With the arrival of winter snows, not everyone has the courage to strap on the skis and risk a tumble down a steep mountain slope.

With the arrival of winter snows, not everyone has the courage to strap on the skis and risk a tumble down a steep mountain slope.

For cautious snow-loving folk, especially those with families, cross-country skiing has become a popular alternative. The equipment is less expensive. It's easier to learn and you don't need a lift pass or a mountain to enjoy it.

Idlewild Sno-Park is one of those patches of snow where hearty cross-country ski enthusiasts gather for their winter adventures.

Located 15 miles north of Burns, off US 395, the park is situated at about 5,300 feet, with a winter snowpack that averages 4 to 8 feet.

You'll find six miles of relatively level trails, plenty of parking and a restroom facility. It's also the trailhead for a groomed snowmobile trail that runs all the way to the Washington state border.

There is no lodging on site, so overnight stays are best taken in Burns.

For a good introduction to the sport, and tips for beginners and seasoned pros, visit the Cross Country Ski Association's Web site, www.xcski.org.

Idlewild Sno-Park information is available from the Malheur National Forest, Burns Ranger District. Call 541-573-4300.