The Art and Fun of Cross-Country Skiing

No need for fancy resorts and tall mountains for this invigorating winter sport.

By Kathy Oberman


Now is the time to enjoy the out-of-doors and have some fun while getting a great workout! You will feel better, look better, and sleep better after a day of cross-country skiing.

Cross-country skiing, much like swimming, is a full body aerobic workout that is easy on the joints, which makes it a lifelong endeavor. It's also one of the few winter sports that the entire family can enjoy without breaking the bank!

How to Get Started
If you have never been cross-country skiing before, you should make every effort to learn at a commercial ski area. There you can rent equipment and take a lesson. You will also have the benefit of learning on groomed trails.

Less experienced skiers should use the groomed trails for a more enjoyable day. Quite often, parks and golf courses offer groomed cross-country ski trials.

Fortunately, most Alpine ski areas now have cross-country ski trails as well as downhill ones. Some are nicely groomed and geared for beginners, while others are off-trail and meant to challenge advanced skiers.

When you are ready to ski off trail, visit a park, golf course, or recreational area with land for skiers. Make sure the conditions are safe. This is particularly important if your route takes you across a lake. Check with the local police, fire, or parks departments.

What to Wear
Unlike downhill skiing, snowboarding, ice skating or sledding, do not wear heavy, bulky clothing. Instead, dress in layers of lightweight athletic clothes. This way, you can peel them as you exercise - or put them back on if the sun disappears.

Clothing is now available for skiers made from new materials that actually wick sweat away from your body. This insures that your clothing remains dry - and you stay comfortable.

Try Polartech long underwear, Lycra-type pants, and cotton shirts and fleece vests. The idea is to remain completely light and mobile. Your clothing should be as flexible as possible for the long strides required for cross-country skiing.

Cross-country ski boots should fit like a pair of running shoes or hiking boots. Be sure they fit properly, or you might pay later with blisters and miserable feet. Ski socks should be long and thin, made for cold weather adventures.

Renting or Buying Equipment
The best rule of thumb is to seek the advice of a professional at a ski shop when you decide to rent or buy cross-country equipment. He or she will know the right questions to ask to fit you properly.

When deciding on ski poles, most experts agree that the top of the handle should reach your armpit.

To determine the right length ski, put the ski upright next to you and extend your arm straight over your head. You should be able to touch the tip of the ski with your fingertips.

Don't Forget
Cross-country skiing is an outdoor sport and despite the cool temperatures, the sun reflects off the snow. Don't forget sunscreen, lip protection, and sunglasses.

Stay hydrated. Pack a bottle or two of water in a knapsack and drink it while you ski.

Much like running, cross-country skiing burns up calories. Snack often on healthful foods such as granola and gorp - a nutritional mix of nuts, raisins, and chocolate morsels.

Pack a picnic to enjoy trailside. Sandwiches, soup in a thermos, cheese with bread, and some fruit and candy bars will keeping you going all afternoon. Drink some more water!

Enjoy cross-country skiing with the whole family. It's fun!