◆ Star Valley is literally a snow globe waiting to be explored.
By Tagen McEntire
When I met my husband Eric, he told me he grew up cross country skiing because his mother is Finnish. As a child, my mother-in-law would cross country ski to school and her father made cross country skis for the locals. I grew up downhill skiing and I thought, “how hard could it be to cross country ski…”
Let’s just say if video footage of my first attempts on skinny skis existed, it would win the best in show on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Picture little ole’ me trying to cross country ski down a pretty steep hill with tiny skies and a loose heel. Bumps, bruises and a crushed ego doesn’t even begin to cover what happened. But I got up! Now, 18 years later I am still xc skiing and am teaching my kids (ages 8 and 5).
Here’s what I’ve learned. Start somewhere flat. (Trust me you don’t want the experience of flying down the canyon like I did). When someone says their mother is from Finland, just know that even at the age of 75 she will run circles around you when you’re trying to learn and just listen to her advice. Cross country skiing is a full body workout. It’s like mountain biking, it’s a nice workout on the flat, hard on the uphill and even better when you’re going down. Once you learn the tricks of how to master the skinny skies it is fun for the whole family.
Most of the time in Star Valley I cross country ski on my parents road near their house. This last Christmas I found out there are several trails in Star Valley.
Salt River Pass
This trail has a fantastic view of the Salt River Range. The trail is groomed from about December through March. This trail is a 2.6 mile-long loop. From Afton, travel 16 miles south on HWY 89 to the top of Salt River Pass. Go to the plowed parking area/pull out on the east side of HWY 89.
This Cross Country trail is at the Star Valley View Golf Course. It wasn’t plowed when we went on the trail because it had just snowed — but most of the time it is groomed.
Parking is available near the Pro Shop. From the parking area, a downhill loop is to the West and an uphill loop takes off to the East.
Star Valley Ranch
The Star Valley Ranch Association grooms cross country skiing trails on Cedar Creek Golf Course. This would be the first 9 holes starting at the swimming pool. The trail is about 4 miles long. It is not professionally groomed but the maintenance guys groom it as time and weather permit. “It is so beautiful and it is rare not to see deer and other wildlife when you are out on the trails,” says Trish Smith
Check out the Alpine Trails and Pathways website for more information at www.alpinetap.org, Alpine grooms 5 miles of trails. The trails start at the end of Country road 100 on the Palisades Lakebed. Jeremy Larsen, one of the dedicated trail groomers said, “Our trails are open to skate and classic skiers, skijor, fat bikers, snowshoers, and dogs. Our trails are free to users, but happily accept donations to fill the grooming gas tank. Bushong Grooming sets a high quality corduroy and track on Wednesdays and volunteers do touch up grooms another couple days a week.”
Insider Tricks for beginner Cross Country Skiers by Leena Peckham the Finnish mother-in-law
Start on a flat area until you can “walk” with the skis.The walk needs to evolve into sliding the ski and pulling/pushing with the opposite pole.
Rent your equipment for the first couple of times (or borrow from a friend).
When you fall, line the skis parallel to the hill or they slip away from your body. Put both poles on the side that your upper body is and pull yourself up or if on a hill, put the poles on the downhill side to pull you up.
When skiing up a very gentle hill and the skis start to slip, slam the ski down on the trail and support yourself with the poles. Steeper hill; tip of the ski outward, back toward center and “walk” up supporting yourself with the poles. Keep your feet far enough apart so the back ends of the skis don’t cross. Very steep hill; turn sideways and step up with the ski that’s on the higher side, then bring the other ski next to the first; balance with the poles. Repeat.
When traveling downhill assess how fast you want to go and the condition of the trail. If you start going too fast and the snow is soft, just sit down. If the trail is “gone,” snowplow with your skis.