The Mountain Times

°F Sun, April 20, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

Big burn, warmth, fitness, dose of Vitamin “N” add up to memorable fun at nordic centers

We all know about the burgeoning obesity, pre-diabetes and diabetes epidemics in kids and adults, but how about the good news?
Vermont was once again announced the "healthiest state in the U.S." for the fourth year in a row!

Given Vermont's cold winters that might seem counterintuitive but actually with skiing and snowboarding designated the state's official winter sports and a plethora of programs to get everyone out on slopes and woodland trails, it's not that surprising.
Janet Franz, chairperson of the Vermont Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, notes the benefits for being active and fit year round for all ages - children to seniors - include helping to prevent diseases and illnesses from diabetes and heart disease to depression.

"Winter sports can also build confidence and self-esteem," she said, noting there are mental and spiritual dimensions to being fit and active and that being outdoors in nature boosts creativity levels as well.

Winter offers a great opportunity to get outdoors and choose the activity that best suits one's likes and fitness level. If you enjoy walking, snowshoeing may be the way to go. During 60 minutes of snowshoeing a person burns approx. 500 calories per hour. Add being outdoors in fresh air and following a trail where one might see animal tracks and you have a wholesome activity that gets all ages off the couch. Moving also keeps one warm on even the coldest day!

According to online calculators at Self Magazine, downhill skiing and snowboarding also offer a good way to burn calories with a 150-pound person burning 429 calories per hour at a moderate level and 572 calories/hour at a vigorous intensity. For a 180-pound person, the burn jumps to 515 calories/hour and 686 respectively.

For those who enjoy cross-country skiing or who want to burn more calories, there is even better news. A 150-pound person can burn 643 calories per hour at a vigorous level, 572 at a moderate, and 500 at a slow pace while a 180-pound person goes through 773/ 686/600 calories/hour respectively.

The number of calories burned varies with the weight of the person, the type of activity, and the intensity of the workout or pace.

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The rewards of on-snow activity extend beyond the calorie burn, as all provide social activities that can become lifetime fun sports.
Additionally, cross-country and snowshoeing offer the advantages of being done in fields and forests where one gets "back to nature," which in itself is a worthy goal that is too often missed in today's world of computer and television screens. Call it Vitamin "N" and discover a way to enjoy the outdoors with one's feet on the snow.

The Rutland Region has three Nordic Centers where anyone can try cross-country skiing and snowshoeing for a first time or join for a season of regular outings. Equipment rentals (and sales), lessons, and food are available at each along with groomed tracked ski lanes for traditional or classic cross-country skiing as well as untracked for skate skiing. And they have pet friendly policies that enable canines to get their exercise, too!

Diane Miller, co-owner with husband Mike of Mountain Meadows Cross-Country and Snowshoe Center in Killington, points to the benefits of Nordic skiing and snowshoeing as a low impact exercise. The beautiful environment at Mountain Meadows includes journeying out onto picturesque Kent Pond.

"Cross-country and snowshoeing can be enjoyed at all levels of ability and are an invigorating way to enjoy the outdoors in cold weather," she said.

Mountain Meadows X-C & Snowshoe Center is located behind Base Camp Outfitters (opposite the Killington Access Road) on U.S. Route 4. Open 9-5 daily, snacks and hot and cold drinks are available at the ski center and lunch is available at Mountain Meadows Lodge, which provides a great place to enjoy food and a rest stop while on the trails.

Miller said that they expect to be fully open this week and also "welcome dogs to ski with you though they must be under owner's control at all times."

"Nordic skiing is one of the most aerobic sports to participate in and the fact that you do it out of doors in the fresh air only adds to the benefit," says Diane Dickerman, marketing director for the Mountain Top Inn and Resort in Chittenden and its full-service Nordic and snowshoe center.

"Nordic skiing is an effective way to stay conditioned for summer sports such as biking and running. There is value in doing either cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, as each promotes both physical and mental health," she added, noting that "season passes are more affordable than joining a gym or fitness center."

Mountain Top's Nordic Center makes snow on a 1.5km loop, has designated pet friendly trails, and offers "pulks" so that parents can ski while pulling babies in an enclosed sled (a pulk). Lessons are available for both X-C skiing and snowshoeing but must be booked in advance. Mountain Top anticipates having 50km for Classic and 25km for Skate skiing open this week. The Highlands Tavern at the Inn is open for lunch from noon to 2 p.m. and the Nordic Center, which has a woodstove and comfy warming area, serves freshly made sandwiches, soup, and home-baked cookies and brownies.

For those wanting to venture out onto a golf course or into the woods along a river in the Ludlow area, the Okemo Valley Nordic Center also offers a scenic way to enjoy cross-country and snowshoeing.

"Mother Nature has been kind to us this winter," stated spokesperson Bonnie MacPherson. "Okemo Valley Nordic Center expects to maintain its 12-inch base, packed powder conditions, and all 21 km of track and skate trails." Okemo grooms all 21 km and 13 km of trails dedicated to snowshoeing.

"Guests can rent skis and snowshoes and even switch between skis and snowshoes at no additional charge," she said, noting lessons are available to introduce new skiers to the benefits and enjoyment of Nordic skiing.

The great thing about Nordic centers is that they provide a wonderful way to introduce kids or adults to the wonders and beauty of cross-country and snowshoeing.