Get Some Fresh Air While Cross Country Skiing
Last year I talked a little bit about downhill skiing. Red Lodge Mountain is the closest area to Billings, and usually offers some excellent skiing, especially this time of year. I also touched on cross country skiing, but I didn’t get too much into the sport. While I am not a huge cross country skier, it can be a fun way to get out there and get some exercise while enjoying nature during the winter.
There are two different types of skiing. There is alpine, this includes your downhill varieties. Alpine skiing is loosely defined as having a binding that fixes the boot to the ski with no movement. There is also Nordic skiing. This is how skiing was invented, and while it includes some downhill varieties it is loosely defined as having just the toe of the boot fixed to the ski, but letting the heel lift up. Many of the concepts are similar between cross country (a form of Nordic skiing) and downhill (a form of alpine skiing). The biggest difference between the two being with downhill you rely on gravity to provide the forward momentum, with cross country you provide the forward momentum.
Cross country skiing uses surprisingly less energy than one might imagine. You could put on snow shoes and hit the same trails, and you would be moving slower and exerting more energy. Or you could use cross country skis, cover the same ground faster, get a lot of exercise, and be outside experiencing the outdoors while having a lot of fun. It is a great way to get your heart rate up and play in the mountains at the same time.
There are many places near Billings that you can cross country ski. When I was younger my family would put on skis and trek through the golf courses (I’m not sure if many of the courses will allow this, so you might want to check before you go). But since the snow has not been too great in Billings the past two years, there are places that are a short drive away. You can head to Red Lodge and visit the Nordic Center for some groomed trails, or go a little further into the mountains and cruise the Lake Fork Trail for miles of back country skiing. If you want to add a little variety, Bohart Ranch is just a few hours away near Bridger Bowl outside of Bozeman. In fact, anywhere can offer some excellent skiing as long as there is snow.
The equipment needed for cross country skiing is relatively minimal. Of course all your regular winter gear, like hats, gloves, and snow pants, will be necessary. Specialty gear is simply boots, skis, and poles (which if you have a pair of trekking or downhill poles you can make do with those although the baskets are larger on cross country poles). Almost all the sporting goods stores in Billings will carry cross country ski equipment if you wish to purchase some, and many will also rent if you just want to try your hand at the sport before fully committing to it. When you go, make sure to bring a pack with water and food, and dress in layers. You will want to keep warm, but not get sweaty during your adventure. And remember, have fun and take a lot of pictures.
Where is your favorite place to cross country ski or snow shoe?
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