Learning how to cross country ski provides you not only with an enjoyable, lifelong hobby but it is also a fantastic, low-impact way to get in excellent shape. Cross country skiing can expose you to some breathtaking scenery that is often inaccessible by hiking or snowshoeing.
Cross-country skiing is a popular sport in the northern and southern extremes of the hemisphere. In the Northern United States, people cross country ski and telemark, a form of downhill cross-country skiing. The best part of cross country skiing is that it can be done without a mountain and is more akin to walking and rollerblading than downhill skiing and snowboarding.
The History Of Cross Country Skiing
Cross-country skiing is one of the oldest sports in the world. It is a known fact that skis existed about 5,000 B.C. – this is proven by cave drawings found in Norway. Humans discovered that they could travel faster through snow-covered fields and woods while hunting game when they had slender strips of boards affixed to their feet. Skiing is relatively new in North America and was introduced by Norwegian and Swedish immigrants in the 1850’s.
Modern cross-country skiing flourishes in the Olympic format as well as one of the methods of recreation in northern states where snow is available throughout most of the year. Modern technological advances have allowed for major progress to be made in ski shape, materials and even techniques.
Did You Know?
- Recreational cross-country skiing is most frequently known as “touring“
- As a sport, cross-country skiing is one of the most difficult endurance activities, as its motions use every major muscle group and burns the most calories.
- The sidecut, the shape of a ski, is extremely important and should relate to the skill of the skier and the terrain to be skied.
Learning How To Cross Country Ski
Cross-country skis are less expensive than the downhill skis, they are skinnier, and lighter weight. They come in a variety of designs and it depends on the type of cross-country skiing that you plan to do that will determine the type that you should buy or rent.
Classic, or in-track, skiing uses a longer ski than skating skis, which are short and flat for sideways strides. Classic skis are cambered, bowed in the middle, so that when you put weight on one ski it grabs the snow allowing you to push off for the next stride. Experienced skiers use waxed skis, however, it is recommended that beginners use waxless skis with grooved bottoms.
In order for your skis to perform to their maximum efficiency you need to have them properly tuned by a professional on a regular basis. It is not safe to hit the trails or the mountain more than five times without a tune up. Waxed skis glide and turn more easily, and sharpened skis will improve your grip and edge control in any snow conditions. There are a number of different tune-ups to choose from depending on the condition of your skis and the snow.
The right boots are important and should fit as comfortably as your running shoes. Boots serve two functions, to keep your feet dry and warm, and to connect the boot to the ski. Cross-country boots only connect to the ski at the toe to allow the skier to raise their heel off the ski in order to glide. Be prepared to spend some money on the boots, it is not a good idea to buy the cheaper boots that might fail on the trail.
North American trail signs used by most resorts include the following signage. Green circles are the easiest trails as determined by the resort’s professional ski instructors. Blue squares are more difficult than green circles and not recommended for beginners. Black diamonds are the most difficult and most resorts will only let experienced skiers on these trails.
Cross-country skiers use poles to propel themselves down the trails. Aluminum poles are cheapest, but various fiberglass poles are lighter, although they are also more expensive. For the average beginner, the aluminum poles will work fine. After you gain a little experience and learn how to cross country ski, you will want to switch to the fiberglass poles.
Tips And Tricks
- Having poles is a must unless you want to completely exhaust yourself.
- Some people might be willing to let you ski around their yard and might even have an extra pair of skis lying around, depending on the part of the country you live in.
- If you are having a hard time, check your technique first, then look into wax. Having a properly waxed set of skis can make all the difference in how hard it is to ski.
How To Cross Country Ski
Assemble your supplies. Skiing can be expensive but if you can’t afford to buy a pair of skis, you can rent them at most local sporting good stores for a decent price. Make sure you have skis, boots, bindings, protective snow pants and jackets, and additional layers for added warmth. Many places offer ski and snow sales or ski swaps in the summer, so be sure to check into that. Those events can be a great way to get into the hobby for a much cheaper initial cost.
Find a place to ski. Depending on where you live in the world, this might pose a challenge. Snow is the bare minimum requirement to skiing, but snow can sometimes be hard to find. Look for higher elevations near you to find a place to ski and if you have to, look north by a few hours and you should be able to find something. Ideally you can find a resort that specialized in cross country skiing.
Get out there and ski. Push forward with your foot then allow the ski to glide forward. This is the easiest and the most commonly taught method for beginners. Poles are used for propulsion. While it is perfectly acceptable to try to teach yourself, you can also take classes to help speed up your learning curve.
Perfect and try new skiing styles. Skating simulates an ice-skating side-to-side style that is much faster than classic skiing. Nordic ski resorts that groom their trails usually prepare for both styles of skiers. You can research different techniques online, or – as previously mentioned – you can always take a class.
Expanding Your Cross Country Skiing Skills
Because learning how to cross country ski can be an expensive hobby, it is best to rent the equipment until you are sure that this is an activity you will be staying with long term. If so, here are some ideas to get the most out of cross country skiing…
- Look for opportunities to join a local ski group. Whether you are going to be out every season or not, many groups are trying to promote the sport at a larger level. Look for ways to help them either with time or money.
- Buy season passes and pay for state park access. Although it saves you money, buying season passes can help a local mountain stay afloat for another year. Most ski mountains can leverage more for the sport than you can individually. State parks might charge a small fee for you to access the park, but the park needs to pay its bills too, plus they could always make it illegal to ski.
- Research and promote your sport. Find opportunities to provide lessons to others who want to learn and see if your local sporting goods store will let you post flyers for meetings that can be held in your home.
- If you live in an area with active cross country skiing, consider entering a cross country ski race. You don’t have to take it too seriously but competition will always help you one your endurance and technique.
Related Cross Country Skiing Resources
Cross Country Ski Areas Association – official site for the CCSAA (Cross Country Ski Areas Association).
XCSkyWorld.com – the world of recreation and performance cross country skiing.
Cross Country Skier – the online journal of Nordic skiing.
Related YouTube Videos
Check out the following videos to learn even more about starting this hobby.