Who, What, Where, Now!
Photography by Hailey Tucker
Growing up as an Alpine skier, I have to admit, I occasionally poked fun at Nordic skiing. I could never understand why someone would want to half ski, half hike up a hill before being able to go back down it, especially when there seemed to be some requirement to wear an odd unitard-like getup along the way. I used the term Nerdic skiing as the punch line for a joke or two and never considered that one day I might do the inexplicable and try the sport.
However, with an appreciation for the beauty of the surrounding wilderness, a body in need of a bit more exercise and a post-college-grad budget; I found myself toying with the idea of trying Nordic skiing this winter. After doing the math and finding an almost $1,500 difference between a season pass for Baldy and a Nordic pass for all the Sun Valley and Blaine County Recreation District (BCRD) trails combined, I was convinced. I would put my previous judgments behind me and this would be the year—I was going Nordic.
My first mission was to find skis. I decided to look for a pair of skate skis, opposed to classic skis (both are types of Nordic skis). I thought I would prefer the skating-like motion of skate skiing to the linear classic style. To my dismay, I quickly learned none of the shops around town offer seasonal Nordic lease packages for adults. However, in this process I also learned that Nordic skis are fitted by weight, opposed to height in Alpine skiing, and that for a persuasive, lighter-weight local, a large kid’s lease package would work just fine.
I walked out of Sturtevants with a set of skate skis, boots and poles for $159 for the season. Later, I discovered the Gold Mine offers a variety of Nordic skis for as cheap as $2 a pair. And although many give away their age with the glow of neon, geometric shapes from the 80s, I was told with a fresh coat of wax, they also would work for a beginner. Day and half day rentals are also available at the Hailey Sturtevants, Backwoods Mountain Sports, the Elephant’s Perch and Galena Lodge ranging from $16-$25.
The next step in my Nordic transformation was purchasing the pass. The bike path turns into a free Nordic trail in the winter, so that would always be a nearby, affordable option. But part of my new interest in the sport involved getting out of town and into the backcountry. Sun Valley offers a $20 day pass and a $250 season pass to their trails at the Nordic Center. The BRCD’s 160 km of trails, which include those in Galena and out Quigley Canyon, are priced at $15 a day for all trails and $199 for the season. The BCRD also offers special discounted passes for limited trail use.
After deciding to go all out and purchase a Sun Valley and BCRD combined pass for $420, all that was left was to learn. So, skinny skis in hand, I attended a free “learn to ski” clinic at Galena on Sunday. Despite the cold weather, more than 300 people, 110 of whom participated in the classes, came throughout the day to learn, refresh or improve their Nordic skiing skills. Erin Zell, Galena Lodge proprietor, said although the number of Nordic skiers on their trails has decreased over recent years, they have seen a large increase in the number of people learning for the first time this year.
When the clinic started, I couldn’t help but laugh as the pack of 20 or so dignified adults I was with suddenly began to resemble a flock of drunken penguins. Once the skis were on, collisions and collapses were common, and mild chaos ensued. Surprisingly, within a 45-minute time frame, our instructor was able to get everyone moving steadily on their skis in motions that at least vaguely resembled skate skiing.
The tips I pulled from the day for any newbies who missed the clinic include:
1. Start with your skis off. Learning the stance and motions are almost impossible to do while wearing the slippery suckers. If it’s your first time, have someone teach you the stance on solid ground first. It’s then easier to repeat what you learned when you put the skis on.
2. Layer your clothes. Generally going North implies colder weather, but Nordic skiing is a workout, so your body will heat up quickly. Wear enough layers to be warm when you start and cool once you’re heart rate is going. Avoid wearing snowpants. They do not offer the flexibility and breathability you need, and the other Nordic skiers will make fun of you.
3. Get low. Although your thighs and glutes may burn, you have to get low and keep low to glide on your skis and maintain your balance. Picture trying to pinch a pencil between the top of your foot and the bottom of your shin to give you an idea of how bent your knees need to be. And, as I was told, no matter how ridiculous you may feel in a deep squat, falling looks worse, so get down there.
4. Think about transferring weight, not moving. The clinic helped me understand to get the glide on skate skis, it is much more about transferring your full body weight from one side to the other than pushing off with your skis or pulling with your arms. The movement is primarily propelled by the weight transfer between feet.
5. It takes practice. Like any new sport, Nordic skiing takes time to learn. The movements are not intuitive to most people, and muscle memory takes a while to develop. Take a day or two to practice on a flat area before you try going around on one of the trails. If you spend a little time really focusing on the basic technique, it’ll make getting up and the down the hills on a trail easier.
I left the clinic feeling accomplished and excited to go again. Now that I have a grasp on the basic motions of skate skiing, I think I’ll enjoy the scenery the sport grants access to and the workout that comes along with it. And, although exercising in my Polarfleece tights doesn’t offer quite the image of steez I might like, it's fun and affordable, so I’m onboard.
Things to Buzz about:
Formula Sports Skoch Cup--Friday, Jan. 14 - Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011
Intermountain Masters super giant slalom racing on the Warm Springs side begins at 10 a.m. daily. The race is open to skiers 18 and older. A $40 entry fee is required. Registration runs 7:30-8:15 a.m. The race will be followed with a social hour at Apple's. Contact Ken Dreyer 720-7554 for more information.
ERC Snowshoe Birding--Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011
Go snowshoe birding at Silver Creek Preserve with Poo Wright-Pulliam Sunday, Jan. 16th, 2011. The group will meet at 9:45 a.m. and return at 2 p.m. The trip costs $10 for non-ERC members and $20 for families. Call 788-7910 or visit www.ercsv.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=666:snowshoe-birding-at-silver-creek-preserve&catid=100:winter-nature-workshops-2011&Itemid=366 for more information.
BCRD free learn to ski clinic—Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011
If you're feeling inspired to try and take up Nordic skiing as well, learn to ski for free at Quigley Canyon with the BCRD. All abilities welcome, and classic and skate clinics offered. For more information visit www.bcrd.org/Programs/adults/nordicskiclinics/tabid/108/Default.aspx or call 578-2273.