Cross-country Skiing in the Tracks of Olympians

Relive Olympic Memories at Soldier Hollow Nordic Center
Soldier Hollow's Olympic 5K Cross Country Trail, Photo: flickr.com/photos/a4gpa
Soldier Hollow's Olympic 5K Cross Country Trail, Photo: flickr.com/photos/a4gpa

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 that I’ve been here to Soldier Hollow 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.)

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.

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.

Ten minutes into the lesson and I’m questioning my decision to wear a thick black puffy coat and goggles. Winter says that it’s best to wear a thin base layer, a light shell and sunglasses — cross-country skiing is basically 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 to each other is an awkward feeling, but surprisingly I haven’t crashed yet — everyone else in my group has.

Gaining Confidence

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. 

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.

Learn more about cross-country skiing in Utah

  

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


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, and information of conditions, lessons and rentals.

Best Spots to Get Olympic Spirit

by Visit Utah

You may not be able to grab a real gold medal, but you can still get into winter sports in some of the same places that starred alongside Olympians more than a decade ago.

Read More

Cody Kirkland

Cody Kirkland is an editorial writer, reviewer & beverage expert with diverse write-ups and features in The New York Times, The Salt Lake Tribune & Fresh Cup, to name a few. Based in Salt Lake City, Utah, he began as a contributor for SLUG Magazine (Salt Lake UnderGround), covering subjects ranging from alien abductees to local business reviews, while writing about festivals from SXSW to Slamdance for various outlets over nearly a decade. Kirkland’s café insights, recipes, classes, cocktail guides, & hospitality tips continue to garner wide interest in the coffee, tea, bitters, & cocktail industries, & beyond. In 2016, Cody’s face was on the cover of U.S. coffee & tea industry rag Fresh Cup. Samples of his work can be found at codykirkland.com.

Enter Your Email Address Get new stories delivered to your inbox

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Soldier Hollow cross-country ski

2002 Soldier Hollow Lane

Heber Valley

Heber Valley

Heber City is a gateway to a handful of Utah's best state parks, including Wasatch Mountain (with Soldier Hollow), Deer Creek, and Jordanelle. The sprawling Wasatch Mountain State Park offers national-park caliber views with summer camping and trails and winter XC skiing.

Deer Valley Resort

Deer Valley Resort

The people who ski at Deer Valley are dedicated to the skiers-only vibe and excellent guest service. See how many of the resort’s 101 trails you can hit in a weekend.

Park City

Park City

Park City, Utah could certainly stake a rightful claim of being the “perfect mountain town.” Park City strikes a balance between luxury and comfort, all the while showing a deep appreciation for athletics and the arts.

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. Learn more about cross-country skiing in Utah