Primal Activities: Cross Country Skiing

Thus begins another series on The Periodical, wherein I discuss an activity that gets us closer to our primal roots. First up—Cross Country Skiing.

Primal Cred

It’s you vs. Wintry Mother Effin’ Nature. You just can’t get this kind of an experience at a mamby-pamby ski resort where you can warm your toesies at the fireplace in the lodge with a hot cocoa. You’re out there and you’re at the mercy. It’s easy to get lost, cold, blistered, and tired. Isn’t it great to be alive?!

It’s a return to the primeval forest. In January, you’re met by silence or perhaps only the wind in the branches of the tall pines. All the animals are hibernating or have moved to lower elevations to find food and escape the bitterest of the cold. But come March, the trees are atwitter with early-returning residents, looking for the choicest real estate. The woodpeckers peck away at the dead trees, now covered in neon green, newly awakened mosses. Skittering tracks display the comings and goings of the chipmunks and rabbits. It’s a scene for exquisite solitude. But it’s also fun to share with friends.

Aren't we a colorful bunch?

Hardcore Cred

As we know from all those dorky ’80s Nordic Track commercials, cross-country skiing is a full body workout. Add in some rolling terrain and you have the potential to get worked. But, hey, what goes up must come down, and it’s a blast breaking trail, bumping along a previously-untouched meadow while your skis disappear beneath all the fresh powder.

You can make this as hard or as easy as you’d like. If it’s feeling like too much jingling-all-the-way, then amp it up with inclines or some intense backcountry downhill. Or go off trail with your GPS. Organize a multi-day hut-to-hut trip, complete with avalanche beacons. But just hacking along on day trips, I’ve had blisters and lost two toenails. That’s plenty for me, thank you. Let’s just say a day of cross-country skiing definitely earns you a spot at your favorite pub with your favorite people and your favorite pint. I’m sold. How do I sign up?

First, do you live in a snowy area? If not, then check it out if you vacation during the winter months. It might be hard to resist the powder for downhill skiing, but it’s a nice change of pace and a great way to experience the wilderness. If yes, I recommend renting equipment for several trips until you know this is something you’ll do on your own. If you think you might do this regularly, then invest in a reasonable set of boots, skis, and poles. It shouldn’t cost you more than $500 for a brand new set-up, and you’ll use it for years to come. If you want to cobble together some used equipment, you can save a little money. My skis are old rentals, and until the scales underneath (for grip on uphills) wear down, they’re fine.

Take-Home Message

It’s fun. It connects you to nature during a notoriously difficult time of year to get outside. It’s exercise. It earns you beer. What more could you possibly want in a winter pursuit? Oh, a hot tub. Good luck with that.

*Do you have a Primal Activity you’d like to share with The Paleo Periodical? It doesn’t have to be a sport (think hunting, gardening, etc.). Send it to with some photos and I’ll showcase it here.


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