If you’ve been reading this blog at all, you’ve certainly gotten a sense of the passion I have for alpine skiing. I fell in love with downhill skiing in college, and became so enamored with it, that I have dedicated several years of my life to “ski bumming.” But amidst that passion, came a love for another kind of skiing — cross-country or nordic skiing. Even though my brother nordic skied for years, and even participated in one of the great nordic ski races in the U.S. — the Birkebeiner in Wisconsin — I steered clear of it. Why? Probably for the same reasons as many other people — it seemed like a whole lot of “work” compared to downhill skiing. Who wanted to spend their days plodding around on some trails through the woods?
Fast forward many years to a time when I was dating a guy who worked in Yosemite and happened to work out of Badger Pass, their old ski area, during the winter. Turns out they groom the road out to Glacier Point in the winter for cross-country skiers. One weekend while visiting him, with nothing better to do, I borrowed some old cross-country skis and leather boots and headed out. The first thing I found out was how it was much harder than it looked, and that getting a lesson from someone in the know would greatly enhance my experience. The second thing I found out was that cross-country skiing gives me the same sense of wonder about the natural environment as hiking does. Skiing through the woods in perfect silence, looking at the snow coating each Aspen branch, and decking the bows of pine and fir trees filled my heart with a joy and inner peace. I also loved looking at the various animal tracks in the snow left by snowshoe hare, bobcats, coyotes and other animals, something you never see in summer. The third thing I found out is that nordic skiing can be every bit as exhilarating and fun as downhill skiing. The rolling nature of most cross-country ski trails means there are ups and downs that bring plenty of “weeee” and “woop, woop” moments on skis.
Two of the greatest benefits of cross-country skiing is the cost (or lack thereof) compared to downhill and the aerobic workout it gives you. We can literally cross-country ski right from our door onto nearby Forest Service land, or just drive a few minutes up the road to one of several trailheads, and it costs us nothing to zip around in the woods and hills of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. We do enjoy going to touring centers as well where they groom the trails, packing it down for ski skating, and setting track for classic type skiing. It makes it a whole lot easier and really fun to use these trails, but even the cost of using them is a fraction of downhill, costing only $15/day at many areas. One of our favorites that we enjoy is also in the Winter Park Valley, Devils Thumb Ranch, with over 100 kilometers of trails, providing gorgeous views of the mountains, and plenty of thrills and fun moments to boot. Skiing 10 or 12 kilometers of nordic trails provides great exercise, working out both legs, hips, and arms, and burning off plenty of calories.
I’m so glad I discovered the joy and beauty of nordic skiing, and very grateful we have so many places nearby to enjoy it. It’s a wonderful complement to my love of downhill skiing, and just gives me that much more incentive to get out and enjoy the great outdoors of Colorado in winter.