3 Reasons to Try Cross-Country Skiing
If you haven’t gone skinny yet, there are a host of reasons to try both skate skiing and classic (diagonal stride) cross-country skiing. They provide excellent full-body conditioning and endurance training while toning your body, and it’s an affordable way to have fun outdoors this winter.
When describing Utah, our unique snow, amazing winters, and downhill and backcountry skiing and snowboarding come to mind for most. As a state, we boast some of the top winter sports athletes in the world, but what many may not immediately recognize are that our world-class winter athletes include country-country (or Nordic) skiers. Our XC skiers have access to excellent local XC ski venues, and lucky for you the public is welcome to use these facilities too.
1. Great Cross Training for Other Sports
Many running and cycling coaches fail to understand the importance of cross training beyond sport-specific strength training, and athletes committed strongly to individual sports like running, cycling, downhill skiing, and snowboarding may find that XC skiing improves coordination and can reduce injuries.
Getting out on “skinny skis” also keeps you mentally fresh while making you stronger and less susceptible to injury, especially overuse injury from doing too much of the same thing all year long. This quality cross training can even help make you faster in your sport of choice.
Swimming and general strength training provides great all-body cross training for athletes narrowly focused on a specific sport. However, the benefits of XC skiing stand out in Utah because it provides an outdoor workout that maximizes high-altitude training opportunities.
Both classic and skate techniques are fun—really, really fun. That doesn’t mean that they’re easily mastered at first, but that’s what contributes to the enjoyable nature of XC skiing; every hour spent on XC skis yields progress in the form of better fitness as well as improved technique.
All-day downhill ski lift ticket prices have soared in recent years, now topping $100 at some Utah resorts, but prices for Nordic skiing have remained reasonable. A full day of skiing the track at Mountain Dell Golf Course near Park City is just $5! While prices vary at each location, you can expect to pay a max of $18 for a full-day Nordic trail access pass. Rentals are affordable too! Head to REI, Nordic Centers, or Wild Rose Recreation to snag the gear you need for just $15–$22 a day.
Where to Learn
Ready to try it yourself? Grab some skinny skis and hit a clinic or take a private lesson, which brings us to the importance of instruction in a sport so technical. Trying to tackle XC skiing on your own is like teaching yourself how to ride a motorcycle. Spare yourself potential frustration, inefficient technique, and spectacular spills by spending time with an experienced instructor and/or racer. Either can provide guidance and insight in how to more effectively (and gracefully) propel you forward.
Free classic ski beginner lessons (day pass and rental not included) are offered at the Solitude Nordic Center at 3:00 p.m. on the first Friday of every month beginning in January. With one of these lessons under your belt, you’ll be able to spend the rest of the afternoon practicing on the Resort’s 20 kilometers of trails. Solitude also offers more advanced clinics for developing your skills or readying for your first race.
Northern Utah is home to many other cross-country ski spots, but here’s a short list of favorites to explore: Mountain Dell Golf Course in Parley’s Canyon between Salt Lake and Park City, Soldier Hollow in Midway, and White Pine Touring Center in Park City.
After all, why live in a place that affords a variety of spectacular outdoor activities and breathtaking natural beauty if you’re not going to appreciate and take advantage of it? Have it all by doing it all, or at least more of it. Enjoy!
Mark Deterline is a top endurance coach operating in Utah and Northern California (2thefront.com) and an elite cycling competitor. A certified Nordic ski instructor, Mark has worked closely with Sam Palmatier of Sundance Nordic Center and Laurie Grover Humbert of the Mountain Dell development programs to promote Nordic skiing and the advancement of athletes of all backgrounds. “Like” Leadout Endurance Coaching on Facebook for ski clinic dates, times, locations, and ski rental packages (via Wild Rose Sports wildrosesports.com) this winter.