Travel Blog

27 Jan

Cross-country skiing: The great-great-grandparent of ski sports

Winter in Vancouver is built around the pursuit of powder. But have you tried all the options? Sure, alpine skiing is exhilarating and snowboarders get to use words like “shred.” In this post, however, I’d like to revisit the glory of classic cross-country skiing.

In the words of Jackrabbit Johannsen (Canadian XC ski hero who cut tracks through age 111): “Running is an act of will; skiing an act of spirit.” He’s referring to the bliss of the perfect cross country diagonal stride: you drive forward with each with each skinny ski, swinging the opposite arm and gliding swiftly.

With 19 km of cross-country trails at nearby Cypress Mountain and 56 km of world-class terrain at Whistler Olympic Park—just two hours away in the breathtaking Callaghan Valley—there’s no shortage of opportunity. If you haven’t yet tried classic cross-country skiing, I hope this motivates you:  

Whistler Olympic Park cross-country trails by Taraneh Ghajar Jerven

Why classic cross-country skiing?

You’ve probably heard about the fitness perks of XC skiing, the great-great-grandparent of all ski sports. It’s ranked as one of the best aerobic exercises—using arms, legs and core strength. At the same time, cross-country skiing is incredibly kind to your body; it won’t cause strains or joint damage, which is why it’s so popular among people with sports injuries and the older crowd.

Beyond fitness, XC makes a great group activity. At a pace that’s more than a walk but less than a jog, you can hit the trails with a friend and catch up on life while taking in winter wonderland scenery. I married a Norwegian so for me, learning was practically mandatory. I’m still a rookie. That being said, we find that XC skiing after work on the lit trails at Cypress Mountain is the best activity for de-stressing on a weeknight.

Once you master the balance of the stride (gliding push with hips forward and pendulum arms) you get to feel the hyped floating feeling as you make time across the snow.

Cross-country skiing at Cypress Mountain

With new snow falling daily up at Cypress, now’s the time to test their 19 km of expertly groomed XC trails, 7.5 km of which are lit for night skiing. Cypress also offers single and multi-day classic XC lessons for beginners and intermediates in every age group (rentals available). Once you get gliding, don’t miss the historic Hollyburn Lodge, nestled amond the Nordic trails, which makes a killer poutine.

Cross-country skiing at Whistler Olympic Park

Whistler Olympic Park, maintained by Whistler Olympic Legacies in the scenic Callaghan Valley, is emerging as North America’s premier Nordic recreation destination. Perfected for the 2010 Winter Olympics, the park features 56 km of trails—sure to exhaust the most seasoned XC buff. Check out the interactive trail map here.

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