Nordic Skiing Connects Families to the Outdoors through Local Resources
With its roots lying in the snowy winters of Scandinavia, cross-country skiing has been a competitive sport since as early as the 18th century. Though cross-country techniques certainly have changed over the past two and a half centuries, the sport itself has become a winter standard all around the world. Here in western Massachusetts, cross-country skiers enjoy numerous trail systems and, generally, snow-filled winters that offer a long season of skiing within a beautiful landscape.
Distinctly different from downhill skiing in both structure and purpose, cross-country skiing utilizes much narrower skis than downhill, and uses boots that attach to skis only at the toe – thus creating a piece of equipment that is the skiing equivalent of speed skating’s clap skate. Cross country skiers strive sometimes for speed, but aim more to cover great distances than to zip through courses. Of course, competitive cross-country skiing combines both of these elements (top speeds and long trails), but recreational skiing emphasizes distance rather than speed.
Accessible to skiers of all ages and abilities, cross-country skiing is a favorite winter activity locally. Skiers young, old, inexperienced, and expert can take advantage of local trail systems, equipment rentals, classes, and special community events in order to experience the magic that cross-country skiing adds to a western Massachusetts winter!
Families who are new to skiing can take advantage of cross-country lessons offered at Notchview, a Trustees of Reservations property in Windsor, MA. Held on Saturday mornings at 11am, lessons are generally offered to groups of skiers, but private lessons and group lessons at other times are available by appointment. Equipment rentals are available for both adults and children, and new skiers will benefit from learning proper technique before setting out to explore Notchview’s beautiful trail system! Comprised of acres of beautiful field and forest, Notchview has something for everyone from weekly ski races and orienteering opportunities to specially designated areas for skijoring (skiing with dogs) and opportunities to explore trails during the off-season to become better acquainted with the landscape. Newcomers to the sport can also enjoy a special day of free ski lessons at Notchview during the Trustees’ Winter Trails Day, held this year on Saturday, January 23, 2016, from 10am-3pm. Ski lessons will be free for all during Winter Trails Day, and discounted trail passes will include 2-hour-long rentals of equipment, too!
Other local resources for learning to ski and testing out cross-country equipment include Stump Sprouts in Hawley and Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center in Northfield. At Stump Sprouts, families can enjoy 25 kilometers of trails high in the hills marking the divide between the Hilltowns and the Berkshires. Open on weekends, holidays, and during school vacation in February, Stump Sprouts offers lessons and equipment rentals from 9am until sunset.
At Northfield Mountain, families can enjoy similar pleasures – over 25 miles of groomed trails, as well as group and private lessons and equipment rentals. With trails open from Wednesday through Sunday from 9am-4:30pm during good conditions, Northfield Mountain has lots to offer! On Saturday, January 9, 2016, 1pm-4pm, they too will be hosting a free Winter Trails Day. Free clinics for first-time skiers and snowshoeing lessons for ages 8 to adult. Check their Facebook page for a weather update.
Those already familiar with the sport of cross-country skiing and in possession of proper equipment can explore trail systems offered at other local properties, as well as the trails found at larger venues. Local favorites include Bartholomew’s Cobble in Sheffield and Williamstown‘s Field Farm, both Trustees of Reservations properties open to year-round exploration; as well as Mass Audubon’s Lime Kiln Farm in Sheffield. The most intrepid of skiers can explore other Trustees of Reservations properties that welcome cross-country skiers when the snow flies, like the Chesterfield Gorge in West Chesterfield, but families are asked to keep in mind that such properties do not offer groomed trails and may include trails that present great challenges to novice skiers. Adventurous skiers can choose from a long list of properties in both the Berkshires and the Pioneer Valley.
Even further access to local opportunities for cross-country skiing can be found through the Western Massachusetts Cross Country Ski Association. Offering a list of participating ski areas and frequent updates on trail conditions at the seven member properties, the Western Massachusetts Cross Country Ski Association serves as a useful online resource – allowing families to peruse conditions and plan visits easily from home!
6 Western MA Nordic Skiing Resources
- Bartholomew’s Cobble. Bring your own skis. 413-229-8600. 105 Weatogue Road, Ashley Falls, Sheffield, MA.
- Field Farm. Bring your own skis. 413-298-3239, 554 Sloan Road, Williamstown, MA.
- Lime Kiln Farm. Bring your own skis. 413-637-0320. Silver Street, Sheffield, MA.
- Northfield Mountain. Rental skis and lessons available. 800-859-2960. 99 Millers Falls Rd, Northfield, MA.
- Notchview. Rental skis and lessons available. 413-684-0148. Route 9, Windsor, MA.
- Stump Sprouts. Rental skis and lessons available. 413-339-4265. West Hill Road, Hawley, MA.
[Photo credits: (c) Sienna Wildfield]