I love the mountains of Sundance, and because of that my family lives here full time. As a local, I get the chance to explore Sundance Resort more than most. My recent explorations led me to the Sundance Nordic Center, and I was surprised with all I found there.
The Nordic Center has a yurt full of all the equipment you'll need for a snowshoe or cross country ski adventure. Rentals for snowshoes, skis, boots and poles are available for every size; including for my 4-year-old. They even have a baby chariot for those who, like me, have a baby in tow. The trails are groomed daily, with separate trails for skiing and snow shoeing. They also offer lessons in both classic and skate skiing, as well as a retail shop for snowshoes and accessories.
When I talked to the Nordic Center director, Sam Palmatier, he said, “Nordic Skiing is for everyone,” but I was doubtful. Would I be able to ski without falling, all while keeping me, my 4-year-old Ethan and my 1-year-old Gracie warm and happy? Sam's advice was to, “Keep it fun and entertaining,” so that's what I tried to do.
The sunny weather was matched by the sunny disposition of Cindy, the Sundance employee who helped me. Our first challenge was getting on the trail. After some clinging and crying, Ethan was fitted with boots and skis made especially for young children. Gracie was bundled up and placed in the chariot, which was similar to a bike trailer but with skis instead of wheels. It attached to my hips for a surprisingly easy pull.
We started on the trail. Cindy showed us the basics, especially Ethan who had never skied before. Conveniently, the trail has two parallel tracks for beginner skiers. As I sank into the tracks, I attempted to kick and glide. It was not the graceful movement I have seen others do, but I moved along the track without too much difficulty. With Gracie behind me, Ethan at my side, and beautiful surroundings all around I couldn't help but smile. Aspen and pine trees lined the trail and a blanket of white snow covered everything. It truly was a winter wonderland.
As we slid along, we kept an eye out for the deer that Cindy said roamed the area. Well, at least I did. Ethan was busy learning how to move, stand, and stay balanced on skis. He fell quite a few times, but was always ready to roll right over and get up again. With a little practice he gained more confidence and at one point even tried a little duck walking (his ski tips pointed out slightly) to get up a small incline. He did better at staying upright when skiing in the tracks, but Cindy pointed out that the tracks were made with adults in mind, and were probably a little too wide for him.
While Ethan learned the ropes, Gracie sat snug in her chariot. At first she enjoyed the adventure as well. The gliding sensation must have reminded her of a slide at the playground because as we started off she called out one of the few words she knows, “WEEEEE.” Not far into the trail, however, Gracie’s “WEEE” turned into a wail. I tried to calm her down with her pacifier but the only thing that seemed to work was to keep moving. My skis and those on the chariot made a calming white noise as they slid along the snow. That, and the movement calmed her intermittently, but soon it was obvious that her patience was done. We decided to head back to the yurt.
Turning around with the baby chariot attached to my hips was awkward. Using my anything-but-graceful maneuvering I side stepped slowly, without crossing my skis, until finally I faced the other way. Luckily I did not fall down, but even if I had, I doubt Gracie would have noticed. The baby chariot was sturdy on its own and allowed me almost complete freedom of movement.
As we approached the Nordic Center, I was nervous that the extra weight of the chariot would push me too quickly down a small incline. Cindy said to turn the tips of my skis toward each other, or snowplow, to slow myself down. With my skinny cross country skis I still was moving faster than I wanted, but I was able to maintain control. I'm sure more experienced cross country skiers, those with actual kick-and-glide technique, would have moved much more gracefully, but even with my limited experience I was able to travel the trail, have a good time and return safely back to base.
We ended the trip just in time. Ethan was starting to complain about being tired and Gracie's patience was definitely at an end. Our adventure was long enough to try something new and get out in nature but short enough to “keep it fun and entertaining,” like Sam had suggested. Maybe he was right, maybe cross country skiing can be for everyone.
If you're planning a cross country ski adventure with children, may I suggest the following tips:
1. Have one adult per child. Without Cindy there I would've been easily overwhelmed with Ethan learning and Gracie crying.
2. Keep everyone warm. Sam and Cindy both said that those riding in the chariot get especially cold hands and suggested hand warmers in their mittens. For those outside the chariot, cross country skiing is a workout, and your body warms up quickly, but it also cools down quickly out in the cold. Be prepared for any kind of weather by dressing in layers, wearing a hat and having good gloves.
3. Be patient. Learning a new sport is difficult. If you're a beginner or going with a beginner be ready with plenty of encouragement and realistic expectations.
4. Don't forget to enjoy your surroundings. The best part of cross country skiing is getting outdoors and enjoying nature. There's no better place for that than the mountains of Sundance.
As much fun as it was to go with the kids, next time I might try the Nordic Center's Ladies Day Saturday Program. Cindy said it's especially fun to get together with all women who are your same level. Plus, it's a great deal at only $30 per person for the trail pass, lesson and equipment rental. They also have a Ladies Intro to Nordic multi-week program that helps you build up skills slowly, one day a week, for a month.
Another program I'm interested in for Ethan when he's a little older is the Sundance Nordic Team. Kids ages 6-18 train together one day every other week and work toward racing in The Utah Nordic Alliance's Wasatch Citizen Series races. The Utah Nordic Alliance, or TUNA, has a lot of great information on Nordic Skiing as well. Their website is: www.utahnordic.com.
Overall my experience at the Sundance Nordic Center was full of trying new things and enjoying the outdoors. I was impressed with the friendly assistance of the staff, the well maintained trails and the beautiful surroundings. I found that what Sam said was true, “At the Sundance Nordic Center, we take Nordic Skiing seriously.” It was a great day and I will definitely go again. I hope you will too.