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By Jay Lloyd

It’s free, it’s fun and you do it in the snow, which is also free. It’s Cross-Country (or Nordic) skiing. The only investment is equipment, and I recently found three nearly new sets of Cross-Country skis, complete with boots and poles for $8 a set at a local thrift shop. New equipment can run as low as $125. It lasts a lifetime. So now that you’re all geared up and togged out in layers, here are some of the most exhilarating spots to start sliding and gliding.

xcty 001 Top Cross Country Skiing Spots
Valley Forge, PA

Among America’s best known historic sites, this local treasure spans nearly 3,500 acres. If Washington’s tattered troops suffered a brutally cold winter here, modern snow sport enthusiasts find the paths and cross-country trails alongside revolutionary era huts a virtual paradise. Most of the park’s acreage is comprised of open fields and wooded glades that are ideal for Nordic skiing. Or, a skier can simply follow the existing paths. For the more adventurous, making those first tracks in unbroken snow is akin to creating a work of art on a historic canvas. Parking is plentiful, but there are no ski rentals or carved trails, so you’re on your own. Rest rooms are located at the visitor’s center.

perk trail 1 Top Cross Country Skiing Spots
Multiple Trailhead Locations

If you fancy point-to-point skiing to an ultimate destination, try the Perkiomen Trail. This 19 mile multi-purpose trail offers a gently graded pathway through changing scenery along the Perkiomen Valley. It winds from the banks of the Schuylkill River near Valley Forge into the upper reaches of Montgomery County at Green Lane Park. On the way, you’ll ski alongside pristine streams, through small towns and rural settings. There are more than a dozen trail heads where parking is available, including Pawlings Rd., Collegeville, Schwenksville, Spring Mount and Green Lane Park. You’ll need your own equipment and rest room facilities are sparse.

crystal 1 Top Cross Country Skiing Spots
1716 Crystal Lake Rd.
Hughesville, PA 17737

A full-service cross-country ski center offers lodging, meals or cooking facilities, rental equipment, and groomed and maintained trails. Crystal Lake Ski Center is Pennsylvania’s winter Mecca for Nordic ski enthusiasts. Its mountaintop location in rugged Sullivan County provides a dramatic setting for ski-touring over groomed or natural-state trails of varying degrees of difficulty. The terrain varies by as much as 550 vertical feet and covers 960 acres of lakes, ponds, woodland and open space. Dormitories or private cabins can accommodate up to 180 skiers. Rental equipment and cross-country lessons are available. Adult trail fees are $15 for 1 day, $25 for a 2-day pass. Children (under 17) and Seniors (over 59) pay $10 for a single day and $15 for the 2-day tag. Check out rental and lesson rates at: http://www.crystallakeskicenter.com/skiing.html

Getting there: Take the PA. Turnpike north to I-80 (Pocono Exit). Go west on I-80 to PA-42 (Exit 232). Travel north on PA-42 to U.S. 220 south. Follow U.S. 220 south 5.5 miles to Deer Lake Rd. Go right on Deer Lake Rd. to the first left which is Birch Still Rd. Go 1.8 miles and turn right at Highland Lake Rd. Follow it for 2.5 miles. Turn right at Genesee trail and follow the signs to Crystal Lake.

woodloch Top Cross Country Skiing Spots
731 Welcome Lake Rd.
Hawley, PA 18428

It was the chicken soup in the spacious dining room, overlooking a frozen lake, that suggested I was back in the “Borscht Belt.” Woodloch Resort in the far north reaches of the Pocono Mountains is a sprawling all-inclusive complex that offers cross-country skiing in abundance. Miles of nature and hiking trails are the setting for a scenic glide in the woods and fields surrounding the lake. Accomodations in the Woodloch Pines or Woodloch Springs sections of the resort include furnished homes, where you can cook your own meals between skiing sessions, or hotel rooms with an “American plan” option that includes breakfast, lunch and dinner in the main lodge. Woodloch not does provide Nordic equipment, but does offer snowshoes for negotiating the trails, along with a full range of winter activity including tubing, ice skating and snowmobiling .

What it costs: A 3-night midweek package can run between $300 and $400, depending on lodging selections. Check out all the rates at: http://www.woodloch.com/brochures/jan_mar_2011_rates

Getting there: Take the Northeast Extension of the PA Turnpike to Lehigh Valley Exit 56 (formerly #33). Take Rt. 22E to Rt. 33N toward Stroudsburg to Rt. 80E. Take Rt. 80E to Exit 309 Marshalls Creek (formerly #52) Follow Rt. 209 to Rt. 402N. Take Rt. 402N to Rt. 6W to Rt. 590E through Hawley. Turn right at the Settler’s Inn and Bingham Park (traffic light) and continue on Rt. 590E. Woodloch Springs is approximately 5 miles off Rt. 590E on your right. To go to Woodloch Pines Resort, continue to stop sign, turn left, and continue 1.4 miles to the main entrance.

When the snow flies, virtually all state and county parks offer cross-country opportunities.

A few tips:

— Avoid trails used by snowmobilers.
— Dress in layers. Nordic skiing is aerobic and you’ll be shedding clothing.
— Carry a water bottle.
— In state parks and forests, have a map.
— Don’t depend on cell phone service in more remote areas.
— Do not ski alone on frozen lakes or ponds.

Enjoy the snow. — Jay Lloyd

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