There’s no better way to explore and enjoy the stunning scenery of northeast Iowa’s national parks than on skis. The already glorious landscapes take on a special winter magic when covered in a sparkling blanket of freshly fallen snow. Cross-country skiing is about the greenest form of transport there is – no ski lifts to spoil the view; no noisy, fume-belching snowmobiles to frighten away the wildlife – just you and your skis, moving smoothly across the snow.
Cross-country, or Nordic, skiing was the original form of ski travel and was invented millennia before the downhill variant of the sport. The skis and boots you need are lighter and more comfortable than for downhill skiing and although the activity will give you a great aerobic workout, it’s much safer and accidents are far less frequent. That’s not to say that the occasional gently downhill sections of the trails don’t provide a moderate level of thrills which make the extra effort of negotiating the uphill sections well worth it.
Who can do it?
The simple answer is anyone; kids as young as two can be put on a mini set of cross-country skis very safely and adults of all ages can pick up the technique by starting on flatter trails until their fitness levels increase and their basic skills develop. The sport is pretty energy intense and even if you expend just moderate effort, you’ll burn anything up to 700 calories per hour. To be on the safe side, anyone with a heart condition or other medical problems should consult their doctor before heading out onto the trails and always carry a fully charged up mobile phone in your backpack in case of medical emergency.
There is a definite technique to cross-country skiing. Check out the following Youtube video for guidance from an expert.
What gear to take
The best wardrobe to opt for is a combination of layers of snugly fitting, breathable fabrics to provide warmth and comfort. Cross-country ski boots are far more comfortable than downhill boots.
Northeast Iowa has some fabulous cross-country skiing trails right across its state parks, many of which have winter log cabin camping facilities. What more magical way to spend a winter weekend than a day’s skiing and wildlife watching followed by a reviving glass of mulled wine or hot chocolate in front of a roaring log fire as the snow swirls down outside the window?
You can find details of all northeast Iowa’s ski trails and parks together with important seasonal information here.
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.