Go Play: Nordic skiing for beginners on Grand Mesa
WHAT: Nordic skiing on Grand Mesa
WHERE: 10 miles north of Powderhorn Mountain Resort cutoff
ABOUT GRAND MESA NORDIC COUNCIL
Grand Mesa Nordic Council (GMNC) started in 1990. It is a volunteer-based nonprofit that manages the groomed trails on the Grand Mesa.
According to GMNC’s website, there are three different trail systems — Skyway, County Line and Ward — starting 10 miles passed Powderhorn Mountain Resort. Skyway is the most popular of the trails, especially for beginners and races.
There are more than 500 GMNC members, which helps fund the grooming operations and other additions to trails.
In 2012, the group built a warming hut at the Skyway trail area with membership and donation funds.
Clinics and kids camps are also offered for members and non-members.
According to Kristina Kittelson, membership director for Grand Mesa Nordic Council, the nonprofit spends about $65,000 per year, most of which goes to grooming operations.
Membership costs $45 for an individual or $75 for a family. Members receive discounts on clinics as a way to continue funding for groomed trails.
For more information, visit www.gmnc.org.
The Grand Valley is known for it’s world-renowned mountain and road biking, but for most folks those sports end once snow flies. Enter Nordic skiing: it’s a good way to stay in shape, enjoy winter and cross-train.
Thanks to the Grand Mesa Nordic Council’s memberships and donations, more than 30 miles of groomed trail on the Grand Mesa is available fee-free.
“We are really about building a community because all the people running it are volunteers,” said Kristina Kittelson, membership director for Grand Mesa Nordic Council.
TIPS FOR BEGINNERS
Though learning the basics of Nordic skiing are simple, a lesson for folks new to the sport is always recommended. Taking a private lesson through the Grand Mesa Nordic Council ($65 for non-members) is a great way to start.
“There is an emphasis for first-time skiers to have a lesson because it’s not hard to learn,” said Callie West, Grand Mesa Nordic Council’s adult program coordinator and skier for more than 50 years. “But if you’re unfamiliar, you need someone to help you get set up with the basics like body position, weight transfer and balance.”
Clint Roberts, who is an expert Nordic skier and certified ski instructor since the 1970s, will break down skills to build self-esteem and confidence. He works one-on-one with new skiers on groomed trails.
According to Roberts, Nordic skiing is all about the motion of the arms and legs moving simultaneously and fluidly.
During the lesson, he also suggests that new skiers pay attention to small details — like how to use the skis when turning and climbing up hills.
Nordic skis are thinner than alpine skis, so tipping over and rolling can be a worry. Watching and mimicking how an instructor moves arms, legs, hips and torso also helps beginner skiers learn.
It’s important to be relaxed and loose during a lesson as muscles tend to freeze up and tighten during first-time skiing, Roberts added.
NORDIC SKI GEAR
To ski, gear needed includes skis with bindings, boots, and poles. Pricing varies depending on brand, use and if gear is used or new.
Skis differ depending on use as well — touring skis versus groomed-track skis — so it’s important to differentiate before you buy (and try both if you’re new to the sport).
Skis are narrow, typically 60-70 millimeters wide, to fit into groomed ski tracks. Touring skis are typically wider. Length of the skis depend on a skier’s height and weight. Nordic skis also have a slight bend to them; this is to help with gliding from one ski to the other. And when it comes to the bindings, the foot isn’t fully bound to the ski — it is only attached at the toe to help with movement.
Boots are more like a tennis shoe than an alpine-ski boot. The softer shoe helps with flexibility and movement.
Poles should reach from ground to armpit. Roberts suggests to rent or purchase poles that have a basket on the end, which helps poles grip the ground.
If you ride bikes during the fall and winter months, you likely already have clothing needed to go Nordic skiing. West and Roberts both suggest to dress in layers. Material to be worn should either be wool or synthetic as cotton isn’t breathable.
“Think of it like you are going out for a jog,” West said. “You will warm up from the core outward.”
A minimal hydration pack or a water bottle in a hip-pack is also recommended.
Nordic skiing can be done in a variety of ways to accommodate skill level and terrain — from racing around tracks to trekking through an open field. And if you’re familiar with ice skating, some motions are similar. Downhill-skiing techniques apply as well, including snow-plowing.
Remember how to get up and recover; take note that everyone falls, even experienced skiers.
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