Cross-Country Skiing Information

Insider Info

dotCross-country skiing is considered one of the best exercises in the world. In spite of this, or maybe because of it, cross-country skiing is a popular sport anywhere there is snow!

People ski for the exercise and leisure value of this activity. The point is to get out there and enjoy the winter wonderland.

dotCross-country skiing was invented by the Scandinavians thousands of years ago. The remains of primitive skis found above Sweden's Arctic Circle have been carbon-dated to 2000 BC.

Plus, prehistoric cave drawings found in the far north suggest that the ancient inhabitants of Scandinavia may have used the long bones of animals as skis.

By the 10th century AD, cross-country skiing was common among the Vikings. It was essential for transportation and done by hunters, messengers, soldiers and monarchs. Since then, all kinds of people have taken up skiing for a range of reasons.

dotCross-country skiing allows you to glide across the top of the snow using long, thin skis. They attach to special boots, which the skiers wear. Skiers also use poles to help them along.

dotThe action of skiing is much like jogging, although plenty of people just "walk." With the help of your poles, and the coating on the bottom of the skis, you can glide uphill. Once you're in shape, even steep hills are easy to climb.

Cross-country skiing was introduced to North America in the late 19th century by Europeans. In 1849, skis were used in California during the gold rush days.
Courtesy of: Bruce and Margaret Adelsman

dotThe main difference between downhill skis (also called alpine skis) and cross-country skis is that the cross-country versions are wider, and attach to only the toe of your boots. This makes it possible to raise your heel off the ski and "walk" more easily.

Another difference is that cross-country skis are designed to "stick" to the snow when you want to push off, but they slide forward easily. This makes it possible to ski uphill.

Some skis "stick" thanks to a pattern embedded in the bottom of the ski. Others "stick" owing to the use of special coatings, called wax.

dotPeople usually go to the mountains to cross-country ski, though all you really need is snow. If it snows in your region, chances are there is a cross-country ski park somewhere nearby.

dotMost cross-country parks charge admission to help pay for trail grooming, lighting and upkeep, but a day pass usually costs less than $15. Some places are funded by local governments and, as such, are free to the public.

dotMany people like to ski. The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association has more than 300 local clubs across the country. This group's focus is competition. Then there are hundreds of more clubs that are independent and focus on local activities and ski locations.

dotAlthough this activity has been around for hundreds of years, its popularity has been steadily increasing over the last 10 years. Wendy Gayfer of Cross-Country Canada says this isn't surprising, considering the general growth of interest in the outdoors and in exercise.

"This is one of the best all-around exercises," she says. "Anyone and everyone [can] get into it, too. Ages range from three to 70." She expects interest in skiing should continue to grow slowly but steadily over the next five years.

dotOne reason cross-country skiing is popular is that it is pretty cheap. Some skiers will go out and spend $300 on fancy boots, bindings and skis, and everything will match and be in the latest colors.

Or they could go to a garage sale in any small town where it snows and buy a whole package for under $50.

In fact, Diane Lawrence, a rookie to the sport, picked up her first set of equipment for $15. She lives in a place where everyone skis, so skis and boots are a dime a dozen. It all depends on what you're looking for and where you're looking for it.

dotYou don't have to be in great shape to do this activity, but the more you do it, the more fit you will become. In turn, you will have more fun and you will be able to tackle more exciting terrain.

dotThose who really love this activity may want to build a career around it. In this case, there are lots of jobs related to this activity. You could get work at a ski hill or resort as a patroller, instructor, trail groomer or tour guide.

Or, you could also get into photography or writing that centres around winter recreation. Chances are, if you like this activity, you like the outdoors, and might be happy with jobs that are done outside.

Getting Started

dotWant to get started on some cross-country adventures of your own? Read on!

dotFirst, look up the sports shops and ski centres in your area. If there is any cross-country skiing in your area, the sports shops will know about it.

Sport shops often offer programs to teach cross-country skiing. At the very least, they can direct you to the clubs in your area. If skiing is popular in your part of the world, just look in your telephone directory under "Skiing Centres and Resorts" and "Skiing Equipment."

For starters, you might just want to rent your equipment. There's no use buying anything until you're sure this is the sport for you. Rentals will cost between $10 and $15 a day. Try a sports rental shop or a retail sporting shop. Sometimes, even the ski park will rent equipment.

Lessons will run around $15 to $30 per class.


U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association
P.O. Box 100
Park City , UT   84060

Catamount Trail Association
P.O. Box 1235
Burlington , VT   05402
E-mail :


Cross-Country Skier Magazine

The Basic Essentials of Cross-Country Skiing,
by  John Moynier
Cross-Country Skiing: A Complete Guide (Trailside Series),
by  Brian Cazeneuve


Cross-Country Ski World
Loads of great stuff, from general information for those just starting out to cutting-edge news for fanatics

A specialty search engine for ski sites

Cross-Country Ski Areas Association
Has a ski center directory, equipment information, magazine lists and other neat stuff

Adelsman's Cross-Country Ski Page
Information on trails and conditions, plus full race calendars