Even in snowshoes, venturing outdoors, especially in hilly country, is daunting this season. The snow continues to pile up, but a long snow season isn't all bad in Cherokee County, if you are a cross-country skier.
For those who have been stuck in the house since the holidays, cross-country skiing might offer the cure for cabin fever. Hunting seasons have mostly wound down, wildlife is active, birds are beginning to migrate and nest, and the sun, when it peeks from behind the clouds, is closer and warmer than it's been in weeks. Ski conditions are ideal.
Cherokee County Conservation staff has finally been able to groom a ski trail at Red Tail Ridge Habitat Area, about five miles South of Cherokee, west of Highway 59, on C44. Red Tail Ridge is annually a popular ski site.
This season, the CCC snowmobile required major repairs before it was up to the task of pulling a trail groomer. A visit to Powersports, Inc. in Cherokee has the snowmobile up and running like a champ.
The deep snow is less than ideal for a trail grooming operation with a small sled, but the trail at Red Tail Ridge had been previously trampled by deer and already had a few ski track grooves, making the grooming easier. Grooming began last week and will continue as snow conditions change.
The County Conservation Department has skis available for rent. A pair of skis, poles and boots cost only $5/day. Call ahead (712-225-6709) to reserve the proper sizes, and to set up a time to pick them up from the office at 629 River Road.
Taller, heavier people require longer skis and poles, so know the height and shoe size of each skier before you call. The skis keep a person afloat over deep drifts in which normal footwear would sink.
It is also fun to ski off-trail, though it takes a little more effort. Those new to skiing will find that it takes a bit of practice, and water resistant snow pants are a good idea for beginners, who will usually fall down a few times the first time out.
Skiing can be a rigorous work-out, like fast walking or jogging, so warm breathable layers should be worn. A moisture-wicking under-layer, polyester fleece mid-layers, and a wind breaking outer-layer, make the most comfortable ski attire, along with warm gloves or mittens and a hat. Drinking water, or even a thermos of warm tea or cocoa, is a nice ski accessory.
Skis are not a silent means of travel, but they are unobtrusive enough to bring their rider close to deer, turkeys, songbirds, eagles, owls, and much more.
Cross-country skiing originated in northern Europe, among the Scandinavian cultures. It has been used over the years as a means of exploration, transportation, hunting, fitness, competition and fun.
Why should you ski? You'll have to reserve a pair and find out!