How to Start Cross Country Skiing

Kid cross country skiing

My favorite winter hobby is cross country skiing. With COVID limiting indoor options and lift tickets increasing in price, cross country skiing is a safe alternative to get yourself outdoors and get your heart rate up. It’s a full-body workout and can burn about 475 calories per hour when working at a moderate pace. A snow-covered mountain is breathtaking. Cross country skiing allows you to move your body and relieve stress while immersing yourself in the outdoors. I have some tips and tricks for anyone who hasn’t cross country skied before but is interested in a new adventure.

Skiing after fresh snow fall
Skiing after fresh snow fall.

Nature is a powerful force, so picking the right day is essential while you’re a beginner. If the wind is blowing hard and it’s snowing, or worse, raining on the mountain, you may be better off picking a different day. On the contrary, if you are willing to tough it out during the rain, you may be rewarded with the mountain to yourself. In general, skiing on a sunny day brings out the beauty of the mountain, and it helps to learn without being bombarded with precipitation on your face as you’re learning the basics.

Ski nature pic

Bringing the right equipment is critical for your success. I wear a waterproof coat that I can roll up and put in my backpack if I get too hot. I also wear my primary gloves and a stocking cap. I typically wear snow bibs, but any waterproof pants would work. I usually wear a backpack to carry my supplies. However, keep in mind that packing light is best while you’re a beginner to maintain your balance. Here are some of the standard gear I take with me, but I’m careful where the contents are located on my back in case of a fall or other rare issue. I start with water, which is essential since you’ll be working out. Depending on my distance, I usually bring a Camelback or a water bottle. I personally can’t go more than an hour without eating, so I load my pack with tasty snacks to refuel myself. If you’re bringing kids, remember to take lots of breaks and pack fun snacks. A container of ski wax helps your skis glide better. You don’t need wax when it’s icy, but it’s good to carry some as conditions can change while you’re out. I bring extra gloves and a spare hat in case what I’m wearing gets too wet for whatever reason. When it’s really cold and snowing, I like to bring ski goggles and something to keep my face warm.

Kid snack 1
Whether your big or small, make sure you plenty of food and water.

If you don’t own skis, renting is a good option while you’re testing how often you’ll go. Many shops allow you to rent by the day or even the whole season. Season rentals are an excellent option for kids, so you don’t have to invest the $500-$1,000 only to have them grow out of the gear the following year. It takes many years before you break even on the costs, so renting is an affordable option for most skiers who aren’t sure about their commitment level. Land Wander handles the reservations and payment processing, making it fast and easy to get outdoors. Many of the best shops don’t allow you to book online, so support makes it easy for busy professionals to secure reservations. A Land Wander representative can help make the process easy and convenient if you have any questions.

There are many places to cross country ski. It’s essential to match your skis to the terrain to make your adventure more enjoyable. A place that I like to start people at is Teacup on Oregon’s Mount Hood. It has 20+ kilometers of gorgeous groomed trails with various terrain for beginners and experts. Some tracks offer breathtaking views of the top of Mount Hood. Whether you’re looking at Teacup or want help deciding on other options to try, Land Wander provides recommendations and a welcome kit that includes maps and permits, and other things to make the process easy.

Quinn Skiiing
People of all ages can enjoy cross country skiing.

When starting any new sport, I find it’s more enjoyable to have the proper mindset. Skiing takes time to get the motions down and learn what works best for you. When I teach others, I remind them beforehand that they’ll likely fall a lot their first time. It’s just part of the learning process. It’s essential to take things in steps and to make a game out of every stage. When I taught my six-year-old daughter, we took things one step at a time, and I gave her lots of encouragement. You must find a way to make it fun, otherwise, it’s not worth doing.

Land Wander has optional trainers that we can schedule on your behalf to help get you started. Here is a brief introduction to the basic concepts. We recommend going with a trainer for your first time or an experienced friend to help make your time more enjoyable. When starting, it’s crucial to find a flat place to practice. First, begin without your poles and kick your feet forward one at a time and let yourself push and glide along. The motions might not feel natural at first, but that’s okay. Once you feel comfortable on your feet, it’s time to add your poles. Place your hands through the bottom of the strap and let your pole hang down. You then lower your hand, grabbing the handle. Your hand should be snug around the middle of the handle. If your hand is too high or low, you’ll want to adjust the strap length to improve your comfort. Using your poles, you can start with a double pole motion, keeping your legs straight. Engaging your core, you can use your poles to push you forward. Once comfortable with your poles, you can move to diagonal striding. That’s where you put one arm forward and the opposite leg forward. You then kick the back leg forward and bring the opposite arm forward to push yourself along.

Ski pole hanging
Make sure your pole hangs down from your wrist before you grab onto the handle to ensure a proper grip.

Going up hills is more challenging, especially when conditions are icy. There are more advanced techniques, but here is a fundamental way to keep yourself from slipping down. Always keep one pole in the ground. I keep my arms at 90-degree angles and take smaller diagonal stride motions while keeping my poles at or behind my feet. By keeping your poles further back, you’ll generate more traction. Once you’re at the top of the hill, you have the fun of sliding down! Keeping your center of gravity lower, think about your balance with your poles behind you. If you get going too fast, you can come out of the track and create a wedge by pushing the insides of your skis down and out. The front of your skis should be almost touching to make the wedge or V shape tip. If you’re still going too fast, you can lower your center of gravity even further by sitting down. If a hill is too steep for your skill level, you can always step out of the track and take your skis off. If you do so, make sure you walk along the side not to damage the ski tracks for others.

Cross country skiing is an outstanding winter sport that allows you to move your body while surrounding yourself with breathtaking scenery. It took my 6-year-old about three to four times to get the hang of it. There were many tears the first few times, but now she goes up and down hills laughing and having the time of her life. Remember to be safe and take it slow at first. Be patient with yourself and others while learning. You may discover your new winter hobby.

mount hood peak
Mountains provide fun and beauty that is rare for many of us.
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