Readers, how was Valentine’s Day? Did you have the courage to invite your secret crush to Skate Date?
If you haven’t already had a chance to hit the ice, Reading Week’s just around the corner and if you’re staying in Toronto, be sure to take advantage of the free public skating rinks around the city. And, don’t forget to warm-up afterward with a toasty mug of hot chocolate!
Another fun, low-budget outdoor activity to try out this Reading Week is cross-country skiing. Like skating, it’s a healthy, active way to make the most of the cold winter months. Now, the motion of lunge-gliding on your skis while planting your poles to propel yourself forward might seem like an exercise exclusive to the pros. But, classic cross-country skiing is a lot like walking. Left. Right. Opposite arm. Opposite leg. Yes, it takes a little practice to get power out of your glide on the snow. But,just do what feels natural and efficiency will come!!!
I got some first-hand experience on Sunday. My friend and I were both feeling overwhelmed by assignments and cramming for midterms. So, we decided to take a break from our stress and embarked on a spontaneous road trip to Algonquin Park.
As soon as we entered the peaceful wilderness of Algonquin Park, I felt instant relief. Once we clipped into our skis (which we’d rented from Mountain Equipment Co-op) and started slip-sliding and glide-lunging (our version of skiing) through the hardwood forest of the Fen Lake Trail, I could feel the midterm stress ooze from my body. Or, was it sweat from the full-body workout I was getting? Whatever it was, despite the sweat and pain, it was a calming and relaxing experience. And, we even saw a few giant moose tracks, but sadly, no moose…
Now, we were lucky that we had a car, some free time, a bit of cash, and a burning desire to truly escape the city. But, you don’t have to drive the three hours to Algonquin Park to enjoy cross-country skiing. Here are a few places to go in Toronto that are accessible by TTC:
High Park: Trails aren’t groomed and must be shared with hikers and dog-walkers, so it’s tricky to get into a rhythm without slipping and sliding. But, you’re allowed to ski anywhere in the park. This means that there are acres of trail to explore if you’re adventurous enough to set your own.
Ravines of the Don Valley: If there’s enough snow, you can escape the rush of the city by exploring the walking and cycling trails in Moore Park, Park Drive, and Vale of Avoca Ravines on skis. Like at High Park, the tracks are made by local enthusiasts, and have to be shared with walkers.
City Parks: Cross-country skiers seem to flock to the city’s open space. I’ve seen a few skiers setting tracks at Trinity Bellwoods and Riverdale Park. So, it’s worth checking out your local green space, or golf course if one’s nearby.
For those of you interested in getting out of the city, the U of T Outing Club also runs weekend cross-country ski trips to its “cabin,” located southwest of Collingwood on the Niagara Escarpment. By completing an online membership form and paying a fee of $20, you’ll be able to register for upcoming outdoor adventures, including skiing on some of the best trails in Ontario.
Whether you’re learning for the first time in a city park, or embarking on a serious wilderness trek, cross-country skiing is a great way to get outside and enjoy winter. And, since it uses nearly every muscle in your body, it’s a tough full-body workout! At first, you might feel like you’re sliding spastically instead of skiing, and you’ll probably take a few little tumbles, but that’s all part of the fun! Oh, and readers, if you’ve had any cross-country skiing experiences, good or bad, I’d love to hear about them!