4 Reasons To Try Cross Country Skiing Next Time You Visit Lake of the Woods

There is much to do when visiting Lake of the Woods! The obvious,  fishing, hunting and snowmobiling. The less obvious but equally as enjoyable are cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Whether you’re a pro or just getting started, Lake of the Woods has miles of breathtakingly beautiful trails that wind through scenic areas of vast stands of pine, spruce and birch trees. Some slopping hills and curved routes are simple yet joyful enough for any skier new or seasoned.

Cross Country Skiing and snowshoeing have long been known to be one of the most healthy and beneficial sports.  It can be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels and can be purely recreational or highly aggressive and competitive.  But what makes it the ultimate form of exercise is the fact that it is a total body workout and the ultimate calorie burner. Read on to learn all about the physical and mental benefits of cross-country skiing and next time you’re in Lake of the Woods try it out!


The Total Body Workout:

Few sports and activities can claim to be a total body workout, but cross-country skiing and snowshoeing is just that.  It combines both a lower body and upper body workout, while simultaneously working both the “pulling” and “pushing” muscles of each region.  Every major muscle group is involved in propelling forward, and even muscles that don’t seem to be in use are actively involved to balance and coordinate the entire body.  Both activities have proved to be so advantageous over other forms of aerobic exercise, that an entire brand of exercise equipment was designed using the same motion.  And yet nothing can provide as holistic and balanced a workout as getting outside, into the snow, and onto a pair of cross-country skis or snowshoes.

lake of the woods cross country skiing 3


cross country skiing lake of the woods

Ultimate Calorie Burner:

Utilizing every major muscle group simultaneously requires a great deal of energy.  And in the human body, energy comes from burning calories.  Cross country skiing burns more calories than any other form of exercise or sport –up to 1,122 calories per hour for vigorous backcountry mountaineering!  The chart below will help you to see how cross-country skiing stacks up against the competition.

Based on 150 lbs person, calories burned per hour
Cross-Country Skiing (vigorous mountaineering) 1,122
Cross-Country Skiing (competitive racing) 952
Boxing (competitive) 816
Elliptical Training Equipment (vigorous) 816
Swimming (competitive crawl) 748
Bicycling (14-15.9 mph, vigorous) 680
Cross-country Skiing (brisk recreational) 612
Stair-Stepper Equipment (vigorous) 612
Football (competitive game) 612
Tennis Match (singles) 544
Speed Walking 442
Golfing (walking, pulling clubs) 292


A Healthy Heart and Lungs:

Skiing and snowshoeing are an excellent aerobic workout, and because no single muscle group is overstressed, the activity can be sustained for hours on end.  As a result, a fast heart rate is also sustained for a long duration.  This sustained rapid heart-rate is exactly what your heart needs in order to be strengthened and to improve your heart’s capacity to pump blood efficiently and effectively.  As your heart beats faster, supplying oxygen-rich blood to your muscles and organs, your lungs must also keep up with the challenge.  This increased respiration exercises your lungs by improving their capacity for “peak-flow” and exchange of oxygen between the inhaled air and the blood perfusing the lungs.  This increased peak air flow, together with strengthened diaphragm muscles, will enable you to exercise without “losing your breath,” further increasing your stamina and endurance.  Other benefits to your heart include significantly reducing your total cholesterol –reducing triglycerides and LDL’s, and promoting healthy levels of HDL’s. Regular, intense aerobic exercise also stimulates nitric oxide production by blood vessels in the heart as well as new blood vessel growth, both of which protect against heart attacks.  Additionally, the sunlight absorbed through the skin while skiing is often the only natural source of Vitamin D during the winter months.  Sufficient Vitamin D is necessary for the prevention of coronary disease, peripheral artery disease (PAD), and hypertension (high blood pressure), as well as maintaining strong bones.


cross country sking lake of the woods 2 jpeg

A Low Impact Workout for Exceptional Joint Health:

Most sports and exercises carry the risk of damaging joints and ligaments from overuse, over-extension, and inevitable accidents.  If this were not so, then the specialty of “Sports Medicine” would not need to exist.  Unfortunately, most activities that strengthen one part of the body also tear down another.  Fortunately, cross-country skiing –diagonal or classic skiing in particular– is one of the safest and lowest-impact sports in the world.  Unlike running sports, there is a very little shock to the feet, knees and hips thanks to the gliding motion of classic/diagonal skiing.  Cross-country skiing is a relatively unidirectional sport, with very little rapid twisting and torquing, and therefore is far less likely than sports such as basketball, football, and volleyball to cause a pulled muscle, torn ligaments and cartilage, or hemorrhaged disks.  A

Endorphin Rush, the Natural High:

Known as a “runners high” or “endorphin rush,” the second wind that a cross-country skier feels during a good workout on the trail is second to none.  The endorphins produced by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus during extended physical activity or pain is a chemical similar to morphine.  This morphine-like endorphin provides an analgesic effect that blocks the human body’s ability to feel pain and fatigue.  The chemical also gives the skier an intense feeling of exhilaration, or, in the least, a clear sense of well-being.  This wonderful feeling is what makes it so easy to continue traveling, on or off-piste, hour after hour.  Norepinephrine and dopamine, other chemicals produced in the brain during stress, is also released during an intense trail workout.  These chemicals add further to the sense of well-being, while also increasing focus and attention to the task at hand.  These sensations are not quickly forgotten, even as the ski day comes to an end and the endorphins are long gone.  The physical and mental workout has prepared the body for a fantastic night of sleep, and the stresses of the daily grind are quickly supplanted with dreams of another snowy day on the trail.

We can all appreciate the health benefits and the exhilaration of cross-country skiing.  Whether you prefer a groomed trail or prefer to go off-piste to some undiscovered corner of the woods, cross-country skiing combines the best of outdoor winter recreation, fitness, and good health.  So get out there, conquer the cold of winter, bathe in the beauty of nature, and relax in the solitude of the trail.


Lake of the Woods cross-country ski areas:

Baudette  Franz Jevne State Park

5.6km  218-783-6252 (P, B) Groomed trails, unique rock outcrop near Rainy River. Secluded and peaceful.
MN ski pass required.

Williams  Zippel Bay State Park

17.6km  218-783-6252 (P, B) 14.4km groomed trail ranging from beginner to intermediate near Lake of the Woods. Catch glimpses of timber wolves and deer. MN ski pass required.

Lake of the Woods snowshoeing areas:

Snowshoers don’t need trails, but just snow.  There are a number of wilderness areas to explore around Lake of the Woods.  For starters, think about Zippel Bay State ParkBeltrami Island State Forest and Pine Island State Forest.

The Lake of the Woods School also has a 2-mile snowshoe trail marked right off their parking lot. Beginners and families love to use this simple and easy to maneuver trail.

Ski pass information

All cross-country skiers on ski trails in State Parks or Forests, or on State or Grant-in-Aid Trails, who are aged 16 and above, must have a Minnesota Ski Pass. You must sign your ski pass and carry it with you when skiing. Your ski pass fee helps support Minnesota’s cross-country ski trail system.

Ski pass rates

  • Daily ski pass: $6
  • One-season ski pass: $20
    (effective from July 1st of purchasing year to June 30 of following year, i.e. 07/01/20018– 06/30/2019)
  • Three-season ski pass: $55
    (effective July 1st of purchasing year to June 30 of third year, i.e. 07/01/2018– 06/30/2019)


Purchasing a ski pass

Minnesota State Parks:
You will be able to purchase a daily pass in person at all parks except Carley, Crosby Manitou, Monson, or Schoolcraft State Parks.

Self-registration for daily, annual and three-year ski passes will be available in parks with ski trails this winter. A mail-in envelope and an application will be provided for the purchaser. Payment or credit card information, along with a signature and personal information, will be required from the purchaser. The purchaser will retain a receipt until the ski pass arrives in the mail.

By phone

Call 1-888-MNLICENse (1-888-665-4236) to buy a daily, one-season, or three-season ski pass. It’s instant and easy. Have your date of birth, driver’s license and credit card (Discover, MasterCard or Visa) ready when you call. (There is a $3.50 processing fee for this convenience.)

Zippel Bay State Park is available at the following address

3684 54th Ave NW
Williams, MN 56686
Or call ahead at 218-783-6252

To order additional information Click Here or call 1-800-382-FISH.

To go back to the Main page Click Here

Our lodging page can be found Here

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