Cross Country Skiing

Cross country skiing is only as strenuous as you want it to be, and it's easy to learn. For the very athletic-- mountain bikers and long distance runners-- cross-country skiing offers vigorous aerobic conditioning in an otherwise dreaded season of snowbound hiking trails and slush-clogged roadways. For the rest of us, Nordic skiing represents an easy glide through woods and gentle valleys surrounded by the sparkling serenity of freshly fallen snow.Equipment is simple, straightforward and inexpensive, with little risk of injury. Light and forgiving, cross country gear contrasts with the heavy cumbersome boots and bindings of downhill skiing. Attached to the ski with only the toe of the boot, the free heel allows skiers to climb and traverse terrain, in addition to sliding downhill. Every member of the family that has learned to walk can participate in a Nordic excursion across the New Jersey tundra.

You can get a decent outfit- skis, bindings, boots, poles- for around $200. Full day rentals run $14-17, and you can buy a quality used rental outfit including steel-edged, back country skis for $150. Once you've got equipment there are lots of places where you can ski for free, and trail passes at special facilities run around $10-12 for an adult full day.

Cross country skiing is not "scary", has low impact on the body, and the natural motions involved generate a quick learning curve. Traversing a flat beginner trail is like walking with a sliding step in your socks across a slick waxed floor. Short, tentative skids quickly become longer motions rhythmically integrated with opposite arm motions, just like a natural walking action. Soon you're shifting your weight, bending your knees and planting your poles to take full advantage of ski on snow. When you've maximized the classic cross country motion, you're ready to take on some up and down terrain.

Skis come in different types for different purposes. The most commonly used type, including for beginners, is "touring" skis for use in groomed ski areas or on trails. These come in different lengths, generally several centimeters more or less than 200 centimeters (about 6 feet), the exact length depending on the size of the skier.

One of the skills that cross country skiers master is how to properly wax skis according to snow conditions. Wax allows your skis to get a grip on the snow when you want to travel other than down hill. Wet heavy snow on an early spring day requires different preparation than powder on a cold winter morning. Part of the fun is seeing how much of the work you can get your wax to do for you. After all, Nordic skiers always end up going as far uphill as they go down. Although wax will always provide a better kick and longer glide, waxless skis are available until you get the hang of traditional preparation. They will generally perform well in the highly variable weather, temperature, and snow conditions found in New Jersey. Raised patterns on the ski bottoms provide the grip needed to move on waxless skis.

Most beginners don't realize how much body heat is generated by a Nordic Shüss and usually wrap themselves in a down Alpine-style ski jacket or heavy wool coat, only to find themselves quickly drenched in perspiration. More effective dress consists of several lighter layers which can be removed or added as needed. On the outside, a parka, jacket, or windbreaker is important to keep out the cold wind. Below that, wear a layer or more of insulated clothing; wool sweaters, "fleece" jackets, or "fleece" vests are good.

Underneath, a polypropylene long-sleeved under shirt will help keep you dry. Cotton should be avoided, as it loses all insulating properties when wet. Accessories, including hats, gloves, and scarves are also needed.

One of the most attractive things about Nordic skiing is that you can do it anywhere there is snow: your front yard, an open field, or, of course, many miles of available trails in county, state and federal parkland. The Blue Mountain Lakes area of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, located along the Flatbrook-Stillwater Road atop the Kittatinny Ridge, offers approximately 10 miles of trails maintained for skiers in cooperation with the New Jersey Nordic Ski Club. Trails are marked with directional signs, and interpretive signs will help you identify tracks made by wildlife. Several state parks also offer good skiing, such as the areas in Waywayanda State Park and Mahlon Dickinson Reservation. Both areas also have high elevation and offer moderate trails. There are no fees for skiing at these areas., but they offer limited or no facilities, other than parking lots. Food, beverages, and warmth must be provided by the skier.

If you want groomed trails, you can ski at Fairview Lake YMCA Camp (973/383-9282), a few miles west of Stillwater. Twelve miles of groomed trails (you have two packed, grooved channels to follow which allow easier gliding), color coded according to difficulty, wind through 600 acres of woods and fields, including loops around and over the lake. There is a ski lodge, lounge, cabin accommodations and ski rentals available for anyone from 3 years old on up.

The Ski Center at High Point State Park, offers 16 kilometers of trails groomed for classical techniques and 40-50km of "make your own" back country trails through the remainder of the park's 14,000 acres. The facility's location at the state's highest point, 1803 feet above sea level, promises temperatures 5-10 degrees lower than at other nearby ski areas; conditions likely to yield a longer season and better snow. And if that's not enough, High Point has state-of-the-art snowmaking equipment so that, barring the most bizarre weather, novices and experts can be assured of compliant skiing conditions, probably through March.

The trails are manicured and maintained by machines similar to those used in the winter Olympics. A lodge overlooks beautiful Lake Marcia just beneath the familiar High Point Monument and offers a complete kitchen, a fireplace and an adjoining shop for equipment sales and rentals. Trails begin a few steps from the patio from which skiers can embark upon journeys of variable duration and challenge. Lessons are available from members of the Professional Ski Instructors of America, and you can rent a pair skis expertly prepared for the conditions of the day. The Ski Center is open seven days a week from 8-4 (973/702-1222).

The New Jersey Nordic Ski Club , founded in 1973, focuses exclusively on all aspects of cross-country. Joining provides contact with people with varying ranges of knowledge and skills who are willing to discuss their experiences with you.

Nearby accommodations and attractions

  • Franklin Mineral Museum
  • "The Fluorescent Mineral Capitol of the World" Fluorescent, local & worldwide minerals, fossils, artifacts, two-level mine replica. New activity "The Adventure Package" includes gem panning, fossil dig and rock collecting! Gift shop, picnic area. Open daily.

    32 Evans Street, Franklin 07416, 973/827-3481

  • Sussex County Strawberry Farm
  • U-pick strawberries (June), raspberries (late August), and pumpkins (October). Greenhouses with wide selection of hanging baskets and bedding plants. Outdoor wood and poly furniture.

    565 Rt 206 N, Andover 07821, 973/579-5055

  • Legends Resort Timeshare Resales & Rentals
  • This distinctive resort features 400 standard guest rooms as well as one floor of luxury timeshare suites. The beauty of the Kittatinny Mountains meets modern amenities like Olympic-sized swimming pools, a recently renovated health spa, and championship golf courses on-site. To rent a timeshare from an individual owner (often at a discount!) or for more information on timeshare resales at the Legends Resort & Country Club, contact, an independent timeshare resale and rental company.


  • Grey Towers
  • Whistling Swan Inn Bed and Breakfast
  • Nine guestrooms, each with private bath, some with 2-person Jacuzzis and fireplaces. Queen and King-sized beds. Full buffet-style breakfast plus complementary 24-hour snacks and soft drinks. Free wireless connection, guest computer and printer available. Covered wrap-around porch with 2-person hammock and gardens for relaxing. Located 1 mile off I-80, 6 miles north of Chester and 8 miles south of Newton.

    110 Main St., Stanhope 07874, 973/347-6369 toll free: 888-507-2337


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04 Jan 2012, 08:52
Hi,\r\n\r\nI've also been to high point - great place to go Xcountry skiing. I live right near the GW bridge and hear people also go X country skiing in the Palisades Interstate Park. Has anyone else tried this? I am thinking about getting some of my own equipment as they do not rent there and its only a 10 minute drive, but i do not think they groom trails, which means I will likely need a second pair of skis no?\r\n\r\nAlso, before you head out skiing be sure you work out your muscles and stretch. I've created a website that lets you find, and rate gyms or health clubs. Check it out
Heidi Hesch-Sabbarese
31 Jan 2011, 05:04
Is Fairview open daily or only on weekends?
30 Jan 2011, 22:11
Me and my wife had an extraordinary day today (Sun, 1/30) at High Point. It felt like we were in Vermont. Such beautiful snow, and great skiing.
29 Jan 2011, 17:39
Heidi, I believe you are describing Neal's Sports Emporium on Route 23 in Sussex, (973) 875-3691.
Heidi Hesch-Sabbarese
28 Jan 2011, 17:34
I heard of a sporting goods store somewhere in Sussex county South of High Point State Park and I think it isn't far from the Vernon area. I heard they have rentals that are quite reasonable (less than High Point). I think the name of the store has a male first name in it. Does someone know the name of the store and the location?\r\n\r\nThank you!
David F
16 Jan 2011, 13:38
Broke out my skis and boots for the first time in a while, a long while. Was wondering if the trails in and around Montague, NJ (Stokes,High Point, etc. are available...Anyone have any favorites? Lemme know. THX
11 Jan 2011, 05:57
Hi...Looking to buy cross country boots, and bindings..maybe a whole package for my 13 yr old who has outgrown hers. Hoping to find somewhere within an hour of ocean county.
Grayce Armstrong
07 Jan 2011, 17:46
My daughter has outgrown her size 12 Rossignol x-country ski boots. She has NNN Atomic bindings on Madshus Dino skis, that fit those boots, plus poles. She wants to ski, the snow's perfect in the backyard right now, but her boots are too small. She is now wearing size 2 US winter boots. I don't know if she would need new bindings and boots, or a whole set of new skis, bindings and boots, or what. Where can I take her to get her outfitted and sell what she can't use anymore?
03 Dec 2010, 21:24
Hi, \r\n\r\nI'm getting back into XC skiing after years away from it. Can you tell me a reasonable place to rent a ski package for the season near Essex county, or to buy a used one? \r\n\r\nThanks! \r\n\r\nCan't wait for snow!!\r\n\r\nDavid
22 Nov 2010, 08:36
Hi. I see you mention that a new ski package (skis, bindings, boots & poles) run about $200. I can't find anything for less than about $350. Can you direct me to a website that sells for $200?\r\n\r\nThanks.
15 Nov 2010, 17:47
I'm interested in cross country skiing and have never been. I live in Ocean County, NJ and was wondering if someone could give me some information on where to go.\r\nI read that it is harder when there isn't a preset trail, which worries me.\r\nAny information would help\r\nSarah\r\nThanks!!!
07 Jan 2010, 06:47
who can I call to get a snow report for XC skiing at Blue Mountain Lakes? thanks.
20 Dec 2008, 03:55
Have had total knee replacement surgery 2 years ago, have always been athlete, now I need to find an activity that I can do and feel good about, I do have a pair of cross country ski's, I need some lessons and lots of practice, is this activity good for my leg?\r\nAnna
Timothy A. Brunemeyer
08 Dec 2008, 13:23
Good afternoon;\r\n I have many questions for y'all but for now this one is most impotent. I live in Ocean County and don't drive do to a visual impairment(I still have decent eyesight but no peripheral or night vision) anyway that being the case do you know of any clubs down this way r do you have any members or tag alongs from this area. \r\n I've only XCd once before but have been an alpine skier for 40 of my 45 years and I've been telemarking for the past few years so I'm thinking why not get into XC, its inexpensive great for my health and can only compliment the other types of skiing. \r\n Any advice or pointers would be apreciated\r\n\r\nTim Brunemeyer \r\n

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