2005 | Some great snow sports don’t require steep hills

November 6, 2005 

Washington is rich with opportunities for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and learning about these winter activities. Eric Redrup admits that the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club probably made a mistake last winter.

“We should have been jumping up and down to tell people that cross-country skiing was pretty good over here last year,” said Redrup, the club’s marketing director. “Same with the Methow Valley. The weather was so bad in the mountains and around the rest of the state, I think a lot of people just assumed there wasn’t good skiing anywhere.”

Redrup said even in bad snow years, if you’re looking for a place to Nordic ski or snowshoe, conditions are almost always good in Leavenworth and the Methow Valley.

Steve Hindman, adult program manager at Stevens Pass, takes that one step further.

“The Methow Valley is the best place to go for Nordic skiing in pretty much the entire Northwest,” he said.

Veteran Nordic skiers have known this for some time. Here are those experts’ answers to some other common Nordic skiing questions.

How much better for you is Nordic skiing, compared to alpine?

John Inch, a skiing expert for Backpackers Supply, said he gets a great workout whether he’s Nordic or alpine skiing.

But his idea of alpine skiing is going out on his Randonee skis, which allow him to head into the backcountry with free heels like cross-country skiing, then lock down his heels for an alpine descent.

“But if you are just riding lifts, you’re not getting much of a workout,” Inch said. “Cross-country really gives you a good cardio pump.”

Of the different cross-country disciplines, skate-skiing is the heartier workout, Inch said.

What trail system is most likely to always have snow in Western Washington?

Inch isn’t a huge fan of the drive up to Paradise on Mount Rainier, but it’s one of his favorite places to go.

“Paradise is a great place to go if you are a beginner,” Inch said. “And it has excellent advanced terrain, too.”

The trails aren’t groomed, but at 5,400 feet you can count on snow.

What are the state’s most popular Sno-Parks?

Cabin Creek, just off Interstate 90 east of Snoqualmie Pass, always draws a crowd with its 15 kilometers of groomed trails, said Colleen Maguire, state winter recreation manager. Mount Spokane is just as popular, she said.

Which Sno-Parks are the hidden gems, offering great terrain without the crowds?

Maguire suggests two: South Summit with its 30 kilometers of groomed trails in the Methow Valley, and Highlands near Tonasket, which has 37 kilometers of groomed trails.

“It’s beautiful over there,” Maguire said. “But you have to drive a ways to get there.”

What’s the best place to learn to cross-country ski?

Hindman, author of the newly released book “Cross-Country Skiing: Building Skills for Fun and Fitness” ($19.95, The Mountaineers Books), said the best Nordic ski school in the state is at Sun Mountain Lodge (sunmountainlodge.com) in the Methow Valley.

If you don’t want to travel that far, start with an instructor. The Summit at Snoqualmie, Stevens Pass and White Pass all have Nordic centers. And Ed Strauss of Rainier Ski Touring (mashell.com/~mtrretail/Skiing.htm) at Longmire teaches at Paradise.

What’s the most common mistake made by beginners?

“Skis are slippery, and it takes people some time to get comfortable with that,” Hindman said. “You have to relax and stay with the skis and not try to control everything. It’s like riding a bike if you aren’t comfortable moving forward. Where’s the fun in that? Once beginners start to relax, they do much better.”

What’s the most common mistake made by experts?

Once Nordic skiers become more advanced, technique tweaking becomes very personal, Hindman said.

“But basically, it is usually something they are doing wrong that interrupts the forward motion,” Hindman said. “They try to be in constant control. They need to fight that desire.”

What’s the state’s best Nordic-skiing deal?

Mike Smith of Lakewood will tell you it’s an overnight trip on the 50-mile Mount Tahoma Trail Association system in Ashford, and it’s hard to argue with him.

Smith, the MTTA president, said overnight trips on similar trail systems would likely run $100 per night. The cost to stay overnight at an MTTA (skimtta.com) hut or yurt is $5. That’s thanks to a 1989 agreement with the Department of Natural Resources that allows the volunteer association to charge only a processing fee.

A Sno-Park pass ($8 per day or $20 per year) also is required for each vehicle to use the trails.

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