When you need a little extra motivation to get outside when it's cold, cross country skiing can get the blood pumping. There's no worry about lift lines or the high-cost of lift tickets. It's also a great way to get out for a fun day with friends, offering plenty of opportunity for conversation while enjoying some beautiful scenery. And you can't beat the burn of this full-body workout - up to 500 calories per hour!
Plan Your Cross Country Skiing Adventure
If you are new to cross country skiing, either head out with an experienced friend or guide, or take a lesson or join a beginner group tour to learn the basics of moving, slowing down, getting up hills and, most importantly, stopping! Venture Outdoors runs Cross Country ski trips at least once per week through the months of January and February, some geared especially for newcomers with a focus on education and technique. REI locations at Settlers Ridge and the South Side also occasionally offer beginner cross country lessons.
The experts suggest preparing for a successful cross-country ski adventure by wearing multiple non-cotton layers and a waterproof jacket. You can save some money by wearing clothes and other gear that you already have for hiking, biking, or other sports. You will probably also want to carry a small backpack or Camelbak for basic essentials such as water, energy snacks, tissues, and your car keys and cell phone.
You'll need to buy, rent or borrow the boots, poles, and skis, of course! Often you can rent them at the place that you're skiing, but if that's not an option then rent your equipment the day prior from a local ski store such as Peak Ski and Snowboard in Monroeville and Gibsonia. Some of the organized cross country trips, such as those offered by Venture Outdoors, make rental equipment available either through advance reservation or en route.
Where to Cross Country Ski Near Pittsburgh
Most Pittsburgh-area ski resorts have some cross-country trails, including Seven Springs and Hidden Valley. Don't overlook area parks and nature centers, however -- the types of places where you might hike in the summer. Most PA state parks near Pittsburgh have cross country trails, including Raccoon Creek State Park, Ohiopyle State Park, and Moraine State Park. Ask the park officials to point you to the best cross-country trails for your ability level, or check out this list of Popular Pittsburgh Area Cross Country Trails. Hartwood Acres is another beautiful place for an afternoon of cross country skiing when there's enough snow, as are the local rail trails including the Montour Trail and the Panhandle Trail.
Check out the snow conditions in the Laurel Highlands before you go! Just visit the Pennsylvania Cross-Country Skier's Association, and click on the webcam.