When the snow comes down, the cross country skiers come out. Cross country skiing is a fun, easy workout that gets people off the couch and outside during the winter. I’ve been cross country skiing for more than 20 years and have had my share of tumbles in the snow as well as ski sessions which left me sweating even on cold days. If I can do it, so can you.
First, be sure there’s at least 6 inches of snow on the ground before venturing out. If there’s less than 6 inches of snow on the ground, you could be plowing through mud not snow.
Second, check the thermometer before you head out. Don’t ski if the thermometer rises above 40 degrees or dips below 10 degrees. My favorite temperatures for skiing as between 15 and 35 degrees Fahrenheit.
One word of caution: be sure to check with your doctor first if you’ve never cross country skied before. Even though this sport is easy enough that small children, senior citizens and everyone in between can do it; it’s a lot more strenuous than it looks.
What to Wear Cross Country Skiing
You can buy your own equipment and get properly fitted for skis and boots at a ski store or sporting goods. Or you can rent equipment at parks which allow cross country skiing.
Cross country skiers should wear a ski jacket, of course. Some skiers wear jeans but I prefer ski pants, which are sold at ski and sporting goods stores. These are basically snow pants for adults. Ski pants will keep you warm and dry in case you fall. They also have zippered pockets which are handy for storing car keys, tissues and granola bars, just in case you get hungry.
Dress in layers, starting with a t-shirt and sweatshirt over it. Don’t wear a sweater under your jacket unless you are skiing on one of those 10 to 15 degree Fahrenheit days.
Protect your hands, head and feet. Wear mittens or heavy gloves. Wear a hat, ear muffs or scarf over your ears. Be sure you have at least two pairs of socks on. Bring extra socks with you when you’re trying on your ski boots.
Most people make the mistake of dressing too warmly. You may be shivering when you start out but you’ll quickly work up to a sweat. That’s when you can take a layer of clothing off.
Where to Go Cross Country Skiing
Many county and state parks allow cross country skiing during the winter. Some places even have “warm up huts” where cold skiers can take a break inside. These parks usually have equipment that can be rented. Some offer snack bars where skiers can grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate after skiing.
Another good place to ski is a golf course. There’s a lot of room to ski down the fairways. Golf courses tend to have long stretches of flat space followed by some hills – great for cross country skiing.
Some skiers head out to the country or to the woods. Make sure you are not skiing on someone’s property. Look for posted or no trespassing signs, and don’t ski there if you see one.
How to Cross Country Ski
Cross country skiing is easy to do. Just lean forward, push your feet forward slightly and glide. Use your poles to keep your balance and help push yourself along the trail.
Some people jog on skis but this isn’t necessary. Go as fast or as slow as you want. You will get a good workout either way.
Turning can be tricky. Just pick up your feet and slowly walk your way into the turn. Don’t turn too fast, or you could lose your balance.
Some skiers enjoy the thrill of flying down hills while others avoid them. If you do want to ski down hills, carefully walk your way up the hill. Then, make sure you have a clear path down the hill without trees, fences or other skiers blocking your way. Next, lean forward and slowly push yourself down the hill. Don’t lean too far forward, or you may fall. As you go down the hill, bend your knees and lean in. Let the force of gravity pull you down.
Most people who try cross country skiing get hooked on the sport and can’t wait to ski again. Just don’t forget your woolen hat.
My own experiences cross country skiing for more than 20 years
This article was based on one I previously published for Wikinut