With heavy snowfall finally accumulating in the Bear River Mountains, it’s time to dust off your cross-country skis or snowshoes and head for the valley’s popular winter sports destinations.
Trail grooming in Green Canyon officially started on Dec. 17, but several inches of new snow this week have made the trail just right for the first run of the season.
And if this will be your first try at cross-country skiing, there are plenty of local resources and experts to help anyone break into this healthy and relatively inexpensive winter sport.
Cache Valley’s own Nordic United is a non-profit group dedicated to promoting winter recreation in Northern Utah. The group’s director, Mimi Recker, said membership opportunities abound, and it’s easy to get the whole family involved for a small annual fee.
“Nordic United started about 10 years ago to bring together people who are interested in non-motorized winter recreation,” said Recker. “We bring together skiers, snowshoers and dog mushers. We’re here for advocacy and to provide more of those recreation opportunities.”
Each year Nordic United teams up with the U.S. Forest Service and the city of North Logan to groom about four miles of trail in Green Canyon.
The group’s website, nordicunited.org, lists trail grooming reports, scheduled events, newsletters and links to winter sports information. Recker says the group can also help residents learn more about the equipment and technique required to learn the sport.
A lot of beginners learn to cross country ski using the classic technique in which the skis generally follow parallel tracks carved into the snow. Skate skiing, on the other hand, requires users to propel themselves by pushing off the inner edge of each ski as they angle it outward, as an ice skater would.
“Of course each variety has its aficionados,” says Recker. “But both are excellent winter activities and an excellent form of aerobic exercise.”
Brian Shirley, coordinator for Utah State University’s Outdoor Recreation Program, says he moved to the Western United States to be in the mountains and to learn to ski and he said Cache Valley is a great place to do both.
“We have these amazing resources next to us and it appears that only a small percentage of the community takes part in them,” he said. “And they’re not just these big things that block the sun until late in the morning. They’re an amazing and complex resource.”
When the ORP opens for the season on Jan. 7, Shirley says anyone in the university community can rent cross-country ski packages for $16 a day or $22 for the weekend.
Shirley says the ORP doesn’t want to compete with local businesses that rent ski packages, so prices are slightly higher there compared to commercial shops.
When it comes to selecting the right equipment, Shirley says his staff can outfit skiers of all ages and sizes.
Today’s cross country skis are built with a camber that acts like a spring when weight is applied to the top. When the skier pushes down on the ski, the portion directly below each foot sticks to the snow to prevent the skier from sliding backward. Shirley says the trick is to choose a camber that allows the skier’s weight to compress the camber, but with enough play that it bounces back up to propel them forward.
“It’s like having springs on your feet,” said Shirley. “The idea of a camber is that when you step, it’s like a spring. Your weight adds energy to the ski and then the energy is recoiled back into you.”
Shirley says he can ski to the end of the groomed trail in Green Canyon and back in about two hours — a much faster pace compared to hiking. He says he encourages anyone interested in learning more about the sport to visit the ORP.