Lessons From a First Time XC Skier

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written by Jennifer Halley 

Quick! Get out in the snow one last time before the winter wonderland of Hoodoo is melted away and that yellow orb in the sky finally makes its appearance again (yes, it will still show up, despite those rumors). Pull on that winter jacket you’ve hung up in the back of the closet already and end the winter season by giving cross country skiing a go. Trust me: you’ll be happy you did. And don’t worry, your legs screaming at you the next morning will be meant in the best way possible.

Cross Country skiing is exhilarating and exhausting and amazing. It’s half hiking: the snow was coming down by the bucketful during my trip, something that was just beautiful to watch while we were trekking through the woods (anyone a fan of Robert Frost’s Snowy Woods?). And then every now and again, a hill comes along and you’re forced to roll down it – because what else are you going to do – and there you are, fighting to stay up, which you do, surprisingly, only to drift right into a massive snow bank that pushes you down. It’s an absolute blast. I laughed a lot during that trip, mostly at myself.

But as with every adventure I’ve tried out this wintery season, there are some things I would do differently next time so as to make sure my trip goes even better next time. Follow these guidelines, people, and you’re sure to have the perfect experience.

XC21. Layers. You don’t need them (at least not when your skiing).

I’ve mentioned this before in my snowshoeing trip review, so I’m gonna say it again (because apparently I’m a slow learner): you don’t need a lot of layers. I set out with two thermals, a t-shirt, a hoodie and a snow jacket, as well as thermal pants, running leggings and snow pants. Yeah, it was a bit much. At the end of the trip, I had stripped down to one thermal layer, the t-shirt and the snow jacket, and I was still fairly warm. So bring warm layers for when you stop moving but make sure you’ve got breathable clothing to move in. You’re going to get a workout. You’re going to sweat.

2. Bring a pair of snow goggles.

I had sunglasses on for the first half of the trip and the entire time they kept fogging up; I couldn’t see. My friend let me borrow his pair of snow goggles and they worked like magic. No fog. No mess. Definitely an item that should be a part of your cross country ski gear.

3. Limber up.

Zombie Land, anyone? But really, a few moments of stretching those quads out would do you some good. My legs and thighs were Jell-O afterward and, really, doing such a strenuous activity with cold muscles isn’t the best idea. Whether its downward dog or cat-cow, do yourself a favor and limber up.

4. H2O

I don’t think this tip needs very much explaining. Drink lots of water during and after the trip. Simple. It can be annoying when, uh, nature calls when you’re in nature, but being dehydrated is not good. If you want a beer or a delicious marionberry vodka hot chocolate like I had post-ski, that’s fine. But accompany that drink with water. Your body will thank you.

5. Fuel up.

Thankfully, my group had snacks to munch on but if we hadn’t: it would have been miserable. Bring along a mix of carbs, healthy fats and protein. Cliff bars, bananas with peanut butter, crackers, dried fruit, and trail mix are all good examples of what to bring along. And of course, a good juicy burger and a beer for post-trip isn’t a bad way to go, either.

And overall, stay safe and have fun. The winter time doesn’t have to be bleary and miserable; it’s the perfect time to try out new hobbies and discover a new appreciation for things. Eat up these last bits of cold and snow, folks. You’ll miss it when it’s gone.XC1

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