A Beginners Guide To Cross Country Skiing


Finding A(nother) New Love

There are a few things to know about Cross Country Skiing before you embark on this fun and adventurous sport.  But first, understand that you may end up falling in love with another winter sport, and with that, comes another closet full of equipment (though that is something the excellent staff at TMS can help you with).  I find that when the Nordic skiing is at its best (hard compact snow), the downhill and backcountry skiing is not great.  And when it’s a powder day, it’s not a good day on the cross-country trails.  So, I like having my options, and that always puts a big smile on my face! 

Beginners Guide to Cross Country Skiing

The Cross Country Disciplines

Cross Country Skiing is a form of Nordic Skiing, and within Cross Country, there are actually three types of skiing: Classic, Skate, and Light Touring.  Classic can also be called “stride” and is the easiest to learn.  The equipment is lightweight and comfortable.  The skis are somewhat stiff, and most skis will have scales on the bottom mid-section of the ski to assist when going uphill. However, some will have a skin in place of the fish scales, like the Salomon RC 7, but the idea is the same.  Most people will begin with this classic style of cross country skiing and it is done on a groomed track consisting of two grooves for your skis to keep them in line and straight.  Classic skiing is a bit like “hiking on skis”, but you can certainly push the pace, increasing the cardio output to the point where the “hike” becomes more like a run.  As you continue to improve at classic skiing, the kick and glide are essential parts of the technique.  

Beginners Guide to XC

Skate Skiing

Skate Skiing is thus named because we skate on the skis.  Another term for skating is diagonal stride because the skis are pushed diagonally behind the skier.  The boot for skating is typically a bit stiffer laterally than a classic boot, however, there are “combi” boots that perform for both disciplines.  The skis are also different from classic.  They will be shorter, have torsional stiffness, and have no scales.  The Salomon RS 7 is a great ski to get started on.

Skating takes place on a firmly groomed surface typically in the center of the groomed track, while the grooves for the classic skiers are on either edge of the track.  Skating is definitely an aerobic activity and technique is important.  If you are interested in learning to skate ski, I would recommend enrolling in any of the great clinics that are offered at our local cross country centers or book a private or semi-private lesson with a few friends.  Getting the technique correct initially will make skating more fun!  You’ll soon be gliding over the snow, up and down the hills!  If clinics and lessons aren’t your “thing”, there are great videos on YouTube that can help with the technique.  Take a look at this one from XC Ski Academy below.

Cross Country Touring

The final form of cross country skiing is light touring.  This is similar to the classic technique, but the equipment is a bit heavier, skis are wider, some will have a metal edge, and they are designed to be skied off-piste and not on groomed trails.  These skis are fun to take out on a snowy day, to places as an option to snowshoes, or just touring around in flat meadows.  Skiing down hills is a bit challenging on these skis due to the free heel, but mastering the telemark turn on these skinny skis is part of the fun. 

Beginners Guide to Cross Country Skiing

Check out this Review on the Fischer S-Bound 98 Cross Country Skis below.

All In A Morning’s Work

Nordic skiing, especially skate skiing, has become my new favorite winter sport.  Having close proximity to the Tahoe Donner Cross Country Center and with a season pass, I’m able to take advantage of the 7 am early bird ski, get a great aerobic workout, and be at my desk in time for a 9 am call.  And, TDXC even has dog trails so our furry friends can join us, and then mine is ready for a nice long nap at my feet while I work.   

Oh, the Places You Can Go

We have options in the North Tahoe area for cross country skiing.  Tahoe Donner has 100KM of trails.  Nearby is Royal Gorge at Sugar Bowl.  With 140KM of groomed trails and 6000 acres, Royal Gorge is known as the largest cross country resort in North America.  A little gem in Tahoe City is Tahoe City XC.  With sweeping views of Lake Tahoe, this is another fun area to explore.  Northstar California has cross country trails, and another option to mention is Auburn Ski Club next to Boreal.  With its summit location, ASC is sometimes the first to open, the last to close, and offers great instruction.  They have programs for the young skiers all the way through masters including biathlon (we didn’t talk about this version of ski/shoot).

If you’re looking to do some light touring on cross country skis, think about places you might go to snowshoe.  Many of our summer trails turn into great snowshoe and cross country touring trails in the winter.  Certainly, ask the friendly staff at Tahoe Mountain Sports if you need some ideas or help getting started in your own cross country adventures. 

Beginners Guide to XC

Dress for Cross Country

Like any sport, how you dress will be a personal preference. It will depend on the day’s weather, how aerobic you plan on getting, and how your body naturally runs (hotter or colder). Tahoe Mountain Sports has plenty of options when finding the best nordic outfit for you. With brands like Bjorn Dahlie, Kari Traa, Salomon, and an assortment of others, the crew at TMS can help you find what you need to get in, or out, of the tracks.

Leave a Comment