Northampton Press

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Contributed photo Cross country skiing is less expensive than downhilling or snowboarding and it gives a low impact aerobic workout. Contributed photo Cross country skiing is less expensive than downhilling or snowboarding and it gives a low impact aerobic workout.

Try cross country skiing

Thursday, January 9, 2014 by NICK HROMIAK Special to the Press in Sports

With the latest blast of snow we've received, conditions are perfect for a cross-country ski experience.

Compared to downhill skiing and snowboarding, with their pricey lift tickets and equipment, cross-country skiing, often called Nordic skiing, is considerably less expensive and easier to learn in that it's similar to walking and gliding. And the sport can be done anywhere there's open flat terrain be it on local municipal golf courses like Allentown and Bethlehem muni, the Rails to Trails paths of Whitehall Parkway in Whitehall, Lehigh Parkway off 15th Street in Allentown, Trexler Park and Cedar Beach Park in Allentown, the Delaware Canal Towpath between Easton and Uhlerstown, Lehigh Gorge which has 20 miles of trails between White Haven and Glen Onoko, state game lands and state parks.

At one time Terry Hill Water Park in Breinigsville, maintained a cross-country ski trail through their wooded hillside landscape.

Cross-country skiing also has its health benefits in that it offers a low impact aerobic workout.

As for equipment, all that's needed is cross-country skis – often called skinny or backcountry skis because of their narrow width - or you can opt the more advanced and wider touring skis that can also be used for downhill skiing.

Cross-country ski boots can be low profile ones like sneakers, or higher top ones that look like and can double as hiking boots. Both have a clip or platform at the toe that hooks into the ski bindings that come with the skis.

Then there are poles. The rule of thumb is to buy ones that should extend from your armpits to the ground. And while they cost a little more, adjustable poles are even better as they can fit any size person and can also double as hiking or snowshoeing poles.

Last but not least is clothing. Since you'll be working up a pretty good sweat, light and layered is the way to go. Forgot cotton be it undershirts or top layers as it doesn't wick moisture away from the body which causes chills and cold when not moving. Opt instead for clothes with moisture wicking polypropylene or the latest fad, Under Amour garments that perform the same chore. Top that with a windbreaker or fleece type outerwear jacket, and you'll be warm while providing a good deal of flexibility.

Locally, L.L. Bean shops at the Promenade Shop in Upper Saucon Township, has a full line of cross-country gear and clothes.

And if you want to go even less expensive, snowshoeing gives you a similar aerobic workout. While there are generally three types of snowshoes – Alaskan, Michigan and Bear Paw - the latter style is most popular as they can handle the deep fluffy stuff since you want to walk on top of deep snow, instead of in it.

If you want to feel like Sgt. Preston of the Yukon (only old-timers will remember that TV show), opt for the wooden and rawhide type shoes often seen hanging on cabin walls as ornaments. There are even snowshoes for kids and plastic ones that are commonly rented at Canadian resorts.

L.L. Bean also has a nifty crossover model the call the Boreal Sliding Snowshoe that they say climbs like a snowshoe but glides like a ski. It's a unique snowshoe that's recommended for climbing power while providing a fun, stable glide on flat or rolling terrain. They're offered in a set that includes the snowshoes and Berwin bindings that fit most cold-weather hiking boots.

So instead of complaining about the snow, get out and enjoy it by either cross-country skiing or snowshoeing your way to better vascular health.