By Indrek Kongats
Finding a dedicated cross-country ski trail is almost a rarity these days, as people on snowmobiles, snowshoers and winter hikers all try to make use of a groomed trail. Having restricted use for just one sport discipline might not be so popular with the non-XC ski crowd, but is truly paradise for skiers that love the sport.
The first trails were established in 1937 by Art Roscoe, a forefather of skiing in Western New York. Art was the Park Forester and Assistant Manager at the time, and began utilizing old logging roads as XC ski trails; he even built a ski jump and downhill ski area in the park.
Shortly after his retirement in 1968, new and improved trails were cut in 1972 with only one purpose in mind—to have a dedicated XC ski trail network. Now the area has one of the best double tracks for the classic style XC ski enthusiast in the northeast.
There are over 20 miles of maintained trails in the network today, ranging from beginner to advanced and remote backcountry areas.
Dogs, hikers, snowshoers and snowmobiles are prohibited from these trails and there is a trail etiquette for their use that include: slower skiers ski in the right hand track and groups should stay in single file; if you stop, get out of the track; if you fall, attempt to re-groom the track with your skis; and most importantly, don’t leave litter behind— what you take in must come out with you. Trail use instructions and etiquette are posted on the outside of the ski center building.
Classic Cross-Country Techniques
The Art Roscoe Ski-Touring area is dedicated to the classic XC skiing technique, which includes the use of groomed tracks to guide the skier along the trail. On the flats and flat uphills, the classic technique is unmatched for speed and pleasure, creating a fluid forward motion that uses both legs and arms equally; this motion is called the diagonal.
Christian Hollow and Sweetwater Trails are suitable for beginners. Leonard Run is a more intermediate trail. Ridge Run Trail is for the advanced skier, as it utilizes Patterson and is nine miles long if you start and finish at Bova.
Double poling is another form of the classic technique, where instead of the arms following the diagonal motion of the legs, they work as one motion powering the skier forward with a tremendous burst of speed.
Ski-skating is a more modern technique that changes the style from a back and forth running motion to a pushing to the side ice skating motion. This technique ruins the groomed tracks and flattens out the trail. Sometimes going up a steep slope, skating is required or the use of the herringbone, double pole or even side steeping. Certain trails do allow ski-skating and they include Stone Tower, Patterson and Snowsnake Run. As you may have guessed, these are steeper and more advanced trails. Ski-skating will not work on ungroomed trails where there isn’t a firm base to push off from.
Downhill sections are where most skiers get into trouble and will bail-out or fall if their descent is too fast or out of control. Combine the downhill with a sharp turn and you are in for a doozey of a fall unless you know how to control your speed.
You have two options going downhill and that is to hold a crouch and edge when necessary. This technique is for someone that is confident in their ability and has the balance and coordination to handle the speed in turns. For those of us that alpine ski, we can apply the same techniques as in downhill skiing, but without the rigid boots, bindings and steel carving edges, it’s a whole new ball game.
The step turn and the skate turn are the most common XC techniques to make a controlled downhill turn. The snow plow will control your decent on a steep slope; the Telemark turn is by far the best, but it is an expert and acquired skill that is actually easy to learn from the right instructor.
If you want to get the most out of your XC skiing, then you have to learn something about waxing. Even if you use the non-wax kind of ski with a section of fish scales under foot, you still want a gliding wax for the tip and tail. Otherwise, you’ll always be stepping off the track to let faster skiers pass or trail your own group and get the nickname of slow-poke.
A kicker wax is used underfoot to give forward movement and bite into the snow— the non-wax skis use the fish scale, but on a steep uphill, the fish scale does not even compare with a good wax job.
It never hurts to carry both types of waxes in your pocket if you are not progressing the way you should. The kicker waxes, or Klister as they a called, come in a tube and are very sticky and gooey. Klister is temperature dependant for cold and warm snow conditions and must be removed after a ski outing, as everything will stick to your bases, including dirt, hair, clothes, etc.
The gliding waxes are in a puck form and are even more weather dependant with smaller temperature ranges. As the cold morning gives way to a sunny afternoon, your waxing needs might change, so anticipate this and have the warmer wax with you. Gliding waxes are applied thinly and buffed into the base, leaving a very thin film on your ski. After hours of skiing, this film will wear down and reapplication is needed. Carry a little kit with you with the different waxes, a cork block to buff in the wax, a scraper to remove excess wax and a cleaning cloth.
Snowshoeing is fun and there are no boundaries or conditions that you can’t snowshoe in unless it’s prohibited, as in the case of groomed XC trails. ASP has a dedicated snowshoe trail called the Bear Paw. If you are into snowshoe racing, then a trail is what you want, but if you are a free spirit and want to get away from the crowd, go off the beaten path and blaze your own trail— after all, that’s why snowshoes were invented.
The deeper the snow, the larger the snowshoe you’ll need to prevent sinking in. The shorter and wider types, like a bear paw, are for tight forested areas while the long classic design is for open country and going fast. Poles help tremendously in snowshoeing to help keep your balance and for climbing steep slopes without having your legs do all the work.