Though cross country skiing is naturally socially distanced, and face coverings are already part of the standard outfit, there will be a few tweaks to the Nordic center experience this winter. Here are three of the big ones: Not only are they all oddly exciting because of their novelty, here’s hoping they might end up enhancing our ski days for years to come—but only time will tell.
1) The Rise of the E-Ticket
Partially to adhere with state regulations on indoor spaces, and partially to improve the customer experience, many Nordic centers have moved their ticketing to online platforms. This means you can search up a ski destination the night before, or even the morning of your ski day, and right then and there book everything from trail passes to rentals. Nordic shop owners that have already opened for the season report that this new medium allows their staff to select and prepare guest’s rental gear more efficiently and carefully than when throngs of folks used to cue up at the desk. For us guests, this means less time waiting for your turn to get gear, less face-to-face contact inside, and, most importantly, more time to ski.
2) Bring Back the Backyard BBQ
Again in the interest of limiting the number of guests inside, Nordic centers have turned to a resource of which they have plenty: outdoor space. From grabbing rented gear to grabbing a post-ski sandwich or beer, many Nordic centers have transformed the space outside their shops into elaborate take out windows, complete with dinning space and bushels of benches for putting on boots. At first this may be off-putting, having to do what are normally indoor activities outside—but do recall the amount of work that Nordic centers are putting into making your visit a positive experience that’s totally comparable to the indoor equivalent. When you go skiing this winter, you’ll encounter outdoor heaters, tents, and firepits crackling to keep you warm, unlimited hot chocolate to keep bellies warm and the kids happy, friendly staff ready to make your ski day as picture perfect as possible, and generally a sense of community and camaraderie that happily has arisen around this new, weird, and exciting way of skiing. These are all things that, if not “normal,” are well worth a try
3) Making Lessons more Personal
To keep individuals and families well distanced on the trails, many Nordic centers will be doing away with group lessons this winter. This means that ski schools will offer either private lessons, with one-on-one instruction, or family lessons. An often-overlooked option at Nordic areas, the family lesson is a great entry point for a family looking to start cross country skiing. Instructors come armed with games and activities that will keep the kids engaged and will make sure everybody gets the technique work they need—without making it feel like work. If you are looking for more intensive instruction, the private lesson is a great option. I continue to be amazed by how professional ski instructors can locate in seconds the flaw in my stride, and correct it with the perfect tip or phrase. An hour of such tips can really do wonders for your skiing and make all the future skis that much more enjoyable.