For 36 years, the Spokane Langlauf has made a statement about cross-country skiing.
Active outdoor winter pursuits get people out of the house, but nothing does it in a more enjoyable, productive, diverse and efficient way that an outing on Nordic skis.
In the starting area at Mount Spokane last Sunday, more than 180 skiers ranged from 5 to 77 years old.
Some were in Olympic-style skin-tight racing suits and equipped with the latest ski and pole technology. Others were in wool knickers, yard-sale sweaters and racing on wood skis.
A wide spectrum of apparel and body types filled the gap between the extremes.
All of the participants set out to test their mettle against 10 kilometers of heart-thumping uphills, glistening flats and white-knuckle downhills.
Swimmers can only dream of having this much fun staying fit.
The poling-and-gliding techniques of cross-country skiing makes the sport a full-body exercise. The sport also stimulates a nature-rich fresh-air boost to the brain.
On average, a 40-year-old man, 6 feet tall and 175 pounds would burn 900 calories in an hour of cross-country skiing – more than during the same period of running, downhill skiing or snowshoeing.
And injuries are very rare in cross-country skiing. The stats on knee, leg, head and thumb injuries in downhill skiing are a different story.
Cross-country skiers measure their performance by increasing their speed through muscle power and technique, not by manipulating gravity.
Seeing a grandma like Lou Slak, 72, stretch out in a classic technique to cruise the Langlauf course was inspiring.
As the crew was getting ready to stop the timing and start taking down the finish line, a gaggle of kids stayed on call to cheer for almost-last-place finisher Annika Burns, age 5.
All one could see was a pair of tiny tired legs and a big-as-a-full-moon smile of accomplishment.
This is a great sport.
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