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The Great Wide Wonderland Of Snow And Skiing

cross country skis

The Great, Wide Wonderland Of Snow And Skiing by Sandy Knoll

You've made up your mind. You've resolved (maybe again) to get more exercise. All that's left is deciding what to choose. What if you wanted something you can do either indoors or outdoors, in any season, at nearly any time, and provides an all-over ‘workout’ without feeling like you've done any work?

Think a minute: This easily describes several of the different types of the surprisingly varied world of snow skiing. The image most people think of is standard: You get on a chairlift, drop off easily, and ski down the slopes. You're wearing heavy, cold-weather gear and usually topple over once or twice on the way down, skis askew in the air, the biting chill of the wind hitting your face.

Thankfully, the world of snow skiing has broadened widely and has become a year-round enjoyment for millions -- while also providing an excellent source of cardiovascular exercise.

Downhill, or classical, skiing, is the picture-postcard most of us think of when we hear the word "skiing." It usually involves places like The Alps, Aspen, Telluride, or just about anywhere most jet-setters and celebrities frequent.

This is the one that involves a chairlift, and skiing down often-steep slopes. There is either real snow or manufactured snow, and you will get cold, but you'll warm up once you get going.

The sport is not too difficult once you get the hang of it, but it definitely will not be easy the first day you try. Actually, you can expect to fall down many times. Lessons are usually a good idea, and this type is skiing is going to be expensive. Lift ticket prices, travel to and from ski sites, ski rentals or purchase, and appropriate wear, including sunglasses, are going to cost you more financially, but the results can be exhilarating and quite fun -- again, once you catch on.

Next, there's cross-country skiing. Admittedly, this is going to be physically challenging to most people. Here's where you do all the work yourself. There are no chairlifts to bring you up the hills, and you must ski up on your own. But, on the flip side, you won't careen down mountains near as steep as the ones in downhill skiing, and it's much more affordable than downhill skiing. Trail passes and ski rentals are relatively inexpensive, and you probably can teach yourself -- hence, no lessons!

Skate cross-country skiing is a different form of cross-country skiing that requires slightly different skis. You can actually ‘skate’ with regular, classical skates, but skis do make it easier. You can pick up speed by simulating the physical motions of ice-skating. It's not too difficult to pick up skate cross-country, but it is harder than classical cross-country skiing, and requires more physical endurance. It is also helpful to have clear and wider trails for this to be truly enjoyable.

If you're really the adventurous type, the ski jump, in which you leap from specially prepared jump slopes will definitely test your stamina and manoeuvrability. Note that this will also test your chequebook balance, as well as alpine skiing, which has fewer twisted courses that permit much faster speeds, but again, it will have a more pronounced affect on your bank balance than the other types of snow skiing.

Snowboarding involves a single, wide ski, or snowboard, no poles, and is similar to surfing. Ski experts have also now come up with ski boarding, which employs shorter and wider skis that are generally used without poles. Ski boarding also offers the skier some of the sensations of ice skating or in-line roller skating. It is usually easier to learn than classical skiing, largely because ski boards are simply more ‘handler-friendly’.

With the comprehensive, attractive array of skiing methods out there today, there's something in it for everyone. Can't stand the cold? Try cross-country. Love the idea of bounding from a slope onto hard, impacted snow and hitting the ground hard and fast? Simple. Take up ski jumping. But please -- take lessons first!

Copyright 2005 Sandy Knoll, the webmaster for which is a great resource for all things related to snow and snow activities.

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