For the week of January 13, 1999   thru January 19, 1999  

Galena: Gem of the North Valley Trails

Cross-country skiing can’t get better than this

Express Staff Writer

galena.jpg (10997 bytes)Galena Nordic ski instructor Mark Kraley shows proper skate-ski technique. (Express photos by Willy Cook)

It’s a sunny Saturday at Galena Lodge, magic blue sky, disappearing clouds.

This is the heart of the North Valley Trails system, a sparkling winter gem of the Wood River Valley. Backcountry peaks rise all around like the points on a crown. A myriad of trails stretches out in every direction, a Nordic skier’s wonderland.

I ventured out this day with Galena Nordic ski instructor Mark Kraley. After falling a few times I began to get the hang of it, thanks to Kraley’s expert instruction.

The scenic beauty of the area, a perk of nature that goes along with cross-country skiing, is surely equal to any place in the world.

"The North Valley Trails are beginning to be recognized as the best Nordic skiing system in the nation," said lodge director Tom Downey.

To the north stands Galena Summit, where the Big Wood River begins as a mere trickle from a spring born of mother earth. Coursing downward, the rivulet grows, fed by the morning sun and melting snow and ice. Still frozen in the shadows, though, it is a chilled, frosty, turquoise ribbon of blue. The lower canyons and valleys are shrouded with timber broken by snowy, white swales and meadows. The high, rocky peaks hover above the tree line, touching a sky etched in blue.

Down near the lodge the river wanders by, growing and widening as it descends. The tumbling water mixes with the sound of children laughing, dogs barking, grownups hooting, everyone having fun.

Out on the trails, having fun seems to be the theme of the day.

On the Gladiator Creek Loop Trail, we run into Laura Lee Vogel and friends from Seattle.

"The trails are really fun. I’m not getting much of a workout—but I do that in the gym—this is just for fun," Laura says.

When photographer Willy Cook shouts, "Come on Seattle, do ya love Galena or what?" they jump and yell in unison, "YES!!!"

Another trail user, Dave Hansen, a sixth-grader from Utah, says, "It’s more funner than Utah."

Galena and the North Valley system combine for more than 150 miles of cross-country ski trails.

The North Valley Trails are arguably the best and most extensive Nordic skiing in the country, Kraley, a 25-year Galena veteran, says.

"The beauty of the system is that it’s not that crowded—sometimes you can go out and ski a 10K and not see a soul," he said.

The North Valley Trails is a great place for Nordic skiers of all abilities and ages. Trails are marked for difficulty, ranging from easiest to most difficult. There are no age restrictions for learning how to cross-country ski, according to Downey.

For beginning Nordic skiers, Galena Lodge offers lessons three times a day, taught by instructors certified by the Professional Ski Instructors of America. According to Downey, the sport is continually evolving and instructors are schooled in clinics to keep them on top of correct teaching methodology and techniques.

Cross-country skiing can be divided into two disciplines: classic, diagonal-stride skiing and skate skiing. Downey suggests that beginning skiers start with the classic form and that skiers with alpine skiing experience try the skating technique.

I grew up alpine skiing, but had never done the "skinny ski thing." What I thought would be easy turned out to be a humbling experience. So if any of you alpine skiers want a refreshing challenge, go for it.

A day package, which includes a lesson, a trail pass, and rental equipment, is available for $37.

A season pass for the North Valley Trails is $75. The funds are used to groom the trails.


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