The Trails of Park City

I was in Park City, Utah, last week, just before the mega-snowstorms, and I saw a few people walking on the town’s low-elevation recreation trails that by now are buried too deep to be walkable — snowshoeable or skiable, yes; but plain walkable, probably not for a while.

Still, I was impressed by the 350 miles of trails around this mountain resort town. In summer, some are shared with mountain bikers, while others are only for wheel-less activities. The Park City Trails Foundation, which masterminded the trail system, advocates effectively for it. Anyone heading for the greater Salt Lake City area needs to check out this exceptional system.

White Pine Touring, which runs the local cross-country center and grooms its ski trails, rents Nordic Walking poles and puts on Nordic Walking tours in summer. Their year-round retail store is at 1790 Bonanza Drive, so do check with them if you are visit and need gear or companionship.

I Got New Nordic Walking Poles

I’ve gotten new poles, and even after a few short outings, I’m loving them. My barely broken-in Exel Sport poles are comfortable, lightweight and well-balanced. I’m a walker, not a runner, and though like so many people, I could lose a few pounds, but I’m not a heavyweight. Therefore, my demands are not extreme, and the Sport model seems to suit me just fine. The company says, “The Nordic Walker Sport pole is designed for aggressive Nordic Walkers who seek excellent performance and durability from their equipment.” Sounds good to me.

Having tried and borrowed various poles in various places, I don’t believe that there are any really bad poles out there, but rather variations on the theme of Nordic Walking poles. People seem to have different preferences in terms of materials, grip, strap, even color and more.

When I started writing about snowshoeing, I had the same sense that they were all remarkably good, differing in shape, deck material, binding and so on. But on the whole, there appear to be no lemons either in Nordic Walking poles nor in snowshoes. My new poles haven’t taken me far beyond my immediate neighborhood (photo, right) yet, but I know that they will.

For Montrealers, Nordic Walking is Part of Winter Fun

We all know a few things about Canada and Canadians. Here are two: First, it’s up north, where winters tend be cold and snowy. Second, Canadians know how to have a good time, regardless of the temperature. Now, Nordic Walking is making its way into the winter fun mix.

I just read a press release from Vieux Port Montreal, the city’s historic old port along the frosty St. Lawrence River, cheering the arrival of winter and announcing a weeked-long celebratory event. What brings joy to my Nordic Walker’s heart is that in the midst of of all the expected music, food, anti-freeze beverages and sports booths, the Vieux Port’s promoters write, “Cold outside? We have the perfect cure: get outside and get moving! On Saturday, December 9, warm up with some vigorous Nordic walking and put somecolour in your cheeks during a Cardio Warm-up to the grooves of a Latin beat. You can top off the day nicely with a cocktail at the Bougex.com happening in the impressive Winter Bar… an enormous venue, created entirely of ice!You’ll be in the perfect frame of mind to give traditional group, Les Batinses, a warm welcome, and enjoy a high-energy, two-hour show, punctuatedby the dazzling TELUS Fire on Ice show early in the evening. On the same rink, glide around to the rhythm of dance groves provided by a DJ, until 11:00 p.m. Saturday and 6:00 p.m. Sunday.”

Today is December 9, so I certainly can’t scoot up there to join the merriment — and you probably can’t either, but I am cheered that Nordic Walking is being thought of as part of fun and entertainment — and by people who know all about that.

Nordic Walking in London

Seven million Europeans reportedly have taken up Nordic Walking, and the sport is now being promoted across the English Channel and the North Sea as well. The authoritative BBC just reported that some 200 prospective partiticants showed up at London’s Hyde Park this past Sunday to give it a try — or, as the Brits would probably say, to give it a go. It was noted on a blog called The Londonist, which titled its posting, “No, I Haven’t Lost My Skis,” observing “So, if you do see sporty types looking like they got lost on the way to the dry ski slope, but are gamely skiing without their skis over zebra crossings and through foot tunnels regardless, it’s Nordic walking, it’s a real sport and it’s in London.” The BBC noted that organizers, who arranged free coaching by Nordic Walking pros, are hoping to recruit 30,000 Nordic Walkers within a year. There are already several Nordic Walking clubs, blogs and websites in the UK. Perhaps the BBC and The Londonist just noticed.

Nordic Walking in Portland Marathon

October 1, 2007, marks the 36th annual Portland (OR) Marathon and the third year in which Nordic Walking is a separate category, making Nordic Walkers the organizational peers of elite runners and racewalkers, recreational runners and walkers and wheelchair athletes. Additionally, citizen participants have the option of shorter 5 and 10K distances, and there is also a kids’ fun race. Entertainment along the route speeds the miles along.

If you are up for 26.2 miles, or think you might be by fall, the Portland Marathon provides an opportunity to particpate in one of the top 10 marathons in the US and one that Runner’s World, no less, called the walker-friendliest marathon in the country. And that was in the October 2004 issue, even before the Nordic Walking category was added. Fittrek, an American pole company, is helping facilitate the Nordic Walking category.

For the second year, the Nordic Walking World Championships will again dovetail into the Portland Marathon, so it is a must for anyone with competition fever. For the record, Nordic Walking instructor Murray Wood took the title in ’06.

Participation is limited to the first 9,000 entries. Registration is open now. The cost is $85, and you can register on-line (or print out the forms and sent them with payment to Portland Marathon, PO Box 4040, Beaverton, OR 97076).

Even if you have no intention of entering, take a look at the website, which is loaded with info and images.

Top Trails of Germany

I am often reminded of what newcomers we North Americans are to experiencing the joy of walking — not gonzo hiking, not high-mountain trekking, certainly not backpacking, but simply walking, with or without poles — through beautiful countryside. Many of us practically wear grooves in our favorite paths near our homes, the ones that we use to get some exercise and fresh air. Still, we don’t always think of walking away from home as part of our travel experiences. But in many European countries, taking long walks at a travel destination is a healthy and invigorating part of visiting and exploring new places. The Brits call it tramping, and the Germans refer to it as wandern.
The Top Trails of Germany present an example of a well developed, meticulously mapped and signed group of premier long-distance trails. An yes, they are clean and safe too. Any Nordic Walking enthusiast planning to visit Europe, especially with the Euro so strong against the ailing dollar, should check out this economical way of sightseeing — and working off all that beer, bratwurst and Black Forest Cake as well. You can do day hikes or multi-day outings, staying in lovely villages and inns along the way. You’ll also find benches — usually intact and not graffiti-ed — along the way, as well as scenic overlooks when there is a particularly enjoyable panorama. Some portions of the routes are a bit narrow for comfortable pole walking, but mostly, you can stride along as the Germans themselves do.

The Westweg through the Black Forest, most famous for its cuckoo clock-making, is a 260-kilometer north-south route that passes through only 12 villages. The rest is beautiful countryside. The six-stage, 111-kilometer Eselweg through the Spessart Forest, Germany’s largest contiguous forest area, is partly in the state of Hessen and partly in Bavaria, is mostly level and occupies consistent elevations between 400 and 500 meters — roughly 1,300 t0 1,750 feet above sea level. The 23-stage, 320-kilometer Rheinsteig (photo above) is newest, following the beautiful banks of the Rhine River past fabled castles, two wine-growing areas and storybook villages.
When you begin to plan your spring summer travels, consider experiencing Europe one step at a time rather than through the windows of a tour bus.

It’s Not Ideal Walking Weather…

…in Colorado right now, though I did go for my 7:00 a.m. daily two-miler with a neighbor. No NW poles this morning, though, because there was a nearly foot of snow on the sidewalks, and it was still coming down hard. With no ice under the snow, nothing underfoot was slick — just powder on top of concrete. Some people probably prefer poles under such conditions, but not I. In my world, Nordic Walking is a dry-ground activity. I’ll put baskets on my new Exels when I want to take them snowshoeing, but instead of being roused for this kind of in-town walk, the poles got to sleep in.

In a related issue regarding what kind of with-poles activity a Nordic Walking aficionado should be enthusiastic about, I was intrigued by a current flap at Nordic Walking News. British blogster and Nordic Walking instructor, David Downer, has organized a cross-country ski trip to Norway from the UK this February, and some of his readers seem to be wondering why.

He blogged, “Some people have asked me why I have started to promote ‘cross-country skiing’ on a ‘Nordic Walking’ website? The answer is that although until recently my own focus has been Nordic Walking, the fact of the matter is that Nordic Walking is just ‘one’ discipline under the bigger ‘umbrella’ of ‘Nordic Fitness’. Nordic Fitness includes: Nordic Blading (‘inline’ skating with poles), Nordic Hill Walking (or Nordic Off-Road Walking), Snowshoeing (with poles), Nordic Winter Walking and last but not least ‘Nordic Skiing’ (Cross-country skiing or XC-Skiing).”

He explained to his mystified and perhaps disgruntled Nordic Walking purists that there is logical cross-over between Nordic Walking and cross-country skiing. My first reaction was the the disconnect in that thinking, since the sport of Nordic Walking grew from a summer training program for cross-country ski racers in Scandinavia. In truth, the connection is tighter and more logical than the skeptics seem to realize.

If you have any interest in joining such a trip to Sjusjøen (right), go to http://www.nordicfitnessonline.com/blue/nordicskiing/nordicskiing.htm
and click on “Holiday Information,” “Holiday Terms & Conditions” and
“Holiday Booking Form.” XCUK, a British tour operator specializing in Nordic skiing and Nordic Walking trips, is handling the arrangements.

I don’t know anything about Sjusjøen, and in fact, I’ve never even been to Norway, but I am captivated by the picture of those neat tracks etched into the clean snow and see a group enjoying the frosty forest, and I hope Downer’s trip fills up.

Helping That Aching Back

Two friends have recently undergone back surgery — one a procedure called kryphoplasty to stabilize spinal compression due to an injury (it’s supposed to be good for severe osteoporosis too) and the other a spinal fusion to relieve severe chronic back pain and a lack of feeling in his feet. Friend number one reported that there’s still pain, though it is better. Friend number two spent 13 days in the hospital, due to an unusual and very uncomfortable surgical side effect on the gastro-intestinal tract and no solid food for nearly two weeks. Neither their pain and mobility problems before these operations nor the post-surgical situation sound very good. In fact, both of their circumstances serve as arguments for alleviating pain and combatting osteoporosis before they get so bad that surgery appears to be the only option.

Therefore, I was glad to read a National Institutes of Health report on clinical trials being conducted in Denmark to study the effects of Nordic Walking on chronic low back pain. Of the 150 participants in the study group, some are participating in supervised Nordic Walking, some in unsupervised Nordic Walking and some have been counseled to “stay active.” Color me cynical, but I’m guessing that if there were a U.S. study, there would be a group that was supposed to take it easy and take medication for the pain.

The study began in September 2005 and is scheduled to conclude in December 2007. I for one am eager to learn the results. Meanwhile, let’s keep on Nordic Walking so that something like this doesn’t happen to us.

The Turkey Won!

I went for a brisk one-hour walk before buckling down to a day of cooking and an afternoon and evening of evening of eating. The scale this morning showed one pound more than yesterday morning. But I’m cheered by the arrival of my spiffy new Exel poles, which I’ll start walking with next week — probably Monday.