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SIOUX CITY | Some people pick up cross country skiing right away. For others, it's a bit of a struggle, according to Jody Moats, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve park manager.

"Sometimes, when we're skiing, we don't look ahead. We look at our skis. That's one of those things that makes people fall over sometimes. They think too much about the kicking and gliding," she said. 

Spanning 1,500 acres along the Missouri River, the nature preserve offers a picturesque place to get some physical activity year-round on its more than 10 miles of limestone trails. In the winter, Adams Homestead and Nature Preserve rents cross country skis and offers beginner classes, snow cover permitting. 

"A lot of people got excited when it did snow about a week or so ago, but it was such a dry, fluffy snow that it didn't pack very well," Moats said in early January. "You want a good snow to pack down, not too wet, but wet enough that when we roll it and groom it it can make a nice base so you can easily ski."

Having the proper boot and ski size is essential for the cross country ski novice or professional. Moats said skis need to be able to grip and glide on the snow. Ski poles, she said, should come up to your armpits.

Although Moats recommends taking a beginning cross country skiing class to see if you like the activity before hitting the trails yourself, when you do decide to venture off on your own, she also advises dressing in layers and bringing a backpack and water bottle along on your route. Aim for a mile. If you're feeling good, go a little farther.

"When you cross country ski, it's a great exercise. You're probably going to use about every muscle in your body and probably muscles you didn't even know you had," Moats said. "Figure out how far you're going to go and realize that you're going to have to make it all the way back again. Let somebody know where you're going to be and what time you plan on being back."

Scared of snapping on a pair of skis? Even if you don't plan on flying downhill, snowshoeing might be the perfect way to extend walking, running and hiking into the winter.

If you can walk, Dawn Snyder, education program director at Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center, said you can snowshoe.

Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center rents snowshoes in adult sizes and offers snowshoeing events. To snowshoe, Snyder said there has to be at least a 4-inch base of snow on the ground. She said people sometimes stop at the nature center to rent a pair of snowshoes before heading to South Dakota's Black Hills for a vacation.

Snowshoeing Demonstration

Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center rents snowshoes and hosts snowshoeing events.

Traditionally, snowshoes were made of wood bent frames and leather lacing for the decking. While you can still buy or even make your own traditional-style snowshoes, Snyder said today's snowshoes are constructed with aluminum frames and synthetic decking made of cold-resistant rubber, such as neoprene, or a plastic-type material. She said modern snowshoes can be purchased at most sporting goods stores.

"The modern ones are vastly different," said Snyder, who said you should think of snowshoes as "extensions of your feet" when wearing them. "They're more versatile and lightweight."

Snowshoe Trail

People hike up a hill in snowshoes at Dorothy Pecaut Nature Center in Sioux City. The activity offers participants a chance to learn snowshoeing basics.

When snowshoeing, walk a little wider so you don't step on your snowshoes. Snyder said the duck walk or herringbone technique that cross country skiers use is often adopted for snowshoeing.

When ascending a slope, which Stone State Park has a lot of, kick the front of your snowshoe into the snow and press down firmly to compact it. To avoid collapse, make sure each step is above the last. When descending a slope, with your knees slightly bent, lean back, keeping your weight on the heel cleats to maintain control.

And like Moats, Snyder suggests layering up your clothes before heading out in the elements.

"You're moving and working up a sweat. Be conscious of that and be dressing in layers," she said.

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Health and Lifestyles reporter

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