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Cross-country skiing

01/10/04 12:00AM By Mary McKhann
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(Host) Commentator Mary McKhann suggests that this might be a good weekend to get out and do a little cross country skiing.

(McKhann) No so long ago, I thought people who were into cross-country skiing were either tree huggers or wierdos, or likely both. That perception was strengthened when I was working for Ski Racing
magazine about a decade ago. I had to call one of the head honchos in what to me at the time was the strange little world of nordic skiing. It proved to be quite difficult because he lived in a cabin in the woods in Montana with no phone and only showed up in town, like, once a week to pick up groceries.
I think he maybe even skied to town.

But my opinion of cross-country skiers was radically transformed when I began to cover college ski racing. First, these were pretty normal kids. Actually, far more normal than some of the kids you see hanging out on Main Street. And they are amazing athletes. Never mind that they sometimes collapsed across the finish line gasping like guppies out of water, these were aerobically superior men and women, who were willing to lay it all on the line to do their very best.

This weekend, competition among the country's best is winding up at Black Mountain in Rumford, Maine where the U.S Cross-Country Championships have been contested for the past week. Nordic skiing, long a forgotten stepchild in the hierarchy of the U.S. Ski Association, has gained more legitimacy in the past year or two than it has had since the days of Vermonter Bill Koch, the only U.S. cross-country skier to ever win an Olympic medal.

My early attempts at cross-country skiing, done with old equipment that had been moldering in the garage for years, certainly didn't rock my
boat. Then a few years ago, I got some short skate skis and a season pass at Ole's, our local cross-country center which does double-duty as the Warren airport, and my outlook on nordic skiing changed dramatically.

There are a lot of reasons to cross-country ski, not the least of which is the cost. You never have to wait in a liftline, and there is little likelihood you will have any problem with crowding or fears of being run into. In fact, there is a very good chance - especially if you go on a weekday - that you will find yourself in splendid isolation, admiring a magnificent vista. But for many, the fitness benefits of cross-country skiing are even more important.

Besides, it's fun. It's a great sport for everyone, but women in particular can appreciate its peacefulness, its lack of intimidation and its ease of learning.

To that end, Ole's is hosting a Vermont Ski for Women on February 8. The event benefits services for battered women in Washington County. There are short races for teams of women, with prizes and kids events. Cabin fever is a preventable disease. Winter is long. Get out an enjoy it.

This is Mary McKhann from the Mad River Valley.

Mary McKhann is a freelance writer and editor of the Snow Industry Letter.
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