nordic news from Sno Country
Fat Bikes - Marriage Of Cross Country Skiing, Mountain Biking
There was extensive coverage about fat bikes in the media last year (it’s hot) and there’s a photograph of a person riding a fat bike towing a Christmas tree on the cover of this year’s Patagonia Holiday Catalog. Fat bikes were recently dubbed the “Hummers of the two-wheelers’ world” in the Wall Street Journal.
These specially-made bicycles that accommodate ultra-wide tires that can be run at very low pressure. Less than ten pounds of pressure allow fat bikes to roll over soft, slippery surfaces like snow. XC ski areas from Vermont to Michigan and Arizona to California and Washington are now allowing fat bikes also called snow bikes to be used on their groomed trails and offering rental bikes, too.
Fat bikes are one of the fastest growing segments of the bicycle industry. They provide a great way for cyclists to stay in shape during the winter season. In eastern Washington’s Methow Valley Sports Trails (MVSTA), the winter season can be longer than all other seasons combined and it was one of the first trail networks to embrace fat biking.
They saw it as a new, exciting way to get outside and recreate and for the passionate XC skier interested in fitness, it provides another way to cross-train. Fat bike products are available from companies such as Surlybikes.com and Salsacycles.com and even the mainstream company Trekbikes.com among others.
According to a recent survey by the Cross County Ski Areas Association, there are at least 28 of the XC ski areas, which now welcome fat bikes on their trails. Flagstaff Nordic Center outside of Flagstaff, Ariz. is running a snowmobile on 25 km of the snowshoe trails to accommodate fat bikes.
The bikes ride much better on packed trails compared to riding on soft snow. Fat bikes can be rented at Flagstaff Nordic for $35 on weekends plus a $10 trail fee, and they offer a 40 percent discount on weekdays ($20) while charging a lower trail fee on weekdays ($7), too.
One avid snow biker describes the thrill of riding his fat bike in the winter like this: “Riding on snow has been a great alternative to my other winter love…Nordic skiing. Hopping on the snow bike has been a great way to mix up the winter activities. There’s an amazing sensation when you climb aboard a snow bike and find that you “can” ride where only skiers or snowmobilers had once been able to go!”
Fat bike trail offerings are assessed on a day-by-day, snow conditions, user compatibility basis. Information on the trails that are open to fat bikes is available daily on the MVSTA grooming report. Just like a skier, a valid MVSTA day pass will be required for snow bikes.
Fat bikes are available for rent ranging from $20 during the week at Flagstaff Nordic reaching $75 a day at New World Sport, a Fort Collins, Colo, shop that sends riders to local packed snowshoe and XC ski trails. It’s $55 at Village Sports Shop in Lyndonville, Vt. and they suggest riders use the bikes on the nearby Kingdom Trails. Methow Cycle and Sport in Winthrop, Wash. has a $35 half day rate or $55 for a full day. They have rental bikes at the store and onsite near 5 km of trails at nearby Sun Mountain Lodge.
Reservations are recommended for weekends and holidays. Methow Cycle and Sport will also provide rack adaptors for customers who wish to transport rental fat bikes to the riding area of their choice. Other XC ski areas that have fat bikes on location to rent include Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton, Vt. at $10 per hour, and Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, Mich. at $15 per hour.
As one might imagine the price for purchasing a fat bike ranges greatly from a low-end of $200 (at Walmart) to $2,000-6,000). Like any other equipment, the low end is probably less reliable and the high end includes bells and whistles or are built with carbon fiber construction.
Fat bike riders are asked to follow a code of etiquette because they can damage trails groomed for classic and skate XC skiers. A typical list of XC ski area “conditions of use” include:
* Riders need to purchase a trail pass to use the area’s trails and tell the ticket vendor that they are planning on fat biking.
* Trail access is dependent on conditions and they should check the daily grooming report for detailed trail access information.
* Purpose built snow bikes only! Both tires must be wider than 3.7 inches and tire pressure must be less than 10 psi, no exceptions!
* Bikes should yield to all other users. Stay to right side of trail at all times, stay out of the classic ski tracks, and give skate skiers a wide berth.
* Stay off trails with more than 3 inches of new snow.
* If you are leaving a rut deeper than an inch, having a hard time riding in a straight line, or pushing your bike, the snow is too soft and you absolutely should not be biking on the trails.
* Be an ambassador for the sport – stay polite, educate other bikers, discourage bad behavior, follow the rules, and we’ll all have a good time this winter.
* Stay on trails designated for Fat Biking.
Photo: MVSTA fat bike and XC skiing (Gunn)
Skijoring: Enjoy Winter Trails With Your Dog
Skijoring is a Norwegian word that means “skidriving.” A team of one or more dogs pulls an XC skier and the skier “drives” or directs the team as he or she skis behind.
Skijoring has been done for centuries in Scandinavia, and it is gaining popularity in the U.S. It’s easy to learn and can lead to magical winter days for you and your canine friend. Skijoring will help keep your dog fit and healthy and it can deepen and enhance the relationship that you have with your dog. Learning to work with your dog and become a team is a great reward that skijoring has to offer.
The human aspect of skijoring requires skiing ability, dog training, and handling skills. Any XC ski gear can be used for skijoring and classic or skating ski techniques can be used. The type of ski selected depends on the experience that your desire such as how fast you want to ski and how far you want to go. Expect that a fast running dog on a groomed ski trail will be very quick and skating might be the best choice.
If you are new to XC skiing, it is recommended that you take ski lessons and practice prior to trying skijoring with your dog. Ski ability requires that you are able to control your speed, stop, and keep balance. But as previously mentioned, skijoring is a team activity and you should expect to work as hard as your dog. It is not a free ride!
Dog training and handling skills are equally important so it is useful if you and your dog have participated in an obedience class together. Key elements include being positive, patient, and consistent. Positive reinforcement is important with any animal training and short easy sessions will yield great results. You want to feel successful and gain confidence together.
No matter the breed (above 30 pounds), dogs have a strong instinct to chase, run on a trail, or hunt as a pack. While sometimes this instinct can result in unwanted behavior, when carefully shaped and trained, it also enables your dog to pull.
One of the easiest ways to teach your dog skijoring is hooking him/her up with an experienced skijoring or sled dog team. Another method that works is to have someone ski slightly in front of your dog and call it, while you let it pull you.
Some dogs may learn immediately and others may take a little more work and encouragement, but keep things in perspective.
Dogs need adequate water and it is recommended not to run them on a full stomach. They can overheat in warmer temperatures (above 40 degrees) and dogs with thin coats (such as pointers) can get too cold. You might consider dog booties for abrasive snow conditions (may take some getting used to) and for furry footed dogs, you should trim the hair on their paws or use oils (Musher’s Secret) to prevent snowballs.
If your dog is not regularly exercised, start with very short sessions and work up from there. Consult a veterinarian for advice about ideal running weight for the breed of dog that you own.
The gear for skijoring is lightweight and simple. Booties have already been mentioned and a harness is necessary to connect you with the dog. A webbed harness when pulled to complete length stretches from your dog’s neck and chest to the base of his/her tail.
A good fitting harness should allow a dog to run and pull efficiently and safely. It is best to have an experienced and knowledgeable skijorer help to fit your dog’s first harness. A bungee lead (a leash with a bungee cord sewn inside of it) is useful to prevent jerking motions and ease the stress of pulling on your dog.
You will also have a harness around your hips and legs and these come in a variety of styles that should fit so that you can move and ski efficiently. A safety release between your harness and the line connecting you to the dog is very important.
Communication And Sharing
When you are ready to go, with a friend in front to encourage your dog, let him/her start pulling and give the command “Let’s Go!”
There are many commands you will learn as a skijorer such as “whoa” or stop, “on by” meaning leave that irresistible distraction alone and keep going, “gee” means go right and “haw” means go left. “Come around” means turn around. Taking a class in skijoring will help you get started the right way.
Be aware of trail etiquette with your dog. Respect the guidelines at an XC ski area and stay on the dog-friendly trails that are specified. Loose dogs can be an annoyance and even a danger to both skiers and other dogs. Be aware of others on the trail.
Louisa Morrissey, who contributed to this article teaches skijoring clinics at Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash, Colorado Jan. 5, Feb. 2 and 23 at 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Photo: Cross country skiers skijoring with their dogs.
'Road Scholars' Flock To Winter Learning Programs
Road Scholar is a brand within the Elderhostel program intended for adults who want to travel, learn and stimulate discourse and friendship among other people for whom learning is the journey of a lifetime.
This is an institution that has had 5,500 multiple-day travel programs attracting 95,000 participants, enjoying a wide variety of subjects. while providing comfortable and inexpensive lodging.
There were 34 different winter outdoor adventure programs with 800 participants in 2013.
There are Road Scholar offerings this winter at Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Vermont. Northwoods in Wisconsin, Sundance Resort in Utah, Yellowstone National Park in Mont. and Sun Mountain Lodge in Wash.
The Trees For Tomorrow program (Road Scholar program #7310) is set for Feb. 9-15, 2014 and this organization has been offering natural resources education workshops to students, teachers, adults, and others in the heart of Wisconsin’s Northwoods since 1944.
It is located in Eagle River, Wisc., a small northern town about a six hour drive from Chicago. All instructors are carefully selected based on their knowledge, experience, and ability to teach adult groups. They have taken courses in each area of instruction to provide participants with a high quality learning experience.
This is a week of classical XC skiing and snowshoeing on trails in Northern Wisconsin. Ski instruction is provided for all skill levels. Naturalists will lead participants through an exploration of the unique ways animals and plants adapt to the difficult winter conditions of the north. Multiple route options will be available for each ski tour. Evening programs will focus on the biology and ecology of animals that call the Northwoods home.
The group will snowshoe in a beautiful old-growth forest, visit Bond Falls waterfall, and learn orienteering skills to practice while snowshoeing. They’ll experience the Kovac Planetarium, the world’s largest rotating mechanical globe-style planetarium and snowshoe at night along a candle-lit trail.
Participants will also XC ski at Anvil National Recreation Trail and have an opportunity to see birds of prey up close. Cost for the workshop is $599 per person (for a double room) or $629 per person (for a single room), which includes: lodging, meals, instruction, field-trip. and rental equipment.
Guests stay on-site in rustic dormitories that have comfortable bedrooms. Each dorm has central bathroom facilities and a lounge with a fireplace. Meals are served in Trees For Tomorrow’s historic dining hall that overlooks the Eagle River chain of lakes.
Annually there are many Road Scholar programs in Yellowstone National Park, but the variety of Road Scholar programming is best exemplified at Vermont’s Craftsbury Outdoor Center. They’ve got three yoga programs (one each in January, February, and March) that incorporate outdoor activities such as XC skiing and snowshoeing.
There is an Introduction to Astronomy program Jan. 21-25 featuring an exploration of the cosmos in space and time and celestial bodies. A program for Film & Fiction is Jan. 26-31 has participants viewing a variety of film genres with a North Country theme and discussions following each film. The group will also read short fiction set in northern settings by contemporary authors ranging from contemplative to humorous with following discussions.
A New England Music & Dance program is Feb.2-7 and again Feb. 9-14 to learn the history of traditional country dance and song from New England, the Canadian Maritimes and beyond with live music and a contra dance, too. All of these programs include outdoor activities on the Craftsbury trails with cross country skiing, snowshoeing and plenty of fun.
For questions or to enroll to any Road Scholar programs, call toll free at 800-454-5768, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. or visit the website www.roadscholar.org to view a myriad of programs to select among hundreds of national and international regions.
Photo: Road Scholars with their instructor at Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Vermont (Craftsbury Outdoor Center)
Comprehensive Nordic Ski Exhibit Opens At Vermont Museum
A comprehensive Nordic ski exhibit opened at the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum Nov. 2 with two floors of extensive cross country skiing memorabilia on display. This is clearly the largest exhibit of its kind about the sport.
The “Kick and Glide: Vermont’s Nordic Skiing Legacy” exhibit at the museum displayed the many facets of XC skiing - the personalities, development of athletes, competition and of XC ski areas and recreational skiers; the evolution of technique, equipment, and disciplines; and the impact of Vermonters on the sport.
Among those in attendance were Vermont past Olympians Larry Damon (1956, 1960, 1964, 1968); Dennis Donahue (1976); Stan Dunklee (1976, 1980); Jim Galanes (1976, 1980, 1984); Marc Gilbertson (1998); Bob Gray (1968, 1972); Trina Hosmer (1972); Martha Rockwell (1972, 1976); and Bucky Broomhall, who started the TorgerTokel League in 1969, now known as the Bill Koch League to develop skiers not yet in high school.
“It was a joyous day in the spirit of friendship and the Nordic sport," extolled Peter Graves. "We are indeed fortunate to have all these powerful experiences bonded together by sport.”
Vintage Synthetic Nordic Track with Fischer Zero Mohair skis (1970s), the latest trail grooming equipment, snowmaking technologies, adaptive ski equipment and a chance to try a hand at Nordic ski erg laser biathlon took place outside the historic 1818 Old Town Hall, which is home to the museum in the heart of Stowe.
Vermont XC ski areas such as Trapp Family Lodge and Viking Nordic Center are purported to be among the first commercial XC ski areas developed in the USA. There is a strong contingent of XC ski area operators who started XC ski businesses in Vermont and remained in the business for many years. They organized a group association, marketed the sport, and developed clubs and programs.
The grand opening ceremonies included a ribbon cutting and exhibit introductions about Vermont as an XC ski destination and a part of national and regional efforts to promote XC skiing. Equipment and clothing aspects of the industry were introduced and learning to ski was also a focus. Various films were shown including, “I Won a Purple Ribbon” about kids XC skiing with Bill Koch, who was the first American (from Vermont) to win an Olympic medal in cross country skiing in 1976 and a World Cup crown in 1982.
The Nordic ski exhibit was spearheaded by volunteers who are Vermonters and have been involved in the outdoor business for many years. They joined museum curator Meredith Scott in an exhaustive effort to find and contact pillars of the XC ski world linked to Vermont.
“We are fortunate to have the help of men and women associated with Nordic skiing in Vermont since the late 60’s to assemble the remarkable story of how the Green Mountain State’s contributions shaped the sport and culture”, said Rob Center, Exhibit Chair.
Bob Woodward, (long time outdoors guru journalist and more from Bend, Ore.), began looking for a home for his collection of XC ski gear.
“Like so many who love the sport, for decades, I couldn't bear to get rid of anything no matter how dated it was. Then a chance remark by ski writer Michael Brady led me to the Vermont Ski Museum. I am eternally grateful for the Museum accepting my donation, which I give in honor of all the Vermonter cross country ski greats and for all the wonderful times I've had skiing in the state,” he said.
Appreciation was given to all those who donated items and supported this exhibit and special thanks to apparel product supplier Helly Hansen Inc., which was instrumental in the exhibit coming to fruition.
This yearlong exhibit coincides with the 2014 Winter Olympics and some people in the industry are hoping that it becomes the initial development of a museum for cross country skiing in America. Kick and Glide, Vermont’s Nordic Skiing Legacy, will continue through Oct. 13, 2014.
Photo: Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum Nordic Legacy exhibit of historical XC ski bases.
Cross Country Ski Areas Association Website Redesigned
Cross Country Ski Areas Association (CCSAA), the national trade association of cross country ski area operators, has redesigned its website. The site has duel purposes for XC skiers and the ski area members.
“The intention was to simplify and separate the site so that it is easier for skiers and ski area members to use it and the site redesign process is ongoing,” said CCSAA president Chris Frado. “The CCSAA Board of Directors was instrumental providing input and encouraging the site to be more mobile-friendly.”
The association’s mission is to promote the growth of the XC skiing population and to improve the quality of XC ski area operations in North America. CCSAA has about 180 ski area members of all different types (inns, parks, clubs, etc.) and it is dedicated to furthering and protecting legitimate interests of XC ski area operators and to provide establishment of reasonable standards for the protection of XC skiers. The group is committed to promoting ski lessons and XC skiing on groomed trails at its member ski areas.
The site’s navigation is easier than before and it has more modern images of cross country skiing and bigger more expressive photos and graphic messages. The website has search mechanisms for XC ski areas, events, and programs.
There’s also a link to SnoCountry.com snow and ski area conditions reports. XC ski industry businesses are listed on the site including product brands (ski equipment, clothing, magazines and websites, etc.) and there is plenty of info available on the site from how to dress for XC skiing to terms and answers to frequently asked questions.
Eat Your Way To Fitness With XC Skiing And Snowshoeing
Here's a guilt-free way to indulge yourself with food while exercising. XC skiing and snowshoeing are some of the best forms of aerobic exercise.
But if you go on a "Gourmet Ski Tour" on your XC skis or snowshoes, you may very well eat your way to fitness at a number of trailside food stops. What a grand time so go ahead, eat, ski, and be merry - appetizers, wine, champagne, fondue, entrees, desserts, and more.
Here's a cross section of the culinary XC ski and snowshoe events that are planned this winter across the country with a varied menu of fun and fine cuisine.
Smugglers Notch in Vt. has Sweets and Snowshoes every Wednesday night 7-9 p.m. for adults only. Hot cocoa, coffee, and three desserts await snowshoers after a 30-minute trek to a pavilion and campfire. A warming meal of hot soup, bread and beverage at a trailside cabin is a destination for the Soup and Snowshoes guided trek mid-day Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and on Tuesday nights there’s a Snowshoe Adventure Dinner at the mountain summit.
Eastman Cross Country's Nordic Nibbles in Grantham, N.H. Jan. 19 has a Scandinavian theme with a visit to a fire pit at each stop for cheese from a local smokehouse, Lindt chocolate, gingerbread cake and pastries, local dairy milk for hot coco, soup, and the main meal from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m.
The Sweetheart's Chocolate Tour at Bretton Woods Nordic Center in N.H. is Feb. 15 with a self-guided tour to stops for sweets from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Enjoy the Sweetheart's Ski or Snowshoe Tour by candlelight at 7-8 p.m. that evening.
The Chocolate Festival at Mt. Washington Valley Ski & Snowshoe Center in Intervale, N.H. Feb. 23 is an inn-to-inn affair at 10-12 stops to experience your chocolate fantasies including moose and fondue. A shuttle is also available for those that have overindulged on this event dubbed the “Sweetest Day on the Trails.”
The Upper Peninsula of Mich. in Ironwood features cuisine from local restaurants that can be purchased at a nominal fee along a designated route along the trails at the Taste of the Trails on the ABR trails March 1 from 11 a.m.- 2 p.m.
Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, Colo. hosts the Grand Huts.org Progressive Dinner Feb. 15 with a multi-course meal at outposts along the trail in a fundraiser for the huts.
Just Desserts Eat & Ski in the Enchanted Forest XC Ski Area in Red River, N.M. Feb. 22 features goodies from 20 different local restaurants at three trailside stations with up to 100 desserts within a 4 km loop. Their motto is, “It’s not a race, just a gorge fest.”
Crested Butte Nordic Center in Colo. has a yurt reached by a 2 km XC ski or snowshoe tour where 10 dinners are offered during the winter including the Full Moon Dinners @ the Yurt and the Valentine’s Day Dinner.
Look to the Galena Lodge in Ketchum, Idaho for the Full Moon Dinners on nights associated with the full moon, whereby you can go ski or snowshoe (half price rental gear offered) and then return to lodge for a four-course dinner at $40 or half price for kids under 12. There are also special Wine Dinners, Holiday Dinners, and a Valentine’s Day Dinner.
Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Mont. has the Glide & Gorge event March 9 from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. with trail luncheon stationed with appetizers, soups, entrees, desserts from the Ranch's four-star kitchen, local brew, wine, music and shuttles. There's also a trailside one-stop buffet every Friday that can be reached on foot, snowshoes, or skis located so that one can either begin or finish their outing with the feast.
Cypress Mountain outside of Vancouver, B.C. has Chocolate Fondue Tours Friday and Sunday nights starting at 6:30 p.m. and a Cheese & Chocolate Fondue Tour Fridays and Sundays at 6–10 p.m.. Tours are organized by pre-registration. Ladies Only Chocolate Fondue Snowshoe Tour are Jan. 10, 24, Feb. 7, 28, and Marvh 14 at 6:30 p.m.
Photo: Nordic Nibbles at Eastman Cross Country in N.H. (Eastman XC)
Kids Programs On XC Skis Or Snowshoes Ready For New Season
Kids on cross country skis or snowshoes - it is not only about child obesity, nature deficit disorder, and better brain function – it's about fun.
What can the kids do after school or on the weekends? Have you set your plans for the school breaks this coming winter?
The winter can be snowy, yet mild and great, for a weekly program or a family winter vacation with plenty of cross country (XC) skiing and snowshoeing, so gather up the kids and head to the hills.
There are XC ski areas that are exceedingly kid-friendly with fun activities to enjoy on the snow. XC skiing and snowshoeing not only delivers great times for kids, they create memories for a lifetime.
We know about the calorie-burning effectiveness of XC skiing and snowshoeing. We understand that kids should get outdoors more often. According to Dr. Majid Fotuhi, chairman of the Neurology Institute for Brain Health and Fitness in Baltimore, studies support the idea that exercise can improve learning efficiency for kids.
In short, exercise and better fitness are associated with better brain function all year long, so here are some samples of the unique XC ski and snowshoe programming this winter:
In Gorham, N.H., Great Glen Outdoor Trails Center has the Trail Tracker program for an everyday scavenger hunt at Great Glen, which is a big hit for kids to track down cartoon animals out on the trails. When they find the animated creatures, they stamp a card and, upon return to the lodge, they get a treat. The TC Bank Kids SkiFest Jan 12 has an obstacle course, lollipop race, mini lessons for first timers, treats, free XC ski rentals and special trail rates.
Jackson Ski Touring nestled in N.H.’s White Mountains, has the Story Land Element Garden, a small terrain park at the Touring Center designed for young children. Kids are also encouraged to ski or snowshoe to a 3-kilometer destination to the Ellis River Warming Cabin, which is open on weekends. Reach the cabin and enjoy a chocolate covered waffle on a stick treat.
Garnet Hill Lodge in North River, N.Y. has a 6-week kids XC ski program (1.5 hours on Sundays) that is available to individual kids or organized group programs for fun, exploration, and adventure learning skills on ski and games on XC skis with a hot coco/snack break, soccer on skis, tree ID game, and more.
The Snow School program has snowshoeing for kids in more than 40 locations across the nation such as Cable Natural History Museum in Cable, Wis. and Michigan Tech University, which coordinates snowshoe programs for 3-8th graders in 20 school districts in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Some of these programs include games, ecology, wildlife tracking, outdoor skills and more. Go to the Winter Wildlands website or Facebook page for a list of Snow School locations.
The Loppet Nordic Ski Foundation runs one of the largest introductory kids cross country ski programs of its kind in the country at the Theodore Wirth Park, just minutes from downtown Minneapolis, Minn. Some 600 kids from local elementary and middle schools learn to ski each year through the Foundation's programs. They also are given info about fitness and nutrition. A small trail is groomed at each school, so that the kids can ski right out the door in their physical education classes.
Breckenridge Nordic Center in Breckenridge, Colo. has one of the best equipment exchange programs for kids whereby there is no charge for kids to trade in their old equipment for similar equipment in bigger sizes.
The Bohart Ranch in Bozeman, Mont. has the Adventures in Winter Ecology ski program for school groups starting with fun games on skis, a snack break and then smaller tour groups go out for grade-specific hands-on field exploration science curriculum meeting at a trail shelter for lunch with classmates.
The Methow Valley Sport Trails Association in Winthrop, Wash. has three storybook trails that feature 1 km loops that have sign-sized illustrated story book pages on panels displayed along select trails for kids to read as they ski or snowshoe. And the trails are free for kids under the age of 17!
The Strider Glider program at Bear Valley Cross Country & Adventure in Calif. runs both midweek and weekends. This program includes games, destination skiing, skill building, striding, skating, racing, etc. The weekend program allows local kids to befriend and ski with weekenders that they would not see with just a midweek only program.
A number of states conduct statewide programs to encourage kids to get outdoors in the winter. The Vermont 5th Grade Passport offers a booklet of coupons for free trail passes at more than 30 XC ski resorts. An adult paying full price must accompany the kids and there is a small $10 cost associated with the passport, which is good from December through May excluding holiday blackout dates.
In the Burlington, Vt.area, the Smuggler's Notch Nordic Center is known for family programming. The one and a half hour XC ski lesson for kids happens in a special terrain park that has snowy roller bumps and other features for kids to learn balance and increase confidence while having fun on skis.There's also the Mom or Dad and Me class for a parent and child older than 6 in a one hour private lesson with an instructor.
Also in Vermont, the Bolton Valley Nordic Center's kids program focuses on the development of basic Nordic skiing skills as well as natural science and natural history and each of the kids' ski skills are practiced with fun games like ski soccer, tag, obstacle courses and snowball biathlon.
These winter programs feature ways for kids to learn balance and increase confidence while having fun on skis or snowshoes. And they're committed to helping kids develop lifelong habits of health, education, and physical fitness through participation in outdoor winter activities…and as the kids can attest they are also just plain fun.
Photo: Kids cross country skiing at Sleepy Hollow Ski Center (Sleepy Hollow)
Sustainable Cross Country Ski Resorts Collective Against Climate Change
Many cross country (XC) ski areas operate in an environmentally-friendly manner, and some of these operators, who are exemplars using the most sustainable practices, have created a collective of the XC ski areas called “Cross Country Skiing Against Climate Change.”
These resorts are models of sustainability and the operators at these resorts practice what they preach in the effort to combat climate change.
Some examples: employing renewable energy, protecting scenic values and wildlife habitats, practicing water and energy conservation, reducing waste and reusing products, designing and building facilities in an environmentally-sensitive manner, managing forest and vegetation properly, handling potentially hazardous waste properly, and educating their clientele and staff about environmental awareness and their eco-activity.
These sustainable practices are not typically million dollar investments but they are meaningful accomplishments. The collective will disseminate information about many of their practices to hundreds of other XC ski areas across the U.S. and Canada.
At Devil's Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa in Tabernash, Colo., a geothermal heating system is used throughout the resort. The system consists of glycol-filled pipes that have been installed in the Ranch's on-site lake. Heat is transferred to the glycol from the water, and then heated to 105 degrees by compressors in each building. The resort has also installed EPA-approved specially designed chimneys that minimize emissions from wood burning fireplaces and used recycled asphalt for paving. “We continue to make a concerted effort to work with local suppliers and businesses and reduce our carbon footprint at every level,” said General Manager Sean Damery.
The White Grass Ski Touring Center in Canaan, W.V. has been awarded the W.V. Environmental Council's Green Entrepreneurs Award. The facility is heated with wood and uses about $2.50 worth of electricity a day. Environmental education is a key element at White Grass as there are regular outings in the W.V. Highlands Conservancy and the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
In the northeast US, the Maine Huts & Trails organization has built eco-lodges that are off the power grid with solar energy, wood fired heat, and composting toilet systems.
Stump Sprouts Guest Lodge and Cross Country Ski Center in Hawley, Mass. produces more electricity than it consumes with its solar panels, and the lumber for buildings, furniture, and firewood is harvested on the property. They try to serve as much locally grown food as possible and grow most of their own produce and all food waste is composted. Lloyd Crawford of Stump Sprouts said, “We use half the fuel that we used 10 years ago after upgrades to our vehicles and equipment.”
The Great Glen Outdoor Center in Gorham, N.H. upgraded an old micro-hydro system, which now supplies 80 percent of electric needs. They’ve also converted a van that tours up to the top of Mt. Washington to run on propane gas, exchanged a gas Smart Car for an electric version, and installed an electric vehicle charging station, too.
Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Vt. has incorporated sustainability in its mission statement to be carbon neutral. They use 8 tracking solar panels for 35 percent of their electricity, highly efficient wood-fired boilers for heating, and a solar hot water system. Starting this winter, the waste heat from their snowmaking system generator will help to heat several buildings.
Sleepy Hollow Inn Ski & Bike Center in Huntington, Vt. gets a total of 32 kW of power from solar panel arrays to provide for electric needs that include power for a snowmaking system used to guarantee snow early in the season. A solar hot water system heats 50 percent of the hot water use at the inn and the lights on the ski trail are being converted to LED lights. Sleepy Hollow Proprietor Eli Enman said, “By the end of the year, we’re looking forward to seeing that close to 100 percent of our total electricity would’ve been powered by solar energy and that includes our all-electric snowmaking system water and air pumps.”
A sustainable Canadian resort that practices what it preaches is Nipika Mountain Resort in BC, which is off the public power grid. It uses solar panels to supply energy needs. The resort’s furniture was built on site with wood from trees that were killed by the Mountain Pine Beetle.
Hardwood Ski & Bike in Oro Station, Ontario uses eco-friendly principles in the maintenance of their trail system and they work closely with the county forester to ensure that the forest remains healthy and vibrant through active management.
Boundary Country Trekking on the Gunflint Trail in Minn. offsets the carbon produced on the Banadad Trail (such as snowmobile grooming) by investing in reforestation in the area. This is a planting estimated at 75,000 trees. Boundary Country Trekking is one of the few XC ski operations that have a sustainability statement and a comprehensive implementation plan. Another Minnesota XC ski area, Maplelag Resort in Callaway, is an active tree farm where it has planted thousands of trees and has created more than 20 ponds to benefit wildlife there.
“For people who seek beautiful destinations to cross country ski and want to patronize businesses that fight climate change, the resorts in this collective are the places to visit,” said Collective Coordinator Roger Lohr, XCSkiResorts.com editor.
“The Cross Country Skiing Against Climate Change collective will disseminate information about sustainable practices to other XC ski areas across North America in an effort to share ideas and stand as an industry against global warming, which threatens many of the XC ski areas that exist today.”
Photo: Trailside solar panels (Craftsbury Outdoor Center)
U.S. XC Star Kikkan Randall Picks Up Major Sponsorship; Largest Ever?
Cross Country skiing sprinter Kikkan Randall of the U.S. Ski Team likely has received the largest sponsorship ever for an American XC skier, though the actual dollar amount has not been made public.
The Anchorage, Alaska native will be sponsored by Kashi, a Kellogg brand, for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Randall, 29, is a World Cup XC ski champion and the first American male or female to win a World Cup season title in XC skiing in 30 years. Randall is perceived by many as a great hope to popularize XC skiing to a higher level in the U.S.
Kashi products (cereal, crackers, bars, etc.) are natural, minimally processed, and free of highly refined sugar, artificial additives, and preservatives. The brand’s intention through this sponsorship is to spread the word that living a healthy, positive lifestyle begins with eating right.
"We're passionate about the power of positive eating and we really found a perfect partner in Kikkan," said Kashi Marketing Director John King,
"They (Kashi products) provide me with the right nutrients to give me energy for my workouts," Randall said in endorsing the products. "I believe in living a healthy and active lifestyle and one of my goals is to inspire others to do the same, which involves eating positively so they can pursue the things they love."
Randall made history as the first American woman to win the FIS Cross Country Skiing World Cup sprint title. Sprint races have time trials where each contestant skis the course in interval starts. The fastest 16 skiers advance to elimination rounds. The first two skiers in each of the eliminations move on to the semi-final races, which consist of two heats of four athletes each. The medal sprint is one race with the top two skiers from each semi-final heat.
As a 15-time U.S. National Champion and a 3-time Olympian, Randall validated a major milestone in her career, hoisting the hard-earned Joska crystal globe she was awarded as the FIS Cross Country World Cup sprint champion at the 2013 season finale in Falun, Sweden.
She’s the niece of two former Olympians and earned her nickname “Kikkanimal” from her high school running teammates in Anchorage because she was always pushing them to do more and try harder. For some of the financial support needed to compete, Kikkan had secured several Alaskan-based sponsors including Subway, an automobile dealership group, and various health businesses. Kashi becomes a global level of sponsorship at a much higher level, a rarity for an XC racer.
Randall visits elementary schools to talk with kids about working to attain their dreams and being active everyday. Proclaimed as a “Get Activist,” she inspires kids to lead a healthy lifestyle in the “Healthy Futures” program. She also encourages female athletes in the “Fast and Female” programs. Starting now, when she speaks to groups, she can bring the World Cup globe and a box of Kashi cereal for show-and-tell.
Randall says she is dedicated to expanding the popularity of cross country skiing in the U.S. She was interviewed by major media such as USA Today, NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and others after winning the World Cup title, where she spoke about her accomplishment and made the case that cross country skiing can be enjoyed at any level.
Randall’s record of American firsts in XC skiing include the first World Cup women’s podium, first World Cup women’s victory, first World Championship women’s medal, first Olympic women’s Top Ten, and first World Cup Overall women’s discipline leader. She placed eighth in the women’s sprint In the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the best ever American women’s finish. Randall won the 6 x 1.2 kilometer team sprint world champion with Jessica Diggins at Val Di Fiemme, Italy last winter.
Randall was not the only ski world recipient of Kellogg's largesse. Olympic gold medalist mogul skier Hannah Kearney and pro snowboarder Chas Guldemond received sponsorship deals from Kellogg's Bear Naked brand.
Photo: Kikkan Randall wins in Quebec City (U.S. Ski Team.Smug Mug/Reese Brown)
Ladies' Getaways Are All The Rage
Among some women, the "ladies' getaway" weekend or program has become an annual tradition.
Small or extended groups of women, girls, mothers, daughters, or friends organize a get-together unaccompanied by (one might even say unburdened by) or exclusive of men, boys, brothers, and fathers. The motivation and/or common denominator is about connecting.
A girls' program might include recreating or relaxing together, enjoying good food and good wine, and a host of other activities that provide the backdrop for engagement and lasting memories. XCSkiResorts.com found programs that range from once-a-week group outings to week-long all inclusive packages.
The Lapland Ladies Love to Ski is an instructional cross country ski program that runs three times each winter and has been ongoing for about 10 years. It is designed for women and taught by women at Lapland Lake XC Ski & Vacation Center in Northville, N.Y. Female participants, who are beginner or intermediate level skiers, register for the program for a one-time activity or for all 3 outings.
They are grouped to learn and practice ski techniques and they all have lunch together followed by a presentation about XC ski equipment, clothing, and other topics. The group is self-divided into smaller groups after lunch for a social ski tour on the trails and then back in the lodge for a hot beverage and a chocolate goodie at the end of the day. The $40 price includes the trail pass, lunch, and discount coupons to use in the ski shop.
Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior in Lutsen, Minn. has the "Girlfriend Getaway Package" for anytime of year including a bottle of champagne, breakfast, dinner, spa treatment, complimentary guided tour and XC ski or snowshoe gear (or hiking, biking sea kayaking in the warmer months) and visits to galleries and shopping in nearby Grand Marais.
Maplelag Resort in Callaway, Minn. has the "Women's Wellness Retreat," including getting outdoors for XC skiing and snowshoeing, healthy meals, and massage. A number of women's getaways at Maplelag are organized by guests, who have visited the resort with their families and then return another time with other women to enjoy a variety of activities such as quilting, knitting, book discussions, board games, and more. The family style meals at Maplelag make it easy for the groups to engage and there's the added bonus that none of the ladies have to cook.
Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop, Wash. has the "Women’s Ski & Yoga Retreat" on Feb 28 – Mar 2 with yoga, meals, XC ski sessions, and relaxation.
Vista Verde Ranch in Steamboat, Colo. has all-inclusive programs called the "Share & Save" offer (starts at $335 per night with a 3-night minimum) during certain times in the season. There are three meals a day, XC ski instruction, guided backcountry ski tours, equipment to use, cooking classes, wine tasting, sleigh rides, horseback riding, photography workshops, and evening entertainment. The package includes transportation from the local airport to the resort and there are many extras offered to extend the memories such as dogsledding, alpine skiing, massage, and premium wines at an additional price.
Larger participatory programs include the "Inga Lama Women's Weekend" held at Minocqua Winter Park in Minocqua, Wis. Date is Jan. 11 for a winter evening of moonlight skiing with wine and snacks back at the Chalet. There’s a ski or snowshoe tour the following morning with breakfast at the Tea House, followed by more socializing and fun.
Steamboat Ski Touring Center holds the "Colorado Ski for Women" program Jan. 26. The Catamount Trail Association runs the "Ladies Nordic Ski Expo" at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt. Jan. 11. The "New England Women's XC Ski Day" is scheduled at Bethel Inn Resort in Bethel, Maine Feb. 9 with gear demo, lunch, prizes, and wrap up party.
One multi-year women's weekend participant jokingly cited "verbal profuseness" as the prime characteristic of her getaway experience with female friends. Such getaways may have a distinct purpose such as high performance fitness exercise or healthy wellness activities or they could incorporate different themes, but it is the composition of the group, which determines the vibe and memories for the weekend.
Check the XCSkiResorts.com Women’s Event Page for a comprehensive list of this winter’s women’s programs.
Photo: NENSA 2012 Womens XC Ski Day (New England Nordic Ski Association)