Introduction to Nordic Cross Country Skiing

By Lora Keleher , last updated December 7, 2011

If you’re looking to get in shape while venturing into the winter land of stillness, snow and ice, an introduction to Nordic cross-country skiing might provide the workout you seek. Unlike downhill skiing, cross-country skiing is a slow paced sport, allowing you to explore the vast wintery landscape. Cross-country skiing requires physical exertion to propel yourself through the snow, and you should be in fairly decent physical shape to avoid injuring yourself.

Gear Up

Cross country skiing exposes you to the elements and you’ll need to outfit yourself with the appropriate equipment and apparel to avoid injury and frostbite. Many cross country ski areas allow you to rent equipment such as boots, skis and poles, but you’ll need to purchase the necessary cold-weather gear before embarking on your adventure. You should buy snow pants, a ski jacket, hat, gloves, warm socks, a waterproof backpack and goggles or sunglasses. Dress in layers to trap heat and keep yourself warm; if you become too hot, you can stow extra layers in your backpack. If you decide to buy equipment, you should visit a ski shop that can help you size your boots and adjust the tension on your bindings to fit your experience level.


If you’ve ever been rollerblading, downhill skiing or ice-skating, you may already have a feel for the movement associated with cross-country skiing. Just like these sports, downhill skiing requires you to bend your knees and shift your weight from side to side to propel yourself forward or control your directional movements. If you’re completely new to cross-country skiing, you should start out on a flat, familiar surface and plan to practice for at least an afternoon. Keep your skis parallel to each other, and start walking in your skis, by picking up each foot as if you were simply traipsing through the snow. Don’t worry if you fall down several times, just keep getting back up and trying again. Eventually, you’ll be able to move without tripping or falling down. Once you reach this stage, you can start shifting your weight and pushing off as you move. After you have the movement down, you can start moving onto sloped terrain, and to areas beyond your backyard or the ski rental shop.


One of the most exciting aspects of cross-country skiing is that there are so many potential locations to explore. Before you venture out of your house, check the local weather report to find out about potential storms, and to ensure that you’re wearing the proper gear. If you plan to ski by yourself, you should also notify a nearby friend or family member before embarking. You should also carry water and snacks to keep yourself hydrated and provide an energy boost. You can visit cross-country ski areas or resorts and explore the designated trails. Start out on green circle trails, which are designed for beginners and gradually work your way up through blue squares and black diamonds. If you live in a rural area, you can start exploring your backyard and the woods around your house. Before you start venturing too far from home, ensure that you know how to find your back. This sounds simple, but if you’re caught in a snowstorm, everything will look similar. You can mark your trail or stick to areas that you’ve explored in the summer which are extremely familiar to you.

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