Cross-country skiing is a fun way to switch up your normal routine while continuing to build fitness and strength through Winter. Plus, it gives you the chance to enjoy the outdoors. Here's what you need to know to prepare for a season of cross-country skiing.
For advice on how to make cross-country skiing as easy as possible, we turned to Paul Kuznia, director of the Taconic Outdoor Education Center who oversees the Fahnestock Winter Park in Cold Spring, New York. An hour from NYC, this 14,000 square acre state park offers 9 miles of groomed trails for all levels of skiers.
Kuznia was a collegiate runner who was recruited to fill a slot in a cross-country skiing race. He never looked back. "The sport requires a lot of dynamic balance, strength and endurance," he said. Developing these help in a lot of other sports including swimming, running and cycling.
To make it easy on yourself next time it snows, do some preliminary preparation:
1) Choose your venue in advance: The advantage of cross-country skiing is that you can ski just about anywhere as long as there is snow. Start talking to people who actively pursue the sport. Many public and private golf courses will quietly allow skiers to take advantage of the conditions. Some public parks open their trails and grounds to skiers. And, of course, many downhill and dedicated cross-country resorts offer a wide variety of skiing options.
2) Source your equipment: Find out if you can rent skis in your area. Because the costs (and margins) on the equipment are very low, few stores may rent the equipment. This might limit your initial foray in the sport to dedicated resorts with rental capabilities.
3) Plan the clothing: Use what you already have. Start with your winter cycling clothes. They're generally wind resistance, tight, and have some handy pockets for food, mobile phones and car keys. You can also turn to the running clothes you would use for similar temperatures; Add something to block the wind and you are set. Your final option would be the top and bottom shell from your downhill skiing attire with a very light layer underneath. Remember, you will get hot skiing on the trail or frozen lake even when it's cold.
4) Decide whether to take a class: This really depends on the type of athlete you are and how you prefer to learn. If you know how to downhill ski, you can probably try the sport on your own. A cross-country course can be helpful for learning how to use the tracks on a groomed trail, how to safely navigate a descent on a narrow trail, and how to climb the inevitable hill.
5) Select "classic" or "skating" skis: Classic skis require that the athlete uses a forward stride technique. When skating, the person will ski in a "V" pattern, much like ice skating. Kuznia says, "Bikers want instant gratification and tend to like the skating skis." In contrast, Kuznia, said runners have more patience and look at classic skiing as a good skill to develop. If you can't make up your mind, many resorts will let you switch equipment during the day for either no charge or a nominal fee. Both types of skiing require overall body awareness and the ability to get your hips and back aligned properly.
6) Decide whether to or rent buy equipment: If you ski eight or more times a year, you can justify purchasing your own equipment. Many resorts like Fahnestock sponsor pre-season equipment sales or swaps. If you've passed that point in the season you can purchase online through many vendors. However, you need to know exactly what equipment you want. Some skis may be too stiff and the spring-like quality may prove overly tiring. A good store in your local area can provide valuable support in making the right initial decision, and help you as your skills progress.