One of the reasons I love Minnesota is that we get to experience four seasons. While each season has its drawbacks, there’s promise of change just a few months away. For this month’s date, Josh and I decided to embrace some mild winter temps and go cross-country skiing.

We’ve tried cross-country skiing in the past (pre-kids), and if I remember correctly, I wiped out going down a hill with a slight bend in the trail. Surely our more recent experience downhill skiing at Buck Hill with the boys made us qualified for this outing. I mean, come on, I can ski down a green circle hill with the best pizza slice.

We headed to Elm Creek Park Reserve which is part of the Three Rivers Park District. Located in Maple Grove, it’s a mere 30 minutes from Eden Prairie. We opted to go during the weekday, (use up some vacation time and not have to bring the kids). You will need to stop at the Visitor Center to purchase a ski pass if you don’t already have one. The daily pass is $9/person for persons over age 12. From there, we headed to the equipment rental building to pick up our skis. The rental cost for waxless skis, boots, and poles is $12/person, and you get a 4-hour limit. You have your choice of classic or ski-skate cross-country skis, and we opted for the classic style. (Like we knew what we were doing at all??)

There are a number of trails and loops you can ski on, but one warning: Learn which way is the right direction to travel in! In hindsight, we should have taken a closer look at the map, which has arrows indicating direction of traffic. We found ourselves cruising down a hill, and when we got to the bottom, several skiers had stopped in their tracks and stared at us. Fortunately, a polite skier told us we were skiing in the wrong direction! Clearly we had missed whatever arrow was supposed to have been posted, filtering out the course newbies from the veterans. So embarrassing.

If I ever thought my ability to cross-country ski was assumed because I can sort of downhill ski – I was wrong. In my mind I was picturing the ease of the NordicTrack ski machine, smoothly gliding in a coordinated manner. In reality, I took choppy, haphazard stabs into the groomed trail, only to make it up a hill and slide back down. Instead of shuffling and gliding, I relied heavily on arm strength and sliding. Watch some videos on proper technique before you go – it’s nothing like downhill skiing! So different from downhill that we had no idea how you were supposed to stop or slow down when you’re on a groomed trail (meaning the snow is packed and a machine has made two grooves to allow your skis to move easier through the snow). Using the pizza slice method to slow down did not help much!

I hope I didn’t scare you too much:) Despite a couple of wipe outs, we still had a lot of laughs and fun. Nothing like enjoying a few hours outdoors and trying something new together.

Final Thoughts on Cross-Country Skiing:
Cost of date: $45.18 – park pass, two ski rentals
We would definitely give this another try – hopefully to improve our form and do better! If you are a cross-country newbie, this activity is good if you are willing to sweat a little, laugh a lot, and step out of your comfort zone. I’d encourage you to do a little research on how to ski first, just to get the basics down! The park also has other winter and summer activities you can try, like snowshoeing, sledding, biking, and more.

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Carolyn Wieland

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