Young woman and adult skiing through the snow.

Health benefits of cross-country skiing

Staying active in the winter isn’t always easy. For some of us, it’s tempting to stay in, cuddle up, and spend the long winter months binging Netflix and unhealthy snacks.

Cross-country skiing boasts a wide array of benefits for your physical and mental health. Here’s why you should strap on some skis and spend your winter gliding through frozen forests and snow-covered trails:

Benefits for your body

Person smiling while holding cross-country skis.

Cardiovascular health: Cross-country skiing will give you the much-needed cardio exercise we miss out on in the winter. A brisk ski will get your blood pumping and increase your heart health and endurance.

Muscle groups: Cross-country skiing is a challenging workout that engages muscles all over your body. Using poles works your shoulders and triceps, while also activating your core and legs.

Tips from a trail manager: prepping for the perfect cross-country ski day

Burn calories: As one of the most demanding cardio sports, a dedicated session of cross-country skiing will have you burning lots of calories, which helps with weight loss.

Joint health: Cross-country skiing is a low-impact activity. The smooth gliding motion and gradual movements means it doesn’t put much pressure on your joints. This makes it a great form of exercise for staying healthy with a low risk of injury.

Man smiling in front of ski trail on a sunny winter day.

Soak up some Vitamin D: We tend to get much less Vitamin D in the winter. Research has shown that Vitamin D is good for disease prevention, boosting  mood, and growth and development of bones and teeth. Get outside and soak up the sun!

Benefits for your brain

Stress relief: Feeling stressed? A nature break can do wonders for your mental health. Stress is relieved within minutes of exposure to nature as measured by muscle tension, blood pressure, and brain activity.

Snowman and skiers

Better mood: Taking your workout outside is good for your mood! Outdoor exercise has a positive effect on your mood rather than exercise in a gym.

Socialization: Cross-country skiing is a great activity for your friends and family. Spending time being active outdoors will allow you to bond and connect with each other and the outdoors.

Hit the trails

Nineteen Ontario Parks have over 450 km of cross-country ski trails available. Here are some of our favourites:

Windy Lake Provincial Park

Person skiing through snow.

Windy Lake offers nearly 15 km of groomed and tracked ski trails, perfect for both classic and skate styles of cross-country skiing. If you’d like to spend more than one day at Windy Lake, yurts and cabins are available during the winter season.

Silent Lake Provincial Park

Two people cross country skiing through the forest.

Located just outside of Bancroft, Silent Lake is a great place to come skiing, whether you’re looking for a novice or a difficult trail. The 40 km of trails wander through cedar swamps and birch and beech stands, with all four trails starting and ending at the parking lot for convenience.

If you’re looking to spend the night, ten cabins and eight yurts are available throughout the winter season.

Arrowhead Provincial Park

Front view of a cabin in winter at Arrowhead.

With 33 km of groomed trails perfect for classic or skate skiing, Arrowhead is famous for its winter activities. The park rents skis and snowshoes at its brand new Visitor Centre. If you’re looking for a place to stay, check out one of our cabins available.

Wasaga Beach Provincial Park

Family renting skiing equipment from an Ontario Parks employee.

Wasaga Beach Provincial Park rents cross-country ski and snowshoe equipment. The Wasaga Nordic Centre is open in winter months for rentals, snacks, and select merchandise, and also offers ski lessons.

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park

Sleeping Giant is famous for the yearly Sleeping Giant Loppet, recognized internationally for its ski competition, which takes place on the first Saturday of March.

Person skiing at the Loppet along a frozen lake.

Apart from the Loppet, the Giant offers over 50 km of groomed trails, great for  beginners to experienced skiers, for both classic and skate skiing.

Extend your stay at one of five rustic cabins!

Wondering about conditions?

Don’t forget to check the Ski Report before you head out.

Happy trails!