The season’s first snowstorm found most warmblooded humans at home, glued to their couches. Not so Gregg Smith and his girlfriend, Pamela Deitrich, who were struggling to stay upright one afternoon in late December on the cross-country ski trails of High Point State Park in Sussex, N.J.
Ms. Dietrich had convinced Mr. Smith that snow, once you have trudged through it, shoveled it and scraped it off your car windows, offers an opportunity for fun. At High Point the couple — he’s from Freeport on Long Island; she’s from Ridgewood, N.J. — rented skis and took a lesson, during which he fell. Then she fell. Over and over again. “I lived in Florida for 25 years,” he said between tumbles. “A winter sport to me is scuba diving.” By the end of the day they were hooked.
When snow is scarce, as it often is during wimpy mid-Atlantic winters, cross-country ski enthusiasts must spend hours driving to upstate New York or into New England to practice this most serene and aerobic of winter sports. But this year has been a snow-apalooza. Several cross-country ski areas within a two-hour drive of Manhattan have been mobbed with novices and experts alike taking advantage of trails that are groomed and tracked (with grooves carved by ski or machine) to accommodate the long, skinny skis necessary for the sport. Many areas offer rentals, lessons, food and heated lodges.
Compared with a day at a downhill ski resort, cross-country skiing is quieter, cheaper, arguably a better workout and less likely to result in sprains or broken bones. Gliding along under a canopy of snow-covered branches, a skier has time to appreciate the delicate shades-of-gray beauty of winter without worrying about making it to the lift line in one piece.
And while a one-day lift ticket on a weekend can cost more than $60, the most expensive day pass at these areas is the $25 weekend fee at the Mohonk Mountain House ski trails in New Paltz, N.Y. Cross-country equipment rentals and lessons also tend to cost less.
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