Cross Country Skiing at Sagawau Canyon ✶✶✶✶

Sherry (my Mom) and I went out cross country skiing yesterday (February 10), after we got about 10 inches of snow the day before–Chicago’s largest snowstorm in quite some time!

And on a day that only hit a high of 22F, we stayed pretty warm, and only partly because of the roaring fire in the Sagawau Nordic Ski Lodge. Dressed in just a button up, flannel, and Carhart coat on my torso and long underwear and jeans on my legs, I stayed nice and toasty from the constant motion; in fact, if anything, I wore a little too much!

Rolling into a nearly full parking lot, we made our way past a beautiful (restored?) farmhouse onto the Nordic Ski Lodge, which doubles as an Environmental Learning Center–in fact, I think that is its “real name”.

When we walked in around 9:45 AM, a healthy line had already begun forming. Even so, we were easily out and about on the trail just after 10 or so. I do not envy the folks working here, but they seemed to be doing a great job of handling one of the very few good snow days of the season with cheer and efficiency; many juggled multiple jobs, such as answering phones and greeting people or fitting people for equipment (by sight!) and explaining the sport a little to newbies AND taking payment. The customer service experience here is exceptional, and they made a crowded place feel a lot friendlier. Trail use here is FREE, and rentals are 15 dollars for a whole day rental (rentals must be returned by 3:45, and last rental goes out at 2).

In fact, the lady who fit me for my skis and poles double checked to confirm she got about the right equipment for me–a small gesture, greatly appreciated.

Once we got outside, we tried our luck on the green, easy trails first. Trails are one way here, with options for skate or classic skiing–given I know very little about XC skiing, we stuck with classic-style.

We skied the Sag Loop (.9 km), through Baseline (.5 km), and the Prairie Loop (.7 km), for a total of 2.1 km of easy trails. We accidentally skipped the Dolomite Loop!

The 2.1 km of trails definitely elevated our heart rate, and got us nice and warmed up. Paradoxically, we dipped into the ski center to cool down and rest, looking for a snack bar that maybe served some nice and hot coffee. Alas, there was none. The upstairs Environmental Learning Center–totally worth checking out, too, for some good history on the place.

After the pause, we went out for the Ridge Run (1.3 km), hoping we were totally up for it, because it’s an unbroken loop so you have to finish once you start! This one was dramatically different from the previous green tracks. You begin with a fairly steep climb up a hill (which can be skipped by going through the lodge, but is probably a good indicator of whether you’re ready to tackle this segment), and then have two pairs of downhill runs and hills to climb back up–if you’ve never downhill skied before (as is my case), you are in for a real treat!

What I liked

Friendly folks–veterans of the sport gave me a few tips, ranging from technique to putting the skis on, and were patient and forgiving as I went about it.

Fun–this place is almost full of people have fun doing something for the first time, so you won’t stick out like a sore thumb if you’re having a tough time learning at all! Great place to XC ski for the first time.

Full, but the trails feel way less crowded than you’d think they would

What I didn’t like

Not much! Next time, I will go earlier or go on a weekday (when it is almost empty), or I’ll come a little earlier in the day. Also, I will bring a snack and a thermos with a hot beverage! The only thing I would prefer is more trail miles (kilos?), but for what it is this is great.

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