Dec 1, 2001 | Marmot, Winter 2001

Welcome to Cross Country Skiing by Julia Perrie

Chalk it up to sore knees from too many years of radical alpine skiing or the aging of the baby boomers... what ever the reason cross country skiing is growing dramatically in popularity.

Shafts of sunlight glint off crystalline snow as it hangs tremulously from gnarled fingers of soaring, ancient cedars. Icicles drip lazily making random pockmarks in the glittering paradise. Nestled under the canopy of drooping boughs two small, dark figures thread their way along a pattern of criss-cross trails stitched over a quilt of perfect white.

Whether you are young or old, casual or intense about sports, Cross Country Skiing has something for everyone. It offers high cardiovascular rewards without the jarring and pivoting of many aerobic sports and its smooth movements involve large muscle groups in both the upper and lower body. More than just a ski experience, Cross Country offers the pleasures of surrounding yourself in a soul-soothing winter wonderland while indulging your body in an aerobic work-out that is so invigorating there’s even an exercise machine designed to simulate the exhilaration.

Not only is Cross Country skiing good for your mind and body, it’s also lighter on the pocketbook. Where a full day Alpine adult pass will run you $45.00, a full day Cross Country adult pass comes in at an economical $17.00. High Five passes are also available to the Cross Country Skier for $75.00 per adult. This is a book of five one-day trail passes plus a coupon for 50% off your sixth visit. As an added bonus, Mt Washington has included one free Alpine Lift Ticket for each High Five package purchased!

Season passes can also be purchased for Cross Country skiing. An adult season’s pass purchased prior to September 30 is a low $145.00. Purchased after November 1st, the price rises to $179.00. Family passes are also available with the first adult paying the regular season’s pass price and the discounted rates applicable to the additional family members.

With Strathcona Park snuggled against the west side of the Alpine Ski resort, Mt Washington offers a Nordic adventure that is second to none. There are 55km of track set and skating trails on the mountain and in the park, some of which are lift serviced. There is something for all levels of fitness from easy to most difficult and everything in between. With so much snow and a scintillating variety of trails that range from gentle undulation all the way up to extreme challenges, Nordic Skiing is not to be confused with a stroll in the park but it can certainly feel like one.

The Red Chair accesses the Upper West Trail and the Discovery Platter will make your trip back to the Alpine Lodge a smooth glide. Most trails are groomed daily. It should be noted that after hours skiing is not permitted at Mt Washington.

In addition to Cross Country classic and skating skis, snow blades, snowshoes and children’s sleds are all welcome on the Cross Country trails.

All of these items are available for rent at Raven Lodge. A complete adult package of Classic Skis, Boots and Poles rent for only $19.00 per day versus an adult Alpine package for $28.00. Should you be interested in trying out some of the Nordic Demo Skis, Boots and Poles your adult rentals will run you $26.00. Once again, comparatively speaking, Cross Country Skiing comes in on the frugal side of your mountain experience.

Raven Lodge is the brand new 10,000 square foot post and beam Nordic lodge. It can be reached by turning left off Strathcona Parkway onto Nordic Road and heading west. You can’t miss it on your left hand side. Inside are dining facilities, rental area, sports shop, waxing area and a locker room with showers and a sauna.

Dressing for Cross Country skiing can be a challenge if you are not familiar with the climate and terrain. Since Mt Washington can experience a variety of weather conditions in a single day it is wise to dress in removable layers. Frostbite and hypothermia are both risk factors that need to be remembered when dressing for your day. Temperatures need not be extremely low for injuries of this type to occur. Factors such as wind-chill, age, physical problems and the use of medications also contribute to risk. Wet clothes are especially dangerous and are as much as twenty times colder than dry clothing. Depending on the length of time you intend to spend outside, carrying a change of clothes in your backpack is advisable. Keep in mind that children get colder faster than adults and should be dressed with this in mind.

Taking a backpack along is a smart idea. Since lack of fluids and low blood sugar are an important cause of cold related injuries, keeping a drink and a snack handy is a wise choice. Other items to keep in your backpack are: Small first aid kit, Cell phone or gps device, Walkie Talkies to connect you with your group or buddy, dry socks, gloves, underwear and sunglasses.
Skiing alone is just plain foolish. Not only does wildlife slink through the forest throughout all seasons but if for some strange reason you get lost it’s much easier for a buddy who is travelling the trails close by to locate you. A buddy can also alert you to cold induced problems that you may not even be aware of such as excessive moisture accumulation on your nose, cheeks and ears that can quickly turn to frostbite.

Despite the false sense of security created by the vast expanses of gently sloping terrain Nordic skiers also hurt themselves once in a while. The most common injuries are sprains/twists (43%), fractures (25%) and bruises (18%). These most often occur in the knees (26%), arms/hands (13%), and ankles (12%).

Among recreational skiers the reasons for these injuries include: poor condition of ski tracks (deep tracks, ruts, iciness, sharp bends etc), unsuitable or inferior equipment (slippery glass fibre skis, wrong type of wax, boot not matched to the skiing style, etc); poor balance and inadequate mastery of the cross-country skiing technique. More experienced skiers often suffer injuries associated with overuse. Skate skiing increases the frequency of overuse injuries. This includes problems with the Achilles tendon and lower back. Proper training with stretching and strengthening exercises will help prevent some injuries.

Attention to equipment is important for prevention of traumatic and overuse injuries. Boots, poles, and skis should be properly fitted to the skier and skiing style to help minimize the potential for falls and overuse injuries. Properly waxed skis can prevent repeated backward slipping on icy, hard tracks, which can overstress muscle-tendon units.

The best way to avoid injury is to take lessons. There are programs available for everyone from beginners to more experienced skiers. You can choose from Discover Cross Country, Semi-Private or Private Lessons at costs that start at $23.00 per hour. Registration is at Raven Lodge and we recommend you book your lesson in advance to ensure availability.

The Strathcona Nordics are the local cross country club. A visit to their excellent web site is well worth the time. It is informative and easy to navigate. Their web address is:

Cross Country Skiing is an adventure for the entire family. From grandparents to grandkids, the delights of a wilderness afternoon await you on Mt Washington. Oh, and don’t forget to bring breadcrumbs. If you’re lucky you’ll get a Whiskey Jack to land on your hand.

For more information on Cross Country Skiing please visit Mt. Washington’s web site at:

More from this Issue