow biker describes the thrill of riding his fat bike in the winter as, "Riding on snow has been a great alternative to my other winter love…Nordic skiing. Hopping on the snow bike has been a great way to mix up the winter activities. There's an amazing sensation when you climb aboard a snow bike and find that you "can" ride where only skiers or snowmobilers had once been able to go!" Surveys show that 71% of fat bikes were introduced to the sport at a demo, borrow, or rent the bike that they are riding and 64% of the fat bikers said they would pay to ride on groomed trails.
Fat bike trail offerings are assessed on a day-by-day, snow conditions, user compatibility basis. Information on the trails that are open to fat bikes is available daily on the Methow Trails grooming report. Just like a skier, a valid Methow Trails day pass will be required for snow bikes.
Fat bikes are available for rent ranging from $15 per hour at Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton, VT to $55 for a full day reaching $75 a day at New World Sport, a Fort Collins, CO, shop that sends riders to local packed snowshoe and XC ski trails. Methow Cycle and Sport in Winthrop, WA has a $35 half day rate or $55 for a full day. Reservations are recommended for weekends and holidays. Methow Cycle and Sport will also provide rack adapters for customers who wish to transport rental fat bikes to the riding area of their choice. Other XC ski areas that have fat bikes on location to rent include Woodstock Inn & Resort in VT, Great Glen Trails in Gorham, NH, Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI and in California at Bear Valley Cross Country & Adventure.
As one might imagine the price for purchasing a fat bike ranges greatly from a low-end of $200 (at Walmart) to $1,800-6,000. Like any other equipment the low end is probably less reliable and the high-end includes bells and whistles or are built with carbon fiber construction.
Currently, the issues for fat bikers include skier/biker relations and conflicts, variable and changing snow conditions, impact on trails, and building fat bike-specific trails. Fat bike riders are looking for packed snow trails, moderate climbs no more than 8% grade, and narrow single tracks to ride. They are asked to follow a code of etiquette because they can damage trails groomed for classic and skate XC skiers. A typical list of XC ski area "conditions of use" include:
* Riders need to purchase a trail pass to use the area's trails and tell the ticket vendor that they are planning on fat biking.
* Trail access is dependent on conditions and they should check the daily grooming report for detailed trail access information.
* Bikes should yield to all other users. Stay to right side of trail at all times, stay out of the classic ski tracks, and give skate skiers a wide berth. * Stay off trails with more than 3" of new snow.
* If you are leaving a rut deeper than an inch, having a hard time riding in a straight line, or pushing your bike, the snow is too soft and you absolutely should not be biking on the trails.
* Be an ambassador for the sport – stay polite, educate other bikers, discourage bad behavior, follow the rules, and we'll all have a good time this winter.
* Stay on trails designated for Fat Biking.
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.
Jackson Ski Touring Center has a skills development program for 3rd -8th graders on Sundays in January including video technique assessment and hot chocolate, fun, and games. The Monday afternoon Junior Meisters time trials in Jackson are open to youth of all ages for individual start times on three different course length options between 3:00-4:30 PM through March 5th.
Bring some chocolate treats, talk about animal tracks, and encourage your child. Make it about more than skiing, and it can give you many years of quality family time and memories cross country skiing with your children.
Smugglers’ Notch Resort in Jeffersonville, VT opened a 26,000 square-foot one-of-a-kind Family Fun Complex facility that appeals to all ages. This brand new 4.4 million dollar facility is known as FunZone 2.0
Bill Stritzler, Smugglers’ Notch Managing Director stated “I am very proud of the commitment to Family Fun represented by this project. This next dimension in family fun was fully conceived and led by Smugglers’ staff, and then designed and built by Vermont companies and financed by Smugglers’ and Vermont lenders.”
As the leaders in the family vacation experience, Smugglers’ has taken feedback from many years of guest interactions to build the ideal all-in-one Family Fun Complex. Featuring multiple levels of fun activities at the FunZone 2.0, which is broken up into two main zones with a general focus on age, including:
The Go Zone includes:
● 30-foot, see through climbing tower with multiple pitches for all ability levels
● 3-dimensional Mountain Rally Races slot car track modeled after Smugglers’ three mountains and cozy resort village
● 30-foot “leap of faith” thrill activity with automatic rappel system
● Two cutting-edge Ninja Warrior-inspired courses with physical challenges allowing participants to race the clock for the best time
● 3,500-square foot, one-of-a-kind mountain-themed laser tag facility
● Lazer Maze challenge with multiple levels of complexity
● 2,000-square foot arcade with video games and redemption center.
The Ozone includes:
● Inflatable obstacle courses
● 20 foot giant inflatable slide
● Sky walk viewing area with views of climbing tower, Leap of Faith, and Smuggs Warrior course
● Littles’ Loft toddler area with Vermont-inspired Country Store make-believe area, large foam blocks for building, kid-sized inflatable obstacle course, and lounge area for parents Social Connection that includes:
● ReFuel Café featuring food and beverage with seating area, also serving beer and wine
● Two private party rooms with rental packages available.
Parents will have to make sure to use the Fun Zone as a reward after a great day of skiing, otherwise the kids just might want to spend their whole vacation there!
Lean snow years across the country have had effects on cross country (XC) skiers. There have been droughts and sunny stretches in the west, ice storms, meltdowns, and freeze ups in the central and eastern regions, and more. This is not intended to be a meteorological report; it is an annual ritual and a skiers’ lament! And another one of the greatest challenges for many people who love to XC ski regardless of the snow conditions is making time to get out there. Skiers struggle with this, but there are easy ways make time and to be more prepared to enjoy skiing.
Skiers can reframe their perspective on the sport and here are some tips from the folks at XCSkiResorts.com:
Making skiing a big event means that it requires preparation, planning, travel, and so on. You can make plans to go to a ski area or resort, trail network, or a famous ski destination such as Sun Valley, Lake Tahoe, Methow Valley, Colorado, Stowe, VT or Jackson, NH and these destinations depend on travelers. Obviously XC skiing is not only a form of recreation, it is also a business that will not survive if skiers do not visit spiritual Mecca’s such as the ones listed.
Not every ski outing needs to be such an event. It takes time to consider and plan a trip to these destinations and the weather has a way of impacting the advance planning. We can expect that if we visit one of these destinations that it will be memorable, but if you live where there is snow, there are plenty of days in the winter when you can get outside and enjoy XC skiing and this takes into account that you may have to work five days a week and all the other things that you need or want to do.
There is no guarantee that the snow conditions will be perfect no matter how much planning you do to prepare for your event. To take advantage of spontaneous skiing, you need to be prepared for the moment.
When it is time to go skiing it should only take a few minutes to get out the door. Of course, it takes some time to dress with base layer, selected socks, and top (ski shirt) and bottom (ski pants). I admit that it may be a bit obsessive to organize a "get away" bag of accessories; but the first step to get on the snow quickly entails reaching into my oversized bag that is readily available to get the accessories needed. This is a common sense list of things that you might need and here’s an entire article about setting up your Accessories Bag. Perhaps such a bag can also be developed as a “Ready to Go Ski Kit.” The kit is simply available to go anytime, anywhere, no matter what. My full accessories bag has snowboard gear (hats, gloves, sunglasses, goggles, hand and toe warmers, repair and replacement stuff, etc.) and it contains a smaller XC ski backpack that has XC-specific gear (survival stuff, spare gloves, water bottle, etc.)
Skis, boots, and poles must be readily accessible, and some people just leave this gear in their car during winter. My gear is in the garage next to my car, so it is easily available. Perhaps you might leave gear in your car that is not your prime equipment so that if it is stolen, it will not be the end of the world. I cover my gear in the car with a blanket to dissuade potential robbers. When it’s time to go skiing, I grab my Accessories Bag, ski boots, poles and skis and I’m off to ski.
If you have waxable skis, you are probably aware about waxing and your associated wax accessories and can get it together quickly, but I feel that having no-wax skis can be an important part of the equation because they save time and eliminate the need for waxes and associated accessories. You may sacrifice some performance due to your type of waxless ski (old, new, skin, pattern, etc.) but the intention is to get out quickly rather than get optimum ski performance. Conceptually the Ready to Go Ski Kit is set up so that you will not have to go through such a long mental checklist every time you want to go skiing.
The key thing is to establish your kit and gear readiness so you can go skiing when the opportunity presents itself – early morning, at lunch break, coming home from work, or whenever. You can literally pull over at the side of the road and go for a ski. Perhaps a nearby open field has set up and would be great for crust cruising or maybe new snow has made that popular riverside trail magical for a short jaunt.
Where Else to Ski
If you are dedicated to a certain ski area, a season pass makes great sense for the quickest and least expensive way to more regularly enjoy the groomed trails. The more often you go to a ski area, the easier it will be to get out on the trails because of familiarity with the situation. You could also check XC ski area websites to find advance online discounts that might be available. I bookmark my local ski area website ski condition reports on my Smartphone and it is amazing how valuable this is if I want to quickly decide which area to visit on a given day. The areas post their conditions, the weather, special events and programs, and more.
Some states have ski area organizations that have developed a reciprocal pass program where you can use your season pass to visit different ski areas in the state. This may be helpful to seek the best ski conditions in your region. Additionally, about forty XC ski areas now employ snowmaking and that can guarantee snow cover at those areas (check a list of some of the ski areas with snowmaking).
Finding Others to Ski With
If you don’t like skiing alone you could develop a list of other skiers who can be spontaneous and ready to go. The call to ski may be a day or two in advance, or perhaps it can be a text on the prior evening to make arrangements to meet at a trail. Talk with other skiers and ski area employees to start your list of others. Maybe you can ask other skiers who you have met at the area or on the trail. Carpooling or ride sharing might help you to ski more often.
You also can participate in programs such as Jackson Ski Touring Center’s Friday Sliders group or join a ski club like the ones developed at the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid. You can send out a message to club members (or your list of other skiers). Keep in mind that in many cases, involving other skiers may make things more complex and not align with a spontaneous outing.
Many of us are fair-weather skiers looking for the best circumstances – but you may be surprised even if the snow conditions on a given day are not soft or have a cover of sleet, or are wet because of rain or warm temperatures. Experiencing different conditions can be fun to see how techniques and equipment are put to the different tests. The key point is, motivate yourself, make time, and get out there to XC ski!
Want a guilt-free way to indulge yourself with food while exercising? Cross country (XC) skiing and snowshoeing are some of the best forms of aerobic exercise, but if you go on a "Gourmet Ski Tour" on your XC skis or snowshoes, you may very well eat your way to fitness at a number of trailside food stops. What a grand time so go ahead, eat, ski, and be merry - appetizers, wine, champagne, fondue, entrees, desserts, and more.
Here's a cross section of the culinary XC ski events that are planned this winter across the country with a varied menu of fun and fine cuisine.
Smugglers Notch in VT has the S'mores and Snowshoe Trek every Wednesday night 5:30-7:00 PM. S'Mores await snowshoers after a short trek to a bonfire. For hardier snowshoers there's the Notch Night Snowshoe Tour on Tuesday night, and on Wednesday nights there's a Snowshoe Adventure Dinner at the mountain summit. The Maple Experience is on Tuesdays on a tour to learn about maple sugaring and get to take home a sample. Look for the Morse Highlands Day Lodge for a bonfire and S'mores.
The Chocolate Festival at Mt. Washington Valley Ski & Snowshoe Center in Intervale, NH on Sunday, February 25 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.
On Feb 3, Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI the "Ski the Beer Trail" is a new event sponsored by Paddle Hard Brewing with XC skiing, craft beer tasting, and a rustic BBQ lunch along the trails. Look for the Fill at the Grill and Fire on the Mountain food events.
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan in Ironwood features cuisine from local restaurants that can be purchased at a nominal fee along a designated route along the trails at the Taste of the Trails on the ABR trails on in March.
At Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash, CO, the Stagecoach Classic Race & Tour is on January 20 with a 15 km tour (also a race for competitors starting earlier), which starts at Devil's Thumb follows the Fraser River and ends at Hideaway Park in Winter Park followed by a BBQ and beer garden with live music. The Ski, Sip & Spa day is set for Feb 11.
Just Desserts Eat & Ski in the Enchanted Forest in Red River, NM on February 24 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 March 10.
Look to the Galena Lodge in Ketchum, ID for the Full Moon Dinners on nights with the full moon, whereby you can go ski or snowshoe ($5 snowshoe rental offered) and then return to lodge for a 4-course dinner at $40 or half price for kids under 12. There are also special Wine Dinners, Holiday Dinners, Valentine's Day Dinner and Twilight Ski Dinners scheduled from mid-December to mid-March.
Frisco Nordic Center in CO has the Ski, Eat and Be Merry event on Feb 3 from 6:00 0- 10:00 PM with a progressive dinner along the trails stationed with delicious foods paired.
Tahoe XC in Tahoe City, CA has the New Year's Day On Trail Breakfast at 10-11:30 AM with skiing or snowshoeing to the unique trailside "lunch truck" (pictured above) for a hot meal made to order right along the trail and remember to sign up in advance.
Cypress Mountain outside of Vancouver, BC has Fondue Dinner Snowshoe Tour, Girls' Night Tours, and Music Night all scheduled to start in January. These programs include rental equipment, trail access, and guides/instructors.
Cross country (XC) skiing is a sport with a very low incidence of injuries for a number of reasons including the low impact nature of XC skiing, low sliding speed, and the free heel allows twisting if you fall (the ski boot is connected to the ski binding only at the toe and the heel is free), but there may be some injuries during the ski season in falls or by aggravating pre-existing conditions. Like the Maytag repairman, ski patrollers at XC ski areas are not the busiest employees at the XC ski area because they do not have to address many serious skier injuries.
According to Sophia Sauter, a registered physiotherapist, who authored an article in "Active Life Physiotherapy" about 75% of injuries sustained by XC skiers are a result of overuse due to the repetitive nature of skiing, while the remaining 25% are a result of trauma. The following outlines some common injuries and appropriate treatment.
Traumatic XC ski injuries (25%), for example include ankle sprains, thumb sprains, knee ligament sprains, groin muscle strains, and wrist sprains. Upper body injuries are often the result of falling down but since XC skiing speeds tend to be somewhat slow, the impacts are often less severe than impacts at much higher speeds. The recommended treatment for the traumatic injuries is RICE: Relative rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Then, slowly restore range of motion, strength, proprioception (such as the ability to drive using brake, accelerator, and steering wheel without looking at your arms and legs), and power. It's suggested to see a physiotherapist to obtain a proper diagnosis and set of rehabilitative exercises.
Overuse injuries (75%) from XC skiing, for example could include (not intended to sound like a list of possible side effects in a pharmaceutical ad) knee pain, compartment syndrome on shins, Achilles tendon problems, rotator cuff and shoulder problems, and low back pain. The recommended treatment for these problems is a bit different. In these cases it's important to correct muscle imbalance (e.g. tight/weak), equipment faults, and possible training errors. Seek medical advice from a physiotherapist or other qualified health professional specializing in injuries common to XC skiers.
Most people skip the warm up or preparing for recreational activity altogether, but the best way to avoid injury is prevention. This means utilizing appropriate training progressions, maintaining physical strength, balance, flexibility, adopting appropriate recovery techniques, and treating any lingering individual alignment problems, weaknesses, and imbalances. It makes sense to warm up before hitting the trails. The physiotherapist suggests a full body analysis with a professional to identify individual mechanical inadequacies. Also consider an athlete specific core stability and functional strength program. Popular core-strengthening strategies might include yoga, Pilates, and a regular fitness regimen.
Think about getting in shape, warming up, and dealing with your injuries before going out on the trails and you can start your next season off right!
The vast majority of cross country (XC) skiers do not take XC ski lessons, but rather they start with friends or family, who are usually not trained to teach XC skiing. So, who needs XC ski lessons? Most of us do!
Starting with the basics, a XC ski instructor can help a skier choose clothing and equipment that is appropriate for weather and his or her skiing goals and abilities. Equipment selection including the ski flex, length of poles, ski boot type and fit can make a huge difference in a skier’s experience.
A ski instructor can gently guide any XC skier to better skills and match a skier's pace to his or her level of fitness and interest, keeping the skier from working too hard…and let’s face it, most people who do not XC ski perceive the sport as too much work. The idea of sliding on snow can be a challenge for some people. An instructor can show the proper way to balance, transfer weight from one ski to another, and how to use the poles. Learning to keep the body forward with appropriate ankle and knee bend can start a new skier with confidence. Maintaining control down hills is also key to enjoying XC skiing.
The first time a new skier approaches a hill, whether going up or down, can be a make-or-break experience. A lesson can help one learn simple techniques to travel up a hill with confidence. Going down a hill on XC ski equipment can be frightful to new and experienced skiers alike. Narrow trails, difficult snow conditions, rocks and trees are challenging to even an experienced XC skier. An instructor can make sure the initial down hill experience is a safe and comfortable one by starting on the right terrain and practicing skills and techniques. Such a lesson will prepare a new skier and build their confidence.
Can a Lesson Help Seasoned Skiers?
Alpine (downhill) skiers who are trying XC skiing for the first time will also greatly benefit by getting some XC ski instruction because the equipment and techniques varies between the two sports. Skiing uphill is a totally new experience for the alpine skier and going down hills on XC ski equipment, which is lightweight and has a free heel…and no big plastic ski boot, can be more than thrilling.
An experienced XC skier, who may need to improve on some aspects of their technique can also benefit from a ski lesson. Most XC ski control and efficiency problems involve incorrect body movements or timing issues and these problems will waste energy. Even constantly looking down at the skis will distort good body position while XC skiing.
Years of incorrect technique can instill the wrong muscle memory and this really requires a certified and experienced instructor to rectify. Video analysis can be a great benefit to seasoned XC skiers. A good ski instructor will not be critical but will direct the lesson to the skier’s goals such as improve glide, control, and feeling more confident on skis.
So many XC skiers use outdated equipment and instructors can be helpful to discuss newer or more appropriate products with them. There are so many derivations of XC skiing, that it is imperative to get informed advice to match what someone wants to get out of XC skiing, be it gliding on a groomed trail or mastering the glades in untracked powder or other ski conditions.
Finding a Qualified XC Ski Instructor
To find a qualified XC ski instructor visit or call a XC ski area. Discuss skiing goals with the instructor and find out if they have been certified by the Professional Ski Instructors organization. Certification involves training and passing a test to teach XC skiing. The instructor should be a “people person” easy to talk to, and offer positive feedback on a skier’s strong points and encouragement on how they can get even better skills. With enhanced skills and techniques, XC skiers can experience the fun aspect as well as enjoy the outdoors and fitness associated with the sport.
Thank you to Brad Noren, of www.NordicFusion.ski who is a PSIA certified level 3 Alpine and Level 2 Nordic ski instructor for information in this article based on his experience teaching since 1972 in northern Michigan.
The SIA/Physical Activity Council 2016-17 Participation Study
The SIA Physical Activity Council 2016-17 Sports Participation Study published by Snowsports Industries America (SIA) gives a clear picture of the cross country ski population in the USA. In a nationwide survey conducted with more than 40,000 people it was projected that there were 5,059,000 cross country skiers in 2016-17 (last winter season). While this was higher than the recent years, the impact of weather makes year-to-year comparisons not trendable. When there is snow in populated areas, there is an increase in cross country skiers.
Other 2016-17 snow sport populations were:
alpine = 11,800,000; snowboard = 7,600,000; snowshoe = 3,700,000.
The gender of cross county skiers in 2016-17 according to the survey was 61-38 percent male-female as the percentage of female participation has declined over the last few years. Another way of looking at it is that the male participation has surged 24% but that would ignore the 9% decline in the number of female cross country skiers from the previous year at a time when the total number of cross country skiers increased by 9% above the previous year.
Other demographic information included that 41% of cross country skiers had a household income above $100,000 annually.
Cross participation in other forms of recreation showed that 51% of cross country skiers are into high impact/intensity training and 42.3% walk for fitness; 39.6% are cross trainers or use elliptical motion trainers (all sounds like indoor exercise) while 39.1% go bicycling on roads or paved surfaces. The study shows that 38.6% of cross country skiers enjoy bowling and 38.4% use the treadmill (again with the indoor fitness). Interestingly the study shows hiking as an activity done by 38.4% of cross country skiers (formerly one of the top cross participation activities) and does not show alpine skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing in the top eight cross recreational activities. Either many more of the cross country skiers became fitness junkies or something is inaccurate. Traditionally, about 40% of cross country skiers also alpine skied.
The newest information showed that there are 425,000 fat bikers and last year there were 7,000 fat bikes sold.
We're still awaiting info about the average number of days that cross country skiers participated but a few years ago it was 7.2 days and 24% of them participated 9 days or more.
Why People Try or Quit Cross Country Skiing
Having someone to go with was the most significant factor that encouraged participants to go cross country skiing. Other factors that are impediments to cross country skiers include being able to go cross country ski locally, getting a lesson, having new equipment, being in better health, having more vacation time, and fewer work commitments.
Researchers in the industry point to trends such as an aging population of skiers, increasing costs of participation, accessibility and transportation difficulties to mountain areas, the urbanization of the new participant base, a lack of snow culture in new North American immigrants, and the suggestion that Millennials are too obsessed with their phones to get out on skis. Oh, and have we mentioned climate change? The snow line may be moving north more quickly.
In 1988 there were reportedly nearly 5.8 million cross country skiers in the US corresponding to a good snow year and the development of waxless skis. Can more people overcome the listed obstacles to become cross country skiers? Thanks to Ryan Combs, SIA Director of Research for sharing the study findings with XCSkiResorts.com.
Resorts run by families, are great for family winter vacations packed with something for every family member from fresh home cooked food to the atmosphere and fond memories.
These family-run resorts offer family clientele a combination of togetherness and/or solo time. There’s never a concern about nothing to do because there are so many choices. From reading a book to hiking, horseback riding, swimming and kayaking in the summer to sledding, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating and other nearby snowsports in the winter. Many of these recreational activities are perfect for family bonding and they create joint memories to last a lifetime. Some folks like to simply unplug and enjoy being away from the hurried world of jobs, schedules, and commitments. Many families opt for their vacation time to become untethered from modern-day trappings such as smart phones and social media, for a heightened state of relaxation to enjoy a quieter, easier world.
The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT built by the singing Von Trapp family is synonymous with family-run resorts, but there are many others such as the Breckenridge Nordic Center in CO, which has been run by Gene and Therese Dayton with their kids for decades. A recent visit by a couple looking for a place to hold their wedding reception stated “Your lodge is gorgeous! We like the cozy feel and the fact that it's family-owned.”
Therese Dayton commented “Our three children grew up living and breathing this business, where they could see and contribute their hopes and ideas toward a future. They have worked at the center since they were quite small, and had to earn all of their own ski equipment working on weekends and holiday breaks each winter. She noted, “Our employees and guests are part of a family legacy in the making. We try to lead by example and not with formalized documents, policies, and procedures. We treat our staff and guests on an individual basis, considering feelings, trying to do what is best and right above all rules. They have seen our children and now grandchildren grow up and they remember stories about when our children were young, and skiing, whether competitive or not interested in racing, always just having fun on skis.”
Dan Baumann of Golden Eagle Lodge in Grand Marais, MN stated, “I have been at Golden Eagle Lodge for 41 years now - running it with my parents, then my wife joined the staff, and then our three kids also helped out. This October my oldest son married a long time guest, who we watched grow up, and they are planning to take over the lodge in a few years.”
Bob Frye of Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI jokingly commented “we’ve used our daughter Mariah as forced child labor since she was eight and many of our skiers have seen her grow up. It’s her business now!” He stated that the families are an important part of a growing business. “We’ve established trust as the experts in the ski business so our skiers feel that we’ll choose the right stuff for their gear and clothing.” We’re like a free expert for other families and Mariah has great experience in racing so she has experience that can be trusted in that area.”
Emily Christie of Falcon Trails Resort in Falcon Lake, Manitoba said “We are a family run resort and it is a huge part of the identity and spirit of our business. Falcon Trails was founded by my parents Barb and Craig, who have been carpenters in the area since 1980. They have a love of skiing and were very active members of the local Nordic ski club. When the government decided to close the local ski area, my parents came up with a proposal to build rental cabins to provide a financial crutch that would help keep the ski hill alive. So for the last 20 years our family has owned and operated the local ski slopes/Nordic trails, which is now a four season cabin rental resort. Today my two sisters and I, along with their partners, run the resort together.
Eli Einman of Sleepy Hollow Inn located in Huntington, VT commented that “Our customers appreciate and like to support our family run business. We've been in operation for 17 years now, and each of us has our own roles in the business. As an example, several long time skiers here know they can request certain trails to be groomed by my Dad, and he almost always obliges. Often we hear from our customers that they really like to buy season passes from us because they like to support small and family run enterprises. Folks often tell us there is a good vibe from Sleepy Hollow, and I know that's just from the casual & colorful (non-corporate) banter that gets thrown around the front desk area.”
Anne Carter, owner of Carter's Cross Country Ski Centers in Bethel and Oxford, ME has two daughters and sons-in-law that help with the operation of the two centers. “They’ve been playing at the ski areas since they were one and half years old and then helped out since they were in middle school with the operation in the shop, grooming, and giving lessons.” Of course, the kids’ friends were attracted to the ski areas and the customers got to watch the girls grow up and then see the grandkids around the centers.
Jay Richards, the second generation manager of Maplelag Resort in Callaway, MN lives with his wife and kids at the resort, which continues to be the home of his parents so it’s truly a large family with three generations involved. Maplelag prepares plentiful, homecooked meals and family members gather in the dining area to mingle with other guests from other families. The family-style meals served at elongated tables are known to feed the camaraderie and family magic that can be had at the resort. Whether skiing or not, people rave about their time spent at Maplelag. The lodge is a treasury of Norwegian Folk Art with nooks and crannies to enjoy together or get away to relax and read a book. A Variety/Talent Show is organized each week and it’s a big hit for families whose performances feature everything from jugglers and family skits, to jokes, musical instruments and German beer drinking songs. The show is followed by the Saturday Night Dance, which offers an eclectic collection of music for dancers of all ages.
The Richards pride themselves on making everyone who comes to Maplelag feel like they are part of the "Maplelag" family. They feel very connected to their guests and many have been coming for over 30 years. The bottomless cookie jar philosophy at Maplelag is a great example of how having access to cookies at any time at no charge creates a feeling of being "at grandma's house" instead of feeling like the corporation is doing everything to maximize profits.
Owner Jay Richards commented, “It is important that guests don't ever experience feeling unwelcome at Maplelag. The word hospital stems from hospitality – and Maplelag is an operation that wants people to feel better physically, emotionally, and mentally after they have visited Maplelag. If the experience is enriching, then people will hopefully come back for more "Maplelag therapy"...and all of our families could use a little "fun" therapy.
As the days become colder and winter approaches, the ski season beckons but about 40 cross country (XC) ski areas are no longer waiting for the snow to fly to begin their ski season because they’ve invested in snowmaking, just like their alpine ski area cousins.
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 includes for example, Rikert Nordic Center, Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Sleepy Hollow Inn, and Mountain Top Resort, in VT; Adventure Center at Waterville Valley, Bretton Woods Nordic Center, Great Glen Trails and Gunstock Mountain in NH, and Pineland Farms in ME; Weston Ski Track in MA; the Olympic Sports Complex in Lake Placid, NY; Cross Country Ski Headquarters in MI; Breckenridge Nordic Center and Frisco Nordic Center in CO.
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.
Twenty years ago, one industry consultant dubbed the XC ski resort quandary as "precipitation roulette." 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.
Most commendable is Sleepy Hollow Inn's system in Huntington, VT, which is powered by solar energy. Rikert Nordic Center increased from an average of 70 days of operation before snowmaking was added to 140 days without inseason closures! The Adventure Center at Waterville Valley makes snow to cover its town square area and a beginner's loop in a field. Snowmakers used machine-made snow to cover trails at Canmore Nordic Centre and the Olympic Sports Complex to run early season programs for racing teams from across North America.
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. The 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 ski area operations. Upper photo Killington snowmaking; Middle photo XC ski racing in October at Canmore Nordic Centre; Lower photo Snowmaking at Rikert Nordic Center.
At last year's Boston Ski Show there was the SIA Nordic Village with "The Biathlon Experience" including an actual laser rifle and target and daily competitions, plus introductory tryouts of cross country skiing and snowshoeing using real equipment on Astro Turf track. The Nordic Village proved to be especially popular with youngsters ready for fun new experiences on snow and it will be featured again this year Nov 9-12, 2017. Here's a Fact Sheet for this year's show.
Last year for the first time at Boston Ski Show, cross country ski and snowshoe gear, clothing and accessories were featured and on sale at the new Nordic Specialty Shop at the Nordic Village inside the Expo hall. According to Great Glen's Nate Harvey, "People checked out the Nordic ski products and got properly outfitted for the coming winter, including great active wear and boots. We sold more than a dozen ski packages and included a season pass with each of the purchases. A few marathon runners bought some clothing, too." He was happy to use the show to "broaden interest in cross country skiing and introduce it to people who might not have tried it before."
For years, the major metropolitan-based ski shows have attempted to include cross country skiing, but the overwhelming majority of show attendees are oriented to alpine skiing or snowboarding so show producers have had a limited focus on cross country skiing. Reese Brown, SIA Nordic Ski Director said "The show was great for us. It was standing-room-only all of the time during the busy sections and busy during the slower times. Most people had an understanding of biathlon from watching the Olympics. It was also very busy putting people on skis and snowshoes on the synthetic track. Many show attendees and exhibitors commented on how great it was to have cross country represented at the show and that there was a retail opportunity there, too." The show features radio stations simulcasts, fashion shows, and exhibits with ski areas, ski clubs, tour operators (they organize trips to ski resorts), lodging facilities, snow sports products such as ski gear, scarves, and electronic massagers, and much more. Reese commented, "I was very happy with the show and we're looking at how we can make a bigger splash next year."
The biggest and most successful annual exhibit show for cross country skiing/outdoors called the Outdoor Adventure Expo has been held for many years in Minneapolis, MN conducted by and at the location of retailer Midwest Mountaineering (held on Nov 17-19, 2017) behind the store on Cedar Street, Mnpls). This show features many seminars and presentations on the outdoors, as well as 75 regional exhibits, and a major sale. There was a Beer & Gear Social Night reception, the Banff Mountain Film Festival, which attracted 2,600 paying attendees, and a number of XC ski resorts that introduce people to their facilities and book reservations. The Outdoor Adventure Expo draws about 9,000 attendees each year and has nine classrooms at the adjacent university for seminars and presentations. Rod Johnson, owner of Midwest Mountaineering commented last year, "This was our 31st winter expo. The people get info about the outdoor skills they need and the can get equipment on sale." Photos from Reese Brown of a girl taking aim with a Biathlon rifle and the Great Glen exhibit at the Boston Ski Show.
Many Nordic ski areas across the nation had a great season despite the “Whiplash Winter,” which threw a few curveballs at ski area operators. Here’s a snapshot of the 2016-17 winter from cross country (XC) ski resorts far and wide:
Tahoe Donner Cross Country Center in Truckee, CA had a fantastic winter season overall, including excellent snow conditions over Christmas and New Year’s. January alone was a record-breaking month for snowfall. The base area at Tahoe Donner Cross Country received 530” of snow this winter, which is significantly above the average of 450” per winter season. People were visiting just to see what the buzz was about. The season pass and day ticket sales were exceptionally high. They saw a lot of new folks taking lessons or trying XC skiing, taking advantage of the great conditions and they reported that fat biking has taken off in the past couple of years.
Methow Trails in eastern WA was open 115 days with the season ending on April 2. They groomed over 16,000 miles and were up 10% in revenue for the season with the best ever season pass sales. The Methow community keeps growing in winter visitation with skiers primarily coming from the Seattle area. They’re 4 hours away from Seattle but Seattleites enjoy going to the Methow for snow and sunshine! There’s also good visitation from Canada as they offer Canadians the prices on par. Methow Trails is still very enthusiastic for the fat bike trend as they saw an increase in people trying fat biking this season.
At the Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop, WA retiring ski operator Don Portman reported they had a great winter season, which was cold with lots of great hard wax classic skiing. The groomers were thrilled since it was mostly easy snow to groom and no grinding ice. The Christmas holiday period was strong and business was good.
The rental equipment and lesson numbers were down slightly over last year, which was the best year ever. Fat biking continued to grow in the valley and there has been an expansion of fat bike trails away from the ski trails at a local state park. The lodge is also seeing growth in snowshoeing and even though the snowshoe rental fleet was increased this past season, they still almost ran out on a couple of busy weekends. There are some spectacular snowshoe trails and people were very happy using them. There was also an increased use and interest in skin based off track skis such as Altai Hoks (brand model of short wide waxless skis that are like snowshoes), and the new waxless track skis with attached skins.
The past XC ski season at Devil’s Thumb Ranch (DTR) in Tabernash, CO started the day before Thanksgiving and finished on April 9th with four and a half months of great snow. The Stagecoach Classic, which is a point-to-point race attracted 450 racers from across the country and one of the season’s highlights was the Women's Ski and Spa in February attracting about 110 women, which gathered great reviews from the participants.
According to the resort manager, “There was an increase in skier traffic about 20% above the previous season and the DTR activity center was busier during the week. The factors explaining those trends includes the growing population of Colorado, retired baby boomers are active and tend to come during the week, the price of XC skiing is affordable for families, the state does a great job of maintaining the roads making a day trip from the Front Range accessible. The terrain at DTR is vast and varied with 80km of trails, attracting both beginners and experts (college racing teams come to train because the trails are groomed daily and the snow remains very good throughout most of the season with the cold temperatures in the Tabernash area at 9000 feet). The people who stay at the resort get a ski in-and-out experience.”
At Sun Valley Nordic Center, they topped the previous season with 112 days of operation. About a quarter of the visits were by snowshoers and 95% of the ski lessons were private. Nordic Director Ivana Radlova commented, “The snow seemed to be coming every day after the first appearance and the mountains of snow made for some great skiing, but also brought some challenges with grooming and visibility. There was a noticeable lack of sunshine this winter in Sun Valley and there were more people Nordic skiing or snowshoeing who would be ordinarily alpine skiing who came largely due to the weather – flat light, snow storms. One day the mountain had to close all together and the Nordic trails had a whole bunch of folks with helmets and goggles showing up for some skinny skiing.” There was some interest in fat biking at Sun Valley Nordic, but conditions were rarely perfect for them as the ski trails were often soft and the bikes would leave deep ruts, which annoyed the skiers.
Mariah Frye of Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI reported that December snow set the stage for a successful season, which was a bit above the annual average. She saw more new faces at the area such as retired baby boomers and people who exercise attributing to the US Ski Team success in cross country skiing and attractive rates at the area. The season pass is only $38.00 at Cross Country Ski Headquarters and they did great with rentals and selling retail ski packages.
Trends at the area include the popularity of skin technology on ski bases and events that engage more people combining cross country skiing and snowshoeing with yoga, live music, and food events.
Maplelag Resort in Callaway, MN commented that early snow was great for them to host a record number of high school ski team attendees at their early season ski camps and that snow lasted through the warm weather in February. Fat biking has taken off and Maplelag is grooming some specific trails for fat bikers. The season was a bit above the average and owner Jay Richards stated, “People have expressed their appreciation for our family-owned operation and made-from-scratch home cooked food service.”
At Jackson XC in NH spokesperson Deb Deschenes stated, “What a great season it was!” Mother Nature blessed us with over 110 inches of snow this past season providing us with an amazing platform for some of the best Nordic skiing in years! We enjoyed over 112 skier days this season with our skier visits up and ski school held strong with numbers beating the past 3 years. First time skier visits were up, vacation weeks were boasting with families young and old, all enjoying fresh powder week after week! The spring skiing season extended into mid-April. Jackson XC also added 3 new trails for three miles of fantastic new terrain, held 2 ribbon cutting ceremonies, installed new bridges, and entered into an agreement for permanent easements!”
At Great Glen Outdoor Outdoor Trails Center they “had a very solid season all in all. Once winter got going it was quite good with lots of ups and downs in temperature and snow, but constantly good skiing throughout. Compared to the last 3 or 4 MLK weekends, this was one of our best ever and our demo day on MLK Saturday was huge. Day passes were up slightly, season passes up significantly, SnowCoach up huge, tubing up significantly. Snowshoeing continues to grow along with snowshoe rentals. Retail, oddly, was flat probably because the snow didn’t start until after Christmas.”
The Woodstock Inn Resort in central Vermont reported an “outstanding season with 109 operating days! A little thin at times, but generally great skiing throughout the winter. There was great skiing and weather both Christmas week and February break week, which were major contributors to a successful season. Retail shop sales and lessons were also very strong this winter. “
At Lapland Lake in NY, “Snowfall was 104” compared to an average of 116” and total ski days were 110 compared to an average of 109. The weather challenged us repeatedly with unusually warm and rainy conditions. Snow patterns in nearby metro areas, which help motivate our customers to turn out and ski, were not great.
“Snow came in early December giving people the lead time and confidence to plan visits over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday and we had a great holiday season. Overall winter weather was a bit on the warm side and conditions became a bit challenging as we moved into March and during those weeks we chose to focus on quality over quantity closing parts of our trail system. Then the 20-inch storm on March 14th brought us back to almost 100% operation and gave us outstanding conditions until our last day of operation on April 3rd.
Compared to 2015-16 we saw a dramatic improvement in ski lessons and ski equipment sales. Ski lesson volume more than doubled from the previous year. This tells us that new people continue to discover the sport, and that experienced skiers are committed to continuing and often expanding their personal range of XC ski activities.
In the Lake Placid, NY area reports from the Olympic Sports Complex showed an incredible increase of skier days that was 30% above the average year and a great increase in revenue per skier while being open for 139 operational days. They’ve categorized experiences for guests with a “Discover” program for cross country skiing and biathlon, guided tours for activities at Josie’s Cabin a short distance destination along the trails, weekly baby boomer camaraderie programs, and invigorating ski clubs in nearby towns. The Complex is a former Olympic site with a stadium and it is now experimenting with the Snow Factory that can produce machine-made snow at temperatures up to 60 degrees. They plan is to start making snow next September so a ski loop can be open in October for team training programs.
In the southeast region at Whitegrass in WV there was record breaking interest and participation in their Winter Discovery snowshoe walks that touched on different natural history subjects.
Long time XC ski guru Chip Chase said, “We experienced one of our busiest ski days ever in early February when all the perfect conditions converged and one of the busiest Sundays ever in March when loyal customers flooded the trails in order to support our efforts. Season passers, mostly from out of town, were stronger than ever as skiers are more than willing to support us. Our rental and sales fleet have never been better, trails and grooming the best it’s ever been, and basically all we need is SNOW! We lost every holiday to rain or no snow except New Year’s Day, yet a few other busy weekends took us over the top to make it financially.” Some of the biggest trends at Whitegrass include wider skis and more interest in backcountry skiing, and a younger crowd.
While much of the success is related to getting snow, the ski areas are developing programs and efforts to take advantage of winter to make it happen and withstand the ups and downs of the climate.
The newest summer activity at the Adventure Center at Waterville Valley in New Hampshire is the ResortBoard Adventure Tour, the first experience of its kind in New England. The ResortBoard is a battery-operated cross between a skateboard/snowboard and Segway, which has a thumb-operated accelerator and turns by weighting the toe or heel edge. Let go of the thumb switch and the ResortBoard comes to an immediate stop. There are two speeds and a button for reverse. Check out the ResortBoard video.
“It is exciting to not only be adding new activities that we have never had in Waterville Valley, but to also be creating a new type of experience in the Northeast,” says Tim Smith, President and General Manager of Waterville Valley Resort. “You can’t really experience the White Mountains without getting outside, getting off the beaten path, and seeking out a bit of adventure. Partnering with ResortBoards is allowing us to take some of what we love about snowsports and apply it to the summer and fall months.”
ResortBoards are highly versatile personal transportation vehicles and can be used on pavement, gravel, loose dirt, mud, and even packed powder. The rugged design includes heavy-duty front and back spring brackets, off-road suspension system, plus 13x5 inch wheel package that improves stability and optimizes clearance. ResortBoards are also equipped with an undercarriage protection system that includes gearbox skid cover and protective roller bars.
Waterville Valley Resort’s guided Adventure Tours are designed around each group’s abilities and interests, and pairs practice and play with trail riding along cross country ski trails, woodland paths, mountain biking system, and expansive wildflower fields. Stops include photo-worthy views, local landmarks, and some little-known hidden gems, allowing an intimate tour of the Valley floor for new and long-time visitors alike.
ResortBoard Adventure Tours are up to an hour and a half experience on weekends at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM with a guide, and a group of up to five can be accommodated ($48 per person). Other ski resorts that have ResortBoards include Roundtop in PA, Wisp Resort in MD, and Canaan Valley in WV.
The ResortBoard is used at more than 250 golf resorts as an individual transportation device to replace walking or golf carts. It weighs only 125 pounds, and costs just 7 cents a charge for up to 18 miles or about 4 hours. The ResortBoard can be used on pavement, gravel, loose dirt, mud, and even packed powder as a vehicle for year-round back-country trail riding, on fire roads, single track bike paths, cross-country trails, and catwalks. The optional detachable carry baskets and cooler allow you to bring extra gear, drinks, and snacks. With over 400 pounds of total carrying capacity, you can load equipment for your backcountry excursion.
Balance and control for a first time ResortBoard rider comes quickly with a brief practice to get used to the thumb accelerator and turning. Those who have surf, skateboard, or snowboard experience can get comfortable on the ResortBoard very easily. Trail enthusiasts will love riding the ResortBoard and even though the speed is slow enough to make it a relatively safe experience for the average recreationist and they’re a load of fun, you still have to sign a waiver form to use it.
Nordic walking is a fitness activity that combines walking with specially designed poles to engage the upper body muscles. Like cross country skiing, the poles are used to match each step a person takes and it’s an easy, inexpensive workout with remarkable benefits - according to a study by the Cooper Institute, Nordic walking burns up to 40% more calories compared to just plain walking.
It’s better than just walking because it provides an easier cardio workout by increasing the heart rate 5-17 beats per minute more than normal walking without increasing the perceived rate of exertion. It also provides an upper body workout that includes shoulders, arms, chest, and back muscles. And it’s a low impact exercise, so it’s easy on knees and joints.
A good pair of walking or running shoes, comfortable clothing, and Nordic walking poles will get anyone started.
People of ALL ages and ALL fitness levels can unlock the calorie burning and aerobic benefits of Nordic Walking. The winning combination of improved posture, unique 4-Wheel-Drive type action and the shock absorbing benefits of the poles help many individuals to walk comfortably - even those with balance issues, knee issues or new knees, hip issues or new hips, back issues (including those with rods in their back), weight issues, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's (PD), neuropathy, arthritis, bursitis, scoliosis, lumbar stenosis, fibromyalgia, post polio, osteoporosis, stroke recovery and other limitations to walking.
Nordic walking (or ski walking) is taking off and the Human Kinetics book entitled Nordic Walking for Total Fitness by Suzanne Nottingham and Alexandra Jurasin has got it covered. For those who are unfamiliar, Trekking (hiking with poles) and Nordic walking are two different activities that use very different poles and techniques. It may sound silly, but perhaps "walking is not just walking." The pole angle, weight, grip, and straps are different between the aforementioned modes of walking. The Nordic walking pole is designed to allow your hands to relax in order to target the larger wrapping muscles of the back. But using poles of any kind automatically stimulates your spine and all of the muscles around it, even with inefficient technique. When walking, the key postural muscles of the core and upper body are engaged.
There are Nordic walking technique progressions, fitness exercises, power training, and variations for balance, agility, and flexibility. In the aforementioned book, common technique errors are reviewed as well as uphill and downhill techniques, advanced cardio training, and drills for strength training and calorie burning.
The book also includes fitness assessments, sample workouts for varying levels of interests from first timer to cross training triathletes. There are also suggestions about customizing your program. Training program recommendations are offered for building distance, fluctuating daily intensity, and rest days. If this all sounds a bit like overkill, that's because it is, particularly if you are a recreational fitness enthusiast but you need read only as much of the book as you feel is relevant to your personal situation.
I've been a Nordic Walker for a few years and found many of the claimed attributes for the activity regarding posture and exercise to be true. I've always been in search of a way to decrease the amount of time spent exercising, so I was sold when I heard that using the poles increases caloric burning by 40 percent. Cross country skiers will find it easy to quickly master Nordic walking. As a bonus, after a summer of Nordic walking, I noticed a marked improvement in my cross country ski poling in terms of strength and timing. It seemed that I increased the amount of forward momentum that was attributable to poling and I was able to pole stronger and longer when skiing.
Nordic Walking provides an exercise foundation for anyone, ranging from those just looking for an activity to lose weight to health aficionados interested in taking it to higher levels of fitness.
The Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports organization's new Adaptive Mountain Bike Program, which is one of the first in New England offers special dates for outings in various location and limited adaptive mountain bikes to use. All abilities are welcome and participants may bring their own equipment as well.
The program is scheduled at multiple locations with outings and events planned for all level mountain bikers who have their own equipment. In addition, four adaptive mountain bikes are available for participants on a first-come, reservations-based system.
These highly adjustable bikes are ideal for individuals with spinal cord injuries, amputations or limb differences, or balance and motor skill disabilities. Vermont Adaptive purchased the bikes last summer with funding from the US Dept. of Veterans Affairs grant and Phil Black, owner of Lookout Tavern who donated monies for Vermont Adaptive to purchase a trailer for hauling the bikes to various locations statewide.
"Participants gain a sense of accomplishment when reaching the top of the mountain and that is great to see," said Kelly Walsh, Vermont Adaptive program coordinator, who is responsible for Vermont Adaptive's veterans programs.
For 2017, the US Dept of Veterans Affairs again awarded Vermont Adaptive grant monies to help purchase 10 two-wheeled mountain bikes and 10 bicycles for use on recreation paths. These bikes will be added to the existing fleet, allowing participants who don't need to use an adaptive bike to get outside, exercise and socialize with other veterans, to enjoy Vermont alongside their peers with physical disabilities.
The custom hand cycles are crafted specifically for rocky terrain with unique hand cycles that are designed for adaptive riders to cruise down the trails smoothly.
There is open enrollment for free to the mountain bike program this summer. Although Vermont Adaptive will have a limited number of adaptive mountain bikes for use, all adaptive riders are encouraged to bring their own bikes and participate in any of the summer events. Reservations are required for programming and equipment use.
The schedule will kick off with the Summer Solstice Bike Ride on June 21 at Blueberry Lake in Warren, VT followed by the Mountain Bike "Snowshed Session" on June 24 at Killington Resort. Other events include the Green Mountain Trails Bike Ride is July 9 in Pittsfield, the Blueberry Lake Bike Ride on July 9 in Warren, the Vermont Mountain Bike Association Festival on July 21-23 in Warren, the Killington Bike Ride on July 29 and the Pine Hill Park Bike Ride on August 13 in Rutland. This program is limited to Vermont but you can look for similar programs in other regions across the country by contacting organizations that resemble Vermont Adaptive.
This year's Killington Resort Adaptive Event for Independent Riders will also have bike demos "encouraging adaptive awareness for proper use of hand cycles," said Olivia Joseph, Vermont Adaptive program coordinator and organizer of the adaptive mountain bike program.
The program is seeking volunteers who have an interest in mountain biking and for further info, contact Olivia Joseph at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This winter I was menaced by a dog on the trails at Eastman Cross Country Ski Center, which is a golf course with cross country (XC) ski trails in N.H. with homes along the trails. That dog was nipping at my heels sprinting behind me for more than 150 yards and barking with bad intentions.
Then I noticed a story in the Grand Junction Sentinel about dogs on trails in Colorado; XC ski trails that are groomed by the Grand Mesa Nordic Council on U.S. Forest Service land. A proposal to formally designate some of these trails as dog-free (or trails that allow dogs) has divided the community of trail users.
The Council wants some of the trails labeled with a “no dogs” rule and enforced to formalize the unofficial law. The local ranger stated that the U.S. Forest Service’s view is that trail users are required to have their dogs leashed at trail heads and on the trails, and dogs must be under control of their owners, but that can be voice control.
There was a dog biting incident on the Grand Mesa trails in February 2016. The other concerns are with waste, safety, and trail maintenance. Dogs can be an obstacle on the trail that causes skiers to lose control on fast downhills. Some trail users have commented about the amount of dog feces on trails and dogs behavior jumping on skiers and being aggressive.
Those who want to continue bringing their dogs to the trails feel they have a right to do so and they believe the area is open for public use including pets. Signs banning dogs have been installed illegally and some skiers were using intimidation tactics to discourage people from bringing their dogs on certain trails. While some skiers want one trail dedicated as dog-free there are other skiers who favor restricting dogs from all the trails.
The Nordic Council claims that it annually spends nearly $80,000 to groom the trail network, but the Council does not have the legal power to restrict use because it is pubic land. The Forest Service is taking comments to determine if a formal environmental analysis is needed, which will take months and not guarantee any action.
According to the Cross Country Ski Areas Association there are more than 60 XC ski areas in the organization that allow dogs on some trails (there are about 300 XC ski areas in North America and many more parks with trails). Some XC areas have designated specific trails for the dogs, others welcome dogs on all the trails, and some invite the skiers with dogs to use the snowshoe trails. Some XC ski areas require the dog to be tethered to the skier and it is suggested that dog owners check with the XC ski area for their specific dog trail policy. The association’s suggestions for taking your dog on ski trails include:
- Keep your dog under control at all times.
- Be particularly aware of your dog at the parking lot and trail head, where you’ll encounter skiers without dogs.
- Abide by all municipal animal control ordinances and city, state/province, and federal regulations.
- Have proof of current rabies vaccination.
- Be courteous to other skiers and snowshoers.
- Bag and remove any feces.
- Restrain dogs before and after skiing, either by attaching to leads, tying up, or by leaving them in your vehicle. Keep dogs within three feet of you or your vehicle.