The Queen of Winter Sports

The Mountain Farmgirl loves the change of seasons, even (inexplicably!) the New Hampshire-style winters that bring the mercury down to -20o. Join her as she partakes in the Queen of Winter Sports … even though it can sometimes be a Royal Pain …

Inertia is a powerful force, and it has a life all of its own. It seeks to control our lives as well, and the secret is to get it working FOR us rather than AGAINST us. Never did this fact hit home as strongly for me as it did a couple of weeks ago when our son Christopher and his new bride Elizabeth came home to roost with us for a long weekend, the second visit since their beautiful wedding last June. They arrived at the Boston airport from Pittsburgh during a snowstorm. That was a bad start and had me nervously awaiting their midnight arrival in their rented car.  Fortunately my fears for their safety were unfounded – as most fears generally are!  We had all been praying for snow in this part of the country for months, as it has been uncharacteristically snow-free here in New England ever since the freaky storm last October that deposited about 14” on our pumpkins. Innkeepers like myself have been impacted greatly as a result of this snow-drought, and so we couldn’t exactly complain when we finally got what we asked for, even though it was at an inopportune time for me.

Looking out the window the next morning was a beautiful sight: a foot of beautiful, fluffy-white powder snow, and Chris and Elizabeth had a hankering to go cross-country skiing. While I had visions of sending them off while remaining snugly at home to get a nice dinner all ready for their return,  they had their hearts set on my husband and me joining them … and that’s where ‘inertia’ suddenly came into focus. I didn’t feel like budging.  The memories of getting all that equipment out for our four tiny children when they were growing up – the skis, the boots, the layers and layers of clothes – had me cringing and wanting to wiggle out of it.  But then the thought of letting down my kids, and missing out on some wonderful family time – all too rare these days since my children left home -- would have made me feel guilty and selfish, and so I (reluctantly) agreed to go.

“Boot Camp”
Getting outfitted is work. (I refer to it as ‘Boot Camp’, and that is a fair estimation of the process involved).  We already owne all the equipment we needed, we just needed to find it, organize it and match the right sizes of skis, boots, hats, mittens, gloves and snow pants to the various members of our family. It wasn’t as much of a chore as I feared. Once done, we stocked Chris’ backpack with water, fruit and energy bars, and we were ready to hit the trails.  Here in Jackson, NH we are blessed beyond belief with what are considered the two finest cross-country trail systems in all the eastern United States. The Jackson Ski Touring Foundation grooms right to the door of our inn, maintaining 150 km of extraordinary  trails. The other, Great Glen Trails, is only 10 minutes away at the base of Mount Washington, with some of the best views and trails to be had anywhere … and that’s where we all headed.

With ‘boot camp’ now behind us, and a sky that became sunnier as the afternoon progressed, things were looking up, though we didn’t realize just how cold it actually was.  However my fingers and toes, formerly frostbitten in college days, screamed in protest until my blood got moving enough to numb them. (Only later did we discover that the air temperature was only 5o, and that with the wind it was … well … I don’t even want to think about that!).  But there is something about being out in nature, even when it’s cold -- the fresh air, the mountains, the pine trees and the peace and quiet -- that starts speaking to the soul almost immediately. A primal instinct kicked into gear, and it KNEW better than I did that this was exhilarating and healthy. In fact, that afternoon has become a benchmark for all the wonderful future winter experiences which will hopefully follow.


Now I am no stranger to cross-country skiing, and I am in fairly good shape. But I have also been pretty sedentary this winter, spending large amounts of time knitting or writing at my computer, and so the transition between the two worlds of ‘sitting’ and ‘exercising’  was where I hit the infamous inertia wall!  I overcame it by nothing but  sheer willpower – as I mentioned  I had to FORCE myself to be part of this family expedition -- but my resistance to it quickly broke down and I got into a physical groove that felt so good that I soon did not want to stop!  It was  then that I remembered why I have always considered cross country skiing to be the Queen of Winter sports. (If you live in a warm climate where XC Skiing isn’t an option, feel free to substitute another sport in place of it.  The main thing is to overcome inertia, get outdoors on a regular basis surrounded by nature as much as possible, and to give your body a good workout.  There is absolutely no substitute!).


Like swimming, cross country skiing is a low-impact, total body aerobic workout with many health benefits. It combines exercise for both upper and lower body muscles simultaneously. In fact, every major muscle group is involved in propelling your body forward.  It is no coincidence that several major brands of exercise equipment are sold using the same motions as Nordic skiing. Yet don’t let it be a substitute for getting out and experiencing the real thing … the sunlight absorbed through our skin when outside is often the only natural source of Vitamin D we may get all winter.

Cross-country skiing is also the ultimate in cardio exercise, as the rapid heart rate sustained while we ski is exactly what our hearts need to be strengthened as well as to improve the capacity to pump our blood efficiently and effectively. As our hearts beat faster, supplying oxygen-rich blood to our muscles and organs, our lungs must also keep up with the challenge, and surprisingly, I’ve seldom lost my breath on even the most vigorous workouts. One significant benefit not to be overlooked is that this sport can actually lower total cholesterol, reducing triglycerides and LDLs, and promoting healthy levels of HDL.

Compared to all other exercise, it is the number one calorie burner! Compare an hour of vigorous mountaineering XC at 1,112 calories burned per hour to competitive boxing (816 calories/hour); vigorous bicycling (680 cal.) and speed-walking (442 calories) … I like those numbers!  It also produces a sensational endorphin rush that lasts long enough to be considered an anti-depressant … not to mention the mental focus, clarity, and the good night’s sleep gained through this sport.  It can be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels, and while I consider it to be purely recreational, it can also be highly competitive. In fact, three college ski teams are staying at our inn this weekend for a big state-wide competition.


The View

Fortunately, XC skiing is also one of the safest, lowest-impact sports in the world, with very little shock to feet, knees and hips (like running). There are few significant injuries such as broken bones, torn ligaments or ACL, so common in downhill skiing. And I guess finally, you could say that it is a very economical sport.  Once you have the equipment (so much less expensive that its downhill cousin), you are good to go practically forever!  In our part of the country there are yearly ski swaps and sales where you can pick up used boots, poles and skis for a song. At $15 for a daily pass (or $100 for a Seasonal one), it is a steal compared to $75-80 for a downhill lift ticket!  While groomed trails are great, Farmgirls can, of course, also just go out your door and ski across the back forty. Can you can see why I think of Cross-Country is the Queen of Winter Sports?   The hardest part about it is overcoming that annoying, self-sabotaging force of inertia, but once you start, you’ll want to stay bathed in the beauty of nature and absorb the solitude of the trails!  

Until next time, Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings from

Cathi, The Mountain Farmgirl

(pictured here with my daughter-in-law, Elizabeth)



By: Ms. SpoolTeacher
On: 02/06/2012 12:02:42
Living in the S.E. Arizona Desert, not much chance to do something I have long been suspect would accomplish just exactly the results you have described..I'm jealous! Lucky Mountain Farmgirl you are.
By: Connie
On: 02/06/2012 12:07:07
Hi Cathi,

I know I can get in a rut sometimes. When I make the effort to get outside, I'm glad I did. There is no substitute for fresh air and sunshine and time together with family. Thanks for the inspiration! :o)
By: Lisa Bicknell
On: 02/06/2012 14:06:59

I've always wanted to try this, but our snows are usually few and far between...and not very deep! I do enjoy walking in the snow. It really does rejuvenate the spirit to get outside in winter and is totally worth clearing the inertia hurdle.

I think this year in NH we are accepting each and every flake that comes our way!  Usually by this time of year we have tons more than we do now, but at 18" or so (less in some places), winter is all relative!  We love the little we've got and make use of every flake!  Snow shoeing is really good exercise, too.  Hope you get a little more of the white stuff so that you can play! Thanks for writing. cathi

By: nameSandy
On: 02/06/2012 14:09:50

I miss cross country skiing! No snow to ski on all winter here in Minnesota. Boo hoo.

These weather patterns are getting crazy ... we never know what the seasons will bring anymore, do we? Walking is a great all-over exercise when skiing isn't an option. Hope you get a little of the white stuff soon, though! Thanks for checking in! - cathi

By: Heather :) :) :)
On: 02/06/2012 15:08:09

Cross country skiing sounds like fun :) :) Living near the ocean, there's not much chance of that here...but I like to take long walks. That's recreational for me ;) :)

Oh, I'm glad that your son and his new wife could come for a visit ;) :) It's always nice to have family around :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather ;)

Dearest Heather, Thanks so much for taking the time to write; I know how much you have been going through with your dad.  I was so glad to see on one of your posts that he is doing better. Blessings to you both! xoxo cathi 

By: Nancy
On: 02/06/2012 15:57:46

I've finally done the same--well, I've starting walking rather than skiiing. I, too, feel so much better for doing it! Bravo!


Keep up the good work, Nancy! The sport doesn't matter, it's the action and the consistency! Let's all cheer each other on! -- cathi

By: Debbie
On: 02/06/2012 17:21:05

Hi dear Cathi!
Well, I'm happy to hear you were out and about taking in all that glorious mountain air.. I too have been a little " too " snug for my own good this winter. Shame on me too because like you we have had no real winter to speak of. We used to love Cross Country Skiing Near Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada's'... I can hear the crunch of snow under my feet reading your words here today! As always, your posts inspire me to do SOMETHING good for myself! I seem to need to be reminded quite often. It's a good think you write twice a month! :)
Beach Blessings my sister in the East!

Hello dear friend! Yes, that inertia is powerful!  It's been VERY cold here the last few days and I have gotten into the 'indoor rut' again. We need to keep to a routine and encourage each other to stay active (without becoming a slave to a schedule of course!).  Anyway, getting that blood moving feels so darn good and lifts the spirits, too!  Keep up all the good work you do, both indoors and out.  I loved your latest blog (as usual!).  The photos are awesome!  Red was never 'my' color, but as time goes on I love it more and more!  And if there was even any doubt, some of those gorgeous photos have totally convinced me!  (Love the bridal photo, too!). Thanks for stopping by! Love, cathi

By: Patricia G Hayes
On: 02/06/2012 18:15:57

Cathi, such inspiration.
I felt like you did a few weeks ago when son called us in Florida and asked us to come to N. Conway for a visit. Ugh, when I thought of snow and ice and, and, and. I promised myself if I saw snow from the plane I would return on that very next flight.
Well I completely fooled myself and had a marvelous eight days up in your neck of the woods. Two snowstorms, (I loved) Rode by your wonderful inn and pulled over and watched some cc skiers so enjoying themselves. Wanted very much to stop in and meet you, tell you how you have the best place for all seasons!..
Hubbie and I have only been gone from NH nine and a half years and let me tell you I was reborn to your wonderful area. Fl is sunny and warm but NH is just extra special with all it has to offer. For one, Jackson Falls is just so lovely, it is a must stop every time we are in the area. We shall return this summer for another taste of your lovely area.
BTw of course I so enjoy your blogging.

Dear Patricia, It was great to hear from you!  I can't believe you were so close ... you MUST stop by this summer to see us!!  Yes, this area is very special ... I never get tired of it or take it for granted.  After 7+ years, it still takes my breath away and I am so thankful for the falls, the mountains and beautiful rivers. I hope I get to meet you next time you are in the area. Thanks for writing. - cathi

By: Shery
On: 02/07/2012 08:40:07
Cathi, I'm both impressed and envious. First, that you're obviously in better shape than just 'fair'. If a person can cross-country ski for ANY real distance without keeling over, they're doing well :o) Secondly, I'm pea green that you're outside enjoying beautiful New Hampshire without me. But, then you'd lose me in short order. After spending SOooooo much of last year healing up, I'm so out of shape. I do have a recumbant exercycle now and hope to remedy that problem.

To loosely quote Eliza Dolittle (My Fair Lady), the photo of you skiing into the covered bridge "it's what done me in". Oh, such charm on a winter outing. Good for you!!

Shery, So nice of you to write! XC is great exercise ... but not as strenuous as you would think.  Inertia works FOR us in this case ... once you're gliding along, it is easy to keep it up. A LOT less work than shoe shoes! Keep up the exercise ... indoors or out, it is THE one thing that can have the greatest impact on our health.  Have a great day! -- cathi

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir