The outdoors is having a moment, as we all know very well! From crowded trail heads to an explosion of Sprinter vans crisscrossing the country, 2020 is the year of gear and outdoor fun.
All things winter are flying off the shelves right now, with cross-country skiing getting a lot of action.
Through the years, we’ve written quite a bit about nordic skiing, including tips for cross country skiing with babies, toddlers and kids, and tips for getting in shape for cross country skiing.
This winter, I am happy to be working with The Nordic Approach and The Cross Country Ski Areas Association, to provide additional nordic content for families.
By Pete Wilson, The Nordic Approach
As with many new activities, having some insight from seasoned regulars can be super-helpful.
Below we have compiled ten cross country skiing tips to make your nordic ski experience, be it the first or the fiftieth, more enjoyable.
Start your day right.
Whether it’s a sparkling and icy January day in the Midwest, or a drippy Vermont day in early March that can’t decide whether its spring-like or frigid, a hot beverage with some kick that can shove you out the door in the morning is a must. I usually opt for a cup of some kind of locally roasted dark coffee either brewed at home or picked up on the way to the trails, but a frothy latte or a steaming cup of hot chocolate will do the trick beautifully.
For clothes, think layers, layers, layers. Though on a cold day it might be tempting to wear that arctic exploration dress-coat rated to -100° F, more, and thinner, layers will allow you stay mobile and comfortably warm all day long. For equipment, any cross country center will be well stocked with skis, boots and poles for rental. Be sure to bring gloves (the ideal cross country glove is a bit thinner than the classic bulky winter glove, but you can add warmth with a couple of cheap hand warmers), at least one extra pair of socks (snow is wet, and sweat, again, is a thing) and a good hat that you’re comfortable in. Also don’t forget to bring water—though its cold out, exercise is exercise—stay hydrated and stay healthy.
Choose the right place to ski.
Most cross country centers are well-equipped to provide equipment and instruction to first-time skiers. However, established centers with good grooming and a decent amount of flat-ish terrain will make for an easier learning environment, a more manageable family adventure, and, most importantly, more fun. Find a reputable cross country center here.
To take a lesson or go solo?
A qualified instructor can give you those initial movements which will make traveling across the slippery stuff far easier, and can quickly correct any bad form that is making your body work a whole lot harder than it needs to.
Cross country 101: there are two types of cross-country skiing.
Skate skiing requires more technical development, so classic skiing is often the go-to choice for beginners looking to get their footing. With practice, skate skiing can be a fast-paced, high intensity activity perfect for thrill seekers and fitness buffs alike. To better understand the difference between the two techniques, and decide what is right for you, check out our beginner’s guide.
Be prepared to fall.
Even if the terrain you’re learning on is relatively flat, it takes a bit of time to get your sea legs on those two skinny skis. Getting your balance is a mixture of practice, technique, and sheer intuition. Keep your knees bent, arms and poles moving, and you will get the hang of it. Unlike downhill tumbles, a fall on the flats is gentle and easy to get up from—so don’t get discouraged and just keep moving!
Keep your energy up!
Skiing will have you moving your whole body. Especially if its chilly, a lightweight snack in your pocket can give you the boost you need to go up the last hill or around the last bend. I usually go for a classic crunchy granola bar, but bring whatever will warm you up and get you going—a nibble of chocolate, perhaps? Or a cookie left over from breakfast?
Skiing is meant to be enjoyable. If you’re a bit of an adrenaline junky, find a nice downhill to take a few loops on, or perhaps experiment with some careful jumping. If you are more of a meanderer, ask someone who knows the trails to direct you onto a loop that will allow you to explore a bit and lose yourself in the rhythm of the activity.
Don’t forget to look around you.
Often, cross country ski trails cut through the most beautiful winter wonderlands. Keep an eye out for interesting wildlife, or thickets of snowy evergreens and tall maples, or vistas that open up to glorious mountain scenes. Chances are, any place you are cross country skiing will have all of these sights in abundance.
You worked hard and did something adventurous. Pat yourself on the back and enjoy a relaxing happy hour back at the ski area or the nearest town. Few things feel better than sipping a glass of wine or a beer, reminiscing about your time on the trails with friends and family. Or, if you’re still a touch chilled, treat yourself to a boozy hot chocolate. You’ve earned it.
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