Get Started In Cross Country Skiing

Posted on: December 15, 2017

Cross Country Skiing (often ‘X-Country’) is a great sport for the Lakeland’s climate and geography: there’s plenty of snow for a large part of the year and long country trails, with great scenery and gentle slopes.

Cross-country skiing is also a great way to keep fit at any age- there are eighty-year-olds who regularly participate. It can be a gentle walk in the snow, or it can be a heavy workout that will get you breathing heavily and sweating hard. It’s a full-body workout, great for building both strength and stamina.

There’s a little equipment cost involved and some technique to learn before you can get out and start crossing the country.


1) Get Some Cross Country Skis

Downhill skis and cross-country skis aren’t the same. Downhill skis are built for stability- they’re wider and heavier than cross-country skis, which are built primarily for speed. Although you won’t be going particularly fast in cross-country skis, their light, narrow and straight design means that it will be easier to move through the powder.

2) And Some Cross Country Skiing Clothing

You won’t need to be dressed exactly like a downhill skier to go cross country. You will be contending with cold coming in and sweat going out- not a great combination. You’ll want to layer rather than rely on a single thick jacket- a light thermal sweater beneath a windbreaker with a hat and gloves will be fine if the weather isn’t too bad. Don’t let the temperature fool you into thinking that sun protection isn’t necessary: glasses to protect you from the glare and high SPF sunscreen. There’s some great information here.

3) Learn To Go Forwards…

Cross Country Skiing on a flat surface isn’t hugely different from ice skating, although you’ll also have poles to move along. You’ll want to take a minute to get comfortable standing on your skis, and after that start shuffling forward. This shuffle is enough to get you moving, and if the trail is fairly flat then you won’t need to do anything else. There are techniques that can get you moving faster, many of which are explained in this video.

4) … Learn To Go Up…

Going uphill will be one of the most challenging things you’ll have to do as a cross-country skier, but if you get the technique right it shouldn’t be too taxing. Some hills may be shallow enough that you can move up it normally, but if it’s a little steeper you’ll probably have to ‘herringbone’: make a V with the skis, with the point facing backwards, and push with the poles. If the hill is very steep you might need a different technique, moving your skis and poles together to walk uphill.

5) … Learn To Go Down

This should be the easy part, but there are quirks to it. As stated above, cross-country skis are not designed for going downhill, so you won’t be cutting through the powder like a pro on a black diamond slope as soon as you crest a hill. To go down a hill quickly and safely point the tips of your skis inwards and allow the edges to dig into the snow to keep your speed under control.


You can find more information, and a community of Cross Country skiing enthusiasts, on and information on where you can start skiing here.

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