The weather outside can be frightful, but only if you let it. Winter has special gifts to offer if you get out and give it a chance. Cross-country skiing is one of the best aerobic activities one can do for the body. It’s easy on the joints, can be done at your own speed and is fairly inexpensive to invest in the equipment.
There are three types of cross-country skiing. The first is called classic. It’s most likely the one with which you’re most familiar. The skis travel parallel to one another in a groomed track. The body’s arms and legs create a sort-of scissors pattern as the skier glides down the trail.
The second type is skate skiing, also known as free-style. Skate skiing has been developed in the past half century and is much more form intensive. The skis are designed to be in a constant state of glide, so the skier must learn to propel himself forward utilizing momentum and not the traditional step and push that is seen with classic skiing. Skate skiing requires a groomed trail which most non-skiers don’t understand. When visiting a park offering cross-country ski trails you will readily recognize the groomed parallel tracks for classic skiing. What you may not know is that the pristine groomed flat area down the middle of the path, measuring about 4 feet wide is actually the skate lane. Many hikers and dog lovers think that they are doing the skiers a favor by walking down the middle of this path because they are not ruining the parallel ski trail. What they don’t realize is that the need for the skate lane to be smooth is imperative for the safety of the skate skier. So please, if you visit a park such as this find the appropriate snow-shoe trail for hiking and if you’re skiing with your dog, make sure he runs on the outside, non-groomed side of the classic tracks.
The third type of cross-country skiing is back-country. Back-country skis are wider and have a metal edge on them, much like a downhill ski. Back-country skiing uses classic technique, but does not require a groomed trail. Back-country is a lot of fun because it allows you to go where you want off of the beaten trail, but, depending on the snow conditions and tree locations, can be very difficult.
The Midwest is a wonderful place to discover cross-country skiing. For excellent updates and information on trail conditions visit http://www.skinnyski.com/. Many local retailers rent skis so you can try before you buy as well. Happy skiing!! Remember to stop and hear the silence once and a while. It is through that silence that you’ll discover the gifts that Winter has to deliver.