Cross-country skiing, a part of the Nordic skiing sport family, is popular in areas with large snowfields. Anyone can do it. Though courses are mapped out at many ski resorts, you can always just head out into an open field or golf course for free. It’s exhilarating exercise for all ages and fitness levels, easy and accessible, less expensive than downhill to get into and is a great sport for multi-generational family fitness.

First some history. Cross-country skiing originated out of necessity in Fennoscandian countries in prehistoric time. The sport was brought to America by Norwegian and Swedish immigrants. One legendary “Norskie,” Snowshoe Thompson, carried the mail across the Sierra Nevada for 20 winters from 1856-1876 and is considered the father of California skiing. It is a sport for a lifetime and we like this sport because of its multi-generational aspect. Canada’s Jackrabbit Johannsen, who was officially race skiing at the age of 75, and still skied daily past the age of 100, inspires all boomers into centenarianism!

Health benefits. Cross-country helps improve your balance, coordination and agility. The poling and kick-glide technique combine to provide a total-body workout that is an excellent cross-training sport for running and biking. Like all aerobic workouts, it is an intense way to burn calories, increase endurance and boost cardiovascular fitness. Best of all, cross-country skiing is an ideal low-impact sport (easy on knees and joints) that exercises all major muscle groups (especially the hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteus muscles and triceps), and there’s less risk of injury than in downhill or boarding.

If you decide to stay the course, you might consider investing in a Cross Country Ski Areas Association (CCSAA) membership. Everything you need to know about where to ski and snowshoe, current snow conditions, reliable equipment and services, and how to get started in Nordic skiing is available on their site. To stay on top of this Nordic sport, subscribe to Cross Country Skier Magazine. And, for indoor workouts, purchase a NordicTrack, still the best aerobic exercise equipment you can have in your home gym.

Among the top places to cross-country ski are some of our favorites like Kirkwood outside of Tahoe, Lone Mountain at Big Sky and Keystone near Breckenridge. For a family-friendly fitness tune-up, here is another Tahoe area favorite we recently reviewed:

www.royalgorge.comRoyal Gorge Located in the Sierra Nevadas just a short drive from Lake Tahoe, Royal Gorge is North America’s largest cross-country ski resort. With an average snowfall of 600 inches, Royal Gorge has a base elevation of 5,800 feet and high elevation of 7,400 feet with a vertical drop of 1,600 feet. This adds up to 9,172 skiable acres, and 90 trails (28 novice, 46 intermediate, 16 advanced), each of which is 20-feet wide with two diagonal stride tracks, and a skating lane between them. Royal Gorge has the largest cross-country grooming fleet in the world which allows for the 330 kilometer (over 205 miles) track system to be continuously groomed. Whew! For a family fitness vacation, check out this website to get back in shape while enjoying fabulous family-fun frolicking in the glory of the High Sierras.