Nordic Walking An Effective but Easy Exercise

 Nordic Walking burns 40% more calories!

Nordic Walking burns 40% more calories!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adaptive Mountain Bike Program in Vermont

 Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports mountain biking program

Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports mountain biking program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Are Dogs Welcome on the Ski Trails?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Indication that dogs are welcome

Indication that dogs are welcome

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

Where are the XC Skiers in the Spring?

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

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

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

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

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

Zahray admits that “the reality is that in the spring it costs more for grooming and staffing than the amount of income earned from the diminishing number of skiing patrons, however this is one of the most fun times of the year to enjoy the outdoors. The milder temperatures and discounted rates are terrific for everyone and it is fun to ski in shorts and t-shirts." Lapland Lake is offering special lodging prices through the end of March starting at $150 per night for two guest and 15% discount for 3 nights or more.

  Groomed trail with blue skies at  Byrncliff Resort & Conference Center

Groomed trail with blue skies at Byrncliff Resort & Conference Center

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

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

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

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

The Breckenridge Nordic Center  in CO has skiers who are enjoying the patio and lounging around with a glass of beer or wine. They’ve held some well-attended fundraising events this spring and expect to remain open through April 22, a week after the alpine ski resort shuts down. Owner Josh Dayton said “We’re having really warm days but our snow holds up very well.”

Kristen Smith at Methow Trails in Winthrop, WA stated, “This season has been another fantastic snow year!   We have no shortage of snow but people stop skiing in late March which is really too bad because we often find the best skiing of the season comes in the spring. The trails are well packed, and the days are lighter and warmer making it much more comfortable to ski. We’re seeing that in the Methow right now and I just had one of my best days on snow all year!" 

 

Art Along the Trails Gallery at Jackson Ski Touring Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Abstract art displayed along the trail

Abstract art displayed along the trail

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

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

Romantic Getaways for XC Skiers or Snowshoers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kids Programs This Winter

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

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

 Snowshoeing Dad with kids at Smuggler's Notch Resort

Snowshoeing Dad with kids at Smuggler's Notch Resort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Glen Outdoor Trails Center in Gorham, NH has the Kids Ski Fest on Sunday, Feb 19 with games on the snow, relays and a themed ski tour. The Trail Tracker program is free everyday scavenger hunt at Great Glen, which is a big hit for kids to track down cartoon animals out on the trails. When they find the animated creatures, they stamp a card and upon return to the lodge they get a treat.

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

Winter Girls' Getaways are the Rage

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

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

EAST

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

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

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

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

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

CENTRAL & MOUNTAINS

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEST

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

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

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

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

Family XC Ski and Snowshoe Destination Vacations

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

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

EAST

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

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

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

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

CENTRAL

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

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

WEST

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

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

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

Biathlon Programs Proliferating at XC Ski Areas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Incentives for Older XC Skiers

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

 Two folks at Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI

Two folks at Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winter Yoga Retreats Combined with XC Skiing and Snowshoeing

 Melissa Joy Schoeller runs yoga-ski program at Maplelag Resort

Melissa Joy Schoeller runs yoga-ski program at Maplelag Resort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lifts and Shuttles for Fun on Cross Country Skis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shuttles

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

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

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

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

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

The Case for Fee-Based XC Skiing

 XC skiing at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center

XC skiing at Great Glen Trails Outdoor Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* have clear signage with available and understandable maps;

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

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

* include a food and beverage service;

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

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

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

* have ski patrollers to help, if necessary.

 Snowcat grooming at Bohart Ranch

Snowcat grooming at Bohart Ranch

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

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

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

Milestones of Modern XC Skiing in the USA

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

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

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

1960 Olympic Nordic Event Legacy

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

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

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

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

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

Get Educated for Off Trail Safety

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

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

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

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

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

Winter Trails Users Should Stop Hating!

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

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

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

In the Other Person’s Shoes

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

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

Mutual Understanding

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

What to Do at a Rendezvous?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do You Want to be a Nordic Ski Patroller?

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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