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January 18, 2022

A Great Family Activity – Intro to XC Skiing

This winter, more than any other, families are looking for things to do together outdoors – and whether you’re new to the sport or experienced  – xc skiing (or snowshoeing) is a perfect option for many reasons.

We’ve offered cross country trails at Mountain Top since 1964.   For 57 winters, skiers have enjoyed our trails – from Olympic champions to those headed out for the very first time.  We invite you to come out and enjoy our 6okm of widely varied, and mostly groomed, terrain.  A selection of our trails are dog friendly – so bring Fido!  One of the special things about Mountain Top’s trail system is its location on the resort.  Come and stay with us and your trail pass is included in your stay!  Enjoy luxurious lodge room, cabin or guest house accommodations, delicious cuisine, resort amenities (such as fitness center, sledding hill, ice skating rink and hot tub) and extra activities such as horse drawn sleigh rides!  Come and go on the trails as you please!

If you’re considering adding xc skiing (or snowshoeing) to your winter adventures, here is some basic information to help get you started.


There are several reasons for this – and they will serve as the outline for this blog.  As you’ll see
–  it’s an outdoor option no matter where you live – as long as you get snow.
–  in comparison to other winter sport options, it’s generally a lower financial commitment (the equipment & clothing, lessons and trail/pass costs)
– the learning curve is relatively easy
– on-trail access is less complicated
– it’s a great sport for any age! And likely pet friendly!


This year, there are many different operational procedures at ski centers.  Be sure to call ahead to inquire about trail pass procedures, make sure that rentals are available and other guidelines that may apply.


One of the many great things about cross country skiing is that it can be done on varied types of terrain. You don’t need mountains at all, as long as you have snow, and an (access allowed) area that allows for (vehicle free) safe passage – you’re all set.   Check with your local recreational areas, state & federal parks – even inquire with your local golf course.  There are many ‘non-maintained’  and free of charge options out there.  This winter in the northeast we’ve had a bounty of snowfall…so even if you aren’t planning a visit to VT, we’re sure you’ll find a place to hit the trails – or forge your own!


The benefits to skiing the trails at a center are numerous. Of course groomed trails will be easier and safer to ski…but centers also offer trail maps and extensive signage to ensure you don’t get lost, posted trail conditions to steer you toward the best trails on any given day, rental equipment and gear, varied terrain, lessons, ski patrols, parking and many times a cozy place to warm up and enjoy a cup of cocoa!  And…at Mountain Top we offer so much more


If you don’t know where your local cross country center is, you can always google it  – but there are also some fantastic ski related resources!  In google, you can look it up using ‘cross country ski’, ‘xc ski’ or ‘nordic ski’.  We also  highly recommend great resources such as SkiVT (which offers comprehensive information on all vermont ski resorts – year-round) and another resource – Trail Hub – to help you find a center near you (trail hub also posts mountain biking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and other trail info).  At Trail Hub you will not only find a center near you, but also be able to check their trail options and current ski conditions.  Another great resource is Cross Country Ski Areas Association (CCSAA).


Although there is always the option to purchase nordic skis, boots and poles, if you’re just starting out, it makes sense to rent or borrow equipment until you determine which kind will be best for you (or even that you’re committed to the sport).  Renting is highly recommended as the nordic center team can ensure sizing and ski type is perfect for you.

What to wear?  LAYERS!   If you don’t have access to nordic ski attire, simply dress like an onion!  Dress in breathable layers.  You’re going to get more exercise xc skiing than you would downhill skiing… so you want fabrics that will wick away moisture, and layers that you can shed as you warm up.  Leave your snow suits and alpine gear at home.  Dress as if you were going out for a winter run…including a hat and gloves of course.  Tip: avoid heavy socks. Not only will you likely not need them, but thinner socks will allow your rental boot to fit better.  Darn Tough Socks, right here in Vermont, make a great variety of options.


Although the learning curve with xc skiing is relatively easy, we always recommend a lesson when starting a new sport.  A lesson will expedite the process with a good foundation and have you mastering the trails with less frustration – as well as stop you from developing bad habits by trying to learn on your own.  A single ‘classic xc ski lesson’ will have you well on your way to handle most trails, ensuring that you have the know-how to face inclines, control speed, stop and more.  Snowshoeing is also a great, super easy to learn option. Once helped into their snowshoes, most users will be well on their way.  But if needed, our nordic center team are always here to assist!.


XC skiing is great for all ages – from infants (we offer pulks so you can bring your tiniest along) to active seniors.  The pace of xc skiing is more manageable, though more rigorous, than downhill.  Access to the trails tends to be immediately from the parking lot (no long walks carrying equipment),  there is no pressure of getting on or off of a lift and you won’t encounter lift lines – because there aren’t any!

It’s great for your health! The fresh air and aerobic activity with ‘low impact’ on knees and joints makes it a great healthy winter exercise option!   And as we mentioned, centers like Mountain Top also offer pet friendly trails.

It tends to be a lower price-point and therefore less of a financial commitment than many other winter activities (especially when considering the cost for an entire family).  For instance, equipment (purchase or rental), trail passes, lessons, attire – it all adds up – and in every category, nordic skiing tends to be less of an investment than it’s downhill counterpart.  Don’t take us the wrong way!  We love downhill skiing too!  They really are two very different experiences and we highly recommend a combination of the two to keep your winter adventurous!

So now you’re ready to go out and give XC skiing (or snowshoeing) a try!  Give us a call if we can answer any of your questions (802.483.2311) or book one of our trailside guest houses for you & your family!

We hope to see you on the trails soon!

(photo by Joanne Pearson/Fair Haven Photographs)

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Mountain Top Resort
195 Mountain Top Rd
Chittenden, Vermont 05737
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