Cross Country Ski Introduction

Cross-country skiing is a fun way to take in the beautiful back-country trails in winter with your family.

What It Is and Where You Can Do It

I relish winter snow blanketing the landscape. Luckily, I’ve found a sport that allows me to get exercise and travel on skis without skiing downhill at a resort with lift lines. There exist downhill ski resorts that have a separate area of trails for Nordic skiers. The term “Nordic” covers not only cross-country, but telemark and ski jumping.

These are trails that are usually groomed creating a flat, grooved surface. The pattern will usually appear like giant corduroy fabric. The advantage of a groomed trail is that you will glide completely on top of the snowpack while the groove directs you. If you go on an ungroomed trail you will still be able to ski it. At times you may sink in it some, but you can move forward through it. You don’t tend to sink much into snow because your weight is distributed over your skis.

This activity is family-friendly. Infants and toddlers can ride in a backpack or sled. Grandparents can go as it is almost like a gentle walk. Teenagers can go fast with the skate ski technique. Even your family dog can run along as some Nordic Centers welcome them.

With over 350 cross-country ski areas in North America there may well be one near you. This sport uses natural movements and has a rather short learning curve. The biggest challenge for a beginner is to maintain your balance while shuffling along–think standing with ice skates.

The skis are quite thin and long; but with time you will learn to balance. It is an aerobic sport as you will experience after you’ve covered some distance. Stay on marked trails and obey posted signs, as in some areas avalanches are a risk. There are two different movement techniques.

Classic refers to the diagonal stride where you push each foot forward in long, graceful strides. Your arms with poles also help you push you along. Skating is the other technique done on a consistent packed surface where you make an open V pattern instead of straight ahead. You push one ski to the side and glide while using powerful pole strokes to assist. It makes the quickest way to slide for you racer types!

The equipment needed is lightweight and all of it can be carried over your shoulders. The boots are only ankle high and are held onto the ski by a binding which secures the toe but allows the heel to lift freely up off the ski.

The shoes detach from the skis allowing you to walk around comfortably. Poles similar to downhill ski poles propel you along when skiing. Skis fall into 2 categories. Waxless have bases with ridges cut into them for grip. Waxable skis are the traditional kind that need you to apply special waxes to fine-tune your ski to match snow conditions. We don’t want you sliding around aimlessly out there now!

Basic Moves

Okay, moving right along, we’ve come to some basic instruction on technique.

Kick and Glide creates the basic rhythym of classic skiing. Keep your knees and ankles flexed and your upper body forward. Push a foot forward and pressure the center of the ski so it gets firm contact with the snow. Now bring that heel down. Next, stride forward with your other foot.

Snowplow is used when you want to slow down or stop. Form a closed V shape by bringing your front ski tips together. At the same time shift your weight toward the insides of your skis. Bend your knees some.

Herringbone is used to walk on uphill portions where you cannot get enough momentum to push yourself up with your poles. Walk straight up with your front ski tips facing out. Steering gives you control over going to the left or right. Pressing more on your right ski causes you to go left. Pressing more on your left ski causes you to go right.

Half Wedge provides a little slowing power on the downhill. While in the groomed track angle out only one ski and shift your weight on that ski toward its outside edge. Leave the other ski in its track still pointing straight. Remember that Nordic skis, like downhill skis, have a mechanism that allows the ski to release from your boot for your safety. You just have to fetch the darn thing out of the snow when it does that!