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Published: Sunday, 1/17/2010

Toledo Magazine: Cross-country skiiers see the beauty of the season from ground level

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Tatiana Shustova, left, of Champaign, Ill. and Anastasia Alexandrova of Toledo. Tatiana Shustova, left, of Champaign, Ill. and Anastasia Alexandrova of Toledo.
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Many endure winter. A hardy few embrace it and reap the rewards.

“It's beautiful,” says Jeff Nunnari of Sylvania Township just before heading out on the only designated cross-country (XC) ski trail in the area. This four-mile loop at Evergreen Lake on the southeastern edge of Oak Openings Preserve Metropark is a fine path that meanders through woods, meadows, and along the small lake formed by Swan Creek. A warming shelter is at the halfway point. For walkers and joggers, Oak Openings plows 20 miles of trails.

Powdery snow creates stunning contrast to the season's muted palette of brown, rust, and gold. Animal tracks are an easy read. Forest and field even sound different when blanketed.

“It gives me a chance to get out in the fresh air, enjoy the winter weather, and get some exercise,” says Mr. Nunnari.

Recent snowfalls and sub-freezing temperatures made for ideal conditions last week for the first local cross-country skiing of 2010.

“Getting out of the house, getting a little exercise, getting out in the sunshine. You've got to take advantage of the weather,” says Tim Thetford of Maumee.

<img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/TO17150419.GIF> <b><font color=red>VIEW </b></font color=red>: <a href=" /assets/pdf/TO70330117.PDF" target="_blank "><b>Toledo Magazine: Gliding through winter</b></a> <img src=http://www.toledoblade.com/assets/gif/TO17150419.GIF> <b><font color=red>VIEW </b></font color=red>: <a href=" /assets/pdf/TO70330117.PDF" target="_blank "><b>Toledo Magazine: Gliding through winter</b></a>
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Under a blue skiy with temperatures at a sizzling 20 degrees and breezes absent, the Evergreen Lake parking lot off State Rt. 295 was bustling with enthusiasts ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s.

It's an exhilarating sport that provides fine a fine cardiovascular workout, and it's not difficult to become proficient. Beginners can start out with a shuffle and work up to a more powerful kick-glide stride.

For Anastiasia Alexandrova of Toledo and Tatiana Shustova of Champaign, Ill., it's a fond reminder of their native St. Petersburg, Russia, where even city parks abound with ski trails commonly used by the citizenry.

Also called Nordic skiing, cross-country requires long, thin, fiber-glass skis; poles, and special shoes, the toes of which clip into mountings.

Skis can be rented in Toledo at Wersell's Bike and Ski Shop ($15 for 24 hours) and Mountain Man Sports ($17.99 for 24 hours). Maumee Bay State Park, which permits skiing on its rolling Scottish links golf course, around its 60-acre inland lake, and miles of walking trails, rents equipment for $10 an hour.

New equipment can be purchased for about $300 to $400, says Jim Wenberg, owner of Mountain Man Sports. Used equipment is sold at the Toledo Ski Club's annual swap and sale, tentatively set for Nov. 6 and 7 at the Mountain Man shop.

Designs have changed in the last several years: new skis are six to eight inches shorter, which results in better control.

The sport's popularity has gone downhill since its peak in the 1970s and 1980s when snow lasted longer, says Mr. Wenberg, but he's noticed an uptick with the introduction of shorter skis.

Jill Wersell, owner of Wersell's Bike and Ski Shop, says her shop used to offer cross country-ski classes at Wildwood Preserve Metropark. “The snow is so unpredictable.”

Indeed, the metroparks once kept parks open on snowy winter nights for skiers and even pre-groomed trails with equipment, making it easier for skiers to glide. The only metropark open until 9 p.m. this winter is Pearson, which has a skating pond, sledding hill, and trails, which are mostly plowed for runners and cyclists.

Walkers can show good etiquette by not stepping in ski tracks, which deteriorates them. And skiers should call out when approaching someone from behind.

The first skiers were ancient Scandinavians who used wood strips to stay atop snow that covered their land for much of the year. In 1924, it became an Olympic sport for men, and 28 years later, for women.

It's even possible to see Spot ski. Harnessing up a good-sized dog (or dogs, horse, snowmobile, or motorcycle) to pull a skier is called skijoring (pronounced ski-yoring).

The minute Jeff Mackenzie of Toledo learns school is canceled due to snow, he reaches for his skis.

“I'm a teacher. This is where I am on snow days,” he says. “This is so peaceful. The woods are a whole different thing in the winter.”

Contact Tahree Lane at: tlane@theblade.com or 419-724-6075.



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