The 5 W’s and FAQ of Cross-Country Skiing in Lake Tahoe

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The 5 W’s and FAQ of Cross-Country Skiing in Lake Tahoe

There are a ton of health benefits to taking up cross country skiing, especially doing it as often as you can in a beautiful natural environment like Lake Tahoe. However, if you’ve never done it before or you’re not familiar with the Sierra Nevada terrain, then it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why this Tahoe Cross Country Ski Guide covers the five W’s and frequently asked questions about where to go, what to wear, when to ski, why get into the sport, and more…
Kid Cross Country Skiing

Who Can (or Should) Cross Country Ski?

Cross-country skiing is a great low impact sport that anyone in decent physical shape can pretty much do, and participating in it often will improve one’s balance, strength, and endurance. Therefore, if you don’t mind working up a sweat while being outside in the cold, then this is a nice natural social distancing activity that also makes you feel like you did something productive that day.

Many cross-country skiers also like to bring their furry four-legged friends with them. Not all cross-country centers allow them, but places like Northstar California, Kirkwood, and Tahoe XC welcome pooches on the trails for an additional fee (See the Lake Tahoe Cross Country Ski Guide for links and more information). Public places like Bijou, Rabe Meadow, or the Nevada Nordic trails are also open to pets, and accessing those kinds of trails is free of charge (or maybe the price of a parking fee).

When going into any kind of backcountry, it’s always a good idea to bring a friend or at least let someone know where you’re going and how long you expect to be gone. Make sure that your cell phone is charged up and review information on the Tahoe Backcountry including weather and avalanche report links.  If you plan on climbing up in elevation to a peak or a vista point on untouched or ungroomed snow, it also helps to bring a shovel, beacon, and/or probe (but those only help if there’s a buddy with you who has the same kind of gear). Level ground for beginners near the ski center or close to town is generally safe (if you’re at a legitimate cross country ski center or a place like Rabe Meadow) from avalanche danger, but it’s still good to be prepared and take all necessary precautions.

What Do You Wear Cross Country Skiing?

While participating in any outdoor sport in Lake Tahoe whether it’s in the summer or winter, I’m a big fan of layering up with dry wick clothing. You want to wear clothes that are comfortable, secure, and efficiently absorb sweat, all the way down to your underwear. Start out with a conforming warm underlayer like leggings and a lightweight long-sleeve top covered up by a fleece sweatshirt and weatherproof snow pants. On a warmish sunny 42-degree day you might be good with simply that but on a blizzard, consider wearing a thick fleece-lined snow jacket and warmer socks (hand warmers and foot warmers can make you feel cozier, too). Regardless of what kind of weather you’re cross-country skiing in, don’t forget a beanie, gloves, and goggles (or sunglasses)- those are an absolute necessity to help prevent snow blindness.

When is the Best Time to Cross Country Ski?

While participating in any outdoor sport in Lake Tahoe whether it’s in the summer or winter, I’m a big fan of layering up with dry wick clothing. You want to wear clothes that are comfortable, secure, and efficiently absorb sweat, all the way down to your underwear. Start out with a conforming warm underlayer like leggings and a lightweight long-sleeve top covered up by a fleece sweatshirt and weatherproof snow pants. On a warmish sunny 42-degree day you might be good with simply that but on a blizzard, consider wearing a thick fleece-lined snow jacket and warmer socks (hand warmers and foot warmers can make you feel cozier, too). Regardless of what kind of weather you’re cross-country skiing in, don’t forget a beanie, gloves, and goggles (or sunglasses)- those are an absolute necessity to help prevent snow blindness.

Cross Country Ski image Red dots
Ski equipment images

When is the Best Time to Cross Country Ski?

In the 14 years I’ve lived in Lake Tahoe, every winter season is different as to when Mother Nature decides to bring us snow. However, generally most cross-country ski centers are open by Christmas and keep their trails groomed (or available) through April-ish. OpenSnow, NOAA, and The Weather Channel are some sources to go for weather information or visit a cross country ski center’s website from our Tahoe Cross Country Ski Guide to see when their season starts and/or ends.

Northstar California | Truckee, CA

Address: 100 Northstar Dr., Truckee, CA 96161
Website: https://www.northstarcalifornia.com/
Hours of operation: 9am-4pm daily
Cost: $55/adults, $42/children 5-12, free/kids 4 & under
Activities allowed: cross country skiing, snowshoeing, fat tire biking, telemarking
Number of acres: 35 kilometers of trails
Number of trails: At least 23

Summary: Northstar California is known for its alpine skiing, shopping, dining, and ice-skating rink, but few people know that it has 35 kilometers of trails that are ideal for cross country skiing, fat tire biking, and more for all ages and abilities. This is also the perfect place to go to get away from the hustle and bustle in and around the Village, and these types of activities are easy enough to do with the whole family. Northstar is also one of the only places in North Lake Tahoe that allows fat tire biking and provides free access to Epic season passholders.

Where Do You Go in Lake Tahoe to Cross Country Ski?

Since Lake Tahoeians are all about being outdoors and getting exercise, there are plenty of legitimate cross-country ski centers and open parks/beaches/flat ground to just go and slide around on. If you’re just getting into the sport, consider going to Tahoe XC, Northstar California, or Kirkwood where they provide ski lessons and rentals.

Why Cross-Country Ski?

This W in cross-country skiing kind of goes without saying…you should cross country ski because it’s FUN! It’s also a great way to stay fit, active, and enjoy the peace and quiet of the forested Lake Tahoe environment.

How Do You Cross Country Ski?

Like in any ski or board sport, if you know how to shift your weight properly, maintain balance, and move your body with coordinated arms and leg effort, then you already have the fundamentals in place to cross country ski as that is basically all it takes to stride on flat ground. There are several tutorials on the web about how to do this and a few Lake Tahoe cross-country centers also offer clinics, lessons, and rentals for those who want to get into the sport properly. Like in alpine skiing, trail difficulty is graded and marked by green circles (novice), blue squares (intermediate), and black diamonds (advanced/expert). Therefore, if you are just starting out, look for the green trails.

Why Now is a Good Time to Go Cross Country Skiing in Lake Tahoe?

Cross country skiing in Lake Tahoe is the perfect social distancing sport that improves your health. Like hiking in the summer, you can breathe in the fresh air, take in the surrounding beauty, and do something fun with your pup if you have one. There’s snow on the ground and cross-country ski centers are open, so now is the best time to hit the trails!

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