Harsh winter, no excuse for avoiding XC trails

By Donnie Simmet 2008

Soaring through the woods, I fly around a corner and a large, muscular deer lunges across the path. I may have skipped a heartbeat, but I keep going. Shooting down a hill, I lose my balance and tumble hard into the soft, sparkling snow. I don’t mind the cold powder. I am already sweating and ditched my coat long ago. A flock of geese fly overhead, honking wildly. I pull myself up and move on. The contrast of the thick, knotty, brown timber with the fresh, immaculately white snow is beautiful and at times almost surreal. Everything shimmers and sparkles. An owl hoots in the distance and a rabbit scrambles through the thicket. The forest is still very much alive. I decide to take advantage of a particularly slick straight away. Full speed ahead, my skis slap the ground and propel me onward. The sun melts into the horizon and I decide to head for the parking lot.

I have read several small articles this winter about local cross country skiing opportunities, but none of them seem to touch on anything past the logistics, such as the immense joy and wonder to be had from these two thin boards. For me, the idea of cross-country skiing never really entered my mind until the first snowfall of this long winter. One day, it crept in from the subconscious and like a snowflake that gently floats onto your nose; it would not leave until I actively pursued it. Luckily, I was able to find a pair of properly sized skis in the basement. Although my first attempts were a bit awkward, I was hooked. I quickly improved and Mother Nature provided ample opportunities to continue.

Cross country skiing, as well as all other enjoyable winter activities, provide a reason to look forward to snow. They inject this bitter and uncomfortable season with a bit of much needed optimism. Also, exercise is a bit more of a challenge in the winter with its extreme cold and lack of options. I can assure you that cross country skiing is an excellent and fun workout.

Kathleen Janz, professor of Health and Sports Studies at the University of Iowa, said in an Iowa DNR article that, “For heart health, you would be hard pressed finding any activity better than cross country skiing.” Besides the cardiovascular excellence, it also builds muscle. It is most definitely a worthwhile endeavor.

In order to properly outfit yourself for cross country skiing, you will need skis, bindings, boots, and poles. These basics can be acquired for less than $300. This is basically a one-time purchase because this equipment will get you anywhere you want to go. Used equipment may be available through classifieds, swap-sheets, garage sales, used sporting goods stores, or perhaps the closets and basements of friends and relatives. Those who fear commitment but would like to give the sport a try can rent skis for a day from the likes of Europa Cycle and Ski in Cedar Falls or Crawdaddy Outdoors in Waverly. If you are wondering where to ski, let it be known that any surface with snow will do! You can blaze a trail through parks, prairies, fields, or woods. George Wyth State Park has excellent trails, which are groomed after every snowfall.

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