To Cross Country Skiing
Cross country skiing is a terrific way to enjoy
the great outdoors in winter. The
pleasures of cross country skiing can take your mind off the stresses of the
daily grind, whether you seek the solitude of solo skiing or are spending some
quality time with family and friends. It's also a great aerobic activity, enabling
you to burn up hundreds of calories per hour without straining joints such as
ankles and knees. You'll get a low-impact workout while enjoying the outdoors,
and the scenery sure beats the view at your local health club.
But as with any new sport, cross country skiing
can seem daunting to
newcomers. Novices can be baffled by the variety of equipment choices and
even the unfamiliar words. This guide is designed to put you at ease and give
you basic information that will help you get started the right way.
Up -- should you rent or purchase, types of skis, boots, bindings
Measure Up -- what size do you need?
Get Going -- where you can take lessons
Get Smart -- tips, stats and other resources
Before renting or purchasing equipment, ask
yourself a few questions:
How much do you think you'll be skiing? Will you ski two times a year or
more? You also need to consider where you plan to ski. The terrain and
location helps determine your equipment choices. Cross country skiing allows
you to choose from a variety of locations. Parks, golf courses, hiking trails or
cross country ski areas are all good choices. Determining your projected
commitment level will help you decide whether to rent, lease or buy equipment.
Your equipment options include:
at your local ski shop or at the ski area. You can
rent equipment by the day or week. This is often recommended for
first-time skiers. (Note: Some ski shops will apply the price of rentals
toward purchasing new equipment.)
Leasing equipment for an entire season. This is a good option in areas
where it might snow only a few times a year, because rental equipment
can be scarce. Some ski shops offer this service and it can especially
make sense for children who quickly out-grow gear.
Buying used equipment at a local shop or ski swap. Be aware that at
garage sales and some swaps, you may wind up with gear that is
outdated and inappropriate.
Buying new equipment. You might want to consider a package deal that
offers a discount when you buy skis, boots, bindings and poles together.
Ultimately, owning your equipment allows you
continuity, comfort and control
as you progress through skiing's learning stages and can also save you time
and money in the long run.
Where you plan to ski the most will influence
what type of equipment you use.
There are basically several types of cross country skis, designed for different
Traditional In-Track Touring Skis: These skis
are often used with a
traditional kick-and-glide motion on maintained track systems set by special
grooming machines. They also can be used on ungroomed terrain. They have
minimal sidecut so the skis will stay in the tracks. (Sidecut refers to the
narrowness of the middle part of the skis in relation to the wider tip and tail.)
Off-Track Touring Skis: These skis are often
used to navigate ungroomed
terrain in parks, open fields and on golf courses. They are wider than in-track
touring skis and provide more flotation and stability in fresh snow.
Skating Skis: These skis are used with a skating-type
stride on groomed
trails. They are shorter, narrower and lighter than traditional cross country
skis. The technique is similar to inline skating, except poles are also used.
Skating skis can provide the ultimate fitness workout.
Backcountry Skis: These skis are for the more
adventurous, who are
exploring the backcountry and experiencing variable snow conditions. They
can be as wide as alpine skis, for better flotation, and feature metal edges for
Wax vs. waxless: Although more advanced skiers
prefer waxing their skis,
most enjoy the convenience of waxless skis. If you buy waxless skis, you can
strap them on and go.
The boots you choose can make cross country
skiing a real pleasure.
Comfortable, warm boots are the most important component of the equipment
package. Boots should be moderately rigid to resist twisting or deformity.
Look for a boot with some insulation between
the inner lining and the outer
shell. Classic touring boots that come up over the ankle might be the best
choice for new skiers. These boots offer lots of support, warmth and comfort.
If you are planning to conquer the backcountry, look for sturdier, more rigid
boots that offer the most support.
There are many types of cross country ski bindings
available, but the basic
concept is the same: Keep the toe and front of the boot locked in place, leave
the heel and back part of the foot free to move up and down. Boots and
bindings are usually sold together as they must work as a team.
Recreational boots are available in three binding
systems: 75mm three-pin
(uses three pins that mate with three holes in the boot sole); Salomon system;
and Rottefella NNN (New Nordic Norm).
Poles are used to help you with your balance
and for pushing off while skiing.
Poles can be made from fiberglass, aluminum, graphite or some combination of
Return to top
Skis are measured in centimeters (cm). Your
ski length will depend on your
ability, height and weight along with the type of skiing you plan to do most
often. A shop employee will help you decide on the appropriate length.
In general, cross country ski boots come in
traditional American sizes and also
"mondo point," which is simply the length of the boot in centimeters. When
trying on boots, wear one pair of medium-weight or light-weight socks and a
liner sock made of synthetic materials or silk. The fit should be snug and your
heel should remain in place. You should be able to wiggle your toes.
Poles are measured in inches or in centimeters (cm).
Return to top
Cross country skiing is relatively easy to
learn, but first-timers should still take
a lesson from a qualified instructor. Lessons can greatly enhance the
experience. This is especially true if you don't have any experience ice skating,
inline skating or exercising with a cross country skiing simulator.
Call ahead to the local area or destination
resort to find out about beginner
lessons and any special deals or packages that might be available. Make the
ski school your first stop. Take a group or private lesson.
Return to top
In addition to this guide, there are a number
of resources to help you get
started cross country skiing, including:
Your local outdoor
or snow sports shop. Employees should be able to
answer many of your questions. To find a shop near you, use
SnowLink's search feature in its Buy It! section. Just enter your ZIP
code and a mileage radius and you'll get a list with addresses and phone
Your regional cross country ski area, if applicable.
Your local park system, if applicable, which may have an existing trail
Cross country skiing magazines and books.
Among other Web sites that will give you information about cross
country skiing are Cross Country Ski World, Cross Country Ski Areas
Association and the Web sites that list trail systems in SnowLink's Do
It! section. To see the Web sites of cross-country equipment
manufacturers, go to Products Online in the See It! section of
Setting up Your Program