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Forget the chairlift: an aerobic workout on skis

The+reporter%E2%80%99s+father+tries+out+a+pair+of+cross-country+sticks+at+Tahoe+XC+in+Tahoe+City
The reporter’s father tries out a pair of cross-country sticks at Tahoe XC in Tahoe City

The reporter’s father tries out a pair of cross-country sticks at Tahoe XC in Tahoe City

Caroline Coughlin

Caroline Coughlin

The reporter’s father tries out a pair of cross-country sticks at Tahoe XC in Tahoe City

Caroline Coughlin, Editor

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I t was a sunshine-filled, blue-sky February day at Tahoe XC, the perfect conditions to cross-country ski for the first time. I skied a few feet behind my dad, who was gliding through the snow with enviable ease. I, on the other hand, was flying down the baby hill way too fast. The skis attached to my boots were uncontrollable. They decided my direction and my speed; I had no say. I was stuck in the tracks the resort sets up for newcomers when I spotted the snowplow coming. The driver must have known I was a complete novice because he abruptly shut down his vehicle.

“Cara, you gotta stop now,” my dad called. I yelled back, “Obviously, Dad, I’m trying!” To avoid crashing into the plow, I tried to move my legs into the “pizza” position to slow down, but I caught an edge and wiped out hard, skis and poles flying.

Earlier, when we arrived at Tahoe XC’s lodge, the small deck outside was packed with people. I felt intimidated by the seasoned regulars, who all seemed to know each other. But my dad was with me, and he can make friends with a bear, so I relaxed. Inside the lodge, we filled out a rental form, and a friendly employee quickly set us up with skis, boots and poles. Then we were shuttled out the door. No one gave us any advice or tips on how to cross-country ski. I suppose I should have asked, but it didn’t occur to me. Clipping into my rental skis, I felt unsure about being on two boards instead of my usual one. Somewhere around age 11, I stopped skiing to start snowboarding. Despite the 10-year gap, the skiing “feel” came back to me after a few glides. At Tahoe XC, skiers start out from the lodge and immediately ski uphill. I slipped and slammed onto my knees. Laughing it off, I popped right back up, determined to get better at this sport, especially as a group of 5-year-old girls glided past me.

As we skied along, the crunch of the freshly groomed snow was the only sound I heard. My dad and I were deep into the resort’s green trail—the easiest one, of course. We would glide for 20 minutes or more without seeing another soul, just trekking mostly uphill, my shoulder muscles starting to burn from overusing my poles. Unlike snowboarding and downhill skiing, where you’re often surrounded by people, here it is just you and the forest. The narrow paths were enveloped by hundreds of pine trees, allowing us to feel a part of the landscape.

I won’t lie and say cross-country skiing was easy because it wasn’t. I crashed at least three times, but it was truly fun. In between the times I felt out of control, I was smiling ear to ear, reveling in the freedom I felt speeding down the trails. If you’re looking for a new way to challenge yourself in the snow, give crosscountry skiing a try. Tahoe XC Resort offers 24 groomed trails, three warming huts, lessons and rentals. Dogs are allowed on three trails. The best deals are on Tuesdays, when trail passes are only $15. The rest of the week, an all-day adult trail pass is $29. After 12:30 p.m. it’s $25. Twilight passes (good 3 to 5 p.m.) are $20. Rentals cost $26 for all day or $22 after 12:30. Hourlong lessons are $60, including rentals and a trail pass. Group and private lessons are available daily.

On March 5, Tahoe XC hosts the 40th Annual Great Ski Race, the largest Nordic ski race west of the Mississippi. The race starts at Tahoe XC in Tahoe City and ends in Truckee.

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