A compelling case for cross-country

Each of us can be excused for overstating that which we are passionate about. But there was something in Mike Gladish’s tone that suggested he really did mean it when he told me that cross-country skiing is the best exercise activity ever.

As the manager of the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club, and the columnist of Mount Mac Tracks ‘n’ Tales, I would think he would be careful about hyperbole.

So, half expecting to hear a clear-cut case for such a bold statement, I was compelled to say “Prove it” and then wait patiently for the answer.

His index finger pops up purposely from an otherwise clenched fist with the announcement, “First!”

OK, I am more than half expecting to hear a clear-cut case now.

“It’s the cheapest fitness centre out there,” he says. At $200 for a year-round membership for adults, it’s less than half the cost of a gym membership.

Up comes another finger: “Second!”

Mike tells me it’s convenient as the Mount Mac trails are a 10-minute drive away for most people. Many people come for a ski over their lunch hour.


He doesn’t leave me time to dispute that last one, but, really, I don’t think I could have.

“It’s the best overall aerobic exercise … OK, swimming is another one, but skiing is one of the top.”

This next one is aimed at swimming, I think, as he says, “Fourth! It’s not a workout; it’s fun.

“You never say, ‘Oh, gee, I have one more lap to go!'”


“Hey, Mike,” I say to him. “Let’s make it a Top 10 list.”

I’m just saying, Mike Gladish’s day job is skiing … we can’t make this too easy for him.

“Fifth! It’s safe.”

Sure, he says, the kids can take it to extremes … and they do, in the dirt park.

For everyone else, the Mount Mac trails have wide corners and no blind trees to run into.

“If you take a lesson and are aware of your abilities, it’s as safe as any other exercise.

“Besides, there is always someone here to help you with wax and to show you safe places to go.”

I thought he would be struggling by now, but he isn’t: “Sixth!”

He then tells me about how social skiing is. Sure, you can be a lone wolf out there on the kilometres and kilometres of trails, but you can join a group to order a pizza first and then head out.

“I spend 25 per cent of the time just talking with people,” says Mike.

Then there are the families – “Seventh!” – who count their participation in generations. There are at least three families that are three-generational skiiers.

“And if you have a baby, this is the best place,” he says, explaining how some parents babysit each other’s children while they take turns going out on the trails. If nobody else is there, they can just take one of two pulks.

“Eighth!” The joy of volunteerism. There are 250 volunteers helping the club, and each other, with grooming, coaching, event organizing, administration and committee work.

And, for the ninth reason that cross-country skiing is the best exercise activity: it is easily tried out with rental gear.

Alas, the 10th reason is just for those single people out there: “It’s a great place to meet people.

“You can find a person who loves the outdoors and isn’t afraid of the outdoors. These are people who are interested in being fit.

“You can find that in the bar,” says Mike, “but you have to do a lot of digging.

“Besides,” he says (obviously very pleased with himself), “it worked for me.”

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