I was thinking of trying cross country sking or snowshoeing this winter in Park City area. I have no experience with either. I know they groom trails in golf course area and Round Valley area. Anyone have experience with either of these activities? How difficult is it to get the hang of cross country sking? Just curious as to people's thoughts of difficulty, fun factor, etc.
Cross country sking or snowshoeing
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If you can walk you can snowshoe.
Cross country sking is a different beast. My friend is a excellent snowboarder but can't alpine ski to save his life. He can cross country ski (classic style) with me on flats and uphill no problem. Going down hill however is a certain epic crash into a snow bank.
If you can telemark you will pick up cross country sking up very quickly.
If you can ice skate, you should be able to pick up skate style sking quickly as well.
I've never done any cross country skiing, but I have done a lot of snowshoeing. I love snowshoeing - it's hiking in the snow. If you're just looking to get outside without learning a whole new activity, it's great. You can pick up a pair for 100 bucks or less and just go. Snowshoes are really designed to give you float in deep snow, so if you're talking about groomed hardpack, you might be better off in boots or shoes, possibly with a Yak-Trax type system for traction.
Just like alpine vs tele, cross country has classic vs skate style. Both use specific but similar equipment. Snowshoes have also specific sizes depending if you like hiking on trails vs ungroomed snow, the latter being larger for more float.
XC, if you get anywhere good at it, is fun! It's an activity with glide in it, with speed, and energy.
Why would anyone tromp around slowly when they could move and glide faster with far less effort?
Also, re snowshoeing, although I generally like sports involving speed such as alpine sking and windsurfing, I also hike a bunch. Partly for exercise and partly to just be out in nature. So, the idea of hiking in a snowy landscape with the same ideas in mind doesn't bother me.
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Be careful of cheap snowshoes; often the bindings are garbage. The bindings need to keep the heel of your boot firmly in line with the snowshoe's axis as you walk. If you put your boot into the snow shoe and you can wiggle your heel left and right while the snowshoe remains stable, that's not good. DON'T buy. You'll be struggling to control the snowshoe the whole time you're walking around on the snow.
Classic XC is the shuffle and glide style, with skis parallel. With occasional double poling. They often run in groomed tracks. Skate style is well.. skating with skis. The motions are more explosive, the glide faster. Although sometimes you see XC-ers combine both styles.
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With big clown shoes.
I do snow shoe now and again but it takes a little getting used to. Especially off trail.
As opposed to the hipness of gliding around like a figure skater in ball-hugging tights?
In terms of snowshoes, I'd go with a set from a name brand like Tubbs, Easton, Atlas, etc. You can find plenty in the $100 to $200. Actually, I have a pair or two of used ones I could sell you if you're looking for something cheaper.
I'd look at the Tubbs Flex series. They're a plastic build without the rigid metal frame typical of a snowshoe. They have a little flex, which provides a more natural step. I only tested them briefly on packed-out snow, so I'm not sure if float suffers, but they were pretty comfortable and easy to get used to.
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Steve, if you are a good ice skater, (probably not living in Hawaii <g>), then skating shouldn't be too hard to pick up. But if not, then I would certainly start with classic. Remember the key to good classic style is to use your poles. A good deal of the push and energy comes from using your poles. I have never snowshoed, it holds no interest for me because it's just walking around in the snow, while xc skiing can be real good fun and fast.
Another thing, xc skiing can be dangerous going downhill. Just because you are an experienced downhiller, don't think blasting down hills on skiinny skis is the same. It is very hard to stop, while going fast, and control yourself and your FALL.
I think it's a good idea to give it a try. I xc ski much more than I downhill, it is really great exercise and a different type of whole body workout than downhill. Also, it is great training for downhill, both because of the aerobic exercise and the proprioceptive movements of keeping your feet in the tracks and doing the right thing at the right time.
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To over simplify, X-C skiing is to snowshoeing as jogging is to walking. I'm a casual X-C skier (classic), been doing it a couple times a year for about 30 years, back in the 90's it was 10-15 days. Being an alpine skier, it will be very easy for you to pick-up. As you get the feel of it you can pick up the tempo and it becomes almost like riding a bike on snow. Because you need boots, skis, bindings, poles, it will likely be more expensive to get into than snowshoeing, unless you find a good buy on used stuff or rent by the day, which could be fairly comparable in cost to snowshoeing. I went snowshoeing for the first time in my life last winter once. It's super mellow when moving on flat terrain at slow speeds. As others have said, like hiking on snow. Very easy to include non-sportsy friends/family with you. Personally, I like X-C skiing better because you can cover more ground, see more stuff, breath a little heavier, but it's all good.
Personally, unless you're a real spaz, or want to hike up steep, rugged terrain, nordic skiing is much more enjoyable than snowshoeing for me, which, as others have said, is like walking, but clumsier. If you have access to a groomed nordic facility, definitely give XC a go.
I would recommend classic, unless you are a good ice skater. Classic (also called diagonal stride), is a shorter learning curve and can range from slow and mellow to very aerobic. A trail groomed for classic skiing has sets of parallel tracks pressed into packed down snow, which makes it very easy to concentrate on moving forward and not controlling side-to-side movement.
Classic also works on ungroomed trails and in the backcountry, but requires slightly more skill. The trick is to get comfortable enough with it to glide, rather than just shuffle along. Many nordic centers offer lessons, which might be a good way to start. I don't know what's available in Park City, but I'm sure you could do better than a golf course, which can be dull (and hilly).
In contrast to classic, skating must done on a flat, groomed trail, or it won't be enjoyable. I've tried skating once or twice and didn't care for it, but that is because I was terrible and didn't have the time to put in to learn it. It is much faster and more high-intensity aerobic.
It's all personal preference, of course, but XC skiing can be as much or more fun as downhill, but in a different way. Gliding along in the quiet woods is magical, and mastering (surviving?) a short downhill with a turn at the end on skinny skis can be as much of a rush as downhill skiing. Like downhill resorts, nordic facilities rate the trails as easy, intermediate, and advanced.
As a downhill skier accustomed to rigid boots locked into a wide ski with sharp metal edges, you will probably have a hard time at first balancing on skinny skis just connected at the toe, but it's really not all that difficult after a little bit. XC backcountry equipment might be a little easier to ski on (but heavier), since the skis are a little wider, often have metal edges, and the boot and binding offers a little more support, but it's all fun. Enjoy!
I will probably start with a lesson this winter sometime. What got me thinking about it was mountain biking the round valley area in Park City. Mellow fun trails, some of which I know they groom in winter for X country sking. Looks pretty cool. Also, as I spend more time in Park City in the winter, I want to mix up my activiites. I don't want to get to the point where I'm burned out on alpine sking. I know it sounds impossible, but I sort of did that with windsurfing here in maui (20 years with relatively constant access to the sport) and don't want to repeat the mistake.
ADKS, thanks; you did a much fulller job of outling the sport. MS, if you're thinking about an adjunct to downhill, you're on the right track. Given your background with windsurfing, I'll bet you're hooked once you xc a couple of times on the local trails. It's a really nice way to be outdoors and using some different physical, mental, and emotional muscles.
If I were you, I'd start on fairly simple light touring gear, classic style. Go to a xc area to start, so you can depend on groomed tracks. Then, you can explore other places, or perhaps try skate skiing (which I think is a BLAST). Be aware that if you get really involved, you will also invest in equipment. Luckily, it's far cheaper than alpine, but I have classic, backcountry, and skate skis and different boots/bindings for each.
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Maui Steve, If you are a mountain biker then I recommend xc skiing, classic style. We don't get tons of snow here in Connecticut and in the winter I often bring both my bike and my xc gear to the local trails and make a gametime decision on which to use. You get into a nice groove or rhythm on the xc skis and gliding downhill on the skinny suckers, with ankle high boots that feel more like running shoes, is a great exercise in both balance and humility. Try it - you will like it. Like everyone else said, snowshoeing is just walking in the snow.
White Pine Touring Center has rentals and lessons: http://www.whitepinetouring.com/cross-country-adult.php, as does the Olympic venue, Soldier Hollow. http://www.soldierhollow.com/x_country_ski_school.php I'm sure there are others. Once you get your own skis, though, you'll be going everywhere!
Not sure that I have much to add, but since I spend way more days each winter on nordic gear than alpine, I feel strangely compelled to weigh in!
How much time do you spend in Park City each winter? My initial reaction to the OP was based off of an assumption that you were taking a destination trip and looking for some laterantive to fill one afternoon. With your location listed as Maui, I'm guessing you don't expect to do any snowshoeing or XC skiing at home, and I would have recommended jsut getting some snow shoes to tromp around in or some calssic gear to shuffle around in. If it is a one-and-done deal, you'll get plenty of enjoyment out of hiking through the snowy landscape and ski lessons might not be worth the extra effort and cost if you won't be able to develop the skills.
However, a follow up post suggest you might spend real time in Park City? If that is the case, ski for sure. Skinny skis are fun and an incredible way to rev up your aerobic engine. The only question is classic or skate, which has been covered above. How cold does it get in Park City? I think skating is more fun in general: it is faster and you don't need to futz around with dialing in your kick-wax (which won't be an issue your first time out anyway--most likely you'd be renting skis with scales). Once it gets colder, though, you lose a significant amount of glide and classic starts to shine. By colder, I'm talking below say -10 F.
The learning curves for skating versus classic are very different. Classic is pretty easy to get by at. Just about anyone can strap on some skis and effectively walk around. Learning the weight transfer and timing to get good glide takes a little more work, and really mastering the process takes a lot of time and work. Skating is hard right from the start. I don't fully agree that if you can (ice) skate you can (ski) skate. That is true to a point, but once the grade starts angling up you quickly start to figure out that there is a lot of technique that you need to learn. Once you get over the initial hump, there is still a lot of fine tuning to get good (read: fast), but you can cover a lot of ground. Whether classic or skate, a lesson is very worth while, and I think necessary for skating (and for performance oriented classic).
Others have noted the downhill aspect. Don't expect skinny skis without metal edges to turn like you are used to from your alpine gear! Step turning at the bottom of a hill and carrying your speed is a blast, but takes some getting used to!
(All of the above is assuming your headed to groomed trails for either skate or classic. If you're interested in light touring through ungroomed and untracked snow, well, that is a totally different beast, and as noted above skate gear will not do you any good without a wide, groomed track. I know some who oppose skating based on the infrastructure impact alone, but that is a whole 'nother kettle of fish.)
OK, I'm sold. I will definitely start out taking a lesson from White Pine. Part of my interest is that I have a condo in park City, and get there about 6-8 times a year. 4-5 of those trips are in winter. I'm 57 and would like to retire or at least work significantly less in about 5-7 years. Hoping to split my time between Utah and Maui with some side trips elsewhere. So, anticipating longer trips to utah, I thought it was a good idea to take up some other winter sports. I explored taking a CC lesson last year from WP, but never ended up doing it. Believe i will take the plunge this year. Re temps, my experience is that it is rare that PC would go below neg 10 F. And if it does, don't think I'll be CC sking. Thanks for all the responses. Definitely gives me a better idea of what I'm in for. Just one more question, and I know they will discuss in a lesson, but curious, how do you stop the skis on a downhill? Really can't even imagine how that works.
Are you trying to make everyone feel bad??
As far as stopping, it often involves falling on your ass as gracefully as possible!
To slow down, you can snowplow, though between plastic ski edges and floppy boots, the brakes aren't too good. Better to try to keep standing and ride it out. You can actually slow and turn the skis in a snowplow or perhaps a parallel turn (or telemark turn if you want to get fancy--I can't). As ftmsb mentioned, you can "step" turn, which is kind of picking up and shuffling each ski to make a turn. Some of the newer skis are designed to be shorter and stiffer for your given weight, with more sidecut, so they are easier to control. Seriously, the temptation is often to poke the snow in front of you with your poles to slow down. Bad idea; keep them behind you and sit down if needed.
The downside is that to accomplish my goal, I have to get even older than I already am. So far, I'm not seeing too much upside to this old age thing. And if it makes you feel any better, Maui is really far from everywhere else, so there's a fair amount of suffering in making those 8 trips.
You can do an effective hockey stop on skinny skis. That said, if the speed is too fast, the slope too steep, and the brake applied too hard, there is a risk of going a** over tea kettle. Like ADKS says, you can bleed speed just like on downhill skis by turning (snowplow or tele-like parallel). Really, though, most hills you encounter are punchy drops that you won't necessarily need to stop on unless something truly unexpected happens (moose suddenly appears in the trail, partner in front of you wipes out). In those cases, you do what you can, which sometimes means laying a hip onto the snow. Starting out, the issue will probably be making it around whatever turn waits for you at the bottom of a hill.
Some inspiration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWvAZRw1E9E. Maybe folks find watching XC ski races as exciting as watching bowling, but an explosive finish at the end of a 30-k for me is the equivalent of the annual TGS or Warren Miller big mountain footage that appears this time of year. Gets my heart rate up.
Yeah...what's with this Hawaii/Utah thing???!! This life sounds too good...
Anyway, you didn't ask, but I'll give one more piece of unsolicited advice. When you go to buy equipment (as you will after you try XC a few times), pay most attention to boots. Just like in alpine, they're the most important, and, just like in alpine, some will steer you towards comfort or economy. Only in XC it's not snugness of fit (although that does count); it's about support. So pay extra, get stiffer, more supportive boots. Even if you decide to stick with traditional style, there's nothing wrong with a high boot with a plastic heel counter and an ankle strap. I ski every day in combi boots: stiff enough for skating but soft enough for traditional. When it comes time to downhill or stop or turn, I'm way ahead of the guy in a pair of overly-soft, low-cut sneaker-style XC boots flopping all over the skis. You'd be surprised by how much control you can have with the right boot and a good NNN binding.