All ages and abilities can find their glide with cross-country skiing

Cross-country skiing is a great way for everyone from toddlers to seniors to enjoy winter.

Author

GERALD VANDER PYL

Cross-country skiing is a great way for everyone from toddlers to seniors to enjoy winter.

“You have to embrace winter if you’re going to live in Alberta,” says Finlay MacNeill, a programs co-ordinator with The University of Calgary’s Outdoor Centre. “Cross-country skiing is affordable and accessible, so maybe this is your year to try it.

“Its really low impact, so little kids can get on cross-country skis when they are young — as soon as they can walk you can put them on cross-country skis…. It’s a great family sport and way to get active in the winter.

“And as you age you can pick terrain suited to your ability. You don’t need to be barreling down a hill. There’s so much terrain that you can choose something appropriate for your age and ability.”

MacNeill recommends people start out on classic-style skis, “so you need boots, poles and skis, tuque and gloves and some warm clothes, and you’re off.”

Prices for a pair of new skis and bindings for an adult start from about $185, boots from $80, and poles about $30.

Some people might try to save money by buying used equipment, but that can backfire if the skis are not properly fitted for you, in particular the amount of arch along the ski from tip to tail, called the camber, she says.

“You can end up with a really flat ski that gives you no forward spring and glide. Or ones with a camber that you are too light to compress and then you won’t be getting the contact with the snow surface and the grip you need for forward momentum.

“So properly sized gear can make a big difference in your enjoyment of the day.”

MacNeill recommends renting skis to see if you like the sport before buying, and lessons are a good idea, too.

“You can just rent a pair of skis and head out, and there’s nothing wrong with just getting active. But just a little bit of instruction and all of the world of cross-country skiing really opens up to you.

“All of a sudden you’re gliding along and you really get the reward that the cross-country skis can give you — and that’s about being able to carry your momentum and speed and feel the nice glide.”

Once you’ve got the gear and a bit of technique, you don’t have to go far to ski, there are even great trails close to a C Train station.

Volunteers from the Calgary Ski Club have been grooming and track-setting about eight to 10 kilometres of trails at the Shaganappi Point Golf Course for decades, says Alasdair Fergusson, the club’s coordinator of track-setting.

The club recently received final approval from the City of Calgary for a snowmaking project to provide more reliable ski conditions, especially during Calgary’s chinooks, Fergusson says.

Groomed cross-country ski trails can also be enjoyed at the Confederation Golf Course, Maple Ridge Golf Course and South Glenmore Park.

Just a short drive outside Calgary is a large network of groomed trails at West Bragg Creek, while further afield are hundreds of kilometres of maintained trails in Kananaskis Country.

A good resource is ski enthusiast Bob Truman’s website SkierBob.ca, which has links to official trail reports and weather forecasts for various areas and reader-submitted reports on conditions in the mountains and Calgary.