Your Guide To Cross Country Skiing
 by: Snowlink


     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.

     Skip to:

          Gear Up -- should you rent or purchase, types of skis, boots, bindings
          and poles
          Measure Up -- what size do you need?
          Get Going -- where you can take lessons
          Get Smart -- tips, stats and other resources

Gear Up

     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:

          Renting equipment 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
     more control.

     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
     these materials.

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                            Measure up

     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).

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Get going

     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.

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Get smart

     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
Snow Link