Tahoe Donner - Cross-Country Skiing Redux

I never thought I’d go cross-country skiing again, but I went this morning. I tried cross-country skiing years ago, not out of desire but because it was a story assignment for a Tahoe weekly paper I worked on. If I recall, I spent most of my time that day in the snow. Not on it. And my take on the whole idea of cross-country skiing? Tougher than downhill skiing. Painful. Not worth it. Not by a long shot.

For a downhill skier, which is how I identified myself at the time, wobbling along on skinny slats without edges was terrifying. There was no way to ‘bend zee knees’ and turn. There were just hair-raising turning attempts that ended with giant flops into snow banks. And frantic grabs at bushes as I flailed by.

Cross-Country Skiing - No Excuses

This year, when my pal and fellow adventurer suggested cross-country skiing, my first reaction was, “Oh no, not again! Didn’t I just do that 30 years ago? And wasn’t it just awful and didn’t I limp away bruised from hip to toe?” But how do you say no after she’s asked for the 20th time? So, I said yes, and prayed for a white-out, a blizzard, and road closures.

The sun wasn’t exactly shining this morning, but it was faintly visible through the thick layer of clouds. And the snow predicted for this afternoon had not yet started to fall. My efforts at stalling and faking a headache failed. So, we went.

And my take on it? Fabulous!

Not that I did so well on the skis, but that the skis are manageable. They’re short; the boots have ankle support; and Tahoe Donner trails are nicely groomed. As long as I stayed in the tracks, I slid along just fine. Shock! I had fun. I stayed out as long as my legs could handle it, and then, as the snow began to fall, we came in, had one of those enormous lunches I like to reward myself with whenever I hike, snowshoe, kayak or expend energy in excess of bookstore browsing levels. (Lunch at Jax, Truckee. Great food!)

Tahoe Donner Cross-Country Skiing

Because I went to Tahoe Donner, those are the trails I can report back to you about. Tahoe Donner has a beautiful expanse of cross-country trails for all levels: beginners, intermediate and advanced. They rent skate-skis up there, too. (I want to try that next.) And they have snowshoe trails. (I figure you may wonder how cross-country skiing relates to hiking, so maybe the snowshoe connection suffices to answer? Or maybe the truth: I have not been hiking of late and this cross-country outing is the closest I've been able to come, so I wanted to share.)

The nice thing is that the trails are separated, so the grooves, or tracks, for cross-country ‘striders’ – those of us doing the traditional cross-country skiing, are unmarred by snowshoe prints or skate cross-hatches. For beginners, this is really important because those grooves are like training wheels on a bicycle; if you keep your skis in a groove, it’s easy to keep them pointed forward as you glide. And, when your skis are both pointed in the same direction – forward - you find yourself upright and gliding smoothly across the snow. Otherwise? It’s a fast trip head-first into a snowbank.

We have LOTS of trails up here around Tahoe, Truckee and south around Hope Valley. And only a couple months left of winter weather. I’m exploring the trails, and here’s some preliminary research so you can join me: a Webpage listing local trails.

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