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Cross country skiing brings miles of smiles

Sure it’s a workout, but it’s fun, too.

While there are some who sigh and moan at the sight of snowflakes, many others start doing a happy dance when the flurries start flying.

“We have a lady who does a snow dance,” said Bill Clayton, president of the Miami Valley Cross Country Ski Club.

Last year’s green winter was not a happy one for local cross country ski enthusiasts.

“It was a real disappointment,” Kevin Anderson said. “If you’re going to have winter, you might as well have fun in it.”

“It was a very poor year. There was no skiing locally,” Clayton said.

But that was then.

Area cross-country skiers have already had the chance to dust off their skis and hit local trails this winter. They aren’t alone, as more than 2 million people participated in cross country skiing in 2010, according to the National Sporting Goods Association. That was an increase of 19.5 percent.

The Miami Valley club has active members from Dayton and Beavercreek as well as Middletown, Lebanon and Cincinnati.

Why ski?

Cross country skiing checks off a lot of boxes on people’s fitness to-do lists.

It works all the major muscle groups, including the core, but is low impact and easy on the joints. It provides a good cardio workout and burns, on average, 650 calories an hour. It uses natural movement and helps increase balance, which becomes especially important as people age.

But none of those are the best reason to try cross country skiing according to 69-year-old Clayton. He first started cross country skiing 25 years ago when the tri-athlete was looking for a cold-weather activity.

“The biggest benefit is that it’s fun,” the Eaton resident said. “It makes winter a whole lot better.”

Beyond the physical fitness, Anderson, who lives in Clayton, also appreciates the mental health break that skiing provides.

“Getting out into nature is always great,” he said. “It seems like things are quieter and, at the same time, it’s invigorating being out in the cold.”

Where to ski

Cross country skiers can make themselves at home in a variety of locations from golf courses to local parks and, even, snow-covered bikeways.

The Five Rivers MetroParks hiking trails at Carriage Hill, Eastwood, Huffman, Island, Wegerzyn and Possum Creek can be ideal locations for skiing when they are snow covered. State and community parks also have trails that are cross-country skier friendly. And skiers take over where the golfers leave off once snow blankets local fairways.

“Any open large expanse that is flat is ideal,” said Susan Staley, manager of Valleywood Ski and Snowboard Shop in Kettering. “Some people can literally go out their back door and ski down their street if there is fresh snow.”

Staley, who has been skiing for 40 years, also suggests trying local parks or school sports fields for easy skiing terrain.

Getting started

While most people have a sled stashed away somewhere in their garage, first time cross country skiers probably don’t have the necessary equipment.

“We recommend that you rent equipment so you can try it out,” Clayton said. “And, if you do decide to buy, don’t order it online. The fit of the equipment is so important for your enjoyment. Good equipment makes such a big difference.”

Valleywood rents cross country skis for $20 for 24 hours. Some customers travel an hour or more to the Kettering store, as it is one of the few places in Southwest Ohio that rents and sells cross country equipment. The staff can help skiers find the right fit and ski size.

“We’ll also walk them through the ins and outs or skiing,” Staley said. “We call it carpet cross country skiing.”

As with any winter outdoor activity, it’s best to dress in layers and wear moisture-wicking material. Even on the coldest day, you will break a sweat.

“It’s definitely a workout,” Staley said. “After the first half mile or so you’ll start shedding some layers.”

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