The Change Up

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I know it’s hard to believe, but there are days when my family opts out of skiing. Some weeks, we are just being courteous–like during Presidents’ Week, or a busy Spring Break weekend. We want to make sure we leave plenty of good skiing for those of you who don’t have easy access to the hill every day of the week. (Oops! I didn’t mean to rub that in. Sorry.) Other weeks, the task of loading up and gearing up just seems too daunting for the adults in the house.  And now that the resort is closed for skiing until December 7 we have rely on these “day off activities” to keep us busy during shoulder season.

Luckily, Park City is full of “backup plans” when skiing isn’t an option.  A “day off”  in Park City may differ a little from a day off in another town…we locals are not terribly good at sitting still. (Yes, by “we,” my family will argue, I mean “I” am not good at that whole sitting still thing. But in Park City, I’m in good company.)

The nice thing about these sports is that you can go after it hard, and get in a workout, or use it as a relaxing family bonding activity.

Just like skiing: if you aren't falling, you aren't learning.

Just like skiing: if you aren’t falling, you aren’t learning.

Ice skating: The Park City Ice Arena, located on SR 248, in the Round Valley sports complex, is one of my family’s favorite places to hang. Sometimes, we make a plan to meet friends, other times we luck into finding them there, by happenstance. Public skate hours vary, but there are at least two hours a day when you can rent skates, borrow a helmet (and even gloves), and get gliding.

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I’ve skated my whole life (though, that statement shouldn’t conjure images of me landing triple-axels). My friend Shannon, a pro, is threatening to teach me, but I’m thinking that might be a form of penance for some bad deed she did in a former life. I happen to love the atmosphere of the rink. Usually, there are members of the Park City Figure Skating Club who are practicing their jumps, twists and axels. What’s incredible is to see the pint-sized grade school girls flying through the air. Budding hockey players practice their stops, slides and stick work. Often, I’ll spy some teenagers on a date, hands intertwined, or a snake-chain of tweens, racing around the rink. And always, families. My kids and I like to play hide and seek (we duck into the penalty boxes), practice our backward skating, and “race” around the rink. In fact, we’ve been at the rink so much this winter, I treated myself to a pair of used skates. They really are a treat, since they used to belong to a coach in the figure skating club, and just like high-end ski gear purchased at the local’s ski swap, they are tricked out (custom boot, high-end blade). Translation: complete overkill, but at a deep discount, so why not?

Cross country skiing: The first pair of skis I wore (sometime around age 2) were Nordic kick-and-glides that actually strapped on to my regular snow boots. Nordic skiing was a fixture of my childhood in Vermont, so I’ve always loved the opportunity to share it with my kids. There are miles of groomed public trails around town, but since we don’t own gear, we generally go to White Pine Touring, which is located on the Park City Municipal Golf Course (it’s the PCMGC pro shop during golf season) at Hotel Park City. You can gear up and get on 3K or 5K tracks, and then head all the way out past the white barn, if you’re ready for more.

There’s something immensely gratifying about the low-key, yet high-energy, endorphin producing nature of the sport. When I’m with my kids on the track, I don’t get the same kind of workout that, say, Nancy Anderson churns out, but I’m happy just to be outside, sharing a great lifelong sport with my guys. Honestly, you can make the day as challenging or relaxing as you want, and an hour or so is as much fun as a whole afternoon. If you have ever spent a week or a ski season explaining to your young Phil Mahre or Heidi Voelker why they can’t use poles yet, Nordic offers an added bonus: they’re standard issue in Nordic skiing (NB: that still means a lot of work for mom or dad.).

Swimming: One of the best parts of staying in a lot of the lodging properties at Deer Valley Resort is that they have super-heated outdoor pools. One of my favorites is at The Silver Baron Lodge, where the outdoor pool has a sweet little water slide. But if you don’t happen to be a guest there, you can pay for a day pass to the Silver Mountain Sports Club in Prospector and visit their domed leisure pool, complete with lazy river and giant water slide (just check the lifeguard hours before you go, since the water features operate only during those hours, which are limited during the school week.) We lucked into an afternoon there where we had the place to ourselves (the lifeguard told me it had been packed before lunch; my kids had spent the morning at ice skating camp in the arena, so we used the pool for a post-lunch “warm down” activity). When my kids were born, my mother, and mother-in-law told me, “If they’re cranky, put them in water.” No piece of advice has been better used in my home. Baths, pools, sprinklers, whatever. And vacations (stay-cations or traveling vacations, alike) often produce extra-tired crankiness. This pool figures heavily into my parenting strategy. And, yes, it’s about the closest you will get to finding me sitting still.

Cross Country Skate Skiing- Day Off From Downhill

Nancy on course

Do you –
Want a day off from downhill skiing?
Want to cross train and use different muscle groups?
Have a friend who doesn’t downhill ski that you want to spend time with?

Day PassAll of the above applied to me so I made a reservation for two for cross country skate ski lessons with White Pine Touring Company.  Since I don’t cross country ski, I assumed skate skiing would be a challenge to learn but a great workout so the learning curve would be worth the effort.

Surprisingly, we were able to learn the basics in an hour and ski the 3 kilometer track the same day!  I went from what looked like a duck walk to a basic skate with the help of the instructor, Don.  As often happens in Park City, Don was more than meets the eye. He is a cross country ski instructor on the weekends and during the week he is a paleontologist (dinosaur expert) for the State of Utah.  In other words, Don is an interesting guy.

InstructorHe took us to a well groomed teaching area (that doubles as the driving range of the Park City Municipal Golf Course in the summer) and taught us to skate on long skinny skis. He suggested, “glide like Dorothy Hamill!” I tried but looked more like Daffy Duck.  After a few “back and forths”, the glide became more pronounced.

It took me a while to get the concept and get used to the different style of skis – like skiing on toothpicks!  It started to click for me when Don had us put one ski in the classic track going straight which enabled us to focus on pushing off with the other leg skating at an angle.

InstructionAfter an hour, we had the basics down and were cut loose to ski on the beautifully groomed track on the front nine of the golf course.  The course had some gentle hills which gave us enough of a challenge as a beginner but not too much to be frustrating.  We skated the 3K and at the end, I was dripping with sweat, could feel every muscle in my body, and was absolutely in love with skate skiing.

Skate skiing isn’t for everyone. In my personal opinion, you don’t have to be in top physical shape but at least be in good shape. It is physically challenging getting up the hills. This wouldn’t be the sport to go from “couch to skate ski.” It would also be best for groomed trails since it would be really tough to cut a trail using this method. So if this is an intro to the sport of cross country or you are a back country person, stick with classic cross country.

LessonTake a lesson. I assume you could learn skate skiing on your own, but why? It was much easier taking a lesson. If you are open to feedback and want to learn something new, skate skiing could be your new sport.

Oh another thing… if you want to eat an entire pizza all by yourself afterwards and not gain an ounce, take up this sport because it burns about twice the calories of downhill skiing!

For more information on cross country skiing in Park City, call White Pine Touring at 435-649-6249 or by email,