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Cross-country skiing

Cross-country skiing (commonly abbreviated X-country skiing or XC skiing; also Nordic skiing) An adventure and fitness activity as well as a competitive sport popular in many countries with large snowfields. As an adventure activity, it may be viewed as "bushwalking on skis".


The skis are long and thin to distribute the weight of the skier. Like downhill skiers, they carry two poless, usually made of
aluminium, fibreglass or some other light material, with a spike at the end to provide a fixed pivot when the pole penetrates through to a hard surface, and a plastic ring (or basket) both to provide maximum impetus from thick snow where that does not occur and to ensure the pole only goes to its designed embedding depth, so as to optimise the angle of arm force. The skier's footwear is attatched to the ski with a binding. There are many different types of bindings and boots and it is important to choose corresponding equipment.


There are three main techniques used. Special equipment is available to suit each.

Classical Technique

To move when on level ground or uphill whilst using the classical style, cross-country skiers slide one ski forward and reach with the arm on the same side to implant the pole in the snow in front of them, then pull on the pole to accelerate themselves along. They then lift the pole out of the snow and repeat the process with the other side of the body, hopefully maintaining momentum and achieving a smooth, energy-saving rhythm.

When reaching a downhill slope, they are able to coast down in a similar manner to downhill skiing, or may use Telemark technique - see below.

The classical style is often performed on prepared trails (pistes) that have pairs of parallel grooves cut into the snow, one for each ski, and consequently a special long, narrow and light ski is usually used. The skis used either have a fish-scale underside, or ski wax is applied to the central section in the centre of the ski, so that when the skier kicks the ski into the snow it grips, allowing the skier to move forward.

When skiing away from prepared trails, a much wider ski is usually used. When used by the local population of flat regions, such as parts of Finland, the skis may also be much longer, sometimes exceeding 3 or 4 yards (metres) in length.

Skating Technique

Skating involves the skier pushing outward with the ski angled, so that the inner edge of the ski is driven against the snow, much like an ice skater. Skis tend to be shorter than those used in classical technique, and poles longer. There are various combinations of ski and pole movements to suit the terrain and conditions. The technique is only suitable for use on prepared trails (pistes) or those with firm, smooth snow.

Telemark Technique

The Telemark technique is particularly suited to backcountry skiing (off piste cross-country skiing). While it is firstly a technique for descending, for those with dedicated equipment it is effectively a separate branch of skiing that takes place in the backcountry (off piste) - see Telemark skiing for details.


Cross-country skiing has been practised in Scandinavian countries since prehistoric times, and also possibly by native Americans for similar lengths of time. It has been used by polar explorers as a means of transport, and all Scandinavian armies train their infantry on skis for winter operations.

Competitition Events

Today, there are several types of cross-country competitive events, involving racess of various types and lengths, as well as the biathlon, involving a combination of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.

As an Adventurous Activity

As an adventure activity, skiiers tackle trails of various lengths and difficulties. Some skiiers stay out for extended periods using tents and equipment similar to bushwalkers, others take relatively short trips from ski resorts, or use huts provided along some trails.

See also