Picture this: Clean white snow spread out before your eyes as far as you can see. A bright blue sky, unmarred by even the smallest of clouds, the sun shining brightly and your breath expressed as clouds of smoke, while you and your family stop to laugh and catch your breath.
It’s cold, but you’re warm from the exertion of cross-country skiing. The only sounds you hear are squirrels chattering, the squeak of the snow under ski and the happy voices of your family. From time to time, you pass other skiers, hailing one another with voices full of smiles. Your pockets are full of chocolate and your lungs are full of clean mountain air.
More often than not, this is our family’s experience on skinny skis.
While alpine skiing remains our first love, cross-country skiing is a satisfying alternative on days when we have limited time, are seeking some wilderness solitude or just feel like getting outside and moving together in a different way.
Five Reasons to Cross-Country Ski This Weekend
1. Cross-Country Skiing Is Fun. While cross-country skiing was a form of conveyance for centuries, today it’s all about fun, exercise and time well spent together. Our family cross-country skis together for laughs, exercise and outdoor adventure.
2. Cross-Country Skiing is Easy to Pick Up. You may have heard that cross-country skiing is “just like walking.” Classic cross-country skiing uses an arm and leg motion similar to walking, so if you can walk, you can cross-country ski.
With some practice and a bit of instruction, cross-country skiing becomes less like walking and more about gliding. Nordic skiing coach Scott McGee calls cross-country skiing “as close to flying as you can get with your feet on the ground.” This sense of flight and freedom is what makes the sport so enjoyable.
3. Cross-Country Skiing Is Inexpensive. Unlike alpine skiing, you can cross-country ski where ever there is snow and you have permission to put in a track. Established, groomed cross-country ski tracks are found in 30 of the 50 states. Trails are found on national forest lands and in national parks, along golf courses closed for winter or adjacent to alpine ski resorts.
While some cross-country ski areas charge fees, these are almost always significantly less than an alpine lift ticket. Basic equipment rentals are usually available and inexpensive. Many areas offer lessons, which are an excellent idea for skiers of all levels, from novices to experts seeking greater speed and efficiency.
4. Cross-Country Skiing is Family Friendly. When it comes to outdoor winter fun, I can’t think of a better activity for families than cross-country skiing. Babies can be carried along in a front carrier or backpack. Toddlers can ride on a sled or in a chariot. Young grade-school age kids can alternate riding on the sled with skiing on their own, while older kids should have no problem keeping up with adults and besting them on the downhills. Grandparents are often as strong, or stronger than, their offspring.
When skiing in a family group, remember to make sure that everyone can handle the distance, time and terrain you’ve chosen. Going too far, or over too many hills and dales, or for too long past nap time can be discouraging. Remember, especially when skiing with the family, it’s all about fun.
5. This Saturday, January 12, 2013 is National Winter Trails Day. In celebration of Winter Trails Day, cross-country skiing venues across the U.S. are offering free cross-country skiing and equipment rentals. Free clinics and instruction are also available at some events. For more information, please visit WinterTrails.org.
Book Review and Giveaway: Basic Illustrated Cross Country Skiing By J. Scott McGee
Published in late 2012, this new volume from Falcon Guides covers everything you need to know to get started in cross-country skiing or to take your skiing to a new level. Tips and tools for both classic cross-country and freestyle skate skiing will get novices started on the right ski, while more experienced skiers can benefit from McGee’s training advice and suggested techniques.
Author Scott McGee is the current coach of the Professional Ski Instructors of America Nordic Team and shares the latest teaching techniques through clear text and lots of photos. Best of all, the slim 104 page guide can be read at one sitting and is not overwhelming (nor too heavy to take out on the trail when you want to practice his suggestions).
While chapters on classic and freestyle skate technique form the core of the book, there is ample guidance on choosing and understanding gear, dressing for the elements, safety and even handy checklists for creating backcountry first-aid and repair kits. In addition to classic and skate skiing, other Nordic pursuits including light touring, backcountry touring and telemark skiing are also discussed. There is also a brief chapter on cross-country skiing with kids, outlining the various types of carriers and sleds available to parents. A useful appendix offers suggestions for additional instructional books, magazines and online resources.
Basic Illustrated Cross Country Skiing inspired me to try some new classic gliding and balance drills, and convinced me to ski with duct tape and a small knife for any minor equipment repairs or mishaps. The book has also got me thinking that teaching myself to skate ski is not beyond the realm of possibility.
I found McGee’s book to be a good resource for skills, safety and inspiration. If you like reading about and applying new techniques, and if you’re looking for clear direction on how to get started, or improve, your Nordic skiing, I recommend Basic Illustrated Cross-Country Skiing.
Scott McGee and Falcon Guides have generously provided one copy of Basic Illustrated Cross-Country Skiing as a giveaway to readers of Brave Ski Mom. One winner will be chosen in a random drawing on Thursday, January 17 at 8:00 a.m. MST. To enter, simply leave a comment below.
To facilitate this post, I received a copy of Basic Illustrated Cross-Country Skiing for review. As always, all opinions are my own and are exactly what I would tell my family and friends.
- Cross-Country Skiing Etiquette: No Mean Dogs, March 21, 2012.
- How to Ski With Babies and Toddlers, March 14, 2012.
- Cross-Country Skiing on Grand Mesa’s West Bench Trail, April 19, 2011.
- Cross-Country Skiing with the Family: How My Friend Joy Gets it Going On, February 3, 2011.
- Getting in Shape for Telemark and Cross-Country Skiing, September 15, 2010.
This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Miranda!
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