2015 DEC - Cross-Country Skiing
Life begins at 32 degrees
By Skip Holmes
We have been enjoying all the beautiful fall colors for weeks now. Then, BAM, we wake up one morning to find the landscape has been covered white with SNOW! Life begins at 32 degrees. It immediately sharpens the senses and we try to remember where we put the ice scraper.
Then our thoughts move towards winter activity that we continue to enjoy here in upstate New York. At signs of the first snow I head to the basement and check my Nordic (cross country) ski boots and skis. Are my boots good for another winter? Do my skis need a new coat of wax?
Nordic skiing is my favorite winter sport, and as the cycling season winds down I would rather be out gliding along on a pair of skinny skis, than riding that trainer in the basement. The pleasure of being outdoors on a pair of skis in the backcountry, or on a prepared ski track at one of the many Nordic ski centers in New York is unbeatable. The sound of the skis on fresh snow is music to my ears. If are already smiling then you know the experience I am referring to. If you have not yet tried Nordic skiing then you are in for an enjoyable winter day.
Nordic skiing has two distinct styles, classic and skate (freestyle). Classic style skiing has been around for many years and is the way many people were introduced to the sport. Skate style skiing is newer and has gained a great deal of popularity. The equipment is different and the skating technique allows you to go faster, but it does require more effort. Classic skiing is done on a set of parallel tracks, while skate skiing uses a wide groomed lane. There are many Nordic ski centers that offer groomed surfaces for both types of skiing.
Backcountry skiing may require you to break trail at one of many locations such as hiking trails, state parks, and even the local woods can be used. The equipment usually requires a pair of wider skis and they may have metal edges for more control. The ski boots are stiffer and offer more support. Poles have a larger basket for deeper snow conditions. Backcountry skiing can really provide a winter solitude experience.
Getting ready for a winter of Nordic skiing does require some sport specific conditioning. You can find some useful conditioning examples at xcskiacademy.com/training. I also use a pair of roller skis to get an early start to the season and roller ski in my neighborhood where there is little vehicle traffic. I use my bike helmet since crashing into the pavement is not a pleasant experience.
This region offers many locations to Nordic ski. There are ski centers that provide expertly groomed trails, a base lodge to get warm food and beverages, while spending quality post-ski time with friends and family. Many of these ski centers also have a set of snowshoe trails to explore. They all have a ski shop for sales and rentals, and many offer lessons for those who are new to these winter activities.
Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center in Northville offers over 45K of groomed trails on rolling terrain, and when the lake freezes over there is even more track to ski on. Longtime customers, Kathy and Paul Zahray, purchased Lapland Lake last year and they’re maintaining the high standards for which the resort has become known. There is a large lodge, a woodstove to warm you up, along with a snack bar and restaurant for refueling during and after a day of skiing. Sales and rentals are available, along with a friendly staff to help you, and lessons are available. They also offer many special events including Ladies Days where the instructors are women and you get a full day on the trails. Go to laplandlake.com.
Garnet Hill Lodge and Cross Country Ski Center in North River is located up on a mountain near 13th Lake. An Adirondack gem since 1936, four-year owners Don Preuninger and Mindy Piper have restored Garnet Hill as a premier year-round destination. It has a lodge with overnight accommodations, a great restaurant, and 55K of groomed trails that traverse the entire area. Wilderness skiing and snowshoeing are available, along with ski sales, rentals and lessons. They have a ‘ski down, ride back’ shuttle service that will return you to the lodge in case you want to enjoy the downhill terrain without the uphill climb on the way back. See garnet-hill.com.
Pineridge Cross Country Ski Area in East Poestenkill (near Troy), is located on the Rensselaer plateau, and they often get snow when there is none in the Albany area. Developed and owned by Walter Kersch, the ski area prepares for its 32nd season. They have 50K of ski trails including 35K groomed, plus snowshoe trails. Pineridge has a family-friendly lodge with ski rentals, a woodstove to get warm by, and night skiing by reservation. Visit pineridgexc.com.
Mt. Van Hoevenberg, at the Olympic Sports Complex, has 50K expertly groomed trail system ranging from flat loops to some of the most challenging terrain around, including trails for snowshoeing. New this season is Josie’s Cabin, a ski-to destination with delicious food, hot drinks served during weekends, holidays and special events. Exciting stuff: Discover Cross-Country, Discover Biathlon, MVH Views guided snowshoe hikes, Nordic terrain park and more. The lodge offers rentals, lessons, Adirondack-themed bar area, and Green Goddess Natural Foods. Check out whiteface.com.
Cascade Cross-Country Ski Center, near Lake Placid, was opened by Art Jubin just before the 1980 Olympics. Here you will find 20K of groomed trails that interconnect with the Mt. Van Hoevenberg trails, and you can purchase a trail pass that admits you to both areas – and 50km of the Jackrabbit Trail. Cascade’s Nordic shop offers a wide selection of skis and snowshoes for sale and rent, lessons, restaurant/bar and bunkhouse lodging. Their Full Moon Parties with bonfires are on Saturdays, January 23 and February 20, and Friday Night Farm Dinners are new this year. Visit cascadeski.com.
Osceola Tug Hill Cross-Country Ski Center in Camden is 40 miles northwest of Utica. This is the famous Tug Hill plateau area, where owner Hugh Quinn and his crew manage snowfall totals in excess of 200 inches each winter. Osceola offers 40K of groomed trails for skating and classic skiing. Their ski shop has a large inventory of skis for sale, “rentaflexibility” ski rentals, and a trailside camp available for rent. Go to uxcski.com.
Dewey Mountain Recreation Center, one-mile from Saranac Lake, is owned by the town of Harrietstown and managed by Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters. They offer 13K of ski trails and 4K of snowshoeing. The lower trails are groomed for skate/classic skiing, and the upper mountain trails are ungroomed for a backcountry experience. Thanks to the generosity of many, they have improved trails, good grooming equipment, and a new base lodge. Dewey is where local Olympians Bill Demong, Tim Burke and Annelies Cook got their start. They offer Tuesday night races, Friday night ski jams, and a youth ski league. See deweymountain.com.
If you already have been involved in Nordic skiing you might want to consider ramping up your activity level and enter one of the many events that are being scheduled for this winter. Many of the Nordic ski centers host one or more of these events, which are a great way to motivate you to set some training goals for this ski season.
New York Ski Racing Association – Nordic is a family-friendly organization that supports the development of Nordic skiing, welcoming all ages and novice to expert abilities. They offer a season-long schedule of cross country ski races (classic and skate), biathlon, ski orienteering, Bill Koch youth ski league, and Empire State Winter Games races on February 5-7, 2016. For more information, visit nyssranordic.com.
The 35th annual Craftsbury Ski Marathon is Saturday, January 30 at Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Challenge yourself in the 25 or 50K classic race on some of the most scenic ski terrain in New England with 1,000 competitors of all ages. This year’s course will be a 12.5K loop starting and finishing at the center’s ski stadium. Onsite lodging is available. For full details, go to: craftsbury.com.
The Lake Placid Nordic Festival is Thursday-Sunday, February 18-21 at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, including ski clinics, demos, parties and headlamp tours. The second annual Citizens Challenge Race is 6.25K and 12.5K on Saturday, February 20 for those new to racing or experienced skiers seeking a fun, community event. The 34th annual Lake Placid Loppet is Sunday, February 21 with hundreds of skiers from the US and Canada. It consists of a 50K Loppet and 25K Kort Loppet in both freestyle and classic technique on the challenging Van Ho trails. For details and registration, visit whiteface.com.
There will be a Nordic event at Garnet Hill Lodge on Sunday, January 9. It is the HURT Mega Relay XC Ski Race with three to eight racers for a six-hour race on a 5K loop. Want to be on my team? It sounds like a fun challenge!
Skip Holmes (email@example.com) of Delmar teaches building systems and sustainable design at RPI. He is president of Mohawk-Hudson Cycling Club, and member of Capital Bicycle Racing Club. He can be found biking, kayaking, hiking or XC skiing.