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From the January/February 2017 issue of Iowa Outdoors magazine
Some bill it as the world’s greatest aerobic activity. While they may be right, you can set your pace at a leisurely saunter or a heart-pounding adventure for adrenaline junkies.
“Anyone who can walk can cross-country ski,” says Tom Wilton of Polk City, a skiing enthusiast who skis 3.5 miles of groomed trails at nearby Big Creek State Park. “It is
a lifetime sport.”
Skiers relish getting outside during the winter with an activity that keeps them warm and offers views of the winter landscape, wildlife and solitude, enhanced by sound-dampening snow.
“It can be quite peaceful and there are the health benefits, too. I like the cardiovascular benefits,” says Wilton.
Getting started is as easy as borrowing or renting skis, boots and poles. Check with county conservation offices for outings. Beginners start on touring skis, typically waxless. Avid skiers may have several pairs for specialized uses—touring skis for general use, skate skis for freestyle (a motion that mimics ice skating) and the more standard waxable classic stride skis.
“Start with just trying to walk and stay upright, then try to get some glide going—that’s where balance and practice come in. The more time you spend on skis, the more comfortable you get,” he says.
Finding a place to ski is easy. Virtually anywhere with snow will suffice. Novices should look for flat terrain in woods, parks and river valleys. You can blaze your own trail in fresh snow, or follow existing tracks.
“I’m hooked on the exhilaration when you glide along on a ski. When gliding, you are not expending as much energy. As your technique gets better you can go farther and faster with less effort. It puts a big smile on your face.”
Ski Trail Etiquette
• Hikers, dog walkers and snowmobiles should stay off groomed ski trails and use multiuse trails instead.
• Do not walk or run on groomed ski trails.
• Ski the right direction on one way trails. Keep to the right on two-way trails.
• Leave space between you and other skiers
• Let others know you are approaching and passing from behind by calling out “on your left.”
• Do not block ski trails or intersections. When stopped, step to the side out of tracks. If you fall, move off the track as quickly as possible.
• Carry out what you carry in.
• Skate skiers should keep off classic tracks.
• Move off trail to allow grooming equipment to pass.
• If you fall and make a divot on a groomed trail, fill it in with packed snow.
• Downhill skiers have the right-of-way.
• If going out near dusk, wear a headlamp and take basic emergency supplies such as water, a heat reflective blanket and a change of clothes in the car.
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