Tag Archives: cross-country

This first-time cross-country skier hits the Cypress Mountain nordic area

Headed downhill on a gently sloped green run with another skier in the distance.

I’m gliding down a hill on my cross-country skis, snowflakes nearly blinding me, wind rushing in my ears. It’s exhilarating – only hours ago I had never worn a pair of skis in my life, and now here I am, in total control. I hold my poles under my arms pointing backwards, and keep my knees bent like my instructor told me to. My skis I keep carefully parallel, snow-plowing slightly to control my speed and adjust my direction. My heart is pounding, and I can’t keep a stupid grin off my face.

And then my ski tips cross.

My arms jerk up for balance.

One pole flies out of my hand and the ground rushes up to meet me.


So let’s just say that my Scandinavian ancestors failed to leave me with any kind of talent for skiing.

The introductory lesson:

Sunday was my first day of cross-country skiing, and I’m pleased to say that it was a great experience. I decided to play it safe and take a lesson for my first day out. I opted for Cypress Mountain’s Classic Lesson 1, and it was a good call – The $66 fee includes a 1.5 hour lesson, equipment rental and day pass to the nordic area.

I began my lesson on a nice flat area, where the instructor, Teeam, taught us the basics: how to move your feet, how to use your poles, how to avoid falling on your face (that last one I was only marginally successful at). From there, he took us out into the trails. The Cypress Mountain nordic area is actually on Hollyburn Mountain, and includes an extensive web of trails, ranging from flat beginner trails to more challenging hills.

I had my first hill experience on a green run. And I should probably say that this “hill” was more of a gentle bump. I learned how to stop myself and control my direction, and it was a lot less terrifying than I’d expected.

From there we explored some of the trails and learned some more about cross-country. I learned how to avoid crossing the tips of my skis (a sure way to fall)

Skiers dropped off their skis outside Hollyburn Lodge

 and how to stop in an emergency (when in doubt, crouch and fall to the side).

We ate lunch at Hollyburn Lodge, an atmospheric old cabin with a long history. The Lodge is accessible to anyone looking for a good meal – you don’t have to be a skier or snowshoer. On previous trips up the mountain, my friends and I have just hiked the short trail in from the parking lot to the Lodge. Even in the dark it wasn’t a difficult trek (but I recommend bringing a flashlight!)

Skill development:

Teeam told us that it takes cross-country skiers around 20 years to truly become good at the sport. It takes hours of training and technique work to move in the most efficient way.

But the great thing about the sport is that while it may take years to perfect, it’s possible to grasp the basic skills on the first day, allowing beginners to participate in and enjoy the experience right from the outset.

I will definitely be heading back up the mountain as soon as possible!

Posing with my rented skis after three hours in the Cypress nordic area on Hollyburn Mountain.


Cross-country skiing gaining momentum in post-Olympics Vancouver

Vancouverites looking for winter adventure that doesn’t include careening down a near-vertical slope on two slats of fibreglass shouldn’t discount skiing altogether. Cross-country skiing may not have the sex appeal of downhill skiing or snowboarding, but the sport offers snowy fun with a great workout thrown in.

Photo from blogto.com. A cross-country skier glides on a slight downhill slope.

Since the 2010 Olympics, local interest in cross-country skiing has surged. T.K. Campbell, who works at Kitsilano-based nordic ski shop Sigge’s, said there has been a definite increase in interest, particularly among baby boomers looking for an alternate to downhill, and in young, fit people looking for a tough workout.

“The young people are definitely coming in to skate ski,” Campbell said, referring to a type of nordic skiing where a skating-like technique is used.

Campbell said the first time out can be fun for a beginner since picking up the basics isn’t too tricky. What is more difficult is perfecting the technique.

Best local option: Cypress Mountain

Cypress Mountain is a good option for beginners, since it offers rentals and is close to town. Cypress also boasts lit trails for night skiing, making weeknight outings possible for those stuck in the office or classroom during the days.

Stephen Greenaway, a former competitive cross-country skier, said the Cypress nordic ski area is on the side of the mountain, which is both a perk and a downside.

“The easy trails mostly stay at one elevation,” Greenaway said. “If you want more interesting trails, you either have to ski down for a while and then all the way back up in one shot, or all the way up and then down.”

Overall, he said the trails are good for beginners, and a long slope at the beginning of the park gives skiers a solid workout.

Cypress doesn’t offer a student or youth rate, but fortunately cross country ski tickets are far cheaper than downhill tickets, making this an affordable day on the mountain. A full-day lift tickets for adults (19-64) costs $17.86, and a half day (3 p.m. to close) costs $15.18.

Not sure you can even put skis on, let alone glide in them?

Cypress offers one-day lessons. $66 includes a lesson, rental and ticket.


Photo by: Rob Baxter. Two cross-country skiers enjoy a snowy day in the Callaghan Valley

A bit further away: Callaghan Valley


The Callaghan Valley, located just south of Whistler along the Sea-to-Sky Highway, is a cross-country skier’s paradise. More than 90km of trails wind through snow-covered deciduous trees across visually stunning landscape of towering peaks.

The valley is also the site of the Whistler Olympic Park, where the Nordic events of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games were held.

Not surprisingly, deluxe fancy ski and stay packages are available, and different itineraries are available. Prices vary.


Skiis, poles, bindings and winter clothing. Simple, right?

Well, yeah. But be aware: downhill skis and cross-country skis are different. Classic cross-country skis are long and narrow to distribute the skier’s weight, allowing him or her to move quickly. Ski length varies based on a person’s height, but average dimensions are 2m long by 5cm wide.

Skate skis tend to be shorter and stiffer than those used for the classical technique, and the poles are longer.

I will be strapping on cross-country skis for the first time on Sunday! Stay tuned for an update on my experience (with photos).




Photo by: Timi Newton-Syms. A skier's view.