Hit The Ski Trails

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If the snow is falling, Tim Grier is smiling. He owns the Forest Lakes Touring Center, a 45-minute drive east of Payson on Highway 260.

The center is a full-service facility for cross country skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts. It has 32 miles of groomed trails varying in length and difficulty on top of the Mogollon Rim.

"Maintenance of the trails has revolutionized the sport," Grier said. "You can put on the skis, step into the grooves and go. It's a much easier sport that does not take a lot of work. You are not plodding through two or three feet of snow."

Grier has more than 400 sets of skis, boots and poles available for rent, as well as more than 200 pairs of snowshoes. The large inventory allows Grier to accommodate large groups.

"We have Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and church groups sometimes two or three groups a day," Grier said.

Packing a lunch and skiing across the Rim has become a popular outing.

"Eating and drinking is the best part of the sport," Grier said. "You can brush the snow off a log and sit down and relax while you eat your lunch."

Grier said he has some people who pack a gourmet lunch, ski to the edge of the Rim, and enjoy the beautiful view along with their favorite cuisine.

Even the person who is not in top physical condition can enjoy cross country skiing.

"If you can walk, you can cross country ski," Grier said. "The Mogollon Rim is really flat, you can walk along and be successful right away."

Unlike downhill skiing, in cross country, you can ski along and stop when you choose to rest.

The center also offers lessons for as little as $10 an hour.

If you are interested in more than just a one-day outing, you might consider renting one of the center's eight cabins located on the ski trail.

"You can spend the night in a cabin, step off the porch in the morning and be the first person on the trail," Grier said.

Forest Lakes Touring Center offers everything from equipment rental to overnight cabins. You can rent all the gear you need for a day of cross country skiing, including a trail pass, for $16, or bring your own equipment and obtain a trail pass for $8. Snowshoe rentals are $10 for the entire day. The center has skis for children as young as 3.

Grier suggests you call ahead to get snow conditions, or make reservations at (928) 535-4047.

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