Looking for a winter sport that won’t break your budget and probably not your bones, but still moves you through the winter woods? Then go cross-country Nordic) skiing. Safer, easier to learn, and less expensive than downhill Alpine) skiing, cross-country is also a great deal of fun.
Not only can you glide through the snowy woods at a good clip, but you can also slow up to savor the scenery, stopping to admire an icicle, look for deer tracks and even have a picnic by a brook. The easy pace also allows for conversations with your companions.
Among the places to enjoy cross-country skiing are downhill areas that also offer Nordic programs, dude ranches that in winter turn their riding paths into ski trails and year-round resorts that offer cross-country as another amenity.
In order to enjoy the sport, find a quality program, choose the place that’s right for you, and, if you've never tried cross-country before, take some lessons. Don't believe that adage that “If you can walk, you can cross-country ski.” Nordic skiing is easy to learn, but there are techniques for stopping, turning, maneuvering up hills and down, and getting up and falling without injury. These can be learned quickly. A lesson or two goes a long way toward eliminating frustration.
Not all cross-country programs are created equal. To assess a facility, look for the following:
Trails: Ask how many kilometers of trails are groomed daily. Grooming lays the tracks. Ten kilometers can keep a beginner skier happy all day.
Signs: Getting lost in the woods can make you lose your enthusiasm. Trails should not only be marked with directional indicators, but signs should also indicate difficulty, and point out upcoming hazards such as bridges, ponds, roads, and steep slopes.
Staff: Choose a place that has a full-time cross-country staff. You want someone who understands the equipment to fit you for rentals, and someone who knows the trails to tell you about the daily conditions. You don't want to head for the woods after being outfitted by the part-time busboy whose only claim to fame is that he can make change.
Lessons: Look for professional instructors certified by professional ski organizations. Ask if lessons are given on a regular basis. Do kids learn separately from adults and can you take a family lesson?
Equipment: Find out about the rental equipment. How old is it and is it the latest technology? If you are bringing kids along, make sure the facility rents child-sized equipment.