When snow is in the forecast, the race is on for cross-country skiers.
But it’s not what you think. They’re actually rushing to make the most of their time on the white stuff.
“We rarely have good accumulation,” said Alec Smith of Omaha. “The skiing is good for a while and then it’s gone.”
So despite the temperatures, avid cross-country skiers often head to their favorite trails as soon as there is fresh snow.
For example, Smith had an hour to spare after Tuesday’s winter storm dropped a few inches of fresh, fluffy snow. He spent the hour doing laps at Elmwood Park, near the University of Nebraska at Omaha campus.
The sport is one of the more difficult endurance sports, forcing someone on skis to use all major muscle groups. It’s a great way to burn calories in the dead of winter.
Smith started with cold fingers as a strong wind pushed temperatures below zero. But about a half-hour later, he had stripped off his outer shell, warmed by constant motion.
It’s a somewhat common sight at Elmwood Park, the best cross-country skiing area in town, according to Omahan Craig Anderson.
Skiers have a choice of large, flat areas and the tree-covered hills of the Elmwood Park golf course, Anderson said. And for those who want to try the sport, but don’t want to shell out big bucks on a sport they are unsure of, Elmwood Park is conveniently near UNO’s Outdoor Venture Center.
The center rents outdoor equipment such as canoes and cross-country ski gear for trips into the wild. It also rents items like grills and horseshoe sets for a weekend in the backyard. Despite being part of the university, the general public is able to use its services.
“It’s like a test drive. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on new equipment for a sport you’re curious about, you can rent it all here for pennies on the dollar,” said Brian Tipton, OVC sales specialist.
Tipton said just as many non-students rent equipment from OVC as students.
A cross-country skiing set-up, including skis, poles, boots and bindings, can cost hundreds of dollars. The OVC’s weekend rental rate is $14 for students and $17 for others.
UNO’s rental center is in the rear of the Health, Physical Education & Recreation building, 6001 Dodge St. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus also has a rental center at 841 North 14th St. in Lincoln.
The centers also rent snowshoes for those interested in experiencing winter sports, but not wanting to ski. For those who want to get away from the city to cross-country ski, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has mapped out many trails. Greg Wagner, commission public information officer, suggests finding area mountain bike trails, like Indian Cave State Park and Branched Oak Lake, for challenging ski trails.
Schramm Park State Recreation Area, nine miles south of Gretna on Highway 31, is Wagner’s favorite place to ski.
“There’s adventure and wildlife around every corner,” Wagner said.
The two mile-and-a-half loop trails are rugged and will test all your skills, Wagner said.
“You can practice on the flats before you hit the loops,” he said.
Schramm is a park that doesn’t get a lot of traffic, offering a more primitive nature experience. Plus, you can warm up on the really cold days at the Ak-Sar-Ben Aquarium.
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