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Published February 16, 2014, 04:56 PM

Olympic sport of cross-country skiing seeing boost locally

FARGO – Laura Sivertson had a NordicTrack in her Florida home before moving here 20 years ago. Cross-country skiing seemed like a natural way to exercise in Fargo.

By: Sherri Richards, INFORUM

FARGO – Laura Sivertson had a NordicTrack in her Florida home before moving here 20 years ago. Cross-country skiing seemed like a natural way to exercise in Fargo.

“It gets me through winter,” she says.

Cross-country skiing gives her a chance to be outside in the winter, plus is enjoyable and good exercise, she says.

As Sivertson points out, it’s one of the few outdoor Olympic winter sports that can be done right here.

And, it can be done by anyone, she says. It’s a low-impact sport that incorporates all the major muscle groups.

“A lot of people think it’s for the athletic, like the runners,” she says. “You can set your own pace. You don’t have to go fast. You don’t have to ski like the Olympians.”

There are two types of cross-country skiing: classic and skate.

Classic cross-country skiing is typically done in a groomed track. The skier uses a “kick and glide” motion.

Skate, or freestyle, skiing uses a movement more like inline skating on a flat surface. Skiers can glide faster and go longer distances.

Cross-country skiing debuted as an Olympic sport in 1924. Events so far in the Sochi Winter Games have included the skiathlon, sprint, individual and relay. The ladies’ and men’s team sprint semifinals and finals and the ladies’ and men’s mass start are slated for this week, according to Sochi2014.com.

Both the summer and winter Olympics tend to spark interest in their featured sports, says Erik Berg, a longtime skier and member of the local Prairie’s Edge Nordic Skiers club. He expects the same will hold true with cross-country skiing.

It may be a prime time to pick up the sport in our area.

“The trails are groomed more consistently than they ever have been and the quality of grooming is at a better level than it ever has been,” Berg says.

There are groomed trails in several parks and golf courses in Fargo-Moorhead. Equipment rentals are available at Edgewood in Fargo and MB Johnson Park in Moorhead, as well as local sporting goods stores, such as Scheels. The cost to rent the skis, boots and poles is about $10 a day.

Clay Whittlesey, director of recreation for the Fargo Park District, says he’s noticed an influx of cross-country skiing in the last few years.

He credits it to more people trying to live a healthier, more active lifestyle.

Also, he says, people want to be outside, even in winter.

“It’s a good way to relax and unwind,” Whittlesey says. “You can go on your own and clear or your head, you can take your family out.”

One rather warm Sunday, Whittlesey went to Edgewood and was floored by the number of people out skiing that day.

“It was rewarding as a staff person to see activity and usage,” he says.

The Fargo Park District also offers lessons during the month of January, taught by PENS members. Spots fill up fast, Whittlesey says.

Kids as young as age 6 can take lessons, Berg says. Younger kids can also ski with the right equipment and extra help, he says.

While trails are better groomed and rental equipment has improved, Berg sees room for improvement. He would like more lighted trails (currently the only lighted trail in the cities is Viking Ship Park in Moorhead). Cross-country ski programs at the youth or high school level would increase its exposure, Berg says.

Sivertson, also a member of PENS, says people may think of cross-country skiing as an isolated activity, but the club provides a sense of camaraderie. The group hosts regular ski socials.

She remembers one icy, snowy day where the members were able to encourage each other through the route.

“Each one of us said that if we were by ourselves, we would have turned around,” she says.

Places to ski

In Fargo-Moorhead:

Edgewood Golf Course, Fargo (rentals)

Lindenwood Park to Dike West, Fargo

Prairiewood Golf Course, Fargo

Rose Creek Golf Course, Fargo

MB Johnson Park, Moorhead (rentals)

Viking Ship/Davy Park, Moorhead (lighted)

Gooseberry Park, Moorhead

North and South Elmwood Park, West Fargo

Rendezvous Park, West Fargo (groomed occasionally)

Area state parks

Buffalo River State Park, Glyndon, Minn. (rentals)

Fort Ransom (N.D.) State Park

Cross-country ski resorts

Rainbow Resort, Waubun, Minn.

Maplelag Resort, Callaway, Minn.

Spidahl Ski Gaard, Fergus Falls, Minn.

Five Lakes Resort, Vergas, Minn.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556