Big M cross country ski trails are close to where I live and has semi-groomed trails. I decided to head over for a little workout.
Disregard the photo date, I finally updated it yesterday. I have my backpack ready and my skis and poles. I packed the pack with some heavy items so it would be like I am ready for my 3 day trip. I wanted to check out my clothing to see if I layered properly.
This is the trailhead for the Big M area in Udell Hills. If you go be sure to get a trail map. After a few crossings, it is very easy to get turned around on the trails. Below the board is a pipe for donations, $8 is the suggested donation. This covers the grooming and upkeep. In the summer, this is a great mouintain bike area.
Here is the topo map of the ski area. At most corners, there is a post with map telling you where you are. One post had a parking sign but no arrow, leaving you to decide which direction to head. I ski here alone, which is not a good idea. I always can re-trace my path if I have to but know the area a little. OK, I have had to re-trace my path once and got lost once, and still managed to find a corner with a mappost. Don't do as I do, be safe. I did have my backpack and sleeping bag, food & water, so what's a little adventure if you don't have a little scare every once in a while to keep you alert!
This is the view as you travel. You have two narrow paths to follow if they groomed the trails. You want to stay in the path and "Do not walk on the trail path". So you end up looking down at the trail. But you want to see the winter sites/sights, so you have to "look around" also as you coordinate your skis and poles. I use to really race on the skis and kick up the back ski, but now I want to enjoy the trail and look for animal tracks. Last time out, I saw where a group of deer bedded down overnight and looked for acorns. I followed the tracks of a squirrel to where he made shelter under a log that had fallen down.
The snow can get deep, especially if you try to boondock across an area or if there are no groomed trails. I sometimes ski a golf course in the winter.
Notice the blue/tan gaiters that I wear. They keep your leg warm and snow off your socks. Cross country ski boots are only ankle high so in deep snow you could get you socks (feet) wet. Gaiters are nice if you are going to be out for a while.
Speaking of clothing, it is vital that you layer your clothing, top to bottom. I have silk or polypro long sleeve/leg underwear and some different weight underwear over that. Then I have my lightweight outer pants and a fleece top and lightweight wind breaker. I found that I did not want my medium weight winter jacket....it was too warm. You need less than you wear for downhill skiing. Cross country skiing is a workout and you will sweat if you don't layer properly. Many times people end up tying their jacket around their waist. If you sweat in the snow, you are going to get wet and cold fast. When you start, you are cold but your body warms up fast and soon you are opening your jacket to release some body heat.
Why didn't I get a picture of the snowcat that grooms the trail? This is what the trail looks like in the woods. You can see the outside tracks of the snowcat and the two ski grooves for skiing. This is nice and makes it easy to travel around the wooded area. You can burn more energy if you bushwhack your way somewhere, but here you stay on the trails.
There are hills in this area and you are skiing around and between them. Sometimes you see a trail break off from the main trail at the top of a hill. This is an easier way, if you want to avoid the gentle hills. I like to downhill ski so I like to go downhill on cross country skis. It is different. Cross country skis are only attached to the toe of your ski boot so you can not turn as you do on downhill skiis. Basically you go straight down. There is usually a long run-off. You learn to do a slight snowplow to turn or slow your skis down.
This is the view at the bottom of the hill. You can see the tops of the trees and clouds above your head as you lay wrecked in the snow at the bottom of the hill. After savoring the view until my head cleared, I got back up and kept going.
It is quiet in the woods. It was in the teens this day in middle January. Yes, I will change the camera date for next time. This is part of the lure of cross country skiing. Going into the places in winter and observing what is around you. Many places will rent skis for a day or weekend. Try it! You can even just walk on the skis and take your time. At least you will be outside and observing Winter.