Stay Off the Slippery Slope and Start Cross-Country Skiing

Grab your skis and let’s meet on the slopes! Skiing is fun for the whole family. Between Heliskiing, alpine skiing, and cross country skiing, there’s a fun winter sport for everyone.

Cross country skiing is an aerobic workout that takes people on beautiful mountain-side trails. It’s a popular pastime, with about 5.06 million people enjoying the activity in 2017. When it comes to cross country skiing, all you need is a good snowfall.

Just be warned that once you learn how to cross country ski, it’s going to be all you want to do during the winter.

What Is Cross Country Skiing?

Cross country skiing doesn’t involve chair lifts and steep mountains. Instead of soaring downhill, cross country skiers rely on their own locomotion to move through terrain.

Cross country skiers flock to mountain resorts and ski towns during the winter months. The most popular places for cross country skiing include:

  • Norway
  • Switzerland
  • Canada
  • Washington State
  • Idaho
  • Colorado
  • Massachusetts
  • Vermont

It takes place in the snowy wilderness and allows participants to get away from the hustle and bustle of society.

Norwegian Roots

Cross country skiing is the world’s oldest type of skiing. It dates back to the 19th century.

Cross country skiing comes from Norway, where people relied on it to gather supplies and hunt in the winter. There’s a 4,000-year-old rock carving in Norway that depicts a man on skis.

As skiing spread through Norway, people started using it as a way to maintain social contact. There were long distances between small communities, so villagers would ski to the next town over.

In the mid 18th century, Norwegian army units performed cross country skiing for sport. They competed against one another for prizes and money. In 1892, the well-known Holmenkollen ski festival began.

Olympic Cross Country Skiing

Nordic countries like Norway, Switzerland, and Scandinavia, dominate Olympic cross country skiing events. Cross country skiing was first seen at the Winter Olympics in 1924 for men. The event was added for women in 1952.

How to Cross Country Ski

While they may look the same, alpine and cross country skiing technique is very different.

Alpine skiers are completely bounded to their skis by their boots, while cross country skiers are not. This allows skiers to raise his or her heel as if they’re walking. This is how cross country skiers travel through flat or uphill trails.

Nearly every part of your body is used while cross country skiing. Proper movement improves your locomotion and enables you to move quickly along the trail. Cross country skiers rely on their back, abs, hip flexors, and buttocks for movement.

Generate Friction

Friction is produced when ski contacts snow. It can help or hurt a cross country skier.

As a skier moves across a flat or uphill trail, he or she wants to produce friction. This helps the skis grip the snow and push the skier forward.

When skiers move down a mountain, the less friction, the better. Friction slows your skis going downhill. Less friction allows the skier to increase their pace, go further, and use less energy.

A skier’s weight plays a role in the amount of friction he or she experiences. Heavier skiers generate more friction while smaller frames create less. Heavier skiers should apply wax to their skis to prevent friction from hindering their ride.

Feel the Force

A strong force sends a skier forward. When they’re not going downhill, cross country skiers generate force from their legs and poles.

Skiers bend their knees and lean forward to generate power. This balances their body weight and keeps them pushing onward.

Poles are used to help maintain a powerful force. Skiiers push them off the snow to spring ahead.

When it comes to using poles, long strides are more effective. Lots of fast movements won’t do much for your speed. Instead, take long and strong strides.

Watch out for Wind

Drag, or wind resistance, can hinder anyone on skis.

As air molecules surround a person, they scatter as the person moves. As they migrate, the particles create a drag. This resistance slows down our movements.

For skiers, it means less gliding and more working to get across a flat or uphill trail.

To reduce drag, crouch low in your skis. Bend your knees, tuck in your arms, and control leg movements. The more stable your body, the less impact drag will have on your ride.

Gearing up for Your Trip

It doesn’t take much to prep for your cross country ski voyage. You just need to dress appropriately, pick the right type of skis, and strap on suitable boots.

What to Wear

Cross country skiing generates a lot of body heat. It’s a full body cardio workout.

Your clothing should protect you from harsh winter winds, yet still, be breathable. You want clothing that absorbs sweat and is lightweight. Wearing layers is ideal so you pull off clothing articles as needed.

Wear hats and gloves to prevent losing body heat. Synthetic, wool, or liner socks are the most popular types of socks among cross country skiers.

On sunny days, don’t forget to wear your sunglasses. Even though it’s winter, apply sunscreen to any exposed skin.

Selecting Your Skis

Your ski selection is based on the type of cross country terrain you’re riding on.

Touring skis are long and narrow. They’re very light, making them fast. Touring skis work best on flat, well-groomed trails.

Race and performance cross country skis are similar to touring skis but designed for more aggressive terrain. They’re faster, sleeker, and stiffer than touring skis. They require a more advanced technique and should be used by seasoned cross country skiers.

Metal-edge touring skis are ideal for steep trails. They’re short and wide for improved stability. They can glide over deep snow and have metal edges to grip ice.

Metal-edge touring skis have better turning abilities. They work well on uphill terrain as well as downhill slopes. They’re ideal for long treks in the wilderness.

Waxing Your Skis

Wax is applied to your skis to help them grip the snow. This is necessary if you want to travel across flat terrain. 

Waxless skis have a textured pattern in the middle area of the ski. This allows the ski to dig and grip the snow. Waxless skis work great in a variety of weather conditions.

Despite their name, some skiers still apply wax to waxless skis. It isn’t required, but a light wax application on the tip and tail of the ski increases performance.

Waxable skis require more effort, but they’re worth it. If the right wax is used for the snow condition, waxable skis work much better than waxless ones.

Waxable skis gain traction from rub-on kick wax applied to their middle region. This gives them a tight grip on the snow.

If temperatures are at a freezing point, waxing may not be the best option. In that case, skiers should stick with waxless skis.

Picking Your Poles

Poles may look similar, but they come in many different styles. 

Poles for touring are ideal for groomed trails. They’re lightweight and should extend from the ground to a skier’s armpits. They have small baskets to push you across packed snow.
Poles for race and performance skis are lighter than touring poles. They’re more expensive since they’re made from higher quality materials. These poles should be a few inches longer than touring poles and have grips to enhance a skier’s technique.

Cross country poles for metal-edge skis should be used out on ungroomed terrain.

These poles are more durable and heavier than other kinds. They’re short, so they can push a skier up a steep climb. Metal-edge ski poles have large baskets to penetrate deep snow and support the skier.

Strapping on Your Boots

Comfortable ski boots are the key to a successful day in the snow. You want your boots to match the terrain you’re riding on that day. Pair your boots with a warm set of synthetic ski socks to hold your feet in place.

Boots for touring on flat and well-groomed trails should be flexible. They must give the skier the ability to stop and turn easily.

Boots designed for race and performance cross country skiing are lightweight and have low cuffs. This gives the skier a greater range of motion.

Boots made for metal-edge touring skis are stiff. The skiers need firm support to power through steep terrain. Some of these boots include a plastic lining for extra support.

Whatever boots you choose, extra features can enhance performance. For example, lace covers keep snow out of your boots. High-cut boots provide more warmth and may be useful during longer treks.

Best Cross Country Ski Resorts

Cross country journeys are beautiful. Trails take skiers deep into the wilderness for breathtaking views. There are amazing resorts for cross country skiing throughout the world.

Breckenridge, Colorado

As one of Colorado’s finest ski resorts, Breckenridge received the title of a “Nordic skier’s paradise.” This is thanks to its 37 miles of cross country ski trails. All of its terrain is freshly groomed every morning.

At Breckenridge, skiers can take cross country ski tours through the area. More advanced trails connect to U.S. Forest Service land. Breckenridge offers gorgeous views of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain landscape that makes a cross country ski ride even more enjoyable.

Val Di Fassa, Italy

With over 30 miles of scenic trails, Val di Fassa is a cross country skiers dream. You can ski from village to village, enjoying a beer between stops. The trails provide exceptional views of rural northern Italy.

Methow Trails, Washington

Methow Trails has over 120 miles of groomed cross country trails for skiers to enjoy. They are divided into four sections, each connected by the Methow Community Trail suspension bridge. The bridge crosses the Methow River and provides a tremendous view of Washington’s woodlands.

Throughout the trails are small lodges and trailheads, so skiers can take a break. It’s a worthwhile trek that attracts cross country skiers from around the world.

Sjusj?en, Norway

Of course, Norway made the list! Sjusj?en and its Rustad Hotel is located about 25 minutes north of Lillehammer. It includes trails suited for first-time cross country skiers to seasoned ski veterans.

Sjusj?en attracts skiers prepping for the Olympics as well as those searching for a fun ride. It has two cross-country ski areas often used for international competitions. It’s continuously voted Norway’s best cross-country skiing resort.

Gstaad, Switzerland

Located in the breathtaking Swiss Alps, Gstaad appeals to all types of cross country skiers. It offers beginner to expert level terrain.

People love skiing through the resort town. It’s known as one of the world’s top sports destinations. It’s claim-to-fame it the Gstaad-Feutersoey-Gsteig trail, which takes skiers along the River Saane to Chl?sterli.

Skoki Lodge, Canada

Skoki is nestled in beautiful Banff National Park. The eight-mile-long cross country trail takes skiers from Lake Lousie to Skoki Valley. The course runs along Canada’s beautiful lakes, mountains, and valleys.

People enjoy Skoki all year round. In the winter, it attracts cross country skiers. During the warm summer months, the trail is used for running races.

Get Ready for Ski Season

Cross country skiing is a superb workout. It uses your entire body and takes skiers on magnificent woodland trails. If you have the right gear and proper technique, cross country skiing can be a fun way to stay in shape.

Summer might be on the way, but you can start prepping for ski season now. Between learning how to cross country ski and picking out the best gear for your next winter adventure, there’s lots to do during the off-season.

Check out our blog for all things related to backcountry adventures. From kayaking to cross country skiing, we’ve got the info you’re looking for.

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