Why Cross Country Skiing Should Be Your New Winter Pastime

I didn’t realize how profoundly a used pair of Cross Country Skis would affect my life. These skis (for myself and my family) that were destined for the dump became a vehicle for adventure and a gateway into the love of winter.

Though I’m commonly referred to now as the “no such thing as bad weather” lady, I wasn’t always that person. Though I’ve always loved nature and got outside a fair bit I often either dreaded winter or tired of it quickly. I holed up in my house, got irritated with colder temperatures and spent my days dreaming of spring.

was determined to change my ways and to learn to love winter. These skis combined with an adventure-loving group of friends accelerated my journey to being someone who genuinely enjoyed and looked forward to six months of winter a hundredfold at least. I’ll be honest that it’s a bit addicting (in a good way) and I crave the bracing fresh air in my lungs, the sun on my face and the exhilaration of getting myself moving in nature.

Jim Gaffigan has a comedy bit about X Country Skiing where he exclaims “What kind of antidepressant do you have to be on to enjoy cross country skiing?” What Jim doesn’t know is that X country skiing IS the anti depressant! The benefits of partaking in this sport are jaw-dropping to say the least and here in South East Saskatchewan we have the perfect terrain for the activity and an extended skiing season.

I’m going to share some of these benefits in the thinly veiled attempt to convince you that x country skiing deserves to be one of your major winter pastimes.

1. Warmth

It goes without saying that one of the hindrances to enjoying winter is feeling too cold. I get it. I don’t love standing around outside in the winter. It’s uncomfortable. What I LOVE though is being active outdoors in the winter. Typically with XC it’s important to layer your clothing well and start out just a bit cold because in a short amount of time you’ll be getting your blood pumping and warming up considerably. Recently I spent 2 hours skiing on a -35 degree day and I was sweating! (Check our social for video tips on layering for the cold!) FB – @TourismEstevan Insta – @ExperienceEstevan

2. Calorie Burning

X country skiing allows your body to burn up to 1,122 calories per hour! Comparatively, jogging for an hour burns roughly 398 calories. That’s almost quadrupling the benefit. X country skiing also energizes and boosts your metabolism.

3.Total Body Work Out

There aren’t many more well-rounded workouts than x country skiing. It requires you to be utilizing both your lower and upper body as you push and pull yourself through the terrain. It is using all of your muscles (even ones that don’t appear to be working are helping you maintain your balance). As well as being an excellent cardiovascular workout, XC is fantastic for building strength. Furthermore, this sport will massively increase your endurance.

4. Low Impact Work Out

For being such a fantastic workout, XC is a surprisingly low impact work out. Because you’re using all of your muscles, none of your muscles are being over taxed and thus you’re able to maintain it for far longer than most cardio/strength exercises. It’s not uncommon for us to ski for 2-3 hours several times a week.

5. Nature

I could write a book on the benefits of nature but I’ll condense it here to say that I believe that science shows that most of our modern culture is suffering from a massive nature deficit disorder. There is little that is more calming on our nervous systems than being in nature. Exposure to natural sunlight at various points in the day is responsible for over 100 natural synchronizations in our bodies. Being outdoors greatly enhances our immune systems. Time in nature is absolutely vital for our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health and x country skiing gets you out into nature for hours at a time.

6. Improved Function

X country skiing helps your body to move in a natural way and thus teaches your body proper form and improves your day to day function.

7. Social Engagement

XC is a fantastic social activity. Being that you’re outdoors and being active it’s fun to go in a group. You’re typically not skiing so hard that you can’t carry on a conversation while you ski (or at least I’m not – ha!) This sport is really accessible (once you have equipment) to a very wide range of ages and abilities. It’s a really fun activity for families to enjoy together as it appeals to both kids and adults and keeps them on a level “playing field” so to speak.

8. Cost Effective

Once you’ve invested in the necessary equipment you’re set up for many many years of essentially free fun. (I think my one retired friend is using the skis she bought herself as a 15 year old!) You don’t need to pay admission to ski in nature so it’s a great low cost family activity.

Speaking of where to ski, we have a few favourite areas around the Estevan area. When we’re experiencing mild temperatures like we have been this year the Preddy Trails have been our go-to starting point.

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The trails are groomed for walking (which keeps the snow not too deep) and they’re a great place to get out of the wind. I also enjoy that they’re just generally really pretty to go through in the winter and that there are some gentle rises and dips that are fun to ski up and down.

When we feel confident that we’ve had a long enough bout of sustained below zero temperatures to ensure safe ice, we love to ski on the river. Being that the banks are high and covered in trees the river is a very sheltered place to ski even on a windy day. It allows for a long stretch of new scenery and needing to know “what’s around the next bend” is a great motivation for going further and further. Just be careful to be aware of your energy and make sure you have enough for the return trip. (I always recommend packing snacks and water in a backpack along with some survival items like a whistle, battery-operated phone charger, matches/lighter, a knife, and a roll of duct tape.)

On the map below our favourite place to start our ski is opposite of Mets Stadium and ski to “The Bridge”. There and back is roughly a 10 km ski and takes about 3 to 3.5 hours depending on your pace.

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Even though the days are getting longer you may not want to go inside just because the sun is setting. At that point we like to head over to Woodlawn Regional Park Campground and ski where the lampposts keep the area lit (and to be honest, looking a bit like Narnia in the snow.)

Have I convinced you yet? If you want to try before you buy I recommend talking to friends who have skis or possibly renting from one of the Sask parks in the area. Be sure to keep an eye out in thrift stores and online market places for used skis, boots and poles.


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Monique Willms
Monique Willms
Monique and her family have called Estevan home for the last 18 years and she has a long history of seeing her surroundings in creative ways and adding whimsy to the mundane. A constant need to explore and adventure has allowed her to seek out hidden gems in our area and cultivate ways to enjoy and engage every season in the South East.