Glide through winter on cross-country skis – West Central Tribune
— If you want to glide through winter, avoid cabin fever and COVID-19, now is the time to get outside on cross-country skis or snowshoes. With proper gear and basic instruction, you can open the door to fresh air, exercise, and relaxation.
Three cross-country trails in the area offer a range of terrain from easy to advanced: Eagle Creek Golf Course in Willmar, Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in rural Spicer, and Sibley State Park in rural New London. Robbins Island Regional Park and Ridgewater College in Willmar also offer potential for trails.
Sibley State Park offers the most extensive trail system, at approximately eight miles. Prairie Woods offers about six miles and the golf course about three. A shorter run could be groomed at Robbins Island, which also has the advantage of being floodlit for night skiing. Although walkers are welcome on the trails, they are encouraged to stick to one to avoid damaging the ski slope.
With its many hills, Sibley is best suited to intermediate and advanced skiers, although there is a gently rolling loop through Oak Ridge Campground. Prairie Woods offers easy and intermediate trails. The golf course is a good place for skiers looking for easier runs, with the convenience of being closer to those who live in or near Willmar.
Much of the local cross-country skiing activity has centered around the Willmar High School Nordic Ski Team. It began in the 1998-99 season and now has more than two dozen junior and senior high school athletes. They practice at both Eagle Creek and Sibley Park, as well as a trail north of the high school. On February 1, Willmar will host the Central Lakes Conference meeting at Eagle Creek.
Willmar High School’s first home meet was in 2001 at Robbins Island. In 2002, a group of local cross-country skiers organized the Willmar Nordic Ski Club. The club then incorporated to raise funds to purchase a utility snowmobile and several ski grooming tools.
Later, aided by a donation from the club, the high school purchased similar equipment previously owned by the city, which Coach Brad Haugen and volunteers use to clean the golf course and high school lanes.
Club donations for trail maintenance and high school team support can be made to the Home State Bank.
Volunteers and businesses have played a key role in the club’s efforts.
Tom Wodash and Eagle Creek Golf Course have over the years allowed skiers to create runs in the rougher areas of the course and also provided a shed to store ski equipment.
Johnson, Moody, Schmidt, Kleinhuizen & Zumwalt, PA (or JMSK&Z) help incorporate the club, and Fred Hund mows the track each fall.
Equipment is available at various locations. Prairie Woods rents skis and snowshoes at a reasonable cost. Sibley rents snowshoes and several Willmar stores sell snowshoes, including Dunham’s and Running’s. St. Cloud or Alexandria are the closest places to buy cross country gear.
Anyone wishing to find out more about local cross-country trails or equipment can contact Forrest Peterson, President of the Willmar Nordic Ski Club, at [email protected]
Cross-country skiing tips
Clothes: Avoid wearing cotton. Dress in layers using lightweight synthetic fabrics that retain heat, but ‘breathe’ – allowing moisture to wick away from the body. A good outer shell blocks the wind. Face protection is recommended for wind chill conditions and sunglasses on sunny days.
Ski equipment: For skis, the most important factor is the camber, or curvature or upward curvature, of the ski relative to body weight. The central part of the base of the ski is the “kick zone”. Each stride begins with the weighted ski gripping the snow, while the other ski glides forward as the camber lifts the strike zone off the snow. Standing on a flat surface with equal weight on both skis, you should be able to slip a thin paper or card under the strike zone. Poles should generally be about shoulder height, or slightly lower for classic or piste skiing. Boots should match the binding type and fit your size comfortably.
With reasonable weather conditions, proper equipment and groomed trails, nothing beats going out on skis or snowshoes. A big benefit is that physical activity helps keep you warm.
Forrest Peterson, President of the Willmar Nordic Ski Club
How do skis slide on snow?
Although friction can slow things down, when it occurs when the ski is pushed across the snow, it can melt the surface into a microscopic layer of water, which acts almost like a lubricant. With the right glide wax, snow condition and temperature, skis can glide fast and far.
Too cold, there is less melting and less slipping. Too hot, and there is too much water acting as a suction holding back the glide. But sometimes a cross-country trail becomes icy, which can be too slippery.
What is the difference between classic and skating-freestyle?
Historically, cross-country or Nordic skiing involves kicking and stepping over parallel tracks. In the 1980s, some skiers began using a skating or freestyle technique similar to hockey skates. Today, both techniques are used in leisure and competition. Beginner skiers usually start with the classic style.
Should I use waxed or waxless skis?
The strike zone of so-called waxless skis has a pattern inscribed in the sole which helps to grip the snow. This replaces a special wax for this purpose, although using a glide wax on the front and rear third of the base of the ski helps improve glide. Skis without a kick zone pattern require a special wax to provide kick grip. Wax types vary depending on snow conditions and temperature. While skis with waxable kick zones are generally faster, many people prefer waxless skis for convenience.
Where can I find more information?
Although big on cross-country ski racing, skinnyski.com provides complete and accurate information. It’s also updated daily, focusing primarily on Minnesota.
Recreational skiers are plentiful and welcome at events such as the City of Lakes Loppet, Feb. 5-6 in Minneapolis, and the Mora Vasaloppet, Feb. 12-13.
“Silent Sports” is a good all-purpose magazine for fitness sports, including cross-country skiing in the Upper Midwest, and the following publications offer more detail on this sport: “Cross Country Skier” magazine, “Trax” — North America’s Nordic Skiing Magazine, and “Master Skier—Cross Country Ski Journal.” “