A Beginner's Guide to Cross-Country-Skiing

Customer 24 Feb, 2021 · 13 min read

Over the past 2 weeks, we have given you introductory guides to the new disciplines that we’ve added to Maison Sport as an alternative option for lessons. We decided to add these disciplines now to allow more of you to be able to enjoy the mountains since you can still practice these even with ski lifts being closed. By now you are an expert at both Ski Touring and Telemark Skiing, and if you are not or you want to learn more about what they are click here to go to our blog page and read all about them. 

This week we are introducing the third discipline added to Maison Sport, Cross-Country-Skiing. This discipline is the most different out of all of the ones we have talked about because while other disciplines aim at going uphill to later enjoy the run downhill, in cross-country-skiing it’s more about the track. Yes, the track can have uphill parts and downhill parts but, in the end, you are completing a pre-established track, just as you would if you went running. So, let’s get into it and learn all there is to learn about cross-country-skiing for beginners. 


What is Cross-Country-Skiing?

Cross country skiing, also known as Nordic skiing, is a discipline that originated in Scandinavia as a more convenient way of getting around when the streets were heavily covered in snow since it was easier to move on skis than by foot. Today cross-country-skiing is practiced as any other snow discipline by people looking for a change of pace or scenery from regular alpine skiing or snowboarding. 

Cross-country-skiing is primarily practiced on assigned tracks around ski resorts, these tracks tend to be either slightly uphill or on plain terrain, but you may find some instances where you are going downhill, although not often. The most basic and general way to describe cross-country-skiing is walking with your skis on, but there are two techniques, one is classic and the other skate or free skiing. 

Classic cross-country-skiing is practiced in a prepared area where parallel tracks have been indented in the snow, skiers place their skis in the tracks and then start moving forward. The skier just glides one ski in front of the other in a long stride walking motion and just follows the tracks along the pre-established path. 

Skate (Free) Skiing, as the name implies resembles more ice skating when it comes to technique. The strides skiers take look as if they were ice skating, so the skis are pushed diagonally outwards to gain speed, and the more speed you want to gain, the harder you’ll have to push. This technique can also be more challenging on the body due to the “skating” movement. 

How Hard is Cross-Country-Skiing?

As I always say, difficulty depends mostly on the tracks, slopes, or trails you are on, but when it comes to the two styles of cross-country-skiing it can be said that classic cross-country skiing is easier than skate skiing and this is simply because of the movement required for skate skiing. For the classic technique, you only have to slide one foot in front of the other so as long as the track is not steep or too difficult you should be able to enjoy the activity just as you would a walk at the park, of course, you can make it more challenging for yourself by quickening the pace, or even going for harder tracks, but that depends on you. 

On the other hand, skate/free skiing requires a lot of leg strength since you are pushing outwards and shifting your body weight from side to side to gain that forward movement which can be more challenging. As with anything, it depends on what you are looking for, both are a lot of fun and the tracks around some resorts are beautiful and take you to incredible locations. Cross-country-skiing is also a great workout and it can easily replace your daily runs or your leisure walks. Its versatility is what makes it suitable for any age, by just adapting it to what your body can do.

Tips for Cross-Country-Skiing

Make Sure the Boot Fits: As you will see below the equipment needed for cross-country-skiing is different from the usual equipment we have talked about in our previous blogs. The most different equipment you will use is the boots. Cross-country boots are nothing like regular ski boots, these boots are more like trekking boots because that is what you’re doing basically, so make sure the boot fits you perfectly and you feel comfortable in it because nothing can make this experience more uncomfortable than the wrong boot. 

Find the Right Track: As I mentioned before, cross-country-skiing difficulty depends a lot on what path you’ll be on, ski resorts will have detailed descriptions of their trails to make sure you understand how difficult they can be, and if that’s not clear you can just ask your instructor or any local person. Choose the track depending on what you’re looking for or what type of challenge you want to make sure the experience is something you’ll enjoy, and you won’t end up on a difficult track by mistake. 

Dress Appropriately: Again, this one depends on the intensity of the track you’ll be skiing on but this is a sport where you tend to get quite warm which is why when thinking of the correct attire, think about going running during winter. It is recommended to wear thermal leggings but not ski pants as they are too bulky and don’t allow you to have a wide range of movement, and for your top, a fleece jumper and windstopper jacket will do. Of course, always take into account the daily weather conditions to decide if you should cover up a bit more or go for something lighter, but make sure whatever you wear will give you the ability to do the movements easily. 

Learn from an Instructor: Although cross-country-skiing may seem a lot easier than learning how to alpine ski or telemark, it is still important that you learn the basics before you try to go out by yourself. Instructors can give you an insight into all the equipment and how to use it to its full potential and they will make sure you are moving correctly to not cause any injuries to yourself. 

Choose the Best Style for You: By now you know the difference between classic and skate cross-country, so how do you choose the one for you. When choosing, think about what you want to get from your time practicing cross-country-skiing, are you looking for a challenge that will build muscles and give you more of a workout, or do you want to enjoy a “walk” in nature and take in the views? Skate skiing requires more effort and may not be the right one if you just want to try something new or change the sport for a day, classic cross-country-skiing is what beginners usually go for since the technique is also easier to learn and it can be even peaceful and relaxing for a nice day out. 


The equipment needed for cross-country-skiing is different than all the other disciplines we have talked about so far, and it even slightly varies between skate skiing or classic skiing. What varies is the ski themselves, in general, cross-country skis are a lot thinner and all the equipment also tends to be lighter than the equipment you use for alpine skiing. So what will you need:

  • Classic Cross-Country-Ski: these skis are thin and long and have a grip zone right in the middle, under your foot, to avoid sliding backward, and the tip and back of the ski is called the glide zone. Since you slightly lift your foot when gliding it forward the grip zone doesn’t touch the snow and the front and back of the ski allow you to easily glide forward.
  • Skate Ski: skate skis only have a glide zone under the ski, no grip zone, and they are typically shorter than other skis to make it easier to maneuver them as you are moving in such a peculiar way and having to push your legs outwards. If the skis were too long they could end up touching in the back, or be too heavy to easily move. 
  • Cross-country-boot: This boot as we said earlier is nothing like the other ski boots we know, these boots are like comfortable low cut walking boots, and they attach to the skis only at the front, allowing you to freely move your heel up and down to help with the movements.
  • Poles: The only difference between these poles and other poles used for other disciplines is the height. Classic cross-country-ski poles tend to be longer reaching almost your armpit, skate skiing poles tend to go even higher, reaching up to your ears.

Do you feel ready to take on this new sport? I think you are. Head on over to Maison Sport and find the instructors that have already added cross-country-skiing to their profile to book your first lesson with them. Here are two instructors that are ready to go!

Don’t miss out on the winter season just because ski lifts are closed, take this time to get out of your comfort zone and try something new.

The Maison Sport Instructors Are Waiting for You!

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