Heath and Fitness: Nordic " The cross-country way to health
February 2, 2009
There’s a reason why cross-country skiing simulators are popular home gym equipment: the low-impact, all-body workout is great exercise. And cross-country skiing in the great outdoors is an excellent way to stay fit and get outside to beat cabin fever.
The good news is that Grand County is ripe with opportunities to get out and kick it on some sticks, and there are about five months of adequate snow each year to do it.
Cross-country skiing, also called Nordic skiing, is all about self-propulsion and you only get out of it what you put in. Top cross-country racers can burn as many as 900 kilocalories per hour, more than distance running but without all of the pounding on tender joints, but even just getting out to shuffle around on a sunny day is a chance to stay moving during the cold winter months.
The sport is an all-body exercise, as skiers use their arms, legs and the core in equal measure, while at the same time lengthening as they stride. And unlike Alpine skiing, where skiers are locked into their boots, cross-country gear allows the skier to lift their heels, making for far fewer injuries.
Nordic skiing produces impact forces of about 1.5 times body weight on the joints compared to 3.5 times body weight for distance running, and Nordic skiing’s injury rate is 10 times less than that of Alpine skiing.
Cross-country skiing is divided into two disciplines. “Classic” skiing is the historic form of the sport, where the skier kicks their back heel to propel forward, the skis staying parallel to their direction and often following two grooved tracks. In recent years, however, skate skiing has become the new standard, and lightweight skis with edges allow skiers to dig into snow and push off from ski to ski, much like an ice skater.
Backcountry meadows and snow-covered fire roads make for ski touring opportunities around just about every corner in Grand County, but beginners might want to start out with a lesson at one of the handful of local venues where you can rent equipment and ski on set tracks made for classic skis or on groomed flats with skate skis.
Devil’s Thumb Ranch, in a valley just off Highway 40 near Tabernash, is a historic agricultural valley turned year-round outdoor play center. The stunning site is ringed with snowcapped peaks and plays host to weddings and events year-round. Upscale amenities include fine dining, a spa and swimming, as well as winter sleigh rides and a roster of outdoor activities. But for many it is the 125 kilometers of Nordic trails that are the real attraction.
A day pass at Devil’s Thumb costs $18 for adults and $8 for kids and seniors. Rentals and lessons are available. Get more information at http://www.devilsthumbranch.com or call 800-933-4339.
Just west of Devil’s Thumb on the high ridge between Tabernash and the town of Granby sits the sprawling expanse of Snow Mountain Ranch operated by YMCA of the Rockies. The area boasts some 100 kilometers of groomed (both classic and skate) trails and a day pass for adults costs $15 ($8 for kids age 6 to 12), with lower rates for YMCA members. Find them online at http://www.ymcarockies.org or call (970) 887-2152 X 4173.
Further north, the Grand Lake Touring Center is a 35-kilometer network of trails. Ski rental is available and there are regular clinics. A day pass costs $12 ($5 for kids under 16) and discount punch passes make for good discounts. Find them online at ww.grandlakerecreation.com or call (970) 627-8008.
SolVista Basin (www.solvista.com), which is an Alpine ski area in Granby, also offers 30 kilometers of cross-country ski trails. And in the Kremmling area, Latigo Ranch is a destination resort near Gore Pass. It offers 50 kilometers of trails for cross-country trails for its guests and residents of Kremmling.
If you choose to explore any Grand County backcountry trails on your own, be sure you have maps and are fully prepared for all conditions. Also be sure to check with local authorities about potential avalanche areas.