Laura Rice is a runner from Chicago, who surfed into my website one day looking for training advice and noticed that I also offered information about cross-country skiing. "That sounds like fun," she thought. It was in the middle of a winter when Chicago had been blessed (non-skiers would say "cursed") with more snow than normal. Laura and her husband Patrick Roche discovered that they didn't need to pack their bags and jump on airplane; they could ski in Lincoln Park, only a few blocks from their Near North apartment.
But skiing in the middle of the city, though convenient, has its limitations. For one, being surrounded by skyscrapers is not quite the same as being surrounded by mountains. When you're in the middle of the woods, you don't have to put up with noise and exhaust like you do when skiing only a snowball throw from Lake Shore Drive. Also, the city of Chicago--though it loves joggers, hikers and bikers during the summer--does not groom tracks for skiers using its parks in the winter. Rice returned to my website and found an article I had written about Shanty Creek, a golf and downhill ski resort in Northern Michigan that also offers excellent cross-country trails. "Let's plan a trip," she told her husband.
Rice had discovered the world of destination sking, the fact that while it can be fun and convenient to ski near home, you can obtain even more pleasure by going to a destination resort offering not only groomed tracks, but also luxury housing and fine dining. I learned about Rice when I walked into the Nordic Center at Shanty Creek and encountered her and her husband. "Oh my gosh," she told me. "You're the reason we're here!"
We chatted briefly, then headed our separate ways to ski at what is one of my favorite resorts. Shanty Creek actually consists of two ski areas: Schuss and Summit. You can ski from one to the other, a distance of about 9 Kilometers, then hop on a shuttle bus back--or ski back by another route. There's something about going point-to-point with an ultimate destination that gives you more a sense of accomplishment than if you simply skied out-and-back or in a circle. Shanty Creek's Nordic system offers 30 Kilometers of trails groomed for classic skiers and skaters, beginners and experts. As good as that sounds, I could have sent Rice and her husband to Crystal Mountain or Boyne Mountain, other nearby ski resorts that provide equally rewarding nordic experiences. After that visit to Shanty Creek,I wrote in an article titled The Winter of Our Content : "With vertical drop peaking around 450 feet, Michigan can't match Rocky Mountain resorts where vertical drops are counted in thousands of feet, but the cross-country skiing is nonpareil. You can travel through North America--or even Scandinavia--and not find Nordic trails as well designed and groomed as you will at the three resorts mentioned above."
But there are great destination ski resorts everywhere you find snow on a consistent basis. The problem is finding time to ski them all. You'd need an Endless Winter, the skier's equivalent of The Endless Summer, the 1960s film about a pair of surfers who went from beach to beach looking for the perfectn wave. (They finally found it in South Africa.) Identifying destination ski resorts requires some search skills, but as Laura Rice proved, it's not that difficult. If you're looking for ski trails in Michigan, you can surf into the website maintained by the Great Lakes Nordic Ski Council. Similar websites exist for destination resorts wherever you might want to ski.
Even when there is plenty of snow in your own backyard, getting away to a resort destination can increase your skiing pleasure.
|Getting Started||Ski Technique||In Full Stride|
|Where to Ski||Turning||Snowshoes|
|Two Techniques||Stopping||Downhill Skiing|