In case you haven’t noticed, cross-country skiing is having a moment. Little figures on skinny skis are gracing some of the biggest Instagram accounts, and friends are inviting you on hut trips you have to ski uphill both ways to reach.
But what the heck is cross-country skiing? And more importantly, why would anyone want to ski up a hill instead of down one? As someone who has practiced the art of what is sometimes known as “Nordorking” for nearly two decades, I’m here to tell you why you need to give skinny skis a chance this winter.
Make Like a Norwegian
Cross-country skiing, also known as Nordic, is said to be the oldest type of skiing. It’s been around since the nineteenth century, when Scandinavians began to use planks of wood to get around in the winter. It didn’t take long for Norwegians to begin skiing for fun—a tradition that continues today for people who love a good workout and peaceful trails. Nordic ski areas can be found at the base of almost every large downhill resort and on many golf courses throughout the United States in winter; trail passes will run you anywhere from free to $25.
Remember How to Roller Blade
There are two types of cross-country skiing: classic and skate. Just take one look at a groomed Nordic trail and you’ll notice the difference. The deep parallel tracks on the side are designed for classic skis, while the wide corduroy path is reserved for skating. So how do you know which style will suit you best? As long as you know how to walk, you'll be able to function on classic skinnies. But you'll only master skate skiing if you remember how to roller blade.
A beginner’s lesson is highly recommended for your first excursion, especially if you’ve decided on the more demanding skate technique. Keep in mind that there are no brakes and no edges on either type of Nordic ski, so when you want to stop you’ll need to pizza-pie (or simply flop over into the snow if no one is looking).
Photo by Bryan Rowe.
Embrace the Fanny Pack
In case you don’t feel funny enough waddling around like a duck your first day Nordic skiing, you’ll feel particularly ridiculous wearing the gear. Think spandex suits and hats so tight it looks like you've joined a water polo team. The best part? The fanny pack. Even I resisted for several years. But I have to admit, there is no better way to access your snacks, water and trail maps than right around your middle. Remember to always bring plenty of liquids and sunblock, especially if you plan on being out for several hours.
Real Reasons for Cross-Country Skiing this Season
Fanny packs aside, there are two huge reasons for cross-country skiing this season. Most obviously, you'll get the best workout of your life, whether you want it or not. Second, you'll avoid the expensive lift tickets and crowds found at the mega-resorts. Even though cross-country ski participation is on the rise, you’re bound to find peace and quiet—and maybe even some wildlife—out on the trails.
Whether you try classic cross-country or skate skiing this winter, your endorphin-induced experience will leave you sore the next day. Just make sure you bring a friend along to get the perfect shot for Instagram.
Shop cross-country skis at REI.com.