November 2018 - CROSS COUNTRY/NORDIC SKIING
Having Fun on Skinny Skis!
By Chris Yarsevich
After the great winter last year, with skiing until April or even May, depending on your willingness to travel, you might be considering taking up cross country (Nordic) skiing for the first-time or reacquainting yourself after years away from the sport. Upstate New York is a great place for all types of cross country skiing, with lots of different activities going on throughout the season. Let’s take a look at all the different ways to enjoy winter on skinny skis!
There are several youth, learn to ski programs throughout the Capital Region. These programs fall under the national Bill Koch Youth Ski League and encourage children in grades Kindergarten to 8th grade to get out, enjoy winter, and learn to cross country ski. Children do not need any experience cross country skiing to join these programs. Skiing will be taught through the use of games, technique drills, and play on skis. Equipment is also available, free of charge, on a first-come, first-served basis, so sign up early!
Local programs can be found in Clifton Park, through the Shenendehowa Nordic Club and Greenfield and Queensbury through Hudson United Racing Team. For more info on Shenendehowa, contact Eric Hamilton (email@example.com). For Greenfield contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and for Queensbury contact Bob Underwood (email@example.com). Farther afield, there are also youth programs in Old Forge (Polar Bear), Saranac Lake (Dewey Mountain), and Mt. Van Hoevenberg.
This year, the annual Mid-Atlantic Bill Koch Youth Ski Festival will be hosted locally by HURT Nordic and the Town of Greenfield at Brookhaven Golf Course on March 9-10, 2019. The weekend will feature fun events, covering all things Nordic. There will be fun, low-key races, a scavenger hunt on skis, and dinner Saturday night, followed by a bonfire. Come out and enjoy a weekend of skiing with the whole family, at a nearby, convenient location!
Lessons for Adults and Kids
Ok, maybe you’re not a kid anymore, and you’re not joining the local Bill Koch club. You can still learn to ski by taking a lesson or two at one of the great local touring centers in the area. Lapland Lake in Northville, Garnet Hill Lodge in North River, and Mt. Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid are great skis centers, that do a fabulous job with trail grooming and offer fully certified ski instructors. Cascade in Lake Placid and Pineridge, east of Troy, also offer groomed trails and lessons on appointment. Osceola Tug Hill, northwest of Utica, offers groomed trails, ski rentals, and lake effect snow!
You will be amazed how quickly the ski centers competent instructors will have you gliding down the trail. In a weekend or two you can learn and master the basic skills necessary to have fun sliding on snow, both up and down hills. These ski centers also offer full rental gear in both classic and skate technique (Pineridge rentals are classic only), so all you need is a positive attitude and a willingness to try and learn something new.
If you are already an avid cross country skier and enjoy the sport, now is the time to think about season passes and trip planning. Many touring centers offer discounts on season passes if purchased before December. They often will include free, or heavily discounted children passes, with two adult passes purchased. This is a great way to save money and make family skiing truly affordable. For the price of one weekend of family skiing at a downhill resort, you can often purchase season passes at a Nordic center for the entire family, and enjoy months of skiing!
Now is a great time to also bookmark a few weekends and pencil in a classic ski tour in the Adirondacks. For an easy introduction to backcountry touring, consider skiing into Great Camp Santanoni in Newcomb. If you are an intermediate skier, sections of the Jackrabbit Trail between Saranac Lake and Keene are great skiing. Finally, if you are a strong intermediate skier, a ski into Avalanche Lake in the High Peaks is one of the best ski tours in the Northeast! Now that you’re out skiing every weekend and really enjoying yourself, you may be interested in stepping it up a notch or two and trying a local NYSSRA race this winter...
New York State Ski Racing Association is a grassroots organization that organizes and runs races throughout the state, all winter long. Races vary from five to 50 kilometers, in both skate and classic techniques. Many of the races are fun, low pressure events, that see a wide variety of skill levels participate. Give one a try, they are fun, and can be addicting.
Check out the annual HURT Mega Relay for a great introduction to racing. The Mega Relay is a six-hour relay race at Garnet Hill. Bring a team of three to eight people, ski a lap, or two, or thirty, and enjoy a fun day of skiing!
High School Racing
Did you know that many of our local high schools have cross country skiing as a varsity sport? And some middle/junior high schools now offer modified teams. In fact, some of the best varsity teams in the state are from the Capital Region and southern Adirondacks. Races are fast and fun to watch, especially at the premier racing venue in all of the Northeast. Gore Mountain has invested heavily into cross country skiing and they now have a fully certified World Cup caliber course at the Gore Ski Bowl in North Creek.
The Gore trails feature full snowmaking capability, lights for night skiing, and a stadium type atmosphere that makes it easy to see the racers throughout the three-kilometer lap. Racing at this venue is a sight to behold and really has to been seen to be believed. Local high schools will typically all race together with 10 to 12 schools present, and hundreds of racers skiing. High school racing takes place weekly, between December and February. Non-racers can also enjoy these awesome trails, with rentals and lesson programs available. The snowmaking capability is an added bonus in times of poor snow conditions, when you still want to get out and ski.
Equipment can vary dramatically depending on skate vs. classic technique, touring vs. racing vs. backcountry use. Luckily, our area has some great ski shops to help with all the decisions. The Sports Page and Inside Edge, both in Queensbury are local retailers specializing in cross country ski gear. Lake Placid also has High Peaks Cyclery and Cascade Cross Country Ski Center with great equipment selections. Alpine Sport Shop in Saratoga and Play It Again Sports also offer cross country ski gear. Berkshire Outfitters in Adams, Mass. focuses on Nordic ski gear. Finally, Garnet Hill, Lapland Lake and Osceola ski centers operate lodge-based ski shops.
The shops carry equipment for all types of skiing and can help you decide what you need. In general, beginners will typically start with a light touring ski and expand from there. Bigger, wider, and heavier gear is useful for backcountry skiing (deeper snow and steeper terrain), while lighter, faster gear is used for racing or training. Whatever equipment you decide on, get out there and enjoy the snow!
Chris Yarsevich (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a founding member of the Hudson United Racing Team. You can find him racing almost every winter weekend with the team and when the snow is gone he enjoys running, cycling and hiking.