Cross-Country Skiing's Comeback!
Cross Country Skiing: The thoughts typically conjure up in most people’s minds something like this-you suit up for the day in your neon onesie, strap on a fanny-pack from 1975 borrowed from you Mother’s closet, slide your stockinged feet into some weird soft boots that LOOK like ski boots; but not quite, and for those of us born before 1990, grab a pair of dangerously thin-looking skis that look resemble something you grew up skiing on before your numerical age hit the double digits. It isn’t cool, it isn’t as fun as Alpine skiing, and let’s be honest…the getup and gear is a little weird. You’re feeling the 80’s vibe; and the nostalgia is great, but it’s not quite ringing true. Welcome to Cross Country skiing in 2017! But…we’re not quite there yet. Allow me to take you there, and to introduce you to this retro-turned-modern sport that is making a huge comeback in the last few years in a way that will shake you straight out of your Father’s neon onesie and into a cool, modern sport that is an ultra-soulful way to experience the Winter season.
Let’s start at the beginning. As most of us outdoor and ski enthusiasts know, skiing originated in Norway. As the author of this particular post who is herself a Norwegian, I am quite enthusiastic regarding Skiing-all aspects, including Cross Country. So, let’s delve deep into the often-overlooked and often-misinterpreted sport. Skiing itself actually originated as a method of transportation in the form of, you guessed it, Cross Country Skiing. Ancient skiiers, dating as far back as 6000 years ago, would use just one pole. The first depiction of a skiier utilizing two poles dates to around as early as 1741. As transportation using skis and poles progressed all over Scandinavia, this method of travel obviously developed into what we know today as downhill Alpine skiing; as countries like Norway, Sweden, and Finland are very mountainous. It’s fascinating to know that skiing itself developed directly from Cross-Country skiing out of necessity for travel! It’s also worth noting that Telemark skiing also developed from Cross-Country skiing. Both Cross-Country skiing and Telemark Skiing are “Free-Heel” skiing techniques; meaning that the heel of the skiier is not fastened down to a binding like it would be in downhill skiing.
With that being said, let’s explore this lesser-known Winter sport as an art form. Cross Country skiing has a very soulful and organic feel to it; you instinctively place it’s roots in Alpine skiing, especially Telemark, which is no small wonder given its origins. Instead of relying on gravity and freakishly sharp metal edges to propel and engage you down a mountain, you are the sole center of mass for gravity to propel yourself forward; not the sharp angle of a downhill slope. Cross Country skis have no edges and the newer technology has, once again, taken a note from Alpine skiing and begun to shape Cross Country skis, similar to your powder or all-mountain ski. The heel is totally free, once again a nod to Telemark skiing. The movements allow you to skate freely, or to tour along by keeping the skis parallel, about hip-width apart, and lifting the heel and bending into a shallow lunge to propel yourself forward. Again, just as in Alpine skiing, where your center of mass is maintained in position is directly linked to your successful forward movement. On a Cross-Country ski track, you will see a wide groomed trail for skating, and on the side, typically the right-hand side, you will notice two grooved tracks designed for touring.
Cross Country skiing, to me, is more than just digging up my Mother’s old onesie and a fanny pack and a small flask of your favorite spirit on “Gaper Day.” Cross Country skiing is another aspect of Alpine skiing, with origins that run deep in the veins of the sport itself. It’s a an earthy, low-impact, high-calorie burning workout with repetitive movements with gentle slopes and flat areas that I find to be soothing. It’s another way, especially for those with pets or a fear of heights and crowds, to get out and enjoy the Winter surroundings and Mountain landscape without paying for a pricey lift ticket, waiting in lines, or even dealing with high altitude weather changes. More popular with an older demographic, Cross-Country skiing is going to start making it’s mark on a younger generation looking for softer boots and a lower-impact sport in the Winter time. It is just as magical as a bluebird powder day; and most areas that cater to Cross Country Skiing feature miles and endless trails that are impeccably groomed and feature stunning Sierra scenery consisting of peaks, granite boulders, small Alpine lakes, rivers, valleys, and gentle hills. With Ski Resort pass prices climbing, and resorts becoming more and more crowded as outdoor enthusiasts seek that authentic unplugged outdoor experience, we can guarantee that Cross Country skiing will begin to become evermore popular with younger and older generations.
Kirkwood Mountain Resort, just outside of the South Shore of Lake Tahoe, is home to one of the most impressive and genuinely authentic Cross Country Ski facilities around. There are 60km of groomed trails at 7,800 feet offer the most spectacular scenery that take you through small valleys and gullies near a river outlet and a track around a wide-open meadow located in the heart of the Kirkwood Valley. It’s located 1/4 mile East of Kirkwood on Highway 88 (next to the Kirkwood Inn) and nestled in a beautiful valley area.
So, while you may only think of the old cliches and stigmas regarding Cross Country Skiing are true; we don’t blame you. But we also encourage you to get out and give this very exciting, relaxing, and highly under-rated Winter sport a try. You will certainly thank us later. Don’t forget your onesie and fanny pack!