Could this be the year for cross country skiing?

According to Dave Hanscom, with the Utah Nordic Alliance, participation has been up sharply in the first two races of the 1994-95 cross country season."It happened back in 1989, the year we had the World Cup. We had phenomenal growth that year, then participation in our races leveled off. This year, again, it's up. In one race, we had a 50 percent higher participation than ever before," he said.

There are 16 races on this year's cross country schedule. The first was on Dec. 3, the second on Dec. 10. This weekend is the first of the five-race Wasatch Citizens Series. While all races feature entry and novice classes, this series is intended to appeal to all levels of skiers. There will be 16 different age classes, along with two classes specifically for novice skiers.

Distances for these races will be based on age and ability level.

Hanscom points out that these races are ideal for runners and bikers who find winters difficult to maintain any kind of a routine.

"It's much easier and no less healthy. I can ski everyday, injury free, and that's something I can't do with running," he adds.

With the exception of the Wasatch Overland (Jan. 21), all races will be on groomed tracks.