To Ski or Not to Ski

By Sona Mason, West Hudson Program Coordinator


The window for cross-country skiing in our region is very small. Make the most of it! (Photo credit: Sona Mason)

Although Nordic skiing often tops those charts that rate calorie-burning activities, I find that a little hard to believe–does anyone ever feel as out of breath on skis as when running? Maybe it has to do with speed. Like other exercise, how fast you go ratchets up your energy expenditure, and my pace while skiing is probably more in the leisurely range… which reflects need for a review of the aforesaid charts.

You certainly don’t need to be an Olympic-level athlete to enjoy cross-country. There are two types of Nordic skiing: classic and skate skiing. Skate skiing, which resembles ice skating with giant “skates,” is likely the one that accounts for the higher calorie burn, as it is incredibly aerobic and faster than the traditional classic technique. But skate skiing requires more skill and balance, so most people start off with classic, which resembles striding with extra glide. Each type uses different skis; skating requires a wide, groomed track, while classic can go almost anywhere–including the backcountry.

Unsuspecting hikers in our parks this winter may have encountered a pair of flat tracks in the snow. That would be the long, skinny footprint of a backcountry skier. Creating that track usually requires some effort on the part of the first skier out in virgin terrain. Thus when a subsequent skier discovers post-holes that a walker has made through the tracks, the temptation to catch up with and poke them in the behind with a ski pole is almost irresistible, since they will have rendered the track unstable. Human feet leave large holes and kick-ups in the snow, which send skis into a wobble. After a night freeze cycle, the track can become unusable. So a special plea to hikers: Please walk next to and not on the ski tracks. Skiers have such a small window within which to make the most of the glorious white stuff, while hiking can be had all year.

For the curious snow-hiker who has never given it a try, the special charm of cross-country skiing lies in the smooth, dancing, graceful motion, with a free glide over the snow that snowshoes cannot give. So make the most of the gorgeous snow out now and experience a float through the white landscape. It’s not going to around all that long.

Ready to strap on some skis and explore our region? We’ve got tips on where to find the best parks and trails for cross-country skiing in New York and Jersey, including where to rent equipment.

About Trail Walker

Since 1920, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has partnered with parks to create, protect, and promote a network of more than 2,100 miles of public trails in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region. The Trail Conference organizes volunteer service projects that keep these trails open, safe, and enjoyable for the public. We publish maps and books that guide public use of these trails. The Trail Conference is a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization with a membership of 10,000 individuals and 100 clubs with a combined membership of 100,000 active, outdoor-loving people.
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One Response to To Ski or Not to Ski

  1. XCR says:

    I appreciate the plea to hikers to step to the side of xc ski trails. Do you know of a site where backwoods skiers can post about conditions of various sites in NJ? I am planning a trip to Jockey Hollow/Lewis Morris this weekend, and am hoping that enough skiers have been out to have soften the icy crust.

What do you think?