Nordic skiers enjoy scenery at Mesa Falls

Story by Dallin Watkins. 

On Saturday, Jan. 30, Outdoor Activities put on a cross-country skiing trip for students at the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway.

Forrest Southam, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering, managed the trip to Mesa Falls and led seven students for a day of relaxation and natural beauty.

The trip was available for current students and their spouses for $10 per person, and equipment was provided. Participants only needed to bring snow pants, a warm coat and enthusiasm.

Seasonally, there are roads leading up to Mesa Falls and other areas that are left unplowed. Instead, they are groomed for snowmobiles, leaving the way open for skiers.

Idaho State Parks and Recreation offers annual passes that can be purchased for access to 17 different areas and 180 miles of trails for skiing and snowshoeing, according to their website.

These skiing trips take place most every Saturday of winter semester, Southam said. However, Southam said that cross-country skiing is not for everyone and so Outdoor Activities offers a wide variety of activities during all semesters.

Some of these activities include snowshoeing, ice fishing, air boarding and snow cave building. Mountain biking activities are also offered year round.

Southam said he enjoys going out on the trips because he loves the activities.

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“The cross-country ski trip was really fun,” said Kristina Weber, a freshman studying communication. “We went to Lower Mesa Falls, and the scenery was beautiful, and making memories with my roommates made the trip so worth it.”

Southam said that the opportunity to share what he loves with other people is what keeps him in Outdoor Activities. He said for him it is not just about the skiing, but about being social, teaching people something he loves and experiencing and appreciating all of the beautiful natural landscapes of Idaho that God has placed in his backyard.

However, skiing did not begin as a means of recreation. It began as a means of survival, wrote author Ronald Huntford, in his book Two Planks and a Passion: A Dramatic History of Skiing.

“Skis and snowshoes were first invented to cross wetlands and marshes in the winter when they froze over,” Huntford said. “They enabled man to travel during the winter and hunt reindeer and elk across the frozen tundra. Skis were widely utilized in Central Asia and Europe, while snowshoes were common in the New World — probably because snow was more compact and less soft in the Old World,” according to BBC Travel.

However, it was not just a means of survival for the hunter, but also the hunted.

Southam said that in World War II, the Soviet Union attempted to annex Finland. Finland, however, did not have the means, resources or forces with which to repel the invaders.

He said that Finland turned to its neighboring country, Germany, for aid and made use of skis to make its military more mobile. Skis allowed the Finns to navigate the snowy slopes of their homeland and hold off the Soviet army.

He also said the Finnish skis were made from wood and seal skin. They worked much like snowshoes; the wood plank provided support and distributed weight while the hairs on the skin, because they laid one way, allowed for smoothing gliding when moving forward, but keeping skiers from sliding backward when trudging uphill. Nowadays, however, skis are made from a combination of wood, metal and synthetics.

More information about upcoming events and activities can be found at the Activities Offices in the Manwaring Center.

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