As anyone who has visited a cross country center knows, they are low-key operations, clean and with a very accommodating staff ready to assist you in any way. Very different than many other summer or winter destinations, cross country centers are equipped to handle many visitors, but specialize in getting people out on the trails as quickly as possible. The beating heart of any cross country center is out on the trails, rivers or lakes.
Summer or Winter, the aim of a cross country area is to get you, the guest, to cross country, to get out and enjoy the terrain. With minimal contact, cross country center workers can get any equipment you require (bikes, kayaks, skis, poles, snowshoes, hiking poles, you name it) and can easily leave it, sanitized, where you can pick it up. From there, geared up and toting a simple (and affordable) trail pass, you can enter and explore a world of automatic physical distancing.
Often, cross country centers will boast upwards of fifteen miles of wide, lightly traveled but well-maintained trails that you can explore at your own pace, accompanied only by your family or friends and the natural wonders around you. Should you come across another adventurer, simply stick to the edges and pass each other with a wide berth between you. And whereas in a gym or even an outdoor track or field you must constantly be aware of the proximity of people around you, out on a rolling trail through the forest, you can leave such concerns at home. Though you might occasionally have to skirt another group, this is normal procedure for bikers, hikers and skiers. Since folks tend to come to cross country trail networks for the peace and quiet, they tend to maintain it. After a quick nod or physical distant greeting between passing skiers, we each quickly move along to continue our own workout or wandering, whatever the case may be.
And this is the second feature of cross country centers uniquely suited to the current environment. cross country skiing and trail riding are social activities, but they are also, by their very nature, socially distanced activities. Skiing, the long skinny things on your feet, keep you automatically well apart from your companion. On a mountain bike, big wheels do the same. The social aspect comes from seeing the same sights as a friend, climbing the same climb, bombing down the same hill. And though you can absolutely get together in the parking lot and socially distance your way along the trails, even this is not necessary to experience the camaraderie and community offered by cross country centers. Activity logging apps like Strava have enabled trail users to share logs of their adventures, everything from distance, times and pace to photos, notes and advice can now easily be transmitted to your skiing or biking friends, and who knows, you might even make some new ones!
In a time when confined spaces, close contact and large crowds can be uncomfortable, cross country centers offer all season options for authentic outdoor activity. So what are you waiting for? Hit up a buddy, get your gear, and hit the trail!