Cross-country skiing season has started in the Black Hills, and avid outdoors people are already making their way to big trails.

Bonnie Jones-Shockey, recreation specialist with Black Hills National Forest, said that the Big Hill and Eagle Cliff trails are the most popular in the area because of ease of access, easy skiing and good scenery.

"Big Hill has nice winter scenery with all of the pine and aspen trees along a number of groomed trails," Jones-Schockey said. "Eagle Cliff is a little big bigger, with a combination of groomed and ungroomed trails."

Groomed trails have a pack surface and ski lane, which makes for an easier experienced and a sense of security. Ungroomed trails are primarily powder and push skiers to make their own tracks.

"Some people like that wilder experience, because it feels more like you're in the backcountry," Jones-Schockey said. "It feels like you're on a path of your own."

Jones-Schockey advised that first time skiers take a class or lesson their first time out, and that all skiers be prepared for a cold and snowy time out.

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"It gets dark early, so dress appropriately, have some food and water with you, and it doesn't hurt to take a small flashlight," Jones-Schockey said. "A map is also useful."

For first-time skiers and veterans, it's an opportunity to get outdoors even in the coldest weather.

"There's lots of cabin fever in the wintertime, so it's nice to be out and enjoy the fresh air and exercise," Jones-Schockey said.

Contact Max B. O'Connell at 394-8427 or max.oconnell@rapidcityjournal.com

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