December 2016 - CROSS COUNTRY SKIING
It’s a Skinny Ski Thing!
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 anew. 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 you 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 rollerskis to get an early start to the season and rollerski 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 38K of trackset and skating lanes with a total of 50K 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. They have a number of housekeeping cottages (tupas) for rent as well. Ski shop sales, rentals and lessons are available, along with a friendly staff to help you.
The Benson Trailhead of the famed 133-mile marked and mapped Northville-Lake Placid Trail is just minutes from their door and offers an amazing wilderness experience for backcountry ski and snowshoe enthusiasts. Lapland Lake also offers many special events including Ladies Days where the instructors and attendees 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, the new owners, Jim Rucker and his wife, who purchased the resort this fall, have been long time visitors to the lodge. Garnet Hill is 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. When 13th Lake freezes solid you can ski this 2.5-mile lake and enjoy the flats. 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 33nd season. They have 50K of ski trails including 35K groomed and trackset, with 20K of the trails with skate lanes, 4K of the trails are lit for night skiing and 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. They have purchased the SnowFactory that’s capable of making high-quality snow at above-freezing temperatures, so they’re less reliant on natural snow and it allows for longer seasons.
Josie’s Cabin, a ski-to destination with delicious food, hot drinks served during weekends, holidays and special events will be open as well. 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.
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 50K 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 14 and February 11, and they have Friday Night Farm Dinners. 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, purchased good grooming equipment, and built 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.
As you read last month, the Gore Mountain Nordic Center at the North Creek Ski Bowl now has XC skiing and snowshoeing. The 4.25K network features 3.2K with snowmaking and lights, so join them day or night. See goremountain.com.
Maple Ski Ridge Ski is located on Mariaville Road in Rotterdam, just outside of Schenectady. This family downhill ski and tubing area is now offering Nordic (skate skiing) on Monday evenings from 4 to 7 pm under the lights. Tickets will be $5 for each evening. See mapleskiridge.com.
Western Turnpike Golf Course is located at 2350 Western Avenue (Route 20) in Guilderland, offering 200 acres of classic tracks and skate lanes on a large figure eight loop with rolling terrain. During the winter they offer cross country skiing and ice skating to make those long months a little shorter. Operated by the town of Guilderland and there is no charge to ski there. See westernturnpike.com.
Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center located on NY Route 73 in Paul Smiths, 12 miles north of Saranac Lake. During the winter months, the Paul Smith’s VIC becomes a cross country ski center with 25 miles of trails for classic skiing, skate skiing and snowshoeing. Many of the VIC’s smoother trails do not need a great deal of snow to be skiable. Moreover, Paul Smiths often gets more snow than other places in the Adirondacks, which means the VIC’s Nordic trails are frequently skiable at times when snowfall is limited. Some trails are designated for skijoring (dog-drawn skiing). Skijorers are welcome at the VIC on Sunday and Wednesday mornings. adirondackvic.org
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 races that are being scheduled for this winter. Many of the Nordic ski centers host one or more of these welcoming 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 in Lake Placid on February. 2-5. For more information, visit nyssranordic.org.
Gore Mountain presents the North Creek Nordic Fest at the North Creek Ski Bowl on December 16-18, co-hosted by HURT Nordic and the Upper Hudson Trails Alliance. Friday will feature Snow Cross non-competitive citizen XC races under the lights; Saturday will have the NYSSRA 5K Classic for all ages/classes and Johnsburg Invitational high school races; and Sunday will have a NYSSRA 1.5K Sprint Race for all ages/classes. Come join in the racing! Visit skireg.com.
The HURT Mega Relay XC Ski Race will be at Garnet Hill Lodge on January 14, 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! Go to nyssranordic.org.
The Winona Forest Tourathon will be held on February 11 with 12.5, 25 and 50K classic distances. Think Tug Hill snow conditions! See winonaforest.com.
The Lake Placid Nordic Festival takes place at Mt. Van Hoevenberg on February 24-26, featuring the Lake Placid Loppet 50K/25K and Citizens Challenge Races (3K, 6K and 12K) on Saturday. The Loppet is a qualifier for the American Birkebeiner and part of the NENSA Marathon Series. Check out mtvanhoevenberg.com.
Finally, the USSA Cross Country Junior Championships will be held March 4-11 at Mt. Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid. It will feature the best aspiring American junior Nordic ski racers under the age of 20. Visit xcjuniornationals2017.com. Think snow!
Skip Holmes (email@example.com) of Delmar teaches building systems and sustainable design at RPI. He is past president of Mohawk-Hudson Cycling Club, and member of Capital Bicycle Racing Club. He can be found road and mountain biking, kayaking, hiking or XC skiing.