Cross-Country Skiing for Beginners

Specifically Skate Skiing: In skate skiing, you want the same ankle flexion as in classic skiing, but you're starting from a wide stance. Keeping your hips square to the trail, shift your weight onto one ski at a time while pushing off from each leg in a skating motion. Your legs should work symmetrically.

Just Add Poles: It's beneficial to work on the kick-and-glide without poles in the beginning to ensure you don't rely on improperly using your upper body muscles to propel forward. Once you have the basics down on your skis, add poles. Your core—not your arms—should initiate each pole plant. To fully engage your core, keep the poles close to your body

How to Gear Up for Cross-Country Skiing

Classic Skis: Classic skis come in either waxable or waxless. While waxing a ski for snow condition and temperature can fine-tune the glide, a waxless ski is much more convenient. Waxless skis, like the women-specific Salomon Snowscape 7 Siam, grip the snow with tiny scales on the bottom of the ski. The Snowscape 7 Siam is cut shorter than more advanced skis for maneuverability, and is made for stability more than pure speed. $185, salomonsports.com

Classic Boots: A boot like the Salomon Siam 7 Pilot CF clips into your bindings (any SNS binding) and provides ankle support and flexion where you need it. These boots are built on a women-specific last, are lined for extra warmth and have a quick-lace internal boot with an exterior Velcro closure. $150, salomonsports.com

Skate Skis: All skate skis require waxing, but your Nordic center can do it for you. Try the Atomic Aina Skate Ski—a solid pair of skis that can take you from learning to your first racing season. $280, atomicsnow.com 

Skate Boots: The Atomic Aina Skate Boot (compatible with any SNS binding) is built on a women-specific last and features a slight lift under the heel to compensate for a woman's shorter Achilles tendon, and a unique lacing system that tightens the heel as well as the forefoot for a secure fit and optimum control. $245, atomicsnow.com

Poles: The difference between classic ski poles and skate ski poles is the length. Opt for a lightweight but stiff pole like the Madshus NC 6W. Your local gear shop can cut the poles to the proper length for your height and mode of skiing. $60, madshus.com

Where to Go Cross-Country Skiing

Both classic and skate Nordic skiing can, technically, be done on any type of snow. However, it is extremely difficult to ski—much less learn to ski—where the snow hasn't been groomed. Nordic centers around the country groom for both kinds of skiing, and will rent you gear: skis, boots and poles. Nordic centers also have the invaluable resource of instructors. Here are some places to get your kick-and-glide on.

Royal Gorge, California: Located off of Donner Pass in the Sierra Mountains near Lake Tahoe, California, Royal Gorge boasts more than 9,000 acres of Nordic skiing terrain, with 32 novice trails. For more info, call (530) 426-3871 or visit royalgorge.com.

Devil's Thumb Ranch, Colorado: Just beneath the Continental Divide sits the open meadows and rolling terrain of Devil's Thumb Ranch, with its 5,000 acres of Nordic ski trails. On site lodging starts at $260 per night. For info, call (800) 933-4339 or visit devilsthumbranch.com.

Trapp Family Lodge, Vermont: This Austrian influenced lodge acts as home base for 100 kilometers of groomed trails. The lodge (run by the family of Sound of Music fame) also has swimming pools and a full fitness center. Call (800) 826-7000 or visit trappfamily.com for packages and pricing.


Boulder, Colorado-based freelance writer Lisa Jhung has been writing about running for a variety of national publications for more than 10 years.

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