Don’t dread the winter season! Get outside and go cross-country skiing! Fresh snowfall creates perfect conditions for prime skiing and physical exercise.
Cross-country skiing is a great way to exercise in the winter. It burns more calories per hour than any other sport, by using almost every muscle in your body. It’s also a peaceful way to enjoy the winter season. Whether it’s seeing animal tracks in the snow or listening to birds sing, cross-country skiing offers you an opportunity to enjoy and become a part of the winter landscape.
Where to Go
Groomed cross-country ski trails can be found in Jester Park and Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt as well as at Big Creek State Park. Trails will be groomed after a snowfall over six inches. A groomed trail is maintained with a groomer and tracksetter pulled by a snowmobile. **Walkers, runners, and bicyclists are asked not to recreate on groomed trails.
At Jester Park (ski trail map) there are almost five miles of trails. Shelter # 2 and the campground registration area will serve as trailheads. Due to drifting, the majority of trails on the golf course have been closed. Trails will lead skiers through the woods, near Saylorville Lake and along the edge of the golf course. Skiers may break their own trail in the park but must remain on the groomed portions if skiing the golf course.
Flat trails can be found at Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt (ski trail map - blue routes) in northeastern Polk County. Trails will wind through the woodlands, following the old Skunk River channel. Many different loops will be groomed, all beginning from the campground. You may see deer, fox, and otter tracks along the trail.
There are many other places to cross-country ski in Polk County parks that do not have groomed trails. Beginning skiers will enjoy skiing along the Chichaqua Valley Trail and Great Western Trail, two recreational trails through the countryside on abandoned railroad lines.
A scenic route beginning at the covered bridge at Easter Lake Park leads skiiers along the shoreline of this beautiful lake on the Southside of Des Moines. Brown's Woods and Thomas Mitchell Park also offer trails for more advanced skiers.
The Gay Lea Wilson Trail extends for approximately 35 miles throughout the eastern and northern parts of Polk County.
Learning how to cross-country ski is as easy as walking. The motion of your arms and legs alternating when you walk is the same when you ski. Your left arm and right leg come forward, then your right arm and left leg.
Cross-Country Ski Rental
Cross-country ski rentals are available at Pingora Outdoors at Jester Park located inside the Outdoor Recreation and Wellness Center, adjacent from the nature center. Snowshoes, cross-country skis, boots and poles are also available to rent. Cross-country skis are sized mainly for adults.
Skis and snowshoes will only be rented if there is at least 4 inches of snow on the ground.
Hours and Rates
- Equipment can be reserved in advance by calling (515) 323-5330
- Equipment must be picked up and dropped off at Pingora Outdoors at Jester Park during normal business hours.
Skis, boots, poles: $20/day
Snowshoe Rental (snowshoes only): $20/day
Trail conditions can be found on the Des Moines Nordic Club's Facebook page.
Cross-country Ski rentals are also available from the following local stores: