This article was originally written by Roger Lohr, co-founder and editor-in-chief of XCSkiResorts.com. It has been edited to better fit this format and type of content.
Cross country (XC) skiing benefitted from a surge of interest during the pandemic last winter as people flocked to outdoor recreation. XC skiing gets you into winter outdoors and your immersion in the environment on skis can also help with your wellness as XC skiing is known for delivering physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Alpine skiers and snowboarders who may be concerned about long lift lines this winter may want to consider an alternative that is far less expensive and without worrisome lift lines. Making a transition to cross country can be easy and rewarding.
The most obvious suggestion for a positive introduction is to take a ski lesson. Here are some recommendations to get started from XCSkiResorts.com for the best ways to discover XC skiing across the nation:
Close to Boston, Weston Ski Track, is a local county-owned golf course that is accessible by public transportation. They have snowmaking to guarantee the snow cover and lights to ski at night. A 75-minute session covers the basics for newcomers to XC skiing such as the motion, turning, and negotiating small hills. A package of rental gear, a lesson, and trail access starts at $44 for kids and $64 for adults. There are well-priced multiple session packages, too.
Further north in New England is Great Glen Trails in Gorham, NH. Proprietors encourage people to plan ahead and book on-line due to a limited number of slots for a 75-minute group lesson. Skiers practice putting on boots in the bindings on the carpet inside the lodge. The small group lesson coaching goes at a pace that is comfortable for the whole group to learn gliding, stopping, and getting up (just about everyone falls on the snow when they begin skiing). The views of Mt. Washington are dramatic.
The folks at the famous Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT (think The Sound of Music) like to start many newcomers on a softer ski and help them with basic techniques such as the kick and glide motion on skis, using the poles, and how to stop. These skills help beginners get control on the skis. The soft ski makes it easier for skiers to turn and stop. Woodstock Nordic Centerat Vermont’s Woodstock Inn & Resort has a golf course behind the inn that is a flat area with a picturesque creek running through it. Their unique 20-minute “Mini Clinic” is perfect for the first-time skier and it includes the trail pass, one hour equipment rental and a lesson for $50. Get their four-lesson deal to accelerate mastering XC skiing.
Lapland Lake Vacation Center in Northville, NY (near Albany) customizes the introduction of the sport to the skier’s level of ability. Learning terrain is a wide modest downhill and a run-out to make skiers feel more comfortable.
Further south, the White Grass Ski Touring Center offers what is probably the best XC skiing in the mid-Atlantic. Located in Davis, WVA , this Canaan Valley region also is home to two Alpine areas – Canaan Valley State Park and Timberline. White Grass charges $20 for an hour-long beginner lesson, $10 for what they call a mini lesson, technique tips offered in 15 – 20 minutes, and $30 for advanced lessons on skating, telemarking or downhill control.
The Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Roscommon, MI where on weekend mornings you can take advantage of free lessons for beginners in classic or skate skiing. Their Winter Trails Day is on January 8, 2022 when there will be free access to the facility and a lesson with a complimentary hot cocoa and hot dog cookout; XC gear rentals (if needed) cost $9.
Maplelag Resort in Callaway, MN is a family-oriented operation. They advertise that they go out of their way to make sure people feel comfortable with new adventures like XC skiing or snowshoeing because they want new customers to come back for more. Maplelag has a community-based attitude. Often, guests who are experienced skiers help provide extra attention to first-timers. The approach seems to work as Maplelag is mostly fully booked during 52 years of operation!
The operators at Breckenridge Nordic Center (CO) offer a 20% discount if you register on the Internet for a group lesson. They specialize in working with people who have never been on snow and “share the joy of the XC skiing by helping skiers learn efficiency and control”. Josh Dayton, who runs the operation, has produced a 9-minute video that first timers can access with a QR code. Newbies are encouraged to watch it in advance as it covers touch points about controlling the skis and maintaining balance. Resort staff ambassadors offer ski tips to anyone. At the resort itself, a staff person is immediately available to help skiers put the equipment on, review the trail map, talk about body balance, etc. Visitors to Breckenridge Nordic with old equipment can get a free upgrade offer intended to show how new gear can make the experience more enjoyable.
The Lake Tahoe, CA region boasts numerous ski areas. Tahoe Donner Cross Country has low cost opportunities to help people learn basic ski skills while having a blast on the trails. The $87 member price is for a group lesson package that includes the rental gear, a trail pass, and a 75-minute lesson or tour with an instructor and other beginners.
The XCSkiResort.com web site is chock full of beginner information as well as information for all levels.