In early February, I found myself agreeing to take my first cross country lesson. Of course, this adventure would be more fun with friends, so I quickly convinced three of my lady friends to join in on the fun.
Fresh snow had fallen the night before our lesson and the morning was crisp and beautiful. After checking in at the Solitude Nordic Center, we met with our instructor, Chuck. He asked if we would like a classic or skate skiing lesson. Being newbies, an explanation of the different types of Nordic skiing was necessary. Here’s what I learned: Classic is what most people picture when they think cross-country skiing. Your skis stay parallel to each other while you move your arms and legs in a running motion, gliding your skis across the snow. Typically you’ll see people moving in a track that has been set into the snow. Skate skiing requires more of a rollerblading motion, and your skis are in a V shape instead of parallel. For the alpine skiers out there, this is a very similar motion to skating on your alpine skis when trying to move across the flats. Chuck suggested that classic was a good place to start. We were outfitted with proper equipment (yes, the two different styles of Nordic skiing require different gear) by the experts in the rental shop and set out to learn the basics.
Once on the snow, our first goal was to learn the three techniques in classic cross-country skiing: diagonal, double pole and kick double pole. After a few practice rounds of each style and of course, the first falls of the lesson, we headed out on the Silver Lake trail and then onto Evergreen Loop. There, Chuck taught us proper techniques for going up and down hills, turning, slowing down, stopping, moving in and out of the track and etiquette. The top tips for proper etiquette I picked up include¬ -- move to the side if you have to stop and give up the right of way if you’re a slower skier or traveling uphill and meet another skier.
Once our lesson had finished up, Chuck took us to a trail map (which are located at various intersections around the Nordic Center trail system) and pointed out a few trails to try before we finished for the day. We took his suggestions and practiced our skills on Evergreen Loop before heading to Solitude Village to warm up and refuel at Honeycomb Grill. You guys, the bison burger was AMAZING, with fries of course, because we earned them!
Want to try your hand at sliding on skinny skis? The Solitude Nordic Center provides rentals, lessons, and clinics for all ages. They also rent snowshoes if cross country skiing sounds too intimidating! All of the trails are beautiful, and it’s a nice break from alpine skiing or snowboarding. In fact, a few years back I had some friends in town that didn’t ski, and snowshoeing at Solitude was the perfect way to introduce them to Utah’s majestic mountains.
With 25 years of alpine skiing under my belt, I walked into the lesson with confidence and out with a whole new appreciation for skinny skis, tall poles and the human power that pushes them through the snow.
Pro tip: Dress in layers as you can always shed them. Our lesson took place on a chilly morning; so, I found myself dressed in ski socks, leggings, a base layer, mid-layer and puffy and was very comfortable. I would also suggest lightweight gloves and a hat or headband depending on temperatures.