Cross-country skiing is not only exercise for your body, but also your mind.
There’s the undeniable sense of adventure with new trails to explore and ever-changing conditions. Plus, the quiet time where it’s just you and nature. If you have never cross-country skied, treat yourself. A quick internet search of “cross country skiing + insert your destination/hometown/state” should provide bountiful info on the best places to go. Your local outdoor shop that rents gear will have people who are passionate about skiing and even more dedicated to making sure your experience is a good one. And if you already are a kick-and-glide fan, let us know about great destinations in your area.
SEE ALSO: Why try cross-country skiing this winter
Here are a few tips for anyone heading out.
Think layers. You’ll be moving most of the time, so you’ll want something next to skin that breathes well. Most likely you’ll be wearing a base layer top—look for one that vents in the front (a ¾-length zip is good) and has sleeves that can be pushed up to your elbows on a warm day.
Even if you are only planning on being out for a short time, bring an emergency layer. You can tie a jacket around your waist (or carry a lightweight pack), but in the backcountry, you never know when the weather will turn bad or you’ll be out longer than expected
Gloves should be light, breathable, and close fitting. No need for big, padded alpine expedition gloves here. If the weather is cold (or rainy) and you are going out for a couple of hours or more, it’s a good idea to keep a dry pair of gloves and a hat in your pack. Tip: put them in a zip-lock bag to keep out moisture.
Pack a lightweight emergency kit. This should include a small headlamp, whistle, extra energy bars, bandages, and sunblock.
Don’t forget your sunglasses and/or goggles.
Ideally you’ll have the trails to yourself, but most likely you’ll run into other skiers. Here are a few Miss Manners tips on the rules of the trail.
- Move to the side (off the trail) when you stop so others can pass easily. Take care to not have your poles sticking out on the track, especially if skiers are coming downhill.
- Skiers coming from behind need to give the right-of-way to the skier in front. Of course, courteous skiers will move aside if possible when faster skiers approach.
- Make sure you’re skiing in the right direction (meaning pre-set trails often are one-way courses.) Of course, if you are out in the forest, breaking trail, you can go any which-way you like!
- Check your destination to find out if dogs are allowed. Remember that snow (and especially ice) can damage a dog’s paws—you can buy little booties to protect paws.
Chances are your first experience with Nordic skiing will be at dedicated track, where you can typically rent skis and boots. But once you’re hooked, here’s what to consider when you want to buy your first pair of cross-country skis.
You can get skis with “fish scales” that allow you to glide forward while preventing you from sliding backwards. Fishscale skis are very convenient if you are learning or don’t want to bother with waxing, but don’t have the performance (speed) that you get with a good wax job on smooth-bottomed skis.
Skis need to grip on the snow for the kick part (moving forward) and then release for the glide part. Snow can be categorized into new snow and old snow. If you are waxing you’ll need kick wax (under foot) and a klister for icy, hard packed conditions. Buy purple, blue and green kick waxes to round out your kit (purple is for around zero, blue and green for higher temperatures. For the gliding (areas behind and in front of the foot) use a wax with paraffin that works for multiple temperatures. You can also use wax tape under foot as it is the most simple solution.
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