Cross country skiing has been a part of our winter family fun scene since my kids were old enough to try it. At that time, the Wapsi Center in Dixon, Iowa was the only place that offered this activity in or near the Quad Cities. Now there are lots of places and opportunities to give skiing a try right here in town. Skiing is a lot like “walking fast on snow” as my then 10 year old described it. We do a lot of hiking and bike riding in the summer, but I was looking for a way to get the kids out in the snow in addition to the usual sledding and snow-fort making.
Give Cross Country Skiing a Try!
- Palmer Hills Golf Course is the simplest place to give cross-country skiing a try, for a lot less than you would spend for a movie. For $5 each, you can rent skies, boots and poles for every member of your family. Get set for some winter family fun and try out the largely flat landscape of the family area at Palmer Hills. You won’t have to break your own trails in the snow – they have a grooming machine which makes tracks for traditional and ‘skate’ style cross country skiing. They have equipment for all ages, but I would recommend taking kids ages 7 or 8 and up – getting all four appendages into a rhythm on a slick surface takes some getting used to and good coordination helps!
Start with just an hour and bundle up with gloves, snow pants, hats and coats. The skiing hills will be open whenever the snowpack is sufficient, which is about 4 inches at a minimum. Palmer Hills has a family-friendly green trail for beginners and a longer, more challenging blue trail for intermediate skiers. Both trails are clearly marked so you don’t end up on the wrong one.
The golf course is peaceful and generally quiet, and a great place to see squirrels and birds while you ski, a win in my book! It takes time to develop balance and technique to speed across the snow, but beginners can start by simply walking in their skis. Once you get balanced, you can begin to stride and glide on the skis, swinging your arms and legs in opposition. There are plenty of cross country skiing Youtube videos to give you an idea of what this brand of winter family fun should look and feel like.
If you are there on a weekend, there are generally skiers around who are willing to help you get started. Palmer Hills Ski rentals are open Monday through Friday from 9am -4pm, Saturday 10-5, and Sunday 11-5. If snow conditions are iffy, call first – 563-332-8296, or 563-344-7169. Palmer Grill is open from 7-3 Monday through Saturday so stop in for a warm bite or cocoa after you ski. And as a reward to your kids for trying something new, take advantage of the long slope of Hole #1, which is open for sledding. (Bring your own sleds.)
Additional Places to Give CC Skiing a try
If you want a drive in the country, or you have older kids who are up for an adventure, the Wapsi Environmental Education Center in Dixon, Iowa offers free rentals of skis and snowshoes. There are trails, but they are not groomed, so if the snow is deep you’ll be breaking your own trail! The advantage of winter family fun here is that you can snowshoe and ski the same day, and the Environmental Center has some great displays too. Hours are 8 – 4:30 Monday through Friday, and 10-4 Saturday. You must call ahead for sizing and reservations – 563-328-3286.
If you are closer to Clinton, Rock Creek Marina and Campground in Camanche also rents skis and snowshoes from 10-2 Monday-Wednesday, and 8-4 Thursday through Sunday. They do not groom trails and skis rent for $5 a day, snowshoes for $2.50/ day. Call ahead at 563-259-1876.
Other great trails if you have your own skis: Quad Cities Best Hiking and Biking Trails.
More wonderful winter sports: Skating, Skiing, and Indoor Sports