There is no question about it! Sun Valley, Idaho is one of the most awesome winter sports towns in the United States. Besides having fantastic downhill skiing options, the Wood River Valley is home to over 200 kilometers of Nordic trails. You read that right! 200!
While I’ve lived in mountain towns for the past decade, I’ve never tried Nordic skiing, either classic or skate skiing. Like many, downhill has always been my thing. Still, when the right person asks, I’ll try just about any sport.
The first rule about skate skiing is GET A LESSON! Free clinics are sometimes available, but I was extremely happy taking a private lesson at the Galena Lodge ($65 for one person, $100 for two). The instructions lasted about an hour, but believe me, that was plenty of time to get both exhausted and hooked!
Galena Lodge offers equipment rentals, as does Sturdivant’s, the Elephant’s Perch, and Backwoods Mountain Sports. Make sure you ask if the rental fee can be applied to purchasing equipment because you will want your own equipment at some point! Like I said. I was hooked!
My goal of the first day of skate skiing was to not fall too much. In other words, getting comfortable on the skis is half of the battle. If you are a fan of classic Nordic skiing, the movements connected to skate skiing will come easier than if you are a downhiller, like me. I fell twice the first day, which I thought was a miracle. I guess my years of rollerblading back in the 90’s helped, but this was like rollerblading with 6’ long shoes and no heel pad to slow you down. But, don’t worry, your instructor isn’t going to put you on something you can’t handle.
After an hour of giving this sport a try, we had covered a little over a mile and were breathing hard and soaked in sweat. Did I mention not to overdress? Layers are your friend! Just starting out, we learned to skate without poles, the most basic V-1 move and learned how to stop. My partner tried the next move, V-2, but I guess I’m a slow learner. In the end, both of us felt good enough to try the trails on our own – in a few days.
Both Classic and Nordic skiing offer many ways to reach incredibly beautiful locations around Sun Valley. It’s seldom busy, and it’s incredibly good exercise. Also, dogs are welcome on some trails, but not all. The advantage of skate skiing is that it can be a much faster glide than classic. Being a devoted downhiller, this appeals to me.
While you can pick up the basics rather quickly, our instructor assured me that there is a lifetime of technique to learn. I guess we’ll need to take more lessons.
After just one lesson, I bought equipment and put in 3 miles on my second outing. The third time out was 7 miles. I’m still a slow learner – can’t get the hang of V-2 yet. But, I’m loving it. I’m not ready to hang up my downhill skis (or my snowboard), but I am ready to regularly add skate skiing to my list of winter activities.
See you out there!