I interviewed White Pine Nordic Center director, Rob Lang, to put together some advice about to how to get started with cross country skiing (often abbreviated as XC skiing, and also called Nordic skiing).
Rent gear the first few times.
This allows you to try classic skiing and skate skiing, and decide whether you want to pursue one or the other, or both - before committing to buying the appropriate gear for either discipline.
Start with classic skiing before trying skate skiing.
Trying classic skating first can be a nice way to get started because it is similar to walking and running, with all your motion aligned in your direction of travel. Once you try classic skiing, the introduction to skate skiing is a little easier.
Stay in the athletic stance.
For both types of cross country skiing, keep your knees bent, ankles flexed forward, and your weight centered over the balls of your feet. This helps with balance and control while skiing.
Take a lesson, practice on your own, and repeat.
Lessons are a good way to get started. Then go out and practice on your own a handful of times to work on what you learned in the lesson. Then repeat the process by taking another lesson to learn how you can move forward from what you've been practicing.
Wax your skis (or have the pros wax your skis for you).
Periodic waxing is important for your ski bases because it keeps them from drying out and becoming slow and sticky. A good rule of thumb is to re-wax approximately every 50 kilometers, or if the weather conditions change. You can learn to wax your skis yourself (it requires waxes, specific equipment, a work space, and time), or ski shops can do it for you.
A few more things to know before you go
- Learning to ski efficiently can be difficult, but as you become more proficient, it gets easier and you can regulate your effort to as little or as much as you desire.
- Nordic ski gear is different than alpine ski gear. The boots are lighter and more comfortable, the skis are lighter, and the poles are longer. You can use a helmet if you desire, but generally helmets are not used for XC skiing because the skiing speed is usually slower. Here are some tips on how to dress for Nordic skiing.
- Skate and Classic gear are different. Skating skis are generally shorter and stiffer with a uniform flex pattern, and Classic skis have a flex pattern defined by the wax pocket. The boots for skating have a stiff sole and a stiff ankle supporting cuff, and classic boot soles are designed to flex easily at the ball of the foot and usually don't have an upper ankle cuff. The pole lengths are also different: skating poles are usually the height of your chin or lower lip, and classic poles are usually the height of your shoulder joint.
- Cross country skiing attracts a diverse range of people. There are some experienced folks out skiing at the pace that they desire, and there are youngsters out training for and chasing their Olympic dreams. Nordic skiing can be enjoyed by everyone at whatever speed and energy output level they desire. Be respectful of everyone out there by not walking or skating on the prepared classic tracks. And please don't stand on or block the classic tracks or the skating lanes.
Rob would also like to mention: if you're near Park City, come to the White Pine Touring Nordic Center where we have experts on hand to answer questions, rentals and lessons to get you started, and a store full of soft goods and hard goods to cover your Nordic skiing needs.
Kendall Fischer, jans.com content manager