I am a fun seeker and lifelong alpine skier. But, last winter, I decided to expand my skiing horizon and take cross-country ski lessons. As it turns out, I had so much fun learning how to cross-country ski that I carved out space in the garage for my new skis: the skinny ones.
I opened the new chapter in my skiing life at the Mt. Bachelor Nordic Ski Center—along with five other newbies—via a multi-week, beginner’s course in classic skiing. My feelings of nervousness subsided as it sunk in we were all in this learn-to-ski-program together. We celebrated the small victories and grimaced at each other’s not-so-graceful spills on the cold snow. In all, the lesson was comfortable with enough instruction to keep me thinking and enough time to put theory into practice.
Beginning cross-country skier packages include the four-week “Intro to Nordic Skiing” program for both skate and classic techniques. Classic skiing involves gliding along in a pre-set track system, while skate skiing is a technique with a motion similar to ice skating. The popular “She’s on Skis” and “Broski” programs are geared towards advanced-beginner to intermediate level skate skiers looking to improve their techniques. “She’s on Classic Skis” is for advanced-beginner or better classic skiers.
Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation’s (MBSEF) Stevenson Youth Program is the “beginning of the pipeline for MBSEF and Nordic skiing” and the sport’s introduction to smaller kids. The Stevenson Program is all about having fun and emphasizes the use of games in the progression of learning in their ten-week program.
The Bend Endurance Academy Nordic program serves all abilities of youth and junior cross-country skiers. Their Nordic Youth Club introduces participants, ages seven to eleven, to “the basics of cross-country skiing and the joys of winter” in their eleven-week winter program offering one and two-day sessions.
Skiing surrounds us in Central Oregon and our long winter season is one of the many reasons why we have so many Nordic options. More than a dozen Central Oregon Sno-parks provide ample trails and backcountry pursuits for glide fun.
Meissner Nordic, operating out of Virginia Meissner Sno-park, hosts several free “learn to ski” events throughout the winter. Michael Coe, President of Meissner Nordic, enlists the help of local nonprofits XC Oregon and the Bend Endurance Academy to provide professional instruction to beginners. Many local Nordic ski shops help sponsor the introductory courses by offering free or steeply discounted rental rates. Virginia Meissner has almost forty kilometers of trails groomed four times a week, and all funded by donations from local businesses and individuals.
“Just go out and have fun!” Coe says. “Like any new skill, it will take time to practice but after a while (and maybe a few lessons) you’ll get the hang of it!”
J.D. (John) Downing established XC Oregon in 1998. Downing, who began Nordic skiing at the age of eight, has evolved XC Oregon into one of the premier Masters’ clubs as well as a “driving force for the development and promotion of XC skiing throughout Oregon and the greater Pacific Northwest.” XC Oregon offers several statewide outreach efforts for novice skiers centered around educating newbies to follow XC Oregon’s “best practices” in the great outdoors. One such event is their “Tour for the Heart,” held each January. The five kilometer ski and snowshoe tour encourages costumes and is a fundraiser for the American Heart Association.
XC Oregon’s Best Practices:
- Go to a professionally groomed ski area the first few times you ski so you can get consistently fresh-groomed tracks with full amenities on-site.
- Rent equipment as close as possible to the ski area so you know the equipment matches the snow and trails you will be on.
- Take a professional lesson from instructors trained to work with beginner skiers.
- For those who want to ski with their four-legged friends, DogPAC grooms three miles of trails appropriate for both skate and classic skiing at the Wanoga Sno-park on Cascade Lakes Highway en route to Mt. Bachelor. Weather permitting, the trails are groomed Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, with more frequent grooming during holidays.
- Whether you are a seasoned alpinist or new to snow, there is something out there for every cross-country skill set in Central Oregon. The key is getting out there and breathing in the crisp, cold air. Enjoy the beauty of simply gliding on snow.