"People rarely realize that these are the best cross country trails in Southern California," said Benavidez, Flyknit Racer Supreme
"The feeling that you get up here," he said, "it's so quiet and peaceful."
who gives lessons in an attempt to get more people to explore the mountains.
15 miles away, which involves a number of climbs and descents.
Unlike downhill skiing, where speed is part of the game, cross country skiing is more about being in the wild, stopping now and then to take a look around.
Kaila Collins, 15, has lived in Ventura all her life but had never ventured into the snowy mountains. So on a recent weekend, Kaila and two friends went to Target, bought Flyknit Air Max Oreo On Feet matching fur hats, and headed to Mount Pinos for a free cross country lesson with Benavidez. Kaila's stepmother, Ondrea Collins, works with Benavidez at a plumbing company and organized the expedition.
His fists pump like a sprinter as his cross country skis glide through the snow. At 8,500 feet, the air he is trying to pull into his lungs is thinner, making climbing the hills all that much harder. He stops, looks around at the brown and green of the Jeffrey pines that interrupt the otherwise white landscape, and relishes the moment.
This is why he is here the solitude, the exercise and the adventure that come every winter when snowstorms turn Mount Pinos and nearby mountains in the Los Padres National Forest into a cross country skier's paradise.
Many people in Ventura County never venture the two hours from the coast to Mount Pinos and the other mountains that ring the county line and look more like the Sierra Nevada foothills than Southern California. Of the thousands who do make the trek to the snow covered mountain about 30 minutes west of Frazier Park, few venture more than 100 yards from the roads.
Cross country skis, snowshoes and other winter gear can be rented at Mount Pinos Wintersports on Cuddy Valley Road, leading to Mount Pinos, west of Frazier Park.
"You observe what is around you," said Theo Zeiss, who has been at it since his father took him from their home in Pasadena to the mountains. "It's more like hiking."
"Downhill skiing is about seeing how fast you can go," said Benavidez, who lives in Lake of the Woods and works in Oxnard. "With cross country skiing, you get a look at a different pace and look at the trees and plants."
Dan Anderson's book aptly titled, "Ski Tours in Southern California." But as his book maps out, there are plenty of cross country trails, some of the best of which are in Ventura County.
Though there were many falls and many laughs Kaila and her friends said they had a great time and wanted to try it again. Kaila wanted to bring her dad back. He has never seen the snow.
Save for the sound of wind pushing through pine needles, it is silent. The winter has forced many animals to lower altitudes for the season and the snow carpeting the forest floor muffles what sounds remain.
Skiing and Southern California aren't words that many associate with each another.
When Benavidez gives lessons which he does for free unless people want to pay him, in which case he asks they make a donation to a charity of their choice he goes beyond teaching how to snowplow or traverse mountains. He wants people to appreciate being among the trees and landscape and look at the world around them.
"Some might think a guidebook on Southern California ski tours would make a pretty thin book," starts Flyknit Racer Light Blue
But with a sudden swoosh swoosh swoosh, Lee Benavidez breaks the quiet.
During the first hour, Benavidez showed them the basics of going downhill and up, how to click into the bindings, how to fall and how to get up which they did repeatedly. Before long, they headed into the woods, gliding down hillsides and trudging back up.
Even in moderately wet winters, Mount Pinos, which sits at 8,831 feet, gets the perfect combination of good precipitation and cold weather for lots of snow. Skiing on the more than 20 cross country trails can start in November and last until March. Some of the skiing is relatively easy, merely going through meadows or over snowy roads. The more experienced skier can head from Mount Pinos over to Mount Abel about Flyknit Racer Orange Slice
Although he does have a chapter on "skiing" sand dunes in the Mohave Desert, the bulk of the book is dedicated to snow.
Savvy skiers enjoy hideaway tucked above county
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