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Taking the Grandkids Snowshoeing

Fun on snowshoes - Laura Rose/

Fun on snowshoes - Laura Rose/

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


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

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

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

Snowshoers at any age -

Snowshoers at any age -


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

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

Fun on Snowshoes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose the Trail

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

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

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

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

Hydrate and Snacks

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

A Great Time with the Grandkids

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

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

Will Olympic Gold Turn Into More Recreational XC Skiers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips to Start Kids Cross Country Skiing

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Right Gear

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

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

Have Fun

Kids love to race (Fischer Sports)

Kids love to race (Fischer Sports)

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

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

Annie’s group at Methow Trails (Valley Photography)

Annie’s group at Methow Trails (Valley Photography)

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

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

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

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

Smugglers' Notch Fun Zone 2.0

Smuggs Fun Zone 2.0 includes an arcade area

Smuggs Fun Zone 2.0 includes an arcade area

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

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

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

The Go Zone includes:

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

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

Fun Zone Rally Race Course

Fun Zone Rally Race Course

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

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

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

● Lazer Maze challenge with multiple levels of complexity

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

The Ozone includes:

● Inflatable obstacle courses

● 20 foot giant inflatable slide

● Mini-golf

● Foosball

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

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

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

Fun Zone 2.0 Lazer Tag

Fun Zone 2.0 Lazer Tag

● Two private party rooms with rental packages available.

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

Making Time for XC Skiing

Motivate yourself to get out on the trails!

Motivate yourself to get out on the trails!

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

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

Event Skiing

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

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

Spontaneous Outings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where Else to Ski

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

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

Finding Others to Ski With

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

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

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

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

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

Common Nordic Skiing Injuries

Warm up, ski safe, and avoid obstacles

Warm up, ski safe, and avoid obstacles

Cross country (XC) skiing is a sport with a very low incidence of injuries for a number of reasons including the low impact nature of XC skiing, low sliding speed, and the free heel allows twisting if you fall (the ski boot is connected to the ski binding only at the toe and the heel is free), but there may be some injuries during the ski season in falls or by aggravating pre-existing conditions. Like the Maytag repairman, ski patrollers at XC ski areas are not the busiest employees at the XC ski area because they do not have to address many serious skier injuries.

According to Sophia Sauter, a registered physiotherapist, who authored an article in "Active Life Physiotherapy" about 75% of injuries sustained by XC skiers are a result of overuse due to the repetitive nature of skiing, while the remaining 25% are a result of trauma. The following outlines some common injuries and appropriate treatment.

Traumatic XC ski injuries (25%), for example include ankle sprains, thumb sprains, knee ligament sprains, groin muscle strains, and wrist sprains. Upper body injuries are often the result of falling down but since XC skiing speeds tend to be somewhat slow, the impacts are often less severe than impacts at much higher speeds. The recommended treatment for the traumatic injuries is RICE: Relative rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Then, slowly restore range of motion, strength, proprioception (such as the ability to drive using brake, accelerator, and steering wheel without looking at your arms and legs), and power. It's suggested to see a physiotherapist to obtain a proper diagnosis and set of rehabilitative exercises.

Overuse injuries (75%) from XC skiing, for example could include (not intended to sound like a list of possible side effects in a pharmaceutical ad) knee pain, compartment syndrome on shins, Achilles tendon problems, rotator cuff and shoulder problems, and low back pain. The recommended treatment for these problems is a bit different. In these cases it's important to correct muscle imbalance (e.g. tight/weak), equipment faults, and possible training errors. Seek medical advice from a physiotherapist or other qualified health professional specializing in injuries common to XC skiers.

Most people skip the warm up or preparing for recreational activity altogether, but the best way to avoid injury is prevention. This means utilizing appropriate training progressions, maintaining physical strength, balance, flexibility, adopting appropriate recovery techniques, and treating any lingering individual alignment problems, weaknesses, and imbalances. It makes sense to warm up before hitting the trails. The physiotherapist suggests a full body analysis with a professional to identify individual mechanical inadequacies. Also consider an athlete specific core stability and functional strength program. Popular core-strengthening strategies might include yoga, Pilates, and a regular fitness regimen.

Think about getting in shape, warming up, and dealing with your injuries before going out on the trails and you can start your next season off right!

Who Needs XC Ski Lessons?

Ski lesson with CANSI certified ski instructor

Ski lesson with CANSI certified ski instructor

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

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

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

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

Can a Lesson Help Seasoned Skiers?

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

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

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

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

Finding a Qualified XC Ski Instructor

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

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


Cross Country Skier Trends from Winter 2016-17

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

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

The SIA/Physical Activity Council 2016-17 Participation Study  

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

Other 2016-17 snow sport populations were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why People Try or Quit Cross Country Skiing

There are many reasons that people do not try XC skiing

There are many reasons that people do not try XC skiing

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

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

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


ResortBoards - A New Adventure at Waterville Valley

ResortBoarding on Waterville Valley trails

ResortBoarding on Waterville Valley trails

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.

ResortBoarders stop for a chat on the field

ResortBoarders stop for a chat on the field

 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 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.

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 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 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, 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


Becoming a Certified Nordic Ski Instructor

Nordic snow pros or ski instructors teach the sport for the same reason to celebrate the community and culture of the sport and to share that experience with as many people as possible. Professional ski and snowboard instructors come in all shapes and sizes and from many different backgrounds. There are part-time and full-time instructors while some prefer teaching beginners, or kids, because they enjoy introducing new people to the sport, others are coaching competitive athletes at the highest level.


PSIA-AASI is the national organization in the USA that offers professional certification and certificate programs for those instructors looking to gain peer-reviewed recognition of their skills and knowledge. PSIA-AASI develops national certification standards with the industry partners that provide the foundation for these credentialing programs. The organization is comprised of regional divisions. As of the end of June 2013 there were 893 certified PSIA-AASI instructors for cross country skiing and 1,801 certified instructors for telemark skiing (usually done at alpine ski areas). Canada has the Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors (CANSI), a similar organization had 781 members in 2012-2013 including 583 xc ski instructors and 236 telemark ski instructors (some members have both certifications). These professional organizations are endorsed by the Cross Country Ski Areas Association and its president Reese Brown, commented, "For the best ski experience possible, take a lesson with a certified ski instructor."


The current PSIA-AASI education/certification standards provide a training focus and represent a minimum competency for each level of certification. There are specific PSIA-AASI manuals about teaching cross country skiing and telemark skiing. CANSI has four certification levels in xc and three in telemark. Certification courses are organized and run by six different regions across Canada, following standards established by the National Technical Committee. Besides regular professional development days, CANSI members have access to a variety of technical material such as a very detailed and comprehensive Instructor Manual, newsletters and videos. Professional members also benefit from a liability insurance coverage when teaching, and enjoy discounts with several industry-leading equipment suppliers.


From professional development to expanding your abilities to share the ski experience with others, to making lifelong friends and memories, PSIA-AASI is devoted to helping you make your time as an instructor as rewarding as possible. PSIA-AASI membership consists of both registered and certified members. Once you join the Association you become a registered member. When you take and pass your Level I, Level II or Level III certification exams, you become a certified member or instructor.


PSIA-AASI provides much more than just a membership; it provides a connection to people who are excited about skiing and sharing that passion with others. And, it provides a connection to sliding on snow that has the power to change lives.


The organization has more than 31,000 total members, hundreds of discount products from official suppliers and the PSIA-AASI Accessories Catalog available to members at a discount. Other membership benefits include attending clinics, attaining nationally recognized certification, online teaching resources and printed technical manuals, PSIA-AASI's magazine 32 Degrees, discounts on products from official suppliers, instructional aid products, and liability insurance coverage.


The costs associated with becoming a certified PSIA-AASI Nordic instructor are about $150 for attending a 2-day event in one of the regions where you would learn the particulars of teaching (covering material in the Nordic ski instruction manual) and $127 annual dues. For example, the PSIA-AASI events in 2012-13 sanctioned by the Eastern Division were held at 13 ski areas in six different states across the region during the winter (3 in VT, 3 in NH, 3 in NY, 2 in ME, 1 in MA, 1 in WV). Attending courses for CANSI can cost $250-300 but this includes the first year of annual membership, which costs $70 per year. If you're interested in sharing the passion of cross country skiing and becoming a certified instructor, contact or in Canada to find your respective division.

Skijoring: Enjoying Winter Trails with Your Dog

Skijoring is a Norwegian word that means "skidriving." A team of one or more dogs pulls an xc skier and the skier "drives" or directs the team as he or she skis behind. In Scandinavia, skijoring has been done for centuries and it is gaining popularity in the US. It's easy to learn and can lead to magical winter days for you and your canine friend. Skijoring will help keep your dog fit and healthy and it can deepen and enhance the relationship that you have with your dog. Learning to work with your dog and become a team is a great reward that skijoring has to offer.


The Skier

The human aspect of skijoring requires skiing ability, dog training, and handling skills. Any XC ski gear can be used for skijoring and classic or skating ski techniques can be used. The type of ski selected depends on the experience that your desire such as how fast you want to ski and how far you want to go. Expect that a fast running dog on a groomed ski trail will be very quick and skating might be the best choice.


If you are new to XC skiing, it is recommended that you take ski lessons and practice prior to trying skijoring with your dog. Ski ability requires that you are able to control your speed, stop, and keep balance. But as previously mentioned, skijoring is a team activity and you should expect to work as hard as your dog. It is not a FREE RIDE!


Dog training and handling skills are equally important so it is useful if you and your dog have participated in an obedience class together. Key elements include being positive, patient, and consistent. Positive reinforcement is important with any animal training and short easy sessions will yield great results. You want to feel successful and gain confidence together.


The Dog

No matter the breed (above 30 pounds), dogs have a strong instinct to chase, run on a trail, or hunt as a pack. While sometimes this instinct can result in unwanted behavior, when carefully shaped and trained, it also enables your dog to pull. One of the easiest ways to teach your dog skijoring is hooking him/her up with an experienced skijoring or sled dog team. Another method that works is to have someone ski slightly in front of your dog and call it, while you let it pull you.


Some dogs may learn immediately and others may take a little more work and encouragement, but keep things in perspective.


Dogs need adequate water and it is recommended not to run them on a full stomach. They can overheat in warmer temperatures (above 40 degrees) and dogs with thin coats (such as pointers) can get too cold. You might consider dog booties for abrasive snow conditions (may take some getting used to) and for furry footed dogs, you should trim the hair on their paws or use oils (Musher's Secret) to prevent snowballs. If your dog is not regularly exercised, start with very short sessions and work up from there. Consult a veterinarian for advice about ideal running weight for the breed of dog that you own.


Skijoring Equipment

The gear for skijoring is lightweight and simple. Booties have already been mentioned and a harness is necessary to connect you with the dog. A webbed harness when pulled to complete length stretches from your dog's neck and chest to the base of his/her tail. A good fitting harness should allow a dog to run and pull efficiently and safely. It is best to have an experienced and knowledgeable skijorer help to fit your dog's first harness. A bungee lead (a leash with a bungee cord sewn inside of it) is useful to prevent jerking motions and ease the stress of pulling on your dog. You will also have a harness around your hips and legs and these come in a variety of styles that should fit so that you can move and ski efficiently. A safety release between your harness and the line connecting you to the dog is very important.


Communication and Sharing

When you are ready to go, with a friend in front to encourage your dog, let him/her start pulling and give the command "Let's Go!"

There are many commands you will learn as a skijorer such as "whoa" or stop, "on by" meaning leave that irresistible distraction alone and keep going, "gee" means go right and "haw" means go left. "Come around" means turn around. Taking a class in skijoring will help you get started the right way.


While on the trails with your dog please be aware of trail etiquette. Respect the guidelines at an xc ski area and stay on the dog-friendly trails that are specified. Loose dogs can be an annoyance and even a danger to both skiers and other dogs. Be aware of others on the trail.


Louisa Morrissey teaches skijoring clinics at Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash, CO and at Frisco Nordic Center in Frisco, CO on Jan 25 and Feb 8. Also private lessons with advance reservations are available through the Aspen Animal Shelter. For more info about her programs


Take Advantage of Cross Country Ski Demo Day

Try before you buy - many XC ski areas conduct demo days to give skiers an opportunity to test drive the newest XC ski equipment. It's a day when product suppliers' branded tents and flags are flapping in the wind and company reps stand guard armed with knowledge of their wares.


You might participate in a demo because you have outdated gear (national statistics say that XC skis are 17 years old on average) and want to test new and different equipment to replace your old clunkers. Or you might just want to experience the advantages of the new gear. A pair of XC skis can be as high as $500 for premium models, so it makes great sense to try some different skis, ski categories, and brands to find something that best fits you.


Depending on how organized the demo is, you might need a credit card and/or identification for security but remember to also bring an open mind. The rep will ask you about your skiing ability and interests. If you're an intermediate skier who gets out on the trails four times a winter it is very different from a skier who hits the trails every weekend and can fly on skate skis. Give the rep an accurate description of your skiing prowess and interests so he or she can make a recommendation for you.


If you need a new set up and want to use a product demo to help make the decision about what to buy, do some homework before going to the demo. Talk with a knowledgeable ski shop employee who XC skis. Be wary of the alpine ski shop that limits its XC ski products to a dark or dusty back corner of the store. Find a reputable XC ski shop that sells multiple models among a few different brands of XC skis. Check out some company brand websites or other general XC ski-oriented websites.


When at the demo, get the right size skis for your weight and ski on them for about 15 minutes. Find some uphill and downhill trails to see how the skis perform. Do the skis hold going uphill or do you have to fight to prevent backsliding? Are some skis easier to turn than others? Does the glide seem to extend or do the skis slow down quickly? If you don't know what to look for while testing, ask the rep for some tips.


It is recommended to stay in the same category of skis when testing, so if you're trying a recreational waxless ski from one brand, test a similar ski and price point from a different brand before switching to a different kind of skis.


Of course, there are two different XC ski boot/bindings available and if you don't use the same system on the different skis that you're testing, you'll have to change boots to ski the other boot/binding system.


Rossignol rep Will Masson commented about the advantage of demoing with the NIS binding, "The NIS system allows you to move the binding on the ski to 7 different positions so you can fine tune your grip and glide position on the skis. The binding starts out at the balance point position and moves forward 1.5 cm and back 1.5 cm to customize your weight distribution on a particular ski. This can only be achieved when using the NIS system.


There is a graph that shows the benefits of moving the binding forward and back on the plate for skating and classic. A customer might be right between a 176 cm and a 186 cm ski on the recommended weight chart. That customer can be put on the longer ski to enhance the glide, and then the binding would be moved forward to maximize their grip on that longer ski. Advantages are like fine tuning a driver in golf, or a handlebar stem height on a bike, or strings in a tennis racquet. With other Nordic binding systems once you mount the binding you are stuck in that position!"

XC ski boots are a very important aspect of XC skiing comfort and it makes great sense to ski on some different brands. Do you want your boots to feel like a comfortable sneaker or do you desire the substantial support of a stiff sole? Is the toe box area of the boot creasing in a comfortable spot when you're skiing? Do your heels rise when you lift your foot? Is the boot too tight or too loose? Should you get custom insoles for your boots to make your feet feel more comfortable?


Have you tried XC ski poles recently? Ski poles have different grip straps that are easier to use and you may find that they are more comfortable and effective than traditional ski pole straps. Sunglasses are a great item to test. Do they fog up when you get sweaty? Do they feel so tight that you might get a headache? Are interchangeable lenses available for times of low light or bright sun?


Dedicate part of your ski day to the demo and try more than a few skis, poles, and boots. It should be fun and then you can make informed decisions when you purchase your next set of XC ski equipment and you'll feel great that you bought the perfect gear. For a nationwide demo day and introduction to XC skiing and snowshoeing click Winter Trails. Check the What's Happening Page for some demo day listings or contact a XC ski area near you to see when they will conduct their next demo day. SIA Photo of SIA Nordic Demo at Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa