This winter, give cross-country skiing a try

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — The first time I ever went cross-country skiing, I wondered if I would ever get the hang of it. Then 15 minutes later, I found my groove — that kick and glide motion that scoots you along.

I still wasn’t any good at it, but at least I was having fun, and I could see a bright future in the activity.

If you’d like something more than hanging out at indoor gyms this winter (or worse yet, couching up with TV or YouTube cat videos), make a vow to give the recreation a try.

The next winter storm or two will drop enough snow to start heading to the trails to give the recreation a go.

Here are a few tips to aid success in adopting this recreation:

— Go with some patient friends who are veteran Nordic skiers.

— Rent skis (rather than buy them) and try out different styles, sizes and brands during a couple of different outings before you buy. Different models have different strengths and weaknesses. As a general rule, narrow and long skis are faster but less agile and work fine on groomed tracks. Wider and shorter skis are slightly slower but more versatile and stable, working a little better on ungroomed areas.

On the central Kenai Peninsula, find cross-country skis at Beemun’s Bike and Ski Loft on the Kenai Spur Highway in Soldotna, 907-262-1234, and at Wilderness Way on the Sterling Highway in Soldotna, 907-262-3880. Beemun’s offers ski rentals.

— Start out on mostly flat trails. Good starter trails can be found at Tsalteshi Trails, which has trail heads at Skyview Middle School and on Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna; at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge headquarters area on Skill Hill Road in Soldotna; on the Kenai Golf Course in Kenai; and at the Nikiski Pool in Nikiski. Trail conditions will improve with fresh snow, which is in the forecast this weekend.

— Learn how to dress. The classic beginner mistake is to overdress or to wear a heavy winter coat. After half a mile of this aerobic activity, you will want to shed the heavy coat. Instead, wear layers of thin but warm items that allow you to fine tune your temperature depending on the conditions.

— To best accommodate layers of clothing and food and water, wear a small backpack. A simple book pack or daypack works best.

— Expect to experience some of the most beautiful backcountry scenery of your life.

“Especially when a light snow is falling and all the trees are touched with white,” my wife Julie says. “It’s just magical.”

Clarion editor Will Morrow contributed to this story.

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