(Posted Jan. 5, 2016)
By Christine Bryant, Staff Writer
If fresh snow coats the ground and you find yourself at one of central Ohio’s Metro Parks enjoying the crisp air, you likely will see a pair of skis glide by.
Cross country skiing is a popular winter activity at the parks because in addition to being a total body workout, it is low-impact—reducing the stress that other exercises can put on joints and muscles.
“It’s a great benefit to your cardiovascular system, all age levels can do this, it burns calories and gets you out in the woods to see nature up close,” said Peg Hanley, public information manager for Metro Parks.
Cross country skiing is available on all Metro Parks trails except Inniswood Metro Gardens in Westerville. When snow falls, some trails are closed to all activities except cross country skiing, including marked trails at Battelle Darby Creek near West Jefferson, Blendon Woods in northeast Columbus, Highbanks in north Columbus, and Prairie Oaks near West Jefferson, she said.
“Conditions are best when the snow is cold and dry, the humidity is low and temperatures are 26 degrees or below,” Hanley said.
The parks system does not provide the equipment necessary to ski, however.
“Once you have the gear—poles, boots, skis and bindings that on average cost about $500—you can head to a trail just about anywhere in Ohio and it’s free,” Hanley said.
Kevin Tschantz, a park ranger with Metro Parks, said there are no requirements to cross country ski at the parks, though the more snow on the ground, the better. Park rangers do not prep the trails for skiers, but Tschantz said they attempt to keep the conditions ripe for those who participate.
“On the designated cross country ski trails, we try to keep people from walking on them because that disturbs the tracks and makes it harder for the skiers,” he said.
A cross country skier himself, Tschantz has spent much of his life learning the sport.
“The thing I like most about it is we would have woods behind my house, and when it would first snow in the morning, we would have a great time back there looking at the fresh animal tracks and just enjoying the peaceful nature after a fresh snow,” he said.
Hanley also cross country skis and prefers Battelle Darby along the creek.
“I’ve cross country skied for years and even taught it as part of a winter survival course,” she said. “I love it because I’m out in the woods in the winter when things tend to be quieter and less busy with people,” she said. “As I move through the trees, I have a better chance of seeing animals with the leaves gone, and I’m always seeing a variety of animal tracks in the snow.”
Several state parks throughout Ohio also offer opportunities to cross country ski, including Alum Creek and Delaware.
For more information, go to metroparks.net or ohiodnr.gov.