Article written by Leavenworth-local Marlene Farrell, Photos by Kevin Farrell
What a season for skiers of all stripes! The powder hounds are in seventh heaven, literally and figuratively, but so too are the Nordic skiers. My family of four certainly is. We have an embarrassing number of skis in our garage, though most of them, skinny skis, don’t take up much space.
We started our ski season with a loop around the Icicle River Trails after the first big snowfall in early December. We were ecstatic to see continuous white, when normally that time of year means a patchwork of snow and dirt.
We’ve been skiing with our kids since they could walk and now, at 11 and 8, a slippery surface under their feet is second nature. There is a bit of adjustment, though, as every winter they ski with a taller body and a shifted center of mass, but also benefit from increased coordination and generally better gear.
Preparatory challenges cause a minor delay at the trailhead. Socks bunch and boots pinch and too many layers make them hot and mittens need to be tucked into their sleeves “just so.” The huffs and grumps cause the first strides to feel less than idyllic. I sometimes wonder why do we do this? But soon we are transformed, falling into rhythm, calmed by the stillness of the white trees and mounds edging the winding trail before us.
It felt like a breakthrough that we skied 8km without having to bribe them with treats. There was even energy at the end for a snowball fight in the parking lot.
Before the holidays snow inundated Leavenworth; it softened, brightened and brought cheer to our town. Every trail is now open and ready for exploration. We love the Icicle River Trails, for the dependably beautiful grooming and the spaciousness of the terrain. But our favorite is Ski Hill, where the forested climbs, descents and turns make a ski a satisfying combination of grunt and whoop. The Golf Course Trail, because of its shorter season, always feels novel. The views of the river and the herd of deer lounging in a coppice keep the short laps entertaining.
My children are adept at skiing both in the tracks with classic technique and cutting Vs down the skate lane, not just through our guidance, but because they have been on the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club Junior Nordic team for years.
The ski team is where kids ski miles with their friends. In small groups they do drills that feel like a game or a challenge. They ski behind a coach and their friends, observing efficient technique and applying it, through experimentation, to their own skiing. There’s positive feedback when they want to ski faster for tag, and better technique propels them without getting tired, and then it becomes habit. The rewards of ski team are measured in their speed down the hills, the volume of their laughter, the size of their chocolate mustaches after hot cocoa, and, for some, a spot on a podium.
We grownups could take lessons from kids on how to mix big and small movements, and to move as nature intended, flexing rather than letting fear make us rigid. If we need more help, LWSC’s ski instructors are eagerly waiting to share skating and classic tips in group lessons on the weekends and in private lessons at the student’s convenience.
For Leavenworth, which hovers at 1200 feet, far from the lofty elevations of most ski towns, we have it pretty good. In addition to LWSC’s trails, there are Forest Service roads for long tours. Sometimes we park on Icicle Road near Bridge Creek campground, and head up the gently climbing road for miles. Although not heavily visited by snowmobiles, there is enough traffic that the snow is packed to a smooth skiable surface. This is a great road for skiing with kids, pulling a pulk, or skiing with one’s dog. Alternatively, heading up the hill along FS Road 7601 is a climb that will test your wax.
Our family has made some turns at Steven’s too. But Leavenworth’s Nordic trails call to us, and we heed them. We aren’t fond of long car rides, lift lines, chair lift rides and crowded slopes. We prefer to spend our time skiing amid snow-dappled trees, bounding up the hills and feeling moments of flight as we descend in the track. And we have plenty of time left back home to enjoy a cup of cocoa by the warmth of our fire.
Want to learn more?
- Check out LWSC’s comprehensive page for more about grooming conditions at all their Nordic ski locations, as well as information about ski lessons and the Junior Nordic Ski Team: www.skileavenworth.com
- Wenatchee Outdoors’ website has trip reports and maps of Van Creek and Icicle Road as well as many other sites further from Leavenworth: www.justgetout.net/wenatchee