PICTURE PERFECT:Marcia Foord of Onanole, Manitoba enjoys a sunny day on the trails.
Cross-country skiing can be a heart-pumping, adrenal ine-surging sport. For more of us though, it is a quieter, more reflective way of experiencing the outdoors and an opportunity to soak in the beauty of winter.
Cross-country skiing (a. k.a. Nordic skiing) is an activity with so many benefits, it seems too good to be true. Not only is it fun, easy to learn and less expensive than downhill skiing, it gives you the best total body workout possible, as well as stimulating the heart, increasing oxygen flow and improving circulation.
When you ski, a large percentage of your body’s muscle mass is utilized. The lower extremities provide propulsion and support, the trunk and core provide balance and stability and the poling movements of the upper body provide more propulsion and speed. The act of following the up and down of the trails incorporates “interval training” where you experience exertion going uphill and a period of recovery going downhill.
Depending on your speed and energy level, you can burn a whopping 900 calories per hour. Cross-country skiing compliments other sports, such as cycling and running, but is low impact and easy on the joints. This sport can be pursued by all ages but it is estimated that 13 per cent of cross-country ski enthusiasts are over 55 years of age.
Some experts recommend taking a clinic to learn the basic techniques like how to “kick” or push off into a diagonal stride, rather than just shuffling along. You could also learn double poling, which is great fun, and the herringbone technique for going uphill. You’ll want to learn how to snowplow, to control your speed on a slick downhill run, and how to “track wedge,” where you lift one ski out of the track to use as a brake to avoid spills.
Waxless skis are maintenance free, but some cross-country skiers recommend waxable skis so that they can be waxed according to the temperature and snow conditions. Waxing clinics are offered at many sporting goods stores or by local ski clubs.
If you live in a rural area, you probably don’t have to go beyond your own backyard to get in some skiing. However, the Canada Trails website at www.canadatrails.ca shows 26 groomed areas throughout Manitoba.
Riding Mountain National Park alone boasts over 200 kilo-metres of packed and groomed trails, with easy, moderate and difficult options. Some skiers like to tackle the more difficult wilderness trails, like skiing into Cairns Cabin in Riding Mountain National Park.
Cairns Cabin is a log cabin on the Ochre River Trail, which can be booked by contacting the Riding Mountain National Park Administrative Office at 204-848-7275. The wood-heated cabin sleeps eight comfortably, with the maximum allowed being 12 people. For public safety reasons, the minimum number allowed in a party for overnight use of the cabin is three people. The charge is $24.50 per person, per night. Go to www.pemi can.org and follow the Ochre River links to see pictures of the exterior and interior of the cabin.
The cabin is always clean and well equipped with an axe, shovel, firewood and kindling. (There are sometimes a couple of pet mice, too!) Depending on the changing conditions, it can take between three and five hours to ski the 13.2-km wilderness trail that leads to the cabin. Take some emergency winter survival equipment as well as your food and sleeping gear. Going in one day and returning the next makes for a very strenuous two days, so it is usually recommended to go for three days, giving yourself a day to lay back and enjoy the surroundings.
If you are one of those people who straggle grudgingly into winter, the experience of cross-country skiing through a pristine, snow-blanketed landscape just may change your attitude.
– Candy Irwin writes from Lake Audy, Manitoba
perfectlytracked trailwiththe steadyrhythmof
pole.”Cool,fresh airinflatesyour lungsandyouare exhilarated.