Sometimes, you have to move beyond your comfort zone to find outdoor adventure. In this case, my comfort zone was my own bed . . . . 8 o’clock on a Sunday morning rolls around early for everyone, but particularly for college students like me. However, the prospect of trying cross-country skiing at Weston Ski Track for the first time was more than enough to get me out of bed and moving. Who isn’t excited by the idea of trying out a new sport? Especially when the weather is promising, and two of your best friends are joining you. I roused those friends, Dan and Sam, and we were off to Weston Ski Track, a municipal golf course converted into a winter sports playground conveniently located just outside of Boston. From where I live in Boston’s South End, it’s a quick, 20-minute drive, but is also accessible via the T’s Green Line, D train.
Cross-Country Skiing at Weston Ski Track
I arrived having no idea what to expect from cross-country skiing and desperately hoping it wasn’t too different from the Alpine skiing I grew up with. One glaring difference became immediately apparent: the price. While a day of downhill skiing with rentals will typically cost you upwards of seventy-five dollars, a whole day of cross-country skiing at Weston requires only a $15 trail pass and another $15 for rentals, including boots, skis or snowshoes, and poles. That’s affordable for almost anyone, even impoverished college kids.
The friendly staff at the rental desk quickly helped us gear up. I was shocked by how thin and lightweight cross-country skis are compared to the downhill skis I’m accustomed to. The boots are also infinitely more comfortable than Alpine ski boots. Cross-country ski boots look and feel like a stiffer version of Air Jordans which were popular in the 80s and are making a comeback now.
My fear of being the obvious amateur was unfounded. Snow enthusiasts of all skill levels visit Weston. While seasoned triathletes were just finishing the last stretch of a race, my friends and I were lacing up our rental boots next to a toddler in a one-piece, yellow snow outfit. I figured if he was out there, anyone could be.
Armed with skis, boots, and height-appropriate poles, plus a trail map, Dan, Sam and I hit the snow. Weston has a flat beginner area ( the cross-country equivalent of a bunny slope) right outside the door for anyone who wants to ease into the day. I wanted to take one of the beginner lessons Weston offered, but my friends, who had cross-country skied before, insisted I didn’t need one. They were right! I’ll take a lesson next time to improve my form and efficiency now that I know how much fun it is.
Cross-country turned out to be nothing like Alpine skiing. Basic or “classic” cross-country skiing is incredibly simple and easy to learn. I’m sure the lessons are beneficial, especially if you are nervous about trying new things, but I had fun figuring it out myself on my first day. I followed the best and most basic athletic advice my dad ever gave me: “bend your knees!” It served me well that day, and now I pass it on to you for your first cross-country ski experience. Thanks, Dad!.
The lightweight cross-country skis and boots allow you to walk in them right away. Our skis had scales on the bottom which let us walk right up the gentle hills. What a triumphant feeling when you reach the top, take a look around at the snowy hills, and then gleefully slide down! Even though this was my first experience, I was able to keep up with Dan and Sam.
After exploring the track closest to the lodge for a warmup, we ventured across a rustic wooden bridge over the frozen Charles River and skied on the more remote Goat and Fox Tracks. A few houses are visible through the trees here, but otherwise I could hardly believe we were only 20 minutes from the bustling South End.
Cross-Country Skiing at Weston Ski Track and Skate Skis and Snowshoes, too
One of the great things about Weston is that the low-cost rental fee allows you to try any of the sports offered. After about an hour and a half, Dan traded in his “classic” cross-country skis for skate skis. I’d never seen or even heard of skate skis before visiting Weston! Their name is self-explanatory; wearing them, you skate with the same diagonal stride as ice skating. They are speedier than cross-country skis, and can provide more of a cardiovascular workout if you so desire. Trying them out myself looks like a good excuse to go back.
After Dan’s adventure on skate skis, we couldn’t resist trying snowshoeing, too. But first we stopped to nosh on the delicious, cheap food offered by a little tiki hut outside of the lodge. Yes, you read correctly: delicious and cheap food at a ski lodge! I didn’t know such a thing existed! Weston offers a serious change-up from typical ski-lodge food: everything from Kosher hot dogs to homemade coleslaw. I bought a fresh, Mediterranean salad, and Dan indulged in a skewer of grilled lamb ($7.50!). Properly nourished, we geared up for snowshoeing.
As a new adventurer, I was delighted to discover that if you can walk, you can snowshoe. Except for digging your spikes into the sides of hills, there isn’t much to it. The fun of clunking around in our new footwear, scaling icy hills, and, in my case, slipping down them on my rear, masked our exhaustion for a while, but eventually we realized it was time to head home.
Weston is an energetic, and friendly ski area, a real urban oasis. Renting your gear is easy, the people are nice. A friendly staff member even offered us advice for an upcoming camping trip we are all planning.
I ended my day feeling invigorated by my wind-burnt cheeks and sore muscles. I couldn’t wait to share my experience with anyone who’d listen. Imagine, a cheap day of fun outdoor exercise readily available just outside of Boston! I can’t wait for my next trip back to try out skate skis! I’m going to drag some more of my friends out of their comfort zone and get them to try it, too. Want to join us?