By Michel Fike

Looking for a way to increase your activity level as the prospect of winter weight gain looms? You could park yourself in front of the TV for the latest celebrity workout or spin up your own digital interactive fitness revolution on a game machine.  And of course, there is always the gym, where you can walk or run through the cities or terrains of the country of your choice on a treadmill. While all of these exercise programs can help you to stay healthy or even to lose weight; if you are like me, they don’t last.

So, if you prefer fun, adventure, great scenery and a terrific whole body workout, you may want to consider the health benefits of cross country skiing.

Cross country or Nordic skiing is accessible to people of all ages and skill levels. Families with children can enjoy the sport together, and it is also beneficial for seniors. It is fairly easy to learn and relatively inexpensive.      No matter whether you choose to ski on a groomed track at a Nordic center or to trek in open country, you will get a great workout.

Cross country skiing uses your whole body, unlike other forms of exercise that concentrate on one part of the body, like the abs or the legs. The kick and glide movement that moves your skis engages legs, arms and core muscles. This avoids stress and strain in particular muscles or joints, like knees. That said, engaging the whole body enhances aerobic and cardiac health and can build endurance.  And, with all of those muscle groups in motion, this is a great way to lose weight.

Of course, your actual calorie burn will depend on your current weight and how vigorously you ski, but even at slow pace (3-5) miles an hour, the Mayo Clinic puts the average caloric expenditure at 496 calories per hour, over 100+ more than for downhill skiing. Picking up your pace (6-7 mph) can increase the calorie burn to well over 600 calories per hour. Those with more advanced skills like cross country ski racers or trekkers who climb in rougher terrain can burn between 900-1000 calories in an hour. Best of all, no matter your personal level of performance, the scenic view is always better than in the gym.

There are also psychological benefits to cross country skiing. Like running, it provides an endorphin release that can last beyond the exercise itself and increase your sense of well being. Also, once out of the touring center, cross country skiing and snowshoeing can provide memorable moments of beauty and peace, as well as rare encounters with nature.

Give it a try. Rent some equipment and take a lesson. Both rentals and lessons are readily available at local ski shops and resorts throughout the Sierras. REI online has a full schedule of both in store and onsite classes

available in the Reno and Sacramento areas, and on Saturday, January 11th they will be sponsoring Winter Trail Days at the Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center in Truckee.  At this event those new to the sport can try both snowshoeing and cross country skiing free.

Every Saturday starting December 29 & 30 to early April Guided Snowshoe hikes led by rangers are scheduled in Lassen Park from 1:30 to 3:30 pm depending on ability. $1 suggested donation for snowshoes, or bring your own. Details are posted at the Lassen Volcanic National Park website or (530) 595-4444.  Winter Snowshoe Walks will be offered to the public by the Almanor Ranger District, starting in January, dates TBA.  Call (530) 258-2141 to pre-register for walks. Trails abound throughout the National Forests of Northern Nevada and Northern California. These are just a few of the outdoor adventures you can find. Some may cost a lift ticket, but many like the 18 California State Park’s Sno-Parks located throughout the Sierra Nevada will provide access to groomed trails for a $5 daily fee, or for a $25.00 annual pass you can use Sno-Parks in California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. These can be purchased online at snoparks .


So, whether you opt to cross country ski, snowshoe, sled or just have fun in the snow, get out there and keep moving.