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Nordic ski trails offer alternative to downhill route

SODA SPRINGS – Sensing his beginning cross country ski pupil needed a boost, instructor Jim Christol broke into song.

“Row, row, row your boat!” he sang, keeping a steady tempo as he glided across the snow-covered trail at Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Resort, near Donner Summit.

Suddenly Christol, keeping his own skis straight as arrows, pushed hard on his poles and bolted forward. Looking back at his struggling student, Christol grinned.



“See, I went into a double pull there,” he chuckled, describing a technique used by more experienced cross-country skiers.

Christol was teaching a basic technique known as “classic,” where skiers stay on a groomed track. Left, right, left, right – something like ballroom dancing on snow.




And while the sport might sound too easy for snowboarders and downhill skiing diehards, some skiers say it isn’t so.

“I know it’s seen as more for goofy, older people,” said Lauren Birtwhistle, marketing and sales coordinator for Royal Gorge and an experienced downhill skier. “Then you get out on the trail, and it’s a workout, and you’re sweating.”

Cross country skiing, also known as Nordic skiing, still appeals to downhill skiers and snowboarders, said David Achey, general manager at Royal Gorge. Benefits that come from learning the sport include improved balance and leg strength.

“The beauty of cross country skiing is, you can use as little or as much technique as you want,” said Achey. “It doesn’t take a lot of skill to learn.”

Affordability also attracts fans, said Birtwhistle.

“It’s definitely cheaper than dropping $90 at downhill (skiing) places,” she said. “With the economy right now, pricing is a priority for people, especially for families.”

The sport is popular among Nevada and Placer county residents.

Royal Gorge, an hour’s drive from Grass Valley, is one of the largest resorts in North America with 195 kilometers of trails.

Daily weekend passes start at $29 for adults, $25 for seniors (65 to 74 years) and $16 for juniors (11 to 16 years). Children younger than 11 and seniors older than 75 years old ski for free.

Weekday rates are cheaper. Equipment rentals and lessons are available. Call (530) 426-3871 for more information or visit RoyalGorge.com.

Other cross country areas in Nevada and Placer counties include:

• Tahoe Donner Cross Country: More than 100 kilometers of trails.

Cost: Daily weekend passes are $23 for adults, $18 for seniors (60 to 69). Children younger than 12 and seniors older than 70 ski for free. Equipment rentals and lessons available.

Directions: Take Exit 188 off Interstate 80 in Truckee and head north. Call (530) 587-9484 or visit TDXC.com.

• Tahoe Cross Country: Sixty-five kilometers of trails.

Cost: Daily rates are $22 for adults, $17 for juniors (10 to 17) and seniors (60 to 69). Children younger than 11 and seniors older than 70 ski for free. Equipment rentals and lessons available.

Directions: From Interstate 80, take Highway 89 from Truckee to Tahoe City. Call (530) 583-5475 or visit TahoeXC.org.

• Northstar at Tahoe: Forty kilometers of trails.

Cost: Daily passes are $25 for adults, $13 for juniors (5 to 12) and seniors (65 and older). From Interstate 80, take Route 89 from Truckee to Northstar.

Directions: Call (530) 562-1010 or visit NorthstaratTahoe.com/info/ski/crosscountry.asp.

Chris Arns lives in Auburn and is a student at California State University, Sacramento.

Comments about this story can be sent to Features Editor Carol Guild at cguild@theunion.com or (530) 477-4219.


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