Know Before you Go: How to Find a New Rhythm this Winter with Cross Country Skiing
As the air turns brisk and the ground gets covered in white, and the risks of COVID-19 continue to loom over indoor spaces, cross country skiing may become your new go-to form of recreation. On the Nordic trails, you are automatically socially distanced: the paths are wide, and the terrain is vast, so it’s easy to either keep to yourself, or keep a generous buffer between you and your ski companions. (Learn more about why Cross Country Skiing is especially well-suited for this winter in our article on the subject.)
Though the process of collecting the correct equipment, finding a ski venue, and hitting the trails can seem a bit daunting to the beginning skier, it truly is a straightforward and rewarding experience, setting you up for a lifetime of awesome ski adventures—well worth the initial effort.
A good first step towards getting skiing is to take stock of what gear you might already have and start looking around for the gear you might need. The basic necessities are: ski boots, skis, and poles, as well as warm clothing that will insulate you from head to toes. Now, there are a few choices that you’ll have to make as you purchase and accumulate these various pieces. In terms of skis, boots, and poles, options are divided between the two “disciplines” of cross country skiing: skating, which involves a side-to-side ice-skating motion, and classic, which more mimics the motions of walking. As an introduction to cross country, the classic technique tends to have a gentler learning curve and can tilt your first adventures towards fun rather than frustration.
Ski equipment also ranges from the high caliber, performance-oriented racing gear to durable, comfort-oriented touring gear. Though you may find as you move along in your Nordic career that speed and performance are worth the higher price tag of the upper tier gear, it’s hard to go wrong with entry level set of classic equipment. Learn more about what exactly you need, and where to find it at REI.
As you prepare to get out on the snow, be sure you have the right clothing for the occasion. Though those bulky snow pants might be ideal for a sledding session with the kids, such but thick fabrics will quickly feel heavy and hot as you get moving on cross country skis. Nordic skiers usually prefer dress in layers with lightweight ski pants, made from thinner, water resistant and breathable fabrics. The same logic applies to gloves, which need to be fairly thin and flexible in order to slip your hand comfortably into your pole straps. And though a Nordic-specific hat is not necessary, consider topping off the ensemble with something lightweight that still offers the need protection from the elements.
Finding your Trail
So you’re geared up and ready to go—but where to go? A list of our recommended Nordic centers can be found here, but as you select your destination, keep in mind what you want to get out of the experience. If you are content to go out on the trails and figure the sport out for yourself (which, by the way, is a wonderful way to learn, provided you are patient and have access to youtube) then it doesn’t much matter what amenities the ski center offers. If you would like the aid of an instructor to get your technique on track, however, be sure to call or look online to see details on the center’s ski school. And as you are researching your Nordic destination, be sure to check whether online reservations are required as part of COVID precautions—not only is such a measure smart planning, it guarantees you have plenty space to roam socially distanced along the trails. Also be sure to take advantage of the knowledgeable folks that staff most Nordic centers. They can give you endlessly helpful advice on equipment, technique, terrain and so much more.
Packing and Planning
Recognizing the oddness and particular risks of this winter, we also recommend bringing the refreshments you’ll need along with you to ski, a picnic perhaps. Not only does this save you some money, but many venues have shifted their food and beverage operations this season. With the ever-growing takeout options however, it may also be wise to plan a pit-stop at a favorite restaurant or special pastry shop en route to or from your ski spot.
It’s important to remember as you’re provisioning for a ski session that you sweat even when its snowy out. This means that staying hydrated is as important on a long and strenuous ski as it is hiking on a hot summer day. Same goes for nutrition: our bodies burn lots of calories in order to keep us warm, which means we must replenish some part of that lost energy to keep us cruising along the trail. Consider carrying a granola bar or piece of fruit in your pocket or backpack.
Obviously, there is a whole lot more to cross country skiing than we covered here—and sure, not all of it will be self-explanatory. But between the helpful folks at your local Nordic center, our other articles on skiing, and the general power of the internet, this sort of skiing is about as approachable, versatile and totally invigorating as winter activities can be. This year especially, getting out onto the snowy trails and honing your cross country knowhow might be the all-natural diversion you didn’t know you needed.
Find your perfect ski area here!