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FIRST SNOWS PUTS NORDIC SKIERS BACK ON TRACK

AEROBIC WORKOUT: Each year Anthony Lakes' Nordic ski area's trails draw more than a thousand skiers. A number come to compete in the annual Elkhorn Classic race, which will be conducted on Jan. 27. (Photo/ANTHONY LAKES).
AEROBIC WORKOUT: Each year Anthony Lakes' Nordic ski area's trails draw more than a thousand skiers. A number come to compete in the annual Elkhorn Classic race, which will be conducted on Jan. 27. (Photo/ANTHONY LAKES).

- Dick Mason

- The Observer

Looking for a piece of ski history?

You will find it along Gunsight Trail in the Nordic area of Ski Anthony Lakes. Gunsight Trail passes by the remnants of a ski jump site used in the 1930s.

For historic balance look to Campground Loop trail, a new addition to Ski Anthony Lakes' 31.3-kilometer Nordic trail network. The trail passes no historic sites but it does provide good views and a flat surface. The new trail is meant to be used by novices.

"It is good for beginning and intermediate skiers,'' said Dick Knowles, director of Ski Anthony Lakes' Nordic Center, which recently opened for the ski season.

Knowles will teach many beginning skiers on Campground Loop trail this winter. Campground Loop begins about 200 meters west of the Nordic Center and provides skiers with excellent views of Gunsight Mountain. The new .8-mile single-track trail is the latest addition to Ski Anthony Lakes' Nordic area. The ski area has nine other trails:

• Anthony Lake Loop, 1.9 kilometers. This trail takes skiers around Anthony Lake. The trail has a low difficulty level because it is relatively flat.

• Lily Pad Loop, 2.9 kilometers. The trail takes skiers from Anthony Lake to nearby Lily Pad Lake. It has a few short hills. The loop is for skiers of intermediate ability.

• College, 2.3 kilometers. The trail takes skiers south of Lily Pad Lake to Fisher Creek and under Gunsight Mountain. It has several challenging uphill and downhill portions.

• College Extension, 3.1 kilometers. It is an annex of College Trail and takes skiers closer to the Hoffer Lake area. The route is for advanced skiers.

• Lodge Trail, .8 kilometers. The trail takes people to the Ski Anthony Lakes lodge and is good for inexperienced skiers. It has a small hill.

• Elkhorn Byway, 8.9 kilometers. The trail starts near Anthony Lakes' Nordic Center and goes up to the summit of the mountain. It is not groomed regularly and has an advanced difficulty level. Dogs are allowed to run with skiers on this route.

• Anthony Lake Snowshoe Loop, 1.3 kilometers. This is an easy path that takes skiers to the start of the Hoffer Lakes Trail, which is not part of the Nordic ski area.

• Black Meadow Trail, 2.6 miles. This route is moderately difficult. It is hardest to get on early in the season because it has a short, steep access section. The degree of climbing needed to get over the access point is reduced as the snow level builds over the winter.

• Gunsight Trail, .6 of a mile. An excellent view of Gunsight Mountain is available from this trail. The trail is easy to ski and has many open meadows.

• Upper Francy Loop, 3.6 kilometers and Lower Francy Loop, 3.6 kilometers. The Francy trails are east of Anthony Lake and intersect the Black Meadow Trail. A highlight of the trails is the panoramic view they give skiers of the Eagle Cap Wilderness and the Baker Valley. Upper Francy Trail provides skiers with a "roller coaster ride up and down,'' Knowles said.

Several of the Nordic area's trails take skiers past ice-covered lakes. Skiers understandably are tempted to venture out on to them but are urged not to. Knowles stressed that alpine lakes are notoriously unstable. Lakes in alpine areas are often covered with snow. The snow serves as insulation and often prevents lakes from developing a thick ice cover.

Each year the Nordic ski area's trails draw more than a thousand skiers. A number come to compete in the annual Elkhorn Classic race, which will be conducted on Jan. 27 this season. This race previously had races of 20 and 30 kilometers but this season they will be shortened to 5 and 10 kilometers.

"It (the shorter distances) will a lot easier on the athletes,'' Knowles said.

He explained that races of 20 and 30 kilometers are especially hard for skiers at Anthony Lakes because of its thin air. Ski Anthony Lakes has a base elevation of 7,000 feet.

Altitude or no altitude, cross country skiing is tremendous exercise, Knowles said. He lists it as one of the top three types of exercise along with running and distance cycling. Cross country skiing is highly rated in part because one uses 90 percent of their muscles regardless of how fast they are moving. Nordic skiers get the benefit of exercise without putting much stress on their joints, Knowles said.

Nordic skiers burn 400 to 600 calories per hour when moving a moderate pace.

Knowles, who makes annual ski trips to Scandinavia, prides himself in introducing new people to his sport. Last winter he taught at least 200 beginning cross country skiers at Anthony Lakes. He said that seeing novice skiers enjoy their first experience is immensely fulfilling.

"The smiles on their faces tells you that something good is going on.''

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