If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed that we went cross-country skiing for the first time this past weekend. It was hard. So much harder than I expected. Aren’t the skis supposed to do most of the work? (Spoiler alert: no.) Here’s a recap of how it went, and a few things you might want to know if you’re a complete newbie as we were.
It was mid-30s and sunny when we went, so we didn’t have to think too hard about layering. I wore a Smartwool top, lightweight down vest, waterproof pants, wool hiking socks, earwarmers, and Gore-tex gloves, and ended up being a little too warm most of the day. In the future I’d try to dress about one step warmer than I would for a run in the same temps, but that’s partly personal preference – I’d rather be a bit too cold than a bit too hot. Keep in mind that it’s always easier to take layers off than to add layers you didn’t bring! Also, shoes don’t really matter since you’ll be exchanging them for ski boots.
We were underprepared in the fuel department and only brought a bottle of water. Since we stayed on the beginner trails near the ski lodge, it was easy to stop in for the free water and granola bars; but in the future I’d bring my own snacks and wear a hydration pack, as we saw most of the more experienced skiers doing.
We took a beginner’s cross-country skiing lesson, which I would definitely recommend. It’s much easier to learn something like this in person rather than from a person on the internet. Especially don’t try to learn this from me, since I’ve already told you this was my first time. With that out of the way, first things first: putting on the skis. This is your first sign that cross-country skiing is harder than it looks. Ok, that’s a little dramatic, but it did take a bit of practice to get a hang of the hold down ski-line up boot with ski-press down to click in routine.
Once on the skis, we practiced basic movements for a while without the aid of the ski poles, to get used to being on the skis. The first step was, well, stepping – side-to-side and around. Then we tried a more stomping sort of step that adds forward motion to the equation. Once you’re moving forward, of course you have to know how to stop – xc skiing uses a snowplow stop, the same as in downhill, but also a half snowplow, where you take one ski out of the track and snowplow with it. We then worked on a V-step, which is pretty much what it sounds like – stepping forward with your skis in a V shape. It’s useful for climbing steep hills.
After all that, we got to the actual skiing motion. It’s not exactly like running or walking – I think it might be closer to racewalking than either of those, actually. I’d recommend looking up some videos if you want to get a feel for what it’s like before you go out. We practiced first in slow motion without poles, then tried picking up the cadence (optimum is about the same as for running or cycling), then finally picked up the poles and worked on putting everything together.
One final thing we learned was double-poling, where you push off with both poles then coast forward. Our instructor described the motion as a full-body crunch, and I definitely felt it in my abs the next day! This is easier than the regular ski step in terms of coordination, but I felt it was also easier to lose control with.
As I may have mentioned a few times…cross-country skiing is hard! Both in terms of learning a new sport, and the amount of exertion required. I also have to admit I expected the ski trails to be mostly flat…not sure where I got that idea from, but there are definitely hills. We had some difficulty even on the beginner trail hills, and will definitely be putting in some practice before attempting any of the more advanced trails. But finally, it was also a lot of fun, and we plan to be back on the trails many times.
Do you cross-country ski, or would you like to try it?
Any tips for making navigating the hills easier?