Learn to Cross Country Ski at Soldier Hollow Nordic Center

A First-Hand Perspective of Reliving Olympic Memories

Written By Cody Kirkland

Soldier Hollow Nordic Center   |  Gene Sweeney, Jr.

Snowboarder Cody Kirkland grew up snowboarding in Utah. Never once did he touch a ski. Now as an adult, he gives Nordic skiing a try for the first time…on the same celebrated trails used by Olympic athletes. No pressure, right? 

Get his first-hand perspective on braving a beginner cross country ski lesson at Soldier Hollow Nordic Center, the Nordic skiing epicenter for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and training center for future Olympians. 

Cross Country Skiing in Park City Explore Heber Valley

A Utah Snowboarder Tries Cross Country Skiing

Nobody in my group believes me when I tell them this is the first time I’ve ever touched a ski. I grew up in Utah but my family didn’t ski, and when I graduated from sledding I went straight to a snowboard. I tell the cross-country ski instructor I’ve been here to Soldier Hollow at Wasatch Mountain State Park before, though. I came to help my uncle Steve install some gigantic Olympic rings for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games when I was 16. (Soldier Hollow hosted the biathlon and cross-country ski events, remember? Explore Utah's Olympic Legacy.)

Beginner Lesson Pointers

The ski instructor, whose last name is actually Winter, points to some spandex-clad skiers gliding past us as we step into our skis. “Those are Olympians right there!”

Great, now I get to learn to ski in front of Olympic skiers.

Winter demonstrates the basic principles of propulsion, steering, balance and stopping, and he tunes our technique as we take turns scooting over level ground. After gliding down a gentle hill and using the one-way traction of the skis to climb back up, I feel like I’m getting the hang of it. It’s like sliding around in fuzzy socks on a hardwood floor.

What to Wear

Ten minutes into this cross-country beginner lesson, I’m questioning my decision to wear a thick black puffy coat and goggles. Winter says it’s best to wear a thin base layer, a light shell and sunglasses — cross-country skiing is like jogging in the snow.

We'll go ahead and call this a "pro tip" which can be vital information to beginners in cross country skiing.

As a former snowboarder, sliding around on snow without my feet attached together is an awkward feeling, but surprisingly I haven’t crashed yet — everyone else in my group has.


Soldier Hollow Nordic Center at Wasatch Mountain State Park was the Nordic skiing venue for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

Photo: Gene Sweeney Jr.

It’s best to wear a thin base layer, a light shell and sunglasses — cross-country skiing is like jogging in the snow.

Photo: flickr.com/photos/a4gpa

A Small Biathlon History Lesson

We make our way around the looping trail to the Biathlon course. It’s a warm but overcast day and we ski without talking for a while, enjoying the serene landscape and fresh air. Winter stops us in front of the Biathlon’s shooting range and gives us a bit of history: Apparently, the sport was invented by bored Norwegian soldiers who would inevitably combine cross-country skiing and rifle shooting. 

Getting Up After Falling

As we stand stationary on our skis, talking, I somehow trip myself and collapse in a tangled mass. Winter shows me how to properly get up without unclipping my skis and we move along. I'm accumulating pro tips left and right and feel the full import of the value of getting a proper lesson really strikes me.

As we near the end of the cross country skiing for beginners lesson and approach the lodge uphill, I become very aware just how out of shape I am. I’m never, ever going to become a jogger but this "jogging in the snow" is really something I could get into. It certainly doesn’t hurt to get introduced to the sport on a course steeped in Olympic history in the placid and scenic Heber Valley.

When I walk into the lodge and everything blurs into a dark green void, I realize that I’m snow-blind. Next time: sunglasses. I’m already planning for next time.

About Soldier Hollow Nordic Center

When the snow accumulates, Soldier Hollow's Nordic trails are open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, and range from "easy rollers" to the stuff Olympic dreams are made on. Get additional information on conditions, lessons and rentals.


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Written By Visit Utah

Just because the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Winter Games are in the past doesn’t mean that the Utah Olympic spirit is has been snuffed out. Athletes still train here, and ski schools in Utah resorts might be the start of a future Olympian’s career.

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Cross Country Skiing in Utah

There are many ways to experience The Greatest Snow on Earth® beyond the dreamy downhill of our 14 ski resorts. Utah's famous snow is equally ideal for serene, moonlit cross-country ski tours or more strenuous cardio workouts. The well-organized cross-country skiing Utah community means plenty of groomed trails on and off the resorts. You can also explore deeper into Utah's extensive backcountry for countless hours of active entertainment. 

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